Strike Two for Chairman Nunes’ Efforts to Provide Cover for President Trump

Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer

The Nunes memo publicly released today represents the second attempt by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Trump transition official, to provide cover for President Trump’s indefensible actions. Like the first attempt, this effort will also fail.

Nunes’s first unsuccessful effort to shield Trump occurred in March 2017 following Trump’s false claim that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower. Nunes brought intelligence information to Trump, which he said he got from “whistle blowers” who needed protection. He also said, “The president needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there, and I have a duty to tell him that.”

Both of these statements were false, and both were efforts to deceive the American people. Nunes got the intelligence information from White House officials on the White House grounds, not from “whistle blowers.” Nunes did not have a “duty” to inform the President about the information because, as Nunes knew, the President already had the information.

This time, Nunes prepared and released a memo that has the obvious purpose of providing cover for President Trump to go after Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. President Trump has been attacking the Justice Department, the FBI, and their top officials in an effort to undermine the Russia investigation being conducted by the Special Counsel.

The problem for Nunes, however, is that we have rare agreement between House Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Democratic leaders that flatly rejects this effort.

House Speaker Ryan said this week about the Nunes memo, “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.” Speaker Ryan also reportedly told reporters that he did not see any basis in the memo for firing Rosenstein.

House and Senate Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, along with other Democratic leaders, also said that the Nunes memo provided no basis to fire Rosenstein, or to impede the Mueller investigation.

The Democratic leaders said in a letter to President Trump today that any such action “would be seen as attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre.”

President Trump will put his presidency at grave risk if he tries to use the Nunes memo as a pretext for firing anyone or for any other effort to undermine the Mueller investigation.

One other issue in this matter needs to be pursued. In the March fiasco, Nunes secretly worked with White House officials to try to create the false appearance that he was acting independently from the White House.

There is an unanswered question about whether Nunes did the same thing with his memo. This past Monday evening, at the meeting at which the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee voted to release the memo, Nunes refused to answer when he was asked if his staff had been involved with White House officials in the preparation of the memo.

In the spirit of the same transparency that Speaker Ryan said justified publicly releasing the Nunes memo, Chairman Nunes has an obligation to promptly tell the American people whether there was any White House involvement in the preparation of his memo.