As recently as yesterday afternoon, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee thought their investigation into the Russia scandal was ongoing. What they didn't know was that their Republican colleagues had ended their probe, drawn their conclusions, and even prepared their report.
And wouldn't you know it, Donald Trump's partisan allies managed to say exactly what the White House wanted them to say.
House Republicans investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election say they have found no evidence that Russians colluded with any members of the Trump campaign and dispute a key finding from the intelligence community that Russia had developed a preference for the Republican nominee during the election.Those are the initial conclusions of a 150-page report from GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are formally bringing the panel's yearlong investigation to an end over the fierce objection of Democrats.
We know how this is supposed to work. The House Intelligence Committee, which used to go out of its way to operate in a nominally non-partisan fashion, is supposed to conduct a thorough investigation. After its completion, members from both parties are supposed to review their findings and methodically prepare a detailed report.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a close Trump ally, and his cohorts decided to pursue a very different course. NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell called the GOP lawmakers' actions "pretty stunning," adding, "The fix was in from the start."
And now, according to House Republicans, the chamber's examination of Russia's attack on U.S. elections is over.
It's worth taking a moment to consider who and what GOP lawmakers chose to ignore as part of this ridiculous process:
* House Republicans ignored the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies. U.S. intelligence professionals concluded that Russian operatives launched their 2016 intelligence operation in order to help put Donald Trump in power. GOP lawmakers on the intelligence committee decided to reject this politically inconvenient conclusion.
* House Republicans ignored requests to interview key witnesses: Key players in this scandal, including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos, were never interviewed by the committee. Not to put too fine a point on this, but a thorough examination of what happened should probably include a private chat with former chairman of the campaign Russia wanted to help -- who also happens to be under criminal indictment over his Russian ties.
* House Republicans ignored evidence of witnesses who may have lied to the committee. It's hardly a stretch to believe some of the witnesses the Intelligence Committee spoke to gave false and/or incomplete testimony -- which in some cases, may have been a crime. As of yesterday, GOP lawmakers don't appear to care.
* House Republicans ignored potential leads. Last week, the New York Times published 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. The article noted that Mueller not only appears to be "examining the influence of foreign money" in the 2016 campaign, but Nader also helped arrange the controversial January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles. A day after the article ran, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who helped oversee the House Intelligence Committee's investigation, told a reporter, "I don't have any clue who George Nader is."
* House Republicans ignored their duties: In case anyone's forgotten, a foreign adversary launched an intelligence operation as part of a coordinated attack on the United States. Our attackers may have had allied compatriots who helped with the illegal scheme. GOP lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee had a responsibility to follow the facts wherever they led, not only to better understand what happened and why, but also to hold those responsible accountable.
But from the outset, the Republicans' principal goal had little to do with finding the facts and more to do with finding ways to protect the beneficiary of the Russian attack.
Much of the country has come to expect very little from this GOP-led Congress, but even cynics may have expected too much from Nunes and his accomplices. In this case, Republicans didn't even bother to pretend to take their responsibilities seriously.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Pa.), who's retiring from Congress this year, told CNN last night that the members of the House Intelligence Committee might as well drop their investigation since "we've lost all credibility."
Right. And whose fault is that?
Postscript: As Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Rachel last night, House Dems on the committee are moving forward with plans to continue to examine the scandal. If Democrats retake the House majority, their probe will include subpoena power.