Kellyanne Conway wasn't the only top Republican to give a poorly-timed defense of Michael Flynn, just hours before Flynn resigned as national security adviser.
Appearing on Fox News late Monday afternoon, Nunes said Flynn had been unfairly maligned by the press and lauded him as an intelligence officer without parallel. Fox's Neil Cavuto asked if he thought Flynn should step down, and Nunes gave a blunt response:
No, I don’t. I have great confidence in Mike Flynn. He’s probably the best intelligence officer of his generation. And Neil, he’s being attacked maliciously by the press, which is not uncommon in this town, and I think what General Flynn is realizing is that being a general is much different than being in politics.And he’s just got to work his way through it. He’s just now getting his team on board. And he's had an unprecedented number of leaks over the last few weeks, including leaks that have come from conversations that the president of the United States has had with --
Cavuto cut off Flynn, and asked again if Flynn should step down. Nunes again said no.
Nunes said much the same to a Bloomberg reporter just before his Fox News interview, saying there was "a lot of nothing there" when it came to Flynn's alleged wrongdoing:
"It just seems like there's a lot of nothing there." -Nunes on Flynn story.— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) February 13, 2017
Flynn resigned less than five hours after the Fox interview, after The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department had informed the White House as early as last month that Flynn had misled them when he denied discussing sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the United States. The Justice Department also warned that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
It's not unusual for Republicans to defend their party's administration officials, of course, but Nunes went further than almost anybody. And given his perch as chairman of the House intelligence committee, he will play a major role in whatever sorting through of the Flynn saga there will be. At the outset, though, Nunes declared this to be a non-issue, which was quickly called into question by events and Flynn's own decision.
Nunes's position that this was much ado about nothing is also at odds with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Tuesday morning that there were calls for Flynn's resignation as soon as it was revealed that he had misled the White House (which was first reported by The Post last week). If people behind the scenes were calling for Flynn to step down, Nunes's defense is especially notable.
Nunes may still believe Flynn was unfairly targeted and that the resignation was forced for illegitimate reasons. His office didn't comment on whether that's the case, but it did release a statement that seems to blame politics for the upheaval rather than Flynn himself.
And so far, Nunes is shunning the idea of investigating the Flynn situation, citing something he mentioned Monday -- conversations between Flynn and the president, which Nunes asserted are protected by executive privilege.
Rep. Devin Nunes says the Intelligence Committee won't look into discussions between Trump and Flynn, citing executive privilege— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 14, 2017
We'll see if that's a tenable position going forward.
Update: Asked again whether Nunes feels Flynn was treated unfairly and whether he should have resigned, spokesman Jack Langer again focused instead on the leaks instead: "He is especially concerned about the leaks to the press of classified information in connection with Flynn."