Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce and declare war.
It has lesser responsibilities as well. Among them are to create post offices, to promote science and the arts, and to punish treason and offenses on the high seas.
A review of the Constitution, which all House members are sworn to uphold when they take the oath of office, shows there is no requirement that legislators protect the president of the United States. In fact, the legislative branch is meant to act as a check on the executive branch, with the judiciary being the third arm of government.
And yet protecting President Donald Trump seems to be the strict role Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, has made for himself. That came into new relief this week with the leak of audio captured at a fundraiser in Washington state at which Nunes was a speaker. It was made crystal clear that Nunes is choosing the role of party leader over his constitutional role of legislative oversight. That’s not right.
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In the audio, taken by a member of a progressive group who attended the fundraiser for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Nunes discusses how important it is for the Republican Party to maintain majorities in both the House and Senate in the November election.
But he goes beyond making it simply a political statement. Nunes links majority control to protecting President Donald Trump from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“If Sessions (Attorney General Jeff Sessions) won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones,” Nunes said. The context: “We” means congressional Republicans.
When it comes to the oversight role regarding Russian meddling, the scorecard does not look favorable to Nunes.
By virtue of his longevity in Congress, Nunes now chairs the House Intelligence Committee, a plum assignment. His committee investigated the matter of Russian interference, and under protest by member Democrats, released a report in April that concluded there was no evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russian operatives.
Democrats on that House committee followed up with their own report that disputed the conclusion and said the full committee did not press hard enough for evidence.
The Senate Intelligence Committee also looked into Russian activities, and its members — Republicans and Democrats — found there was concrete evidence to show Russia did in fact interfere with the election to the detriment of Hillary Clinton. That conclusion backed what U.S. intelligence agencies — which Nunes oversees — had told Congress.
So, on one side of the ledger are House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats from the intelligence committees, as well as U.S. intelligence agencies themselves. On the other side are Nunes and GOP members of the House committee.
Which brings us back to the Constitution. It is not Nunes’ job to protect Trump from anything. However, it is expressly Nunes’ duty to act as a check on the executive branch. That was the role the Senate played during the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office. That is how the founders of our country designed our government to work.
Devin Nunes needs to uphold our system of checks and balances. Far from being a “true American patriot,” as Trump called Nunes, he is actually acting against our very form of government.