Given that prying a substantive comment on the Russia investigation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is like trying to coax a turtle into doing a peppy dance number we should presume McConnell intended to send a strong message here.
“What I think about the Mueller investigation is, they ought to wrap it up. It’s gone on seemingly forever and I don’t know how much more they think they can find out,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with “Behind Closed Doors,” a Washington Examiner podcast.
For the record, the premise of his statement is bunk. The investigation into whether U.S. persons assisted Russian government efforts to tamper with a United States presidential election has not been lengthy–by a stretch. It has gone on for only a small fraction of the time that the Watergate investigation did, a considerably more cut-rate affair, and remains several times shorter than the Republican investigations into something something Benghazi. Or, as investigation expert Marcy Wheeler put it, “Mueller has been special counsel for less time than Scalia’s [Supreme Court] seat was held open until Gorsuch was confirmed.” So Mitch here is, as is typical for him, being dishonest for the sake of partisan spin.
Of more note is that McConnell is piping up with the suggestion that the Russian election tampering investigation be closed at all. The investigation is, from all outside indications, proceeding at a brisk pace. Indictments, both of Russian and American citizens, are already plentiful. As McConnell offered his comment, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was waiting to learn whether his bail would be revoked after Manafort was caught by investigators in multiple attempts of witness tampering. Also in the news were reports that Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, had been told he could expect to himself be indicted–reports which were quickly followed by leaks from Cohen’s friends suggesting that the odds of him cooperating with the investigation in exchange for leniency were high and getting higher (with ample and unsubtle hints that Trump himself could stand to lose the most if Cohen did cooperate, if the put-upon lawyer was not convinced to keep his mouth shut with the promise of an investigation-sabotaging pardon or other aid).
In other words, the Republican Senate leader was giving voice to a demand that the Russia investigation close up shop real soon now even as prosecutors once again tightened the noose around the closest members of Trump’s campaign circle. That has been the standard reaction from party hacks like Devin Nunes after each major indictment from Mueller’s team or related investigations, but having McConnell himself say it in response to the latest revelations of Trump campaign impropriety can be counted as an escalation.
That’s not to say it’s unexpected. Sen. Mitch McConnell is, more than any other lawmaker or government official, directly responsible for blocking fuller public warnings of Russian hacking while that hacking was taking place. He’s been uniformly uninterested in probes into just how successful Russian efforts were or what assistance they were given from collaborators in America; even as U.S. officials warn that Russian government efforts are very likely to ramp up again during the upcoming midterm elections, McConnell is mumbling disapproval of the Mueller effort to investigate those very schemes. And the special counsel has made it clear, in court filings, that his investigation includes figures who are suspected of conducting ongoing Russian efforts even now.
A fundamental discovery we’ve learned from the Russia investigation so far is that there was, provably, an effort by the Trump campaign to collaborate with Russian government-sent figures seeking to aid that campaign. We know it as admitted fact; Donald Trump Jr. was forced to release the emails setting up that meeting, a meeting which Mueller investigators appear to have (rightly) taken an especially keen interest in. McConnell knows this. Every other member of his party knows it. What we don’t know, publicly, is the extent to which the campaign followed up on those contacts, and on other repeated attempts by both sides to establish other channels of communication. That is among the key questions Robert Mueller’s team has been tasked with answering.
So when McConnell muses that, of the Russia investigation, “I don’t know how much more they think they can find out,” it sounds very much like a request to wrap up the investigation quickly without finding those things out. Mitch, like most of the rest of the Republican Party, continues to press for closing the investigation even as that investigation continues to make new revelations weekly as to the scope of wrongdoing by Trump’s apparently habitually criminal inner circle. After every new leak or new indictment, Republican calls to end the Russian investigation intensify. Why?
At this point, we all know the answer to that.
It may once have been difficult to believe that a top national lawmaker would be willing to intentionally weaken national security or stonewall investigations into corruption or even treason for the sake of preserving party power, but in the case of this party, and this lawmaker, we have largely come to expect it. This is what the party has devolved into; this is what the efforts from Bush administration hacks and from House Republican “investigators” to weaponize the rule of law as partisan weapon have led to, and what the odious louts of Fox News and other “conservative” outlets have drilled into the movement’s party-over-coutry psyche for decades.
This is who Mitch McConnell is, and the history books will mention him and Trump side-by-side, as collaborators, whether he likes it or not.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.