Did I say President Trump was in for endless investigations?
Well, things just got a bit thicker, on that front.
When Republicans held the majority in both the House and Senate, they pretty much toed the party line and acted as shields for the newly crowned king, rather than co-equal checks on an incompetent, inexperienced mountebank’s destructive (and possibly compromised) impulses.
Donald Trump was a really dumb kid in a candy store, and the Republican Congress acted as his over-indulgent parents.
Now, however, he’s dealing with a split Congress. Democrats have taken control of the House, while Republicans maintain control of the Senate.
So what does this look like for President Trump?
Well, remember the beginnings of the Russia probe? The House Intelligence Committee, chaired at that time by Representative Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) turned what was supposed to be in investigation into Russia’s activities in the 2016 election into a mission to discredit our nation’s intelligence community (Sound familiar?).
Nunes was asked to step aside as chairman in April 2017 after he was suspected of improperly disclosing classified information to the public. In December, the Ethics Committee closed their investigation, but that only encouraged Nunes.
Nunes, rather than actually focusing on Russia’s attempts to subvert our nation’s election process, released a four page memo in February 2018, claiming an FBI plot to bring down President Trump.
I saw the memo. It was less than a nothing burger.
In March 2018, in a move that surprised absolutely nobody who has been watching the mutation of the GOP, the Republican-led House Intelligence Community concluded that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Russia had not favored Trump to win, and in fact, they decided it was time to go after the FBI and Justice Department.
That should be enough to chill the blood of anyone who has been keeping up.
So where is Rep. Nunes, now?
Somewhere not being the chairman of House Intel, anymore. That’s where.
Democrats are in charge and Representative Adam Schiff is now the chairman.
Schiff announced on Wednesday that not only will House Intel be engaging in a do-over in the Russia probe, but they’re going to expand it to cover enough ground to really squeeze Donald Trump.
In other words, having a toady like Nunes whitewash the first round wasn’t the wisest of choices.
Schiff said the investigation would “allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the President or anyone in the administration.”
“That pertains to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else,” Schiff told reporters after the House Intelligence Committee’s first meeting in the new Congress.
We can assume that much of the renewed interest has to do with revelations from former Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump’s was still negotiating a lucrative real estate deal with the Kremlin, well into 2016, and after he was the GOP candidate.
In a statement, Schiff said the investigation would include a continued probe into Russia’s actions during the 2016 election and contacts between the Russia and Trump’s team, as well as an examination of “whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates.”
Would that include getting a look at Trump’s tax returns?
At this point, we can assume they’re going to ask the president to bend over and grab his ankles. And by that, I’m saying it sounds like they intend to be very thorough, unlike Nunes.
Schiff said the investigation, which could involve additional congressional committees, would also look at whether Trump or his associates have “sought to influence US government policy in service of foreign interests” and any potential obstruction into the various investigations.
I’m sure if you’ve been keeping up, you can come up with many more examples, since then.
This is a separate investigation from what is going on with special counsel Robert Mueller, but Schiff and company want to keep him in the loop.
In a voice vote on Wednesday, the committee approved the decision to send special counsel over 50 transcripts from their previous work on the Russia probe.
So, if there was someone who spoke to the committee behind closed doors and said something like, say, “My father didn’t know about that meeting with the Russians” or “My father didn’t tell me what to say to the press about that meeting with the Russians,” and then it was discovered later that he wasn’t being truthful, that person could be in hot water for lying to Congress.
Just an example.
Of course, the new Republican religion of whataboutism was well in play.
Republicans on the committee, now the minority, argued that if Democrats wanted to restart the Russia probe, then Hillary Clinton’s campaign should be investigated, as well. Also, what about that intelligence community that Republicans oddly hate, now?
Democrats struck down that complaint, saying that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part (We’ll call those emails and destroying the servers an “accident,” I guess), but if evidence emerged, they’d consider it.
They also said, however, that Trump is president now – not Hillary Clinton – so his potential foreign influences are more crucial.
The vote to send the transcripts to Mueller was not controversial or a surprise. Schiff has said that he wanted to send the transcripts to Mueller for review to see whether any other witnesses who appeared before the committee committed perjury. The transcripts are likely to be transmitted by the end of the day, Schiff said.
The other interviews that will now be sent to the special counsel include Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior campaign aides Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks. They also include numerous Obama administration officials and others in Trump’s orbit who were interviewed during the committee’s yearlong probe.
Republicans pushed to subpoena a dozen officials, such as former FBI Director James Comey, in an attempt to lessen the impact of what Democrats were proposing.
They also wanted to make public the committee’s interview transcripts conducted in an unclassified setting, including most of the panel’s Russia interviews. Democrats shut that down, as well.
They’re looking for a May or June release of those transcripts. A review, in order to determine what information might be considered classified or sensitive has to happen, first.
The Republican motions underscored the role-reversal for Schiff and Nunes in the Democratic-led Congress when it comes to the Russia investigation: In the last Congress, Schiff made numerous requests for subpoenas and committee actions that were rejected by the Republican majority.
As he left the committee’s secure spaces, Nunes was asked whether he voted to release the transcripts to Mueller. “You guys are an embarrassment to yourselves,” Nunes responded.
Somebody sounds bitter.
Speaking of bitter, President Trump had his say about these new developments, as well.
Trump reacted Wednesday to Schiff’s announcement by slamming the California Democrat and saying Schiff has “no basis to do that.”
“He’s just a political hack trying to build a name for himself,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room Wednesday after announcing his new nominee to be World Bank president. “It’s called presidential harassment and it is unfortunate.”
I don’t think that’s a thing.
It’s called “politics,” however, and elections have consequences.
Trump should have thought of that before he decided to play president for the reality TV crowds.