Opinion: It’s getting hard to trust the Republicans to investigate Trump

Nunes Speaks on Surveilance of Trump’s Transition Team at White House
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) speaks to the media outside the White House after meeting with President Trump on Wednesday. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)
(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, The Times’ letters editor, and it is March 25, 2017. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Is Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) — who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and oversees its ostensibly independent investigation of President Trump’s baseless wiretapping claims and Russian campaign meddling — begging for a select committee or special prosecutor to do his job for him? Because with his announcement this week that members of the Trump transition team had their communications incidentally collected by intelligence agencies and his decision to brief the president on his findings, that’s exactly where Nunes is headed.

At the end of a bizarre week in Washington that included the heads of the FBI and National Security Agency knocking down Trump’s claim that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower, confirmation that the FBI has been investigating any possible Trump campaign connections to the Russian hacking, and Nunes’ breach of protocol and possibly ethics in briefing the White House, The Times Editorial Board warns Nunes that his credibility is coming into question:

Sure enough, Trump, who famously (and recklessly) accused former President Obama of ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the election, said he felt somewhat vindicated by Nunes’ revelations — even though FBI Director James Comey and Nunes himself have debunked that assertion.

This wasn’t the first time that Nunes has come to Trump’s assistance. At an Intelligence Committee hearing Monday at which Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testified about Russian involvement in last year’s presidential campaign, Nunes and other Republicans focused on leaks of classified information. Trump tweeted that same day: “The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, complained that Nunes’ decision to share information with the White House before he provided it to the committee was a “profound irregularity.” He warned that Nunes “cannot conduct a credible investigation this way.”

He’s right: Nunes shouldn’t be briefing the president whose election campaign his committee is expected to scrutinize. Unless the chairman can reassure the public and his colleagues, including the panel’s Democrats, that his freelancing days are over, the public may look elsewhere — the Senate Intelligence Committee or a proposed 9/11-style independent commission — for a trustworthy account.

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No matter what happens, we’ll still have to deal with Russia. Its increasingly autocratic and assertive leader Vladimir Putin deserved the attention of the U.S. long before his country’s campaign meddling. Lines of communication between the two nuclear superpowers must be kept open, writes The Times Editorial Board, but the Trump administration must continue to impose sanctions on Russia for interfering in Ukraine. L.A. Times

Is it “reasonable” for police to shoot someone in his or her own home? In 2011, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies entered a home whose occupants were asleep. One man, dazed and startled by the intruders, set his hand on a nearby BB gun, prompting the deputies to shoot him and the woman he was with. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to uphold a 9th Circuit decision awarding $4.2 million to the couple; it should. L.A. Times

The country is starting to realize what California has long known: that one year of exceptionally wet weather will not come close to alleviating the state’s water crisis. The complex system of reservoirs, dams and levees built to tame the state’s extreme swings between parching dryness and unrelenting soakings barely withstood this wet season’s torrential rains, and it remains to be seen if California can safely store all the springtime and summer snowmelt yet to trickle down from the mountains. Meanwhile, decades of careless groundwater overuse have resulted in well failures even now — and the extremes will only get worse with climate change. New Yorker

Is this what they think of us? This tastelessly whimsical look at our state, which places us somewhere between hopelessly demoralized and naively optimistic, tries to be funny about the inflated self-importance of Trump-era Californians (our “bougainvillea catches the rising sun in San Clemente,” but our schools stink). I say “tries” because the piece’s opening joke (for lack of a better term) — that the snowflakes in West Hollywood were so tired of politics after November they postponed their municipal election — misfires in the premise and the punchline: No such postponement took place, and all anyone in L.A. has been talking about since November has been politics. We on the West Coast are used to journalistic head-scratchers from the East, but really? Washington Post

Give Chelsea Clinton a break. News broke that the former first daughter would be receiving an award, and the Internet just about lost it. She has given no indication that she’s interested in running for the U.S. Senate, but she’s still eyed (critically) as a contender. And much of the vitriol comes from a surprising place, notes Ann Friedman: the left. It needs to stop. L.A. Times

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