When Donald Trump is feeling especially desperate about the Russia scandal, the president will insist that his political operation never colluded with Putin’s government – but Hillary Clinton’s did. Even for a guy who loves playing a childish I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I game, the whole line comes across as desperate and a little silly.
And with that in mind, it seemed a little worse when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, started pushing Trump’s talking point.
In a remarkable interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes on Monday night claimed it was the Hillary Clinton campaign that had been the real Russian collaborator, and had effectively weaponized the FBI against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s what happens in banana republics. It’s scary,” said the California Republican, who claimed that the controversial memo released by the House intel panel last week on a party-line vote showed a “clear link” between the Clinton campaign and Russia.
Maybe, under the circumstances, this guy might want to steer clear of banana republic references.
Nevertheless, two days later, Nunes repeated the line on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show: “The truth is that they [Democrats] are covering up that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump to feed it to the FBI to open up an investigation into the other campaign.”
So, is there any truth to this? No. The Washington Post fact-checked explained today:
Was the dossier used to gin up media attention to Russia-Trump ties and bolster an existing FBI investigation? Perhaps. That’s certainly a question worth exploring.
But the media needed little prodding to investigate when candidate Trump appeared unexpectedly solicitous of Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russian-linked entities leaked emails stolen by Russian hackers in the middle of a campaign. Meanwhile, the initial FBI counterintelligence probe was prompted not by Steele’s reporting but by the loose lips of a Trump campaign staffer.
Finally, there is no evidence that Clinton was involved in Steele’s reports or worked with Russian entities to feed information to Steele. That’s where Nunes’s claim goes off the rails — and why he earns Four Pinocchios.
I’m less annoyed by Nunes’ dishonesty than I am amazed by his disregard for what’s left of his reputation. He’s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for goodness sakes. He wants to be seen as a credible lawmaker, worthy of some modicum of respect.
And yet, Nunes’ antics, including repeating one of the dumbest of Trump’s talking points, only makes him look worse, following the fiasco of his so-called “memo,” which came against the backdrop of related debacles.
Dear Mr. Chairman, stop digging.