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Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:23 PM

The Peter Strzok fiasco wrecks the GOP's bogus conspiracy theory

By Paul Waldman
July 12 at 1:27 PM

There are times when you watch what’s happening in American politics and come to believe you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole, to a place where everything is upside down. Today was one of those times, as FBI agent Peter Strzok testified in a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, the latest chapter in the saga of Republican attempts to prove that any and all investigation into Russia’s attempt to manipulate the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s eager cooperation with that effort is a “witch hunt.”

As you know, Strzok was one of the key agents involved in investigating Russian interference and, in 2017, he was assigned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into the Russia scandal. However, when Justice Department officials saw texts he exchanged with Lisa Page — an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair — in which they disparaged Donald Trump, Mueller removed him from the investigation. To Republicans, those text messages are the smoking gun that proves Trump is utterly blameless and the entire investigation into him was tainted from the start and must be shut down. But there’s one very important fact that we have to keep in mind, one that Strzok made in his prepared statement today:

In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.

This is the core of what makes the Republican effort to discredit the Russia investigation so utterly insane. They want us to believe there was an FBI conspiracy to prevent Trump from being elected president, and what did that conspiracy do? First, it mounted a cautious investigation of what nearly everyone now acknowledges was a comprehensive effort by Russia to help Trump get elected, an effort that people on the Trump campaign and even in Trump’s own family tried to cooperate with. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public, lest news of it affect the outcome of the investigation in any way.


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