Despite having recused himself from the Trump Russia investigation, Republican House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes continues to be making headlines over the investigation. This time it has led to a House Ethics complaint against him, launched by the Democratic Coalition. A House Ethics complaint on obstruction of justice has also been filed against Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, for not doing anything about Devin Nunes’ obvious interference with an investigation he should be nowhere near.
There’s been a lot of talk this week about subpoenas coming out of the House Intelligence Committee on the Trump Russia investigation. This is a good thing. But it’s not a good thing that Devin Nunes has been at the center of this talk since he has recused himself from the investigation over ethics problems.
A recusal means a recusal. Devin Nunes should be nowhere near subpoenas in the House Intelligence investigation, and yet he is. The New York Times reports that on Thursday of this past week, Devin Nunes became the center of a firestorm of criticism for refusing to give up subpoena power in the Trump Russia investigation. He’s not just receiving public criticism now, he’s now the subject of a House ethics complaint.
On Wednesday, Devin Nunes issued three supboenas to law enforcement and the intelligence community asking for information about the unmasking of Trump associates that were the subjects of incidental collections in wiretaps. Devin Nunes is in a clear violation of House rules on this. Ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff said the following.
“When someone says they’re going to recuse themselves or step aside from the investigation, you have to expect that they’re not going to insist on having final approval over subpoenas, one of the most important tools of an investigation.”
Devin Nunes stepped aside from the investigation after going to the White House in April with information he should not have gone there with. When Devin Nunes stepped aside from the investigation in April, the investigation was taken over by Republican Rep. Mike Conaway from the House Intelligence Committee. He would be the one that would have signatory power on any subpoenas coming out of committee. But Devin Nunes is not okay with this, and wants all subpoenas to go through him first, and wants to have the final sign off.
Further, Devin Nunes is unilaterally issuing subpoenas in violation of the House rules. Huffington Post reports that there are two ways subpoenas come out of committee. One is with an authorization by the chairman upon consultation with a ranking member. In the House Intelligence Committee’s case, that would be a subpoena coming from the acting chair of an investigation, Rep. Mike Conaway, after consultation with Rep. Adam Schiff.
The second way a subpoena can come out of committee is through a majority vote by committee.
None of this happened, and is a clear violation of the House rules. Further, Devin Nunes recused himself after it appeared that he was giving information to the subject of the investigation, Donald Trump. On the same day that these subpoenas hit the news, both Donald Trump and Devin Nunes were tweeting about the exact same thing.
Donald Trump’s tweet was sent at 7:05 a.m. on Thursday morning.
“The big story is the unmasking and surveillance of people that took place during the Obama Administration.”
The big story is the "unmasking and surveillance" of people that took place during the Obama Administration.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2017
The tweet appeared to have come out of left field, as nobody had been talking about that on that day, until later. Then, Devin Nunes tweeted something at 1:24 p.m. that also appeared to come out of left field.
“Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings.”
Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans' civil liberties via unmaskings.— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) June 1, 2017
The subpoenas by Devin Nunes were not the only subpoenas out of the House Intelligence Committee this week. On the same day, Rep. Conaway and Rep. Schiff jointly approved the issuing of subpoenas related to Trump Russia.
After it came out that Devin Nunes had unilaterally issued subpoenas without approval from anybody on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff called on Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan to do something about it. A statement by a spokesperson for Speaker Ryan was issued, Paul Ryan did not even address the violation of rules himself directly.
“While Mr. Conaway leads the Russia investigation, Mr. Nunes remains the chairman of the intel committee and has the right and responsibility to conduct oversight of the intelligence community, especially as it relates to the potential misuse of intelligence agencies against Americans.”
This has led the Democratic Coalition to open House Ethics complaints against both Rep. Devin Nunes and Rep. Paul Ryan for obstruction of justice. The Democratic Coalition has also filed a report with the FBI against Devin Nunes for fraud, the leaking of classified documents, and for multiple counts of obstruction of justice.
The House Ethics complaint against Devin Nunes reads as follows.
“On June 2, 2017, the Democratic Coalition submitted a request to the Office of Congressional ethics of the US House of Rep asking that they investigated Rep Devin Gerald Nunes for obstruction of justice for failing to recuse himself from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election and unilaterally issuing subpoenas without notifying fellow House members on the committee.”
An outline of the statement of facts details the timeline of events. On April 6, Rep. Nunes issued as statement recusing himself. On June 1, the Democratic Coalition says Rep. Nunes remained involved and a “powerful force” in the House Intel Committee’s investigations of Russian interference.
“Rep. Nunes ignored his promise for self-recusal by issuing subpoenas without informing Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee. Move blatantly disregards his recusal promise but also violates House rules which requires committee members be informed before subpoenas are issued.”
Speaker Ryan is supposed to be handling these rule violations, and has certainly stepped in very quickly in the past when Democrats have violated rules for things far less serious. But Speaker Ryan is not doing anything about Republicans violating rules now. He is also thus the subject of an obstruction of justice complaint.
The complaint lodged by the Democratic Coalition reads as follows.
“On June 2, 2017, the Democratic coalition submitted a request to the Office of Congressional Ethics of the United States House of Representatives asking that they investigate Speaker Paul Davis Ryan Jr. for standing behind Rep. Nunes after he issued subpoenas that violated established house rules.”
The concise statement of facts in this ethics complaint outlines the events and lack of response by Speaker Ryan.
“Also on June 1, 2017, Speaker Ryan, through his spokesperson, stood behind this abuse of power and misconduct. By allowing Nunes to retain the chairmanship, and the power to issue these subpoenas, the Speaker has failed to protect the integrity of the House Intelligence Committee and the purity of the investigation it is leading.”
It has also been speculated this week in blogs that Devin Nunes has lost his security clearance, and that Rep. Trey Gowdy and Senator Chuck Grassley are next on that list. This is not the case.
Devin Nunes’ actions on Thursday confirm that he still has access to security matters, despite having recused himself from this investigation. There are no Congress members able to confirm these unwarranted speculations that Devin Nunes has lost his security clearance, or that other Congress members will experience the same sanctions in the coming days or weeks.
Whether or not Devin Nunes and Paul Ryan will become the subject of an obstruction of justice charge remains to be seen, but the paper trail has been launched for the record. Any American citizen wishing to make complaints about any member of Congress can launch one themselves by filling out a form online, and swearing an oath under the False Statement Act, with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
[Featured Image by Jose Luis Magana/AP Images]