Devin Nunes has risen to prominence in the House of Representatives by cultivating close relationships with powerful Republicans and conservative talking heads, and by portraying himself as someone who fearlessly pursues the truth.
We know now that the Tulare congressman’s bold pursuit of truth comes with an asterisk. He will shine a bright light into dark corners on behalf of San Joaquin Valley farmers. But when there is the potential to embarrass an ally such as President Donald Trump, his flashlight suddenly is out of batteries.
This is the only logical explanation for why Nunes, who is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, would defend Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. This also explains why Nunes is more upset about leaks from the intelligence community than about Flynn reportedly discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia before Trump took office.
When you look at Nunes’ service in Congress since he was first elected in 2002, he is a paper tiger – not someone with the fortitude to serve the people and get to the bottom of something as serious as the Trump administration’s friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia before and after the 2016 election.
In 2009, Nunes called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resign after Schwarzenegger failed to demand that President Barack Obama turn on the Delta pumps during a water rally.
In 2010, during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s cable television show, Nunes compared the Obama administration’s water allotment to Central Valley farmers to the murderous regimes of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
In 2011, Nunes spent about $100,000 on Fresno area television commercials attacking Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her positions on water. The speculation was that he might run against Feinstein in 2012 – a choice that would have taken considerable courage in light of the long odds against him, his safe congressional seat and the political capital he had accumulated with Speaker John Boehner and his successor, Paul Ryan.
In 2014, Nunes made national news again by calling tea party Republicans “lemmings with suicide vests” for shutting down the government over opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Nunes’ assessment was accurate, but it was hardly brave. He was carrying water for the embattled Boehner, who rewarded Nunes by making him chair of the House Intelligence Committee in 2015.
“The committee’s work is vital because strong congressional oversight of the intelligence community is critical for our national defense posture,” Nunes said at the time.
“Vital,” it turns out, is conditional when used by Nunes. For example, he had this to say about Hillary Clinton last summer:
“The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton has revealed ‘extremely careless’ handling of classified information by Clinton and her aides, and their communications may have been intercepted by hostile actors. This sort of irresponsibility can directly jeopardize U.S. national security and put people’s lives at risk.”
Then a week before the Nov. 8 election, Nunes sent FBI Director James Comey a letter seeking more information on Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
Nunes, of course, wanted to know everything about Clinton, her missteps and potential missteps. But now he has little to no curiosity about the serious allegations involving the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia. Know, too, that Nunes was instrumental in raising more than $1 million for Trump’s presidential campaign and he was a member of the Trump transition team.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the Senate affirmed last week their commitment to conduct a legitimate investigation into Flynn’s dealings via the Senate Intelligence Committee that is now examining allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 elections.
Nunes? He’s steaming mad about leaks to reporters and Flynn’s forced resignation.
Like we said, the congressman – despite all of his fire-breathing rhetoric – is nothing more than a paper tiger.