Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who defended President Trump in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has been awarded the Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Monday.
In announcing the award, the White House said Nunes helped “unearth the crime of the century” and “thwart a plot to take down a sitting United States president” — despite both being patently false.
The award to Nunes was criticized by the watchdog group, the Government Accountability Project.
“Rep. Nunes abandoned the bipartisan tradition of whistleblower protection and chilled future whistleblowers from coming forward when they witness wrongdoing,” Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst with the group, said in a statement, referring to the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment investigation of Trump. “This isn’t honorable; it’s despicable. It’s dangerous to award his misconduct.”
The White House said Nunes “had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State. Devin paid a price for his courage. The media smeared him and liberal activists opened a frivolous and unjustified ethics investigation, dragging his name through the mud for eight long months.”
It called Nunes “a public servant of unmatched talent, unassailable integrity, and unwavering resolve. He uncovered the greatest scandal in American history,” an apparent reference to baseless, conspiratorial claims by Trump that the Obama administration and the FBI, among many others, plotted to tie the 2016 Trump campaign to Russia.
Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, is the latest in an eclectic list of individuals Trump has bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor on, including right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh, wrestler Dan Gable and football coach Lou Holtz.