This is a reversal. Yesterday committee chair Richard Burr said they wouldn’t be looking into the unverified private intelligence about Trump and his team having supposedly been compromised by Russia. This evening he put out a statement saying that they’ll look at it after all as part of their broader investigation into Russian interference. Huh. Republicans control the Intelligence Committee, of course, just as they control all House and Senate committees right now, which I can only assume means that Team Trump was consulted on this decision and approved. And the only way they would approve is if they know for a fact that there’s nothing to the BuzzFeed dossier and that they’ll end up being cleared by committee. I think.
Even so, we’re now in a situation where the incoming president is effectively under congressional investigation for foreign influence before he takes office, which I guess is in keeping with the “never a dull moment” promise of the Trump campaign last year. You can read the pertinent bits from the committee’s press release here. Key part:
Note the bit about subpoenaing members of the Obama and Trump administrations to compel testimony if need be. One odd thing, though: Why the change of heart by Burr literally overnight? Yesterday he wanted the FBI to take the lead on investigating contacts between Russia and U.S. political campaigns, suddenly today he’s fine with his committee doing it? Maybe Team Trump sees this as a way to dig around within the IC and find out who, if anyone, has been circulating the BuzzFeed dossier and other accusations against Trump. The sooner they uncover the leakers, the sooner they can purge them. Or maybe Trump’s team is worried about the FBI and CIA investigating contacts it might have had with Russia and wants a parallel investigation controlled by Republicans happening, just in case. If the FBI leaks some new allegation against Trump, it’ll help a lot from a PR standpoint if the Senate Intel Committee can counter-leak that they’ve investigated that allegation themselves and there’s nothing to it.
I haven’t allowed for the possibility that Burr is on the level and wants to get the bottom of whether Team Trump might have had contact with Russia during the campaign, but hey — based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to think congressional Republicans will hold Trump accountable on anything important, let alone something that would imperil his presidency. There’s got to be an angle here. It’ll be clear soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy Juan Williams echoing the Democratic talking point du jour by claiming that “It’s really up to Donald Trump to prove he’s legitimate.” Er, no. When you win 304 electoral votes, it’s up to your opponents to prove that you’re illegitimate. And like anyone else, Trump’s innocent until proved guilty. Burdens of proof: How do they work?