Congress

Devin Nunes is ready to play the role of House antagonist

In this 2017 photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, is flanked by the committee’s ranking minority member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. With the Democrats recapturing the House, Nunes will lose the committee chairmanship.
In this 2017 photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, is flanked by the committee’s ranking minority member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. With the Democrats recapturing the House, Nunes will lose the committee chairmanship. AP file

Rep. Devin Nunes is about to go from being power broker to antagonist.

The California Republican won his House race decisively last week, despite barely campaigning, being targeted by dark-money groups and having a Democratic opponent with millions in campaign dollars.

But thanks to his alliance with President Donald Trump, some of Nunes’ supporters wondered whether he would want to stay in a Democrat-controlled House or take a White House appointment to an executive branch job.

Don’t listen to that speculation, say those close to Nunes . He’s not going anywhere.

“If he has the energy, he’s used to playing the antagonist,” said Mike Der Manouel, a longtime friend of Nunes. “He’s a policy guy and I think he likes being in Congress.”

Nunes faces a likely switch of roles with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who is widely expected to become chairman in the next Congress. He’s also a senior Republican on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Schiff has been outspoken as Nunes, the current chairman, made controversial moves. Among them: Briefing the White House on confidential documents and releasing a memo to the public that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance authority to target a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

Nunes is likely to become the top Republican on the committee. But the top minority party congressman on many committees historically has little to no power. The role is usually limited to speaking out on issues.

Nunes has faced public questions on his briefing of the White House on intelligence related to an investigation into the Trump campaign, subsequently recusing himself from the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

He then rejoined the investigation and worked to release confidential information to the public, but there have been no investigations of Nunes personally.

Nunes would not respond to McClatchy’s requests for comment.

Democrats seem ready to turn their investigative power on Trump and not one of their colleagues.

When asked about the possibility of investigating Nunes, the office of Democratic Leader and possible Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, pointed to comments she made to the San Francisco Chronicle in October that she didn’t intend to indulge the “pound of flesh crowd” that wanted to go after Republicans for every slight, though she did not specifically mention Nunes in the interview.

“We will seek bipartisanship where we can,” Pelosi said. “One of the reasons we should win is that we’re not like them, and we’re not going to be like them.”

Schiff’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this article. While the two have publicly and repeatedly clashed over the past two years, none of Schiff’s public comments of late reflect a desire to investigate Nunes.

In remarks at a panel at the Brookings Institution last month, Schiff said a memo Nunes produced that accused the FBI of using a Democratic-funded dossier to open an investigation into parts of the Trump campaign was “a violation of everything the committee has stood for.” Democrats and Schiff have said the memo was highly misleading based on confidential intelligence received by the committee.

Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Adam Schiff talked to reporters after Republican House members voted to release a memo containing classified information about the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

But he didn’t mention Nunes by name, and later in his remarks gave a sign that he, too, didn’t want to go tit-for-tat on perceived Republican jabs.

“If the House should change hands, I think priority number one has to be restoring the credibility and integrity of our committee and comity among members of the committee,” Schiff said.

In a tour of recent TV appearances and media interviews, Schiff has talked about building trust with intelligence agencies and reopening the House investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Nunes and the Republican majority shut down that investigation in the spring, saying there was no evidence of collusion.

“We’ll have to look at what was done, what wasn’t done. I’m particularly concerned that no one has investigated the issue of whether the Russians were laundering money through the Trump organization, and this is the leverage that the Russians have over the president of the United States,” Schiff said at Brookings. “To me, not knowing that is negligent with our national security.”

Kate Irby: 202-383-6071; @KateIrby
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