What was Goodlatte trying to prove?

Despite the best efforts of Congressman Goodlatte and other House Republican leaders to suggest otherwise, the release of former FBI director James Comey’s memos of his conversations with President Trump does not come close to exonerating the president of obstructing justice or other misdeeds.

House Judiciary Committee chair Goodlatte, along with House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes and House Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy had pressed for the release of the memos in an effort to discredit Comey and support Trump. The memos, however, do neither. According to a joint statement from the three congressmen:

Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated. The memos also made clear the ‘cloud’ President Trump wanted lifted was not the Russian interference in the 2016 election cloud, rather it was the salacious, unsubstantiated allegations related to personal conduct leveled in the dossier.

The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened. While former Director Comey went to great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts, he never once mentioned the most relevant fact of all, which was whether he felt obstructed in his investigation.

But as Greg Sargent writes at The Washington Post:

Comey’s failure to spell out explicitly that he “felt obstructed” has no bearing on the question of whether Trump actually did obstruct justice. “Comey’s feelings about this are not relevant,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me this morning. “What matters, politically at least as much as legally, is Trump’s intent in doing what he did.”

For another, the obstruction question also turns on what happened after all of this, which is that Trump fired Comey. These memos, if anything, confirm more credibly than before what Trump’s frame of mind was in leading up to that firing — that is, the level of acquiescence that Trump wanted but did not get from Comey before firing him. These memos go further than before in supplying Trump’s likely motive for the firing.

Importantly, the Republican response shows not a scintilla of concern about the Trump conduct that was actually documented by Comey — zero concern about Trump’s demand for his FBI director’s loyalty or his effort to influence the probe. We don’t know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will determine about Trump’s intent or about whether he obstructed justice. But what we do know is that these senior Republicans are not even slightly troubled by the misconduct that Comey has already documented, quite credibly.

And according to a Post editorial:

For his part, the president has said that Mr. Comey is a liar but also that Mr. Comey’s memos exonerate him. The claim is as credible as it is logical.

So the question arises: What were Goodlatte, Nunes and Gowdy trying to prove? Whatever it was, it appears they failed embarrassingly.

Goodlatte unwilling to protect Mueller investigation

While doing his best to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign and administration, Congressman Goodlatte acknowledged in February that it should proceed.

But like most other Congressional Republicans, Goodlatte has shown no interest in passing legislation to protect Mueller from being fired by a clearly angry President Trump.

So we shouldn’t expect a response to a letter from three Democratic members of the Goodlatte-chaired House Judiciary Committee.

In a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) obtained by POLITICO, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the panel, joined Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), in calling for urgent action on a pair of bills to protect Mueller against a unilateral ouster.

“[W]e have grown increasingly concerned that the President may either order the firing of Special Counsel Mueller, or take other action to disrupt his and other pending investigations, such as firing Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions or Deputy Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein,” the Democrats wrote.

The bills, filed months ago, have drawn widespread support among Democrats but have gotten no traction among House Republicans, who have argued that Trump is unlikely to fire Mueller and therefore no action is necessary.

Of course Trump is “unlikely” to fire Mueller until he decides otherwise. Why wouldn’t Goodlatte want to pass a law to protect the special counsel– just in case? And what will he do if Trump concludes it’s time for Mueller to go?

Goodlatte’s vote helped plunge the US deeper into debt

Another reminder of the utter hypocrisy that is Congressman Goodlatte’s support for a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution.

CNN reports:

Uncle Sam needs to borrow a ton of money this week — in the middle of a fight with its biggest creditor.

The United States plans to sell about $294 billion of debt, according to the Treasury Department. That’s the highest for a week since the record set during the 2008 financial crisis.

Federal revenue is declining because of President Trump’s tax cuts, so the government needs to borrow more to make ends meet. At the same time, Washington’s borrowing costs have climbed rapidly in recent months.

Goodlatte, of course, joined most most Congressional Republicans in voting for the budget-busting tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefit the very wealthy and corporations.

Goodlatte’s shift on immigration

The Washington Post reports on Bob Goodlatte’s transformation from an attorney in Roanoke helping immigrants to a congressman in Washington leading the efforts to restrict immigration.

In Roanoke’s growing number of taquerias and Vietnamese nail salons, Goodlatte’s transformation — from the guy immigrants used to call to the one leading an effort to keep them out — is a cause for painful puzzlement.

Goodlatte backs McCabe firing

Predictably Congressman Goodlatte fully supports the Department of Justice’s vindictive firing (with President Trump’s encouragement) of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just hours before was scheduled to retire.

I applaud Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking action and firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe prior to his scheduled retirement.

Mr. McCabe’s actions have tarnished the reputation of the FBI, America’s premier law enforcement agency. In his capacity as Deputy Director, Mr. McCabe reportedly leaked internal information to the media and subsequently misled investigators about his actions. This is simply unacceptable and warrants dismissal.

For someone who is so painstaking (to the point of obstruction) when it comes to chairing the House Judiciary Committee, it is remarkable how quickly Goodlatte expressed his approval of McCabe’s firing without actually seeing any details of the charges against him.

As former FBI agent Josh Campbell writes in The Washington Post:

With all eyes on the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and its forthcoming report on the conduct of FBI officials during the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, Justice leadership chose to act on a subset of the IG’s findings and fire McCabe without providing underlying details.

 …..
The attorney general appears to have done a disservice to the American people by announcing the conclusion of a high-profile investigation without providing the public with a full accounting of the facts. In today’s polarized climate, the absence of truth makes it easy for members of the public to retreat to their political corners, form narratives and draw conclusions that can be nearly impossible to alter, once baked in.

As any FBI special agent will tell you, investigations are complicated. It is possible to hold two seemingly competing but accurate thoughts in one’s head at the same time, namely, that McCabe could have been not fully candid with investigators and that Justice leadership could have politicized his firing. If he committed wrongdoing, McCabe should be held accountable, but this incident should not define his service to the nation.

But there is a bigger principle at stake here than one FBI agent’s career. The public must not be manipulated by the selective release and withholding of investigative information by the Justice Department.

Nor– willingly or otherwise– should Congressman Goodlatte.

Goodlatte again tries to deflect

You can tell that Congressman Goodlatte is getting nervous about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign and administration. His efforts to divert attention from that probe are intensifying.

According to Goodlatte’s website, he and Congressman Trey Gowdy are calling for the appointment of a special counsel “to investigate potential bias and potential conflicts of interest and decisions made or not made by the Department of Justice in 2016 and 2017.”

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Chairmen Goodlatte and Gowdy request the appointment of a Special Counsel to review evidence of bias by any employee or agent of the DOJ, FBI, or other agencies; the decisions to charge or not charge and whether those decisions were made consistent with the applicable facts, the applicable law, and traditional investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures; and whether the FISA process employed in the fall of 2016 and continuing into 2017 was lawful and pursuant to all relevant policies and procedures.

As previously noted at Goodlatte Watch, the congressman’s effort to discredit the integrity of certain FBI agents has been thoroughly discredited. Meanwhile he serenely ignores President Trump’s serial efforts to undermine the Mueller investigation.