Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing opened with the revelation that the FBI’s inquiry into Russian electoral interference on Donald Trump’s behalf includes an investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.
But later, citing no reasons whatsoever, House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) suggested to FBI Director James Comey that his bureau should also look into possible collusion between Russian officials and the candidate they wanted to lose — Hillary Clinton.
“You announced this morning that there will be an investigation into Trump associates’ possible — and President Trump and anyone around the campaign and any association with the Russian government,” Nunes began. “If this committee — or anyone else for that matter, someone from the public — comes with information to you about the Hillary Clinton campaign or their associates or someone from the Clinton Foundation, will you add that to your investigation? They have ties to Russian intelligence services, Russian agents — would that be something of interest to you?”
Comey — who is clearly never been shy about investigating Hillary Clinton — wouldn’t rule it out.
“People bring us information about what they think is improper and unlawful activity of any kind and we will evaluate it,” he said. “Not just in this context. Folks send us stuff all the time — they should keep doing that.”
But Nunes — who was an official member of the Trump transition team and has likened the mounting questions around Trump’s Russia connections to “McCarthyism revisited” — wasn’t satisfied.
“Do you think it’s possible that the Russians would not be trying to infiltrate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, get information on Hillary Clinton, and try to get people around that campaign or the Clinton Foundation?” Nunes asked Comey. “I just hope that if information surfaces about the other campaigns — not even just Hillary Clinton but any other campaigns — that you would take that serious also, if Russians were trying to infiltrate those campaigns around them.”
Nunes’ line of questioning mirrors what Trump himself was tweeting earlier Monday.
What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians? Also, is it true that the DNC would not let the FBI in to look?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
The House Intelligence chair has taken cues directly from Trump before. Last month, at the White House’s behest, Nunes spoke to reporters and tried to knock down stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia.
Nunes’ line of questioning wasn’t the only time Republicans appeared to be willfully obtuse during Monday’s hearing. At another point, Comey had to explain to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) that a logical implication of Russian officials wanting Clinton to lose the presidential election is that they were working on behalf of Trump.
Excruciating: Comey tries to explain to a Republican that if Putin wanted Clinton to lose, he wanted Trump to win pic.twitter.com/QtqzKi6dR6
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) March 20, 2017
Nunes’ suggestion that the FBI should investigate Clinton’s possible ties with Russia is as outlandish on its face as Trump’s assertion that President Obama wiretapped him before the election. More than two weeks after Trump first made that claim, Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers put it to bed once and for all during Monday’s hearing, with Comey saying that “[w]ith respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.”