Second, while Gowdy poured cold water on the notion that the investigation was irresponsible or an abuse of power, he said nothing about its ultimate outcome. The question of whether the FBI or any other intelligence agency abused its power is separate from whether there was any collusion. Responsible investigations can yield no evidence of wrongdoing. Abusive investigations can still uncover criminal activity. Gowdy’s arguments give us a measure of comfort about the inception of the investigation. They do not shed any meaningful light on the collusion question.

Third, he reminded us that the obstruction evidence is still lacking. I’ve long thought that there was enough evidence of improper conduct to investigate the possibility of obstruction of justice, but there was not yet enough evidence (in the public domain, at least) to conclude that the president had violated the law. Gowdy’s comments are an important reminder that the presence of presidential pressure is not the same thing as evidence of presidential lawlessness.