It worked once, right? James Comey gave a useless answer to the wrong question about the “Trump surveillance” issue – and the Democrats had a soundbite to wave around, one that sounded like a definitive slam-dunk of Trump’s allegation that he had been under surveillance.
The key to getting that soundbite was holding an open hearing – one nobody could really talk in – and, as I pointed out at the time, asking the wrong guy the wrong question.
Two days later, however, someone who knew the answer to the right question had provided classified information to Congressman Devin Nunes .
And based on what he had seen, Nunes made public statements to correct the false impression that Trump had come under no surveillance by intelligence agencies during the Obama administration. Nunes is determined to dig further.
Now the Democrats want to generate another soundbite by getting big-name witnesses to give non-answers in an open hearing: a hearing in which they can’t discuss everything they know, and can’t be pressed to explain any unresponsive comments they make.
So the Democrats are gaming the hearings. The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are refusing to sign a letter requesting James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers to appear for closed-door testimony.
Committee chairman Devin Nunes and other Republicans want to get Comey and Rogers in a closed-door setting in which the two agency chiefs can make disclosures they can’t discuss in an open hearing.
“The purpose of the closed session is to start getting answers to many of the questions that Director Comey could not answer at the public hearing because of the ongoing investigation. To me, if Democrats want answers to their questions, this is one way to get them. So I’m surprised they’re not agreeing to this right away,” [Rep. Peter King said].
The Democrats are accusing the GOP of canceling altogether a previously scheduled open hearing at which James Clapper – former DNI – and Sally Yates, the acting attorney general for a brief period in January, were to testify. Nunes indeed canceled that hearing, but says he will be happy to reschedule it when the committee has been fortified with more information from a closed hearing.
Democrats are playing the “canceled hearing” angle to the hilt:
Democrats blasted the decision at the time. “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract,” said ranking member Adam Schiff , D-Calif.
But clearly, what Nunes wants is to avoid being set up, by an open hearing in which he can’t require the witnesses to address the right questions. Instead of feeling around in the dark with two high-profile witnesses, he wants the committee to know enough to probe intelligently, even in the open. That starts with greater disclosure from Comey and Rogers, which can only come in a closed hearing.
It’s just possible Nunes wants to actually learn something about the Russia-and-the-election issue, as well as whatever can be gotten from Rogers and Comey about surveillance of Trump.
The Democrats, on the other hand, clearly just want to get more definitive-seeming soundbites for the news cycle from Clapper and Yates. If they really wanted to get to the bottom of either the Russia issue or the Trump-surveillance issue, they’d agree with the value of getting Rogers and Comey behind closed doors first, and then questioning Clapper and Yates in public.
Obviously, that’s not what they want. Nunes is on an uphill fight to expose actual truth from this whole process, rather than writing a political script in advance and arranging everything else to bolster it. The media, the Democratic leadership, and even some Republicans are doing everything they can to depict him as a miscreant and a buffoon. But I urge you not to buy what they’re selling.
In this most remarkable of times, we can be increasingly sure that whoever is taking the most flak from the MSM, the Democrats, and the old-consensus Republicans is the guy or gal closest to the truth.