A growing number of Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Tulare) constituents want him to know they are not happy with the way he’s doing his job.
And while they’re upset about the way Nunes has handled the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, the unrest goes far deeper and touches on many other issues.
Dressed in Black
Carol Finney, a Visalia teacher who joined about 50 other protesters in front of Nunes’ downtown Visalia office last week, had a laundry list of things she and and the congressman don’t see eye-to-eye on.
“I’m here because I’m not happy with Nunes, but I’m also very upset over the EPA,” she said. “I’m very upset that they’re going to be drilling off the coast of California.”
At 11:30 in the morning on the third Tuesday of each month, members of South Valley Civics gather for their Nunes Watch Rally at the corner of Church and Main streets in downtown Visalia, outside Nunes’ local office. In February, following the death of 17 people during a shooting at a Florida high school, the protesters came dressed in black, and there were more of them than ever before.
There were also many more issues on their minds. They especially want Nunes to know his handling of the Trump-Russia investigation still matters to them.
“This is all about the Trump nonsense,” said Finney. “And it’s about the killing last Wednesday. I think there was a shooting this morning. I haven’t been able to find out because it’s a daily occurrence practically, and I’m tired of hearing that guns are more important than children.”
Protester Betsy Gaudette-Cross, also a teacher from Visalia, said her main frustration with Nunes is his lack of availability to discuss issues.
“He will not listen to us,” she said. “I called his office. I emailed him, and I have requested a one-on-one.”
A sign posted outside the door to Nunes’ Visalia office tells visitors they will not be admitted to the congressman’s office without a confirmed appointment. Staff simply ignores requests for those appointments, Gaudette-Cross says.
She also wants Nunes to know she’s not a radical, and she takes issue with his treatment of dissenters as a fringe element to be ignored. Previously, Nunes’ staff labeled South Valley Civics as a left-wing extremist organization.
“You know I’m not a mob or I’m not a paid protester or anything,” Gaudette-Cross said. “I just have a lot of concern about the way he is handling things and how he is not representing my views or a lot of people who I know.”
When Nunes made a brief appearance last month at the International Ag Farm Equipment Show in Tulare, local press treated it almost as if Bigfoot had been spotted. I Saw Devin Nunes at World Ag Expo. Did You? read the headline on GV Wire’s story. Nunes, they reported, had breakfast with the VIPs, posed for some photos, said hello to Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones, then left without talking to the members of the press.
However, Nunes isn’t completely unavailable to the press.
Last Sunday, Nunes had plenty of time to sit down for a lengthy interview with Full Measure, a right-leaning weekly news program broadcast to select markets. In the segment, Nunes claimed the House Intel Committee investigation is ending and no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents had been found.
“Well, we have a Russian Investigation going on whether or not there was collusion between any campaign and the Russians. That’s coming to a close,” Nunes said. “We’ve never had any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
Despite that assertion by Nunes, more than a dozen indictments have been issued by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, along with evidence that appears to show such collusion did take place.
During the Full Measure interview, Nunes also admitted there was no indication members of the Obama administration leaked the names of individuals unmasked in classified intelligence reports.
“We have no evidence, that they leaked this information, OK?” Nunes said.
Nunes has claimed such leaks were facilitated by the FBI and the Department of Justice to aid Democrats. His admission there is no evidence of such illegal cooperation, said former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, could land Nunes a prison sentence for his attempts to stymie the ongoing investigation by the FBI and Department of Justice.
“The House Intelligence Committee is no longer a functional or reasonable, thoughtful committee,” Dean told MSNBC. “I think the chairman (Nunes) is going to go to jail, actually, eventually.”
Nunes News Network
To counter negative press coverage, Nunes’ office has started its own news service, The California Republican.
The website, which features coverage favorable to Nunes and the GOP is just another way the congressman is attempting to evade talking about issues important to them, his detractors say.
“He’s never here and the only place you can find his opinions are on KMJ and Fox News, and his own new little network,” Finney said.
Even more concerning is Nunes’ use of alternative news outlets to protect his political allies.
“He’s been saying there’s no collusion for a year, and surprise, there is,” she said.
Nunes’ reluctance to examine the behavior Trump and his associates is not shared by all members of his party. Senate Intel Chair Richard Burr has made efforts to publicly distance himself from Nunes. Burr has said the, “unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes,” and he’s avoided being associated with the Nunes Memo.
“It’s Devin’s memo, so you need to ask him what it means,” Burr told CNN.
With local protests continuing to grow in size, the political pressure against Nunes is also growing.
At its state convention in San Diego last month, the California Democratic Party voted to back the campaign of Andrew Janz. The move means financial and logistical support for the campaign, something the state party has long been reluctant to provide in a district seen as a GOP stronghold.
“The only way we can protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation is to take back the House of Representatives, and that fight runs through California and right through my district,” Janz told KQED during the convention.
Following the release of the Nunes Memo, the Janz campaign had its best fundraising day yet, gathering $164,000.