Trump awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to longtime loyalist and GOP Rep. Devin Nunes
This article features our National Security Analyst Irvin McCullough and was originally published here.
President Donald Trump on Monday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
Nunes is one of Trump’s most loyal attack dogs in Congress and has spent years promoting the president’s conspiracy theories about the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, the so-called Steele dossier, purported Ukrainian corruption, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
He was also one of Trump’s staunchest defenders during the House’s impeachment inquiry into the president’s efforts to strongarm the Ukrainian government into launching politically motivated investigations targeting the Bidens to help his own reelection bid. Throughout the proceedings, Nunes was repeatedly criticized for trying to out the government whistleblower who first revealed the details of Trump’s actions, despite the fact that the individual’s identity is protected by federal statute.
The White House said in a statement that Nunes’ “courageous actions helped thwart a plot to take down a sitting United States president,” referring to Trump’s belief that the FBI launched the Russia probe to undermine his presidency and that it illegally surveilled his 2016 campaign. The statement added that Nunes helped to “unearth the crime of the century.”
When he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes oversaw the panel’s own investigation into Russia’s election meddling, but he was widely criticized for using the inquiry to shield the president and vilify members of the US law enforcement and intelligence apparatus. While leading the committee’s investigation, Nunes frequently parroted Trump’s claim that the Obama administration masterminded the “Russia hoax” to overthrow Trump’s presidency.
“Congressman Devin Nunes is a public servant of unmatched talent, unassailable integrity, and unwavering resolve,” the White House’s statement on Monday said. “He uncovered the greatest scandal in American history.”
- Fact check: The Justice Department inspector general investigated Trump’s claims amid pressure from the president and his allies and found no evidence to support them. Inspector general Michael Horowitz concluded that the bureau had an “authorized purpose” to start the Russia investigation, and that that there was no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page,” who was a former Trump campaign foreign policy aide.
“Congressman Nunes pursued the Russia Hoax at great personal risk and never stopped standing up for the truth,” the White House statement said. “He had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State.”
- Fact check: A deep state is a network of embedded members of a government’s agencies or military who operate against a democratically elected government and whose goal is to remove the leader of that government from power, often through violent means. There is no evidence of an American deep state, and Trump and his supporters have repeatedly drawn backlash for using the term to refer to rifts between the president and US intelligence and law enforcement officials.
The White House’s statement on Monday also praised Nunes for his “courage” and said he “paid a price” for it. “The media smeared him and liberal activists opened a frivolous and unjustified ethics investigation, dragging his name through the mud for eight long months,” the statement said, adding that Nunes’ family members also faced threats from the public.
- Fact check: The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Nunes’ conduct in the spring of 2017 after he told reporters he had learned of “American intelligence monitoring foreign officials” who may have “incidentally picked up communications of Trump transition team members,” and that he had briefed the White House on what he’d uncovered. Media reports later revealed that three White House officials helped Nunes get access to the intelligence. The ethics investigation into Nunes closed after eight months and the California congressman said he had been cleared of all wrongdoing. But The Atlantic reported that the ethics panel was never able to review the classified material at the center of its investigation.
Nunes is one of several Trump allies who have been awarded the Medal of Freedom throughout his presidency.
“Rep. Nunes abandoned the bipartisan tradition of whistleblower protection and chilled future whistleblowers from coming forward when they witness wrongdoing,” Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst the Government Accountability Project, said in a statement after Nunes was awarded the medal. “This isn’t honorable; it’s despicable. It’s dangerous to award his misconduct.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump also plans to give the medal to Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, another stalwart loyalist who often makes headlines for echoing the president’s conspiracies about the Russia probe, the coronavirus pandemic, purported censorship of conservative figures, and more.