Devin Nunes was far from being a national figure before President Donald Trump took office. Thanks to his work defending the president through his position as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the California Republican has become notorious for his role in obstructing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and has become a top target for Democrats hoping to flip the House in this fall’s midterm elections. But if newly leaked fundraising numbers are any indication, Nunes’ celebrity among Trump supporters has propelled him to a position where he’ll only feel more emboldened to shill on behalf of the president.
Nunes managed to raise roughly $2.5 million over the last six weeks for his re-election campaign this year, according to the Washington Examiner. Overall Nunes has raised $5 million, including $1.25 million raised in the first fiscal quarter of 2018, more than he raised in all of 2017. Most of the money is raised outside California’s 22nd congressional district — an unglamorous agricultural region in the state’s Central Valley — from Republicans around the country who have become aware of Nunes thanks to his high-profile role in defending Trump and attempting to discredit the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“If you’ve got the attention of the grassroots — particularly if you’re investigating the president or defending him — it’s a smart investment to make,” a Republican consultant told the Examiner about Nunes’ fundraising program.
Trump himself recently acknowledged his political debt to Nunes.
“A very courageous man — he’s courageous,” Trump said of Nunes as the two men attended a ceremony at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, recently. “Thank you very much, Devin, for being here, appreciate it.”
Nunes also attacked his hometown paper, the Fresno Bee, after a reporter asked the congressman whether he plans on hosting local forums or town hall meetings in his home district. (Republican candidates have been known to shy away from those events or heavily monitor who attends them to avoid clashes with constituents upset about their policies.) In his response, Nunes channeled Trump by refusing to answer the question and instead claiming the newspaper was out to get him.
“Your paper is a joke to even bring these issues up or raise these issues,” Nunes told the Bee. “I actually feel bad for the people who work at the Bee because sadly it’s become just a left-wing rag. And it’s unfortunate that we’re in this situation. But when the paper just becomes part of regurgitating Democratic talking points, it’s no longer a news outlet that’s actually being fair or objective. It’s not objective journalism. So just the fact that those would be issues are silly.”
He added, “Because, the Bee especially should know this, that for many many years I have held a lot of educational forums over the years. Big forums, small forums. And we continue to do that and we will continue to do it.”
Regardless of whether Nunes actually winds up catering to his constituents, his services for Trump have made enough headlines that he will likely have little trouble continue to politically capitalize on them as he commences with his reelection campaign.
In April 2017, as Trump was attempting to distract from the Russia investigation by falsely claiming that Trump Tower had been wiretapped, Nunes publicly discussed classified foreign surveillance reports that he had viewed on the White House’s grounds in order to claim that they had been wrongly unmasked by President Barack Obama’s administration, according to the Washington Post. The House Ethics Committee later decided to investigate whether Nunes had “made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct,” with Nunes recusing himself from the Russia probe during the investigative period (which has since ended).
A subsequent report by the New Yorker later revealed that the White House had told the intelligence community that they were “going to mobilize to find something to justify the president’s tweet that he was being surveilled.” Shortly after that happened, Nunes was summoned to the White House to view the documents in question, which were later determined to have not actually demonstrated any improper surveillance.
That same month, Nunes told Republicans at a Tulare County Lincoln Dinner that he didn’t accept the premise that the Trump-Russia scandal should be investigated.
“The Democrats don’t want an investigation on Russia. They want an independent commission,” Nunes was recorded saying. “Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton would have never lost on her own; it had to be someone else’s fault.”
In February 2018, Nunes once again found himself at the center of a controversy involving an attempt to deflect attention from or outright discredit the Trump-Russia scandal. After drumming up support for a #releasethememo movement online — claiming that a memo written by Republicans would discredit the Steele dossier and, in turn, the entire Trump-Russia investigation — the actual Nunes memo wound up simply asserting that the Steele dossier had been politically biased and should not have been used. Not only did it fail to prove that Steele’s work had been politically biased, it failed to establish that even such a bias would have made the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign improper or illegal.
As recently as this month, Nunes made a big deal about threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt by claiming he was being stonewalled on vital information, even though the Justice Department had explained that “disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities.”