The West

House impeachment rules put Devin Nunes in seat to run Donald Trump’s defense

Rep. Devin Nunes will likely be running President Donald Trump’s defense on the impeachment inquiry under rules the House plans to vote on Thursday.

Those rules would have the majority of public impeachment hearings under the House Intelligence Committee, with most powers reserved for Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and the top Republican, Nunes, R-Tulare.

While Schiff and Democrats will retain ultimate control over hearings, Nunes can question witnesses for an equal amount of time as Schiff, request to hear witness testimony relevant to the investigation and issue subpoenas with Schiff’s approval.

If Schiff rejects a subpoena, Nunes can ask the full committee for a vote. The committee has a Democratic majority.

Only Schiff would be authorized to release transcripts of hearings.

After the investigation, the committee must issue a report on its findings to the Judiciary Committee, which will be able to conduct further investigations before voting whether to move articles of impeachment forward.

Nunes and Republicans could submit dissenting opinions to those findings.

The full House is planning to vote Thursday on whether to use those rules to govern impeachment.

The impeachment inquiry centers on a whistleblower report that alleged Trump acted improperly in a July phone call when he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.

Multiple witnesses have appeared behind closed doors at Intelligence Committee hearings and reportedly testified that they believe Trump appeared to withhold military aid to Ukraine until officials publicly committed to investigating Biden.

Nunes has repeatedly appeared on Fox News with other Republican allies to defend the president, saying the allegations lack merit. No official transcripts have been released of the private hearings yet, though some excerpts have been published in news reports.

On Tucker Carlson’s show Monday night, Nunes referred to the inquiry as the “Ukraine hoax” and described reporters asking him questions about what he labeled “conspiracy theories” on Ukraine as “assassins.”

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The rules came out the same day Trump praised Nunes in a tweet, though he misspelled Nunes’ name.

Trump in the tweet encouraged his followers to read a new book that describes Nunes’ perspective on the election-interference investigations that have dogged Trump’s presidency.

Nunes was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the first two years of Trump’s administration, a position that Nunes used to defend Trump.

“A great new book just out, “The Plot Against the President. The True Story Of How Congressman Devin Nunez Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal In U.S. History.” Shows very bad and corrupt people on the other side. Check it out!” Trump tweeted.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.