‘A SIMILAR KIND OF A THING’
Republicans Hate Fishing Expeditions Now. What Changed?
Spoiler: Obama isn’t president anymore.
Really, Democrats are going too far and are a “disgrace to our country,” as President Trump whines, for sending out 81 letters requesting information and documents from individuals and entities involved with him?
Not by the standard operating procedure of the Grand Old Party. During the Obama administration, Republicans cast rods and reels far and deep in their fishing expeditions. While Trump was trying to bring President Barack Obama down by a fake inquiry into his birth, Capitol Hill Republicans were demanding hundreds of thousands of documents in the hope of bringing Obama down by way of their own investigations, including but not limited to the FBI’s Fast and Furious campaign, the IRS’s Lois Lerner, and, of course, the mother of all investigations, Benghazi, which called for the production of thousands and thousands of documents and consumed two-and-a-half years.
To justify not cooperating with the House Judiciary or other committees, Trump cited Obama as he often does to project onto his foes his own sins, like threatening officials at his former schools to keep his poor grades secret. Trump wrongly said he would simply be following Obama’s example when his predecessor had been confronted with “a similar kind of a thing.” “Many requests were made, they didn't give a letter,” Trump said. That’s either the latest in his long litany of lies, or just more of the general cluelessness Trump brought with him to Washington, a blank slate he’s never sought to fill with knowledge.
Nothing Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler could do would equal the unrelenting pursuit of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the wake of the tragic death of four Americans, including an ambassador, in an attack on the American consulate in Libya. Chairman Trey Gowdy, since retired, investigated Obama and Clinton longer than Congress looked into Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, or 9/11. It started in the fall of 2012 and the $8 million inquiry only ended when the 114th Congress did and without a finding in its 322,000 word report that the administration was at fault. Clinton must hold some record for time in the barrel: 11 hours in one day. Never mind coming up empty-handed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy admitted the point of the exercise was simply to “to bring Hillary’s numbers down.”
While Benghazi was the most demanding investigation, it was hardly the only one. Take the 2012 inquiry into Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s unsuccessful weapons sting that allowed illegal gun sales in order to track sellers and purchasers believed to be connected to Mexican drug cartels. A border agent was murdered with one of the guns and a multi-year investigation began to work to pin the tragedy on Democrats. Two congressional committees issued subpoenas for thousands of documents and when Obama answered executive privilege over some of them, the committees recommended Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt of court. Obama eventually released more than 65,000 documents, testimony to how hard it is to withhold materials..
Remember Lois Lerner, the civil servant at the IRS who was pursued by numerous committees for using a shortcut to to wade through a flood of requests for tax exempt status from new political groups. Starting in 2013 through 2017, Republicans on Oversight tried to prove that conservative groups with Tea Party and other such terms in their names were singled out for scrutiny more often than liberal groups like Occupy Wall Street. Finally in 2015 the Justice Department decided that no criminal charges would be filed against anyone. Lois Lerner was long retired.
One of the interesting outgrowths of the Republican Benghazi dragnet was the GOP stumbling upon Clinton’s email server that led to an FBI inquiry that led to Comey hurting Clinton’s campaign with his press conference that helped Trump win the election. In turn, that led Trump to fire Comey which started the Mueller investigation which is now being joined by Congressional committees that feel to Trump like his own own Benghazi. Do we need any more proof that what goes around comes around?
With his attack on Nadler—whom Trump long ago demeaned as “Fat Jerry” when the then-local politician helped thwart the developer’s plan to build a 150-floor tower beside the West Side Highway in Manhattan—the president is begging to be outfoxed again. Not only is he now dealing with Thin Jerry, Trump is up against one of the most meticulous lawyers in Congress who attends to his homework with the devotion Trump gives to cable TV.
The day after Nadler’s request went out, the annoyed minority on House Oversight, not to be outdone, put out one of their own. You know them from the Cohen hearing last week as they stumbled over themselves protecting Trump: Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Mark Meadows (minus the former leader of their former boy band, Trey Gowdy) are reviving their effort to embarrass Obama for not investigating Russian interference enough while complaining Democrats are investigating it too much.
That’s unlikely to yield much of a catch. Republicans are casting their poles into a dry hole. Not so Democrats. Is there anyone who knows more about the Trump Tower meeting than Don Jr. since he convened it, or the other Russians present, or those on Air Force One when Dear Old Dad decided Donny was just discussing adoptions? How about Tom Barrack, the chair of the inauguration, where pay to play seems to be on the menu, along with the Rockettes, Lee Greenwood, and an America’s Got Talent runner-up?
Democrats should hang a sign Gone Fishin’ on the committee door. They are dredging in waters full of fat flounder. They’re going to need a bigger boat.