In the summer of 1977, Massachusetts Representative Tip O’Neill made an optimistic pitch to his leery colleagues as they prepared to vote against a resolution that would establish the House of Representatives’ first Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: The panel would be “nonpartisan,” he promised. “There will be nothing partisan about its deliberations.”
Four decades later, that promise has proven illusory. The committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election so divided the panel’s Republicans and Democrats that the chairman considered building a physical wall between staffers. In dueling memos, members clamored to declassify information about one of the intelligence community’s most sensitive national security tools. And Democrats claim the probe ended prematurely, with key witnesses and lines of inquiry—such as the possibility that Russia holds financial leverage over the president—left unpursued, a charge Republicans adamantly deny.
Earlier this month, with a vote to send their conclusions to the intelligence community to declassify and release, Republicans officially ended the panel’s year-long investigation into Russia’s election interference. No Democrats voted to release the GOP report, which the committee’s ranking member, Adam Schiff, condemned as partisan and characterized as a “fundamentally unserious effort.” “It’s Cat in the Hat,” said Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, referring to the famous children’s book. “Simple. An embarrassment.” Republican Representative Mike Conaway, who took the lead on the probe last April, said the Democrats were on “a fishing expedition” with no end in sight. “We’ve found no evidence of collusion,” he told reporters. Just “some bad judgment.”