More Evidence Of GOP Complicity In Russian Interference
Over the weekend, Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare raised an interesting question. Wittes tweeted, “Here’s a question I posed on the emergency podcast yesterday which I am now posing more generally: If I were a senior FBI official and I had just opened a CI sub file on POTUS, one thing I would make damn sure of is that the Gang of Eight knew”. The Gang of Eight includes the Speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, the minority leaders of both the House and Senate, and the ranking members of the Intelligence Committee of both houses. If the answer to Wittes’ question is positive, that has pretty serious implications for Mitch McConnell, Richard Burr, and more importantly, Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes, two Republicans who were actively abetting Trump’s attacks on the investigation.
As Matthew Miller theorizes, the investigation into whether Trump was an agent of the Russians really began after the firing of Comey. The counterintelligence officials in the FBI were highly suspicious that the DOJ leadership at that point. Sessions was tainted and had recused himself but seemed clearly involved in the decision to fire Comey. Rosenstein, who was nominally in charge of the Russian investigation, had just written the letter that created the clearly bogus pretext for firing Comey. With fears that the entire Russian investigation might get totally quashed, FBI officials opened the inquiry into Trump specifically without consulting Rosenstein so that it would make it almost impossible for the DOJ to kill. As Miller notes, that decision may have been rash, although there was plenty of evidence to support it, but it effectively insulated the investigation. When Rosenstein found out about the inquiry, he saw the danger it posed to the FBI and immediately appointed Mueller as a special counsel, moving the whole investigation out of the FBI entirely. It defies belief that Rosenstein also did not brief the Gang of Eight at the same time.
Assuming that is the case, which is admittedly an assumption right now, that means that the top GOP leaders knew that the Mueller probe was really an investigation into whether Trump was actually a Russian asset or agent and yet they still allowed the attacks on that investigation to continue unabated until today. This is especially damning for Nunes, who helped lead the attempts to subvert the Mueller investigation as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Paul Ryan who did nothing to restrain his Republican colleagues in the House from continually attacking and subverting the investigation. All of which leads to the next huge question regarding conduct that protected and abetted Trump by Republicans in Congress – why? One of the obvious answers is that down-ballot Republicans benefited from Russian support in the 2016 election, perhaps not nearly as much as Trump, but in still important ways. Based on the amount of information already available which points in that direction, isn’t it really time for the media to start exploring that possibility.