If last week’s Russia investigation-related fiasco had to do with whether former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg would testify before the grand jury, this week’s was less entertaining but somehow even crazier: Republicans announced flatly that there is no there there.
Shortly after midday Monday, multiple news outlets reported that the House Intelligence Committee was wrapping things up. “The House Intelligence Committee has finished interviewing witnesses in its yearlong probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the Wall Street Journal revealed, going on to leave the impression it might be weeks until the majority put out its report on the matter. “The Republican-run committee is now preparing to write a report based on the testimony of dozens of witnesses and thousands of pages of documents.”
But by end of day, Republicans already had a summary of the draft report they were ostensibly planning to write sometime after lunch. They released it to the media just in time for the evening news. Not only hadn’t they found evidence of collusion or even conspiracy, but the Republicans even disagreed with the entire US intelligence community that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton—a conclusion at least some of them had seemed resigned to by the first public hearings on the topic.
Meanwhile, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment last month, the social media activity of Russian backed trolls included language like, “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,”“#IWontProtectHillary,” “#Hillary4Prison,” “March for Trump,” “Clinton FRAUDation,” and “Trumpsters United.”
More damningly, House Republicans issued bold claims that Russians didn’t support Trump in spite of myriad questions they didn’t get answered. What did Steve Bannon, who reportedly met with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates ahead of a second meeting that was apparently intended to set up a back channel with Russia, do with regards to Moscow during the transition and early administration—a topic he refused to broach in testimony? What role did George Nader, a Lebanese-American the committee’s majority apparently didn’t even know about until recent press coverage, play in those negotiations? What did Corey Lewandowski—who, according to former Trump aide George Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, was among the first people on the campaign Papadopoulos spoke to after learning Russia wanted to leak Clinton emails the campaign—do after he left it, questions about which he only selectively answered? What did Donald Trump, Jr., and his dad talk about as they crafted a statement on the meeting the kid took with Russians to obtain dirt on Clinton—“if it's what you say I love it,” Jr replied—which quickly got exposed as a lie?
More broadly, how would the GOP know if Trump conspired with the Russians if so much of the House investigation seemed designed to avoid asking that question?
Somehow, Republicans’ declaration of no collusion did not mention the plea deal former campaign aide Rick Gates agreed to in late February. He pleaded to a “conspiracy to defraud the United States” by hiding that the work he and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had done was on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. The word “conspiracy”—albeit not of the sort directly connected to the 2016 election—was right there in the plea deal! But Republicans couldn’t find any evidence of it.
Yet it’s the immediate context of this latest stunt that matters most.
First, there’s the view of the guy who is actually keeping tabs on Mueller’s work. On Monday, Mueller’s boss, Rod Rosenstein, reiterated his support for the special counsel in an interview with USA Today. “The special counsel is not an unguided missile," the deputy attorney general stated. "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." Rosenstein seemed to believe Mueller’s investigation, complete with its multiple conspiracy charges, is based on actual evidence of conspiracy.
And then there’s Sam Nunberg. After loudly complaining about the work a subpoena on Trump’s staffers would entail, Nunberg said after his grand jury appearance that there was, in fact, a there there. “I don't think it's a witch hunt,” he told ABC News. “It's warranted because there's a lot there and that's the sad truth.”
Nunberg went on to say his mentor, long time GOP ratfucker Roger Stone, may be in deep shit, too. “He's certainly at least the subject of this investigation, in the very least he's a subject," Nunberg said. Stone, for his part, has admitted reaching out to both the alleged DNC hacker, Guccifer 2.0, and the entity releasing stolen emails, Wikileaks, during the campaign, though he has steadfastly insisted it was after the theft took place. Now a fresh report from the Washington Post that Stone told two people in 2016 that he'd been in contact with Wikileaks about stolen Democratic emails—before the email hacks went public—makes him look sketchier than ever.
But perhaps the most telling comment of all in this episode of the Russia saga came from Nunberg during his initial, pre-testimony meltdown, when he predicted those making light of the Mueller investigation would be embarrassed when it was all over. “You’re going to be fine when it comes out what he did,” Nunberg told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “But people like Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro,” he continued, “they’re gonna be very embarrassed.”
A seasoned Republican operative said both before and after his grand jury appearance that the party’s ratfuckers and propagandists might be in trouble because of Mueller’s investigation.
Now some of those same propagandists want you to believe there's nothing to see here.
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