Thursday, August 09, 2018


Last night on her show, Rachel Maddow played tapes of Congressman Devin Nunes that were secretly recorded at a fundraiser for a House Republican colleague, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. I know the tapes were intended to make my pulse race, but I don't see what the big deal is.

The New Republic's Jeet Heer says it's because Nunes contradicted the president on the subject of collusion:
During private fundraiser, Devin Nunes admits collusion can be a crime. ... In the audio, Nunes makes some notable remarks about the ongoing Russia investigation. As NBC reports, “Nunes also appeared to say that if a campaign received and released stolen emails from a foreign government — he used a hypothetical example of McMorris Rodgers getting secret information from Portugal, where his ancestors are from — there would be a criminal element to that.” These comments go against the thrust of a frequent claim made by President Donald Trump, that “collusion is not a crime.” As Nunes concedes, collusion could rise to the level of being a conspiracy with a foreign power, which is criminal.
This is interesting, but it's not as if it can be used in a court of law -- Devin Nunes talking at a fundraiser isn't legal precedent. It could be brought up in impeachment hearings in the House or an impeachment trial in the Senate, but will any reluctant Republican say, "Well, I was planning to vote with the president, but Nunes's words convinced me Trump is guilty"? It's a nice gotcha, but it's nothing more.

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake seems agog at the partisanship:
First off, here’s [a] full quote, in context:
So therein lies what’s like your classic Catch-22 situation where we’re at a -- it puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won’t un-recuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger. That’s why I keep -- and thank you for saying it by the way -- I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away."
We don’t know quite what Nunes was responding to, regrettably. But what first strikes you is how quickly he pivots from talking about Trump’s fate in the Russia investigation to the GOP’s electoral fortunes -- as if the purpose of keeping Republicans in power is to shut the whole thing down.
Well, duh. The GOP myth right now -- it's almost QAnonish, even in respectable circles -- is that Trump will solve all of America's problems if he can only shake off the shackles placed on him by the Deep State, and that Republicans serve in Congress only in order to allow Trump to be unleashed.

Blake goes on to write:
... removing Trump from office would require a majority vote to impeach in the House and a two-thirds vote to remove in the Senate (which means plenty of Republicans going along). Nunes is leading the crowd to believe that this would happen. Perhaps that’s just overheated partisan rhetoric -- the kind of thing you say to fire up the base -- but the fact that the guy running the House intel committee’s Russia probe suggests it’s actually possible Trump could be removed from office based upon Mueller’s Russia probe seems significant.
It's not clear whether Nunes thinks the Deep State would get to more than a dozen of his GOP colleagues in the Senate or whether he just wants the donors to believe that. But the belief that their enemies are all-powerful is team-building for the GOP.

And there's this:
Hard-line conservative Republicans in the House recently hit a roadblock in their effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Speaker Paul Ryan opposed the move. But one of those conservatives, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., gave a different explanation to donors recently when asked why the impeachment effort had stalled.

He said it's because an impeachment would delay the Senate's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court....

"So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up," he said on the recording. "Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time.”

He continued: "Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?"
Does this mean they'll try to impeach after the election, assuming Kavanaugh's confirmation process is over? Sure -- is that a surprise? I can easily imagine them trying again in the lame-duck session even if they lose the House, just the way an earlier generation of House Republican ultras impeached Bill Clinton right after midterms in which Republicans were punished for anti-Clinton zealotry. It's not clear that an impeachment vote against Rosenstein would ever happen, or that it would succeed. In a Senate trial, there'll never be 67 votes to convict Rosenstein. So it's just an attempt to throw up a big stumbling block.

Or maybe it's just phony toughness on Nunes's part. The donors are probably rich guys who watch a lot of Fox News and are angry that the "witch hunt" hasn't been shut down. Nunes is apologizing to them for not getting the job done. But is it surprising that he (and the donors) still want to do this? Hardly. So nothing on the tapes strikes me as particularly significant.

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