In a last-ditch effort to make use of their energy to undermine particular counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump and his marketing campaign, Republicans on the Home oversight and judiciary committees held a standoff with former FBI Director James Comey that culminated in a closed-door transcribed interview on Friday.
Home Republicans are utilizing their last weeks within the majority to do all the things they will to undermine Mueller’s probe into potential collusion between Trump and Russia in the course of the 2016 presidential election. As somebody who spent 5 years working on the Oversight Committee, I can inform you that to have interaction in the sort of hyper-partisan exercise simply weeks earlier than transitioning out of energy is a rare abuse of the committee’s authority. And the truth that such a continuing occurred behind closed doorways, out of the general public eye, tells you all it’s essential learn about why that is occurring at this explicit second.
It wasn’t that way back that Home Oversight Republicans like my former boss Darrell Issa (Calif.), Trey Gowdy (S.C.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) simply couldn’t say sufficient about transparency and the American folks’s “proper to know.” However now, those self same Republicans are content material to conduct the American folks’s enterprise out of their watchful eye.
Studying the transcript of the exchanges between Republicans and Comey, it’s clear why they didn’t need any of this on digital camera.
Regardless of new filings from this week revealing unprecedented prison conduct between Trump and his closest advisers, Gowdy, the Oversight Committee chairman, posed to Comey a sequence of questions on his data of pro-Hillary Clinton textual content messages between his subordinates ― questions rooted not in information however in utterly fictitious eventualities.
Gowdy then transitioned right into a line of questioning meant to entice Comey into revealing particulars concerning the FBI’s counterintelligence investigations into Russia, regardless that doing so would instantly impede the continued Mueller probe. For that completely legitimate cause, authorized counsel made it clear that “something that goes to the particular counsel’s investigation could be off limits.” And but Republicans like Issa, and later Trump himself, whined to the media about Comey’s refusal to actively hinder the continued investigation.
From the onset, it was clear that the aim of this interview was to extract info from Comey concerning the Mueller probe and to selectively weaponize his responses to be able to undermine his credibility. Comey’s unwillingness to fall for the Republicans’ lure illustrates how overmatched they had been in opposition to him ― which, once more, is why they needed this to occur behind closed doorways.
Probably the most insightful exchanges occurred when Gowdy requested Comey: “Who on the FBI has the authority to launch a counterintelligence investigation into a significant political marketing campaign, and would that finally need to be accepted by you?”
Comey’s response ― “I don’t know for a wide range of causes. I’ve by no means encountered a circumstance the place an investigation right into a political marketing campaign was launched” ― was a stark reminder that even to the previous FBI director, the investigation and credible allegations of Trump’s cooperation with Russia are really unprecedented.
Of their desperation to attempt to save the president from Mueller, Republicans, who’re planning to deliver Comey again for one more day of closed-door questioning on Dec. 17, are working the chance of giving Comey and committee Democrats a chance to rehash a few of the most troubling moments of Trump’s time in workplace.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) used his time to ask Comey about Trump’s efforts to persuade Comey to “lay off the Flynn investigation.” Michael Flynn, Trump’s former nationwide safety adviser, has pleaded responsible to mendacity to the FBI and provided what court docket filings from Mueller described as “substantial” cooperation with the investigation. Had Comey executed what Trump had requested of him, the Mueller probe might have unfolded very in another way.
Home Judiciary Committee rating member (and soon-to-be Chairman) Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) pursued a line of questioning that may have made Trump livid had it been broadcast on TV. Nadler requested Comey how he would “characterize the particular counsel investigation and its significance, not solely to our nationwide safety, however as a method of restoring public confidence in our elections and regulation enforcement businesses?”
“My judgment as an skilled prosecutor and investigator is it’s been carried out with extraordinary pace, with extraordinary professionalism, and nil disclosure exterior of public court docket filings,” Comey replied. “It represents the best way our prison justice system is meant to work investigating, and I imagine it’s extremely vital to the rule of regulation on this nation and that the work be allowed to complete.”
Probably the most highly effective remarks Comey made on this continuing was instantly stating that “there are usually not many issues I might guess my life on. I might guess my life that Bob Mueller will do issues the suitable means, the best way we might all need, whether or not we’re Republicans or Democrats, the best way People ought to need.”
Republicans are unwittingly giving Comey a platform to bolster the credibility of the Mueller probe and to take Trump to process for his relentless assaults on the FBI and Justice Division. Comey made the sobering statement that Trump’s lies “harm the flexibility of the FBI to be believed at a doorway or in a courtroom. That makes all of us much less secure… Once they’re lied about always, it hurts the religion and confidence of the American folks in them, and that’s dangerous for all of us.”
An important factor Comey mentioned throughout his six hours with the Home Judiciary and Oversight committees was a reminder to the American folks of what’s actually at stake.
“The intention of the Russian effort in 2016 was to destabilize, undermine, injury our democracy,” he mentioned. “That was their overwhelming objective. And so you could have a overseas nation that’s attacking the US of America in an effort to undermine that which is basically us, our democratic course of.”
“In order that’s a really severe risk,” he continued. “And understanding whether or not any People had been a part of that effort is extremely vital, as a result of [of] the specter of these People by advantage of their alliance with the Russians would pose to our nation.”
It’s clearer than ever that Republicans have no real interest in what Comey actually has to say ― and no real interest in defending our democracy.
Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist and served because the spokesperson and senior adviser for the Home Oversight and Authorities Reform Committee from 2009 to 2013. Comply with him on Twitter: @kurtbardella.