Patriot Act author: Using phone records as impeachment evidence is 'abuse of power'

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Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) wrote the law authorizing warrantless wiretaps. Now, he's mad GOP Rep. Devin Nunes' phone records got caught up in legally subpoenaed evidence.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is accusing House Democrats of "abuse of power" after they found and released phone records showing that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was in communication with an indicted businessman caught up in the impeachment investigation — raising questions about what role Nunes himself had in the alleged quest to force Ukraine to investigate Donald Trump's rivals.

"We're talking a lot about abuses of power here in the White House and the Executive Branch. Here I see a clear abuse of power on the part of the people who are prosecuting this impeachment against the president of the United States," Sensenbrenner said, referring to how Nunes' phone records were part of the House Intelligence Committee's report on evidence found as part of the impeachment inquiry. "They should be ashamed of themselves."

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To some, it might be ironic that Sensenbrenner finds it offensive and wrong that a lawmaker's phone records were found in the course of the impeachment investigation via legally authorized subpoenas for evidence. That's because Sensenbrenner is the author of the PATRIOT Act, which made it easier for the government to "spy on its own citizens," according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which strongly opposes the law.

However, Sensenbrenner clearly could not see that irony, instead comparing Democrats to the late Joe McCarthy, the disgraced senator who blacklisted people accused of being communists — often falsely and without any evidence.

"Folks, you have made Joe McCarthy look like a piker with what you've done with the electronic surveillance involved," Sensenbrenner said. "It is something that has to be put a stop to now, it is something that has to be fessed up to now."

However, nothing Democrats did to find out that Nunes was having phone conversations with a key figure in the impeachment inquiry was illegal.

Nunes' conversations with Lev Parnas — an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who helped lead the smear campaign against former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — were found via legal subpoenas.

And the fact that Nunes would be talking to Parnas is germane to the impeachment investigation — as Nunes was the ranking Republican on the committee who did the fact-finding for the impeachment investigation, and it turns out Nunes may have played a role in the very issue he was investigating.

Nunes, for his part, has had a difficult time explaining why he was talking to Parnas at all, with his explanation constantly changing. Instead, he's lashed out at reporters who ask Nunes why he was speaking to Parnas, who faces federal charges for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, for his part, suggested Nunes may have been "complicit" in Trump's effort to force Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.