On Thursday morning, the hashtag #RemoveNunes began trending on Twitter, as critics of the Trump administration started to demand that Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California either step down or be removed from his position as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. These critics charge that, instead of overseeing and trying to further the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence and hack the 2016 presidential election, Nunes is actively trying to disrupt and discredit the investigation.
You may remember that in April of this year, Nunes had to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation when it was revealed that he had been sharing information with the Trump administration without notifying the ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff. An article in Politico last week, however, revealed that Nunes and other committee Republicans had been meeting in secret in an attempt to make the case that the FBI and members of the Justice Department mishandled elements of the Trump dossier compiled by British spy Christopher Steele and that the dossier’s creation was politically motivated.
On Wednesday, the Washington Examiner reported that Nunes has subpoenaed Byron York, an associate of Senator John McCain, to testify about the dossier. York had gone to London in November 2016 to receive a copy of the dossier from Christopher Steele himself. He then gave the copy to John McCain, who delivered it to then FBI Director James Comey (although Comey had already known of the dossier’s contents).
According to an article in Wednesday’s Talking Points Memo, critics of Nunes and the Trump administration believe that Nunes is making these moves in an attempt to undermine the allegations made in the Trump dossier. These critics claim that Nunes is trying to create the impression that the Trump dossier is less a guide to understanding Russian interference in the 2016 election than it is, in fact, the interference itself. They claim that Nunes is, in concert with the Trump administration, simply trying to muddy the water by casting doubt on the veracity of the dossier’s claims, many of which have been independently verified by Robert Mueller and his investigative team.
Byron York himself has said, in the Washington Examiner article, that Nunes is taking the angle that the information in the Trump dossier could very have been planted by Russian spies in an effort to discredit Donald Trump and sow chaos in America, much as the hacked DNC emails were released to discredit Hillary Clinton.
According to an article in the Washington Post, however, Devin Nunes’ critics believe that he is trying to paint the picture of a rogue FBI engaged in an attempted criminal takedown of Donald Trump, giving credence to the president’s repeated claims that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt” and “deep state” coup plot. Thus the #RemoveNunes hashtag was born. It was created on Wednesday by frequent MSNBC contributor Scott Dworkin, and by Thursday it was trending at No. 10 on Twitter and moving up.
Hashtags on Twitter have proven in the past to be a powerful way to disseminate information and influence public opinion. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, this new one will have on the direction of the continuing Trump-Russia investigation.