Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) had some stern words for Donald Trump and his lawyer today about the Russia investigation. Yet Gowdy just whiffed on his opportunity to hold Trump accountable.
Gowdy talked tough about Trump’s behavior toward the Russia investigation
Today's Fox News Sunday interview began with Wallace asking Gowdy, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, for his reaction to Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, calling for an end to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
GOWDY: I think that president’s attorney, frankly, does him a disservice when he says that and when he frames the investigation that way. Chris, if you look at the jurisdiction for Robert Mueller, first and foremost, what did Russia do to this country in 2016? That is supremely important, and it has nothing to do with collusion. So, to suggest that Mueller should shut down and all that he is looking at his collusion, if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.
Russia attacked our country. Let special counsel Mueller figure that out. And if you believe, as we found, there’s no evidence to collusion, you should want special counsel Mueller to take all the time, and have all the independence he needs to do his job.
WALLACE: But, Congressman, it does not appear that John Dowd, the president’s lawyer, is freelancing, is going off by himself here. The president has been on a tweet storm this morning.
Question, sir: do you think the gloves are off that the president and his legal team are now moving against the Mueller investigation and if they go up from tweets to actual effort, actual actions to try to stop the Mueller investigation, what will you and other top Republicans in Congress do?
GOWDY: Well, I hope that’s not what’s happening. This is the same Bob Mueller that just indicted a dozen Russians for interfering with our election in 2016. My advice to the president is the same thing I just told his lawyer. Give Bob Mueller the time, the independence, and the resources to do the very job—keep in mind, Chris, he didn’t volunteer for this.
He didn’t start waving his hand and say "Hey, pick me." A Trump-nominated Rod Rosenstein is who picked Bob Mueller. So, give him the time, the resources, the independence to do his job. And when you are innocent, if the allegations of collusion with the Russians and there’s no evidence of that, and you're innocent of that, act like it.
But if Trump does fire Mueller, Gowdy signaled he won’t do anything about it
WALLACE: But if I may, sir, again, there seems to be a concerted effort by the president and his lawyer to go after the mother investigation. If they try to shut it down, what will you and other Republicans in Congress do?
GOWDY: Well, I’m not sure the House can do a lot. We don’t have advice and consent. I think the president is going to have a really difficult time nominating and having approved another attorney general. It’s going to be—I would just counsel the president, it’s going to be a very, very long, bad 2018. And it’s going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and was elected to do.
Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.
Gowdy supported the House Intelligence Committee’s decision to cut short the Russia probe and inconclusively declare "no evidence of collusion"
Wallace challenged Gowdy on the disconnect between his tough talk about the Mueller investigation after having just gone along with aborting the House investigation. But Gowdy gave weasel answers.
WALLACE: But here’s the one question I have about this, Congressman. I want to put up the sum of the people that you and members of your committee never had a chance to talk to—Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos. These are some of the central figures in the Mueller investigation. So, without having spoken to them, how can you conclude that there was no conclusion?
GOWDY: Well, we can’t talk to them. They are all under indictment and/or have pled guilty, which is why I say there is no evidence. I can’t tell you what four people I haven’t talked to are going to say, but, Chris, I can’t talk to them. They have a Fifth Amendment right not to talk to Congress. I mean, Steve Bannon's not under indictment and he didn’t talk to Congress.
So, look, there are lots of things to blame Congress for, but us not knowing what people who won’t talk to us are saying should not be one of them. I don’t know what Mueller has found. I’ve been really very clear, leave him alone. Let him do his job.
I can tell you with the universe of folks that we’ve interviewed, there is no evidence of collusion. That’s the best I can do. I can’t tell you what people I haven’t talked to would say.
WALLACE: Here’s my only point about this is that the president is using the House Intelligence Committee’s findings in effect as grist as a defense to say that there was no collusion, and what you’re admitting is that there were a lot of key members to this investigation who you’ve never talked to. So, your conclusion is not conclusive.
GOWDY: Well, that’s why I always say, “based on the evidence.” You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what witnesses you haven’t talked to or documents you haven’t seen. Look, I’m disappointed that Steven Bannon would sit there and be interviewed by a salacious book author but he wouldn’t answer our questions. I’m frustrated by that.
Gowdy may have been “frustrated” by Bannon’s evasiveness but he doesn’t seem to have been willing to do anything about it. Here’s what Democratic member Eric Swalwell said about the Republicans’ behavior:
“Over the past year, Republicans have repeated to anyone who will listen, ‘There’s no collusion.’ But a review of the Committee’s witness transcripts will show the Republicans were never looking for collusion. To protect President Trump, the Republicans brought witness after witness in for ‘voluntary interviews,’ and when witnesses refused to answer questions – because they weren’t under subpoena – the Republicans deemed it permissible. Furthermore, witnesses testified in a ‘take them at their word’ investigation, where not a single claim was verified by third-party subpoenas of communications records, bank records, travel logs, or other documents to corroborate or contradict a witness account.
But Wallace took Gowdy at his suggestion that his committee went as far as it could. And never mind that Gowdy had shown far more tenaciousness when he was investigating Benghazi – which Republicans have admitted was designed to damage Hillary Clinton.
Gowdy seemed to acknowledge that the House investigation was tainted by partisanship. Yet rather than take a stand, he kicked the can down the road to Mueller:
GOWDY: But executive branch investigations have more credibility, they have more tools, and that’s what I think my fellow citizens ought to be waiting for and have confidence in, not congressional investigations that are run by guys running for the Senate in California who've never met a camera that they didn’t fall in love with. That’s what you should not have confidence in.
Have confidence in the executive branch investigations. And if Mueller finds stuff, more power to him, but the best I can do is interview the people in front of me and ask all relevant questions and no one has said there was—no one has said that there was collusion.
So it’s somewhat heartening to hear Gowdy call out attacks on Mueller. But if Trump fires Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (which could cause more harm to the investigation than firing Mueller), there’s no reason to believe Gowdy will actually do anything. Also, when Wallace moved on to ask Gowdy if he thought Trump had done enough to stand up to Vladimir Putin, Gowdy replied, "I think he's done a hell of a lot better job than President Obama did." Later he said, "In my judgment, I hope [Trump] does more, but he did a hell of a lot more than his predecessor did.
Yet Gowdy, a former prosecutor, clearly thinks Trump is quacking like a guilty man. In an in-depth interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum last month, shortly after he announced his decision to retire from Congress, Gowdy talked about his disgust with partisan politics and his desire to put principles first. He doesn’t seem to have done that with the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation. We’ll have to wait and see what he does at his next opportunity.
Meanwhile watch Gowdy below and maybe you’ll see why I think he is a bit of a wild card in the GOP these days.
(Transcript excerpts via FoxNews.com with my copy edits)
I believe at least one state, i.e. NY, will continue Mueller’s investigation if he is fired. And if the Dems take back Congress, they will probably reinstate him.
Not that it won’t be just horrible if Trump fires him.
Oh well. It’s a nice thought.
When Demented Donnie fires Mueller, you can expect the same limp response from the GOPiggies.