We are definitely living in unusual times. Today, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee introduced a motion to subpoena the interpreter who accompanied Donald Trump into his private meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Rep. Adam Schiff of California explained, “This is an extraordinary remedy, I realize, but then it’s extraordinary for the president of the United States to ask all of his senior staff essentials to leave the room and have a conversation with an adversary, and then in a public conversation disavow his own intelligence agencies and in many respects disavow his own country.”
At first, the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes of California, attempted to ignore the motion. When that no longer seemed like a viable option, he called for a recess. When the committee reconvened 20 minutes later, Nunes brought up Shiff’s motion and it failed in a 11-6 party-line vote.
Chairman Nunes has been so partisan in his support of Donald Trump that he lost control of his committee for a while before being “cleared” of ethics violations. Since his return, he’s been going “full wolverine on the usurping intel agents” in the FBI who dared to investigate the president’s connections to Russia during the presidential campaign. The transparency of his antics have made him a such a lightning rod that his Democratic opponent Andrew Janz raised more than a million dollars in the last three months from people who would like to see Nunes defeated.
It does not surprise me that Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee refused to compel the testimony of the president’s interpreter. Even though the motion specified that the testimony would not be public, it would have been a huge challenge to the office of the president’s powers of executive privilege. Had it passed, I’m sure it would have wound up in the Supreme Court and I doubt that this court would have sided with Congress.
In that sense, the Democrats were pulling a bit of a stunt, but it was a stunt based on a rock-solid premise. If there is a valid concern that the president of the United States is compromised by a foreign power, the sole American witness to their private meeting holds the key to unraveling the mystery. That person should be compelled to tell the world what they know.
Who can really disagree with that on the merits?