Donald Trump's unilateral and ineffectual attack on a Syrian airbase has distracted the media from a blockbuster scandal: the recusal of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) , who now faces an ethics investigation, from the Trump/Russia investigation.
Coverage of Donald Trump's largely ineffective attack on a Syrian airbase has gone from glowing to something a fair bit more skeptical, but it has unquestionably crowded out a scandal that would completely derail an ordinary presidency: The recusal of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) from that committee's investigation into Trump's ties to Russia. Aside from a token mention or two, the major Sunday political shows ignored the Nunes scandal in favor of the Syria distraction.
Nunes' recusal was a significant victory for the resistance that has been led by Democrats — especially Democratic women — and should have been a crushing political blow to Trump. Nunes himself is the target of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he "may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information." Nunes had already demonstrated his inability to lead this investigation, but this calls into question his continued chairmanship of the intel committee.
The behavior of other Republicans, with few notable exceptions, makes clear that this victory warrants even more resistance by Democrats, and more attention from journalists.
Even in the moments following the Nunes recusal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) continued to express support for, and trust in, Nunes despite evidence of his collusion with the White House to derail that investigation. But beyond that, and the near-unanimous refusal of other Republicans to call Nunes out, there are many powerful reasons to demand an independent investigation.
For example, fellow House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) recently issued a threat to hide future committee hearings from public view, following the politically disastrous public hearing at which FBI Director James Comey announced his agency's investigation into "links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts."
Gowdy's threat, along with Nunes' well-publicized actions, amount to a cover-up in broad daylight, underpinned by a disturbing attitude among Republicans that was articulated by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL):
MELVIN: Are you concerned at all that he was viewing what he said was classified information at the White House, and then reported it back to the White House?
YOHO: You gotta keep in mind who he works for. He works for the president, he answers to the president.
MELVIN: Does he? Or does he work for the constituents of his district?
YOHO: Well, you do both. But when in that capacity, if you've got information, I'm okay with what he did.
Congressional Republicans have demonstrated, time and again, that they cannot be trusted to investigate Trump, and Nunes' recusal, while welcome, does not change that. Nunes is now the subject of his own investigation for possible disclosure of classified material, and his colleagues have proven just as untrustworthy. The stakes for our country are too high to leave this in their hands.
Journalists are beginning to dial back their jingoistic coverage of the Syria strikes, and they must make room for this story in their schedules, just as we must continue to demand an independent commission and a special prosecutor.