CA­SUAL LIE BY TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CAN’T DE­RAIL FBI’S RUS­SIA PROBE

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

The de­ceit­ful­ness was breath­tak­ing. It served only to re­in­force the no­tion that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has some­thing to hide.

Even as a House com­mit­tee con­ducted a hear­ing Mon­day ex­plor­ing pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in last Novem­ber’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the White House tweeted out a ca­sual lie about what two wit­nesses had just said.

The de­ceit­ful­ness was breath­tak­ing. It served only to re­in­force the no­tion that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has some­thing to hide.

But then again, Mon­day was an all- around mis­er­able day for Trump, as well as for his worst en­ablers on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. They wanted so very much to steer the ques­tion­ing away from ques­tions about Rus­sia’s sin­is­ter in­volve­ment in the elec­tion and to­ward that easy whip­ping dog— the ques­tion of who leaked clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia.

To no avail. The story of the day re­mained two big nuggets of news that con­firmed the dire need for the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor:

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey con­firmed he is lead­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether any­body in the Trump cam­paign co­or­di­nated with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to help Trump win the elec­tion. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, stuck to their guns un­der skep­ti­cal ques­tion­ing, say­ing there is strong ev­i­dence the Rus­sians did just that. Comey did not rule out crim­i­nal charges.

Comey said he had “no in­for­ma­tion to sup­port” Trump’s tweets of two weeks ago that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had wire­tapped Trump, putting that silli­ness to rest. And Rogers knocked down yet an­other scur­rilous Trump tweet, say­ing he had “seen noth­ing” to in­di­cate the Bri­tish had wire­tapped Trump on Obama’s be­half. Coded in care­ful words, both men were say­ing this: Trump is full of beans.

You might think the Trump White House would do a lit­tle backpedal­ing at this point, maybe even con­sider an apol­ogy to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. But surely you know bet­ter by now. In­stead, Trump’s of­fi­cial PO­TUS ac­count sent out this tweet just be­fore noon: “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Rus­sia did not in­flu­ence elec­toral process.”

This was not at all true, as any­body who had fol­lowed the com­mit­tee hear­ing knew. But Rep. Jim Himes, D- Con­necti­cut, de­cided to do a lit­tle fact- check­ing in real time.

“I’ve got a tweet from the pres­i­dent an hour ago,” Himes said to Comey and Rogers, be­fore read­ing the tweet. “That’s not quite ac­cu­rate, that tweet?”

Comey and Rogers should have just said “No.” That would have been the plain truth. But they chose to say “no” more diplo­mat­i­cally.

“It cer­tainly was not our in­ten­tion to say that to­day, be­cause we do not have any in­for­ma­tion on that sub­ject,” Comey replied. “That’s not some­thing that was looked at.”

The first les­son to be taken from Mon­day’s hear­ing is that the FBI is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia— and that in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not go­ing away. The sec­ond les­son is that the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee can­not be trusted to con­ducted an hon­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion; the Repub­li­cans’ white­wash­ing ques­tions were an em­bar­rass­ment.

The need for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor is more clear than ever.

| ZACH GIB­SON/ GETTY IMAGES

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey

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