Monday’s vote to release a classified House Intelligence Committee memo was another needless mistake perpetuated by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Nunes has turned the Russia investigations, which were already based on a flawed premise, into a media exercise that plays mostly into the hands of Democrats and their allies in the media. His inability to think strategically and keep the investigation in an honest place only serves to prolong the investigations.
Nunes’s antics allow the media, who see that the investigations against President Trump aren’t really going anywhere, to say the investigations are being undermined by Republican partisanship. If Nunes were more quiet and subtle, the Democrats would have less ammunition. House Republicans would be wise to accept that a thorough investigation is what will serve the president, the GOP and the nation best — not a partisan tactician who is overly interested in feeding the Fox News narrative.
None of this is to say that the likes of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are innocent and do not warrant further inquiry. The fact that Strzok demonstrated clear anti-Trump political bias yet played a critical role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails is deeply troubling. But to uncover the extent of that wrongdoing, we should allow the investigations to run their course. I think the most important thing that has been discovered from the investigations is that one of the campaigns paid an opposition research company with Kremlin-linked clients to find dirt on an opponent. And, oh by the way, it wasn’t the Trump campaign. It was Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Anyway, there are some adults at the Justice Department who are good, conservative Republicans and are all too aware of the damage Nunes is doing. He sees his role not as someone who is leading a serious inquiry but instead as feeding the right-wing news cycle. Remember, I’ve written extensively that there is nothing to the Russia investigations and that the Democrats’ quest for collusion has crumbled. But what Nunes is doing is far different. Nunes is on a publicity tour, and he is pitting the president against his own Justice Department. Now, Trump has just until the end of the week to determine whether the memo should be made publicly available. But the way Nunes is handling it gives the president or other Republicans little choice. And that was always the point. The memo was produced to become a partisan hit piece and for its ultimate release to just be fodder for another news cycle. The right wing everywhere is now all spun up and if the president doesn’t release the memo, Trump will look as though he has been captured by the swamp. But by releasing the memo, Trump will pave the way for Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media to accuse him of engaging in partisan destruction of the Russia investigations. I fear Republicans are doing more to tarnish the investigations that will ultimately clear Trump than anything Democrats are doing.
The House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff (Calif.), has continuously been able to play Nunes. By being so reckless and unprofessional, Nunes is constantly giving Schiff new things to talk about. Likewise, Schiff knows that Nunes has a passion for stirring the pot and creating intrigue, so he’s always getting Nunes to take the bait. Nunes’s conduct has given Schiff a platform when, in fact, none should even exist.
And while we’re at it, many people in Washington know Nunes’s appointment was a Boehner-era mistake that the rest of the GOP caucus is still paying for. Most of the people I talk to don’t even think Nunes read the memo’s supporting material. In all likelihood, he probably thought it would be a good idea to have his staff pick out some of the most salacious nuggets of intelligence and just throw them out there. But that is not really a way to help the Russia investigations come to an end. It’s not even a political strategy. It’s not a strategy that helps Trump, and it’s not a strategy that helps get votes. It’s just half-cocked.