Soon-to-be House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) staked out a new position on congressional investigations in an interview with Fox News on Monday. Unlike his years leading the charge on Benghazi, McCarthy now thinks that Democrats should drop their subpoena power when it comes to President Donald Trump.
“It looks like what [Democrats will] focus on is just more investigations. I think American is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda,” McCarthy said. “I think there are other problems out there that we really should be focused upon. And my belief is, let’s see where we can work together — let’s move America forward.”
“We have investigated this for a long period of time,” he added. “Both sides have come up with nothing in the process. I think we should put the American people first.”
While it’s true that House Republicans’ investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election didn’t turn up any evidence of collusion, there are indications that was primarily due to the partisan motivations of the lawmakers who ran the investigation.
Devin Nunes, the outgoing House Intelligence Committee chair, worked hand-in-hand with the White House to politicize intelligence reports, and was even caught on tape admitting that his overriding motivation is to protect Trump.
During a Fox News interview in March, Nunes attempted to justify abruptly ending his committee’s investigation using a talking point that had been debunked eight months earlier — that the Trump Tower meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions.
McCarthy’s misleading comments are an early sign of how he plans to lead his conference through the coming onslaught of Democratic investigations. The man who once wanted to endlessly investigate Hillary Clinton doesn’t feel the same when it’s his own party in the White House.
Politically motivated investigations for me, not for thee
During a moment of accidental candor in 2015, McCarthy admitted during an interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that House Republicans’ seemingly unending investigation of Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack was about hurting her poll numbers.
Here’s what McCarthy said:
What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?
But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.
Remember when Kevin McCarthy took credit for Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers dropping and accidentally admitted that the Benghazi investigations were part of the House GOP's "strategy to fight and win," rather than a nonpartisan effort to find the truth? pic.twitter.com/WjvcsJeob4— Brenna Simon (@BrennaSimonSays) November 14, 2018
While McCarthy had no problem with a transparently politicized investigation of a Democrat with presidential aspirations three years ago, he’s now urging the incoming House majority to lay off the president because investigating him would be divisive.
In private, McCarthy himself has alluded to one of the reasons an investigation of Trump is warranted. During a secretly recorded June 2016 conversation with GOP leaders, McCarthy infamously said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.”
House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) indicated on Twitter he was not persuaded by the case McCarthy made urging his caucus to lay off the president.
Thanks bye. We’ll take it from here. https://t.co/RJQevb1rtI— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) December 10, 2018
Defending Trump by downplaying and deflecting
Ironically, the first part of McCarthy’s interview on Fox News on Monday was about former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday. House Republicans forced Comey to testify as part of a last-ditch effort to gin up a baseless conspiracy theory about how the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump campaign is rooted in anti-Trump bias among the bureau’s senior leadership.
At another point during the interview, McCarthy tried to downplay Trump’s false statements denying that his campaign was in contact with Russians.
“If you’re in an international city, people interact with a lot of individuals,” McCarthy said — his implication being that meeting with Kremlin-connected Russians offering dirt on your political opponents while your business is secretly pursuing real estate opportunities in Moscow really isn’t that out of the norm.
Later, McCarthy dismissed federal prosecutors directly implicating Trump in crimes committed by his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen.
“What it shows is that if the president hires an attorney to solve a problem, he expects them to do it in legal manner,” McCarthy said. “If [incoming Intelligence Committee chair Adam] Schiff is taking this beyond to go forward and say there is an impeachable offense because of a campaign finance problem, there’s a lot of members of Congress who are doing to have to leave.”
In fact, no currently serving members of Congress have been accused of funneling illegal payments to women to hush up extramarital affairs.