Trey Gowdy has been running point for the House Republican investigation into the Russia scandal, at times going so far as to act like Jared Kushner’s personal defense lawyer. Gowdy’s response to the New York Times about the Russia probe is a world-weary pose of realism. “Congressional investigations unfortunately are usually overtly political investigations, where it is to one side’s advantage to drag things out,” says Gowdy. “The notion that one side is playing the part of defense attorney and that the other side is just these white-hat defenders of the truth is laughable … This is politics.”
That explanation might not sound outrageous on its face. It is certainly true, after all, that both parties in Congress tend to follow their partisan self-interest in conducting (or impeding) investigations. But we have crossed a new threshold when the leader of such an investigation no longer even pretends otherwise.
When Gowdy was running his endless hearings into Benghazi — a 2012 guerrilla attack that conservative conspiracy theorists had endlessly attempted to use as evidence of an imagined treasonous plot by the Obama administration — he piously insisted the proceedings were designed solely to discover the truth. “As I have said countless times before, this is not about politics,” said Gowdy last year, in one of many such comments. “This is not even about any one individual or a single investigation.”
Because Gowdy’s objective was to make Benghazi appear to be a legitimate investigation, rather than a naked effort to rough up the Democrats’ leading presidential contender, it was important for him to maintain the façade of objectivity. But his goal on the Russia scandal is the opposite. He means to make the proceedings a joke. The more nakedly partisan it all appears, the better. That’s why Gowdy was insisting “this is not about politics” when a Democrat was president, and now admits, “This is politics.” The sheen of Congressional legitimacy is just one more governing norm Republicans have cast aside in the Trump era.