For months now, all available evidence has pointed to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Trump-Russia being the real deal, and the House Intelligence Committee’s parallel investigation into Trump-Russia being a mess. We’ve seen strong bipartisan cooperation on the Senate side, and ongoing Devin Nunes-fueled hijinks on the House side. But there’s a report this evening that the Senate Intel investigation has serious problems – and I’m not sure I buy it.
Tonight’s report from the Daily Beast says that that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal has no full time staffers, just a series of part time staffers who aren’t up to the job. The report also asserts that the committee hasn’t gotten around to interviewing any of the people who are suspected of having been conspirators in the scandal. But this just doesn’t sound right.
To be clear, I’m not knocking the reporting being done here by Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, whom I respect. He says he got this information by speaking with three people who are familiar with the committee, and I’m certain he has. But I’m left to wonder about the motivation of the three people who are making these claims, because the claims sound like an oddly negative way of spinning things aren’t necessarily negatives.
For instance, how many hours per week are these part time staffers putting in on the investigation? If for instance the seven of them are each working half-time, then that’s the equivalent of three and a half full-time staffers, making it irrelevant that none of them are full-timers. Perhaps it’s the staffers themselves who feel overworked and under appreciated, and they’ve seeded this story to try to cajole the committee into hiring some extra people? That’s just supposition on my part, but there’s too much else here that doesn’t make sense.
These committee investigations tend to start by interviewing the background witnesses, then move on to the non-suspect witnesses, and only once they’ve armed themselves with all of that information do they then tackle the suspects. We’ve already seen that on the House side, where they started with James Comey for background, and are now moving on to witnesses like Sally Yates; they’ll save people like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort for last. The Senate committee will likely follow the same pattern. In such case it’s irrelevant that they haven’t yet interviewed any of the five suspects named in the Daily Beast report (which you can read here), because that’s the finish line, not the starting point. But here’s the real reason I don’t buy any of this.
If the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Donald Trump and Russia were in tatters, it would be because the Republican majority on the committee wants it that way. And if that were the case, the powerful Democrats on the committee such as Mark Warner and Dianne Feinstein would be publicly griping about their dissatisfaction with their own committee’s investigation. You always know who isn’t getting their way on these things, because they’re the ones complaining to the media – just as the Democrats on the House committee were publicly complaining about Nunes until he stepped aside. And yet we haven’t heard a peep of dissatisfaction from any of the Democrats on the Senate committee.
The Senate is back in session tomorrow, after a long recess. If fundamental problems truly have developed within the Senate Intel Committee’s investigation, I think we’ll soon start hearing about it from the Democrats on that committee. But as it stands, these sudden claims about the committee sound a lot like they’re coming from disgruntled staffers with an axe to grind. We’ll see. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report