For Americans hoping Senate Republicans might finally engage the Russia collusion hoax seriously, last night’s interview of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by “Special Report’s” Bret Baier was a tremendous disappointment. McConnell better figure out quickly that if he doesn’t hold the Resistance accountable for the Russia hoax that harmed his party and the entire country for many years, he won’t have a majority in the next term. If it helps to motivate him, he should remember that not having the majority in the next term means he won’t get to confirm judges, an issue he hopes will be his defining legacy.
For three years, a false and dangerous narrative of treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election was woven throughout the media and government. This conspiracy theory harmed international relations, domestic governance, and the lives of many individuals. It ended when a special counsel probe was finally forced to admit in 2019 that there was no evidence that any American had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election, much less anyone close to President Donald Trump.
Debunking this false narrative was for many years left to a very small band of reporters and congressional investigators. Most of the attention-getting congressional work was done on the House side, including the revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had secretly paid for the false narrative and that there was serious abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in how the government secured wiretaps to spy on Trump campaign affiliates.
Despite being controlled by Republicans throughout the ordeal, the Senate was largely absent from the fight with the exception of just a few senators — Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin being the primary investigators whose oversight work and document demands paid off. And their work should not be underplayed.
It is due to them that the detailed texts got out about the anti-Trump machinations of FBI investigator Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. They sounded the alarm about Christopher Steele, author of the Clinton research, whom the media and government had falsely claimed was trustworthy. They detailed FISA abuse. They were concerned about the Flynn case from the very beginning, and fought with the FBI for information about it. They were also responsible for seeking information about the unmaskings that recently made the news. It all should have been much bigger news.
After the Russia collusion hoax helped Democrats win the House of Representatives in the 2018 election, the Senate needed to step up the fight. Yet McConnell didn’t prioritize the issue in any way. He never noticeably supported the senators or committees who were doing actual work. He instead deferred to Richard Burr of North Carolina, the ostensible head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which for years has in effect been run by Democrat Mark Warner.
Burr was a Russia hoaxer, threatening legislation to protect Robert Mueller, the Republican who was presented as heading the probe. When Mueller appeared before Congress to defend the special counsel report, he had very little knowledge of it and appeared extremely befuddled. Read more about the failures of the Senate Intelligence committee with regard to the Russia hoax.
Only yesterday, after Burr’s cell phone was seized by the FBI as part of its investigation into alleged insider trading, did he finally step down from chairing the committee. That committee’s major addition to the Russia collusion storyline was the arrest of a staff member for lying about leaks to the reporter(s) with whom he was having extramarital relations.
McConnell didn’t just whiff on the Russia collusion hoax investigation in general, he failed to investigate after the implosion of the Mueller probe, and he failed to investigate after the inspector general report showing the problems with how the Trump campaign was spied on. He appears ready to fail once again in the aftermath of the Mike Flynn case being withdrawn.
McConnell Can’t Be Bothered
In last night’s interview, McConnell appeared not just uninterested but uninformed on the scandal of Democrats weaponizing the intelligence community for partisan gain. Baier asked McConnell to comment on the case of Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor who was a major victim of the Russia collusion hoax. Here’s McConnell’s limp response:
Well, If there were in fact misbehavior surrounding the Flynn case, the American public needs to know. And clearly that was the view of the attorney general. I gather it’s now in a rather unusual procedure of being reviewed by the district judge before whom the case was. I think we’re just anxious to get the facts. what actually happened. The American public needs to know; all of us would like to know. And one thing about Washington: you guys are so good at your job, truth always comes out, sometimes it takes a little longer than other times, but we’ll find out what in fact did happen.
Oh dear, where to begin. Let’s leave aside the blasé attitude McConnell has toward Flynn and those who went after him — the criminal leaks, the destruction of evidence, the failure to supply mandated exculpatory evidence, the campaign to undermine, and the game-playing with plea deals. Let’s focus instead on McConnell’s view that the media — yes, the media — are good at their job of uncovering the truth and that it’s their job to do that and not Senate investigators who are actually charged with oversight of federal agencies.
McConnell is shockingly wrong on both counts. The media are complicit in the hoax, as anyone with even the most modest knowledge must know, and the Senate is desperately needed in this fight. The Senate can subpoena records and compel testimony — holding hearings if necessary — to get to the bottom of the effort from inside the U.S. government to use a false and dangerous conspiracy theory that threatened the health and safety of the republic.
If that’s not the Senate’s business, what in the world is? And if the Senate majority leader won’t care even about how this scandal uniquely harmed Republican voters, then who will?
At the end of the interview, Baier asked McConnell if he agrees with President Trump that former President Obama should be called into a Senate hearing and whether he agreed with President Trump calling the scandal Obamagate. Obama’s personal role in the scandal was confirmed in additional documents released as part of the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss charges against Flynn. Here’s McConnell’s response:
Look, that will be up to [Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Lindsey] Graham to make those kind of decisions — I think he may have addressed it already. I’m not certain… Look, that would be up to Chairman Graham to determine how to handle this. I have a lot of confidence in him and he knows what he is doing and I’m going to follow his lead.
Graham took over the Judiciary Committee last year and is known for going on television to claim that he will investigate the Russia collusion hoax. His track record with actually investigating the Russia collusion hoax is extremely spotty. While Graham is good with funny aphorisms, his work ethic and focus are noticeably lacking. For a scandal as complicated as the Russia collusion hoax, both are desperately needed.
If McConnell Wants a Majority and Judges, Get To Work
McConnell is praised throughout the Republican Party for his focus on confirming originalist judges to federal courts. It’s easily his greatest legacy, and one I wrote about at length in “Justice On Trial,” my book with Carrie Severino. But he should remember that he can’t confirm good judges if Republicans are not in the majority and if a stalwart person isn’t president to nominate them. Both of those key factors are threatened by his long-time lack of interest in holding Russia hoaxers accountable for what they did.
If McConnell and Graham want to confirm judges after November, they need to understand how viscerally outraged many Americans are by the spying and leaking scandal. They need to know that refusal to do anything about it will hurt Republicans, not Democrats, at the ballot box.
They should remember how once they got aggressive in pushing back on the campaign to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life and reputation, it redounded to their benefit. Even in an election year where Democrats swept into the House majority, they picked up Senate seats by fighting for Kavanaugh and against the dirty tricks deployed against him and the voters who elected Republicans to the Senate and presidency. Channeling Republican anger in those hearings, at least by the very end, helped them.
They should remember that. They should know that the Republican base is every bit as angry about the Russia hoax as they were about Kavanaugh. And they should know that Americans who care about corrupt government are not seeing nearly enough effort coming from the Senate.
If McConnell doesn’t start demanding more be done to hold the Resistance responsible for its damaging and dangerous Russia collusion hoax, his party will lose, and he won’t confirm another judge in his lifetime.