Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got two big political favors from a key congressional ally and transition team member—who also happens to be the chair of the committee investigating his campaign’s complicity with Russia’s interference in the election.

Today was supposed to be the day that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Devin Nunes (R-CA). The hearing was canceled by Nunes after Yates requested that the White House clear her to testify—in essence, forcing the White House either to allow potentially incriminating testimony, or to take the politically damning step of asserting executive privilege. Nunes’ cancellation, which he has refused to explain, spared the Trump administration that choice. 

Nunes, who has rejected bipartisan calls to step down from the investigation, made an unscheduled trip to the White House last Wednesday to personally brief Trump (the target of his investigation) on the report of a secret source Nunes had supposedly been contacted by. After the meeting, Trump proclaimed himself “vindicated.” Today, Nunes said he would never reveal the identity of that source—even in confidence to other members of the committee. As a matter of protection against self-incrimination, that may be a wise move: Nunes' disclosure of information related to a classified FISA warrant seems to have violated the Espionage Act and the committee's own rules.

Yates’ brief tenure as Trump’s acting AG saw her presenting Trump with evidence of Michael Flynn’s deception regarding his ties to Russian agents, which eventually forced Trump to fire Flynn (but not before he fired Yates). Nunes was an early and active Trump campaigner, and a member of the Trump transition team.

How is this a problem?

  • The rule of law is more important than sparing a president political embarrassment.
  • A president with nothing to hide would not allow an investigation like this to be subverted.