What, pray tell, does Rep. Devin Nunes think he’s doing by waving around a secret memo attacking the FBI, the nation’s premier law enforcement agency?
He certainly isn’t representing his Central Valley constituents or Californians, who care much more about health care, jobs and, yes, protecting Dreamers than about the latest conspiracy theory.
Instead, he’s doing dirty work for House Republican leaders trying to protect President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation.
It’s no accident that this latest attempt to discredit the FBI and distract the public is happening at the same time special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe appears to be picking up steam – and focusing on possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Reports this week say that Mueller’s team has interviewed former FBI Director James Comey – fired by Trump over the Russia probe – and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation. Reports also say that Mueller wants to soon interview Trump about the dismissal of Comey, as well as the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators.
Trump said Wednesday he’s willing to talk to Mueller under oath, subject to advice from his lawyers, of course. But he also suggested he’s being accused of obstruction because he’s “fighting back” against unfair allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Nunes of Tulare is sheltered in a relatively safe Republican district, and may believe he will pay no political price for unfairly attacking law enforcement and protecting Trump. But his performance as chairman of the highly sensitive House Intelligence Committee has been nothing short of embarrassing.
Instead of taking Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election seriously and leading an impartial and bipartisan inquiry, Nunes has colluded with the White House. Last March, Nunes said he’d seen secret intelligence reports backing Trump’s claims that President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” his offices, but it turned out the documents came from the administration.
The blowback forced Nunes to step away from the Russia investigation. But he never fully recused himself and after the Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee in December cleared him of disclosing classified information, he raised his profile again.
Now, he’s being celebrated in Trumpworld with the four-page memo that accuses the FBI of political bias and misdeeds. Drafted by Nunes staffers, it apparently summarizes classified material and alleges abuse of the surveillance process by the FBI and Justice Department to target the Trump campaign. Conservative media and some Republicans in Congress are calling for it to be released publicly and using it to call for Mueller’s investigation to be shut down.
There are reasons to be very skeptical of this memo. The FBI hasn’t been sent a copy or given a chance to respond. Democrats who have seen it, including Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, say it’s full of inaccuracies and innuendo. And the social media campaign #ReleaseTheMemo may be promoted by Russian-linked bots, just as during the 2016 campaign.
Nunes’s office did not respond Wednesday to our questions about the memo. But the Justice Department wrote to him, warning that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without any review for possible risk to national security or ongoing investigations.
While the FBI has overstepped during its history (for instance the COINTELPRO operations against political dissidents during J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure), it is supremely ironic that the GOP – which long has proclaimed itself the party of law and order – is serving to undermine public trust in agents who risk their lives, combat organized crime, ferret out public corruption and protect us against terrorism.
We also can’t forget that Republicans defended the FBI when Democrats criticized Comey last year for reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just before the election.
But now we’re supposed to believe some Republicans that there’s some kind of anti-Trump “secret society” within the FBI? It’s ridiculous.
Everyone – Republicans, Democrats, advocacy groups on all sides and the media – should do our democracy a favor: Stop with the hyperventilating and let Mueller finish his investigation and get to the truth.