By early April, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had become the punch-line to an unfortunate joke. The California Republican, who was supposed to be leading an investigation into the Russia scandal, took steps to effectively blow up his own probe by partnering with the White House, keeping secrets from his colleagues, and lying publicly about his own antics.
With circumstances forcing his hand, and facing an ethics probe, Nunes announced on April 6 that he was recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Responsibility for overseeing the probe quickly shifted to other GOP members of the House Intelligence panel.
All of which brought us to yesterday, when the GOP congressman said he didn’t actually recuse himself after all. The Washington Examiner reported:
“I never recused myself,” the House Intelligence Committee chairman reportedly said in an interview with KMJ’s Ray Appleton. “This was essentially made up by the media.”
Nunes announced on April 6 that he’d step away from the House’s investigation of the Russia issue, meaning a fair number of reporters were justifiably confused by his interview remarks.
As Rachel noted on last night’s show, we were certainly led to believe Nunes had withdrawn from the process, “but he now says that was all fake news. He’s still in charge. He’s not recused and he’s still controlling the subpoena power on that committee. That’s weird.”
It’s a curious semantics game Nunes is playing. In April, when it looked and sounded like he was recusing himself from the process, the committee chairman said in his statement, “…I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter.”
Note, he didn’t literally use the word “recuse.”
At this point, by all appearances, the Ethics Committee’s review of Nunes’ bizarre antics is still underway, but Nunes nevertheless believes he should continue to oversee Russia-related subpoenas, even after he stepped aside, asking other Republicans to “take charge” of the investigation.
There have been serious questions in recent weeks about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions honored his voluntary recusal as part of the Russia affair. It now appears Devin Nunes is facing related questions.