Amen to the very conservative Republican Representative from South Carolina for stating, “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
After months of wandering, lost and leaderless, through marbled Capitol passageways that (believe-it-or-not) used to be called “corridors of power,” the aimless Republican herd seemed stunned Tuesday night to hear what sounded like the call of a vocal leader, at last.
It came from the far-right ranks of the thinning, no-longer Grand Old Party herd. It originated at the GOP’s favorite watering hole, the Fox News Channel. And in truth, it wasn’t really the loud, leader-like trumpeting we’ve long associated with bull elephants. Indeed, it was more like the sound of plain old straight talk.
But it was at least a strong sound — and it conveyed a leader-like message. And that’s what stunned the congressional Republicans. Because what they heard Tuesday night was far more than the muffled mumbles and theme-less nothingness they’d been hearing ever since a mysterious plague of leadership laryngitis hit their leaders long ago.
After President Donald Trump had spent more than a week on a tweet tirade in which he accused the FBI of having placed a spy in his 2016 campaign, the president ordered Justice Department officials to give leading congressional Republicans a classified briefing last week on what the FBI had done. For days after that, none of the GOP leaders strongly defended the FBI’s actions.
But then the very conservative Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who attended the classified Justice Department briefing, was interviewed on Fox.
“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” said Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is retiring after this year.
What Gowdy said was the sort of boilerplate Republican bromide that would have been considered a knee-jerk reflexive response at any other time in the last 50 years. Yet beginning on the day this 45th president was inaugurated — (remember his insistence that his was the largest crowd ever?) — the congressional GOP’s leadership responsibility has fallen victim to Seinfeldian shrinkage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan couldn’t even summon the fortitude to defend the FBI after the classified briefing. The best McConnell could do was to sort of speak in code, saying he’d heard “nothing particularly surprising.”
When it comes to fighting Democrats and fighting for Republicans, Gowdy is known to be as tough a Republican as has been invented. You remember him as the GOP’s chief pile-driver in the attacking House probe of Hillary Clinton’s handling of the tragedy at Benghazi. Who knew Gowdy also had a talent for subtlety?
“It looks to me like the FBI was doing what President Trump said … President Trump himself in the (fired FBI Director James) Comey memos said, ‘If anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it.’ Sounds to me like that was exactly what the FBI did.”
Trump, meanwhile, has become more than just borderline panicky as he escalates his tweet attacks as the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller intensifies.
Just minutes after Gowdy’s interview aired on Fox, Trump appeared at a rally in Nashville and went aggressively on the attack. Without presenting a shred of proof, Trump accused Democrats of supporting the brutal Latin American immigrant gang known as MS-13. And, referring to the FBI probe and insisting he was the victim of FBI spying, Trump said: “How do you like the fact that they had people infiltrating our campaign?”
In a Capitol where the GOP’s best-known elites have shirked their leadership responsibilities, it’s good to see that at least the ever-battling Trey Gowdy hasn’t been Trumped.