WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 24: House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) walks to the House floor on Capitol Hill, March 24, 2017 in…
How far has House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) fallen? Consider Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Fla.) appearance on MSNBC this morning.
“You have to keep in mind who [Nunes] works for,” Yoho told MSNBC. “He works for the president and answers to the president.”
MSNBC’s Craig Melvin asked Yoho whether the committee chairman actually worked for his constituents, and not the executive branch. “You do both,” Yoho said.
Soon after, Yoho said he works with, not for, Donald Trump, prompting MSNBC’s Craig Melvin to note, “But you just said Congressman Nunes works for the president.” The Florida Republican, in an answer I didn’t fully understand, replied, “As a congressman, they work for their constituents, As a chairman of a committee, [Nunes] has a …”
Yoho didn’t finish his thought, and his office later said he “misspoke” during the interview.
The comments, whether accidental or not, are emblematic of a larger truth: Nunes is flailing as a result of self-inflicted wounds. Another House Republican, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), told the Washington Post yesterday that he believes the House Intelligence Committee will produce a worthwhile report on the Russia scandal – a point Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the panel, pushed back against on the show last night.
Making matters slightly worse, Nunes cancelled a hearing this week with FBI Director James Comey, saying the witness wouldn’t be able to attend. The FBI told CNN the reason Comey “couldn’t make the hearing was because he was never invited.”
Meanwhile, I remain hung up on Nunes’ mysterious visit to the White House last week, where he claims to have learned information he refuses to share with his Intelligence Committee colleagues. I just want to know who signed him in.
To gain access to the building, Nunes would need to have been cleared by a White House staffer. It’s not clear who that was; on Wednesday, press secretary Sean Spicer said he is looking into who it may have been – something that those familiar with the process suggest should only take a few moments of effort. It’s also not clear with whom Nunes met, although he described his source for the information to Bloomberg’s Eli Lake as an “intelligence official” and not a White House staffer.
This is more straightforward than it may seem. If a member of Congress, right now, wanted to stop by the White House, he or she couldn’t just walk up to the front door and knock. Security is tight, and every visitor needs to be signed in. Nunes is no exception: a staffer had to alert the Secret Service that the committee chairman was on the way, so that when he arrived, he could enter the complex.
I was a lowly and unimportant White House intern a couple of decades ago, and even then, the system was in place. What’s more, if an official wanted to know who signed someone in and when, it would take all of 30 seconds to check the visitor log.
When Sean Spicer was asked about this yesterday, he said he’s “asked some preliminary questions,” but hasn’t received answers yet. I suspect every reporter in the briefing room knows that doesn’t make any sense: if the White House press secretary wants to know who signed someone in, he picks up the phone, asks the front desk, and gets an answer literally within moments.
As a rule, when Team Trump acts like it has something to hide, it’s because Team Trump has something to hide.