Thursday, February 8, 2018

Flying too close to the Sun: Nunes & his Memo

The toxic fumes wafting off D.C. these days are enough to choke a coal stack, yet this week’s news boasted at least one refreshing, hopeful moment. 

Namely, the interesting Cosmic “thud” that accompanied the release of Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R, CA) infamous "memo," authored by Nunes and his House Intelligence Committee staff, with input from House Oversign Committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R, OK). Flying high on the wings of delusionary hype, the "memo" and its champions simply flew "too close to the Sun."

Designed to expose what Nunes and the right-wing media have been claiming are politically-biased actions on the part of the FBI against former Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page, the “memo” was hyped to the max by a Twitter hashtag campaign (#ReleaseTheMemo). Turns out, Page has been on the FBI's radar for being compromised by the Russians as far back as 2013--if anything, the memo release raised serious questions about why Page would have been chosen to advise the Trump campaign later on. 

We now know that the hashtag—which had some legitimate circulation on Twitter—was also being hyped and jinned up by fake, Russian-backed entities and “bots.” 

Why is this “thud” potentially hopeful? Because it suggests that some lines persist that we mere mortals should respect, that we cross at our peril. Nunes chose to "fly too high" with his deceptive shenanigans, and the Cosmos called him out on it. This week's “memo” hassle is only the latest in a string of ultimately unsuccessful attempts he's made this past year, in fact—all designed to fabricate a narrative that Trump could then use to resist the Mueller investigation. 

Recall that Nunes was a member of Trump’s transition team, so his “day job” as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee already reads like a conflict of interests. The integrity of Congress’s oversight over sensitive intelligence matters is hard enough to maintain under normal circumstances, but if members of Congress are a little too cozy with the Executive branch, how impartial can they be when the object of the intelligence is the Chief Executive himself? 

So Nunes has basically been trying to juggle two conflicting jobs in the past year: one, chairing a congressional committee that demands independence from the White House; and two, playing dubious games with the intelligence he has access to in the committee, all in an effort to undermine the Mueller investigation on behalf of Trump. Whether he intended to be, or not, he (and others--he's not in this alone) has become Trump's "mole" in this committee. For a comprehensive look at all this and a timeline, click here. 

So, what can astrology tell us about this troubling situation?  To parse through the personal dimension of it all we’ll explore a noon chart for Nunes. His birth time is missing in action, but the noon chart speaks volumes.

Of course, we have to consider that the situation ripples out beyond Nunes, personally: he’s the chairman of a powerful committee, within a GOP-controlled Congress that has in many ways surrendered its constitution-guaranteed independence to a would-be autocrat in the White House. 

So, the lines where personal and collective responsibility meet in this “memo” crisis Nunes has created are tangled, at best. And, to thicken the plot further, there is serious speculation that Nunes cooperated with someone inside the White House to draft the infamous memo. As unimaginable as that might seem, he’s gone this route before: in his March effort to “prove” the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower in 2016, he called for a press event in which he released what he claimed was incriminating information supporting that wiretapping claim. 

The trouble was, it was proven that he had acquired this information—untrue, as it turned out—from the White House. 

That March escapade landed Nunes in an Ethics Committee investigation, which led to his short-lived “recusal” from the Russia investigation. Obviously, the recusal didn’t last, and as we’ve seen, he may have compromised himself even more recklessly with his latest, “memo” release actions on Trump’s behalf. Again, that track record is documented here. 
So in this post we’ll consider (in so far as possible here) the personal dimension of Nunes’ decision to release the memo. We’ll add some useful context to this by setting the transit chart for noon on February 2 (“release” day) against the noon chart for his nativity. 

Because the exact times are so uncertain, we’ll have to ignore the Moon degrees, houses and the angles in both charts. As we’ll see, there are plenty of other important factors to consider. 

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) Devin Nunes, October 1, 1973, 12:00 p.m. (no birth time available) DST, Tulare, CA (Source: Wikipedia); (outer wheel) Nunes Memo Release, February 2, 2018, 12:00 p.m. (no exact time available) ST, Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Interchart T-Square: Release Saturn (Capricorn) conjoins Nunes No. Node (Capricorn) and opposes Nunes Saturn-So. Node (Cancer); this axis squares Nunes Sun-Pluto.  A Capricorn North Node suggests the need to overcome a “default” position of isolation-prone insecurity (Cancer) and to “do the right thing” as a matter of character. Ruled by Saturn, Nunes’ Node is being powerfully activated by Saturn’s transit to this point, opposite his natal Saturn

We’ll see ahead that there’s more to this configuration than a mere T-Square, but for now, let’s puzzle through this much. Of the Saturn-opposition-Saturn aspect, expert Robert Hand emphasizes that how this transit plays out depends upon one’s efforts over the past 14 years or so (when the cycle would have begun). He says, [1]

“The old failures that you have not handled properly in the last several years will make your life exceedingly difficult now. However, everything that you have handled well will reach a culmination and prove more fruitful than ever before….you may reach a peak of success…on the other hand, you may receive abundant evidence that you are working in the wrong area altogether. This would be manifested by extreme difficulties in your work situation, such as finding your efforts blocked by coworkers or superiors.” 

Even a quick glance at Nunes’ bio on Wikipedia suggests how exact Hand’s Saturn cycle description is. Nunes first took office on the California state level in 2003 (roughly 14 years ago!), and he’s been climbing his way up into more influential positions ever since.  Deeply aligned with now Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R, WI) over these years, Nunes is the author or co-author of several staunch conservative initiatives, some of them formulated with Ryan.

So, we shouldn’t be surprised that Ryan is now “conflicted” and unwilling to strip Nunes of his committee chairmanship for his recent “memo” escapades. They’re ideological kinsmen from two critical states (Wisconsin and California). 

The issue on which Nunes—born into a third generation California farm family—might be considered more a “fringe” conservative is on environmental matters: he’s been a vocal climate change denier, especially in regards to California’s agricultural water use policies. His interests are probably less ideological (and certainly less scientific) than simply resource-related, however: any attempt on California’s part to rein in agriculture’s water use in a time of drought (a huge issue until just recently) is probably considered a threat to home and family, not to mention his rural constituents. 

Here’s where Nunes’ natal Cancer Saturn shows its cards, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s been looking for any means to address what registers in his mind as an immediate threat. A Sun-Pluto conjunction can be Machiavellian, promoting a belief that the “ends justify the means.” Clearly, climate change denier Trump has become Nunes’ new champion, and the more regulations he wants to roll back, the better Nunes likes it. 

Bottom line, Trump is now enjoying the Plutonian depths of loyalty that he craves from the world-at-large from Nunes, and not surprisingly, interesting connections between their charts support this. So we probably haven’t seen the end of this saga. 


Nunes Yod #1 is bisected by Saturn transit. This is complicated, but let me just preface this section by saying that some would consider this first yod to technically be a double quincunx (long story short, such astrologers hold that the slowest planet needs to be at the apex to consider the configuration a full-blown yod), but the interpretation is so similar that I’m sticking with the simpler term, yod.

As mentioned above, this configuration overlaps with the T-Square discussed above. Before we proceed, however, it’s worth noting that despite some potentially difficult configurations, Nunes’ complex nativity has also set him up for great opportunities. We can see that potential in his nice series of sextiles (Sun-Pluto to Neptune to Jupiter). It hasn’t hurt his ambitions that his Sun-Pluto conjunction therefore falls trine his Jupiter, either. 

Undoubtedly, taking advantage of these opportunities required some aggressive power-playing, but everything about Nunes’ chart says that he’s been up to that challenge. Or, that he’s had some powerful mentors and support. 

So, let’s dissect the first of two Yods: Neptune (Sagittarius) sextiles Jupiter (Aquarius) and both inconjoin his Saturn (Cancer). This intense configuration is now bisected by transiting Saturn’s opposition to natal Saturn from Capricorn to Cancer. Yods often lurk quietly in the background of a person’s life until a transit such as this lights them up and brings on the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemmas. 

So, contrary to the relatively easy looking path he’s enjoyed to greater and greater influence and power over his 14-year political career, Nunes has recently found himself cornered into making difficult choices, and the choices don’t appear to be panning out for him. As we’ve seen with his White House-related escapades, he keeps choosing to plunge headlong into “loyalty traps” with Trump, and then flailing around for the next act (the “next memo”) when things don’t go according to plan. Depending upon powerful “mentors” (father figures?) may not be working out for him at the moment.

To put it simply, Saturn has him “pinned to the mat” for the duration, and his long-term career may depend upon how he works through this transit. 

Transiting Saturn is what aspects expert Bil Tierney calls the “reaction planet” in this configuration (the point opposite natal Saturn, the yod’s apex planet), and he credits such points as being a “conditioning agent that eventually becomes a prominent catalyst for inner illumination.”[2] Will our cosmic “Headmaster-with-ruler-in-hand” school Nunes on the ethical limits of right power? On the need for Saturnian facts as opposed to Neptunian, hyped distortion (note Neptune’s prominence in the Yod)? On allowing his loyal tendencies (Sun-Pluto) to be used and abused? 

Or worse—we can’t really know what the stakes are in Nunes’ actions, but this Saturn transit is an important opportunity for him to examine all these questions and redeem himself from what appear to some very toxic entanglements. 

Not surprisingly, these points in Nunes’ chart fall conjunct Trump’s natal Neptune (Libra, chart not shown). 

Interchart T-Square: Release Eris-Uranus (Aries) opposes Nunes Uranus-Mercury (Libra); this axis squares Release Pluto (Capricorn). Known for volatile upsets and vengeful disruptions, dwarf planet Eris (currently at 22+Aries) has been hovering near transiting Uranus during that planet’s entire 7-year waxing square phase with Pluto (only recently beginning to separate), making for an extra intense period.

This configuration reflects how collective challenges can play out in very personal ways, including the ways in which we mentally process and respond to disruptive challenges. There’s an interesting parallel here that might explain why Nunes and Trump seem to be on similar mental “wavelengths”: both their charts feature a Uranus-Mercury conjunction in air (Trump’s is in Gemini, chart not shown).  

Another parallel: Nunes’ Libra planets are disposed by an intense Scorpio Venus that has been suffering a transiting quincunx from Uranus-Eris. Trump has been experiencing this same quincunx to his Gemini planets, which are disposed by a thin-skinned, security-conscious Cancer Mercury. Such Air-Water combinations tend to generate aggressively self-protective characteristics—something we certainly see in the political agenda these men share. Both seem to need to project their anxieties onto enemy “Others.” 

Of course, Uranus transiting opposite natal Uranus is one of the so-called “midlife” transits, and this has been within orb in Nunes’ chart for a couple years. Nunes experienced an exact “hit” in this cycle in May, 2016—just in time to get on the Trump bandwagon. We can only wonder if that decision has felt like a good substitute for the shiny red sports car (Elon Musk certainly took that old saw to new heights, didn't he?): without a doubt it has been a game-changer for Nunes' career. 

This midlife transit affects all dimensions of life, and naturally ambitious individuals can become very stressed out by it all: often, they realize that their realities don’t quite match up to their aspirations, and life suddenly feels like a ticking time bomb. 

Nunes Yod #2: Neptune (Sagittarius) sextiles Sun-Pluto (Libra); both inconjoin Mars (Taurus). It’s not surprising that Nunes found his way into public life with a natal configuration like this. His earthy Mars could be naturally driven to leverage the “powers-that-be” on behalf of his agricultural family and constituents. Mars isn’t particularly potent in Venus-ruled Taurus, but it’s fixed on its goals and determined to use whatever resources are at its disposal. For a politician, that includes powerful sponsors and/or mentors.

Here, the quincunx aspects provide a powerful network that he probably found ways to tap through sheer determination:  Neptune is disposed by his fixed Jupiter, and Sun-Pluto and Mars are disposed by his fixed Venus; there’s a reason he keeps bashing his head against the limits—because he is not astrologically “wired” to admit defeat, or even to admit that he’s made any mistakes. 

This doggedness probably plays well with a lot of his constituents (“he’s a real fighter!”), but this yod also suggests that he may ultimately rely too much on the big power players (whom he probably idealizes, with his Jupiter sextile this Neptune) to have his back. 

Even a staunchly fixed Mars is no match for Neptune and Pluto, and IMHO, it’s naïve to think that these impersonal forces will return his loyalty. So far, Paul Ryan has enabled his escapades—it’s undoubtedly good to have a reliable conservative ally in the “blue” state of California—however, it’s hard to imagine that support continuing if Nunes doesn’t “get his act together.” 

Resolving the tensions inherent in this yod in order to do this will require working through the Saturnian Yod #1 above, too—there are strong ties between these two configurations. 

Final thoughts

The stakes in the situation he’s created for himself must feel very high to Nunes, especially with a tangled web of stressors lighting up his chart. Clearly, it would help to have his precise birth time for a number of reasons: to see how the stressful aspects (2 yods and a t-square) fall into his houses, and to assess how they impact his chart angles and Moon. 

Even without that precision, however, we can sense the potential for “crash and burn” here. The myth of Icarus comes to mind—flying too close to the Sun is a good metaphor for misdirected, fated ambition, and that may be the message in his fiery Aries Chiron, opposite his Sun/Mercury (midpoint, Libra). Chiron expert Martin Lass has this to say about Chiron’s wound in Aries:

“A profound sense of loss of self-worth, a core feeling of worthlessness, unworthiness and even undeservingness of life itself. Self-denial. A feeling of not being wanted, needed or useful. A feeling of being uncentered, unfocused, lacking solidity.”[3]

Only Nunes can know what his motivations truly are, of course, but trying to fill a Chironic void of self-worth by putting himself at the service of a powerful father figure does fit the behavior we’ve seen from him in the past year. Maybe this has all been a rather “twisted” take on the Icarus story, however: in this one, the “father” doesn’t try to stop the “son” from soaring too close to the Sun—he perhaps pushes him a bit too far. 

Amazingly, Nunes’ Chiron also conjoins the U.S. Sibly Chiron (chart not shown): there’s a lesson in the infamous “memo” saga for us all, and it might just have something to do with military parades. 

A story for another day!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2018. All rights reserved. 

[1] Robert Hand, Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living, Whitford Press, Atglen, PA, 1976, p. 351.
[2] Bil Tierney, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis: New Perceptions in Astrology, CRCS Publications, Reno, NV, 1983, p. 148.
[3] Martin Lass, Musings of a Rogue Comet: Chiron, Planet of Healing, Bk. One, Galactic Publications, Nyack, NY, p. 319.

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