Aside from the saber-rattling with North Korea, and the attempts to delegitimize institutions, perhaps the most troubling trend to come from the Trump Administration so far are the efforts by many Republicans in Congress to prevent a full accounting of Russia’s interference in our election and any possible Trump campaign conspiracy with it.
This is particularly true in he House Intelligence Committee investigation, where Rep. Devin Nunes, a Trump loyalist, may be wielding his influence as chairman of the intel committee to block critical lines of inquiry. Democrats have been alarmed by his tactics, especially the fact that despite his public recusal from the probe, he “never relinquished his sole, unchecked authority” to sign off on — or kill — efforts by Democrats to subpoena top Trump officials for more testimony. The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian explains:
People familiar with the committee’s work estimated that Nunes’s effective veto cost Democrats dozens of requests for interviews and documents that were never sent out, despite repeated entreaties from the minority side.
This includes requests for subpoenas to obtain additional testimony from key figures in the probe who Democrats say were not forthcoming enough in interviews — among them Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. Democrats surmise they might have compelled them to return if not for Nunes’s resistance.
What can Democrats do? It looks like they might have to write a minority report, detailing the lines of inquiry that were effectively shut down by Nunes as chair.
Nunes is doing more than merely closing off avenues of investigation. Politico recently reported that Nunes is quietly leading a group of House Republicans in an effort to build a case that senior Justice Department and FBI officials improperly handled the explosive “Steele dossier,” which describes links between Trump and Russia. I’m not sure what they hope to find, especially since the FBI and Justice Department would have independently confirmed anything in the dossier anyway. (Plus, it came out lately that the FBI’s investigation came as the result of a tip from Australia after Papadapolous talked while drinking to an Australian embassy worker).
Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, is in potentially serious waters as he runs defense for Trump. None of this looks very good — the appearance of a conflict of interest taints him more than anyone else. And of course, the Mueller Report will reveal many things that the House Intel Committee won’t, and questions will be asked why that is so.