Devin Nunes Doesn’t Read the Documents He Demands

Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been running interference for the Trump administration from almost the moment that President Trump was sworn in. At one point, his conflicts of interest and bizarre behavior led him to recuse himself from the Russia inquiry, pending a congressional ethics investigation. That Nunes is in the bag for Donald Trump is not in serious dispute. But his actions still have the power to shock:

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes was livid.

For months, he had been demanding a fully uncensored version of a highly sensitive document from the Justice Department explaining how the Russia investigation began in 2016, but he wasn’t getting it. As the standoff escalated, Nunes began warning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the man in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — that he could face contempt of Congress, or even worse.

“We’re not going to just hold in contempt,” Nunes said to Fox News last month. “We will have a plan to hold in contempt and to impeach.”

Nunes had already been offered time to review a copy of the electronic communication formally authorizing the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he had publicly demanded to see what was behind certain blacked out lines.

Facing the growing pressure, and outrage from President Donald Trump, Rosenstein finally relented in early April — and granted Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina access to the document with only minimal redactions to protect the name of a foreign country and agent, along with all members of the House Intelligence Committee.

But when the pair arrived at the Justice Department to review the electronic communication, officials were caught off-guard by his next move. Nunes — sitting with a copy of the document in an unopened folder directly in front of him — opted not to read it, according to four sources with knowledge of the situation.

It appears that Devin Nunes is not in the practice of reading any of the intelligence he so belligerently and disingenuously demands, instead leaving that job for staff. But that doesn’t prevent him from characterizing that intelligence in way that is most favorable to the president and in ways that don’t jive with the views of those who actually have reviewed the intelligence.

Indeed, unlike Nunes, [Rep. Trey] Gowdy has defended the Mueller investigation amid criticism within his own party.

Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez said her boss has “read everything he has been asked to read,” including the electronic communication with minimal redactions and the FISA documents about the surveillance on Page. She said he “fully supports” the Russia investigation and the asking of “fair but firm” questions of officials in the Executive Branch.

“While he was not surprised by what he read, Chairman Gowdy does have additional questions for the drafter of the EC,” Gonzalez said, referring to the electronic communication. “As Chairman Gowdy has said many times, he fully supports Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and believes Mueller should be given the time, the independence, and the resources to conduct a thorough investigation.”

I shouldn’t have to remind you that Trey Gowdy is “the Benghazi guy.” Compared to Nunes, he’s cool-headed, fair-minded, and lacking in partisan fervor.

It has come to this.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.