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How many independent probes can dance on the head of a pin?

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House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) announced that he is launching an independent probe of the independent probe of the independent probe into the Robert Mueller investigation of President Trump’s connections with the Russians.

“We need a truly independent probe of the independent probe of the independent probe to get to the bottom of this, because Democrats are using their independent probe to undermine the efficacy and integrity of our independent probe,” Nunes said at a press conference.

Just in case you, Dear Reader, have gotten a little confused: the first independent probe of the Mueller investigation was the one Trump demanded of the Department of Justice. The second independent probe was a probe of the first, launched by Senate Democrats into the role that Nunes and House Republicans played in attempting to obstruct the Mueller investigation through the first independent probe.

This latest independent probe was started by Senate Republicans to look into alleged illegalities in the second, Democratic independent probe. “We need a new independent probe, because these Democrats won’t allow our independent probe to move forward, in their desire to protect Hillary Clinton and hurt President Trump,” announced Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

It’s not clear how the various independent probes will overlap each other. Analysts warned of possible unforeseen consequences. “In some cases, an individual may be a suspect in one independent probe, whereas that same person could very well be a witness for the prosecution in another independent probe,” warned Murray Teilgarden, who studies legal issues at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Democrats are expected to launch a fourth independent probe, says Eleanor Beasely, who analyzes Justice Department issues at the liberal Center for American Progress. “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear [Democratic Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer announce he’s calling for such a probe tomorrow.”

President Trump, who briefly answered a few questions from reporters while playing golf at his resort in Palm Beach, said he fully supports the two Republican independent probes. “This Democratic so-called ‘independent’ probe into our two real independent probes is a fake independent probe,” Trump said. He vowed to win the independent probe race. “We will not allow an independent probe gap to develop in the Republican Party. For every independent probe they launch, we will launch a new one, so that we always have more independent probes than they do.”

A Senate staffer, who chose not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to this blog, said that staffing shortages among both parties in the Congress might be expected, if the number of independent probes continues to proliferate. “The thing you have to understand is, each independent probe requires staff, including lawyers, investigators and office assistants. The Congress has only so many employees.” It’s likely, this staffer said, that employees will have to be transferred from other areas, such as healthcare, immigration, defense, environmental and foreign relations, in order to be reassigned to independent probes.

Late last night, just before this blog was published, came breaking news that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has decided to create an independent probe of the yet-to-be-announced Democratic independent probe, in what one Republican staffer, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, called “a pre-emptive independent probe designed to make sure that the Democratic independent probe never gets off the ground.” That would raise the number of independent probes to five.

  1. The Republican probe into the Mueller investigation
  2. The Democratic probe into that
  3. The Republican probe into that
  4. The [likely] Democratic probe into that, and
  5. The [expected] Republican probe into that

Reached at the White House, I asked the administration’s chief spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, if she expected the multiple independent probes to deter Mueller from pursuing his investigation. “You’d have to ask the President’s outside counsel about that,” she said. Trump’s chief lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was unavailable for comment.

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