Editorials

Devin Nunes not playing for the right team

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Rep. Devin Nunes is being criticized for his interactions with White House officials as he conducts the Russia investigation.
Rep. Devin Nunes is being criticized for his interactions with White House officials as he conducts the Russia investigation. Associated Press

Amazing. All this hot air about blocking America’s enemies with border walls and travel bans, and it turns out that the enemies of the American people have been right here all along.

Simply put, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes is acting like a double agent, and not a very good one at that.

Nunes, R-California, chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a supposedly independent probe into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, reportedly to help secure a win for Trump.

But he cannot be trusted to lead what should be an impartial investigation into ties between Russia and President Donald Trump and his administration. And if he won’t step aside, then he needs to be pushed by his colleagues. His transgressions are that serious. Unfortunately, he seems to enjoy being the star of the intrigue he’s created too much to exit the stage.

The jaw-dropping allegations, which go back at least to the campaign-season hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, had for too long drawn a “meh” from the Republican-controlled Congress. Ginning up lawmakers’ enthusiasm, or outrage, has been like pulling teeth — without anesthesia. Theirs was a stunning capitulation to both Trump and his Russian backers.

But now that the House and Senate have launched individual probes, it seems as if Nunes is playing for the target’s team.

His charge is to lead the Russia investigation. However, he keeps shouting “Look over there!” He’s in major distraction mode, knee-deep in the muddy water he’s carrying for Trump, working hard to prove the president’s inexplicable President-Obama-wiretapped-me charges.

In mid-March, Nunes had an under-cover-of darkness meeting at the White House. He emerged, citing a “source” to reveal that the president or aides may have been “incidentally” caught up in foreign surveillance by U.S. spy agencies and some inadvertently had been “unmasked.” Nunes briefed the president, but, shockingly, failed to share the information with his committee members.

Trump saw the revelation as his vindication. Nunes, however, later clarified that the surveillance targeted those who were real security concerns, and that there was no evidence that Trump was among them.

Then, last Thursday, as the New York Times reported, two White House officials turned out to be the ones who gave Nunes the “incidentally swept up” report. The revelation only doubles down on the very real concern that Nunes is in the Trump camp, in thrall and doing his bidding.

Suddenly, the question isn’t, What does Nunes know? The question is, What does Nunes not want the rest of us, including his intelligence-committee colleagues, to get wind of?

And who will insist, besides Democrats, that the House investigation — which Nunes has put on hold, by the way — is so compromised that he can in no way be involved?

It’s becoming a well-worn cliche among those Americans who are rightly appalled at the damage that the Trump administration plans to inflict — on the environment, on education, on democracy itself — to opine: “Can you imagine what the Republicans would have done if Obama had done/said/known this?

We know what they would have done, because politics instead of concern for the integrity of this republic are, unfortunately, still driving this process. Turns out, America’s enemies are still among us.

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