The key bit from a long interview on “Fox News Sunday.” Watch for about two and a half minutes where the clip picks up below. On Friday, marveling at Gowdy’s anger over the IG report, I flagged the following quote about Peter Strzok from his interview with Bret Baier the night before. No one within the GOP has been as stalwart a defender of the Russiagate probe as Gowdy has. The despair was palpable:
“God only knows what damage he has done before Mueller fired him. This is what’s so pervasive about bias, Bret, it doesn’t matter what Mueller comes up with. Some people are going to believe that Strzok’s level of animus was so high that you can’t remove the taint.”
Gowdy’s looking at Mueller’s dilemma from the perspective of a prosecutor. Put aside the question of whether Strzok’s bias actually influenced his investigative decisions. The cold, hard fact is that he *was* biased and the entire world now knows it. He’s essentially the Mark Fuhrman of the Russiagate investigation. How do you convince a jury to convict once evidence of his bias is inevitably presented to them? What about the book-length evidence of James Comey’s disdain for Trump? How do you win that case, Gowdy wondered yesterday:
Well, I don’t know what Mueller has. I do know this: that bias is so pervasive and everyone who’s ever stood in front of a jury and had to explain it away we’ll tell you it is most miserable feeling in the world. And I have never seen this level of bias.
So, you have Peter Strzok who can’t think of a single American who can vote for Donald Trump and you got Peter Strzok who says, we’ll stop it. The campaign and the presidency, we’ll stop the campaign and if it doesn’t work, the day after the election, he’s talking about impeachment.
So, how would you like that to be your lead investigator? Two weeks after you’re assigned to look into what a foreign country did to us, the only thing he can think to talk about is an insurance policy to keep Donald Trump from winning, and then he says we’ll stop it. I assume the “we” is the FBI. So, how would you like if you’re Bob Mueller to present that case to a jury?
Is the “we’ll stop it” text enough to get a hung jury for Paul Manafort? More to the point, is it enough to get POTUS off the hook from any impeachable offenses? Gowdy doesn’t discuss impeachment scenarios here but I think that’s the clear subtext of his point. No one believes Trump will be hauled before a jury, certainly not while he’s in office and almost certainly not afterward. (He’d pardon himself before leaving if there was any chance of that. Don’t think he wouldn’t.) The risk to POTUS is that Mueller’s report to Rosenstein will make the case that there’s probable cause to believe Trump obstructed justice, putting Ryan and House Republicans in a nuclear-hot spotlight on what to do. Strzok’s bias is their escape hatch. “How can we impeach,” they’ll say, “when the investigators were in the tank?” Even House Democrats might shy away from impeachment on those grounds, fearing that it’s silly to take the political risk of impeaching Trump when Strzok’s behavior will give Senate Republicans every reason they need to oppose removal.
I think Mueller can still convict Manafort (especially since the crimes for which he’s been indicted are unrelated to the campaign), but if there was even a slim chance of impeaching Trump before, it’s probably gone now. And if there was any hope of trying Don Jr or Jared Kushner, that may be gone too. Exit quotation from Trey “Leave Mueller Alone” Gowdy, describing the Russiagate investigation: “Understand that this is being used by political enemies to hurt Donald Trump.”