What to expect from tomorrow’s House Intel Committee hearings on Donald Trump and Russia

If you believe Donald Trump is guilty of having conspired with Russia to rig the election, then tomorrow is the day you’ve been waiting for, though not really, and I’ll explain why in a minute. It’s important to understand that there are two concurrent Trump-Russia investigations in Congress, one by the House Intelligence Committee and the other by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Tomorrow, the House Intel Committee begins its hearings – and they’ll be a mixed bag.

Over the past month it’s become clear that the Senate Intel Committee wants the Trump-Russia scandal fully exposed. That motivation is easy enough to understand: there are six Democrats, one Independent (Angus King), and at least one Republican (Susan Collins) on the committee who want a serious investigation. Those eight votes add up to a majority. So the committee has been aggressive behind the scenes; it’s done everything from formally targeting Trump adviser Roger Stone to poring over binders of classified CIA evidence. Because the Senate Intel Committee is digging deeper and taking things more seriously, its hearings won’t get rolling for perhaps another couple weeks. Despite all the eagerness by the Resistance to swiftly take Trump down, these kinds of governmental processes take time when done right.

In the mean time we get the seemingly rushed House Intel Committee hearings tomorrow – and the math there is different. Ranking member Adam Schiff and his fellow Democrats on the committee have made clear that they intend to push the Trump-Russia investigation as far as they can. But based on every indication there are no Republicans on the House committee who want a particularly serious investigation, and they hold the majority. Committee chair Devin Nunes in particular is a Trump apologist, though he’s in over his head and he keeps slipping up and admitting things he shouldn’t.

So when the House Intel hearings begin tomorrow, the Republicans and Democrats on the committee will take turns getting to ask each witness questions. The good news, if you want the Trump-Russia scandal exposed, is that people like former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and current FBI Director James Comey are on the witness list for tomorrow. Yates will get to testify how she warned Trump that Michael Flynn was dirty on Russia, and that Trump responded by firing her instead of him.

Comey is deeply distrusted by the anti-Trump side, but by all accounts he’s been looking for a public forum in which he can push back against Trump’s false claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. It appears Trump made an enemy out of Comey when he floated the claim, because in so doing he was also falsely accusing Comey’s FBI of having gone along with the imaginary illegal wiretap.

But while the Democrats will give these anti-Trump witnesses every opportunity to publicly expose Donald Trump tomorrow, the Republicans on the committee – particularly Nunes – are likely to use their own allotted time to try to muddy the waters and make Trump look vaguely innocent. That will be frustrating, but probably irrelevant; the House Intel Committee investigation into Trump-Russia was probably never going to go anywhere anyway. Instead tomorrow’s testimony will provide new clues, hints and revelations which will help inform the media and the more aggressive Senate Intel Committee where to start digging next. Contribute to Palmer Report

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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report