Over at the Oversight Committee, the one that will be open, Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings has ruled the hearing will not be about Russia. “The scope of the Oversight Committee’s open public hearing will not include questions relating to the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of efforts by Russia and other foreign entities to influence the U.S. political process during and since the 2016 U.S. election,” Cummings wrote on Feb. 20. Also off the table, Cummings said, is “the counterintelligence threat arising from any links or coordination between U.S. persons and the Russian government, including any financial or other compromise or leverage foreign actors may possess over Donald Trump, his family, his business interests, or his associates.”
That’s pretty much the whole Russia story, and it won’t be told in Cummings’ hearing room. “The Cohen hearings are designed to keep the Russia collusion narrative alive by keeping key witness testimony hidden,” Oversight Committee Republican Rep. Mark Meadows told me in a text exchange.
What will the public Cohen hearings be about? After consulting with the Justice Department and with Schiff, Cummings released a list of topics that might be damaging or embarrassing to the president but would reveal little or nothing about the allegation that the Trump campaign and Russia conspired to fix the 2016 election. Among the approved topics: the Stormy Daniels payments; Trump’s compliance with campaign finance laws; Trump’s compliance with tax laws; Trump’s “business practices”; the Trump International Hotel in Washington; the “accuracy of the president’s public statements”; potential fraud by the Trump Foundation, and more.