Bob Franken




When it comes to people not to be believed, Devin Nunes rates right up there with the Nigerian prince who tells me on the internet that I’m about to inherit millions of dollars if only I send money to him. Although come to think of it, maybe Nunes is that Nigerian prince.
Once again, he has slithered into our consciousness as the ranking — or as some prefer to describe it, rankest — member of the House Intelligence Committee, defending the indefensible conduct of President Donald Trump, as Trump digs himself deeper and deeper into the impeachment cesspool.
There was Nunes doing his dead-level best to cloud the hearings in a smokescreen, following the party line by claiming that the Democrats tried to get “nude pictures of Trump” (a disgusting thought) or that Ukraine was the country colluding with Democrats in the last election. But he met his match in Marie Yovanovitch as the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine testified in her understated way before the committee. She had been suddenly removed from her post by Trump after his money-grubbing henchmen, acting on behalf of their oligarch client accomplices, smeared their slime on her. Now she was telling her tale of woe before House Intel, which is building a case that Donny is grossly unfit for office and should be rooted out.

When it comes to the impeachment case against Trump, Yovanovitch was unimpeachably credible, so much so that Nunes and his smarmy Republican colleagues on the committee realized that they had to tread carefully. As usual, Nunes led the charge. In this case he had to be a bit subtle. He couldn’t take her on directly; her dedication to America’s interests over a career that spans 33 years as a member of the nation’s foreign service was obviously unassailable. Although, Godfather Don did try, stepping close to the line of witness tampering, if not over it, on Twitter, even as she was testifying. But Nunes tried a different approach, reading — with a straight face, I might add — that Yovanovitch’s complaints to a committee dealing with impeachment were misplaced. “This seems more appropriate,” said Nunes, “for the Subcommittee on Human Resources at the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Could it be? Did true insight slip out of Nunes’ mouth? Perhaps the human resources subcommittees should be involved, because the Trump administration is a hostile work environment if there ever was one. Aides spend their time either getting harangued by the boss or having their credibility shattered by describing a strategy only to have it blown out of the water whenever Trump talks to someone who has a different idea.
How many times have we seen the stories describing the plan to keep POTUS “above the fray,” looking presidential while his antagonists are trashing him. “Above the fray” never lasts very long; it starts to fray with his next poisonous whim. Impulse control is not his strong suit. So it was that the Trumpster let spill with his tweet garbage as he watched the hearings he always says he’s not watching.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” the president cyber-sneered. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
Besides the absurdity of that attack, Yovanovitch would have been very junior when, during the Reagan administration, she was posted to Mogadishu. In one tweet, he totally sabotaged his party apologists’ tippy-toe approach. It gave Democrats the opportunity to scream “witness intimidation.”
Nunes and his GOP crew did their best to ignore that intrusion and, for that matter, Yovanovitch. Instead they kept pounding on their latest strategy demanding that the whistleblower testify. You remember the whistleblower, the man or woman who originally forced the issue of President Trump’s extorting the Ukrainian president to have his government reinvestigate Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden. His or her identity is classified, and Nunes and his posse know that.
Democrats refuse to be sidetracked with their plod through the fog, with more hearings this week. So once again, we will witness Devin Nunes dissemble. Which is a polite way to say lie.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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