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Republicans look past Trump scandals, zero in on Hillary Clinton

As Donald Trump faces a veritable avalanche of scandals, some of which imperil his presidency, Congress is focused on his former opponent.
Image: Candidates Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Hold Second Presidential Debate At Washington University
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald...

Throughout much of 2016, when it was widely assumed Donald Trump couldn't win the presidency, congressional Republicans made no effort to conceal their post-election plans: they would go after Hillary Clinton with vigor and glee.

We now know, of course, how that election turned out, but the extraordinary thing is that those same Republicans have decided to stick to their plan anyway.

House Republicans on Tuesday announced investigations into two of President Trump's most frequent grievances, unveiling new inquiries into actions of the Obama administration connected to Hillary Clinton.In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department's investigation of Mrs. Clinton's emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration's approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States' uranium.

The New York Times' report added that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) claimed yesterday that he had not discussed the uranium inquiry with the White House. I have no idea whether that's true -- Nunes' credibility is not exactly stellar -- but the fact remains that Trump has spent months  pressing his allies to pursue this story.

The fact that the underlying "controversy" appears to be baseless is apparently an unimportant detail.

Nevertheless, the farcical nature of the circumstances are worth appreciating in all their glory.

Donald Trump is facing a veritable avalanche of scandals, some of which imperil his presidency, and it's against this backdrop that congressional Republicans are directing their attention, not toward the president's alleged misdeeds, but toward the president's former opponent -- a private citizen for the last five years who'll never seek public office again.

It's as if the Congress' GOP majority is exercising its oversight responsibilities in a parallel universe in which Trump lost the election.

Stepping back, what's equally striking is the degree to which this fits into a broader dynamic: the political world seems most comfortable when it's complaining about Hillary Clinton. Trump often seems obsessed with his former rival; conservative media has focused nearly all of its attention on Clinton; mainstream journalists are nearly as critical; and Congress is launching multiple lines of investigation.

I like to poke fun at Trump World from time to time for its inability to move on from a 2016 mindset, but yesterday was a reminder that it's not alone.

As for the expectations surrounding the new anti-Clinton probes on Capitol Hill, one of the key House Republican leaders was unusually candid the other day about how investigations like these unfold.

"Congressional investigations unfortunately are usually overtly political investigations, where it is to one side's advantage to drag things out," House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told the New York Times.

Gowdy is now one of the GOP lawmakers looking backwards.