The Republican-produced classified memo released last week failed to clear President Trump in the Russia probe, politicians on both sides of the aisle said yesterday.
Trump’s Saturday tweet that the memo “totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe” even as “the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on” found no echo from some committee Republicans who appeared on the Sunday talk shows.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said, “I think this is a separate issue.”
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said, “No, it doesn’t end that.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said, “I don’t,” when asked whether he agreed with Trump.
Meanwhile, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), asked whether the memo affected the investigation, said, “No, not to me, it doesn’t, and I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it.”
But Trump’s take on the memo resonated with some Republicans outside the Beltway.
Marty Connors, Alabama’s former GOP chairman, said the memo damaged the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
“It’s one more shoe that fell with certainty,” Connors said. “There’s a lot of rabbit chasing among Mueller and his minions. All of which were Hillary or Obama contributors. I’m not sure that it’s ended their quest, but it certainly has put a big dent into it.”
But Phil Johnston, former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman, countered that Trump himself is the one with no credibility.
“Clearly it doesn’t exonerate him. It’s important that the investigation be completed and we’ll see what happens. … Trump always distorts and twists the truth, and this is just simply another example,” Johnston said.
Democrats could seek a vote on publicly releasing their rebuttal memo when the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee meets late this afternoon. The committee rejected that move last week, with one Republican member saying revisions were needed so the memo would not endanger national security. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) urged Trump to back the public release and said refusing to do so would show the president’s intent to undermine the Russia probe.
The committee’s top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, branded the GOP memo “a political hit job.” He questioned whether the chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had coordinated with the White House in drafting the document seized on by Trump to vent his grievances against the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies.
“The goal here is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president’s bidding,” Schiff said. “I think it’s very possible his staff worked with the White House.”