Breaking Down the Republican Campaign to Smear the Mueller Investigation

Something rather small happened this week, but it stood out to me.

Randy Credico, a comedian and radio host who Trump adviser Roger Stone claims was his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, has asserted his Fifth Amendment right ahead of an interview with the House Intelligence Committee that was scheduled for Friday, according to his lawyer. As a result, the committee has released Credico from appearing before the panel as part of its investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

While the reasons Credico’s lawyers gave as to why he is asserting his Fifth Amendment right are—shall we say—interesting, it’s not a terribly surprising development. But I noticed that this played out very differently than the last time someone pled the fifth regarding testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Two partners at the intelligence firm that produced the dossier of memos alleging Russian efforts to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Wednesday declined to answer questions before the House intelligence committee…

After the session, which lasted more than an hour, Levy [their attorney] charged that the committee broke with its past practices by requiring them to physically appear to plead the Fifth.

It seems that Rep. Nunes is selective when deciding which witnesses have to come before the committee to assert their Fifth Amendment rights. Following the spectacle of having the two FusionGPS partners do so, the incident was used to assume that there was something nefarious involved. For example, the next day Trump tweeted this:

That, my friends, is how you launch a meme. It marked the beginning of the coordinated Republican attack on the FBI and the Mueller investigation. Obviously the Republicans weren’t looking for that kind of publicity when Roger Stone’s intermediary to Wikileaks pled the fifth.

We saw something similar in an unusual move this week.

On Tuesday night, the Department of Justice invited a small group of reporters to read text messages between two FBI Agents who expressed distaste for Donald Trump and disparaged several other candidates during the 2016 campaign.

This was the ammunition Republicans used in their assault on Mueller and his investigation. There was a lot of speculation about the release of these texts on the eve of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, where it got a lot of play. At this point, it is unclear who authorized the release to the media.

The US Department of Justice says copies of private text messages exchanged between two former special-counsel investigators were disclosed to some members of the media before they were given to Congress.

According to a DOJ statement, those text messages “were not authorized” for release.

I would simply remind you that on March 21st, Rep. Nunes had a clandestine meeting at the White House during which he viewed classified information of electronic surveillance. This information purported to show that communication between President Trump and his associates had been swept up during the course of eavesdropping operations on foreign intelligence targets. The following day he announced to the press that he had seen intelligence reports that indicate Trump and his associates were included in electronic surveillance before sharing that information with members of the Intelligence Committee. Anyone else see a potential pattern emerging?

It’s clear that, if Rep. Nunes was involved in the release of these texts to the media, he is a central figure being used by whomever is organizing these coordinated attacks. But however it is happening, it might be time for the media to pay attention to what is going on.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.