Editor’s Note: Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney and a legal analyst for CNN and HLN. The views expressed here are solely his.
Rep. Devin Nunes stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee investigation he was leading
Joey Jackson: Nunes does not deserve praise for his decision
He behaved dishonorably and violated the American people's trust, writes Jackson
Succumbing to mounting public pressure and common sense, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that he will no longer be overseeing his committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In doing so, he released a statement noting that “several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics.” He then blamed these groups for his exit, saying “the charges are entirely false and politically motivated and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power.”
Some may believe that his departure from the investigation was the honorable thing to do. And perhaps it was?
After all, there was no legal requirement that he step aside. Allegations of federal law or ethics violations are just that. And no one should be presumed to have engaged in any impropriety, until it has been conclusively established otherwise. In that regard, no one can say whether Nunes did anything wrong before the committee completes its probe.
Further, neither House rules nor congressional precedent legally require that a House member who is merely “under investigation” remove himself from his committee role nor other responsibilities attendant to his service. It would have been Nunes’ right to continue with his duties.
But when we examine what’s honorable, shouldn’t we also consider whether Nunes should have been meeting with the President or any other members of the executive branch during a pending investigation; holding a press conference to quickly spin a narrative helpful to the President; and alluding to classified information to further advance his objectives.
What’s more, once the outrage finally caught up to his actions, and his leadership and judgment were questioned, we saw the Washington shuffle and sidestep in full force and effect. Nunes didn’t accept responsibility for doing anything wrong. Instead, he did the shuffle by placing the blame on “left-wing groups.” But Nunes is the one responsible for his objectivity being questioned. His own actions compromised his credibility.
And then came the sidestep and diversion by talking about the unmasking issue. Whether unmasking occurred or not had nothing to do with the reason he was compelled to leave the investigation. Instead, his departure was necessitated by his self-inflicted wound.
Even so, is all the public outrage over Nunes justified? Indeed it is. Ultimately, the American people want any investigation to get to the truth. And that cannot happen when the independence of it is comprised.
The issue is not whether Nunes supported Trump’s election, served on his transition team or may have had coffee and crumpets with him throughout that process. The issue is whether we can rely upon and put our faith in the conclusions of an investigation being overseen by someone so irreversibly tainted. And when Nunes’ own actions suggested otherwise, it was time for him to go.
What really would have been honorable would have been to place the American people first, leaving no questions as to loyalty or motive. Nunes could have achieved this by comporting himself in a manner that was apolitical, outwardly professional and beyond reproach.
When the American people are seen as the priority, no one questions a politician’s honor, ethics or integrity. Sadly, that’s not what happened here.