Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Republicans collectively twisted themselves into knots Monday in order to ignore what was really happening in the hearings on Russian hacking of the election, trying instead to use the occasion as an opportunity for another attack on the free press.

FBI director James Comey confirmed during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. election that the FBI is investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey said.

During the hearings Comey repeated the claim that Putin wanted to “hurt our democracy, hurt her [Hillary Clinton], help him [Donald Trump].”

Given Comey’s own role in the election—all but certainly shifting the momentum to Trump when he announced just days before the election that Clinton was once again under investigation—it was hard not to interpret that sentence at least slightly autobiographically.

He also thoroughly discredited Trump’s deceitful tweets claiming that he was “wiretapped” or otherwise surveilled by Barack Obama.

But the right was having none of that. Fox & Friends tweeted this morning: “If you missed yesterday’s congressional hearing with FBI Dir. James Comey, you didn’t miss much.”

Remember, many of these are the same people that argued how bad it would be to have a president under FBI investigation—when it seemed like that president would be Clinton.

At least the National Review‘s James Geraghty wondered “why the FBI couldn’t uncover anything, or even inform the public about the investigation, until after the election. Heck, not even until after the inauguration!”

Congressman Devin Nunes, who chairs the committee, complained that Comey’s acknowledgement of an investigation put a “big gray cloud over” the Trump administration. He didn’t mention that he served on Trump’s transition team.

Nunes and the rest of the Republican majority of the committee spent the entire day trying to make the hearing about the need to investigate classified information being leaked to the press.

Among the most fervent of these was South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy. Back when Gowdy probably looked even more like the little boy from the film Deliverance, he had a paper route in Spartanburg, South Carolina. But some four or five decades later, the weird little guy has moved beyond throwing papers into the gutters and wants instead to throw reporters in the slammer.

“Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?” Gowdy asked.

“That’s a harder question as to whether a reporter incurs criminal liability by publishing classified information and one probably beyond my ken,” Comey replied.

Hint, y’all, there is an exception. It’s called the First Amendment.

Gowdy, if you know him at all, is that bizarre ultra-white guy with the weird white hair who ran the Benghazi hearings. He looks a little bit like Truman Capote, if Capote had a child with a salamander. GQ points out how bad Gowdy’s hair is. But it’s really his face that’s the problem—and the limited consciousness that lies behind it.

(I am not making fun of Gowdy’s Southernness. Unfortunately, we hail from the same town. Or close. He represents the city of Greenville, where I was born and where I attended high school before moving away).

Gowdy was a Tea Partier who drove out far-right Bob Inglis because he wanted to work with Democrats on climate change. Gowdy’s Benghazi hearings were ultimately a long political campaign against Hillary Clinton—even if Trump said he “failed miserably.”

But in a press conference after the hearing, the media-hating Trump regime seemed to respond favorably to Gowdy’s idea that Obama administration officials were behind the leaks and that they, and potentially the press, should be prosecuted.

Despite Comey’s claims, we should expect to see the White House and Republicans push for a rehash of Benghazi when it comes to the leaks, while ignoring the subjects of the leaks altogether.