Before I watched this clip, I knew exactly three things about Rep. Francis Rooney.
1. He’s a Republican in his second term in the House.
2. He’s loaded.
3. He’s the guy who once accused “deep state” agencies like the FBI of being off the rails and called on the heads of those agencies to “purge” them of their nefarious members.
Not a man, in other words, whom you’d expect to find two years later allied with Nancy Pelosi in wondering whether the president isn’t a little too friendly with Vladimir Putin.
“Do you agree at all with the assessment then from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the private meeting with the president earlier this week where she reportedly said to him, ‘Sir, all roads lead to Putin, lead to Russia.’ Do you share that concern?” Harlow wondered.
“Well I’ve read some of that,” the GOP lawmaker answered. “I was skeptical of it, like most Republicans. But I have to say this business about the Ukraine server, which no one heard about until it was mentioned recently, tells me what—are we trying to exculpate Russia, who all our trained intelligence officials have consistently corroborated that Russia was behind the election meddling, not the Ukraine[?]”
Huh. He wasn’t done either. Mick Mulvaney’s admission of some sort of quid pro quo with Ukraine yesterday has Rooney taking a fresh look at impeachment:
Some striking comments from GOP Rep. @FrancisRooney, who just gaggled w/ reporters.
Says he was “shocked” by Mulvaney’s admission of a quid pro quo & says it could be a turning point in the Ukraine saga.
Also says it can’t be walked back, saying it’s “not an-etch a-sketch.”
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) October 18, 2019
Rooney — who says he hasnt decided whether he is running for re-election — also says he’s not scared of the political repercussions for speaking out.
But he acknowledges that other Republcians are scared of Trump.
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) October 18, 2019
I don’t know enough about him to explain what’s changed in his thinking, but maybe we shouldn’t overthink it. It could be that Rooney has simply had his fill of the Trump circus, is grossed out by the Ukraine business, and is unconcerned about earning the president’s wrath. A man in his 60s who’s in his first term in Congress and has already made a fortune won’t cry if he can’t spend his dotage on the Hill. (He admits at the end of the clip below that he’s not sure if he’ll run again.) The most telling thing he says might be the fact that he and Mitt Romney are friends from way back; conceivably, Rooney has decided that if Romney’s willing to criticize Trump in the Senate, he should provide some back-up in the House.
Whatever the explanation, it’s very unusual for a House Republican to lash Trump this way. The only House GOPer I can think of who’s willing to do so since Justin Amash left the party is Adam Kinzinger, and Kinzinger tends to focus on military matters and foreign policy. Rooney hits Trump on that too — watch below from the beginning and you’ll find him complaining about Trump’s handling of Syria. But for a Republican in the House to admit that he’s troubled by the Ukraine episode to the point where he hasn’t ruled out impeachment is uncharted territory.
His comments about Ukraine and the missing server come exactly halfway through the clip. For what it’s worth, I don’t think exculpating Russia is what’s driving Trump’s interest in CrowdStrike and the server, although it does have that effect. What he wants is to inculpate Democrats in the 2016 hackings. He’s chasing the debunked conspiracy theory that the hacking of the DNC during the campaign was actually an inside job — possibly conducted by the much-maligned Seth Rich, possibly by someone else — but was cynically blamed on Russia in order to discredit Trump’s glorious election victory. In other words, Trump wants to claim that not just the Russiagate investigation but Russian interference itself was some sort of Democratic hoax and he’s been convinced somehow that Ukraine might have the missing DNC server that will prove it. A guy who has Bill Barr and John Durham investigating the origins of the Russia probe through proper DOJ channels shouldn’t need to go chasing nonsense, but Trump does a lot of things he shouldn’t do and has always loved conspiracy theories — especially those that place him as the victim of the plot. Rooney appears to have reached his limit with it.
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