Email #173: “I simply don’t think he did”?

The Washington Post reported last week that President Trump asked Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, and Michael Roger, Director of the National Security Agency, to make false public statements denying the existence of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. Neither Coats nor Roger complied.

Although the President’s requests could be construed as evidence of obstruction, the White House responded that it “does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals.” But, like former FBI Director Comey, Roger documented the President’s request in an internal memo, which, along with eventual sworn testimonies, will likely be part of Congressional and FBI investigations.

My concern is whether some members of Congress are impartial enough to accept such evidence. Republican Rep. Trent Franks, a member of your House Judiciary Committee, publicly stated his bias last week:

“I don’t think the president told James Comey to end any investigation … I don’t think any memo would convince me. I don’t think any of us are going to be able to know that for sure. But I simply don’t think he did that.”

How can Rep. Franks serve on your committee if he allows his unsubstantiated opinions to outweigh documented evidence? If the Comey memo does not “convince” him, will he also disregard Comey’s testimony? Will he disregard the testimony of other FBI employees if they corroborate that the President asked Comey to end the Flynn investigation?

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, another member of your House Judiciary Committee and the former chair of the House Oversight Committee, asked you to hold hearings on the President’s firing of Director Comey and “make sure that Mr. Mueller has the assets, the independence, and an understandable breadth of the initial investigation and a timeline that he anticipates based on his decades of experience.”

I agree with Rep. Issa:

“We need the facts. So let’s get the facts. This is the Judiciary Committee, this is a Justice Department issue. We’re talking about the guy who headed the FBI. And we’ve had concerns, frankly. As the Judiciary Committee, this is a Justice Department issue. I think we should obviously be involved.”

So why did you reject his request? Do you instead agree with Rep. Franks that personal opinions are more important than substantiated facts? Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told Real Clear Politics that he and other Democratic members of your Committee were “mocked” for suggesting that you investigate the President. Your official response at least appears civil: “I do not believe that it is the appropriate role of this committee to do [anything] other than to conduct oversight of the Department of Justice to be assured that they are doing their job.”

But why has your scope suddenly shrunk to the oversight of only the Justice Department when in November you assured voters it included “checking executive overreach”?

Do you feel that a president should be allowed to ask directors of national intelligence to issue false statements?

Do you feel a president should be allowed to tell Russian officials: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off”?

Do you sincerely believe you would not be openly condemning these behaviors if they had been committed by President Obama?

Do you sincerely believe you would not be using the House Judiciary Committee to investigate them if they occurred in a Democratic administration?

Although President Trump is at fault for placing you in an unreasonable position, it is your responsibility to rise above the politics of both parties and place the integrity of the House Judiciary Committee above all else.

You are currently failing to do so.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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