Without interviewing key witnesses, looking at all relevant documents or awaiting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings, the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee — lacking the knowledge or consent of committee Democrats — proclaimed that there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In addition to an utter lack of initiative, Republicans were disinclined to recall events that have already been made public and that show a peculiar degree of interaction between members of the Trump campaign and Russians (e.g., then-candidate Donald Trump’s invitation for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails; the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower). Republicans went so far as to deny Russia had intervened in the 2016 election on President Trump’s behalf.
The Post reports:
“House Intelligence Committee Republicans completed the draft report without any input from Democrats, who will be able to see and weigh in on the document starting Tuesday, Conaway said. In a statement Monday night, the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, Calif., said the sight-unseen report was a ‘tragic milestone’ and a ‘capitulation to the executive branch.‘ …
“On Monday, Schiff excoriated House Republicans for ending the panel’s probe before Mueller’s team or the other congressional panels looking at Russian interference have finished their work. Schiff predicted that ‘Republicans will be held accountable for abandoning a critical investigation of such vital national importance’ if new information arises from future indictments and other reports.”
The Post’s report also noted: “Conclusions reached by the Republicans in their draft report represent a break with the U.S. intelligence community, which determined in January 2017 that part of the Kremlin’s strategy was to help Trump’s chances of winning.”
Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin blasted Republicans. “As a subject or observer of Cong oversight of intell for 40 years, I’ve never seen a party drive a stake thru the process as House [Republicans] just did,” he tweeted. “It depends on a bi-partisan approach that at least gives the minority a voice. Take that away and the thing dies. It just did.”
This is just the latest, and we suppose final, act of a charade orchestrated by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the committee chairman who has tried to smear former President Barack Obama and the intelligence community in an effort to protect Trump.
The grossly irresponsible conduct of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in allowing Nunes to run amok should be kept in mind in November when voters decide whether the GOP should keep the majority.
In a mealy-mouthed statement, Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong said: “After more than a year investigating Russia’s actions in the 2016 election, we are well into the primary season for the 2018 elections and experts are warning that we need to safe guard against further interference. That’s what this next phase is about and we hope Democrats will join us in seeing this through.”
Perhaps the speaker should take that up with Trump, who refuses to initiate any organized effort to prevent Russian interference. (It is worth noting that the draft report came on the same day the White House declined to hold Russia to account in a nerve-agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.)
Rep. Eric Swalwell, Calif., the ranking Democrat on the CIA subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement decrying the GOP’s partisanship, which read in part:
“The Republicans’ decision to shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation sends a bright green light to Russia to continue its interference at America’s ballot boxes. Our duty to every American is to protect the right of free and fair elections. A complete investigation would tell the country how we were so vulnerable and who was responsible, gauge the adequacy of the government response, and recommend reforms to prevent a hostile takeover of our elections from happening again. That’s what American leaders have always done, collaboratively as Republicans and Democrats, after every major attack upon our nation.”
Even one of the Republican committee members expressed his disgust. “We’re just basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day’s news. … We’ve lost all credibility, and we’re probably going to issue probably two different reports, unfortunately,” said Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, R-Fla. He confessed that the committee had gone “off the rails.”
On the positive side, Nunes, who effectively has been running the investigation despite a technical “recusal,” has closed up shop. His shenanigans while heading the ludicrously unserious probe, we presume, will now end. After his infamous trip to the White House to concoct a phony unmasking scandal and his cherry-picked memo landed with a thud, he apparently ran out of material. At least he will not be in a position to interfere with real investigative efforts underway in the Senate and by the special counsel.
This shabby performance by House Republicans stands in marked contrast to the efforts of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which are proceeding in a bipartisan fashion. When Mueller finishes his investigation, House Republicans’ dereliction in their constitutional oversight obligations will become evident, we suspect. By then, one can only hope that Republicans will have paid a price for putting sycophancy to Trump above their country — namely, the loss of all their chairmanships after a drubbing in the midterms.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.