This afternoon, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that there was “nothing problematic” in Congressman Devin Nunes continuing to chair the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Donald Trump’s connections with Russia, you could almost hear the laughter in the room.
Spicer’s statement was delusional, to say the least, and it exposed just how disconnected from reality the White House is on this subject. It’s almost as though they don’t have a problem with a former Trump campaign advisor directing an investigation into the Trump campaign. Indeed, if there’s anyone more delusional than Spicer, it’s Nunes himself – a man who genuinely seems to believe he hasn’t done anything wrong.
Let’s get this out in the open: it’s past time for Devin Nunes to recuse himself fully and unequivocally from the Russia inquiry. He shouldn’t have anything to do with any subject that is even slightly related to this investigation. He’s proven to the country that he’s unable to transition from campaign flak to an impartial seeker of the truth.
The editorial board of the Washington Post came to this conclusion last week when it wrote that “House leaders should put an end to the embarrassing travesty being directed by Mr. Nunes.” Still, if there was even a lingering doubt that Nunes could continue in his role as lead investigator, it was extinguished this week when it became clear that he traveled to the White House grounds to review an intelligence source that he still refuses to brief his committee colleagues on. Ranking Member Adam Schiff, a member of the Gang of Eight who has access to the highest classification of intelligence information, is still operating in the dark as to what his Republican counterpart was up to.
It’s easy to dismiss calls for Nunes’ recusal as partisan attacks by Democrats designed to embarrass the Republicans in the national spotlight. And there is definitely partisanship on the Democratic side of the aisle: Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are increasingly doing what Mitch McConnell did during the first six years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when obstruction was viewed as the best way to score political points.
Yet when you take the partisanship out of the equation, it’s still clear that Nunes is no longer in a position to conduct an independent investigation into Donald Trump and Russia. Why Speaker Paul Ryan thought it was a good idea for a member of Trump’s transition team to take charge of an inquiry that would inevitably get uncomfortable for the Trump White House is mind-boggling. It’s almost as though House Republicans never really wanted a real investigation to begin with.
Where we go from here is difficult to say. The House Intelligence Committee, that once-proud institution that is supposed to operate above the daily political tug-of-war, is now a joke to much of the country. As the chairman of that committee, Nunes has a duty to recover as much of its credibility as he possibly can. A recusal would be a good start.