Trump plans to award highest civilian honours to his most devoted defenders

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – US President Donald Trump plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the coming days to two of his most outspoken Republican defenders in the House, Representatives Devin Nunes of California and Jim Jordan of Ohio, two officials familiar with his plans said.

The award is the nation’s highest civilian honour, meant to recognise “exceptional contributions” to national security, world peace or cultural and other “significant” endeavours.

While presidents have bestowed the honour 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 Mr Nunes and Mr Jordan, however, Mr Trump wants to honour 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.

Both investigations uncovered wrongdoing by the president and his advisers, but Mr Trump viewed them as partisan “witch hunts,” demanding his party rally around him to fend them off.

Mr Nunes and Mr 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 publicise, often with the help of the White House.

The two took a similar approach when Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump based on his attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Mr Joe Biden.

Mr Jordan, a pugnacious force in congressional hearings, became the face of Mr Trump’s defence on Capitol Hill, ultimately helping to win his acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The work infuriated Democrats, but it made Mr Nunes and Mr Jordan heroes on the right and persuaded many in their party to follow suit. In 2018, Mr Trump said that Mr Nunes, then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ought to be awarded the Medal of Freedom or the Medal of Honour, which is reserved for military valour, based on his attempts to discredit the Russia investigation.

That Mr Trump is doing so now, even as he refuses to concede his election defeat, suggests that he recognises his time in office is limited.

Mr Nunes will receive the honour in a ceremony on Monday (Jan 4), and Mr Trump is likely to bestow it upon Mr Jordan next week. The Washington Post first reported the awards.

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