President Donald Trump is set to present one of the nation's highest civilian honors to two of his most outspoken congressional allies, Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
The White House confirmed that Trump would present Nunes with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday. The former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been an ardent backer of Trump's during probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president's 2019 impeachment by the Democratic-led House.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by President John F. Kennedy, is meant to recognize those who have made an "especially meritorious contribution" to national security, world peace or "cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." While presidents have bestowed the honor on members of Congress in the past, it has typically been granted at the end of a lawmaker's time in public service or in recognition for an unrelated achievement.
In the case of Nunes and Jordan, however, Trump wants to honor the lawmakers for their leading roles in personally defending him against the FBI's investigation of Russian election interference and the House's impeachment inquiry, according to the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public.
In a statement, the White House credited Nunes with uncovering "the greatest scandal in American history," referencing Nunes' efforts to discredit the election interference investigation.
U.S. intelligence agencies and multiple congressional committees concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the aim of boosting Trump's candidacy. Several Trump aides and associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, were convicted or pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the course of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Flynn, among others, was issued a presidential pardon last month.
Both investigations uncovered wrongdoing by the president and his advisers, but Trump referred to them as partisan "witch hunts," demanding his party rally around him to fend them off. Nunes and Jordan enthusiastically answered the call, working in public and in private to dig up unflattering information about those investigating the president, including his own Justice Department, which they would then publicize, often with the help of the White House.
The two took a similar approach when Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump based on his attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.
In 2018, Trump said that Nunes, then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ought to be awarded the Medal of Freedom or the Medal of Honor, which is reserved for military valor, based on his attempts to discredit the Russia investigation.
Jordan, one of the GOP lawmakers trying to undermine confidence in the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Biden, is expected to receive the award next week. Trump's intent to present the award to the lawmakers was first reported by The Washington Post.
Information for this article was contributed by Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times; and by Zeke Miller and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press.