The job of Congress is not to protect the president. It is to provide a check and balance on presidential power. It’s now obvious that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., confuses his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution with his assumed role as presidential fig-leaf holder.

Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is tasked with investigating questionable connections between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government. To any objective observer, Nunes’ antics of distortion, distraction and deception — aimed at protecting Trump — are proof that Nunes never intended to carry out his oversight duties in good faith.

It turns out there’s audio to prove his dereliction of duty. It’s a recording secretly made at a fundraiser in which Nunes tells fellow Republican insiders that if special counsel Robert Mueller “won’t clear the president,” then “we’re the only ones” who can protect Trump, by keeping a Republican majority in Congress.

Americans can hear Nunes effectively confirm in his own voice what was always apparent: that he has zero interest in finding out whether Trump or his campaign are guilty of collusion, that all he’s even trying to do with his oversight authority is “clear the president.” House Speaker Paul Ryan must finally do what he should have done long ago, and get this man out of his chairmanship and away from anything remotely connected to the Trump-Russia investigation.

The audio recording was secretly made by an attendee at the recent fundraiser where Nunes spoke, and aired on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Wednesday night. In it, Nunes tells the audience at the closed event that the urgency of keeping Congress’ Republican majority isn’t just about the usual policy issues. It is, he says, all about protecting Trump.

“If (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions won’t unrecuse (himself) and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones,” Nunes says on the audio. “Which is really the danger. … I mean we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.”

What he fears is going to go away, it seems in context, is the bulwark of Republican protection currently in place to shield Trump from accountability. As for the “danger” he references — could that be what most of us call justice?

Nunes’ actions — tearing down our intelligence services, planting unsupported conspiracy theories about Mueller’s legitimate investigation, playing parliamentary games to stifle Democratic opposition — have long merited his removal as chairman. In April 2017, he was forced to recuse himself from the Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian meddling in U.S. elections because he was suspected of making unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

If Ryan fails to act even on this latest, clearest evidence, then it will be fair to suggest that Nunes’ disgraceful displays of bad faith aren’t some loose-cannon aberration, but House Republican policy.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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