The mask slips, and a Republican accidentally tells the truth.
Hard-line conservative Republicans in the House recently hit a roadblock in their effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Speaker Paul Ryan opposed the move. But one of those conservatives, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., gave a different explanation to donors recently when asked why the impeachment effort had stalled.
He said it's because an impeachment would delay the Senate's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made the statement in an audio recording surreptitiously made by a member of a progressive group who attended a Republican fundraiser on July 30 in Spokane, Washington. The recording was obtained by The Rachel Maddow Show and was played on MSNBC on Wednesday night.
Asked about the the impeachment plans, Nunes told a questioner that "it's a bit complicated" because "we only have so many months left."
"So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up," he said on the recording. "Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time.”
He continued: "Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?"
"The Senate would have to drop everything they're doing ... and start with impeachment on Rosenstein. And then take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed," Nunes said. "So it's not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It's a matter of, it's a matter of timing."
Conservative lawmakers have accused Rosenstein of trying to stymie congressional oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of alleged interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The audio of the Spokane fundraiser was obtained by the Maddow show from a member of the "Fuse Washington" progressive group who paid the $250 entry fee to attend the dinner. The event was a fundraiser for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. A spokesperson for her campaign had no comment on the recording and Nunes' office didn't return calls for comment.
This is the real reason why Rosenstein was never going to be impeached. The clock is ticking and confirming Kavanaugh has to be done before Mueller drops the hammer on Trump and company, if only to make sure Trump has five SCOTUS votes to dodge uncomfortable questions, the answers to which could very well implicate other Republicans like Nunes.
No, as I told you weeks ago, impeaching Rosenstein was at best, fundraising fodder for House Freedom Caucus leaders like Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, and at worst, cover for Trump to fire him. The clock is ticking fast and Republicans are increasingly looking like the bill for their massive corruption is coming due.
The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:
(1) The trial of Paul Manafort, which has featured the accusation that President Trump’s campaign manager had embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents. His partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, confessed to participating in all these crimes, as well as to stealing from Manafort.
(2) Yesterday, Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office. (The “Don’t worry, Wilbur Ross would never do anything unethical just to pad his bottom line” defense is likely to be, uh, unconvincing to the many people filing suit against Ross for allegedly doing exactly that.)
(3) Also yesterday, ProPublica reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being effectively run by three Trump cronies, none of whom have any official government title or public accountability. The three, reports the story, have “used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”
(4) And then, this morning, Representative Chris Collins was arrested for insider trading. Collins had been known to openly boast about making millions of dollars for his colleagues with his insider knowledge. He is charged with learning of an adverse FDA trial, and immediately calling his son — from the White House! — urging him to sell his holdings.
It has been, in sum, quite a day.
A lot of people are going to jail, and they are going to need Trump around to pardon them. For that to happen, the GOP needs Kavanaugh confirmed as quickly as possible. Every route the GOP sees out of the Mueller investigation goes through Kavanaugh being the fifth vote immunizing Trump from anything and everything short of actual impeachment.
Keep that in the back of your mind.