In the classic movie “High Noon”, actor Gary Cooper played Will Kane, the quiet sheriff of a small town, who fearlessly stands up to the bad guys, even after cowardly town-folk abandon him. Congressman Devin Nunes is no Will Kane; he’s more like the cowardly town-folk who refuse to stand up to the bad guys.
Nunes, a farmer from California’s San Joaquin Valley, was elected to Congress in 2002. In 2015, House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed him to head the House Intelligence Committee, despite his lack of real-world intelligence experience. As chairman of that committee, he is in charge of the House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
During the committee’s first hearing on Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed his agency was conducting an investigation into Russian interference; but to the surprise of almost everyone, he added that the FBI was also investigating possible co-ordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That announcement gave added weight to the already strong suspicion that Trump and his cronies were – and possibly still are – in bed with Russian operatives.
Clearly, that was very bad news for Trump and his cronies. They went into full panic mode and employed what’s become standard operating procedure in this White House – deny, distract and delay. The denial was immediate, and the distraction was a bizarre plot twist straight out of a bad B movie.
Nunes went rogue on what wags took to calling his’ “midnight run”. He ditched his staff, switched cars on the fly, and sped off to a clandestine meeting somewhere on White House grounds. During that meeting, someone allegedly showed him some supposedly secret information that purportedly proved Trump was spied on – just as he claimed in his asinine “wire tapp” tweet.
At that point, Nunes should have met with his staff to figure out the best way to proceed. Long-standing precedent also required him to share that information with at least the ranking Democrat on his committee. Instead, he went to Paul Ryan for guidance. Ryan may have given him some very bad advice, judging by what happened next. Nunes inexplicably – and perhaps illegally, shared that information with the president.
Nunes claimed the information had nothing to do with Russia; but even if that’s true, it’s beside the point. Sharing classified information about any ongoing investigation involving Trump or his cronies exposed Nunes to possible criminal prosecution.
The White House denied having anything to do with Nunes’ bizarre “midnight run” and the events that followed. But that claim was so patently absurd, it made the White House look even more guilty of trying to cover-up something. When the denial failed to sway, and the distraction failed to distract, the White House decided it was time to delay.
Former Acting Attorney-General Sally Yates was scheduled to testify at the next hearing, and she had already informed the White House her testimony would contradict previous statements made by other administration officials. In an attempt to prevent her testimony, the White House threatened to exert executive privilege. When that proved to be an empty threat, Nunes postponed the hearings indefinitely.
Nunes is acting less like an investigator and more like a co-conspirator, and his bizarre behavior raises many questions: Why did he risk his position and his reputation on such a fool’s errand? Why did he expose himself to public humiliation and a charge that could put him in prison? Was he acting on orders from a White House desperate to scuttle an investigation into possible collusion with Russian operatives?
So many questions, so few answers. But one thing is clear – Nunes isn’t up to the cover-up or the investigation. His bizarre behavior led to demands he recuse himself from the investigation, calls for him to resign from the committee. and even calls for him to resign from Congress.
Nunes chalked that up to partisan politics; he claimed Democrats want him to quit because he is “effective at getting to the bottom of things”. Apparently, the irony of that self-serving assessment is lost on him – the only bottom he’s getting to is the bottom of the barrel.
©2017 Tom Cordle