Meet Devin Nunes. The Republican congressman from California is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and earned his badge of infamy this week when he claimed that President Trump and his associates were “incidentally monitored.” On Friday, Nunes backed down from that claim. Very embarrassing.
This week, The New York Times called Nunes “a lapdog in a watchdog role,” referring to Nunes’s authority in leading the Congressional investigation into Russia’s role in last year’s election. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, “a stooge of the president.” Senator John McCain called Nunes’s behavior “very disturbing.” Others argued that Nunes’s actions put into question his own credibility as well as the House Intelligence Committee’s capability to investigate Russia and Trump.
Not many people care for this Nunes character all of a sudden. How did we get here? Let’s start with Monday and work all the way through Devin Nunes’s terrible, awful, no good, probably well deserved, very bad week.
With cameras rolling and everyone listening, Rep. Nunes tried his best to grill FBI director James Comey in a hearing on Russian interference in the election. Comey confirmed that the FBI was indeed investigating Russia but stopped short of revealing whether the agency was investigating President Trump himself. Nunes didn’t like this and accused Comey of casting “a big, gray cloud” over the White House. This statement would soon come back to haunt the young congressman.
Careful analysis of the Comey hearing hit the web on Tuesday, and it was not good for the Republicans, particularly Nunes. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza pointed out how Nunes probably lied to reporters when he said he’d never heard of Carter Page and Roger Stone, two longtime Trump advisers who the FBI suspects might have colluded with Russia to get the president elected. Slate’s William Saletan argued that Republicans, namely Nunes, didn’t seem like they really wanted to find out what happened with Russia. One could argue that reports like this impelled Nunes to strike back.
Nunes struck back. In a press conference on the White House lawn, the House Intelligence Committee chairman said he’d seen intelligence that suggested Trump aides had been “monitored” during “incidental collection” of communications. Shunning standard practice in Congress, Nunes did not share this intelligence with Democrats on his committee before meeting with Trump and disclosing the information to the press, possibly breaking the law by sharing classified information in the process.
Trump said he “very much appreciated” Nunes sharing the information and that it made him feel “somewhat” vindicated in accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower ahead of the election. What was perhaps lost on the president was the fact that the intelligence Nunes referenced had been collected after election day and didn’t come close to proving Trump Tower had been tapped. Then again, plenty of Trump-loving Americans took the dubious claims from Nunes as confirmation that Obama bad, Trump good.
On Wednesday night, Senator John McCain cast his judgement on Nunes in no uncertain terms. “No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. “And I don’t say that lightly.”
Another bad day for Nunes. The day started with Nunes apologizing to the House Intelligence Committee for being a dipshit and cutting them out of the investigation so that he could smile in front of some cameras and cover Donald Trump’s ass. He also promised to share the information he’d seen with the rest of the committee which was a promise that came at least one day too late.
Meanwhile, journalists and politicians quickly figured out that Nunes was not only misleading in his remarks about alleged monitoring of Trump aides, he also destroyed his credibility as the leader of the Russia investigation in the process. Thursday was when The New York Times called Nunes “a lapdog in a watchdog role.” It’s also when Nancy Pelosi called him a “stooge” for President Trump who “acted outside the circle of respect.” And remember that McCain, one of the most highly regarded Republicans on Capitol Hill, had already basically said that Nunes embarrassed Congress. A very bad day indeed.
Regardless, on Thursday, the Republican Congressional Campaign Commission sent out a fundraising email with the subject line, “Confirmed: Obama Spied on Trump.” This was never actually confirmed.
So here we are, TGIF. Unable to take much more heat, Nunes finally said that he actually wasn’t sure if Trump’s aides were “monitored” by US intelligence agencies. Nunes also repeated a previous statement that wiretapping of Trump Tower “didn’t happen.” Nunes admitted—like intelligence experts and his colleagues on Capitol Hill had explained earlier in the week—it was possible that Trump aides had been referenced in legal surveillance of foreign entities. The only plausible wrongdoing would have been that their names were improperly redacted in the intelligence reports sent around to government officials, reports that the public is not supposed to see.
Ugh, Devin, this sucks. Folks like John McCain are now calling for an independent commission to be set up to investigate Russia’s role in the election, which means that Nunes completely fucked up his very important job as House Intelligence Committee chairman. Meanwhile, sharp-fanged leeches at Breitbart are still saying that Trump’s wiretapping claims have been vindicated, even though that’s not even close to being true. Should Nunes just resign from his post now that everyone’s aware that he’s nothing more than a marionette, dancing in Trump’s circus?
We’ll see. There’s always next week.