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Imagine that members of an frontline congressional committee, sworn to seek out the truth and punish wrongdoers in connection with the greatest assault on American democracy since the Soviets stole atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago, instead decline to interview important witnesses and follow important leads, ignore salient facts and then issue a report that contradicts the long-verified conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community and is at odds with the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Well, imagine no more, because in a The Japanese Didn't Really Bomb Pearl Harbor moment, that's what the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee has done in drafting a report stating that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
As shockingly irresponsible -- if not downright treasonous -- as that conclusion is, it comes as no surprise.
Committee chairman Devin Nunes, the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of Capitol Hill, was in the bag for Trump before he got caught out last year concocting phony intelligence to embarrass former President Obama with White House help, then ostensibly recused himself from the committee's Russia probe but like an obedient poodle continued to feed committee Republicans a stream of kibble from Trump's handlers.
Much of the news media, which too often still gives Trump and his congressional sycophancy undeserving breaks, will portray the bad-faith Republican draft report announced on Monday and a forthcoming Democratic minority report outlining the ample evidence that the Kremlin was helping Trump and the Trump campaign was helping the Kremlin, as partisan infighting.
Cracks were appearing in the Republicans' facade on Tuesday as some committee members acknowledged that there was evidence that Russia tried to damage Clinton's candidacy and ranking committee Democrat Adam Schiff released a "status update" listing witnesses, firms and documents that the Republicans had declined to subpoena or compel to testify and the relevance to the investigation of each.
But it's really very simple: Overall, Democrats want the truth while Republicans are running from it.
WHY ARE DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYERS SO BAD? Beyond the serial bumblings and ethical breeches shot through the Stormy Daniels saga because of Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, we have the Keystone Kops "defending" the president on Russia scandal-related matters.
Their most recent Through the Looking Glass brainstorm to try to keep Trump from becoming totally immersed in hot water is a deal they are contemplating offering Mueller: In return for granting the special counsel an interview with Trump, which is well within his purview to begin with, they will require him to wrap up his investigation within 60 days, which of course would allow witnesses with potentially incriminating information to run out the clock without giving anything up.
Not only is there no chance that Mueller will bite, there are reports that he has decided to interview Trump after he has concluded his overall investigation.
These legal intrigues come as Ty Cobb, nominally Trump's lead criminal defense lawyer, is making noises about running for the nearest exit after distinguishing himself by assuring Trump that Mueller would wrap up his work by Thanksgiving . . . of 2017. Then by the end of the year and then by January.
As dumb as Trump can be, he's not that dumb, and so Cobb's schtick has worn thin, prompting a Hail Mary pass to lawyer Emmet Flood as fears grow that Trump could face impeachment proceedings next year if Democrats retake the House in the November midterm elections.
Flood, who recently met with Trump in the Oval Office, is the answer to a trivia question: Who represented Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment trial?
To be fair, Cobb and fellow criminal defense lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekelow have not had a pot to piss in because they known Trump is guilty as sin even if his malignant narcissism enables him to see things otherwise. As a result, and beyond contemplating making an offer to Mueller he can and will refuse, they have had to resort to arcane legal interpretations.
As in, for something to be a crime, there has to be a statute to be violated, but because there is not a statute refers to criminal collusion, there is no crime of collusion. Or, the president cannot be charged with obstructing justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer and has every right to express his view of any case.
IS IT MERELY A COINCIDENCE that only hours after Rex Tillerson broke with Trump over the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, the president -- ever the coward when it comes to delivering bad news in person -- fired the secretary of state by Twitter?
Hard to tell since every White House upheaval -- and Tillerson is the umpteenth top administration official to get the ax -- is surrounded by high drama and low lies. But Tillerson, in echoing British PM Theresa May, did say he had "full confidence" that Russia was the culprit in the strongest condemnation of Russia ever issued by the Trump administration.
Under "normal" circumstances, the U.S. would immediately offer its closest ally technical assistance, the president would call his counterpart in a show of solidarity and reporters would be invited into the president's inner sanctum where he would wag his finger in the direction of the Kremlin.
But more than a week after Skripal, his daughter and a police officer were exposed to Novichok No. 5, a deadly nerve agent with Russia written all over it, and upwards of 500 people were exposed to neurological risk, none of that has happened beyond a brief call to May. Instead, we have the most astounding example yet of the Russia-loving Trump defaulting on his responsibilities as the White House rebuffs questions about whether the U.S. even supports the U.K. finding of fact about Kremlin responsibility.
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