House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy prepares to speak to the media after unexpectedly dropping out of consideration to be the next Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2015.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

With an odd lie about the FBI, the GOP’s McCarthy stoops lower

It’s been a couple of weeks since Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued his report on the origins of the investigation into the Russia scandal, and the IG’s findings continue to haunt Republican conspiracy theorists.

Much to the GOP’s chagrin, Horowitz found that the FBI’s Russia investigation was legitimate, fully justified, and untainted by political bias. As his report makes clear, some of the more ridiculous conspiracy theories – such as the idea that a nefarious “deep state” was trying to “spy” on Team Trump – have no basis in reality.

And yet, there was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appearing on Fox News yesterday, sharing a very different interpretation of the report’s findings. In fact, it appears the California Republican hasn’t read the Justice Department report at all, preferring instead to make stuff up that he hopes will help Donald Trump.

“Well, if you pause for one moment and you read this I.G. report by Horowitz, here’s the FBI, they broke into President Trump – at the time, candidate Trump’s – campaign, spied on him, and then they covered it up.

“It is a modern-day Watergate. And you’ve got Democrats who aren’t willing to even look into that. That is the area that we should be looking in. It’s a modern-day coup, the closest this country’s ever came to.

“But the only way you can compare this to is Watergate. They broke into his campaign by bringing people into it. They had been trying to cover it up for the whole time. Now the question rises, just like Watergate, who knew? When did they know it? And how high did this go up?”

As political lies go, this can fairly be described as hopelessly bonkers. McCarthy pointed to a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that simply does not say what he claims it says. He’s accusing the FBI of engaging in misconduct that did plainly not occur in reality.

The House minority leader has gone to great lengths to defend the White House during the impeachment crisis, repeatedly appearing on the air and saying truly unfortunate things that should cause him great embarrassment.

But therein lies the rub: McCarthy doesn’t seem to care. After repeating ridiculous falsehoods on Fox News yesterday, he used his social-media account to promote the aforementioned quote, as if he were proud of his lie. Donald Trump himself retweeted the clip soon after, which was likely the validation the GOP leader was looking for.

It’s an extension of a pernicious approach to the public discourse: what’s true is irrelevant, what matters is what politicians can get people to believe.

Postscript: It appears that #KremlinKevin began trending on Twitter overnight, though it’s worth noting for context that Kevin McCarthy’s obvious lies about the FBI appear to have originated in Republican circles, not in Moscow.