In their desperation to insulate President Donald Trump from the fallout of the Russia investigation, the Republican Party has woven an elaborate counternarrative in which the act of investigating Russia is the real scandal. And David French, writer for the arch-conservative National Review, is finally calling out this mentality on the Right.
"It's time to put a conspiracy theory to rest," writes French in a new column. "It's time to debunk a hoax."
The GOP narrative goes that the investigation, first started by the FBI and taken up by special counsel Robert Mueller, is a "witch hunt" manufactured by Obama administration officials to bring down Trump; that the investigation of the campaign was illegal and the warrant to surveil it obtained using partisan material; that Trump officials are being prosecuted over "perjury traps" rather than anything of substance; and that Mueller's team is saddled with conflicts of interest that will render any findings tainted. There is no evidence to support any of this. But not only is Trump and the Fox News punditry spreading this narrative, it has formed the basis for a series of frivolous investigations by House Republicans with time and resources that could have been spent to pursue Russia.
French lays bare how insane all of this is.
"The idea that the FBI used the Russia investigation to intervene in the election to hurt Trump and help Clinton has always strained credulity," he writes. "After all, the Russia investigation remained secret during the election while the FBI not only public reopened the Hillary email investigation, it also confirmed the existence of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation and exposed rifts with the Obama Department of Justice — casting the FBI as heroically resisting Obama-administration pressure to avoid any 'overt steps' in the Clinton Foundation investigation during the campaign."
Furthermore, notes French, contrary to the idea that Mueller is using "perjury traps," the investigation has already uncovered damning information — including Trump's former attorney lying to Congress about Trump's Russia contacts, Trump's son having a meeting in Trump Tower with a lawyer linked to the Kremlin during the election, Trump's campaign manager having ties to a known Russian asset, and two campaign advisers allegedly having backchannels to Russia via foreign sources. And all of this took place against the context of Trump saying, "I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does."
"In less partisan times," writes French, these contacts would "generate far more bipartisan concern. Even now, they should at the very least demolish the worst of the pro-Trump conspiracy theories."
"As in all investigations, the FBI and every other relevant arm of the federal government should be held to account when it departs from law or policy," French says. "If elements of the Trump investigation were tainted by partisan bias, we need to know. But, at this point, claims that the investigation itself is inherently illegitimate should be dismissed."
"The Trump team has surrounded the truth of its dealings with Russia with a bodyguard of lies," concludes French. "Not a single American should find that acceptable or excusable. Let's find the truth and confront it fearlessly. No other approach will provide the justice and transparency America needs."