This Worrisome Mystery Wrapped In A Problem Wrapped In Evidence
Iam worried. Devin Nunes recused himself but now Mike Conaway, Tom Rooney and Trey Gowdy lead the Trump-Russia investigation. Now that his hands are free, Nunes can delve into a “full blown investigation” of Susan Rice’s unmasking of US persons surveilled in contact with suspected Russian agents — full blown searching for who else (campaign officials, transition members, congressmen) might have been surveilled.
Carter Page’s FISA warrant is concrete evidence of the FBI’s suspicion but he was so quickly distanced from the campaign this could easily remain an island in Trump’s sea of controversy. Or, if Fox News’ Judge Nap is ever trusted by the (p)resident ever again, a cue for Donald to rant that Obama did spy on Team Trump after all.
Jeff Sessions recused himself too but his quick actions in DoJ make him valuable to the Republican cause. Should he be a material witness or provide context to the time in question, it is unlikely Richard Burr will be convinced to allow him to openly testify before the Senate Intel Committee. Trey Gowdy will vehemently oppose his testimony, saying Sessions is far too busy trying to lock down leakers, steering that day’s hearing toward naming names.
Paul Manafort looks to have certainly laundered money for pro-Putin Ukrainians or Russia itself and to have accepted potentially illegal wire transfers. This is of course unrelated to his time on Team Trump but might bear the roots of any potential collusion he had while on the campaign. But a root is not a tree any more than an island is naturally bridged to a larger body of land — a body in this case of evidence, motive, opportunity and intent.
Manafort, Stone and Jared have all volunteered to be questioned but that will not be under oath, a fact likely to soften GOP questioning toward them and stifle Democrat’s probing. Michael Flynn has already offered testimony in exchange for immunity, which was denied allegedly because his testimony was weak. Hopefully, we will be hearing from him again before next year but I’m worried what dots we have connected thus far will only frame a mystery.
French philosopher Gabriel Marcel said a mystery was a special type of problem. Any problem, once its data has been gathered and analyzed, is subject to solution. All the pieces come together and you have your way out of a logical or ethical maze. A mystery, though, is special because once you compile your data, it all falls through. You gather it up again but are never closer to understanding, a solution or truth.
This seems — at least post-2016 — to require the inquisitor to adopt one of those two positions. One of mystery, you get no truth, only the contemplation of potential truth. Some events in life are mysteries simply because we lack the tools to investigate deeply enough. Increasingly, many are not. What worries me is that those Republicans leading these investigations will forever frame them as mysteries of Russian intrigue. By this, I fear, they hope to manage our expectations for hearings and testimony, giving us so much it feels too large to contemplate and digest.
On the back end, they will inundate us with questions isolated from their causes. Devin Nunes will turn the legality of Susan Rice’s actions into a problem needing deep contemplation, many hours and much evidence to find a solution to what has been simply stated already — Susan Rice was well within her power to unmask US persons incidentally collected by intelligence agents.
No doubt Nunes will become acutely interested if Susan Rice herself leaked Flynn’s name to the press. He is already acutely aware that anyone, perhaps himself, could be known to Obama era officials in surveillance transcripts. Trey Gowdy will tilt at those leaking windmills full time, charging at fantastic giants who he must deliver the democracy from with his lance of congressional privilege. He’ll leak whatever he needs to do so. Our focus is so easily steered by the GOP’s tantrums, we’ll find ourselves turning away from the collusion investigations to try and solve the mystery of his hypocrisy.
Mike Conaway may use his talent and time trying to parse the difference between Russian agents and Mexican pop stars, getting no closer to an answer to his ridiculous assertions but piling on deluded layers of debate. Meanwhile, the Senate Intel Committee may appear to be ever digging into layer after layer of Russian contact with the Trump campaign and transition team, using the complexity of the span of time investigated and the passage of time thereafter to continually feed our expectation of progress.
We expect deliberate speed but it might come only as side-stepping from one hearing with Comey to one with Rogers to voluntary questioning of Jared, Stone, Manafort to another hearing with Comey, completing an unbroken circle through which all the data falls. We will be left only with the rich feeling of having all our questions asked.
This White House has one measure by which they judge their efforts — they think they’re smarter than everyone else. It existed in Congress already and those committee chairs most infected got an energy boost last November. It is the current bridge between the separation of powers. Senators inspecting its framework find themselves consistently at a loss of how to turn their convictions into action — and I mean McCain and Graham.
Their voices are welcome by the resistance because they, alone, seem willing to see this administration as a problem. But they’re lost in the mystery as to why their party and voting base don’t listen. And we’re lost anew in solving the problem of believing words that fail.