Sam Nunberg, the former Trump campaign aide, made news last week when he dared special counsel Robert Mueller to arrest him for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
Nunberg later changed his position. The prospect of jail can focus the mind.
But how about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowskirefusing to answer key questions from the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign?
How about Hope Hicks, the president’s outgoing communications director, also refusing to respond to questions from the House committee?
She shut down questions about anything that happened since President Trump’s inauguration, including her role in creating a misleading memo. It was written in response to questions from New York Times reporters who asked about Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. The president’s son had been led to believe the meeting would deliver negative information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Hicks did admit to telling “white lies” for the president before resigning the next day.
And what about Stephen Bannon, the president’s former political strategist? He said Trump’s legal team told him to not answer anything from the House panel except questions pre-approved by the White House.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions played a similar card last June when he told the Senate he could not answer questions because the president might assert “executive privilege” in the future.
But the president has not done so. And the law says no one — especially the nation’s top law enforcement official — is free to selectively ignore Congress’s constitutional authority to exercise checks and balances on the executive branch.
In an editorial, The Washington Post called out the House GOP for its rank hypocrisy in how it behaves now by comparison to its conduct during the Obama administration.
“Republicans held Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt when they were pursuing their trumped-up investigation of the ‘Fast and Furious’ gunrunning scheme,” the Post editorialized. “Zealously defending the dignity of the legislative branch mattered to them when a Democrat was in the White House. And now?”
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Lewandowski and Hicks to be subpoenaed. But the GOP majority clearly has no interest in using their powers to get answers from the Trump team.
But let’s not kid ourselves.
The House Intelligence Committee probe has never been a serious investigation. It long ago broke down into a partisan sideshow orchestrated by its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Just last week, a group of House Republicans called for a second special counsel to investigate the FISA court approval of surveillance of Carter Page, a one-time Trump campaign adviser. Note that they have no evidence of any wrongdoing by the court. Note that they have no proof of wrongdoing by the FBI in making its application to four judges.
But the request is in keeping with Nunes’s priorities.
Previously, he kicked up dirt about former President Obama in an attempt to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped his campaign.
Nunes also created a distraction by casting aspersions on legitimate requests by Obama’s national security officials to “unmask” the names of Trump officials talking with the Russians.
In every case, Nunes has tried to discredit any law enforcement agency that might reveal what happened between the Trump campaign and the Russians. His efforts have been primarily focused on undercutting special counsel Mueller’s investigation.
The New York Times reported recently that Nunes broke dangerous new ground by leaking confidential text messages from Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-Va.) about the investigation.
This is unprecedented contempt by House leadership for Congress’s role in protecting the nation from the threat of a lawless president.
Can you recall an instance in congressional probes into Watergate, Iran-Contra or President Clinton’s conduct where a member of Congress leaked confidential communication with another member of Congress?
It is sad that Nunes has prostituted his committee’s bipartisan commitment to national security — all to protect Trump.
It will take a generation — if not more — before the intelligence community regains trust in sharing information with the House Intelligence Committee. After Nunes’s dispiriting performance, they have every reason to fear their sources and methods will be compromised and their integrity impugned if it serves a future chairman’s partisan agenda.
These sad developments come as public concern about Russian interference persists.
A Suffolk University/USA Today poll last month found that 69 percent of Americans believe the Russians made “a serious effort to meddle in the 2016 election.” Seventy-six percent believe the Russians will continue to meddle in our elections. Sixty percent think Trump is not doing enough to respond to the Russian meddling.
A majority — 57 percent of Americans — say they have “little or no trust” in Trump’s denial that there was any collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
And yet, Congressional Republicans are sanguine even as Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, reports that Trump has not ordered him to stop the Russians from interfering in U.S. elections.
When is Congress going to listen to the American people — their constituents — and begin to assert itself as a co-equal branch of government? When will its members see the ongoing threat to America’s national security as bigger than Trump?
This utter breakdown of democratic government is not sustainable for much longer./thehill.com