A witch hunt. Where have we heard that before? The current president of the United States loves to throw that metaphorical rhetoric around as much as he lies on an everyday basis. We know of course that he is referring to the Robert Mueller investigation. But the truth is, there really is only one witch hunt going on, and I witnessed it firsthand yesterday.
The United States House Judiciary Committee conducted what it referred to as a ‘hearing’ into the actions of FBI Chief of Counterespionage Peter Strzok during his investigations into the Hillary Clinton classified e-mail matter, as well Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Clearly, this was no hearing. This was nothing but a disgusting attempt to throw cold water on the Mueller investigation by humiliating a 26-year FBI employee. The actions of the Republican Party yesterday only reaffirmed what many of us have known for a long time: Party, power and Trump are all they care about. The country? Not so much.
To be fair, Mr. Strzok did not conduct himself admirably during the 2016 campaign. He texted his girlfriend, Lisa Page, several anti-Trump messages, some on official government phones. He should have known better. As a career guy at the Bureau, he should have assumed these texts could become public at some point, but for whatever reason he sent them anyway. Although these texts clearly show his animosity toward Trump, they do not show in any way that he conducted the investigations in an improper manner.
In fact, the Department of Justice Inspector General conducted an investigation into the whole ordeal and came to the same conclusion: The texts were highly inappropriate, but the department could find no evidence that Strzok’s political bias played any role in how the Clinton e-mail probe was carried out.
So why even have the hearing? What did the Republicans hope to achieve? Who were they doing this for?
Party politics, deflection and Donald Trump
We know the Republicans care only about keeping their party in power. One of the ways they think they can do this is by motivating and mobilizing their supporters. Many representatives on the Republican side come from districts Trump won handily, and they still support him overwhelmingly. Going after Strzok as they did plays to this base. It’s red meat, and all you have to do is check out social media to see how much hatred exists for Strzok and others in the FBI. Conduct a hearing … berate and humiliate … energize the base. The Republican playbook personified.
Ironically, today we learned of 12 more indictments issued by the Special Counsel. Did the Republicans know these indictments were coming? We heard from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the president was briefed on the ensuing indictments. Is it that outlandish to think this hearing was meant to deflect attention from the indictments? The way House Republicans have conducted themselves throughout this whole process leaves nothing to the imagination.
Finally, there’s nobody who enjoyed the spectacle more than Donald Trump himself. He has weighed in time and time again on the actions of Mr. Strzok. And as usual, the Republicans carried the water for Trump, just as they have done throughout his entire presidency. Pleasing Trump means pleasing the base. Pleasing the base means they have a better shot at keeping their jobs.
Did it work?
The fact is, yesterday’s debacle of a hearing blew up in their faces.
Mr. Strzok came across as not only credible, but as far more intelligent and honorable than his accusers. Time and time again, Mr. Strzok defended his actions. He acknowledged his disdain for Trump, yet forcefully let them know his feelings had no impact on how he performed his duties as an FBI agent. And that aspect of his testimony came across to me as the most important point.
If we’re to believe the Republicans, Strzok’s bias and political views drove him to put aside the Clinton e-mail probe in favor of focusing more on Russian interference. But the Inspector General found no such connection. Again, their attempt to brandish Mr. Strzok as some sort of deep blue state conspirator hellbent on denying Trump the presidency failed, and failed miserably. And besides, if Mr. Strzok really wanted to derail Trump, all he had to do was go to the media and leak that the campaign was under investigation. He did no such thing.
The final point
This is not going to end anytime soon. Currently, Republicans are preparing to question Page. They will continue this fiasco as long as they can. They’ll call her in to belittle and embarrass, much to the delight of Trump and his radical base. All in the name of getting re-elected. All in the name of protecting Trump. All in the name of keeping power. But while they continue to put their personal interest in front of the country’s, Robert Mueller continues to do his job. He’s been methodical in his approach. The breadth of detail in today’s indictments reflect the due diligence Mueller and his team have exhibited throughout the investigation.
We haven’t heard from Mr. Mueller personally. Leaks are practically non-existent. When we finally do hear from him, our friends on the Republican side may regret how they conducted themselves throughout this whole process. The American people will have a say about that. And Donald Trump? No Mr. President, the Mueller probe isn’t the witch hunt. The real witch hunt was the kangaroo court proceedings we all witnessed yesterday. Shame on you for enabling it.