Fresh off of the suppression of the release of the full Mueller report by President Trump’s latest legal fixer, Attorney General William Barr, Republicans aren’t wasting any time before reviving the canard that they raised multiple time during the Special Counsel’s investigation to attempt to discredit the motivations behind the probe.
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When the GOP still ruled the roost in the House of Representatives and the cow-suing Representative Devin Nunes was Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Republicans repeatedly tried to paint a picture of the investigation of the Trump campaigns links to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a partisan “deep state” conspiracy against the president rather than a legitimate national security issue.
Given that Nunes was himself under investigation by Mueller’s team for his attendance at a meeting with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and dozens of foreign officials at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. right before Trump’s inauguration his motivations for discrediting Mueller’s probe were suspect, to say the least.
Now that Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary — an appellation Barr tried to walk back yesterday by claiming that he never meant the summary to be an actual summary of everything in the Mueller report— has poisoned the well of public opinion about the report’s yet-to-be-seen contents, senior Republicans — particularly those with their noses positioned perfectly next to the president’s posterior — have decided to launch an investigation into the investigators.
“Republicans believe that the FBI and [Department of Justice] — the top people — took the law in their own hands because they wanted [Hillary] Clinton to win and Trump to lose,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto while promoting his plans for an investigation. “There will be a lot of inquiry as to how this all happened,” the senator added.
Graham exhumed the exhaustively rebutted accusations of “abuse” by now-former senior FBI officials of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application process in launching the campaign despite the fact that it has been proven that the investigations were motivated by Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos’s loose lips during an alcohol-infused meeting with an Australian diplomat where he revealed the existence of Russian “dirt” on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
Senator Graham wasn’t the only top Republican to urge the retaliatory investigation, indicating a wide nostalgia within the GOP for the days of endless Benghazi and Clinton email server investigations that resulted in zero indictments but damaged the candidate’s reputation to the point where she lost the election despite winning a majority of the popular vote.
“The Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction and doing oversight of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and so that … is something we need to do. Trying to find out how this thing got off the rails and hopefully prevent it from happening again,” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill.
“I think Director Comey is probably near the top. He’s the one who said that his intention of leaking memos of his conversation was designed to prompt the appointment of a special counsel. It just strikes me as some vindictiveness and animus toward the president motivating a lot of the action,” Cornyn said.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) piled on the bandwagon as well.
“We need every ounce of information about the people at the very top of our intelligence community that were promoting the inclusion of this fake dossier,” Paul said, referring to the infamous Steel Dossier that was actually initially funded by a Republican donor backing Trump primary challenger Marco Rubio. “We based this investigation on a lie. We should investigate who the liars were.”
With the House now controlled by Democrats hell-bent on holding the Trump administration responsible for any potential misdeeds, the Republican strategy now seems to be to hold counter-balancing investigations against their own perceived foes from the previous administration, even if most of the former FBI officials they want to put through the wringer were registered Republicans with a non-partisan dedication to their jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed his support for the strategy, saying that Senator Graham had “raised a legitimate question” about potential wrong-doing within the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign.
“I think it’s not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department to investigate possible misbehavior,” McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference. “The House is not going to miss an opportunity in … the coming months to look at what they perceive to be things that require oversight. The Senate is involved in the oversight business just like the House is.”
While the GOP is working quickly to seize the political initiative in the aftermath of the first inklings revealed from the Mueller report, the fact that they are now working overtime to prevent the release of the full report to the public — or even to the members of Congress who surely have the right and the security clearances to see the unredacted document — indicates that when, or if, the final report is released then its revelations may contain more damaging material than they care to admit.
Their attempts to continue to discredit the investigation mean they will do everything in their power to limit any potential damage its findings may bring. And with Attorney General Barr — already well-known as a man willing to cover up the crimes committed by the administrations he serves — saying that the version of the Mueller report that will be released will redact any information that may “unduly infringe on personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties,” you can bet that there is plenty in the Mueller report that does not reflect well on the Republican party and its most senior members.
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Original reporting by Jordain Carney at The Hill.