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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Appearing on NBC’s “Today” Wednesday, Tim Kaine argued that any documents released by the FBI to Congress related to the Clinton email investigation should also be released to the public.

“Anything that the FBI gives to Congress, they should give to the public,” Kaine said. “Because what we’ve seen is this lengthy, multimillion dollar congressional investigation that has been highly partisan where they’ve wanted to leak out this or that to try to make their case against Hillary Clinton. Let the public see what the FBI decides to let Congress see.”

It’s an odd thing to say, given that material like this — notes from an FBI investigation — is usually classified. But Kaine, and most in the political press, know that congressional Republicans have systematically and selectively leaked information from their multiple congressional investigations of Hillary Clinton to the press with the intent of guiding narratives; the ongoing (and usually fruitless) investigations resemble political bludgeons more than instruments of accountability.

Kaine’s proposal, so some Democrats posit, would present the public an alternate (and more complete) narrative of the investigations to combat Republican leaks to the press.

In 2012, a congressional committee began looking into the then-secretary of state’s actions surrounding the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. By late 2014, after finding no evidence of criminal culpability on Clinton’s part, committee members instead turned to Clinton’s use of a private email server while in office. The New York Times broke the news in March of 2015.

“The committee became relevant again,” Major Bradley F. Podliska, once part of the committee’s staff, told the New York Times a few months later, in October of 2015. “There was a renewed vigor in the investigation.”

Jamal Ware, an aide to Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy and communications director for the committee, told Real Clear Politics at the time, “If we wanted to make political hay, we’d be making partial releases and we’d be leaking stuff, and that is not how Chairman Gowdy works.”

So much for that. The committee began to swerve away from lessons learned in Libya and towards Clinton’s email system — political red meat — releasing emails and leaks to the press when they were politically advantageous.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” said Congressman Kevin McCarthy on Fox News, letting his tongue slip about politicizing a congressional investigation. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

Around the same time, committee chair Trey Gowdy released an email supposedly proving that Clinton had sent emails with classified information in them: Gowdy had blacked out a name in the email because it was a “classified source,” he said, and releasing it would endanger national security.

Except the name, that of former intelligence source Moussa Koussa, had been declassified years earlier. Gowdy had lied about Koussa’s status to make it appear as though Clinton was emailing about classified information.

In 2013, congressional Republicans released an email from White House advisor Ben Rhodes, selectively edited to make it appear as though Rhodes was overly concerned with the political consequences of announcing that the attack in Benghazi had been planned ahead of time by a terrorist group.

Or consider Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff who asked to testify in public for fear that, were she to testify in secret, Republican congressmen would selectively leak details of her testimony to the media. They denied her request and later confirmed her fears, leaked information to Fox News, Politico, and others meant to make it appear as though Mills had compromised the integrity of the investigation.

As recently as this July, Republican committee members released selected excerpts of their final Benghazi report to news outlets hours before they published the entire report, seemingly selecting bits of information specifically tailored for each publications’ audience.

Kaine’s support of publicly releasing all documents provided to Congress is a response to the selective “drip” of politically damaging information from congressional Republicans to the media. That drip isn’t likely to end any time soon, though.

Photo: Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) speaks at K’NEX in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, July 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

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