It was supposed to be your run-of-the-mill cable news interview, but comments by Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, went above and beyond the typical and entered the realm of sound-bite hell.
On Tuesday, when questioned by MSNBC host Hallie Jackson on President Trump’s most recent tweet regarding the FBI and deputy director Andrew McCabe, Rooney replied, "I’m very concerned that [the Department of Justice] and the FBI, what do you want to call it, Deep State or what, are kind of off the rails."
Jackson’s face froze in disbelief. "Congressman, you just called the FBI and DOJ ‘off the rails.’ Fundamentally, how is that something you’re OK with talking about here? How does that not undermine the work that these agencies are doing?"
Stone-faced, Rooney replied, “I think the American people have very high standards for our government agencies and to see people, like these aforementioned examples, are really nerve-wracking to me and undermine my confidence that the agencies don’t respect the Constitution and will not put the ends before the means."
"That’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with," Jackson said.
Rooney: "Yeah, but we’ve seen a lot of ends before the means culture, both out of the Obama administration, out of Hillary Clinton, with her $84 million of potentially illegal campaign contributions, or the Clinton Foundation Uranium One. People need a good clean government."
Increasingly perplexed, Jackson said, “Congressman, I’ve got to let you go but the point I want to make is that there are those who look at the comments you are making and saying that Republicans are trying to discredit the Department of Justice, and thus discredit the Russia investigation. Is that not what you’re doing?”
Rooney said, “No, I don’t want to discredit them. I would just like to see the directors of those agencies purge it and say,'‘Look, we’ve got a lot of great agents and great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know that good work is being done, not these people who are kind of the Deep State."
"Language like that congressman, 'purge'?" Jackson asked. "Purge the Department of Justice?"
It's the latest episode in a Florida congressman's attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russians' attempt to interfere in the 2016 elections and the president's possible obstruction of justice when he fired former FBI director James Comey in May.
Over the past several weeks, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, has done his fair share of chiming into the chorus of unwarranted skepticism about the investigation as well.
But perhaps Rooney and Gaetz have their own fair points in terms of a much-needed purge — only they may both on the wrong side of who needs to be flushed away this time around.
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