Opinion writer

Politico reports:

Rep. Tom Rooney, a top Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, is ripping President Donald Trump’s unsupported claim that the FBI inserted a spy inside his campaign.

“What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?” Rooney said in an interview on Wednesday. “You know what I’m saying? It’s like, ‘Let’s create this thing to tweet about knowing that it’s not true.’ … Maybe it’s just to create more chaos but it doesn’t really help the case.”

Rooney seems to be conceding that the president is acting in bad faith, trying to deliberately create chaos. Rooney’s accusation boils down to: Trump is lying to obstruct an ongoing investigation into his conduct.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), never one to take on Trump directly, nevertheless acknowledged on Wednesday that there was no evidence of a planted spy in the Trump campaign, as Trump has repeatedly claimed. This was a repeat of previous discredited Trump accusations designed to undermine the Russia investigation (e.g. wiretapping Trump headquarters, misleading the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court).

Someone should ask Ryan a few follow-up questions, since he, after all, has been allowing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and company to help float one crackpot accusation after another (e.g. the Nunes memo propounding on a false accusation about the warrant application to conduct surveillance on Carter Page; the non-scandal about unmasking):

Why do you allow Nunes to remain on the House Intelligence Committee? Is he carrying out his duties responsibly?

Why didn’t you address the complaints of Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who determined that House Republicans leaked Warner’s text messages to Washington lobbyist Adam Waldman as part of an effort to reach dossier author Christopher Steele? Wasn’t this a shocking breach of trust and abuse of the intelligence oversight process? Why didn’t you remove Nunes or report him to the ethics committee?

Are you concerned that the president repeats myths, asserts them as facts and uses them as a basis for reckless accusations against the intelligence community? If a president intentionally engaged in such activity, would that be an abuse of his powers?

Have you asked Trump why he engages in this conspiracy-mongering? Have you objected in any fashion to this tactic? Have you counseled him to stop this conduct?

The first article of impeachment for President Richard Nixon listed among his offenses “making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States” about the Watergate break-in to claim that no wrongdoing had been found (shades of “No collusion!”). It also included “endeavouring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favoured treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.” If Trump engaged in conduct of either type, should he be impeached?

Under what circumstances would you ever call upon the House Judiciary Committee to consider Trump’s possible impeachment?

Why didn’t the House Intelligence Committee look for collusion, which was supposed to be the focus of its investigation? If the committee members did not do their job, should a select committee or independent commission now be impaneled?

The House has not conducted hearings on receipt of foreign emoluments, conflicts of interest or self-enrichment in the executive branch, nor has it demanded a full accounting from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for his alleged misuse of taxpayer funds, his government position and his office staff. Why not? Is the public entitled to conclude that you have no interest in the House’s exercise of its oversight responsibilities?

When Republicans such as Ryan, Rooney and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) have figured out that the president repeatedly spreads falsehoods to throw law enforcement on defense, detract from the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s credibility and thereby undermine the Russia investigation, it is long past time to recognize that he is abusing his office — and that the GOP House majority is not fulfilling its constitutional obligations. We will not be able to do anything about the former unless we get rid of the latter.