Himes pans House Intel decision but isn’t surprised
WASHINGTON — A day after the shutdown of the House intelligence committee probe of Trump-Russia connections, Rep. Jim Himes said Republicans eventually will regret the decision.
“The House investigation sadly will be a footnote, mainly around how it was used by (Committee chairman Devin) Nunes (R-Calif.) to act in defense of the president,” Himes said in an interview.
“(Special counsel Robert) Mueller will keep doing his work; he’s not done,” Himes added. “And once we have the benefit of Mueller’s story, boy, the House committee will look like it gave this thing short shrift.”
Committee Republicans on Monday wrapped up the year-long probe with a finding of no cooperation between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, an affirmation of Trump’s oft-repeated “no collusion” mantra.
“We found no evidence of collusion,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who took the reins of the investigation after Nunes recused himself over ethics violations for which he was eventually cleared. “We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of fictional page-turner spy thriller.”
President Trump himself hailed the decision as outright vindication.
“We are very, very happy with that decision,” said Trump, speaking to reporters Tuesday before departing for California. “It was a powerful decision that left no doubt, so I want to thank the House intelligence committee.”
The Republican majority also concluded that while they agreed Russia tried to influence the 2016 election, they found no clear evidence they did so in order to boost the chances of a Trump victory. U.S. intelligence officials last year concluded the effort, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was aimed at helping Trump.
Committee Democrats including Himes vowed to keep the goals of the investigation alive. But without the powers of the majority to subpoena documents and witnesses, they are effectively confined to a bully pulpit.
If nothing else, Himes succeeded in making something of a name for himself. His appearances on CNN, MSNBC and other outlets to discuss the investigation occurred with greater and greater frequency as the year-long investigation wore on.
Himes often said the probe, which required hours of witness preparation and reviewing top-secret documents in a Sensitive Compartment Information Facility (acronym: SCIF), was like holding a second full-time job.
The Senate intelligence committee investigation continues forward, unmarred by the partisan bickering that undermined the House probe from the beginning.
Nunes was accused of being a conduit of information to the White House, so President Trump could use it to undermine the investigation.
Himes and other Democrats said time and again that Nunes and Republicans on the committee showed little appetite for the hard work of investigating elusive Trump-Russia connections, including issuing subpoenas, and they allowed witnesses to dodge questions with only vague reasons for doing so.
“There’s been unrelenting pressure from the White House to do just this (close the investigation),” said Himes. “I think Devin Nunes was looking for a reason to end it. I can’t tell you I’m shocked.”
Himes said he believes that in the final analysis, links between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to promote his candidacy will be uncovered.
In fact, he added, the connection may already be established, given Mueller’s indictments so far of people such as George Papadopoulus — who reportedly has told Mueller that Trump encouraged him to reach out to Russia.
“I’m not anticipating a revelation that Trump gave a briefcase full of money directly to Putin,” Himes said. “The Russians don’t operate that way.”
But even so, a fully concluded probe is likely to show that “Russians were all over the (Trump) campaign,” he said. “And instead of talking to the FBI, the campaign egged them on.”