The House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey on Monday morning very quickly turned into a tale of two investigations. Democrats wanted to get to the bottom of Russian involvement in the election and possible connections to Donald Trump, while Republicans were much more interested in where leaked information about investigations of Russian interference has been coming from.
The committee members who seem mostly concerned about the leaks, rather than the subject of those leaks, have worked themselves up into what can only be called a faux outrage over the matter. They conveniently forget that Washington D.C. is a sieve -- leaks are standard operating procedure. And they ignore the fact that many people inside the Beltway are quite happy to leak information when they believe it will help them.
After listening to a few hours of posturing from Republicans, a reporter who became perhaps one of the two most famous recipients of leaked information in history, Carl Bernstein, decided to speak out via Twitter.
The Hill reports that Bernstein's tweet came after Republican congressman Trey Gowdy, he of Benghazi committee fame, asked Comey about whether reporters could be prosecuted if they published classified information that had been leaked to them. Comey responded that he had never seen a reporter prosecuted for that offense in his lifetime.
Carl Bernstein knows a thing or two about how things operate in Washington, having worked there for far longer than any of the current members of the Intelligence Committee. His tweet could be seen as a simple statement of fact, but did it also carry an implicit warning to Republicans? Focus the hearing on the issue at hand, not on how that issue came to light, or I'll be happy to embarrass you by telling what I know.
Bernstein understands what the GOP pretends not to. Were it not for leaks, Watergate, one of the biggest political scandals in our history, would have never come to light. Likewise, were it not for leaks, the public would likely never have learned about serious charges surrounding Russian meddling in the election and the alleged ties between Trump associates such as Michael Flynn and the Russian government.
But none of that matters to Republicans. Like the good authoritarians most of them are, they are much more interested in punishing the people who bring information to light than they are in getting to the bottom of the potential crimes revealed by that information. That is, at least when it comes to protecting other Republicans. If the subject of the leaks is a Democrat, it's a totally different story.
Bernstein might have been able to prod Republicans from the 1970s into doing the right thing. But alas, there are precious few members of the GOP left who have the integrity of a Howard Baker, Lowell Weicker, or Hamilton Fish. Today's Republicans know no shame -- they only understand power.
The current investigations into Trump and his associates involve some of the most serious issues that have ever emerged from a presidential campaign. But, as Monday's hearing proves, Republicans are willing to manipulate the story line to attempt to preserve power for themselves and others in their party, no matter what the consequences for the country.