It’s 2023 and the GOP Is Still Obsessed With Hillary Clinton’s Emails
When the members of the House’s new subcommittee on the “weaponization of government” took their seats for the first time on Thursday afternoon, chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) promised its first hearing would expose the “political nature of the Justice Department.”
To make this point, Republican senators who testified before the committee offered falsehoods about Hillary Clinton and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) began his testimony with a vow that it would sound like something “out of some fiction spy thriller.” Fiction indeed: Grassley falsely claimed Democrats had conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 election — something for which former President Donald Trump had famously been investigated. “We all know now that it was the Democratic National Committee, along with the Clinton campaign, who colluded with the Russians,” Grassley said.
As evidence, Grassley declared Clinton and the Democrats had “used a former Russian spy” — a flawed implication that Christopher Steele, a former British spy, had worked for Russia, which he did not. (Grassley’s written testimony correctly refers to Steele as British and the reason for the spoken difference is unclear.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), meanwhile, opened by stating that then-FBI director James Comey had done “extensive editing” of his July 2016 memo regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State in order to “downplay the seriousness of her actions.” The oft-cited right-wing claim is based on early drafts of Comey’s memo that had been made public, but a source familiar with the FBI’s decision said those early memos had been an exercise in “playing with the language throughout” and never intended to bring charges against her, CNN reported at the time.
Then Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic House member-turned-Fox News contributor, used her time to complain about Clinton criticizing her during Gabbard’s 2020 presidential run. The former Secretary of State “accused me — a sitting member of Congress, a soldier, a candidate running for president — of being ‘groomed’ by the Russians,” Gabbard said. “Her baseless smear worked as intended,” she continued, citing voters who approached her repeating Clinton’s claim. (Gabbard had filed, and later dropped, a defamation lawsuit against Clinton for her comments.)
The gripes were reheated leftovers from Trump’s long-running vendetta against Clinton and the Justice Department. Trump won the 2016 presidential election and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not find conclusive evidence of collusion (though a Republican-led Senate committee concluded in 2020 that Russia used 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to boost the former president). But doing so, Republicans reason, serves a key political purpose. “All those things need to be investigated,” Jordan had said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last February. Doing so would “help frame up the 2024 race when I hope and I think President Trump is going to run — and we need to make sure he wins.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), whom Democrats invited as their witness, recited Jordan’s quote in his testimony on Thursday afternoon. “I urge every member of the subcommittee to go and watch that interview,” Raskin added. “A serious bipartisan committee focused on the weaponization of government would zero in quickly on the Trump administration itself.”
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