Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), still the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, continues to approach Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry in deeply strange ways. In fact, what's become clear over the last week or so is that the Republican congressman's efforts to defend the president fall into three categories.
The first is to play an awkward projection, rubber-glue game. Aware that the White House's critics see Trump as peddling outlandish conspiracy theories to cult-like followers, Nunes accused Democrats of peddling outlandish conspiracy theories to cult-like followers. Aware of John Bolton's description of the president's Ukraine scheme as a "drug deal," Nunes yesterday described the impeachment inquiry as a "drug deal."
The second part of the strategy is to use the proceedings to advance discredited partisan arguments. Yesterday, for example, Nunes accused Joe Biden of "threatening to withhold U.S. loan guarantees unless the Ukrainians fired a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma." We already know that's not even close to what actually happened.
But the third prong of Nunes' defense is pretending Trump didn't do things we already know he did. The Republican congressman made this pitch this morning as the impeachment proceedings got underway on Capitol Hill:
"In their mania to attack the president, no conspiracy theory is too outlandish for the Democrats."Time and again, they floated the possibility of some far-fetched malfeasance by Trump, declared the dire need to investigate it, and then suddenly dropped the issue and moved on to their next asinine theory."
Nunes proceeded to list a series of "accusations and insinuations," which included Democrats alleging that Trump "received nefarious materials from the Russians through a Trump campaign aide"; Trump had "a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow"; and Trump "changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia."
The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee described each of these as "false charges" and "ludicrous accusations," which would be more compelling if they were, in fact, false and ludicrous.
We know, for example, that Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign aide, was convicted of multiple felonies -- just four days ago -- and as part of the trial, other former Trump campaign aides said Stone was seen as the point person on learning about materials stolen by Russia.
We also know that Trump really did have a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which was an endeavor Trump pursued during his presidential campaign, and which was something the president lied about.
We also know that the Trump campaign really did change the RNC platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia.
I suppose the follow-up question for Devin Nunes is simple: how does he not know that the "false charges" he listed this morning aren't, in reality, false?