Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the powerful head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has spent the bulk of 2017 quietly leading the way in helping to further the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. He’s signed off on every investigative move the Democrats on his committee have asked him for, from subpoenas on down. Yet this week Grassley suddenly, aggressively and almost cartoonishly switched sides – suggesting that something scandalous is now going on with him.
This week Senator Grassley ceased giving any cooperation to the Democrats on his committee at all, and instead decided to launch his own sham investigation into a series of imaginary scandals centered around Russia and Hillary Clinton. Grassley is even calling for a special prosecutor to investigate these fake new scandals that he and his allies have made up out of thin air. People don’t go from quietly doing the right thing, to suddenly and humiliatingly doing the wrong thing, unless something forces them to. Grassley’s case is remarkable, because Trump and the GOP have zero leverage over him – raising the question of who does have leverage.
Grassley will be eighty-nine years old when his current term ends. He’s rather obviously not running for reelection. That means the Senate Republican leadership and the wealthiest GOP donors can’t control him by threatening to withhold future campaign funds, and Donald Trump can’t control him by threatening to mount a future primary challenge against him. Yet something or someone powerful has clearly prompted Grassley to go all-in for team Russia this week, after he’d spent all year on the other side. It’s enough to raise the question of whether the Kremlin is now blackmailing Grassley into doing its bidding.
Chuck Grassley has two very specific, and very strange, ties to the Kremlin. The first is his staffer Barbara Ledeen, who is a close friend of Michael Flynn, who in turn has documented close ties to the Kremlin (link). The second is that Grassley was seated next to a member of the Russian parliament at the National Prayer Breakfast in February (link). Do these sound like mere coincidences to you?
While there’s no specific evidence to support this, the mind imagines a scenario in which the Kremlin made sure its Parliament member sat with Grassley earlier this year in order to inform him that the Kremlin had blackmail material on him, and that it would be calling in a favor later – and that the favor was indeed called in this week via the strange Kremlin backchannel that Grassley has via Michael Flynn.
If those kinds of hijinks aren’t going on with Chuck Grassley and Russia behind the scenes, then it means he simply woke up one day this week and decided to scandalously throw his reputation and legacy away just to prop up Donald Trump a bit longer, after having spent the past several months quietly helping to take Trump down. Whatever the explanation, Grassley’s sudden flip-flop in the Trump Russia scandal is one of the most scandalous aspects of the scandal.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report