Well, this will make for awkward conversation the next time that Trey Gowdy and Donald Trump meet, which will … be the first time the two have met. The retiring chair of the House Oversight Committee told CBS This Morning that Trump’s allegation of FBI spying on his campaign doesn’t hold water. Gowdy tells John Dickerson that the FBI acted appropriately and that their target was Russia, not Trump’s campaign:
“When the FBI comes into contact with information about what a foreign government may be doing in our election cycle, I think they have an obligation to run it out,” said Gowdy on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.
He added, “Based on what I have seen, I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia, I would think you would want the FBI to find out whether there was any validity to what those people were saying.” …
“I think the FBI, if they were at the table this morning, they would tell you that Russia was the target and Russia’s intentions toward our country were the target. The fact that two people who were loosely connected to the Trump campaign may have been involved doesn’t diminish the fact that Russia was the target and not the campaign,” said Gowdy.
After the classified briefing for Congressional leaders last week, Gowdy remained curiously silent, a point noted by Allahpundit at the time. Mitch McConnell offered a vague dismissal of “spygate” theories afterward, but until yesterday none of the Republicans in the meeting had said much about it. Gowdy and others began pushing back against Trump’s accusation yesterday — and on Fox News, of all places. He told Martha McCallum that Trump will likely be happy with the result of the FBI’s work, considering that Trump himself told Comey that the FBI needed to get to the bottom of Russian interference:
“President Trump himself in the Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did,” Gowdy told host Martha MacCallum. “I think when the president finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard.”
Gowdy wasn’t alone in dismissing the spy theory. Fox’s own Judge Andrew Napolitano dismissed it too, saying the use of Stefan Halper was SOP for these kinds of counterintelligence operations:
“There is no evidence for that whatsoever,” Napolitano said. The fact that the FBI source spoke with “people on the periphery of the campaign,” he said, “is standard operating procedure in intelligence gathering and in criminal investigations.” …
“I understand the president’s frustration that he was not informed of the fact that his campaign was being investigated,” Napolitano said. “Would I have told the candidate? I would have. But I respect the judgment of those who decided not to tell him. If they were there for some nefarious reason, the one Giuliani suggested, to gather data from the campaign and pass it to the West Wing and pass it to Mrs. Clinton, I’d want to see evidence before I made an allegation that outrageous.”
Looks like the air is going out of the spygate theory, although the Inspector General is still reviewing the FBI’s behavior and performance in the election-season investigations. Halper’s actions in reaching out to peripheral Trump advisors rather than reporting passively on their actions still seems a bit curious, but if there was any fire behind the smoke, it seems highly unlikely that both McConnell and Gowdy would both poo-poo it.