One of the Republicans leading the charge on Donald Trump's behalf against special counsel Robert Mueller was challenged to back up his smears by a CNN anchor. And he was forced to back down.
Donald Trump's Republican allies in Congress have been promoting a smear campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
The latest manifestation of this attempt to obstruct an investigation has come from Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), who called for a "purge" of the FBI and Department of Justice to get rid of figures he claims are hostile to Trump.
The allegations are mindless repetitions of half-stories and misinformation promoted by Trump and his allies at the right-wing Fox News.
They baselessly have claimed that investigators working on Mueller's team are biased against Trump, ignoring evidence that these same figures have also produced a paper trail of evidence showing that they have also bashed Chelsea Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder, among others.
Rooney was challenged by CNN anchor Brianna Keilar on his harsh and dangerous language. Keilar pointed out that the investigator with the problematic texts had been removed by Mueller as soon as the information came to light, and asked the congressman what evidence he has that bias has affected the investigation.
Rooney danced around the direct challenge to his story, perhaps realizing that he wasn't on Fox News where everybody is reading from the same pro-Trump hymnal.
He instead returned to his talking points, complaining that he is "nervous and discontent" that investigators had "bad animus" toward Trump.
Pressed again to offer any evidence to back up his claims, Rooney stammered and backtracked, finally admitting, "I'm not seeing where it necessarily influenced the investigation."
Rep. Francis Rooney defends his call for "purge" of FBI and DOJ: "It might be a pretty strong word. I'm not, maybe, the most nuanced political person in the world ... but I'm pretty frustrated" https://t.co/N2FYPwz3EB https://t.co/djqaXR9IHO
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) December 27, 2017
KEILAR: What's the evidence then that bias has impacted this investigation when the very data points you're putting there actually – action has been taken against those individuals?
ROONEY: As an American citizen I'm nervous and discontent that people would have those kinds of – lack of impartiality and bad animus as displayed in those emails – that they would have gone so far as to try to use that – possibly use that dossier to discredit the campaign.
I think that's going beyond just having political views. I hold the FBI and the Department of Justice in very high esteem.
KEILAR: But where's the evidence that happened? Where's the evidence that bias has infiltrated this investigation. Do you have some knowledge we don't have? Because we're not seeing that.
ROONEY: Nope. I'm not seeing it necessarily – necessarily influenced the investigation, but they were certainly were working trying to impede Donald Trump, that's what the guy said in those emails.
So what was the point of his entire complaint?
Republicans are echoing their party's leader, Trump, in going after Mueller and his investigation. They are ignoring or dismissing the convictions and indictments of top Trump campaign officials that he has already secured, instead incorrectly casting the independent investigation as a partisan attack.
They are working to obstruct justice, perhaps laying the groundwork for Trump to follow in the footsteps of Richard Nixon and fire the independent agent investigating wrongdoing by his campaign and administration.
But while these Republicans are directly meeting and huddling with Trump to get their stories straight in this ongoing smear campaign, there is little sign that the dishonest tactic is taking hold anywhere outside of the right's fevered swamps.
The investigation is going into the darkest recesses of the right, and despite their impulses and desire to protect Trump, the blowback seems set to hurt the party. Doing Trump's dirty work will make things worse for them, not better.