Nunes charges Democrats using intelligence panel to cloak process
Rep. Devin Nunes of California charged that Democrats are conducting impeachment in secret in order to hide their paucity of evidence against President Trump.
“I call it faux impeachment,” Nunes told the Washington Examiner on Friday. “By running it in the House Intelligence Committee, they’re trying to keep all of the information from the American public. And I understand why, because every witness we have that comes in bombs out for them.”
Nunes is calling the Democrat-driven impeachment inquiry illegitimate, insisting that Trump’s attempt to push the Ukrainian government to investigate political rival Joe Biden was unequivocally appropriate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving the impeachment inquiry through the Intelligence Committee, where Nunes, a close Trump ally, serves as the top Republican. In an interview, the congressman sounded confident the inquiry would flop, even amid fresh indications the president might have sought to use U.S. foreign policy levers to affect an agreement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to target Biden, the former vice president and a Democrat Trump could face in 2020.
“The House has to take a vote in order for them to really start the impeachment process, to give us subpoena power — the Democrats subpoena power, so that you can have a real investigation and then members of Congress can decide whether or not impeachment is appropriate,” Nunes said. However, even if a majority of the House votes to support opening an impeachment inquiry, Nunes said he would defer to the White House on whether it should honor subpoenas.
The impeachment inquiry centers around a July telephone call, revealed by a whistleblower complaint, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. According to a summary transcript that Trump says is accurate, the president asked Zelensky to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Bidens and the origins of the Russia probe overseen by Robert Mueller.
The president claims he was doing his constitutional duty to root out corruption. “I don’t care about politics,” he told reporters Friday. “I never thought Joe Biden was going to win.”
Nunes indicated that he would take issue with Trump and Giuliani if they purposely tried to pressure Ukraine, or other foreign governments, to unearth opposition research on Biden for political purposes. “If a president just randomly was parachuting his personal attorney down into countries where he thought he could get some dirt on political opponents … that might be questionable,” he said, but added, “That’s not what this is.”
Citing the Trump-Zelensky transcript and offering a possible preview of Republican messaging strategy, Nunes said the president was simply trying to get to the bottom of a tainted Russia probe that amounted to a partisan hit job. And, since Giuliani served as Trump’s attorney during that investigation, Nunes has concluded that former New York mayor’s recent dealings with Ukraine are above board.
“That whole issue is fake news,” Nunes said. “But what is not fake news is that the origins of the Russia investigation start in Ukraine. Why? Because the Democrats were paying people to get information from Ukrainians, dirt on Trump. The Democrats in 2015 and ‘16 were paying Ukrainians to get dirt from government officials that they then fed to the FBI.”
Nunes added, “You had the mainstream media and the Democrats, including Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, running around talking to Russians and Ukrainians looking for what? Nude photos of the president. That’s a fact.”
Republicans in Congress, even the few who have criticized Trump regarding Ukraine, have stopped short of accusing Trump of offering Kyiv a quid pro quo — military aid for a Biden investigation. Democrats disagree. But even if that issue is debatable, they assert that an impeachment inquiry is warranted because the president asked Zelensky to investigate Biden, which they contend is an abuse of power.
“I do not think that one transcript memo is enough to determine yea or nay on quid pro quo,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former clandestine officer in the Central Intelligence Agency. “The element of asking a foreign leader for assistance in digging up information about a political opponent, that is not permissible.”
Nunes is optimistic that Trump will be vindicated.
The intelligence community whistleblower is politically biased, and Kurt Volker, Trump’s former Ukraine envoy, did not undermine the president’s defense in a closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes said. Meanwhile, he said that a series of unearthed text messages from U.S. diplomats that could reveal a quid pro quo were manipulated by Democrats to “fabricate” Trump’s guilt.
“This is just a show trial,” Nunes said.