Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee, was secretly recorded during a closed-door fundraiser last July telling attendees that the GOP must maintain majority status, because they are the final layer of protection for the president.
Aired by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the tape confirms what has long been assumed about Nunes: he is more concerned with protecting President Donald Trump than defending the United States of America.
An analysis by The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points to two significant implications drawn from the recording:
First off, here’s the full quote, in context:
"So therein lies what’s like your classic Catch-22 situation where we’re at a -- it puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won’t un-recuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger. That’s why I keep -- and thank you for saying it by the way -- I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away."
Now, plenty of Republicans — politicians and pundits alike — have argued that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is in fact a witch hunt, as the president is also fond of asserting.
But Nunes is not your average, run-of-the-mill congressman. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, granting him access to more information regarding the Russia investigation than most, as the committee was tasked with running its own investigation into potential collusion by the Trump campaign.
Nunes did not conduct a fair and unbiased investigation by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed clear throughout the effort that his goal was to obfuscate and deceive in order to unjustifiably clear the president’s name.
His investigation is finished, so perhaps he can let loose a bit. But here he seems to let his true feelings come rushing out — behind closed doors, at least. And it confirms everything we thought we knew about the man behind that probe and his suspiciously pro-Trump actions.
Blake highlights two implications from Nunes’ taped admissions:
First, he talks about Attorney General Jeff Sessions “un-recusing” himself as if it were a way out of this whole mess. That’s making a real assumption about the nation’s highest law enforcement officer, but it’s one that Trump himself has hinted at. Reporting has regularly described Trump ruing Sessions’s recusal because he believed his attorney general should be there to protect him. But it’s one thing for Trump to reportedly muse about such an unholy alliance behind closed doors; it’s another to have Nunes doing it on tape.
And the second is the last part: “If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.” Again, Nunes is the House intelligence committee chairman, and he’s privy to all kinds of things we don’t know about. The committee’s report concluded there was no evidence of collusion with Russia, but it clearly made pains to not to reflect poorly on the GOP president. (The whole thing created a rift between the GOP majority on the committee and the Democratic minority, which didn’t sign off on the report.)
Nunes appears to believe that short of Republicans keeping the majority, nothing will protect Trump from impeachment — which would require a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate, and would necessarily require Republicans to go along.
Nunes is leading the crowd to believe that this would happen. Perhaps that’s just overheated partisan rhetoric — the kind of thing you say to fire up the base — but the fact that the guy running the House intel committee’s Russia probe suggests it’s actually possible Trump could be removed from office based upon Mueller’s Russia probe seems significant.