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House Republicans show how not to investigate a scandal

GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee are investigating the Russia scandal, but they don't seem to be taking it seriously.
The Capitol building at dusk.
The Capitol building at dusk.

On Tuesday night, the New York Times published online an important story about Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, who is now a witness cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Russia scandal. The article, which appeared on the Times' front page yesterday, was a doozy.

Not only is Mueller apparently "examining the influence of foreign money" in the 2016 campaign, but Nader also helped arrange the controversial January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles -- a meeting that featured a prominent Trump supporter and a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) reportedly told a CBS News reporter, "I don't have any clue who George Nader is."

At face value, that may not seem especially notable, except Mike Conaway is a member of the House Intelligence Committee -- and he's ostensibly helping lead the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. Even if he'd missed the front-page scoop in the New York Times, it stands to reason he'd know who George Nader is, simply by virtue of his own familiarity with the details of his own probe.

New York's Jon Chait had the appropriate reaction.

If you're getting the idea that maybe Conaway and his party aren't utterly determined to uncover foul play between Moscow and Trump Tower, your suspicions are warranted. Conaway recently declared the investigation to be nearing its completion. "All investigations have a natural conclusion," he explained. "As soon as we have everybody interviewed, we'll start working on the report, we'll get the report finalized, and we'll move forward. Every investigation ought to have a conclusion, including this one. So we're coming towards the end of it."Investigations, you see, have a "natural" conclusion. It is out of his hands. And so while Conaway's committee has not forced the witnesses to answer questions Democrats believe they should answer, or even learned the names of major figures in the underlying investigation, there's no arguing with nature. Anyway, it's not like they're investigating something like Benghazi, which took place in 2012 and was still being investigated four years later in a fruitless attempt to establish that the Obama administration deliberately lied.

In theory, given the seriousness of Russia's attack on American elections, one would like to think the House Intelligence Committee would keep scrutinizing the matter until it had all of the facts.

And yet, here we are. CNN reported this morning, "Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, and he could be one of the last major witnesses to appear as part of the panel's Russia investigation."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, added this week that the GOP-led House panel is preparing to move past the witnesses who've refused to answer questions, including former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, with the hopes of unveiling a final report "in the coming weeks," despite the list of witnesses Democrats still want to call.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that once the House Republicans' report is ready, it'll be about as credible as the already discredited "Nunes memo," as prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his aides.