Rep. Devin Nunes is quickly becoming President Donald Trump’s favorite lawmaker in Washington.
Trump singled out the California Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for praise Monday on Twitter, calling him “a man of tremendous courage and grit” after Nunes’ committee released a partisan memo alleging abuses by the FBI and Justice Department.
Both Nunes and the White House have rejected allegations that they collaborated on the crafting of the memo, suspicions that several top Democrats have raised.
“All I can say is that the first time anybody at the White House saw the memo was on Monday when it was delivered to the White House. Obviously, the chairman of the intelligence committee will have discussions with folks in the White House on all sorts of matters, but nothing with respect to coordination of the memo that I’m aware of,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Monday.
Trump has seized on the controversial memo which was declassified last week, claiming it “totally vindicates” him in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that is probing allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and questions of obstruction of justice.
“Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
The memo does not clear Trump of wrongdoing in either aspect of the investigation, a point several Republican lawmakers have made clear in recent days, but the President and some of his allies have nonetheless seized on the memo in an attempt to discredit Mueller’s investigation.
And while Nunes has not called into question Mueller’s authority in the wake of the release of the memo, he has raised questions about the top tier leadership at the FBI and Justice Department, refusing even to say in an interview last week whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should remain in his position.
Nunes’ release of the memo fits a pattern of the House Intelligence Committee chairman’s efforts to muddy the waters as Mueller’s investigation has tightened its focus around Trump and his inner circle. Nunes also served on Trump’s presidential transition team.
After the memo was released, Nunes seized on one of Trump’s talking points to claim “there was no collusion,” getting ahead of the special counsel’s investigation and its conclusions.
Trump also also fired off a missive at the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee – knocking Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, as “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington” and calling him “Little Adam Schiff.”
Trump’s tweets about the top two lawmakers on the committee come as it is expected to vote as early as Monday afternoon on whether to release a Democratic memo that covers the same topic as last week’s Republican memo.
If the memo gets out of the committee, it would then head to the White House for a declassification review – leaving the decision in the President’s hands.
“If that memo is voted out and it comes to the White House we will consider it along the same terms that we considered the Nunes memo, which is to allow for a legal review, national security review, led by the White House counsel’s office and then within five days the president will make a decision about declassifying it,” said Shah, the White House spokesman.