House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. reacts to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2015.
Photo by Susan Walsh/AP

Despite previous friction, Trey Gowdy reportedly joins Team Trump

Updated

As Donald Trump moves closer to impeachment, the president is in need of some legal assistance. According to the Associated Press, he’s adding a notable political figure to his team.

Former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy has been tapped to serve as outside counsel to President Donald Trump as the House impeachment inquiry expands. That’s according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal legal matters.

Gowdy is a former South Carolina congressman who did not seek reelection last year to the seat he had held for eight years.

Gowdy was the chairman of the House oversight committee. He led the congressional investigation of former presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

There were some reports that suggested Gowdy initially turned down the offer, but he was persuaded by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who previously served alongside Gowdy as Republican congressmen from South Carolina.

The president, who previously suggested he likes to hire attorneys based on who’s appeared on television, will likely be pleased to have someone of Gowdy’s notoriety working on the impeachment process.

That said, I seem to recall Team Trump holding the South Carolina Republican in low regard in the not-too-distant past.

As regular readers may recall, it was just last year when Trump was heavily invested in a deeply foolish conspiracy theory the White House called “Spygate.” The underlying claim was always a bit murky, but Americans were apparently supposed to believe that the FBI “infiltrated” the president’s 2016 campaign by “implanting” a “spy” in his operation.

In his capacity as the then-chairman of the House Oversight Committee Chairman, Trey Gowdy acknowledged that the conspiracy theory was absurd. In fact, in a pair of nationally televised interviews, Gowdy – who’d just received a special intelligence briefing that was intended to bolster the president’s conspiracy theory – said the FBI acted properly during the 2016 campaign. Asked specifically if he’d seen any evidence to substantiate Trump’s claim of an FBI “spy” infiltrating the future president’s operation, Gowdy answered, “I have not.”

For daring to tell the truth, the conservative South Carolinian quickly took on “pariah” status on the right. Roll Call reported that Gowdy became a target “for many of today’s pre-eminent conservative spokespeople.” Fox News’ Sean Hannity, for example, told his viewers, “Shame on Trey Gowdy,”

Rush Limbaugh suggested Gowdy is complicit in a cover-up. Lou Dobbs labeled the congressman a “RINO” – for “Republican In Name Only.” Politico reported that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) “distributed a 950-word treatise” questioning Gowdy’s position.

And then Rudy Giuliani got to work. BuzzFeed reported:

Giuliani lashed out at Gowdy – who isn’t running for reelection – for his comments, saying that his constituents “would probably be outraged at what he’s doing.”

He then veered off-topic, adding that those constituents “probably want to figure out what the hell he did with Benghazi.” Gowdy was the chair of the House committee that looked into the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four dead, including Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya.

“He sure screwed that one up. You got four families that do not think that Trey Gowdy did his job,” Giuliani said.

Keep in mind, Congress had already completed a series of lengthy investigations into the deadly attack in Benghazi when House GOP leaders tasked Gowdy to oversee yet another investigation. Not surprisingly, it came to the same conclusions as all of the other examinations.

Or put another way, Giuliani went after Gowdy for having twice told the truth in politically inconvenient ways.

None of the Republicans who attacked Gowdy pointed to anything specific he got wrong. Rather, the pushback appeared to be driven by partisans who hoped Gowdy would stick to the Republican script, even if that meant misleading the public – as if GOP lawmakers have a responsibility to carry a fig leaf for the emperor with no clothes.

Sixteen months later, maybe Team Trump got over its anti-Gowdy frustrations, or maybe Gowdy doesn’t mind partnering with those who were outraged by his willingness to tell the truth.