Mr. Nunes went to Wash­ing­ton

Of­fi­cial­dom doesn’t grasp the di­rect man­ner of a Cen­tral Val­ley na­tive son

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian with the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

Rep. Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can., the now-con­tro­ver­sial chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, is a bit dif­fer­ent from what Wash­ing­ton ex­pects in its politi­cians. He grew up in the agri­cul­tural cor­nu­copia of the Cen­tral Val­ley of Cal­i­for­nia — fruits, veg­eta­bles, beef, dairy prod­ucts and fibers — the con­crete ex­pres­sion of a myr­iad of hard­work­ing eth­nic groups. Their di­verse an­ces­tors fled poverty and oc­ca­sional hor­rors in Ar­me­nia, Basque Coun­try, Greece, Ja­pan, Mex­ico, Por­tu­gal, the Pun­jab, South­east Asia and the Ok­la­homa Dust Bowl.

Cen­tral to this mix of im­mi­grants, farm­ers and ranch­ers is a val­ley cul­ture of prag­ma­tism, blunt­ness and tenac­ity.

Of all these groups, none are more un­abashedly pa­tri­otic and out­spo­ken than Por­tuguese im­mi­grant dairy farm­ers, most from the is­lands of the Azores.

I live in ru­ral Fresno County at the junc­ture of three con­gres­sional dis­tricts. All three are cur­rently rep­re­sented by Por­tuguese-Amer­i­cans from farm­ing fam­i­lies and from both par­ties: Mr. Nunes (22nd District); my own rep­re­sen­ta­tive, David Val­adao (Repub­li­can, 21st District); and Rep. Jim Costa (Demo­crat, 16th District). All three keep get­ting re-elected for their ac­ces­si­bil­ity, in­for­mal­ity and com­mit­ment to the tra­di­tional val­ues of their dis­tricts.

Mr. Nunes be­came a con­tro­ver­sial pub­lic fig­ure na­tion­ally when he re­vealed that the sur­veil­lance of for­eign gov­ern­ments by Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence agen­cies may have re­sulted in the in­ap­pro­pri­ate mon­i­tor­ing of mem­bers of the Trump tran­si­tion team — and per­haps some pri­vate cit­i­zens, too — and the un­mask­ing of their iden­ti­ties.

What fol­lowed this dis­clo­sure could have mir­ror-im­aged the script of di­rec­tor Frank Capra’s clas­sic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Wash­ing­ton.”

It all started when Mr. Nunes said he had re­ceived un­so­licited in­for­ma­tion of wrong­do­ing from one or more whistle­blow­ers. Un­for­tu­nately for Mr. Nunes, he ap­proached com­plaints of im­proper sur­veil­lance in a Cen­tral Val­ley sort of way (but a most un-Wash­ing­ton man­ner).

In­stead of the usual pat­tern of leak­ing the whistle­blower’s in­for­ma­tion to friendly me­dia (and, of course, deny­ing that he was the source of the leaks), Mr. Nunes went bal­lis­tic — and, heaven for­bid, pub­lic.

Mr. Nunes first no­ti­fied House Speaker Paul Ryan of his in­ten­tion to bring the in­for­ma­tion to both the pres­i­dent and the pub­lic. He then held a press con­fer­ence to re­veal the po­ten­tially in­ap­pro­pri­ate mon­i­tor­ing, then told the pres­i­dent him­self that some of his as­so­ciates may have been swept up in po­ten­tially im­proper sur­veil­lance and leak­ing con­ducted by bu­reaus that fall un­der the ex­ec­u­tive branch. Mr. Nunes also served sub­poe­nas to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, CIA and FBI.

The re­sult? Sud­denly, Mr. Nunes him­self be­came the ob­ject of Wash­ing­ton vi­tu­per­a­tion for not im­me­di­ately in­form­ing House Democrats about the po­ten­tially in­ap­pro­pri­ate mon­i­tor­ing.

Mr. Nunes was tar­geted by pro­gres­sive ac­tivists and in­ves­ti­gated by the House Ethics Com­mit­tee — which has thus far not re­leased any find­ings of im­proper be­hav­ior — ap­par­ently be­cause he went pub­lic and is now viewed as a par­ti­san of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nunes next an­nounced that he was tem­po­rar­ily del­e­gat­ing his lead­er­ship of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee as it in­ves­ti­gated charges of col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Rus­sia. In melo­dra­matic fash­ion, Mr. Nunes was said to have “re­cused” him­self from all com­mit­tee lead­er­ship. But he re­ally did not.

“Re­cusal” is a le­gal term that de­notes dis­qual­i­fy­ing one­self due to con­flict of in­ter­est. In­stead, Mr. Nunes only took a tem­po­rary respite from lead­ing a sin­gle in­ves­ti­ga­tory thread of sup­posed Trump-Rus­sian col­lu­sion. Was that a de facto dare for the com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate what Mr. Nunes sup­pos­edly had blocked?

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has not in­ter­viewed a sin­gle wit­ness for more than two months. Is that lax­ity be­cause the com­mit­tee so far has been un­able to find con­crete ev­i­dence of Trump-Rus­sia col­lu­sion? While some other mem­bers of the near-dor­mant House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee ap­par­ently have con­tin­ued to leak in­for­ma­tion about the pos­si­ble prospect of grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Mr. Trump and of forth­com­ing in­for­ma­tion about col­lu­sion with Rus­sia, none of these sto­ries has been ac­com­pa­nied by sup­port­ing ev­i­dence.

Now, Mr. Nunes is back again, court­ing me­dia ou­trage by press­ing to sub­poena three Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials — for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san Rice, U.N. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power and for­mer CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan — to ex­plain whether they played a role in the im­proper mon­i­tor­ing of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and the leak­ing of their names to the press.

But strangely, this time around, the me­dia has been rel­a­tively sub­dued. Per­haps it’s be­cause the Rus­sian col­lu­sion story went nowhere when Mr. Nunes tem­po­rar­ily as­signed his in­ves­ti­ga­tory lead­er­ship to oth­ers.

Yet it seems that the ex­plo­sive un­mask­ing charges are at last be­ing se­ri­ously in­ves­ti­gated.

The main­stream me­dia has car­i­ca­tured Mr. Nunes’ bull­dog blunt­ness in go­ing pub­lic as naive and par­ti­san, and they have pre­dicted his demise as a com­mit­tee chair­man amid a cli­mate of hys­te­ria.

In­stead, Mr. Nunes seems un­con­cerned and plows straight ahead — in the fash­ion of dairy farm­ers from the Cen­tral Val­ley of Cal­i­for­nia.

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has not in­ter­viewed a sin­gle wit­ness for more than two months. Is that lax­ity be­cause the com­mit­tee so far has been un­able to find con­crete ev­i­dence of Trump-Rus­sia col­lu­sion?


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