That Devin Nunes is a hard-right conservative Republican is not the problem with his chairmanship of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee as it conducts an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Rather, the 43-year-old California congressman is demonstrating bad judgment that is going to hurt the credibility of an investigation. In short, he’s not up to this task.
He already rushed to the White House to brief the president on intelligence reports that Nunes said included references to people associated with Trump. The heat’s also on because some Trump associates have volunteered to talk with the Senate and House intelligence panels about their alleged Russian connections.
But so far, it appears the biggest problem with Nunes is that he risks making himself appear to be first a political ally of the White House instead of the head of an independent investigation that may have serious implications for that White House.
Consider that it now has come to light that Nunes went to the White House to go over classified documents that were later used to brief the White House and that he met with an unidentified source on the White House grounds. That, a Nunes aide said, was because “the White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents.”
That sounds like doublespeak.
Nunes has been spending time at the White House, and his fellow committee members, Republicans and Democrats, are wondering how their investigation is going to be independent if their chairman is reporting to the White House. Yet when asked whether he would continue to lead the committee’s investigation, Nunes asked, “Well, why would I not?”
That response, whether it’s arrogant or just clueless, explains why.
In short, Nunes has blown it. He needs to step aside from the leadership of this investigation if he wants the investigation to have any credibility. If he doesn’t, even his fellow Republicans are going to have to concede that the investigation looks like one Nunes is trying to tailor to the liking of the White House.
And frankly, if Nunes wants to help the president, he’s doing the opposite. Given Trump’s penchant for shooting his mouth off on Twitter and the cast of characters now at 1600 Pennsylvania, Nunes ought to want to maintain his committee’s independence and ensure an orderly, dignified investigation — something which also would help Trump’s own credibility.