This point has been made many times, sometimes jokingly, sometimes less so, but it remains a good one — particularly coming from Gowdy, who’s reviewed more of the original intel documents than any other House Republican, I believe. He still has no reason to think Trump coordinated with Russia in 2016, and given Schiff’s habit of elbowing his way in front of any camera within 1,000 yards to chatter about Russiagate, the same must be true among Democrats. It’s a safe bet that, after a year of investigating, Congress has nothing on Trump. Whether Bob Mueller has something on him is, of course, a different question.
Do note the flip side to Gowdy’s point, though. If we can draw an inference that Trump is not guilty from the fact that nothing incriminating has leaked, can we draw an inference that the “deep state” isn’t as dastardly as it’s cracked up to be? Peter Strzok made the point during his testimony a few weeks ago that if he was really hellbent on taking down Trump, he would have spilled everything the FBI had on Russiagate to that point — including the dossier — to the New York Times or Washington Post a week before the election. He didn’t. If the “deep state” is as corrupt as Trump implies, Strzok might even have taken it upon himself to manufacture fake evidence whole cloth to implicate the president. He hasn’t. The fact that no evidence of collusion involving POTUS himself has emerged (yet) cuts several ways.
Bret Baier presses Gowdy on the fact that one of his Republican colleagues, Rep. Will Hurd, published an op-ed after the Putin summit this week claiming that Putin is “manipulating” Trump. What made that noteworthy is that Hurd’s not just a backbencher in Congress. He’s a CIA veteran:
Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.
The president’s failure to defend the United States intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaigns and his standing idle on the world stage while a Russian dictator spouted lies confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.
Note how carefully Hurd chooses his words. He’s not claiming collusion or conspiracy, he’s not even suggesting blackmail. You might charitably read his point about “manipulation” as accusing Trump of nothing more than having been charmed by Putin into giving too much credence to Russia’s version of events. But obviously, when a CIA vet accuses the president of the United States (a member of his own party!) of being manipulated by the president of Russia, he’s hinting at something more meaningful than Trump merely being duped. When Baier presses Gowdy to reconcile Hurd’s point with his own insistence that there’s no “there” there on collusion, Gowdy dodges. Hmmm.
The clip below is actually a perfect expression of how heterodox his opinions on the Russiagate clusterfark are. The standard partisan battle lines are “the deep state is heroically uncovering evidence of collusion” on the one hand and “this liberal witch hunt has produced absolutely nothing” on the other. Gowdy won’t be penned in. Among the positions he took this morning in “Fox News Sunday,” in no particular order:
- Once you’ve seen the evidence, you know there’s not a shadow of a doubt that Russia interfered in 2016
- If Trump won’t listen to his natsec people about that, maybe they should resign(!)
- It’s possible to think Russia did wrong but that Trump was legitimately elected
- The FBI’s FISA warrant application against Carter Page is tainted by the fact that it didn’t specify that the dossier was paid for by Team Clinton
- Peter Strzok is a weasel whose own texts prove that he was actively looking to take down Trump, and Comey’s recent cheering for Democrats only makes it worse
- Russia’s crime in 2016 was a crime against all Americans, not just Democrats
You’d think that last point, at least, wouldn’t be contentious, but alas.
He’s made the point before that the FBI’s failure to mention in the FISA application that the dossier was subsidized by Hillary’s campaign was a major, glaring flaw. It was his core defense of the Nunes memo about the application several months ago, in fact. Read this Julian Sanchez thread for the counterpoint, though, as he sifted through the newly released application documents last night. It’s true that the FBI didn’t use the words “Hillary Clinton” but they made it clear to the FISA judges that the dossier was the product of political oppo research against a candidate, just in case the courts wanted to use that fact as grounds to deny the application. The application runs some 50 pages, with large chunks redacted, suggesting that the feds had information beyond the dossier that can’t be made public even now. It’s hard to believe that taking the extra step of including the magic words “Hillary Clinton” would themselves have flipped the court from signing off on the warrant to rejecting it, but that’s what you need to believe to think that the omission Gowdy mentions was some sort of fatal error. Although, in the end, maybe even he’s not suggesting that: He may just be saying that it’s further evidence that the FBI was a little too eager to investigate Trump’s campaign and was willing to be coy in what it revealed to the FISA Court in order to pursue the investigation.