It is remarkable just how many Trump associates have lied, either to Congress or federal authorities, about their contacts with Russia. Ryan Goodman has put together a list of 18 such people in what he calls the “perjury chart”. That list does not include Trump himself, but it would not surprise anyone to find out that he could be added to that list for lying to Mueller in the written responses that he has provided.
If you listen to Rudy Giuliani and Trump, you would surmise that many of this rogue’s gallery of 18 were ensnared by the evil Robert Mueller’s mythical perjury traps. But, as David Lurie points out, it looks more and more like the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes unwittingly was the one actually creating the perjury trap for many of Trump’s protectors and defenders.
Nunes was the point man from the very beginning for Trump’s defense within the House. Early on, he infamously got the White House to send him supposed “evidence” that Obama had Trump surveilled during and after the campaign. Nunes then took that evidence, which he claimed he had received anonymously, and made an enormous show of personally delivering that evidence to Trump himself at the White House. In fact, all he was doing was laundering disinformation for the White House.
That incident, which included Nunes actually releasing classified information, forced Nunes to publicly recuse himself from the Russian investigation in the Intelligence Committee while he was investigated for the intelligence breach. Privately, though, Nunes was still involving himself in efforts to use the committee’s resources in order to defend Trump.
Nunes, along with his fellow co-conspirators Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy, used the Intelligence Committee as a clearinghouse for Trump’s defense. Those efforts included leaking out-of-context information, either damaging to Trump’s accusers or beneficial to Trump’s defense and refusing to pursue important leads. And all this was done with the tacit approval of Paul Ryan.
Now, however, it appears that Nunes’ use of the Intelligence Committee in Trump’s defense will come back to bite many of the witnesses who testified there. As Lurie writes, “This is because, as the House Intelligence Committee majority’s publicly released report indicates, the GOP appears to have all but openly encouraged its witnesses to deny any and all potential wrongdoing, regardless of the plausibility of their denials…As a result, some witnesses affiliated with Trump and his campaign may have been lulled into thinking they could lie with particular impunity. It is therefore possible, if not likely, that a fairly substantial number of witnesses, including possibly the president’s eldest son, will soon find themselves facing the unusual prospect of being criminally charged for lying before a House panel that all but welcomed their dishonesty.”
There is no such thing as a “perjury trap”. It is primarily a euphemism for having to admit to a prior lie. But that hasn’t stopped Trump’s defenders, especially Giuliani, from using that excuse to prevent Trump from actually talking to Mueller. The greatest irony for Trump and his defenders is that this trap that they all feared was actually set by themselves, specifically Devin Nunes and his co-conspirators on the Intelligence Committee. Mueller is merely the beneficiary.