With many federal law enforcement officials, including Donald Trump’s handpicked FBI director, pushing back against the release of the “Nunes memo,” is there any chance they might get some help from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)?
Apparently not. Here’s what the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday:
“There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals. So it is our job, in conducting transparent oversight of the executive branch, to get to the bottom of that. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. And so, what we want is all of this information to come out so that transparency can reign supreme and accountability can occur.”
Yes, now that you mention it, it was kind of amusing to hear Ryan talk about the importance of executive branch oversight after House Republicans have done effectively nothing to check Donald Trump over the last year. His comments about “transparency” weren’t much better given the circumstances.
The comments followed an unconfirmed Fox News report that the Speaker, in comments to reporters at a breakfast yesterday, said in reference to the memo and the FBI, “Let it all out, get it all out there. Cleanse the organization.”
This comes on the heels of an early January meeting in which FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to Capitol Hill and asked Ryan to side with federal law enforcement against Nunes’ crusade. Ryan demurred, siding with Nunes.
There was a point, shortly after the 2016 election, in which some thought Donald Trump would control his worst impulses in order to be an effective president. Others thought that if Trump couldn’t control himself, GOP leaders like Paul Ryan would step up to constrain the president’s most destructive inclinations.
But both of those hopes were wrong. Trump’s instincts are to politicize federal law enforcement, treating Justice Department officials as if he keeps them on retainer, and Paul Ryan’s instincts are to go along with his allies’ radicalism.
The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein noted the other day that Ryan is in a unique position to “uphold standards of governance” in D.C., but he’s abjectly “capitulated” to Trump. “It’s likely he’s radically changed his place in history,” Brownstein added.
Similarly, New York’s Jon Chait argued, “Trump and his allies are circulating absurd lies about the Department of Justice in order to enable the administration to avoid any accountability to the rule of law. The heart of this campaign is the chamber Ryan controls. It is not only or even primarily Devin Nunes, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Fox & Friends that are marching into the fever swamps. The invisible man at front of the march is Paul Ryan.”
Postscript: At yesterday’s Capitol Hill press conference, Ryan also reflected on the partisan vote in the House Intelligence Committee, where the Republican majority agreed to ignore the wishes of the Justice Department and the FBI in order to release classified information to the public.
“It’s ironic that the majority voted to actually give access to this memo while the minority voted to deny that access,” the Speaker said yesterday. “So I think the irony is a little rich here these days.”
I have no idea what Paul Ryan thinks “ironic” means, but he appears to have learned its definition from Alanis Morissette.