The Republican leader of a bipartisan congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has himself become the story over the past week.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, has been roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for what his fellow lawmakers have deemed “very strange” behavior amid the investigation – with his image apparently transitioning from bipartisan ally on the committee to someone who has “gone off on a lark by himself,” as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put it to NBC on Tuesday.
Nunes’ constituents in his home district in California’s Central Valley, however, are standing by him, Politico reported on Wednesday night. Nunes represents the 22nd congressional district, a farming region roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. He has held the office since 2003.
According to Politico’s David Siders, residents in Nunes’ district are largely displeased not with Nunes’ actions of late in Washington but with people who are grilling him.
A local radio host said of the backlash against Nunes: “The way he’s being lambasted and barbecued right now, how much worse can it get?”
Nunes’ grilling began last week when it became clear that he, through an anonymous source, had become privy to information involving President Donald Trump but unrelated to his committee’s Russia inquiry. In a handful of press briefings and interviews, Nunes said he said he had found evidence that some members of Trump’s transition team had been scooped up in possible surveillance activities after the election.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The revelation threw the committee for a loop, as Nunes had withheld the information and his source from his colleagues.
“I have no idea what it is he knows, but the Devin I knew doesn’t do this type of stuff normally,” Nunes’ former press secretary Johnny Amaral said, according to Politico. “And if he does … I can only surmise that it’s something big.”
Another local told Politico that Nunes deserved the benefit of the doubt: “I haven’t seen anything that’s really given me pause yet … I have no idea the way it works in the intelligence community.”
Nunes’ revelations last week appeared to ease Trump off of his ongoing, unsubstantiated allegation that President Barack Obama had eavesdropped on his operations before the election. That has led some critics to wonder whether Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, had been improperly cooperating with an administration that is under federal investigation.
- AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Bucking the trend
The support Nunes appears to be receiving back home stands in contrast to the reception other Republican lawmakers have encountered in their home districts in the past couple of months. The Trump administration racked up controversies in rapid succession following the inauguration, leading to swift blowback in Republican congressional districts nationwide.
The backlash, marked by raucous town-hall meetings and protests, pitted some GOP representatives against angry voters upset with the Trump administration’s then-pending moves to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and Trump’s frequent breaks from presidential tradition, like his refusal to publish his tax returns.
Back in Washington, however, Nunes’ behavior has not afforded him much goodwill. Republican and Democratic leaders have asserted that he has lost his credibility and is no longer fit to lead the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia-Trump investigation.
Nunes, however, says he’s not going anywhere, saying on Wednesday that the investigation would happen “with or without” Democrats.