Two of California’s longest-tenured Republican congressmen made complete fools of themselves on Thursday. During a House hearing into the whistle-blower complaint against President Donald Trump, Rep. Tom McClintock and Rep. Devin Nunes displayed a stunning lack of honesty, and a non-existent grasp of reality, in their attempts to protect Trump from his self-inflicted Ukraine scandal.
McClintock accused Democrats of manufacturing the scandal despite clear evidence, provided by the White House in the form of call summary, that Trump did indeed urge the president of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. Nunes also ignored this irrefutable evidence and leveled hyperbolic charges against his Democratic counterparts. He alleged, without evidence, that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee had sought nude photos of Trump.
In both instances, the congressmen acted as nothing more than political flamethrowers, choosing blatant and dishonest partisanship over an honest examination of whether the president has possibly committed an impeachable offense.
“And of course, Democrats on this very committee negotiated with people who they thought were Ukrainians in order to obtain nude pictures of Trump,” Nunes said in his opening remarks. He let that comment linger, then moved onto the next point. Nothing more on Nudegate. It was just a transparent and fact-free attempt to change the subject and put the blame back on his opponents.
Nunes continued: “This latest gambit by the Democrats to overturn the people’s mandate (of electing Trump) is unhinged and dangerous. They should end the entire dishonest, grotesque spectacle and get back to work to solving problems.”
Yet it was Nunes who created the dishonest, grotesque spectacle at Thursday’s hearing. Long a promoter of baseless conspiracy theories – in July, Nunes said it was Democrats, not Trump, who conspired with Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton – Nunes has again proven his willingness to sacrifice the truth in order to appease his conservative, Fox News-watching base.
Nunes, of Tulare, has increasingly resorted to overheated rhetoric and sheer spectacle in his panicked campaign to cement his position as Trump’s chief stooge. He sued Twitter, accusing it of minimizing positive tweets about him and conservatives. Nunes also sued three of his district’s constituents who wanted him to remove the title “farmer” from the 2018 ballot designation because they said he had not done any recent farming.
Nunes recently dropped that lawsuit. But he is still suing McClatchy and The Fresno Bee for writing stories he doesn’t like.
McClintock, in a radio interview, did not deny that Trump had asked Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. Instead, the Elk Grove congressman sought to portray the president’s request – for Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son – as entirely appropriate.
These words will come back to haunt him, especially since Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor on Thursday made it clear that Trump’s accusations against Hunter Biden are completely baseless.
“From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything,” former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko told the Washington Post, referring to Hunter Biden.
The accusations against Vice President Biden’s son are a smear designed to hurt Biden’s 2020 campaign. If President Trump asked a foreign power to open an investigation into these debunked accusations in order to boost his own 2020 campaign, that is very likely an impeachable offense. As the legislative branch, Congress – Democrats and Republicans together – owe a full investigation into that possibility. This is true whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican.
If McClintock and Nunes cannot fairly and ethically carry out their duties, they should step aside.
“I’ve read the transcript, I think everybody needs to read the transcript and see how unobjectionable the president’s conversation was,” said McClintock, referring to an incomplete summary of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president.
Then they can see for themselves how unhinged men like McClintock and Nunes have become in their desperate attempts to prop up a president who seems dead-set on imploding his presidency.