Devin Nunes’ attempts to derail the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government are making even his fellow Republicans uneasy.
[Republican Representative Trey Gowdy] said that his “heart would be broken” if Nunes follows through on reported plans to issue a corruption exposé about the FBI, citing concerns that issuing such a report outside the context of a comprehensive investigation of the Justice Department could prove damaging to law enforcement.
That’s Trey Gowdy—the man who chaired the eighth round of hearings into Benghazi—worrying about the extreme actions suggested by Nunes. This came after Nunes threatened to deliver a contempt citation to not just Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump’s freshly appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray.
While there are several Republicans who seem willing to take any step necessary to show their support for Donald Trump, including calling for an end into any investigation, none of them has done as much to deliberately obstruct, obfuscate, delay and derail that investigation as Devin Nunes.
In November, 2016 Devin Nunes took a top slot in the Trump transition team—one that put him in a position to recommend and vet cabinet officials. In January, 2017 Nunes announced that the House Intelligence Committee would conduct an investigation into Russia’s efforts to impact the 2016 presidential election.
Between Nunes’s acceptance of a post in the Trump transition team and the start of the House investigation, multiple contacts occurred between the Trump transition team and Russian officials, including several communications between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador. And between the Russian ambassador and Nunes’s partner in “clearing” Trump’s nominees—Jared Kushner.
All the evidence suggests that Devin Nunes began the House investigation both knowing that contacts had occurred, and deliberately working to cover them up.
Also during this period, other Trump campaign team members who had direct contact with Russian officials continued to be involved with the transition team. That includes Jeff Sessions, who had a private meeting with the Russian ambassador in his Senate office after announcing his support for Donald Trump. It includes Donald Trump Jr., who actively sought information from Russian sources and chaired the infamous Trump Tower meeting in which the leaders of Trump’s campaign questioned Russian representatives concerning stolen emails that were not yet public. It includes Rick Gates, who was indicted alongside former partner Paul Manafort. It includes George Papadopoulos, who would hold his first interview with the FBI two days after Nunes announced a House investigation.
In fact, Devin Nunes’s partner in selecting candidates to fill Trump’s cabinet was Jared Kushner—who may have been the most active member of the campaign team in seeking Russian connections. It seems impossible that Nunes did not either hear about the many contacts between the Trump team and Russia during the campaign, or was ignorant of the ongoing efforts to groom this relationship during the transition.
By March, Nunes completely derailed the House investigation after leaping from an Uber car, making secret visits to the White House, and holding a pair of press conferences in which he claimed to have evidence that Obama officials had improperly “unmasked” members of the Trump team—statements that Donald Trump used to support his contention that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower. Though Nunes refused to say where he was getting this information, it eventually emerged that he had been working with Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Michael Flynn assistant who had been singled out by intelligence officials for his incompetence. However, Donald Trump overruled Cohen-Watnick’s superiors, keeping him in place so he could act as a conduit to Nunes.
Nunes’s tactics halted progress in the House investigation and caused the cancellation of weeks of scheduled hearings. On the same day that Nunes admitted that his sources were located in the White House, the Senate intelligence committee announced that it was questioning Jared Kusher about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and Russian banking officials during the time he was working with Nunes on the transition team.
In April, after weeks of no progress, Nunes claimed to be stepping back from his role heading up the House investigation. However, behind the scenes he retained the sole authority to issue subpoenas, and has thwarted efforts to make real progress.
For months, Democrats have kept an unofficial count of the ways they say Nunes worked behind the scenes during the time he was under ethics investigation to slow or stymie the Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. Nunes never relinquished his sole, unchecked authority to sign off on subpoenas even as he handed the day-to-day operations to Reps. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), Gowdy and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.). People familiar with the committee’s work estimated that Nunes’s effective veto cost Democrats dozens of requests for interviews and documents that were never sent out, despite repeated entreaties from the minority side.
Meanwhile, Nunes has announced multiple investigations into Uranium One, and repeatedly issued statements saying that there was no evidence of a Trump-Russia connection.
What did Devin Nunes know about the Trump campaigns communications with Russian officials, and when did he know it? The answer seems to be that he knew what had happened before any investigation began. Making his efforts not just ineffective, but textbook obstruction.
Devin Nunes doesn’t need to be running an investigation. He needs to be investigated.