The hottest news beat on the left is the same thing today that it was a year ago: The Trump-Russia collusion investigation. Today, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has written a classic in the genre titled “How bad is the Republican coverup on Trump and Russia? We may soon find out.” What the story is actually about is the latest move from House Democrats desperate to extend the investigation into 2018. Sargent reports that members of the House intel committee are threatening to write a minority report unless Republicans agree to subpoena more witnesses.
In an interview with me, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut — the No. 2 Democrat on the House intel committee — said that Democrats are seriously exploring the possibility of issuing a minority report that details (among other things) the degree to which Republicans tried to impede a full investigation, should that end up happening. In this scenario, the public would at least have a clear sense of just how far Republicans went to protect President Trump and his top officials from accountability.
“It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts,” Himes told me. “It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.’”
Yes, it would be a tragedy for Democrats if they created a document which they could use to generate media and campaign on later in the year as proof that the investigation was impeded and is therefore illegitimate. We’re supposed to believe this isn’t exactly what they want. But they’re willing to forego it in exchange for a chance to talk to important witnesses or, in this case, talk to them again.
In our interview, Himes confirmed that numerous Democratic requests to bring in witnesses haven’t been acted upon, though he did not confirm Nunes had killed those requests. He also confirmed that Democrats would like to bring in Sessions and Trump Jr. to ask “follow-up questions.”
In case you missed it, Trump Jr. sat for 7 hours of questions from the committee less than a month ago. AG Sessions testified a short time before that. But in both cases Democrats are unsatisfied with the outcome. So they are giving Republicans a choice: Either recall the witnesses so we can try again or we’ll imply you were part of a cover-up. That’s something that most Democrats seem to believe these days though, as even Greg Sargent admits, there may be nothing worth finding under the rocks Democrats want to kick over [emphasis added]:
To be clear, this really might not happen: It’s possible Republicans will allow the inquiry to unfold, and/or that the full truth is not that damning to Trump and his associates. There might not be any coverup. Indeed, Republicans have protested that the Democratic requests for additional testimony are frivolous. But as Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes point out, we can empirically evaluate whether Republicans are — or aren’t — making a good-faith effort to interview all the witnesses necessary to establish the full truth about Russian interference and possible conspiracy with it. So far, there is reason for concern that they aren’t.
Can we really “empirically evaluate” these claims? If you’re expecting convincing proof to prove the point at that link, you’ll be greatly disappointed. In fact, the Hennessey/Wittes piece he’s referring to admits the truth can’t be known at this point:
Without seeing the output of the investigation, i.e., the committee’s report, it’s impossible to know whether the committee has fully answered the questions it undertook to address. But at least as far as the House Intelligence Committee is concerned, there is reason for concern about a bait and switch.
As for evidence of a “bait and switch” that literally comes down to two things according to the piece. First, the Senate Intel committee isn’t wrapping up yet and, therefore, there must be more for the House to investigate. (How’s that for empirical proof?) And second, Rep. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, isn’t happy. Color me shocked by this latter revelation. Even Hennessey and Wittes agree there is a limit to how seriously Schiff’s displeasure can be taken writing, “We’re certainly not arguing that the committee is not done until Schiff is entirely satisfied…”
But actually, that’s exactly what they are arguing. Greg Sargent is doing Post readers a disservice by claiming this partisan nonsense represent any kind of empirical proof of a cover-up by the majority. The threatened minority report won’t matter in the long run anyway. What will matter is the conclusion of Mueller and his team. The rest of this is going to be little more than window dressing.
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