Democracy in Crisis: Republicans seek leaks, raise possibility of prosecuting press

Republicans collectively twisted themselves into knots Monday in order to ignore what was really happening in the hearings on Russian hacking of the election and tried to use it as an opportunity for another attack on the free press.

FBI Director James Comey confirmed during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. election on Monday that the FBI is investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

"The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," Comey said.

During the hearings, Comey repeated the claim that Putin wanted to "hurt our democracy, hurt her [Clinton], help him [Trump]."

Given Comey's own role in the election—all but certainly shifting the momentum to Trump when he announced that Clinton was, again, under investigation, only weeks before the election—it was hard not to take that sentence at least slightly autobiographically.

He also thoroughly discredited Trump's deceitful tweets claiming that he was "wiretapped" or otherwise surveilled by Barack Obama.

But the right was having none of that. This morning Fox & Friends tweeted: "If you missed yesterday's congressional hearing with FBI Dir. James Comey, you didn't miss much."

Remember, many of these are the same people who argued how bad it would be to have a president under FBI investigation—when it seemed like that president would be Clinton.

At least James Geraghty, of the National Review, wondered "why the FBI couldn't uncover anything, or even inform the public about the investigation, until after the election. Heck, not even until after the inauguration!"

Devin Nunes, who chaired the committee, complained that with the investigation Comey put a "big gray cloud over" the Trump administration. He didn't mention that he served on Trump's transition team.

Nunes and the rest of the Republican majority of the committee spent the entire day trying to make the hearing about the need to investigate the leaking of classified information to the press.

Among the most fervent of these was South Carolina's Trey Gowdy. Back when Gowdy probably looked even more like the little boy from the film "Deliverance," he had a paper route in Spartanburg, South Carolina. But some four or five decades later, the weird little guy has moved beyond throwing papers into the gutters and wants, instead, to throw reporters in the slammer.

"Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?" Gowdy asked.

"That's a harder question as to whether a reporter incurs criminal liability by publishing classified information and one probably beyond my ken," Comey replied.

Hint, y'all, there is an exception. It's called the First Amendment.

Gowdy, if you know him at all, is that weird little ultra-white guy with the weird white hair who ran the Benghazi hearings. He looks a little bit like Truman Capote, if Capote had a child with a salamander. GQ points out how bad Gowdy's hair is. But it is really his  face that is the problem—and whatever kind of consciousness lies behind it.

(I am not making fun of Gowdy's southernness. Unfortunately, we hail from the same fucking town. Or close. He represents the city, Greenville, where I was born and where, though I moved away, went to high school).

Gowdy was a Tea Partier who drove out far-right Bob Ingliss because he wanted to work with Democrats on climate change. Gowdy's Benghazi hearings were ultimately a long political campaign against Hillary Clinton—even if Trump said he "failed miserably."

In a press conference following the hearing, however, the press-hating Trump regime seemed to respond favorably to Gowdy's ideas that the Obama administration is behind the leaks and that both they and, potentially, the press should be prosecuted.

We should expect to see, despite Comey's claims, the White House and Republicans push for a rehash of Benghazi when it comes to the leaks, while ignoring the subjects of the leaks altogether.

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