Devin Nunes and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer

VISALIA, Calif. – Leaked audio recordings of Rep. Devin Nunes seemingly more interested in protecting President Donald Trump rather than doing his Constitutional duty of providing oversite of the executive branch is just another uncomfortable revelation in what is turning into what can only be described as a terrible month for Tulare’s favorite Republican son. 

The list of unflattering Nunes news over the summer includes: 

  • Using campaign funds on nearly $15,000 worth of Boston Celtics tickets. 
  • Using the same campaign fund to pay for more than $40,000 in trips to Las Vegas. 
  • Deliberately omitting information about his investments in a Napa County winery. 
  • Allegations from his November opponent, Andrew Janz, that a member of Nunes’ family disrupted a campaign video shoot. 
  • The release of more FBI documents that further weakened the now widely discredited Nunes Memo. 
  • Nunes’ unflattering war with the Fresno Bee, which he accuses of unfair reporting and “left-wing” bias.  

It’s the latest revelation – the congressman caught on tape arguing that Republicans need to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives to shield the president from potential criminal prosecution – that could prove Nunes’ biggest headache and may threaten his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.  

Nunes spokesman Jack Langer, in a statement sent to media outlets Thursday, said the response to Nunes’ remarks were overblown. 

“It’s unsurprising to see the left-wing media spin Chairman Nunes’ routine observations as some nefarious plot, since these same media outlets spent the last year and a half touting a non-existent Russia collusion conspiracy,” Langer said. 

Andrew Janz, the Democrat running against Nunes in November’s general election, is already calling for the congressman’s removal from the House Intelligence Committee. 

The audio, obtained exclusively by MSNBC, is of Nunes talking at a dinner event in Spokane, Washington, on July 30. He is asked by an audience member about the effort to impeach U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which was only publicly supported by a small group of Republicans. 

Nunes seems to explain the main reason Congress hasn’t taken up the issue is due to timing and the upcoming midterm elections. 

“It’s a bit complicated,” he told the audience member. “We only have so many months left.” 

“So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then (it) has to take it up,” he said, explaining that the action could take away from other priorities of Congress.

He said everything would have to be dropped if impeachment was up for a vote. “So it’s not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It’s a matter of, it’s a matter of timing.” 

“Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?” he added. 

Later, he talks about the midterms and the sincere need to keep a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, something Democrats are hoping to clinch. Nunes details one big reason Republicans are needed: to protect Trump. 

“If Sessions won’t un-recuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger,” he says on the recording. “That’s why I keep, and thank you for saying it by the way, I mean we have to keep all these seats.” 

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation, thus putting Rosenstein in charge. 

Mueller’s team and Trump’s lawyers have been negotiating an interview for months. Investigators are reportedly hoping to ask the president questions about possible obstruction of justice when Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, who at the time was leading the Russia investigation. 

But it remains to be seen if any of the controversies revolving around Nunes will have any negative consequences for his November re-election bid. 

Numbers from June 5’s primary election showed Tulare’s favorite son and eight-time incumbent racking up more votes than his five competitors combined.

And a recent poll released by his Democratic opponent showed Nunes had a nearly double-digit lead in the November election.

Most political observers – including the well-respected election forecaster Sabato’s Crystal Ball – rank Nunes’ seat as “likely Republican.” 

Contributing: The USA TODAY NETWORK 

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