Devin Nunes, the eight-term Republican congressman from California, is taking on the world’s most powerful law enforcement and intelligence apparatus to uncover exactly what happened before and after the 2016 presidential election. Although Nunes is undoubtedly earning some formidable enemies, he seems undaunted—perhaps even emboldened—by the anti-Trump mob on the Left and the Right trying to discredit his investigation and destroy his reputation.
Nunes, 44, goes about his business in a way that only a politician who doesn’t owe his career to billionaire benefactors or a privileged pedigree can: He is fearless, well-informed, and slightly snarky. The descendant of Portuguese immigrants, Nunes has a background in agriculture (a profession that has been mocked by some of our well-fed betters) and got his start in local politics. Since he was first elected to represent his San Joaquin Valley district in 2002, he’s never won less than 60 percent of the vote. (Jim Geraghty has a solid profile of the congressman.)
As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has been relentless in exposing how top officials in the Obama Administration corrupted our most trusted federal agencies in order to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign, hoping then to undermine his nascent presidency after he won. What is unfolding now will be the biggest political scandal in U.S. history and Nunes is a central figure in exposing it.
The hard-fought release of his memo in February—which was opposed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray but sanctioned by President Trump—gave the American public its first glimpse into how Obama’s DOJ secured a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page just days before the election.
Nunes revealed that James Comey’s FBI did not inform the court that the Christopher Steele dossier, the primary evidence cited on the application for the warrant, had been produced and funded by Trump’s rival campaign. Further, the FBI didn’t disclose that Steele had been terminated by the FBI for lying to federal officials prior to Election Day although the agency continued to use his work to reauthorize three more FISA warrants on Page. (The Senate Judiciary Committee referred Steele to the Justice Department back in January for a criminal investigation of charges that he misled FBI investigators.)
Nunes was immediately blasted by Trump foes on the Left and Right, including “Republicans for the Rule of Law” harpies. Bill Kristol said the memo would be a historical reminder of the “degradation of the Republican Party.” Max Boot, the Washington Post columnist who repeatedly warns that the Trump presidency is a threat to the rule of law, is a serial Nunes antagonist; Boot called Nunes an embarrassment, a disgrace, a Joe McCarthy “mini-me,” and called for Congress to censure him as a result of the memo. (But Boot calls the actions of now-disgraced Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe mere “mistakes.”)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove Nunes from his committee chairmanship for authoring “a bogus memo [that] has taken the GOP’s cover-up campaign to a new, completely unacceptable extreme.” The memo was portrayed in the press as an “attack on law enforcement.”
Many of his Republican colleagues have acted cowardly in the face of this pushback, refusing to stand with him. Last April, the House Ethics Committee bowed to bullying by Democratic lawmakers and left-wing groups such as MoveOn.org to open an investigation into whether Nunes disclosed classified information about the Trump-Russia probe. (He was cleared in December.)
Detractors smear him as a conspiracy-minded, Trump lackey. In a nearly 7,000-word profile on the congressman in New York Times Magazine this week, Nunes is described as a Trump true believer: “Years before the Russia investigation, he was extremely skeptical of—if not paranoid about—the American military and intelligence establishments in a way that presaged Trump’s denunciations of the ‘deep state.’ Now he and Trump are waging war against these foes, real and imagined, together.”
With enemies across the ideological and political spectrum, Nunes must be doing something right.
Fortunately, the personal and professional attacks have not deterred Nunes. In March, his committee issued its report concluding there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. It faulted intelligence agencies for leaking classified information and specifically condemned former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for giving “inconsistent testimony” to Congress about his contacts with the media, including CNN, where Clapper is now an analyst.
But Nunes is just getting warmed up.
Earlier this month, he threatened to impeach Rosenstein and Wray if they didn’t finally release the original missive that prompted the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign in 2016, a document Nunes has been requesting for months: “We’re not messing around here, they’re to give us these two-page documents,” Nunes told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on April 10. “I haven’t found it [Russian collusion] yet, but I’ve found a whole lot of other stuff that always puts DOJ and FBI in a bad light.”
The next day, Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) were given access to the electronic communication the FBI used to open its investigation. And he was not convinced by what he saw.
In a jaw-dropping interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, Nunes said the communication did not justify launching a counterintelligence probe into Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos in July 2016. Nunes disputed press accounts and official Washington’s plotline that foreign intelligence sources warned U.S. officials about a drunken encounter in London between an Australian diplomat and Papadopoulos, a low-level unpaid advisor who had been with the campaign less than three months, where he allegedly boasted that he had Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
But Nunes insists there was no official intelligence from the “Five Eyes”—an agreement between the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—that validated the Papadopoulos probe. “This is about a counterintelligence operation that, at the height of a political campaign, where you opened up an investigation using these intelligence services, to spy on the other campaign,” he said. “It’s really serious stuff.”
He also revealed that Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer, long-time henchmen for the Clintons, were giving information to her former department that State Department officials subsequently forwarded to the FBI. His committee is now investigating the State Department’s role in fueling the initial counterintelligence probe.
Nunes is also no fan of James Comey. After the Justice Department released Comey’s memos last week, Nunes issued a joint statement with Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), mocking the former FBI director’s claim that he felt pressured by the president to drop the Michael Flynn case.
“The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened,” the congressmen wrote. “While former Director Comey went to great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts, he never once mentioned the most relevant fact of all, which was whether he felt obstructed in his investigation.”
Nunes also gave Comey a shot after he suggested the Russians might still have dirt on the president. “It’s certainly possible that the Russians have information on Comey. It’s certainly possible that the Russians have information on Hillary Clinton. It’s certainly possible that they have information on all kinds of people.”
As the Trump-Russia conspiracy scam crumbles and some of the most powerful people in the world are exposed for their role, this battle will only get worse because they will not go down easily. While other Congressional leaders tasked with investigating this hoax are moving slowly, Nunes is picking up speed: Reluctant Republicans would be wise to stay out of his way.
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