‘The aim of this request isn’t to discredit anyone — it’s to get answers under oath…’
(David Lightman and Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau) Republicans have launched a counteroffensive to discredit former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s reports that Justice Department officials discussed removing President Donald Trump from office.
The Republican National Committee fired off an email that labeled McCabe a “Liar. Leaker. Loser.”
Trump told reporters Wednesday that McCabe “looks to me like a poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover” and that he was “very proud to say that we caught him.” The president retweeted a Geraldo Rivera tweet that accused McCabe of “malignant arrogance.”
And the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, is seeking a hearing featuring McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and possibly a subpoena.
“The aim of this request isn’t to discredit anyone — it’s to get answers under oath to questions that concern millions of Americans,” said Jessica Andrews, spokeswoman for Collins.
“The American people have a right to know whether the unelected FBI and DOJ leadership substituted their judgment for the judgment of the American people regarding newly elected President Donald Trump,” Collins wrote Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat.
While Nadler has not responded, there has been some Democratic support for hearings. Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and Senate Judiciary Committee member, told CNN hearings should be held.
“I think we ought to air it because frankly, sunshine is the best disinfectant and we shouldn’t be leaving the American people with a disconcerting sense that there’s something improper going on here,” Coons said. “The FBI deserves an opportunity to defend itself, to explain the foundation and the legitimacy of this ongoing investigation.”
At the center of the controversy is McCabe, who told NBC’s “Today” that he had met with the top eight congressional leaders in 2017 to inform them the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. None of the members of the so-called Gang of 8, which included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and then-Speaker Paul Ryan, had objected, McCabe said.
“Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the fact,” said McCabe, who said the FBI was worried that Trump “in our view had gone to extreme measures to potentially impact, negatively impact, possibly turn off our investigation of Russian meddling into the election and Russian coordination with his campaign.”
David Popp, a McConnell spokesman, said: “We do not comment on or discuss the leader’s work as it relates to the Gang of 8 and other classified issues.”
Since taking control of the House last month, Democrats have been moving quickly to launch investigations into allegations of misbehavior by the Trump 2016 and the Trump administration. Collins has insisted that Democrats are creating turmoil when they should be waiting to see what investigators find.
Collins offered a preview of the GOP strategy earlier this month at one of the most closely watched Judiciary Committee hearings so far this year.
He chided Democrats for how they conducted the hearing featuring then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker about discussions Whitaker might have had with Trump about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“I’m thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that’s what this is becoming. It’s becoming a show,” Collins said as the hearing began.
He was such a fierce Whitaker defender that at one point Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat considering a presidential bid, suggested, “If you want to sit down there with his lawyers, you can go sit down there, but you’re not his lawyer.”
Collins shot back: “And neither are you, Mr. Swalwell, and if you have any questions that are actually part of this instead of running for president down there, we could get this done.”
Away from the cameras and the committee podium, though, Collins is not the sort of stereotypical partisan brawler that the public so often sees in Washington.
He’s a military chaplain and a prankster who likes to play jokes on his staff. First elected to Congress in 2012, Collins has a history of getting legislation passed with Democratic support, even though his northeast Georgia district is one of the country’s most conservative. Trump won the district with 77 percent.
He led the effort to push the First Step Act, a major criminal justice reform that attracted strong Democratic support and was passed last year. Collins worked for five years pushing legislation updating laws regarding music licensing. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat who’s now chairman of the party’s House caucus, was a co-sponsor. Congress passed the legislation last year.
But as Democrats push ahead with their own investigations, Collins is not pleased.
In an interview with McClatchy, Collins posed this question: “What are you going to do if you based your angst in life over the last two years on something that doesn’t come out? It’ll be an interesting day on the Hill.”
©2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.