The Slatest

Republicans: The Real Issue Here Is That Everyone Is Picking on Poor Michael Flynn

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy at Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The big headline from Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing is that FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an ongoing investigation into potential connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence. This is a bad headline for the Republicans on the committee, because Donald Trump is a Republican. So they are earnestly trying to pretend that the hearing is actually about the inappropriateness of leaking classified information to the press, specifically the information that was leaked to the Washington Post about what U.S. surveillance had uncovered about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s pre-inauguration contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Here’s South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on the issue:

The way I view it, Director Comey, the American people have an agreement with the government. We are going to give you the tools to keep us safe, even if it infringes on privacy some. We are going to give you the tools, and government in return promises to safeguard the privacy of U.S. citizens. And when that deal is broken, it jeopardizes American trust in these surveillance programs.

Committee chairman and California Rep. Devin Nunes, Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, and New York Rep. Peter King have also asked Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers grandstanding-type questions about how bad and dangerous leaks are. Even POTUS is getting in on the act from the White House pillow fort he uses for petulant tweeting:

What none of these gentlemen are mentioning, of course, is that the surveillance leaks revealed that Flynn had lied when he denied having discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak on the day that those sanctions were announced by the Obama administration. Such a conversation, having taken place while Flynn was still technically a private citizen, might have violated U.S. law, which could be why he’d lied about it in the first place, and he resigned. Since resigning, he’s become involved in a second foreign influence scandal, this one covering paid lobbying work he did on behalf of the Turkish government through a front company while he was advising Trump on matters of national security.

So, yeah, Trey Gowdy and the other Republicans aren’t asking about that stuff.