The investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and the assorted wiretapping allegations that have accompanied it, have to be turned over to an independent investigator or, at least, a select Congressional committee with equal Republican and Democratic membership. I say this as somebody who remains largely unconvinced that this story is as big a scandal as some Democrats have made out, let alone that it’s going to end with Donald Trump being frog marched off to USP Lewisburg or wherever.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem believing that the Russian government tried through various means to influence the November election, just as I’d have no problem believing that the US was fucking around with May’s Iranian election. There’s plenty of evidence to show that we’ve tried to manipulate other countries’ elections in the past, so why should Russia be any different? But it’s a long way from “Russia tried to influence the election” or even “Russia did influence the election” to “Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to influence the election.” I don’t have any particular problem believing that charge either, but so far nobody’s produced anything other than circumstantial evidence to support it.
Of course, plenty of Congressional investigations have been launched with far less to go on than circumstantial evidence and plausibility, so investigate away as far as I’m concerned. But therein lies the problem. A big chunk of the investigation was supposed to be handled by Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee, and Nunes has now conclusively demonstrated that he can’t be trusted to handle it.
As you likely recall, last week Nunes created a major buzz when he briefed the White House, and then the press, about new information he’d learned suggesting that Donald Trump’s transition team had had their communications intercepted by the NSA. Nunes was careful in how he couched this, but the implication obviously was that Trump’s whacko accusation that Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower wiretapped was, in fact, true, and not yet another ridiculous creation of Trump’s decaying mind. Unsurprisingly, this quickly turned out to be much less than met the eye. At most, it’s possible that the intelligence community failed to properly mask the names of Trump transition officials who were discussed in monitored communicationsBut Nunes showed his hand by running to brief the White House and then yap to the press before he bothered to share his information with the rest of his committee. That was bad enough that Nunes himself later apologized (allegedly) for it. Then he canceled Friday’s hearing, saying that the committee needed to hear from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers in a closed session before the investigation went any further.
This week things have just gotten more surreal. After canceling Friday’s session, Nunes has now cancelled all committee hearings for this week, so that presumably urgent Comey-Rogers session won’t happen until at least next week. Also, it turns out that his source for the “actually Trump was wiretapped” claim was somebody in the White House, or at least somebody Nunes met with “on White House grounds.” Now, either Nunes is the most gifted break-in artist on the planet (and should be getting a phone call from the Secret Service) or somebody must have signed him in to the White House for such a meeting to have taken place. Which means the information Nunes had to brief the Trump White House about was gifted to him by the Trump White House. At the very minimum, meeting with a source, by himself, anywhere other than in the House Intelligence Committee offices suggests strongly that Nunes was trying to withhold the source and/or information from the rest of the committee.
The bottom line is that Nunes has thoroughly wrecked his own credibility and therefore his committee’s credibility, all in the name of trying, and mostly failing, to substantiate some vapid bullshit that his party boss tweeted while in one of his frequent altered states. Democrats want him to recuse himself from the investigation, which of course he’s refusing to do, and now John McCain, who’s never seen a bandwagon he wouldn’t hop on no questions asked, says that at a minimum Nunes has to reveal whomever it was he surreptitiously met with at the White House last week. It doesn’t matter if these people have a real point, although I’m inclined to think they do, so much as it matters that this investigation needs to be done right and Nunes is now too tarnished to make that happen.
Whatever the investigation finds, whether Trump is exonerated or impeached at the end of it, people need to believe that it was done in good faith or else this Russia shit is going to hang over DC like a Cairo sandstorm (I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I was in Cairo during a sandstorm once and it fucking sucked), sucking all the air away from the legitimately horrific things the Republicans are trying to do to the environment, civil rights, worker protections, our healthcare, etc., and enriching a bunch of self-declared Twitter Russia experts (maybe you’ve seen some of them). So the investigation has to be done by somebody other than Devin Nunes, and that means an independent job or a congressional investigation in which both parties are equally empowered.
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