In an exclusive audio recording released last night by The Rachel Maddow Show, Congressman Devin Nunes admitted that he and his fellow Republicans want to hold on to the House in the 2018 midterms to impede and, just maybe, end Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 election.
Nunes spoke these words at a fundraiser for embattled Washington state Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the number four Republican in the House, who won her primary this Tuesday by less than 1% of the vote. Although it was a closed-door event with no press in attendance, Fuse Washington, a progressive organization, sent someone to secretly record it.
At one point, someone asked Nunes what became of the recent GOP-led effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a move many in the Beltway press regarded as mere theatrics with no shot at actually going through, just like their attempts to repeal Obamacare. In his year and a half in office, Trump has decimated the intelligence community, firing people who would have acted as safeguards between him and the American public, but Rosenstein, who has overseen the investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, is one of the last men standing. Impeaching/removing him, and replacing him with someone more favorable to Trump could bring an end to the investigation.
“It appears from an outsider,” the questioner asked, “that the Republicans were not supported [in the impeachment effort].” Nunes replied:
“It’s a bit complicated…we only have so many months left, right? So if we actually vote to impeach…the Senate then has to take it up. Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time. Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm…the new Supreme Court justice [Brett Kavanaugh]? So that’s part of why, I don’t think you have, you’re not getting from, and I’ve said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. I mean, so, I don’t think you’re gonna get any argument from most of our colleagues…It’s not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It’s a matter of…timing.”
According to Nunes’ plan, the Senate would confirm Kavanaugh before the House brings back the Rosenstein impeachment. Given the consequences of removing Rosenstein, it’s possible that Republicans want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court to bolster their war against the Russia investigation. As we know, he holds extreme views on executive power, even going so far as to say the Supreme Court should not have ordered President Nixon to hand over the tapes that led to his resignation. If the constitutionality of the impeachment was challenged in SCOTUS, he would undoubtedly side with the hypothetical 5-4 conservative majority.
House Republicans have worked overtime to stymie the investigation in any way they can, with Nunes being one of the most notorious offenders. His infamous memo challenging the evidence for Mueller’s case went over like a wet blanket after weeks of media hype, resulting in a House Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct. Despite this, he appears undeterred in his quest to stop Mueller, Rosenstein, and all who challenge the legitimacy of the President. In the most nakedly disingenuous part of the audio, he says:
“This puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the President, we’re the only ones. Which is really the danger. That’s why I keep, and thank you for saying it by the way, I mean we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.”
With four words – “we’re the only ones” – Nunes sold the 2018 Republican platform better than any group-tested ad campaign could. He told his audience, in effect, “Vote for us because we will place Donald Trump above the law.” Vote for the Democrats, he implied, and the Republican stranglehold on our government may vanish, lest Mueller’s findings lead to the President’s impeachment, resignation, or defeat.
“What need we fear,” Lady Macbeth asks, “when none can call our power to account?” Like the army that overthrows the Macbeth kingdom, the Democrats have slowly been encroaching on Republican territory, outperforming expectations in formerly safe districts like McMorris Rodgers’. The wolves are knocking at the Republicans’ door, and in laying bare their ambitions, Devin Nunes has possibly sealed theirs, and his, fate.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.