WASHINGTON — Devin Nunes made his resignation from Congress official over the weekend, clearing the way for him to take over as chief executive of former President Donald Trump’s new media and technology company.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Nunes said his resignation as a member of Congress was effective 11:59 p.m. Saturday, according to a copy of the correspondence obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Pelosi’s office received the letter Monday.
“It has been the honor of my life to represent the people of California’s San Joaquin Valley for the last 19 years,” wrote Nunes, a Republican from Tulare.
Nunes is taking over as the top executive of Trump Media & Technology Group, which in the coming weeks is expected to launch Truth Social, Trump’s answer to Twitter and Facebook. The social media companies kicked the former president off their platforms last year for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the presidential election.
Trump’s firm describes its venture as “America’s ‘Big Tent’ social media platform” and says it “intends to even the playing field by providing people with open media platforms where they can share and create content without fear of repetitional ruin.”
The new gig for Nunes solidifies the 48-year-old’s place as a key member of Trump’s inner circle, underscoring the importance the former president frequently places on loyalty over relevant experience, so much so that he has given Nunes the reins of a company that values itself at $875 million.
A review of Nunes’ congressional record reveals his rapid rise from backbencher to media executive should not come as a surprise — the former dairy farmer wasted little time becoming one of Trump’s staunchest political allies and waged battle on the former president’s behalf against the Justice Department, Democrats and social media companies.
“In some ways, he’s one of the more unlikelier figures you would’ve seen going full Trump and full MAGA of the sitting members of Congress,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant who has followed Nunes’ ascent. “It seems a bit unpredictable that this would end up being the trajectory of his congressional career.”
Nunes entered Congress in 2003 after winning a tough primary against a state lawmaker and a former mayor for a newly drawn congressional district in the San Joaquin Valley.
For his first six terms, Nunes kept a low national profile, focusing his legislative energy on battling with environmentalists over water policies that he said harmed farmers.
“Before Donald Trump became president, Devin Nunes was actually pretty focused on local issues,” said Thomas Holyoke, a political science professor at Fresno State University. “Devin was sponsoring videos on how farms were going dry here in the valley in order to save small fish up in the delta region and how the environmentalists were all crazy wackos who wanted nothing less than to completely destroy agriculture. That’s really where he made his big mark and won a tremendous amount of support in parts of the valley, on the water issues.”
Nunes gradually turned his attention toward national security, a move that would put him firmly in Trump’s orbit. In 2015, he became chairman of the influential House Intelligence Committee.
After Trump won the party nomination that year, Nunes drove to the San Francisco Bay Area and met with the candidate, joining him on a flight to Los Angeles and then to Tulare for a presidential campaign fundraiser. Shortly after that, Nunes joined the executive committee of Trump’s transition team.
Nunes’ role atop the Intelligence Committee gave him an influential platform to defend the president against allegations that Russia had aided Trump’s campaign.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ultimately concluded that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian help in the 2016 campaign but did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with the Kremlin.
Nunes was a fierce critic of Mueller and accused the FBI of violating rules in its investigation. His committee’s Republican majority wrote a memo raising concerns “with the legitimacy and legality of” the Justice Department’s and FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during the 2016 election cycle.
When Mueller’s report was released in April 2019, Nunes alleged the special counsel “ignored a wide range of abuses committed during the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign,” and echoed Trump in bashing the investigation as the “Russia hoax.”
Nunes didn’t just spar with the Justice Department. He shared Trump’s disdain for mainstream media outlets and social media companies, decrying what he has described as their anti-conservative bias, and has repeatedly sued news organizations alleging defamation.
When House Democrats impeached the former president in late 2019 on allegations he pressured an ally to dig up dirt on future President Joe Biden, Nunes again was one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders, accusing the opposing party of waging “a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”
Trump rewarded Nunes’ loyalty on Jan. 4 of last year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The White House credited the Intelligence Committee chairman with unearthing what it called “the crime of the century,” a reference to alleged FBI malfeasance in its Russia investigation, and described the congressman as a “public servant of unmatched talent.”
Two days later, a pro-Trump mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol, battling police officers and contributing to the deaths of five people, all in an unsuccessful effort to block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Later that day, after the Capitol had been cleared of rioters, Nunes joined 138 other House Republicans in objecting to the presidential election results.
Democrats in the House were joined by 10 Republicans in impeaching Trump last January on allegations that he incited the insurrection. Trump was acquitted in the Senate by a 57-43 vote, short of the 67 votes required to convict him.
Nunes, who voted against impeachment, told Fox News that the entire process was “nonsense,” adding that “the president makes a lot of mistakes. All presidents make mistakes.”
©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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