Maybe it’s a small detail, but something struck me about the video of Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (a Democrat, of course) at the top of this Associated Press article appearing on the Providence Journal’s Web page. The video is titled “Rep. Cicilline Appoligises [sic] to FBI’s Strzok at Congressional Hearing,” and it begins with the congressman apparently reading from prepared comments:
Mr. Strzok, serving on this committee and representing the State of Rhode Island has been one of the greatest honors of my life, but the conduct of this committee today has been, for me, tremendously sad, embarrassing, and really dangerous for our democracy. I want to apologize to you for the way that you’ve been treated by this committee.
So, he prepared comments apologizing for conduct that had not yet occurred. Say what you like about the predictability of the Republicans’ approach during the hearing, but this is not an indication that Cicilline went into the hearing with an open mind. He accuses the Republicans of acting like defense attorneys for the president, but he behaved as a defense attorney for an FBI agent who, in communications with a fellow FBI employee with whom he was having an extramarital affair, expressed such extreme bias about the politicians whom he was investigating that he incontrovertibly undermined many Americans’ confidence in his powerful agency.
Reinforcing his lawyer-like view of his role, Cicilline repeatedly insists in these closing remarks that the hearing was about Hillary Clinton’s emails, which is not true but might be a focus-group-tested flare to give partisans an excuse not to pay attention to the actual substance of the hearing. And while decrying a divisive hearing that is “really dangerous for our democracy,” he proceeded to insinuate things about Trump campaign cooperation with Russia that were too extreme for even Strzok to affirm.
So, here we are.
Half the country will take Cicilline’s invitation to believe that Strzok’s extreme “opinions” in no way indicate an inappropriate “bias” about political investigations that he was helping to lead and that Robert Mueller’s investigation is “closing in” on Trump’s “inner circle.” The other half of the country will watch the look on Strzok’s face in the last seconds of this clip and see (yet another) embodiment of an arrogant Deep State that interfered in a campaign and is still interfering, on increasingly thin grounds, in a duly elected administration that its members oppose because (those of us on this side believe) President Trump is disrupting the dangerous-to-democracy collusion of a political party, the news media, and government employees whose bureaucratic interests are no longer in line with those of the American people.