Column: The Republican Cover-Up for Trump Just Got Much Worse

For The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Donald Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: Prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.

House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam Schiff of California — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.

But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been public yet— that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.

“There’s no way for them to reach the conclusions that they want to start with unless they ignore or mischaracterize what we’ve been able to learn,” Schiff said, adding that the minority report would also “set out the investigative steps that were never taken to answer further questions about the Russians and the Trump campaign’s conduct.”

Schiff had previously said the committee has discovered “ample evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Led by chairman Devin Nunes, however, committee Republicans will soon issue a report they claim will show that there was no collusion and that Russia didn’t interfere to help Trump — putting House Republicans at odds with U.S. intelligence services and possibly with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who recently indicted 13 Russian nationals for a plot to swing the election to Trump.

Schiff told me the minority report would set forth new facts not yet made public that will contradict the House GOP conclusions on both those fronts. He said he expected the GOP’s report to be “a far longer version of the Nunes memorandum, that will omit key material facts and misrepresent others in order to tell the president’s political narrative.”

“We will be presenting evidence of collusion, some of which is in the public domain and apparent to everyone willing to see it, and other facts that have not yet come to public light,” Schiff told me. “I fully expect that the majority will omit many of these facts in its report and mischaracterize others.”

Schiff has said committee Republicans have failed to sufficiently pressure key Trump associates — such as Donald Trump Jr., Hope Hicks, Jeff Sessions and Stephen Bannon — to answer questions raised by the committee’s investigation. Schiff added to me that the minority report would also detail what further investigative steps “need to be done” to discover the truth — steps that Republicans have declined to take.

Schiff also raised an interesting possibility: That the House Democrats’ minority report will actually be more in line with the bipartisan conclusions reached by the Senate Intelligence Committee (whose probe appears to be somewhat fairer) than the House GOP report will be.

“I suspect that we’ll be on a similar page to the analysis by the Senate,” Schiff told me. “House Republicans are likely to be out on a political lark.” If this comes to pass, then even some Republicans in the Senate will have reached conclusions that House Republicans declined to reach, though we don’t know yet what this might look like.

The House GOP decision to end the probe is being widely portrayed in the press (as always) as the result of partisan fighting. Some news accounts have repeated with a straight face the idea that House Republicans are ending the investigation out of frustration with Democratic efforts to use the probe for political purposes. But there is a known and verifiable fact set here about House GOP conduct that renders the reality inescapably clear: One party wants to get to the full truth, and the other simply does not.

The Nunes memo fiasco demonstrated for all to see the true nature of the Republican effort to weaponize and pervert the oversight process to protect the president. Hopefully the Democrats’ minority report will illustrate this even more comprehensively, with a level of clarity that will punch through the usual both-sides media coverage.

Greg Sargent is a Washington Post columnist. Twitter: @theplumlinegs.