A group of House Republicans has gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to four people familiar with their plans.
A subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes of California, has been quietly working parallel to the committee's high-profile inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They haven't informed Democrats about their plans, but they have consulted with the House's general counsel.
The people familiar with Nunes' plans said the goal is to highlight what some committee Republicans see as corruption and conspiracy in the upper ranks of federal law enforcement. The group hopes to release a report early next year detailing their concerns about the DOJ and FBI, and they might seek congressional votes to declassify elements of their evidence.
That final product could ultimately be used by Republicans to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether any Trump aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign — or possibly even to justify his dismissal, as some rank-and-file Republicans and Trump allies have demanded. (The president has said he is not currently considering firing Mueller.)
Republicans in the Nunes-led group suspect the FBI and DOJ have worked either to hurt Trump or aid his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, a sense that has pervaded parts of the president’s inner circle. Trump has long called the investigations into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election a “witch hunt,” and on Tuesday, his son Donald Trump Jr. told a crowd in Florida the probes were part of a “rigged system” by “people at the highest levels of government” who were working to hurt the president.
The sources familiar with the separate inquiry said it was born out of steadily building frustration with the Justice Department's refusal to share details of the way the Trump dossier was used to launch the FBI's investigation of his campaign team last year — or whether it was the basis for any court-ordered surveillance of Trump associates.
House Republicans are trying to criminalize the Steele dossier and blame everything on the "Obama Deep State" at the FBI, as if there's somehow a group of rogue agents working at President Obama's command to destabilize the government.
The problem is you have a bunch of politicians (and Republican ones at that, none too bright these guys) trying to pin something on actual law enforcement types who know how the system works. It's not going well, and apparently somebody has leaked that Rep. Devin Nunes (who has supposedly recused himself from the House investigation into Trump!) is leading a secret counter-investigation into the Trump investigation.
That's not a good look for the GOP right now. An off-the-books secret screw job makes it look like, I dunno, these guys are working for Dear Leader Trump and putting party over country. Surely that's not what's going on, right?