The name the U.S Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has given to its inquiry into the Kremlin’s operation to undermine the 2016 presidential election is the investigation into “Russian Intelligence Activities.”
Curious, then, that Republican senators on the committee seemed little interested in Russian intelligence activities in today’s hearings, instead using almost all of their time attacking American intelligence community activities. GOP senator after GOP senator took their turn at the mic and failed to ask the witnesses, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of the CIA James Clapper, about Russia.
No questions asking the witnesses to clarity Michael Flynn’s undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. No inquiries into White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon’s role at Breitbart and a data analytics agency that were both conduits, allegedly, for a Russian ‘bot’ attack that spread fake news on social media. Not a single GOP senator asked Ms. Yates to explain what she told the Trump administration about Michael Flynn, and when. Only Democratic Senators seemed at all interested in getting to the bottom of the committee’s titular focus of “Russian Intelligence activities.”
Instead, Republicans on the committee wanted to know what the witnesses thought about leaks coming from the U.S. intelligence community that appeared in the press, as well as any ‘unmasking’ or ‘incidental surveillance’ that may have occurred on unsuspecting Trump associates illegally.
Senator Lindsey Graham (D-SC) began by asking Ms. Yates or Mr. Clapper if they’d seen any evidence that proved “conclusively” that the President or anyone on his campaign collaborated with Russia to steal the election. Sen. Graham knows full well that both witnesses have been out of government for months and would not have access to any new information the FBI may have uncovered.
Before taking a bizarre turn off-topic and attacking former acting Attorney General Yates for her refusal to implement the President’s Muslim travel ban – that act that ostensibly got her fired – Cornyn opined, “…I think it’s really important that, in order to determine who actually requested the unmasking, and in order to establish whether appropriate procedures were undertaken under both legislative oversight and judicial oversight, that we determine what that paper trail is and follow it.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) wasn’t concerned with Russia at all, either, opening his cross examination by asking Mr. Clapper directly, “what would you do, if you discovered that an employee of yours had forwarded hundreds or even thousands of e-mails to a non-government individual, their spouse, on a non-government computer?”
It’s clear Republicans are dead-set on covering-up the President’s ties to Russia by running interference in congress and shifting the conversation to the leaks whenever and where ever possible. Just in case that doesn’t work, they intend to attack Sally Yates’ credibility and paint her as a partisan Obama ally out to undermine Trump.
It won’t work.
The Washington Post published the entire transcript of today’s hearing, which you can read here.