Thursday afternoon, the Department of Justice plans to brief a bipartisan group of members of Congress about the use of confidential FBI sources in the Russia investigation during the course of the 2016 campaign. The meeting is fairly normal course, since the “Gang of Eight” Congress members conduct sensitive intelligence oversight.
But before DOJ officials conduct that briefing, they are going to do a separate Republicans-only briefing for House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), who is also a member of the Gang of Eight, and for House Government Reform Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who is not. Paul Ryan, who, as House speaker, is a member of the Gang of Eight, is going to skip the Gang of Eight briefing in order to make it to a GOP fundraiser in Houston, so he’ll attend the Gowdy-Nunes briefing instead.
Ryan to attend the noon DoJ mtg alongside Nunes/Gowdy. But will not attend the 2 pm DoJ meeting with other top Congressional ldrs & Intel chairs, ranking Dems from both House/Senate— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 24, 2018
All of which naturally raises the question of why:
- Why, if this topic is so important, is it not important enough for Ryan to reschedule his fundraiser?
- And why does Gowdy get a briefing that the Democratic ranking member on his committee isn’t invited to?
- And for that matter, why do Nunes and Gowdy need a briefing that no Democrats (or even Senate Republicans) are allowed to witness?
The suspicion, naturally, is that this isn’t about oversight at all. Giving information to members of Donald Trump’s own party opens the door to the kind of back-channeling to the president and his legal team that the special counsel process was supposed to prevent in the first place.