Why Is Devin Nunes Named in the House Impeachment Inquiry? - Rolling Stone
×
Home Politics Politics News

Why Is Devin Nunes Named in the House Impeachment Inquiry?

The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee makes a “concerning” cameo in the Trump/Ukraine drama

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA) delivers closing remarks at the end of an impeachment inquiry hearing in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the fifth day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals and the unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukrainians, not Russians, were behind the 2016 computer hacking of the Democratic National Committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA) delivers closing remarks at the end of an impeachment inquiry hearing in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee conducting the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, Rep. Devin Nunes is supposed to appear in the title pages of committee documents as an honorific — not in the body of a 300-page investigation into presidential abuse of power. 

But here we are.

Nunes — who serves a conservative district in California’s Central Valley — is one of President Trump’s most ardent defenders in Congress, and he used his position during the committee’s open hearings to deride the impeachment inquiry as a “drug deal” and a “sham.” Nunes told witnesses before the committee that they were participants in the Democrats’ “theatrical” television drama. “The main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended,” Nunes said, referring to the Mueller investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin, “and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

Yet the release of the committee’s report on Tuesday casts Nunes himself as a player in this drama. The report, authored by the Democratic majority, cites phone records that connect Nunes to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who ran point on the administration’s off-the-books Ukraine policy, and to Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who allegedly sought riches from energy deals in the eastern European nation. Parnas has since been indicted in the U.S. for conspiracy and campaign-finance crimes.

The report cites call records from mid-April of this year showing contacts between Nunes and Giuliani and separately between Nunes and Parnas. It reads in part: “Phone records… show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call.” Call records reproduced in the report also show a series of phone calls between Nunes and Parnas on April 12th, with the longest stretching more than 8 minutes.

What was Nunes discussing with these key actors in the Ukraine scandal? His communications director, Jack Langer, did not respond to questions from Rolling Stone. The Intelligence Committee report, however, places the Nunes calls amid a flurry of phone activity following the April 7th publication of an article in The Hill by John Solomon, whom the report describes as the “author of articles promoting debunked conspiracy theories about the Bidens, Crowdstrike, and the 2016 U.S. election.”

The Solomon article — “Ukrainian to US prosecutors: Why don’t you want our evidence on Democrats?” — claimed that Ukrainians possessed evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. It also cited Giuliani’s investigative work on the president’s behalf: “President Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani — former mayor and former U.S. attorney in New York City — learned about some of the allegations while, on behalf of the Trump legal team, he looked into Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.”

The Intelligence Committee report states that, “over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr. Solomon.” (There is no evidence in the report that Nunes and Solomon were in direct contact.) Nunes’ connection to these key figures in the impeachment inquiry has stirred critics to charge that the congressman should have recused himself from the proceedings — as he did in the Russia probe — rather than stand as the president’s in-House defender.

For his part, Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff deflected direct questioning at a Tuesday press conference about why Nunes appears in the report and whether the ranking Republican should have recused. Schiff’s careful language is worth reproducing at length: “In terms of the ranking member, it won’t surprise you that I’m going to reserve comment,” Schiff said. He added: “It is, I think, deeply concerning that, at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity. Now, there’s a lot more to learn about that, and I don’t want to state that that’s an unequivocal fact. But the allegations are deeply concerning. Our focus is on the president’s conduct first and foremost. It may be the role of others to evaluate the conduct of members of Congress.”

The inclusion of Nunes in the Intelligence Committee report came on the same day that Nunes himself filed a $435 million defamation lawsuit against CNN for what he insists is a false report, relying on information from Parnas, that he visited Vienna in December 2018 and met there with a former Ukrainian prosecutor. The lawsuit contends Nunes was traveling in Libya and Malta at the time of the alleged Vienna trip and has never met the Ukrainian. The complaint blasts CNN for relaying information from Parnas, whom Nunes’ legal team describes as “a renowned liar, a fraudster, a hustler, [and] an opportunist with delusions of grandeur” who has endeavored to “concoct a plan to obstruct the impeachment inquiry” while seeking “to obtain favorable treatment, concessions and/or immunity from criminal prosecution.”

In an interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Nunes could not explain why phone records linked him to the disreputable Parnas, explaining he had no recollection of the calls, adding: “It seems very unlikely that I would be taking calls from random people.”

For his part, Parnas has a far more specific recollection, as his lawyer related to Yamiche Alcidor of PBS NewsHour:

Newswire

Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.