Marek Warszawski

Trump impeachment hearings should be Nunes’ time to shine. Instead, GOP gave him the hook

This should be Devin Nunes’ time to shine. As the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes should be front and center as one of President Trump’s main defenders in the upcoming impeachment hearings.

After all, what elected official has shown more loyalty and fealty to Trump than the congressman from California’s 22nd District?

Except that’s not happening. Instead of getting his turn in the national political spotlight, Nunes is being shunted off stage by his own party.

The only thing missing is a vaudeville hook.

When the much-anticipated impeachment proceedings set to begin, Nunes will be demoted to second string. Instead of Nunes, Trump’s defense will be augmented by Jim Jordan, the suit jacket-eschewing congressman from Ohio assigned to the Intelligence Committee Friday by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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GOP leaders would never publicly admit this, of course, but it’s a pretty clear sign they don’t think Nunes is up to the task. Not when the stakes are this high.

While Republicans insist Jordan’s addition is meant to complement Nunes, rather than slight him, it does kind of make you wonder.

Perhaps they believe Nunes is too distracted by his frivolous lawsuits against Twitter, McClatchy and fictitious animals, too consumed with fundraising or too busy recording inane podcasts to dig in and ask detailed, probing questions.

Or maybe they too have grown weary of Nunes’ endless conspiracy-theory spewing, which plays great to the Fox News audience but makes him look ridiculous in every other setting.

Or perhaps they took note of recent closed-door impeachment inquiries, where Nunes has been largely silent. He missed one hearing and barely speaks at others, according to transcripts and witnesses.

What’s the matter, Devin, cow got your tongue?

‘Nutso’ and ‘awkward’

Transcripts show that Nunes only attended a short portion of each deposition. He also missed at least one session with an impeachment witness.

And when Nunes did pose questions to witnesses, such as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, they centered on the so-called Steele dossier.

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Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee questions former special counsel Robert Mueller as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. Alex Brandon AP

Which, if you’re following along, has very little or nothing to do with whether Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless that country opened an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival and potential opponent in the 2020 election, and Biden’s son, Hunter.

You know, the old quid pro quo that is at the root of the impeachment effort. Or, if you don’t speak Latin, bribery and extortion.

Sources told The Daily Beast that Nunes’ line of inquiry seemed “oddly divorced” from the topic at hand and that Sonland “appeared perplexed” by Nunes’ questions.

“It was nutso,” one of them said. “It was awkward.”

Nutso and awkward. Two words that won’t help save Trump’s bacon.

Nunes’ ‘situational ethics’

Since Nunes only talks to conservative media outlets — another difference between he and Jordan — we don’t know what he makes of being relegated to the sidelines during the biggest political fight of Trump’s presidency.

Not that Nunes would tell us, or that we can believe anything he says. For example, during a March 2017 press conference, Nunes stressed the importance of anonymous whisteblowers and lamented their protections weren’t strong enough.

Two and a half years later, one of Nunes’ aides reportedly leaked the Ukraine whistleblower’s name, according to media reports. Whether or not Nunes knew about this or condoned it, it reflects a moral compass worthy of Jack Sparrow.

For all of Nunes’ bluster and tough talk, it’s odd how much he detests facing the music. Let us not forget it has been nearly a decade since the Tulare Republican held a town hall for district voters.

Now, he’s being passed over for the biggest town hall of the Trump presidency. How fitting.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
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