The letter, signed by one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill and addressed to Fusion GPS, indicated the jig was up.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-owner, 13 questions about his involvement with the so-called Steele dossier and ties to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. “When political opposition research becomes the basis for law enforcement or intelligence efforts, it raises substantial questions about the independence of law enforcement and intelligence from politics,” Grassley wrote.
The letter showed that Senate Republicans were aware Christopher Steele was a paid operative working on behalf of Trump’s Democratic enemies inside and outside the government. Further, the dossier wasn’t raw intelligence exposing collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin; Grassley acknowledged the document was anti-Trump propaganda that influenced activity at Barack Obama’s FBI and seeded damaging news articles before the 2016 election.
In other words, Republicans knew at that point the whole dossier-fueled collusion storyline was a massive scam.
The date of the letter? March 24, 2017. A few days earlier, FBI Director James Comey confirmed during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, a stunning confession.
Think about it. As the Trump-Russia collusion scam took hold—while Americans were being warned that their new president would act as the stooge of Vladimir Putin—Republicans already knew it was Democratic stagecraft. Further, they knew Comey’s FBI had worked with Steele and relied on his unverified dirt to investigate Donald Trump.
But rather than call the Democrats’ bluff, Senate Republicans, who wield the gavels of every powerful committee, caved. A quiver of sharply worded letters, as I wrote last year, has been their only weaponry, At the same time, Senate Republicans backed a destructive special counsel probe into a crime they knew did not exist. (On the House side, only a handful of Republicans, most notably Devin Nunes of California, did the heavy lifting while paying a major personal price.)
Glenn Simpson testified before Grassley’s committee in August 2017—behind closed doors. The American people never got a glimpse of Simpson’s slipperiness or heard first-hand, at a critical time, that the dossier was opposition research funded by Clinton and the Democratic Party. We never heard Simpson explain how he and Steele—a foreigner—worked over the State Department, the Justice Department, top lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and the national news media in an attempt to influence the presidential election by portraying Trump as a Russian asset.
Imagine how an open hearing at the time would have shaped the public’s view of the collusion falsehood. President Trump, instead of being hunted by Mueller’s wolves, would have had a chance to counterpunch with Senate Republicans at his side. And more importantly, Americans could have learned the truth before it was too late. (The committee released a transcript of Simpson’s testimony in January 2018 but by then Mueller’s investigation was well underway.)
What we witnessed over the past three years is the greatest abdication of power in recent history. Senate Republicans, perhaps intentionally, gave cover to bad actors including James Comey, John Brennan, Andrew McCabe and Robert Mueller. (The now-deceased Arizona Republican, Senator John McCain, played a key role in fueling the collusion narrative, as I detailed last year, as a way to exact revenge against Trump.)
Senate Republicans aided and abetted the unjustified sabotage of Trump’s first term. Trump’s family was targeted; his cabinet members hamstrung; and his aides, present and former, ruthlessly pursued by prosecutors and the news media.
Unlike House Democrats, who have subpoenaed everyone in Trump World except the White House chef, Senate Republicans have issued only one subpoena related to the collusion hoax: The Senate intelligence committee subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr. last year.
In a spot-on tirade, Tucker Carlson called out Senate and House Republicans for their failures on what the president has fairly labeled #Obamagate. “The vast majority of the Russian collusion investigation…occurred during the first two years of this administration,” Carlson noted on his May 9 show. “Who ran the government then? At the time, Republicans held both houses of Congress and every single committee by definition. They had the power to expose this hoax and to shut it down, but they did not.”
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and others, Carlson fumed, are “useless Senate Republicans” who failed to “stop the derailment of America while it was in progress.”
McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has been completely missing-in-action on the scandal, barely making mention of it. He allowed the Senate Intelligence Committee to remain under Burr’s control; the retiring Republican senator from North Carolina worked in lockstep with Virginia Democrat Mark Warner to use the committee as an extension of the Mueller investigation.
Burr, amid his own scandal, has been replaced with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who also has been silent about Obamagate except to deny the fact the FBI spied on the Trump campaign and defend its illegally obtained surveillance of Carter Page. “I don’t think they did anything wrong,” Rubio said in 2018 of Jim Comey’s FBI after the release of the redacted FISA application on Page. “There was [sic] a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier why they wanted to look at Carter Page.”
Rubio also insisted the intelligence assessment by former CIA Director John Brennan on Russian election hacking was “100 percent accurate.” It’s hard to imagine Rubio will conduct the committee any better than the useless Burr.
But of course no one has done a better paper tiger act than Lindsey Graham. For years, the South Carolina Republican has promised to “get to the bottom” of this treachery but hasn’t held a single hearing related to Obamagate with the exception of last December’s testimony by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz’s delayed report on FISA abuse often was cited as the excuse for why Senate Republicans wouldn’t hold public hearings with collusion perpetrators. Before that, Graham was waiting for the Mueller report. Now he claims he’s waiting for the Justice Department investigation led by John Durham to conclude.
But everyone—including the president—is out of patience with Graham.
After much prodding, Graham finally released a long list of characters he will ask Judiciary Committee members to subpoena in June. “I’m going to try to explain to the country, have a public accounting of Crossfire Hurricane . . . one of the most unethical, sloppy, ill-conceived, and dangerous operations in the history of the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Graham said on Fox News this week. The senator said the hearings would be held “probably in the summer” because he needs to “do his homework first.”
What homework could Graham possibly need to finish? Or is he just waiting until he can use the dog-ate-my-homework excuse after Democrats win control of the Senate in November?
Even if all 57 subpoenas on Graham’s list are executed in June, it will take several weeks to schedule hearings. According to the calendar, the Senate will be in session only 57 days between Graham’s June 4 meeting and Election Day. That virtually guarantees few if any public interrogations of Obamagate conspirators will take place in the Senate this year.
“Time is running out,” the president tweeted on May 16. “Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught. They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country. Don’t let them get away with this!” He tagged Graham in the tweet.
Unfortunately, in many respects, it’s already too late. The bogus collusion narrative undoubtedly influenced the 2018 midterm elections, handing control of the House to the Democrats. Reputations that have been ruined cannot be restored—Trump can’t get back the first two years of his term. Mueller’s team walks away unscathed while his lead prosecutor raises money for Joe Biden.
This whole fiasco lies at the feet of Senate Republicans. “Useless” might be too kind a description of them.