Good Riddance to the House Intelligence Committee Investigation

A year ago, congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election launched in both the House and the Senate with great bipartisan fanfare. But that came crashing down almost immediately in the House Intelligence Committee when Rep. Nunes attended a clandestine meeting at the White House late at night to produce a charge that Trump had been the victim of nefarious “unmasking” by Obama officials in 2016. As it turned out, the one bipartisan response from the committee was to totally debunk that claim, along with a referral of Nunes to the House Ethics Committee.

Since then, it has become clear that the only thing the majority of Republicans on the committee are doing is holding secret meetings to develop and leak conspiracy theories in an attempt to derail any real investigation of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

Therefore, this announcement from Republicans on the committee comes as no surprise.

Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said on Monday that their investigation had found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election.

Oh…and why bother to inform the Democrats on the committee before making the announcement?

In a sign of how badly relations between the two sides have broken down, Republicans on the committee briefed reporters on their initial findings on Monday before notifying their Democratic partners what was coming.

As an aside, note how that is framed. After all we’ve seen from Republicans on this committee, including failure to even inform Democrats of this decision, we are told that “relations between the two sides have broken down.” Both siderism is alive and well.

Here is a summary of the initial findings from Republicans:

* A pattern of Russian attacks on America’s European allies;
* Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions in 2015-2016 and their use of social media to sow discord;
* A lackluster pre-election response to Russian active measures;
* Concurrence with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s judgments, except with respect to Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump;
* We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians;
* How anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign; and
* Problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media.

Republicans can’t even admit that Russia’s interference included efforts to support Trump, much less that the campaign colluded with their efforts. Of course, when it comes to people who might actually have information about that—like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, George Papadopolous and Rick Gates—they never bothered to talk to them.

At least one Republican on the committee, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) admitted that it was all a joke.

Rooney argued that the investigation needed to end because the committee was losing its credibility.

“We’ve gone completely off the rails and now we are just basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day’s news,” Rooney said. “We’ve lost all credibility and we are going to issue probably two different reports, unfortunately.”

Keep in mind that Rep. Nunes doesn’t plan to stop his efforts to distract via the production of conspiracy theories.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s Republican chairman who had to step aside from leading the inquiry last spring, has made clear he will continue to push ahead with his own investigation of a dossier of salacious and unsubstantiated reports about ties between Mr. Trump, his campaign team and Russia’s interference campaign.

There are a lot of reasons to say “good riddance” to this committee’s sham of an investigation. But personally, I’ve never understood the need for congressional committees at this stage anyway. It is like having a judge and jury conduct their own investigation while the prosecutor is doing that separately. Congressional committees (more likely judiciary rather than intelligence) will be required once the special counsel has completed his work in order to assess the findings and take any necessary action. As we’ve seen with this committee, that is also likely to be a sham if Republicans maintain their majority next year.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.