Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy was just trying to help. But as they have for weeks, attempts to defend President Trump against the accelerating investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia just seem to make things worse. At a May 23 House Intelligence Committee hearing into the Russian operation against the 2016 presidential election, Gowdy asked former CIA chief John Brennan, who stepped down on Jan. 20, whether he had seen any “evidence of collusion, coordination [or] conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors.” If Gowdy thought Brennan was going to distance the President from the spreading scandal, his move backfired. “I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the [FBI] to determine whether or not such cooperation or [collusion] was taking place,” Brennan said. When pressed by the retreating Gowdy on whether he meant Trump in particular, Brennan said he wasn’t referring to “any individuals” but wouldn’t rule Trump out, either. The damage was done.
For Trump, his aides and his allies in Congress, the investigation into Russia’s election meddling gets worse by the day. The leaks about the probe are bad enough, with suspicion moving daily closer to the President. But as Republicans scramble, ad hoc, to counter the constant revelations, much of the damage has been self-inflicted.
FBI and congressional investigators are reviewing 18 previously undisclosed phone and email contacts with Russian officials by Trump’s then national security aide, Michael Flynn, and other campaign officials, Reuters reported. And the FBI probe has reached the highest levels of government, the Washington Post reported shortly afterward, with a current senior White House official now a significant person of interest in the case. Among the key issues investigators want to ask the unidentified White House official about: collaboration on Russia’s influence operation against the election.