Representative Steve Scalise, House GOP Whip, joined me this morning:
HH: Joined now by Congressman Steve Scalise, House GOP Whip. Congressman, welcome back, good to talk to you.
SS: Hugh, it’s always great to be back with you. How are you doing?
HH: I am terrific, and my audience always wants to know how is your recovery doing?
SS: Oh, appreciate that. It’s going really good. We, it’s doing a lot of rehab, still, but able to walk with crutches, but trying to get to walk without crutches, and that’s, you know, that’s getting closer to being a real goal.
HH: Now you know, Congressman, when someone like you who’s been the victim of violence, and I mean deadly violence that could have resulted in a massacre of you and all of your colleagues, you watch yesterday’s coverage of 40 weirdos, and ten times that many lefty weirdos, what goes through your head? Is TV making it worse?
SS: Well, I think it’s the latter and the time. And you know, you can have, you know, express your views in your passionate way that you should, but when people try to incite violence, when people talk in a way where you know, gee whiz, if Republicans repeal and replace Obamacare, how many times did they say you’re going to die and people were, you know, this is just crazy stuff. And you know, it’s one thing to try to make your point. It’s another thing to go so far over that you’re inciting violence from people that might already be a little bit loose on the edge.
HH: Do you think the cable networks, television generally, are participating in that incitement by providing the platform?
SS: Well, I don’t really think, you know, in terms of what platform it is. I do think there is a level of accountability that the media ought to hold people to when they’re inciting this kind of violence. And you don’t see that enough. You really don’t see, especially when you’ve had true violence already taking place. I mean, clearly in my case, you know what the intention of the shooter was. It wasn’t just me. He was targeting Republicans. And there needs to be more, I think, more accountability on the side of the media when people go out and say things that truly incite violence against others.
HH: Left and right.
SS: Left and right.
HH: Now Congressman, let’s go to something that’s near and dear to me. On Saturday, Representative Jim Jordan tweeted that Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy AG, that’s not number four in the department, it’s an aide to number two, but will be in front of Congress on August 28th. His wife worked for fusion GPS, the oppo research firm for Clinton, from Jim Jordan. Do you know which committee Mr. Ohr will be appearing in front of?
SS: I think it’s Judiciary, but I’m not positive about that. And in the end, I think it’s good that we continue to bring in more and more people within the Department of Justice to really get to the bottom of some of the problems they have internally. And look, I want a fully functioning FBI and Department of Justice, and a department that you have confidence that if they’re investigating a case, there’s no political bias. They’re actually just trying to get the facts. They’re not trying to get an outcome. And unfortunately, I think we’ve covered enough to show that hasn’t been the case especially as it relates to different parts of the Trump investigation where you did have people that had a political bias and were trying, in essence, take down Donald Trump before he was even elected president. And that’s a problem that the FBI ought to be wanting to aggressively work with us to work out, and I don’t see enough of that, yet.
HH: Now Mr. Ohr has potentially some answers that would be useful to get, but we need a timeline. We need to know when he met Mr. Steele, when his wife met Mr. Steele, how often they talked to each other, did they provide information to the Bureau after Mr. Steele had been fired. We need to know a lot of things, but the last time we had a hearing like this, Mr. Strzok, it was a nightmare. It was a fiasco, because the Republicans fell all over each other, and the Democrats interjected obstructionism. Is there any chance that the chairman can get the members of the committee to yield to him the time that they have so that he can in turn get competent counsel to conduct a professional inquiry into what Mr. Ohr knows and when he knew it?
SS: Well, you know, we’ll see, and hopefully that happens. And I think the investigation and the hearings that they’ve held so far have uncovered a lot. And in fact, the only real things we know about all of this questionable and potentially even illegal activity at the Department of Justice, the only reason we know it is through these House investigations through Judiciary Committee, from the Oversight Committee, from Devin Nunes’ committee at Intelligence, and they’re going to continue on. This isn’t over. They’re going to keep going until they get all the facts, and hopefully get Justice to act on the problems internally that we’ve identified.
HH: But Mr. Scalise, do you understand what I’m talking when they play Ping Pong between the members, they lose the thread. Some of the members do pratfalls. Other members ask good questions.
SS: Well, and look, every member, and you know how it is. Every member has five minutes, and you’ve got to make those five minutes count. And in many cases, members want to use that to make their points that they have. But then, ultimately, you want to make sure you’re questioning the witness for the real pertinent facts that that witness is there to address. And in most cases, that happens. Clearly, in some cases with hearings, you don’t get all of the facts out that you want. You can bring somebody back. But you want to make that time count, and each member is responsible for their five minutes. If they want to yield some back to another member, I have seen that before. You know, and sometimes, you’ve seen Trey Gowdy get to prosecute a person multiple times. And you know, if Trey only gets five minutes, he’s going to get more out of that five minutes than anybody. But in many cases, he gets even more than that as well.
HH: Well, I’m older than you, so I can remember when Fred Thompson was chief counsel, minority counsel for the Watergate Committee. And they yielded the time to a professional prosecutor who prepared to conduct a thorough inquiry. And that’s gone by the road, because people like their TV time. I am just curious is it up to the caucus, to the chairman or the individual members to decide what is in the best interests of the country and the party and the committee?
SS: Well, it’s up to each individual member, where each individual member runs and is held accountable every two years. But I think by and large the work that our members have done on the Republican side has been extraordinary getting facts out that we know. The only facts we know have come through our investigation. Many times, the FBI didn’t even want to comply with subpoenas and other things that we keep pressing, and need to keep pressing. The work’s not over, and there’s more, I think, that’s going to come out. But you know, each individual member has their five minutes, and I think, by and large, they’ve made it count. But you know, it can always be better, and we can always bring somebody back. And you also can request things through written communication. You can send letters to the department or even while the hearing’s going on to get even more facts than they’re giving you at the time.
HH: Now this hearing is going to be so crucial. Mr. Ohr’s role is so crucial for people to understand. I’m wondering if the caucus couldn’t debate how not to screw this up, because we have a disagreement, Mr. Scalise. I think the last hearing was a fiasco with Peter Strzok, because that guy should not have emerged from that hearing esteemed by the public, right? What he did was very wrong and endangered the Bureau’s reputation, and somehow he got out of that looking pretty good. If we repeat that with Mr. Ohr, maybe he’s not the bad guy or the good guy. Maybe he’s just a guy. But we can’t screw up another opportunity like this.
SS: Well, but you know, I don’t think he turned out as a hero amongst the public. He maybe turned out as a hero amongst the left. And the left is going to cover for whatever comes out. You could have a perfect hearing, and you know what’s going to happen. You know the mainstream media will completely ignore it. You know, we’ll point out, you’ll point out the things that it exposed, but the mainstream media’s not going to go wow, look at what these liberals did. If it was a conservative, if the shoe was on the other foot, we know what would be going on whether it was a great hearing or a failed hearing. They would be blistering the witness and the committee members. So we can’t expect the mainstream media to show that we had a great hearing. We’ve just got to go get the facts that we can get, and people are seeing this. People are seeing that there was bias. They want the facts out. When you poll this, people want more facts, and they do question the integrity of some of the people over there at the FBI. And again, that’s not a good thing for the FBI. The FBI ought to work with us to say we don’t want bad apples. And if you’ve identified some, let’s go work together to get them out of there.
HH: I agree. And mostly, we want a timeline at this point. Mostly, I just want to know the basic facts of who did Christopher Steele deal with and when. Do you know for example, Mr. Scalise, if Nellie Ohr had any dealings with Mr. Steele?
SS: I don’t know that, but I agree that a timeline established would be really important. And also, I mean, look. We’ve seen enough to know what we’ve exposed. Where did that come from? How much was it relied upon by others within the FBI? How many people in the FBI knew of the biases? We found out about the biases. Surely, somebody at the FBI knew about those biases as well. How many people knew about that?
HH: And so last question, will the caucus discuss the hearing before the hearing actually happens, so that the members, the entire caucus can be consulted on the opportunity in front of the committee?
SS: Well, but the chairman ultimately runs the committee and determines with the members of the committee, who they need to go and investigate next, who they need to bring in next, what kind of documents need to be subpoenaed. That’s all heavily discussed within the committee. The conference will find out about it peripherally, but you don’t want the conference to be running each committee. You don’t want leadership to be running each committee. The chairman is, you know, has got a really quality group of members that have been digging hard, and they’ve been exposing a lot of facts. There’s more facts to get. Let’s keep on after it.
HH: Well, you know, I admire so much the work that some members of Congress do, but that last committee hearing, we just have a disagreement. I thought that was, I thought that was so many strikeouts when we could have had base hits, and could have developed information that would have been useful. But in the eye of every beholder is a different image, right?
SS: Yeah, you know, and look, the Democrats went in to completely disrupt the hearing. They were there to cover for the witness, which does say a lot, too. I mean, when you’ve got every Democrat trying to yell and scream and stop the hearing from going on, that clearly tells you they know there’s something real there they’re trying to cover for, which isn’t good for them, either. And you wonder why what’s at stake in November is so important. The Democrats don’t have an agenda. They want to basically want to repeal ICE, they want to raise taxes, they want to reverse course from the successes we’ve been having working with Donald Trump. And that’s not an agenda. That’s frankly not something the American people embrace. And I, look, I think we need to keep working hard to get this economy moving again, to expose the problems that we’ve already uncovered, and keep going after the facts.
HH: So if we know what their playbook is, this is going to be alien to an SCC fan like you, but if you know what their playbook is, in the Big 10, we try to change up the offense when we know what their defense is. So the offense, if you had just one lawyer asking all the questions like Andrew McCarthy, we could just, that’s probably alien to an SCC fan, by the way. Are you an optimist about LSU this year?
SS: I feel real good. Look, quarterback has always been the last few years our Achilles heel. And we have a very competitive quarterback race, but I think we’re going to have a dramatic improvement at quarterback, which with all the other talent we’ve got, Hugh, I feel like we’re going to win a national title. We definitely can beat Alabama in Tiger Stadium, and hopefully you can agree with me on that.
HH: Oh, no. You SCC people, Steve Scalise, always a pleasure to talk to you, especially about football, because I know that I’m in the right. Good to talk to you, Whip Scalise.
End of interview.