[UPDATE 3/21: Provides YouTube link for gavel-to-gavel video.]
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) on Monday, March 20, is holding an open hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Key witnesses include FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.
Ironically, it was Comey who initially was accused of interfering in the election. Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters blamed him for causing her to lose to Donald Trump through last-minute statements about the investigation of her private email server. Nearly all of the immediate post-election analysis focused on Comey’s role in throwing undecided votes to Trump. Additional factors cited at the time included sexism of “white working class” males who supported Trump, and the Bernie Bros, the mythical white hipster misogynists who refused to support Clinton after she beat their champion, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the Democratic primary. The Russians were barely a blip on the radar screen.
It was another month before Clinton turned her wrath on Putin, whom she accused of meddling in the election due to a personal beef with her. Still another month went by, and both Comey and Putin were knocked out of first place by former President Barack Obama, whom Clinton accused of sinking her campaign by sitting on intelligence about Russian hacking until it was too late.
Russian “hacking of the election” by that time had taken on a life of its own and was accepted as fact in official Washington following the release of a joint intelligence community report that, depending on who you talk to, either was conclusive proof of Putin’s attempt to undermine American democracy or a sloppy compilation of cyber-gibberish.
House Intelligence Committee leaders in a press release earlier this month alluded to the report’s credibility issues and indicated that the subject will be included in the committee’s investigation into whether Russian “active measures” influenced the U.S. election.
Whether Comey has anything new to say about Russian hacking of political organizations during the presidential campaign will depend largely on whether the committee gets around to asking about it. It’s more likely that the hearing will turn into a slugfest over Trump’s recent claim that Obama ordered a wiretap on his communications from Trump Tower.
Even if the embattled FBI director does reveal important details, the news cycle will be dominated by whatever does the most damage to Trump, which has been the goal of his Democratic opponents since the inauguration. For now, they’re getting superior mileage out of the wiretapping claim. Any “shocking new discoveries” will have to wait until that story runs out gas.
Image: FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 10, 2017. Derived from screen capture of Senate video.
Watch the whole five hours (I did) and count how many times Comey says some variation of “no comment.”