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Devin Nunes is the face of the Republican pushback against President Trump's impeachment, and beyond his sour puss lies the reason they are flailing and failing: Defending the indefensible is impossible given the enormity of the Ukraine scandal evidence presented by career diplomats and White House insiders, leaving Nunes to traffic in his pet conspiracy theories, chief among them that Ukraine and not Russia hacked the damaging Democratic emails that helped tip the 2016 election to Trump.
Nunes, an eight-term congressman from California's San Joaquin Valley, was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until the Blue Wave midterm election victories bumped him down to ranking minority member.
"I guess they fantasize about this at night," Nunes said of what he called Democrats' "Watergate fantasies" shortly before Gordon Sondland blew another door off the White House on Wednesday in throwing Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry and Mike Pence under the bus.
Or "underbusing," as one pundit put it.
Nunes has long promoted the fantastic notion that a "deep state" plot was engineered by former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton acolytes to deny Trump the Oval Office. And lest we forget, he was the chief advocate of the discredited notion that President Obama had ordered the phones in Trump Tower to be bugged.
By Nunes' own admission, he had been secretly admitted to the White House grounds where in an Inspector Clouseau-esque caper he met secretly under the cover of darkness with a "source," who turn out to be three Trump staffers with national security credentials, who showed him a secret report that U.S. spies, in the course of doing their secret jobs, may have incidentally -- but wrongly, of course -- swept up Trump.
Nunes eventually recused himself from the Republican-controlled Intel Committee's foundering Russia scandal investigation, which was to conclude with no Democratic input that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, except that he really didn't recuse himself and continued to direct the committee sub rosa while running a clandestine parallel probe of his own.
Meanwhile, it was reported this week that Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped Nunes in that parallel probe by setting up meetings in Europe in 2018 where Nunes unsuccessfully tried to shake loose intelligence that would undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia scandal investigation.
No matter, because desperate Republicans are in the process of throwing Giuliani under that proverbial bus by blaming him for the extortionate Ukraine dirt-for-military aid plot.
While Nunes' evidence-free flapdoodle like blaming Ukraine for the Russian hacks has been embraced by much of the Fox News commentariat and is gospel to Trump's base, wingnuttery is a lousy substitute for reality when someone with the gravitas of Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia expert, tells House impeachment investigators under oath that Nunes' fever dream, so avidly pushed by Trump, is a "fictional narrative."
"The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions," she said to Nunes' sour puss on Thursday as the second and final week of public testimony came to a conclusion.
"It is beyond dispute," said Hill, who has written an authoritative book on Vladimir Putin and noted that the GOP fictions on Ukraine help Moscow, which she said is gearing up to repeat its interference in 2020. Nunes, a useful idiot for Putin in addition to Trump, was not moved.
"All of us who came here under a legal obligation also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came here as fact witnesses," she added. "I know this has put a huge cloud over this presidency and over our whole democratic system . . . that's why, as a nonpartisan person, an expert on Russia, I wanted to try to see if I could help." Nunes still was not moved.
Which raises up an important point: All the officials whose public testimony has been so damaging to Trump have given that testimony under oath. And all of those officials who Republicans are trying to lead us to believe would exonerate the president have so far refused to testify.
Do I detect a pattern here?
As if that weren't bad enough for Trump's congressional sycophancy, the list of administration insiders willing to disobey the president and testify under oath has grown longer. Oh, but the president says he's willing to testify. Just like he was willing to testify in Mueller's investigation, which he of course never did despite repeated assertions that he would.
Do I detect another pattern here?
Trump, ever presidential, tweeted prior to Hill's testimony that Democrats were "human scum," while Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a nod to Nunes, declared the Democrats "are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election."
Little noticed as the Republican desperately sought new rabbit holes to go down, former independent counsel Ken Starr, whose prosecutorial excesses resulted in the Bill Clinton impeachment circus, said on Fox News that things looked so bad for the president that Republican leaders should consider going to the White House to ask for Trump's resignation.
That, of course, is what finally convinced Richard Nixon to quit.
More than 45 years separate Watergate and the Ukraine scandal, not to mention all of Trump's other crimes. The Republican Party of 1973 was law abiding, and most Republicans reflexively defended Nixon as the Watergate scandal grew and the attendant constitutional crisis deepened. And they stuck with him even after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out his order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, the Mueller of those turbulent times.
But three Republicans -- Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, House Minority Leader John Rhodes and Senator Barry Goldwater -- had the guts to go to the White House and tell Nixon he had lost the support of the country and he soon resigned.
Can you imagine Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Charles Grassley doing that after Sondland's John Dean moment and as one Republican defense after another has been torched?
How about Devin Nunes?