A prolonged conversation with FBI officials seems to have calmed Republican Congressman Devin Nunes enough to signal a temporary armistice in his war on US intelligence agencies. The Washington Post reports that senior officials met with Nunes overnight and still refused to hand over the documents he has been demanding. But for the moment at least, Nunes seems to have backed away from threatening to impeach Attorney General Jeff Sessions, hold both the Department of Justice and the FBI in contempt, and generally throw a massive fit on the House floor.
The House Intelligence Committee, along with its Senate counterpart, holds a legitimate supervisory role for the DOJ. However, it’s extremely unusual for the House to demand documents related to an ongoing investigation as Nunes has done. But even that is not the primary problem. When the FBI explained that Nunes’s request for unredacted versions of documents threatened an in-place intelligence resource, the California congressman responded by requesting more documents. In fact, he demanded all documents related to the intelligence source. And Nunes failed to back off those requests even when he was repeatedly told that revealing any information on the source would put lives at risk.
Nunes has been a one-man intelligence wrecking crew since he rolled off the Trump transition team and into his slot at the House Intelligence Committee, and his actions have given every expectation that anything appearing in his hands will be leaked—along with a distorted interpretation of what the information means. Nunes has previously revealed classified information both in his attempt to create a scandal where none existed around “unmasking” of subjects under surveillance, and in the contents of his infamous “release the memo” memo. Both of which turned out to be efforts coordinated with the Trump White House to disrupt investigations into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Nunes and other House Republicans have so laden the FBI with requests, that the agency has been forced to double the staff dedicated to reviewing requests from the House. So while Republicans have previously made false statements that resources devoted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had taken away from agents available to pursue other cases, it’s absolutely true that the FBI has reassigned agents simply to meet Devin Nunes’s unreasonable demands.
Nunes could be brought under control in the House, but from the beginning, Paul Ryan has not just washed his hands of Nunes’s actions, but actively supported his interference with intelligence. Nunes stopped in for a chat with Ryan before giving the first of his press conferences alleging that “a whistleblower” had spilled the beans about illegal unmasking by the Obama administration. The “illegal unmasking” turned out to be routine procedures carried out according to the book, and the “whistleblower” turned out to be a Michael Flynn protege at the White House who worked with Nunes to generate false allegations.
Ryan was also on hand to clear Nunes of ethics charges, even though it was clear Nunes had revealed classified information. Because classified information is only important when it’s in a Clinton email.
And now Ryan is there for Nunes again.
… Nunes received public support in his battle from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who called Nunes’s request “wholly appropriate.”
Even though Nunes’s request is not appropriate, and certainly not normal.