Does Rep. Devin Nunes really believe he can pit his credibility against that of the FBI?
The Tulare Republican has been waving around a “secret” memo that he insists implicates some members of the FBI in a conspiracy to dethrone his hero, Donald Trump. If there is a conspiracy, Nunes is part of it – whether he recognizes or not.
Republican leaders are trying to inoculate President Trump against what they fear is in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Back in March, the Trump White House used loyal dupe Nunes to cast aspersions on the FBI’s work and motives. This is merely Round 2.
It’s not a coincidence this is happening as Mueller’s investigation narrows on Trump. Reports say Mueller’s team has interviewed former FBI Director James Comey – fired by Trump over the Russia probe – and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Reports also say Mueller wants to interview Trump about the Comey’s dismissal, as well as the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is said to be cooperating with FBI investigators.
Trump said he’s willing to talk to Mueller under oath. But he also suggested he’s being accused of obstruction only because he’s “fighting back” against unfair allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Nunes represents a relatively safe Republican district, and likely believes he’s scoring points with constituents by attacking law enforcement and protecting Trump. But his performance as chairman of the highly sensitive House Intelligence Committee has been nothing short of embarrassing.
Remember when he was caught on film lurking around the White House to get his marching orders from Trump operatives? Basically, he was instructed to blame the Obama White House for spying on the Trump campaign. Several members soon called for Nunes to recuse himself from the House investigation – not because he couldn’t be seen as impartial, but because he no longer could be taken seriously.
In December, the Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee cleared Nunes of disclosing classified information and now he is again trying to elevate his profile in service to the President. And he’s got help.
Ultra-conservatives are applauding Nunes for producing a four-page memo that accuses the FBI of political bias. Drafted by his staffers, the memo is said to summarize classified material and alleges the FBI and Justice Department targeted the Trump campaign for surveillance. Nunes wants us to believe there’s an anti-Trump “secret society” within the FBI.
Fox frother Sean Hannity and the most conservative Republicans are calling for the memo’s release, saying it reveals abuses of power “worse than Watergate.” Their real goal is to halt Mueller’s investigation.
The rational world is far, far more skeptical. Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff has seen the memo and says it is “profoundly misleading” and full of inaccuracies and innuendo. The FBI hasn’t seen it or had a chance to respond. Still, the Justice Department warned Nunes it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without review for risks to national security or ongoing investigations.
Those most vigorously promoting the social media campaign #ReleaseTheMemo appear to be Russian-linked Twitter bots – the same kind used by Vladimir Putin’s hackers to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.
What we’re left with is the ironic and sad spectacle of Nunes, Hannity et al trying to undermine public trust in agents who risk their lives, fight organized crime, confront corruption and protect us against terrorism.
Everyone – Republicans, Democrats and the media – should do our democracy a favor: Stop this nonsense and let Mueller finish his investigation.