Trump awards Medal of Freedom to top congressional supporter Rep. Devin Nunes in shadowy ceremony

The president will bestow the highest civilian accolade to Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan next week

Published January 4, 2021 6:45PM (EST)

Devin Nunes (Getty/Win McNamee)
Devin Nunes (Getty/Win McNamee)

With just two weeks left of his term, President Donald Trump endowed one of his biggest boosters on Capitol Hill with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee and member of the Trump transition team, led a vociferous campaign to exonerate Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then provided the president an unwavering defense during his impeachment inquiry. On Monday, Nunes was awarded the highest civilian accolade by Trump at a ceremony closed to the press.

In 2018, Trump erroneously expressed his intent to award Nunes the Medal of Honor, an award that is only given to those for acts of military bravery, for his handling of the Russia probe. Established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom has decorated exemplary American citizens for their "exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Some of its past recipients include Neil Armstrong, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, and Jesse Owens. Trump is next expected to reward Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and founder of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.  

Both Nunes and Jordan have been stalwart allies of the president in his endless improprieties. During the impeachment inquiries, for example, Jordan was called Trump's personal "attack dog." Jordan met with several senators to discuss Trump's fruitless effort to overturn the results of the recent election, cementing him as one of Trump's most faithfully deluded loyalists.

Nunes and Jordan, who have promoted a litany of conspiracy theories and exploited their positions of authority to enrich themselves, are a far cry from "security" or "world peace." But with right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh declared a recipient of the award back in February of last year –– Trump thanked Limbaugh for for his "decades of tireless devotion to our country" –– the President has done well to unmoor the American public's previous conceptions of who might be deserving of such an accolade.

Other recipients of the award under the Trump administration include longest-serving U.S. Republican Orrin Hatch, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Reagan-era economist Aruthur Laffer, and founder of Penske Automotive Group Roger Penske.

According to CNN, Jordan and Nunes are just two of many who have put their name on the list to be nominated, or asked their supporters to do so. The congressmen's nominations also come amid a tidal wave of perks and benefits that Trump has conferred to those who have served on his federal advisory boards –– all in the final days of his presidency.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Cronyism Donald Trump Medal Of Freedom Rep. Devin Nunes Rep. Jim Jordan