A few Republican lawmakers walked a thin line on Sunday, subtly but clearly disagreeing with President Trump’s contention that the memo that was declassified Friday and alleges wrongdoing by the FBI vindicates the commander in chief in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Four Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said on Sunday that the controversial memo doesn’t somehow invalidate the probe that is being carried out by Robert Mueller.
The statements were seen as an effort to distance themselves from a tweet President Donald Trump sent on Saturday in which he said that the memo “totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe.”
“I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said on CBS’ Face the Nation. Gowdy, who is one of the four authors of the memo that was released Friday, insists that the infamous “Steele dossier” was essential to approving the surveillance warrant for former Campaign adviser Carter Page. But that has nothing to do with the Mueller probe. “There is a Russia investigation without a dossier,” he said, noting that the dossier has “nothing to do” with the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
Rep. Will Hurd of Texas agreed with his colleague that there was no reason for Mueller to end his probe. “I want to stress, Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead so that we can have trust in knowing what actually the Russians did or did not do,” Hurd said on ABC’s This Week. Host George Stephanopoulos asked Hurd point blank whether he agreed with president’s view on his own vindication from the memo and the lawmaker made it clear he disagreed. “I don’t,” Hurd responded.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup from Ohio also said that the memo is a “separate issue” from the Russia probe. “I don’t think it really has anything to do with that,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. Rep. Chris Stewart agreed that the two are “very separate” issues. “I think it would be a mistake for anyone to suggest the special counsel should not continue his work,” Stewart told Fox News Sunday. “This memo, frankly, has nothing at all to do with the special counsel.”
Less surprisingly, Democrats also came out strong against the contention that the memo released Friday somehow vindicates Trump. “No, of course it does not,” Durbin said on CNN. “We ought to be trying to focus on an investigation on a professional level by Bob Mueller, and not trying to find a way to obstruct justice or to absolve this president from any responsibility he has.”
In a column for Esquire, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat in the Intelligence Committee also said the memo doesn’t vindicate Trump in any way. “The memo’s release provided none of the vindication the President sought or would claim, but it was hugely consequential nonetheless, in how it undermined the system of checks and balances designed to insulate the FBI from White House meddling established in the wake of Watergate,” Schiff wrote.