{{show_title_date || "Nunes muddies Trump probe with abrupt claim of new evidence, 3/22/17, 9:25 PM ET"}}

House Intel chair trashes what’s left of his credibility

Updated
House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes (R-Calif.) has forgotten some important things. The California Republican no longer remembers, for example, that he doesn’t actually work for Donald Trump’s White House.

At the same time, Nunes has also forgotten that powerful members of Congress who intend to serve as sycophantic cheerleaders for their party’s president should at least try to pretend to be credible and responsible.

When it comes to the Russia scandal, Nunes announced in mid-December that he had no intention of even looking into the matter, though he later changed his mind under pressure. Two months later, he tried to exonerate then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shortly before the White House fired him for lying about his communications with Russia.

By Valentine’s Day, Nunes was making the White House’s arguments about executive privilege, while contacting reporters and trying to wave them off of a controversy he was ostensibly investigating. In fact, the Intelligence Committee chairman has spent the better part of 2017 running interference for Donald Trump – who’s presidential transition committee he helped lead.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/22/17, 9:00 PM ET

Rep Schiff: Trump Russia case now 'more than circumstantial'

Rachel Maddow reports on developments in the investigation into coordination between the Donald Trump campaign in Russia, from a new report on Paul Manafort acting in Russia’s interest to a new characterization of the evidence by ranking House…
Rachel Maddow reports on developments in the investigation into coordination between the Donald Trump campaign in Russia, from a new report on Paul Manafort acting in Russia’s interest to a new characterization of the evidence by ranking House…
And then yesterday happened. As Rachel explained on last night’s show:
“[Nunes] held not one, but two fairly breathless press conferences alleging … something, he couldn’t quite say what, about the intelligence community and the Trump transition, of which he was an executive member. Things that he had seen, but he could not describe, that made him feel alarm, that made him feel concern, that ought to make us all feel alarm and concern, and they certainly would make us feel those things if only we knew what these things were, but he would not tell us.

“In fact, he did not even have those things in his possession, and he had not shown them to the rest of the people on his committee, who are participating in this investigation he’s supposed to be leading.”
It is exceedingly rare to see a powerful member of Congress, in the middle of an investigation into a serious scandal, commit an act of self-sabotage in such a dramatic fashion.

It’s hard to even describe the point of Nunes’ little show yesterday afternoon. The GOP congressman apparently received classified information, which he was eager to share, that found there were incidental recordings of Trump transition officials, after the election but before the inauguration, during legal surveillance.

Nunes couldn’t keep his story straight about whether Donald Trump was personally recorded. He couldn’t keep his story straight about whether the information was gleaned by way of the Russia investigation his committee is conducting. And he couldn’t keep his story straight about whether he actually had information, or whether he may receive it on Friday.

Nunes, in between his two press conferences, briefed Trump on the information he claims to have received from officials in the Trump administration – in the process undermining his own investigation, stepping all over separation of powers, trashing the process he’s supposed to be honoring, and acting as if he were somehow a presidential employee – without bothering to talk to his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee.

In other words, Nunes not only a made a fool out of himself for reasons that no one can explain, he also effectively told the nation that his committee cannot be trusted to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into one of the era’s most important political scandals.

Watching the developments unfold, it was hard to know whether to be outraged by Nunes’ irresponsible behavior or feel sorry for him after this pitiful display. The poor guy just made it painfully obvious to the entire political world that he’s been compromised and has no business leading the Intelligence Committee.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC yesterday that the House Intelligence Committee has lost “the credibility to handle this alone.” I’m hard pressed to imagine how anyone can disagree.