Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, as powerful as he is controversial, made the stunning announcement this morning that he’s retiring from Congress at the end of his current term and will not seek reelection in November. There was no prior hint that this was coming, and it’s set off shockwaves. However, based on the timing and what’s been playing out behind the scenes this week, it’s not difficult to parse what’s really going on here: it’s about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal.
First, let’s dispense with two of the most popular misconceptions that are going to be floated about this. Gowdy is not retiring simply because of the “blue wave” that’s likely to cost so many Republicans their seats in November. Gowdy represents an ultra-red conservative district and he’d have had strong odds of reelection no matter how unpopular Donald Trump and the GOP are nationally. So he’s not getting out because he thinks he can’t get reelected.
Nor is there any legitimacy to the notion going around that Trump is about to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appoint Trey Gowdy in his place. Even if Trump is floating the idea to Gowdy, he says these kinds of things all the time without meaning them. Remember when Mike Pompeo was going to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State? Remember when Tom Cotton was going to be CIA Director? When Sean Spicer had one foot out the door, Trump promised multiple people they’d be the next Press Secretary, but he was lying to all of them. Only idiots fall for these kinds of promises from Trump. Whatever you think of Gowdy as a person, he’s not an idiot.
So let’s talk about what’s really going on here. Trey Gowdy and Devin Nunes were on the Trump transition team. That’s a problem for them, because Michael Flynn was updating the transition team about his illegal plotting with the Russian Ambassador in real time. Special Counsel Robert Mueller now has Flynn as a cooperating witness, and he has all of the transition team emails. In other words, he has evidence that Nunes and Gowdy were a part of that criminal conspiracy on some level.
It’s why Nunes has spent the past year clumsily trying to sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation. He knows it’ll lead back to him. It’s why he wrote his idiotic memo about supposed abuse by Trump-Russia investigators. It’s why Gowdy stuck around on the House Ethics Committee just long enough to clear Nunes for wrongdoing. It’s why Gowdy wormed his way onto the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the Trump-Russia scandal.
Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy have each been trying to protect themselves from their role in the Trump-Russia in their own way. Because Nunes is an idiot, his memo has forced the issue, guaranteeing that Nunes’ role in the scandal will come to light. That in turn means that Gowdy’s role in the scandal will also come to light. He might still finish out his term, in the hope of using the House Intel Committee to play defense. But he knows that by the time reelection rolls around, his role will have been exposed to the point that he can’t possibly even bother running again. He won’t be the last.