Rep. Devin Nunes obviously fancies himself Jason Bourne. To sneak onto the White House grounds for that rendezvous with an unnamed source, he switched cars and ditched aides, vanishing into the night.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sees a different character. Graham said on the “Today” show on March 28 that Nunes was bumbling his way through something of an “Inspector Clouseau investigation,” a reference to the fantastically inept protagonist of the “Pink Panther” comedies.
I salute Graham’s movie vocabulary. I quibble with his metaphor. While Clouseau was a benign fool, there’s nothing benign about Nunes’ foolishness.
As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes, R-Calif., is a principal sleuth in the paramount inquiry into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and from all appearances, he either doesn’t want to know the answer or has determined it already — in President Donald Trump’s favor.
Democrats are rightly calling on him to recuse himself. As Graham summoned the specter of Clouseau, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on “CBS This Morning” that “something’s got to change.”
“Otherwise,” he continued, “the whole effort in the House of Representatives will lose credibility.”
But Nunes was defiant when asked on March 28 whether he would continue, saying, “Why would I not?”
Oh, many reasons.
Let’s start here: His committee isn’t supposed to be a partisan arm of the majority party. And any collusion with the White House is a betrayal of its special oversight role.
But Nunes is so deep in the tank for Trump that he needs scuba gear. It’s Trump’s gratitude that he’s after, not the truth.
When politicians upbraided Trump for his baseless accusations about the wiretapping of Trump Tower, Nunes swooped in to say, “I don’t think we should attack the president for tweeting.” But Twitter was hardly the issue. The president’s paranoid hallucinations were.
When FBI Director James Comey appeared before Nunes’ committee to confirm his agency’s investigation into Trump-Russia ties, Nunes changed the subject, going on about leaks, leaks, leaks. He sounded more like a plumber than a politician.
And when Nunes gathered reporters two days later, it was to say that he’d seen secret documents suggesting that people around Trump may indeed have been subject to surveillance by our government.
This was Nunes at his most irresponsible.
Last week we learned that Nunes got that information during that rendezvous, details of which he has not provided to his fellow committee members, just as he failed to share the information itself with Democrats on the committee before he went public with it.
A Republican insider who once worked closely with him described him to me as an “overeager goofball” who can’t see “the line between ingratiating and stupid.”
“No one is asking him to bring the potato salad to the Mensa picnic,” my source said.
Salad and more salad: Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, complained to reporters on March 28 that “if the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.”
Spicer is right that we’re obsessed with Russia, wrong that it’s as random as condiments. We’re obsessed because every signal from the administration and its allies is that they don’t want us looking, and Nunes’ Bourne identity is the most glaring signal of all.
If Trump and his associates have nothing to hide, why all the cloak and dagger? And why such clumsiness?