In Ukraine scandal, Devin Nunes has some explaining to do

The more information about the Ukraine scandal comes to light, the more it appears Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has some explaining to do.
Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation
Devin NunesWin McNamee / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

In November, during an impeachment hearing, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, raised a question he seemed to consider important. "Do you think it's appropriate for political parties to run operatives in foreign countries to dig up dirt on their opponents?" the GOP lawmaker asked Fiona Hill and David Holmes.

In context, Nunes was referring to the Steele dossier. What we didn't appreciate at the time, however, was that the California congressman would soon after be accused of doing what he accused others of doing.

Last week, Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate involved with executing the Ukraine scheme, told Rachel that he'd met with Nunes and Derek Harvey, a top aide to the congressman who also used to work in the Trump White House. Parnas added that "they were involved in getting all this stuff on Biden."

Late Friday, the story grew a little more serious with the release of additional evidence that Parnas communicated extensively with Nunes' office about aid to Ukraine and outreach to former Ukrainian prosecutors. NBC News reported:

The messages show that Harvey was far more involved than previously known in what appears to be a robust effort by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to investigate Ukraine-related matters.

The text messages between Harvey and Parnas ... start in February 2019 and continue into May.

Politico's report drew attention to one especially notable text message in which Harvey appeared to "pass along Nunes' contact information two days before the Intelligence Committee's impeachment report indicated that a phone connected to Nunes made contact with a phone connected to Parnas."

It's worth noting for context that Nunes, as recently as last month, said he did not "recall" Parnas' name. The day Parnas sat down with Rachel last week, however, the congressman turned to Fox News to concede he now remembers talking to Parnas after all.

And while I imagine Nunes' allies will argue that Parnas has credibility issues -- Giuliani's former associate is currently facing criminal charges for campaign-finance violations -- let's not forget that (a) Nunes' credibility has also been called into question; and (b) there's documentary evidence that bolsters key elements of the questions surrounding the congressman's office.

A Washington Post analysis added, "The reason all of this matters is that Nunes was leading the charge on President Trump's defense during the House impeachment inquiry. Now we know his office was at least somewhat involved in the underlying effort to obtain information from Ukraine. If Nunes knew anything about that and didn't disclose it, that would look very bad."

It's against this backdrop that Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) accused Nunes of having conspired with Parnas, which prompted Nunes -- who seems to have become rather litigious of late -- to send Lieu a letter, through the Republican's attorney, threatening to sue the California Democrat for damaging Nunes' reputation.

"I welcome any lawsuit from your client and look forward to taking discovery of Congressman Nunes," Lieu wrote on Friday. "Or, you can take your letter and shove it."

MORE: Today's Maddowblog