Opinion writer

The Post reports on the secretly recorded remarks of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) at a fundraiser for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.):

[Nunes] appears to have moved from criticizing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to strategizing about how to blunt its impact should it imperil President Trump. ..

In comments captured in an audio recording aired Wednesday by “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Nunes laid out in stark terms the rationale for preserving the GOP majority in Congress.

“If [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions won’t unrecuse and [special counsel Robert S. Mueller III] won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger,” Nunes said. … “I mean, we have to keep all these seats,” Nunes added. “We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.”

Nunes also suggested the impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is just a matter of “timing,” claiming that impeachment (which has yet to be formally taken up) would impede the Senate confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (It’s hard to tell if Nunes is offering a weak, illogical excuse for not impeaching Rosenstein or is promising that Rosenstein will get impeached if the GOP keeps its majority in the House.)

Nunes also seemed to imply that a candidate would be in trouble if a foreign national gave a candidate stolen information that the candidate later released. (“Well, if that’s the case, then that’s criminal.”) Like Trump, Rudy Giuliani and so many Trump spinners, Nunes seems unaware that soliciting something of value from a foreigner to be used in a campaign is illegal, whether the valuable item is stolen or not.

There is nothing illegal in Nunes’s admissions, nor do they seem particularly new. All but Trump partisans realize that Nunes is acting as the president’s political stooge, not as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. We knew he cared only about protecting Trump, not the country, when he made up the “unmasking” scandal, put out a patently misleading memo concerning the FISA warrant application to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, started demanding confidential documents relating to an ongoing investigation (of Trump and his cronies), had a role in outing a confidential intelligence source and began his crusade to smear the FBI. The admissions, however, do reveal Rodgers, a member of the House leadership, to be joined at the hip with Nunes, perfectly content to let him run amok as a partisan hack. (She at one point seems to try to bolster Nunes’s excuse that they cannot impeach Rosenstein because the Senate would have to take it up and divert attention from the Kavanaugh confirmation.)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has played dumb when asked about Nunes’s antics. That’s for the Intel Committee. Not really aware of that. Not something I know much about. That’s preposterous. Not only do Ryan and Rodgers know exactly what Nunes is up to; they are also more than willing to let him raise money for them and to allow him to pursue his base-pleasing partisan gamesmanship. In short, Ryan and Rodgers are weak, non-leaders who haven’t the nerve or the sense of obligation to remove Nunes from his chairmanship to protect the country’s national security interests. Without Rodgers and Ryan, we might have a responsible House Intelligence Committee chairman.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted, “Under our Constitution, the duty of Congress is not to clear the President. The duty of Congress is to be a check and balance on the Executive Branch, and to pursue the facts wherever they may lead.” He added, “Devin Nunes should resign for perverting the oath he took.” True, but the very same thing could be said of Ryan and Rodgers, who indulge Nunes. None of them seems to understand the oath of office. If we want representatives to uphold their oaths and quit acting like Trump’s TV lawyers, voters will have to turn the House over to the Democrats. There is no way on Earth that Ryan, Rodgers and Nunes are ever going to put country over party.