Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is slated to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. After Lewandowski announces that he really only had a very minor role in the campaign, and can’t recall ever meeting Donald Trump, Republicans on the committee intend to follow up by turning off the lights.
Rep. Mike Conaway and other Intelligence Committee Republicans are signaling they’re ready to end the investigative phase of their Russia probe and move on to writing the final report, while Democrats say there are still scores of witnesses the committee needs to speak with. Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the committee’s Russia investigation, hasn’t ruled out calling additional witnesses, but he’s hinted that no big names remain on his list.
The committee has had all the important interviews. Like Steve Bannon, who defied the committee and smirked at congressmen while refusing to answer any questions. And Hope Hicks, who refused to answer any questions after saying she may have told a few “white lies.” And Donald Trump Jr., who claimed executive privilege without ever having held any official position. In fact, it seems almost impossible to think of anyone who the committee hasn’t had in … to say nothing.
Nope, they’ve definitely talked to everyone.
Democrats have pointed to two new events this week as reason to keep calling witnesses: Sam Nunberg’s media blitz and reports that businessman George Nader attended secret meetings during the Trump transition — and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Except maybe those guys. And a few dozen others.
Of course, Republicans will claim that the committee has allowed a large number of people to come in and not-talk with them. Which they made simpler by scheduling multiple hearings at the same time, with many of them conducted off site so no actual congressman could be present to ask questions. Things work smoother that way.
And the committee might consider bringing back some of the people who refused to talk, and making them talk by holding them in contempt. After all, in theory every one of these people is claiming a privilege that the House professes not to respect in the first place, and which Trump has expanded in a way that not one court would support—assuming that someone made a court case of it. But with Devin Nunes still carefully keeping his hand on the subpoena cookie jar, every Trump staffer knows that they could come into committee and recite nursery rhymes without fear of even a token contempt decree. Even Steven Bannon’s sneering appearance and vocal disrespect for the committee wasn’t enough to generate the first step toward getting at the truth.
But for Republicans on the committee, learning nothing is exactly what they wanted to learn.
Conaway saw little need to talk to Nunberg, who was fired from the campaign in 2015.
“I think we’ve explored that to death,” Conway said of the Trump Tower meeting.
Of course they have. If they were to ask more questions of more people, there’s always the chance that someone would actually answer. They need to stop now if they’re going to issue that “Nothing to see here, move along” report they wrote ten months ago.
It’s probably for the best that Republicans stop pretending to have hearings when they don’t want to hear. In any case, Mueller’s team seems a lot less concerned about hurting people’s feelings, and a lot less bored with the idea of making progress.