Rep. Devin Nunes, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, will resign from Congress later this month to run Trump’s new social media company.
Nunes (R-Calif.), a 10-term Republican first elected in 2002, ascended to chair the committee in 2015. But he recused himself temporarily from an inquiry into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election while the ethics committee examined his handling of the committee’s investigation.
While the independent commission charged with redrawing California’s congressional map is still completing its work, an early draft tilted Nunes’ Central Valley district toward Democrats, potentially complicating his path to reelection.
Trump Media & Technology Group said in a statement Monday that Nunes would become CEO of the company in January.
“The time has come to reopen the Internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship,” Nunes said in the statement. “The United States of America made the dream of the Internet a reality and it will be an American company that restores the dream.”
While Trump’s fledgling media company makes a logical landing spot for Nunes given his closeness with the former president — and their shared animosity toward the mainstream media — Trump’s media entity is also facing legal headwinds. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are scrutinizing a special purpose acquisition company working with Trump Media & Technology Group.
In choosing not to remain in Congress, Nunes is achieving on his own terms what California Democrats could not in multiple well-funded attempts to unseat him. A Republican representing California’s agriculture-dominated Central Valley, Nunes has become a primary campaign target for Democrats given Nunes’ loyalty to Trump.
Democrats seeking to unseat Nunes have raised millions of dollars in past cycles — much of it from out of state, underscoring the broader fervor for toppling Nunes. But the lawmaker handily turned back those attempts.
That staying power is a testament to both the strong Republican lean of his district and to Nunes’ enduring popularity among conservative voters. He is a prolific fundraiser whose war chest contained nearly $12 million as of the end of September.
But new legislative districts could scramble that calculus. A draft map released last month by California’s independent redistricting commission would make Nunes’ district significantly more challenging, energizing Democrats. Final maps are due out at the end of January. Some political strategists believed Nunes would react by shifting to a friendlier seat, as California law does not require House members to live in the districts they represent.
Nunes’ pending resignation will set up two elections next year: a special election for the remainder of his term under the old district lines, and the regular election under the new lines for the next Congress beginning in 2023.
California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson marked Nunes’ departure with a statement praising his work for the party and lauding his having “fought tirelessly for his constituents in the valley and for our state in the House of Representatives.”
The California Democratic Party was less complimentary.
“Devin Nunes has long been an embarrassment to California,” the party said in a tweet. “It’s only fitting that he now leaves Congress to debase himself even further to Donald Trump.”