It’s a good thing this guy’s retiring because the “Hannity” guest shots would have been a lot scarcer after this.

Kidding aside, Gowdy’s defense of Mueller here is not without personal consequence to him. He was, allegedly, offered a seat on the Fourth Circuit recently (and turned it down); it’s been reported that he had his eye on an Attorney General appointment in late 2016, a position that might be vacant again sometime soon. Going to bat for the special counsel can only alienate Trump and make the likelihood of a prestigious federal job less likely. He’s acting on principle here, clearly.

In a yuuuuge irony, it was Gowdy’s defense of the Memo on CNN last week that reportedly got Trump himself excited about it:

Inside the narrow corridors and cramped offices of the West Wing, aides knew that trying to persuade their boss to keep the memo private would likely be a fruitless endeavor. Even had the entirety of the senior staff counseled him against releasing the document, one aide reasoned, the president might still have remained unconvinced.

At one point, just before he departed for Davos, Switzerland, Trump became particularly excited watching Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) argue on CNN that the public deserved to see the memo and that some of the FBI agents involved in the probe had displayed an anti-Trump bias in text messages, a White House official said.

You can watch his CNN appearance here. He was reasonably gung ho about the Memo during that segment with Erin Burnett. But behind the scenes, he was getting irritated with the demagoguery aimed at the DOJ and FBI:

Gowdy has found himself butting heads in recent months with Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other pro-Trump Republicans who have hinted at corruption at the FBI. He’s expressed concerns about anti-Trump texts by some FBI officials, and he has said on TV that Congress has a duty to oversee the agency. But behind the scenes he’s had to rein in some of his conservative colleagues who want to undercut the entirety of the Justice Department, which he views as essential to American life.

He seems to have reached a compromise with himself. He’ll defend the Memo for asking some legitimate questions about how the DOJ conducted itself in seeking a FISA warrant against Carter Page but he won’t follow Trump and MAGA Nation in claiming that those questions somehow delegitimize the entire Russiagate probe. Which, politically, eviscerates the point of the document. No one except civil libertarians cares if Carter Page’s rights were violated by shoddy Justice Department procedures. This dispute is about Trump and protecting him from an investigation that might threaten his presidency. If Gowdy’s not willing to use the Memo as a cudgel against Mueller, Rosenstein, and the DOJ writ large, he’s of no use at all, whatever his feelings about the Memo itself.

In fact, go read his tweets again. An attorney friend points out to me that they’re “lawyered fantastically well” in that they refer to points made by the Memo as raising questions and “concerns” — not as findings or conclusions. Remember, Gowdy is the one and only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who’s reviewed the actual intelligence on which the Memo is based. Some staffers on the Committee have reviewed it too, but even Nunes himself hasn’t. If Gowdy’s being lawyerly about how he refers to the information contained in there, he may be uncomfortable with some of the conclusions drawn. Although, in that case, why did he vote to have the Memo released?

In lieu of an exit question, via Mediaite, here’s Geraldo Rivera pulling an anti-Gowdy yesterday on Hannity’s radio show by assuring him that if Fox News and conservative talk radio were around in 1974, Nixon would have gotten away with Watergate. He meant it as a compliment.