ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – Recently, we sat down with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) to discuss a number of topics making headlines across the country. One of those topics included his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the House Intelligence Committee report and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Mueller is expected to testify before Congress next week and discuss the findings. However, Mueller has already noted that his testimony will not go beyond the more than 400-page report that has already been released.
Rep. Conaway says he doesn’t expect Mueller to reveal the “gotcha” moment many Democrats are hopeful to hear. Despite the potential for a lack of new content from Mueller, the 11th District Rep. says he does anticipate the testimony to be a partisan spectacle.
“One, it’s going to be grand theater, it’s going to be a big show,” Conaway said. “I don’t know that Mueller will say much.”
Conaway, thanks to his own House investigation, has seen and heard nearly everything there is on the Russia investigation. Almost too much at this point, as it continues to be a talking point in political circles in Washington.
But Conaway has seen the least redacted report. He has met with witnesses. He has conducted an investigation.
Short of grand jury testimony and other personal information that has been redacted, even from high ranking members of Congress, Conaway has as much information as one may hope to find.
All of these puzzle pieces, which enveloped most of 2017 and 2018, lead the U.S. Representative to his conclusion, long before Mueller will appear in front of Congress.
Ultimately, Mueller’s report confirmed what Conaway and the House Intel Committee had already found. Russia attempted to influence the Presidential election. The report noted that there was no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump Campaign.
However, what has kept the conversation going on Capitol Hill is Mueller’s statements on the President trying to influence the investigation. After the report was released, Mueller addressed the public saying they did not make a determination on whether the President committed a crime by trying to influence the investigation. The Special Counsel also stated that the President could not be charged with a federal crime while in office.
If given the chance, Conaway says he plans to ask Mueller if he was bullied into not putting something in the report that should have been there. He did note, that in the report he has seen, there is no “smoking gun” or ‘gotcha’ information.
“I hid from the White House…..”
The U.S. Representative was thrust into the spotlight back in April of 2017 as he was selected to lead and work with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to complete the House Intelligence Committee investigation.
Conaway recalls “hiding” during the investigation as to not compromise the legitimacy of his work.
“I hid from the White House as well. I didn’t have any conversations with anyone at the White House,” Conaway recalled during his investigation. “I didn’t go to the picnic, I didn’t go to the Christmas party, silly little stuff like that because I just didn’t want there to be a photograph of the President and I shaking hands and Adam and Eric go ‘Oh there is Conaway in cahoots…”
Nearly a year later, Conaway and his colleagues on the Intel Committee had completed their investigation. In April of 2018, those findings were released, and stated there was no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump Campaign.
Thinking back on the House investigation and in the midst of the Mueller investigation, the veteran Congressman couldn’t help but rack his brain on the “what ifs”.
After all, Mueller had a blank check in terms of time and resources to complete the investigation. This wasn’t a luxury Conaway and the House Intel Committee had, thus leading him to wonder if there would be anything he might have overlooked.
“Obviously a little anxious as the Mueller investigation went forward because he had more investigators, he had more time, he certainly had more money,” Conaway recalled, “so I was always a little anxious and (thought) ‘I might have missed something’…”
It would be almost another year before Conaway knew the result and if his work would stand up to the Mueller report.
On the day the Mueller report was released, Conaway said his mind was somewhat at ease as the core of the information found in the House report was very similar to the report produced by the Mueller team. Conaway says he and Mueller never spoke one-on-one about the Russia investigation, but they arrived at the same conclusion; no collusion.
- Conaway: Mueller testimony will be ‘a big show’
- Justice Department releases Mueller report
- Democrats hope Mueller testimony will have ‘profound impact’
- AG Barr defends response to Mueller report
- Mueller concludes Russia-Trump probe, delivers report
Intel Committee Aftermath
One might conclude that once the House report was released, Congress would be able to put the discussion to bed. This wasn’t the case, as partisan politics continued to pop up, even between the ranking member of the intel committee and the man that led the Russia investigation.
Many Democrats cried foul at the House Russia investigation, including that ranking committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff.
Conaway said Schiff and other representatives continuously pointed to “evidence” that wasn’t released yet, or a missing piece that no else had.
In their first hearing since the Russia report, Republicans on the House Intel Committee set their sights on Schiff.
Conaway himself called for the ranking member to resign from his post, citing the continued calls from Schiff rejecting the findings and the claims that there was evidence that had not yet seen the light of day.
It was those reasons that prompted Conaway to call for Schiff’s resignation as tensions seemingly hit a boiling point.
“Adam and Eric Swalwell both, and others, had talked for months about having evidence of collusion, evidence that no one else knew about, evidence that they had, and that was not the case. They didn’t,” Conaway said. “So when you mislead like that, over and over and over, then how do you trust leadership in general to do the important work of the committee?”
Schiff did not resign from his post as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“All they had was the stuff that was in the public arena and it was their interpretation of the stuff in the public arena,” Conaway said. “They tried to hype that they had something else just to keep it going, and then when it all got said and done, there was a whole lot more said than done.”
Even after the Mueller report was released, Democrats have continued to press the issue as more investigations were launched and more questions were levied. However, the focus had shifted. It wasn’t so much about if the President’s campaign had ties to Russia; now the topic of discussion was whether President Trump attempted to influence the investigation.
Putting it to bed
It has been months since the Mueller report was released to the American public, although redacted, and the conversation still looms over Capitol Hill like gray clouds on a rainy day in D.C. Democrats continue to call for more, thus the testimony from Mueller this month, and Republicans say it’s over and done with.
Even as recently as this week, members of the US House are still conducting investigations on the findings of the Mueller report and issuing subpoenas. It’s anyone’s guess, including Conaway’s, as to what they might or might not learn. But the Texas congressman says there is one thing that can put this entire conversation to bed.
“The 2020 election, President Trump gets re-elected, then I think it will go to bed,” Conaway said. “There are some hardcore folks on the Democrat House members that are not going to put this to bed, until (Nancy) Pelosi lets them vote on articles of impeachment.”
Some members of Congress have already brought articles of impeachment against President Trump. Al Green (TX), Brad Sherman (CA) are just some of those who have followed through on the threat of starting the impeachment process. However, Conaway isn’t convinced their efforts will prevail in the end.
In fact, recalling Clinton’s campaign in the 90’s, Conaway says impeachment and collusion talks might even help President Trump in his 2020 run.
“The last time this happened was President Clinton and it helped him get re-elected, it helped him in his deal,” Conaway said. “So we will see. I think Pelosi and the leadership…they know that if that happens, it probably does President Trump more good than harm.”
Ultimately, it is anyone’s guess as to what Mueller will say and if he will go off the report script. He is expected to testify next week.