As it has come to light recently that Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, never actually intended to recuse himself as he announced back in April of 2017, it’s become more and more clear to Democrats on the Committee that the GOP intends to undermine their efforts to fully conduct an investigation. They’re doing it by not asking questions during witness testimony that are pertinent to the investigation, and in the case of Rep. Nunes, by refusing to call back witnesses that Democrats feel they haven’t gotten sufficient answers out of.
For example, when Donald Trump Junior was called to testify about the fact that he’d had a conversation with his father immediately following the disclosure of his secret meeting with Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Junior invoked “attorney-client privilege” in order to avoid having to divulge the details of that conversation. But there is no such privilege for conversations between the president and his son.
The meeting, which Don Jr. held in expectation of obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that his father’s campaign could later use during the election, was initially (falsely, under oath) described by the younger Trump as a discussion about Russian adoptions. Junior did not know at the time that the Intelligence Community is well aware that “discussing Russian adoptions” is code for lifting Russian sanctions, since a ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans was Vladimir Putin’s retaliation against the US for levying sanctions against his country.
Democrats have every right to call Don Junior back before them. But Nunes, whose “recusal” followed reports that he illegally divulged classified information himself, has re-inserted himself as a barrier between Democrats and the truth.
So what can the Democrats do? Not much — yet. But they can file what’s called a “minority report” detailing the activities of Republicans on the Committee, which could later be entered as evidence against the GOP during an investigation that Dems would surely hold after winning back Congress in 2018, as they are widely expected to.
In an interview for the Washington Post‘s “Plum Line,” Rep Jim Himes of Connecticut – the number two Dem on the Committee – told reporter Greg Sargent,
It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts. It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.’”
Nunes is a well-known Trump loyalist, and his actions on the Intelligence Committee have even prompted an ongoing “hashtag” on Twitter calling for House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove him from the Committee. That message has been tweeted tens of thousands of times.
It’s not only Trump Junior that Democrats want to compel, either. They also want to bring back Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has now lied under oath multiple times and never been held to account. So far, Nunes and the Republicans in the House have prevented Democrats from bringing those witnesses back to testify again.
The report that Rep. Himes is planning would serve to let the American public know just exactly what the GOP’s been playing at.
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