During an appearance on CNN on Wednesday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) cited “stuff circulating on the internet” as support for the notion that the Democratic National Committee hack was “an insider job.”
Farenthold’s comment came in the context of a discussion of former CIA Director John Brennan’s bombshell testimony before Congress on Tuesday. Brennan said he has direct knowledge of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials that left him “concerned.” Those contacts led him to conclude the FBI’s ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign is “well founded.”
Asked about Brennan’s testimony, Farenthold — member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — suggested Congress has more important things to investigate than the Trump campaign’s shady dealings with Russia.
“My fear is our constant focusing on the Russians is deflecting away from some things that we need to be investigating,” Farenthold said. “There’s still some question as to whether the intrusion at the DNC server was an insider job or whether it was the Russians.”
CNN’s Josh Berman cut Farenthold off and asked him, “The insider job — what are you referring to here? Because I hope it’s not the information that Fox News refused to [stop] reporting.”
“Well again, there’s stuff circulating on the internet,” Farenthold replied, before going on to cite debunked talking points meant to suggest, against the consensus conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, that Russian hackers weren’t responsible for the DNC hack.
Farenthold also repeated a tactic deployed by the White House on Tuesday afternoon: twisting Brennan’s words to make a case that there is “no evidence” of Trump-Russia collusion.
“He was unable to point to any specific evidence, and I think that’s what we’re going to continue to see there,” Farenthold said.
But as Brennan said during Tuesday’s hearing, the reason he didn’t detail “specific evidence” is because such evidence is classified and the hearing was public.
Farenthold’s pushing of a debunked conspiracy theory to distract from Brennan’s testimony is reminiscent of how Trump supporters tried to create a baseless surveillance scandal to distract from Trump’s reckless, evidence-free accusation that President Obama wiretapped him. It comes while Fox News host Sean Hannity desperately promulgates a related DNC conspiracy theory in an effort undercut the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the election on behalf of Trump.
But the Texas Republican’s echoing of misleading White House talking points isn’t surprising. Days after a tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault was released publicly in October, Farenthold said during an MSNBC appearance that he wouldn’t necessary stop supporting Trump even if Trump was recorded saying, “I really like to rape women.”
Farenthold said “I like to rape women” could be a form of “locker room talk” depending on the “context.” He was sued by his former communications director for sexual harassment in 2014.