If you have a weird uncle who watches Fox News all day, I have a hunch I know what story he was eager to tell you about yesterday.
A new report released Wednesday by a prominent Republican senator suggests texts between an FBI lawyer and an agent who was once part of Robert Mueller’s special counsel team show that then-President Barack Obama was keeping tabs on the agency’s investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal.The report, by the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., focuses on the FBI’s investigation into the scandal and includes 384 pages of texts between Peter Strzok, one of the top FBI agents who was assigned to the Mueller investigation, and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer.
Johnson suggests in the report that one particular set of texts between Strzok and Page – who were romantically involved – revealed that the two had been tasked with preparing talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey because Obama apparently wanted to be kept abreast of the case.
The Republican’s report pointed to a text exchange from Sept. 2, 2016 – which probably should’ve been the first hint that the case wasn’t related to Clinton’s emails, since the FBI’s examination was already over at that point.
But the right pounced anyway, excited by the prospect that there might be new proof of Obama personally intervening in the Clinton case. Donald Trump, once again unwilling to get his facts straight, published a tweet yesterday that read, “NEW FBI TEXTS ARE BOMBSHELLS!”
No, they’re not. The Wall Street Journal quoted sources who explained that the text exchange “referred to the president’s wanting information on Russia election meddling, which the FBI was heavily involved in over that period.”
In other words, the latest “bombshell” is that the Democratic president wanted information about the Russian attack while it was happening, which is neither new nor surprising. Indeed, Obama apparently requested the information just a few days before he spoke with Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit, where he confronted the Russian leader about his interference in the American election.
For Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, this is yet another in a series of embarrassments. It was just two weeks ago that the Wisconsin Republican’s “secret society” nonsense left him looking ridiculous, prompting CNN to label Johnson “the senator who cried wolf.”
After his previous missteps, it’s tempting to assume Johnson would go out of his way to be more responsible. He is, after all, the chairman of an important and powerful committee – a post once held by Joe McCarthy, as it happens – and Johnson has an incentive to present himself as a sensible and mature Senate leader.
Instead he appears to be in a race with Devin Nunes to see which GOP committee chair can do the most damage to their dwindling credibility.
As for the larger context, CNBC’s John Harwood had a great piece last week, noting that in recent years, Republican conspiracy theorists on Capitol Hill keep coming up with exciting new allegations – which invariably collapse after routine scrutiny.
The trend, alas, continues.