The decision by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to release the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee did more damage to Republicans on the committee than to President Trump. For starters, it debunked the position of Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the transcript had to be kept under wraps. Two Republican senators supported Feinstein’s decision. Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) said: “I think that’s a good idea. I’m glad that it was done.” He added, “I respect Chairman Grassley, and I don’t really understand how this happened, but I do think more transparency is important.” Likewise, Sen. John Kennedy (La.) said, “It doesn’t bother me to have the American people know the facts or at least the alleged facts.”
Grassley’s attempt to suppress the transcript comes in conjunction with his entirely inappropriate “referral” to the FBI to investigate Christopher Steele — someone the FBI had already met with, received information from and had an ongoing, respectful and cooperative relationship with. Simpson testified, “My understanding was that they [the FBI] believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.” Why is a referral back to the FBI from two senators who have had no direct contact with Steele remotely necessary or even helpful? All this raises a real question as to Grassley’s credibility. It’s rather obvious that he is acting not as a U.S. senator probing the Russia investigation but as Trump’s ally and enabler in his effort to discredit our own FBI.
The transcript also undercuts several more accusations, namely that Fusion GPS was a Democratic firm (it does work for whoever pays its fees) or that Steele had an ideological agenda (Simpson gave Steele very little direction, relying on his professionalism). The transcript also rebuts Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s claim that Steele was an “informant” and therefore did something potentially criminal (!) in “shopping” the dossier. That is flat-out wrong. Steele was not an FBI informant, but he did share his information with the FBI since he was so concerned about the possible blackmail of a U.S. presidential candidate. (The FBI didn’t seem to act on Steele’s information since it had leads of its own.) Moreover, there is nothing remotely illegal in allowing the information he gathered to be shared with the media (which largely did nothing with it during the campaign). In addition, the dossier wasn’t being shown to the press. (The Post’s Glenn Kessler cites a filing in a defamation claim: “The briefings involved the disclosure of limited intelligence regarding indications of Russian interference in the US election process and the possible co-ordination of members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials.”) Graham’s conduct remains mystifying.
All this raises an interesting question: Are these Republican senators accusing their colleague Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of behaving improperly when he personally delivered the dossier to the FBI? After all, if Steele is a scoundrel, the dossier was a partisan hit job and the FBI was in cahoots with Democrats (yet oddly it kept mum about this while injecting itself twice into the campaign with regard to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, the last time 11 days before the election), was McCain duped? Or in on the plot? Of course not, and McCain’s Republican colleagues surely know that McCain — just like Steele — was doing the proper and patriotic thing in providing important information to the FBI.
We therefore come back to where we started– the unseemly behavior of Republican senators trying to manufacture scandal and controversy in the desperate attempt to distract the public and soothe the irrational, unhinged president. They’ve become poster boys for the argument that the country needs divided government to properly deal with the Trump menace.
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