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Friday, April 20, 2018


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Here’s what real oversight would look like

This brings us to the second big revelation. On Thursday night, Maddow played clips of Giuliani repeatedly hinting that something big was coming just days before Comey announced the “new” emails 11 days before Election Day. Maddow asked Comey point-blank if people at the FBI had tipped off Giuliani. Comey replied:

“Not that I know of. But I saw that same publicity. And so I commissioned an investigation to see if we could understand whether people were disclosing information out of the New York office or any other place that resulted in Rudy’s report on Fox. … I don’t know what the result of that was. I got fired before it was finished.”

To be clear on what this means: It is still an open question whether FBI personnel tipped off a top Trump surrogate about the status of an investigation into his political opponent. Now, this very well might not have happened. But this episode helps illustrate the depths of the GOP abdication we’re seeing.

Republicans have perverted the oversight process, turning it into a kind of shadow probe designed to discredit the real, legitimate investigation into Trump. To that end, Republicans are attacking the FBI as hopelessly politicized and corrupt. But real oversight of the FBI — rather than bad-faith “oversight” designed merely to shield Trump from accountability — would scrutinize legitimately serious potential revelations about the FBI, such as the one revealed by Comey last night about Giuliani.

In short, Congress should want to know what came of that internal reckoning Comey ordered. “If there [was] a connection between the FBI and a committed surrogate of one of the candidates, that’s a very serious issue,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), the No. 2 on the House Intelligence Committee, told me, adding that functional oversight would want to determine “exactly what transpired between the New York office and the Trump campaign.” But that isn’t happening. Congress, Himes noted, has basically become Trump’s “defense attorney.”

To be clear, the fact that Republicans strong-armed the release of the Comey memos in the first place, and the fact that they promptly leaked, both set bad precedents when it comes to political interference in ongoing investigations. But now that it did happen, there’s no way to argue that this outcome is vindicating for Trump. The opposite is true.