THE MORNING PLUM:
House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.
In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam B. Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.
But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been made public yet — that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.
“There’s no way for them to reach the conclusions that they want to start with unless they ignore or mischaracterize what we’ve been able to learn,” Schiff said, adding that the minority report would also “set out the investigative steps that were never taken to answer further questions about the Russians and the Trump campaign’s conduct.”
Schiff had previously said the committee has discovered “ample evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Led by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), however, committee Republicans will soon issue a report they claim will show there was no collusion and that Russia didn’t interfere to help Trump — putting House Republicans at odds with U.S. intelligence services and possibly with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who recently indicted 13 Russian nationals for an alleged plot to swing the election to Trump.
Schiff told me the minority report would set forth new facts not yet made public that will contradict the House GOP conclusions on both those fronts. He said he expected the GOP’s report to be “a far longer version of the Nunes memorandum that will omit key material facts and misrepresent others in order to tell the president’s political narrative.”
“We will be presenting evidence of collusion, some of which is in the public domain and apparent to everyone willing to see it, and other facts that have not yet come to public light,” Schiff told me. “I fully expect that the majority will omit many of these facts in its report and mischaracterize others.”
Schiff has said that committee Republicans have failed to sufficiently pressure key Trump associates — such as Donald Trump Jr., Hope Hicks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen K. Bannon — to answer questions raised by the committee’s investigation. Schiff added to me that the minority report would also detail what further investigative steps “need to be done” to discover the truth — steps that Republicans have declined to take.
The Nunes memo fiasco, redux?
Schiff also raised an interesting possibility: that the House Democrats’ minority report will actually be more in line with the bipartisan conclusions reached by the Senate Intelligence Committee (whose probe appears to be somewhat fairer) than the House GOP report will be.
“I suspect that we’ll be on a similar page to the analysis by the Senate,” Schiff told me. “House Republicans are likely to be out on a political lark.” If this comes to pass, then even some Republicans in the Senate will have reached conclusions that House Republicans declined to reach, though we don’t know yet what this might look like.
The House GOP decision to end the probe is being widely portrayed in the press (as always) as the result of partisan fighting. Some news accounts have repeated with a straight face the idea that House Republicans are ending the investigation out of frustration with Democratic efforts to use the probe for political purposes. But there is a known and verifiable fact set here about House GOP conduct that renders the reality inescapably clear: One party wants to get to the full truth, and the other simply does not.
The Nunes memo fiasco — in which Nunes’s bad-faith efforts to discredit legitimate inquiry into the Trump/Russia scandal crashed and burned — demonstrated for all to see the true nature of the Republican effort to weaponize and pervert the oversight process to protect the president. Hopefully the Democrats’ minority report will illustrate this even more comprehensively, with a level of clarity that will punch through the usual both-sides media coverage.
* TILLERSON IS OUT: Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and is replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo:
The president — who has long clashed will Tillerson, who he believes is “too establishment” in his thinking — felt it was important to make the change now, as he prepares for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as upcoming trade negotiations, three White House officials said.
But as many pointed out on Twitter, Tillerson was also the only major Trump administration figure to directly call out Russia over the poisoning of an ex-spy.
* TILLERSON DOESN’T KNOW WHY HE WAS FIRED: The State Department put out a statement that makes this remarkable claim:
The Secretary did not speak to the president and he is unaware of the reason.
So Trump fired Tillerson without giving him a heads-up or telling him why. One suspects that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing from him.
* REPORT: STONE KNEW OF EMAILS: The Post reports that a source claims informal Trump adviser Roger Stone told him he’d learned from Julian Assange that WikiLeaks had emails that would create problems for Democrats before that was publicly known:
Stone … said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta … The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents which WikiLeaks released in late July and October.
Stone is denying his knowledge of the emails, but if there is evidence that he did know, Mueller probably has it by now.
* ANOTHER POLL FINDS TRUMP APPROVAL IN TOILET: A new CBS News poll finds that Trump’s approval/disapproval rating remains mired at 38-57:
On particular issues, President Trump’s approval rating on North Korea is higher, at 42 percent, than those he gets on gun policy (37 percent) and his handling of the Russia investigations (31 percent). The economy (46 percent) continues to be the president’s relatively strongest area.
Trump has seen a small uptick in approval on North Korea, but his overall approval rating has barely budged.
* GOP WON’T ACT TO BLOCK TRUMP TARIFFS: Politico reports that despite their widespread opposition to Trump’s tariffs, Republican senators have little inclination to act on legislation to block them:
Even though several senators are introducing proposals to stop Trump’s [tariffs], key Republicans are in no mood for a high-profile fight with Trump. … Republicans … are hoping Trump simply grants enough exemptions to U.S. allies to make the new metal tariffs palatable, even though a large swath of GOP senators have said Trump’s move will kill jobs and amount to a tax increase.
Naturally, some of them are blaming Democrats for this, claiming that Democrats wouldn’t join them in a veto override, but that is not at all clear.
* SYCOPHANTS THRIVE IN TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro recently said his job is to “provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right.” Paul Krugman unloads:
Not only is Navarro proudly declaring that he’s a propagandist, not a policy analyst — that his role is solely to confirm Trump’s prejudices — he’s also engaging in an utterly un-American level of sycophancy. Since when has it become acceptable to declare that Dear Leader is infallible? … Trump … expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand … everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration.
This is likely to get worse, which means Trump will be increasingly isolated and sealed off from reality when serious crises hit.
* REPUBLICANS BRACE FOR AN UPSET: Today voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District will choose between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone, and CNN sums up well what might happen:
Republicans have spent more than $10 million to prevent a defeat in the district, which Trump won in 2016 by 20 percentage points. If Lamb wins, or even comes close, it will be a signal that Republicans are in danger even in districts where Trump was won handily in 2016, and raise Democratic hopes of capturing the House and Senate this fall. The race would also serve as a model for Democrats running in deep-red districts across the country.
If Lamb does win, one interesting tell will be whether there are stepped-up GOP retirements in other red districts.
* AND SACCONE CLAIMS LAMB SUPPORTERS ‘HATE GOD’: Saccone ends on a high note by making this claim about Lamb’s supporters:
“Many of them have a hatred for our country,” the Republican claimed. “I’ll tell you some more. My wife and I saw it again today. They have a hatred for God.”
Let’s hope that enough God-haters go out and vote to ensure that we never hear from this guy again.