In an overt illustration of why Republicans cannot be trusted to objectively investigate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, GOP House intelligence chair Devin Nunes told reporters Monday that his main concern was investigating the “high-level leaks” regarding contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russian officials.
“We can’t run a government like this,” he said during the press conference. “A government can’t function with massive leaks at the highest level of our president talking to foreign leaders.” Nunes added that there isn’t “any evidence” yet of Trump advisers speaking to the Russian government.
Under normal circumstances, Nunes would be well positioned to speak authoritatively on the matter, but he compromised himself by agreeing to go on record with a reporter about the Russia issue at the behest of the White House. Axios reported Monday:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally picked up the phone and connected outside officials with reporters to try to discredit a New York Times article about Trump campaign aides’ contact with Russia, then remained on the line for the brief conversations.
Spicer oversaw reporter conversations with CIA director Mike Pompeo and GOP Senate Intelligence chair Richard Burr. In the case of Nunes, Spicer supplied him with reporters’ phone numbers after Nunes “offered to make the calls himself.”
But Nunes dismissed the idea that he did anything improper when he was asked Monday, calling the story “a little odd,” noting that he had only been asked to speak with “one reporter,” and giving a nearly nonsensical response to a reporters’ question about whether he had been compromised. Then, in the ultimate of defensive moves, Nunes tried to turn the question around on the reporter.
“If the White House asked me to talk to you, would you think that that would be okay or not okay?” Um, huh? When the reporter asked again whether he had been compromised by responding to a request from the White House to “knock down” the story, Nunes denied the premise, “That absolutely didn’t happen.”
In other news, Nunes told reporters that his committee wouldn’t be subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns: “No, we’re not gonna do that.”
He also framed his aversion to broad investigations into Russia in terms of them turning into “witch hunts” of American citizens. We can’t have the government “chasing down American citizens,” he said.
That’s quite a real revelation since just last month Nunes voted in favor of a rules package that explicitly expanded the powers of Republican staffers and members to compel American citizens to testify under oath on any given topic, even without an elected official present. Suddenly Nunes is concerned about these expansive powers that he personally approved only a month ago.
But don’t worry, Nunes assures us that nothing improper has happened and he’s totally capable of conducting a credible investigation into Trump and Russia.