This week Politico’s Kyle Cheney and John Bresnahan wrote what they presented as significant. “House Republicans quietly investigate perceived corruption at DOJ, FBI,” the report said.
It is a weird claim at the outset, since House Republicans up to and including Paul Ryan have been screaming bloody murder about the FBI and DOJ’s refusal to cooperate with House investigators probing the use of a shady piece of Democratic-funded opposition research alleging that Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. True, the media have downplayed the efforts by House Republicans, much less their dramatic significance, to perform oversight of the FBI and Department of Justice. But that doesn’t mean that the Republicans themselves are quiet.
Here’s an October 25 report from Reuters quoting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking member of that body:
The Department of Justice needs to immediately give Congress documents related to the funding of a dossier on Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Wednesday, saying the department and the FBI were “stonewalling.”
That’s not quiet.
Here’s a Dec. 4 USA Today headline about another not-so-quiet move by the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
House Intel chairman threatens FBI director, deputy AG with contempt of Congress
Oddly public for a supposedly secret look into problems at the FBI.
Members of the media have spent the better part of the year pushing the Obama administration and Clinton campaign narrative of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Russia, despite the lack of evidence to support the claim, and the exculpatory evidence that keeps piling up. At the same time, as members of Congress sought and were refused answers from Justice about the dossier and the department’s use of same, they have grown increasingly impatient. They have talked about issuing subpoenas, demanding compliance, and drawing up contempt of Congress resolutions.
The opposition research was published by BuzzFeed after Obama intelligence chiefs legitimized it by briefing Trump on it and then immediately leaking to CNN that they briefed him. It has not been independently verified and is full of disproven and unverifiable allegations as well as well-known, publicly available information. Yet there are reports that the FBI used the dossier and its claim of collusion to launch or perpetuate a probe of an opposing campaign, and to delegitimize an incoming president. There are reports that the FBI may have even claimed the dossier was credible in order to secure a wiretap on a Trump campaign associate, an allegation so explosive it would rival any other presidential scandal of recent memory. And there are reports that taxpayer money may have gone to the people who compiled the opposition research. In recent weeks, Americans have learned that investigators in the FBI spoke of the Russia probe as an “insurance policy” because “we cant take that risk” that Trump might be elected. They’ve learned that the the wife of a senior Justice Department official was hired by the dossier firm to help investigate Trump. And that this senior official took secret meetings with the dossier firm’s head.
Politico explicitly says, oddly, that efforts to look into all this was done in secrecy and quiet:
A group of House Republicans has gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to four people familiar with their plans.
A subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes of California, has been quietly working parallel to the committee’s high-profile inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They haven’t informed Democrats about their plans, but they have consulted with the House’s general counsel.
In fact, even a cursory glance at any of the public comments of various Republicans shows that they have been publicly expressing concern that Justice and FBI officials improperly, and perhaps criminally, misused the dossier. And they have been far from quiet as the probe into supposed Russia collusion comes up completely empty and the revelations about said mishandling pile up.
But here’s how Politico put it:
Nunes’ office declined to comment about the effort, but he has aired his suspicions about the law enforcement agencies before.
“I hate to use the word corrupt, but they’ve become at least so dirty that who’s watching the watchmen? Who’s investigating these people?” he said in a Fox News interview earlier this month. “There is no one.”
What’s weird about this quote used by Politico is that it comes from an interview where Nunes talks about his supposedly secret investigation of Justice. That interview, which was aired to 2,362,000 viewers of Fox News’ Special Report, and received follow-up coverage on the internet, was about how Nunes was cleared of any wrongdoing by House Ethics probe instigated by his political opponents. (Speaking of secrets, while news of the probe was widespread, news of Nunes being cleared was soft-pedaled.) But it included this section. Pay particular attention to the very first line:
HERRIDGE: Nunes publicly confirmed for the first time a month-long probe that goes well beyond the Russia case into the surveillance of Americans through the FISA, or the national security courts.
NUNES: I believe we have evidence that there is definitely abuses have occurred.
HERRIDGE: And Nunes pointed to the leaked conversation of the General Mike Flynn with the Russian ambassador and the Congressman said he is unaware of any leak investigation by the FBI or Justice Department.
NUNES: I hate to use the word corrupt, but they’ve become at least so dirty that who is watching the watchmen? Who is investigating these people? There is no one.
Why yes, Politico, your December 20 report about a super-secret-quiet investigation that was publicly obvious to everyone for months, and publicly announced on December 8, sounds really interesting.
But what I don’t get is how Politico could quote from the news report in which it was announced, and yet also claim it was quiet and secret.
And yet, as has been the case with so much of the Russia! Russia! Russia! narrative this year, many media responded without appropriate skepticism.
“Report: House Republicans are secretly investigating the FBI, Department of Justice,” “Partisan witch hunt: House Republicans are secretly investigating the DOJ and FBI,” “Republicans launch secret inquiry into ‘corruption’ at top of FBI and DOJ over officials’ handling of anti-Trump ‘golden showers’ dossier,” “House Republicans are secretly working to discredit Mueller: report,” read the headlines from various news outlets. MSNBC ran two interviews with ranking member — but perhaps ranking higher when it comes to leaks — Rep. Adam Schiff, where he happily declined to correct the record on secrecy.
Failing to accurately cover the status of the Russia investigation and the stunning revelations coming out of the Department of Justice as it relates to 2016 and 2017 handling of the dossier doesn’t mean that it’s a secret. It just means that the media need to pay better attention to reality instead of getting routinely duped by multiple sources peddling false information.