Donald Trump’s “Spygate” fairy tale was already gasping for breath last week when House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) finished it off.
In a pair of nationally televised interviews, the retiring Republican congressman – who recently received a special intelligence briefing that was intended to bolster the president’s conspiracy theory – said the FBI acted properly during the 2016 campaign. Asked specifically if he’d seen any evidence to substantiate Trump’s claim of an FBI “spy” infiltrating the future president’s operation, Gowdy answered, “I have not.”
For daring to tell the truth, the conservative South Carolinian quickly took on “pariah” status on the right. Roll Call reported the other day:
From former White House officials to longtime radio hosts, conservative media figureheads turned on a Republican lawmaker who won them over for his scathing interrogation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the House’s Benghazi investigation in 2015.
Less than three years later, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has become the latest target for many of today’s pre-eminent conservative spokespeople after he defended the FBI on television shows this week for accepting information from someone within President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 about possible ties to Russia.
“Frankly, I’ve always liked Trey Gowdy. Shame on Trey Gowdy,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his prime-time program Wednesday night.
Rush Limbaugh reportedly suggested Gowdy is complicit in a cover-up. Lou Dobbs labeled the congressman a “RINO” – for “Republican In Name Only.” Politico reported that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) “distributed a 950-word treatise Friday questioning Gowdy’s position.”
And then Rudy Giuliani got to work. BuzzFeed reported:
Giuliani lashed out at Gowdy – who isn’t running for reelection – for his comments, saying that his constituents “would probably be outraged at what he’s doing.”
He then veered off-topic, adding that those constituents “probably want to figure out what the hell he did with Benghazi.” Gowdy was the chair of the House committee that looked into the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four dead, including Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya.
“He sure screwed that one up. You got four families that do not think that Trey Gowdy did his job,” Giuliani said.
Keep in mind, Congress had already completed a series of lengthy investigations into the deadly attack in Benghazi when House GOP leaders tasked Gowdy for overseeing yet another investigation. Not surprisingly, it came to the same conclusions as all of the other examinations.
Or put another way, Giuliani went after Gowdy for having twice told the truth in politically inconvenient ways.
To the extent that reality matters, none of the Republicans attacking the South Carolina lawmaker have pointed to anything specific he got wrong. Rather, the pushback appears to be driven by partisans who hoped Gowdy would stick to the Republican script, even if that meant misleading the public – as if GOP lawmakers have a responsibility to carry a fig leaf for the emperor with no clothes.
The message to Gowdy’s colleagues on Capitol Hill couldn’t be clearer: If you repeat facts the White House doesn’t like, the right will turn you into a villain, too.