In the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans pushed one of the Catch-22s at the heart of their arguments against the impeachment of Donald Trump, American president: the inquiry is only legitimate if it's bipartisan, but Republicans will never back the inquiry, so it will never be bipartisan. The Democratic counsels gave money to Democratic candidates, so the evidence they found is null and void. The Republicans didn't get to call their witnesses from the Trump Conspiracy Extended Universe, so the process was unfair. We didn't hear from Fact Witnesses that the White House has blocked from testifying—another Catch-22—so all this evidence is hearsay. Republican Counsel Steve Castor also suggested Democrats didn't do enough to force those blocked witnesses to testify. That's a new one, and so was Castor's declaration that Joe Biden is not a leading 2020 candidate, so why would Trump target him for investigation?
Across town, though, we were treated to the release of the Justice Department Inspector General's report on the origins of the Russia investigation. Trump and his allies have been banking on this one for some time, eagerly awaiting the damning conclusion that the Deep State set out to destroy him and trampled the law to do so. This is not what Inspector General Michael Horowitz found. While the report highlighted some systemic issues with how the government applies for warrants to surveil people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—issues that civil liberties organizations like the ACLU have drawn attention to for some time—it found the Justice Department and the FBI had adequate reason to open probes into George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort. In other words, they had reason to believe a crime had been committed or there was a threat to national security, and proceeded accordingly.
You may notice that this flies in the face of what Trump and his allies on Fox News and beyond have been saying for years. So here's what the president had to say on the report's release.
Trump on the IG report: "It is incredible. Far worse than I ever would've thought possible. It's an embarrassment to our country, it's dishonest. It's everything that a lot of people thought it would be, except far worse." pic.twitter.com/YHDixxv61r— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 9, 2019
Just say anything. That has always been the motto of Trump's movement, which has seized on the siloed information environment in this country to design entire alternate realities for his supporters to inhabit. Dissenting voices need not apply. Negative information is Fake, positive information is Real. Is it good for me, or is it bad for me? The truth is not relevant. It doesn't exist. The truth is whatever you can get enough people to believe. Fox News will repeat your line, and no one will read the actual report.
The Attorney General of the United States seems to agree: he sent out a press release that, echoing his infamous Summary-Not-Summary of the Mueller Report, completely contradicted the IG report's actual findings. William Barr is working on a separate inquiry with U.S. Attorney John Durham, and Durham released a letter declaring that "we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions," though he did not offer much detail beyond that. Durham did say he has access to more information than Horowitz did, which The New York Times suggests refers to his "trips to meet with foreign intelligence officials overseas and to his examination of any role the C.I.A. played." We are really testing the limits of our system now, as the nation's most powerful law-enforcement figures travel the world to dig up something, anything to support the president's narrative.
Meanwhile, we haven't even gotten to the most outrageous finding of the day, which involved Christopher Steele, the former head of the Russia desk at MI6. After leaving that post, Steele was hired in private practice to dig into Trump's connections to Russia. The report found Steele was actually in touch with—and on apparently good terms with—a member of Donald Trump's family for years before he started investigating the patriarch, and even took a meeting at Trump Tower in 2008. (Steele used this as proof he was actually "favorably predisposed" towards the Trumps before he began his work.) ABC News found that the family member in question was Ivanka Trump, who met Steele at a dinner party in 2007. For some reason, none of the Trumps mentioned this before.
Oh, and one more thing: the report found evidence that plenty of FBI agents were solidly pro-Trump—or at least anti-Hillary. Yet the IG has demonstrated zero interest in looking into that side of things, even when there is public evidence then-Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani was plugged into the Bureau's New York office during the campaign. There's also the small detail that the FBI's most critical intervention in the 2016 campaign was James Comey's announcement that The Email Probe was back open less than two weeks before Election Day. It's impossible to say definitively, but there's a convincing argument to be made that this was a definitive factor in the outcome. And yet, for years on end, we've been subjected to Trumpian yelling that the FBI was out to get him during the election, probably because the president has correctly assessed that if you say something loudly over and over again, the public—including the mainstream press—will eventually fold and accept it. Or at least report that you said it. Every time. Until it becomes True.
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