House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) could be facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice if he worked with the White House to draft the controversial anti-FBI memo, three legal scholars wrote Monday.
Tunes last week refused to say whether he or his staffers worked with the White House on the 3-page document, which alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI in monitoring former Donald Trump campaign aide Carter Page. As chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Norman Eisen, president of the American Constitution Society Caroline Fredrickson and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe wrote, if Nunes did indeed work with the White House, it could trigger an obstruction charge.
“By writing and releasing the memo, the chairman may just have landed himself, and his staff members, in the middle of Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation,” they noted.
Nunes—who worked on Donald Trump’s transition team—“demurred” last week when asking whether he wrote the memo in concert with the White House.
“Given Mr. Nunes’s own close relations to the White House as a former member of the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and his previous history conferring with White House officials on matters under investigation by his committee, it is fair to surmise that his staff, perhaps at his direction, may have coordinated the memo with the White House,” the scholars wroted.
“Such conduct could expose Mr. Nunes and his staff to liability for conspiracy to obstruct justice,” they added.
Eisen, Fredrickson and Tribe pointed to reports indicating Nunes’ memo may have been written as a justification for Trump to fire officials integral to the Trump-Russia investigation—including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“Endeavoring to stop an investigation, if done with corrupt intent, may constitute obstruction of justice,” they write. “Plotting to assist such action may be conspiracy to obstruct justice.”
“If a member or staff employee of the House Intelligence Committee engaged with the White House to stifle the special counsel inquiry, it would be difficult to see how such collaboration would be considered ‘essential to the deliberations’ of the committee or the House,” the trio noted. “That would look a lot more like orchestrating than legislating.”
According to op-ed, If Trump uses the Nunes memo as a pretext to fire Rosenstein, “that would be dispositive evidence of Mr. Trump’s pattern of obstruction of justice, and Mr. Nunes and his team will have helped make it possible.”