Politico reported late yesterday that House Republicans "are privately venting that they've fumbled the release of their own Russia probe report."
Ya think? The GOP leadership of the House Intelligence Committee abruptly ended their own investigation of the Russia scandal, long before they had all the facts. They also released a ridiculous pre-cooked report, rejected the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia backing Donald Trump, and then spent the rest of the week conceding that this core conclusion of the GOP report was wrong.
"Fumbled the release" seems like a charitable way of saying the House Intelligence Committee's Republicans screwed up spectacularly (again). Four days after the release of a GOP document intended to exonerate their party's president, the only people who even remember the report are those who recognize its insulting absurdities.
But the committee's embattled chairman and unyielding Donald Trump ally, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), is undeterred. Indeed, he spoke at a private dinner this week, hosted by a conservative magazine called the American Spectator, and toed the White House line in an interesting way. The Washington Examiner reported:
Nunes said that he doesn't see who [Special Counsel Robert Mueller] could indict for collusion if all the indictments to date have been on other charges."Now look at who Mueller has prosecuted at this point, and who is left to prosecute for collusion?" he wondered. "I mean, there's no one left. [Former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort would be the obvious guy to think of that was colluding, right? If you could have gotten him on collusion, he would have been the obvious choice. Flynn, I mean, I knew Flynn very very well, and he is not a secret communist supporting Putin. So, they can't get him on that. So who else do they have?"
Was that a rhetorical question? Because if Nunes really wants to know -- if he genuinely believes there's literally no one else who might be prosecuted by the special counsel's team -- the California Republican probably should've run a real investigation and kept it going.
As New York's Jon Chait added yesterday, "Who is left to prosecute for collusion? Well, let's see. There is Donald Trump Jr., who attended a meeting with a Russian promising to help his campaign, and loved it. There's Jared Kushner, who also attended that meeting, and had a web of financial relationships and contacts with Russia that he suspiciously failed to disclose. There is Roger Stone, who reportedly knew about the Russian email hacking as early as spring 2016, before it was publicly known."
That's hardly a comprehensive list. Some of those Mueller has indicted weren't on the political world's radar, right up until there were reports of the criminal charges against them.
There's also, of course, the beneficiary of Russia's attack -- I believe he's now the American president -- who may yet face legal jeopardy, and who has an unfortunate habit of acting as if he's guilty.
As for Nunes, the New York Times published a joint op-ed this week from former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), who now serves on the board of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Johns Hopkins' Eliot Cohen, who served in the Bush-Cheney administration's State Department; and CREW Chairman Norm Eisen, who was the Obama administration's chief ethics lawyer. Among other things, the trio argue that the House Intelligence Committee chairman, now that he's finished examining the scandal, is likely to target Mueller.
Watch this space.