7 Republicans who only cared about FBI investigations before Trump got elected

Source: AP
Source: AP

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey publicly disclosed his agency is investigating President Donald Trump's administration and presidential campaign for possible ties to the Russian government.

Comey said his agency's investigators are looking into whether there is any evidence Trump or people in his orbit illegally colluded with Russian intelligence agencies as the latter leaked embarrassing hacked emails from Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly goaded Clinton about the leaks, and at one time dared the Russian government to release even more.

So Trump is a president under FBI investigation. But many of the Republicans providing cover for Trump once warned of the dangers of electing a president under FBI investigation — the difference being that the target of that investigation is no longer a hypothetical President Clinton.

Here's what some of those Republicans said then and now.

Kellyanne Conway

Conway, one of Trump's top advisers, tweeted a Fox News report about Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state in October 2016, captioning it "Most honest people I know are not under FBI investigation, let alone two."

In the time since, Conway has spent much of her time on the cable news circuit calling reports of Trump-Russia ties unfounded rumors.

Marco Rubio

In Dallas, Texas, in January 2016, Rubio told a crowd that "I'm not here to badmouth the other Republicans, we have a good group of people running. At a minimum I can say this: None of them is a socialist. None of our candidates is under FBI investigation."

Source: YouTube

While Rubio has not been shy about sharing his thoughts on Trump's Russia-friendly approach to foreign relations, he's been somewhat more reticent about rumors of Trump-Russia collusion, saying Senate inquiries into the ties are aimed more at uncovering Russian interference generally than whether Trump's team was personally involved.

Reince Priebus

Priebus, who is now Trump's White House chief of staff, slammed Clinton on Twitter repeatedly during the election over the FBI investigation into the server.

"The FBI's announcement confirms their investigation into Hillary Clinton's secret email server is far from the routine 'security review' she has claimed," Priebus wrote in a February 2016 statement. "Clinton's conduct was a severe error in judgment that grossly endangered our national security and put highly classified information at risk. This development is another reminder Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted with the presidency."

Since then, Priebus has taken issue with reports of Trump-Russia ties, calling them "grossly overstated and inaccurate," saying top intelligence officials denied any such investigation was happening.

House Oversight Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Chaffetz was one of the Republicans who relentlessly went after Clinton over emails, repeatedly inquiring whether the former secretary of state lied under oath and touting the FBI investigation as evidence Clinton was too contaminated to serve as president.

But in his role as the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaffetz has stonewalled efforts to investigate Trump and his associates. In fact, after Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned following reports he secretly talked with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Chaffetz said he would focus his committee on whoever leaked the incident, not Flynn's discussion of sanctions on Russia.

In fact, Chaffetz still seems pretty preoccupied on the Clinton emails, which he has pledged to continue investigating despite Comey's refusal to bring charges.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

Ryan tweeted an inaccurate report the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton in October 2016 with the caption, "She was entrusted with some of the nation's most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly handling highly classified information."

Later, in November, Ryan endorsed Trump while noting Clinton "simply believes she's above the law and always plays by her own rules. This is a pattern with the Clintons, and the American people should not have to endure four more years of their scandal and baggage."

Ryan has since declined to endorse any investigation into Flynn's abrupt resignation, or the idea of any more general independent investigation into the Russian connection.

Vice President Mike Pence

Source: Evan Vucci/AP

Trump's veep repeatedly goaded Clinton on Twitter and elsewhere about the FBI inquiry into her server, borrowing Comey's words to quip it would be "extremely careless" to elect Clinton and supporting continued investigations even after the FBI declined to press charges.

Pence, of course, has remained stalwartly by Trump's side as more allegations of something untoward about the administration's ties to Russia have mounted.

President Donald Trump

Trump, of course, was Clinton's most consistent critic, mounting continual attacks on her as the "most corrupt candidate ever" (a phrase borrowed from white supremacists on the internet) and the like.

Trump more or less went hog wild on the FBI inquiry into Clinton's email on his preferred communications medium, Twitter.

Of course, now that Trump is the one being investigated by the FBI, his perception of how serious an FBI investigation is for the person being investigated seems to have changed.

It wasn't just Republicans who harped on Clinton's FBI problem, but it's only Republicans writing off Trump's FBI problem

While Clinton's primary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders largely avoided criticizing Clinton over the FBI inquiry — famously telling the audience at a Democratic debate "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" — a small number of his supporters on the left were not so happy to hear Comey decline to press charges. According to ABC News, some Sanders delegates believed Clinton's political influence had offset a more punitive response. A few of Sanders' high-profile celebrity supporters, including Mark Ruffalo and Rosario Dawson, insisted Comey was wrong not to recommend charges.

Those partisans, however, have remained mostly consistent, treating Trump just as harshly following news of the FBI investigation into possible collusion with Russia. Ruffalo, for example, spent the much of the day tweeting about Comey's hearing.

That's entirely different than the large-scale, institutional reaction from Republicans, who a recent CNN/ORC poll concluded have largely buried their head in the sand over the Trump-Russia investigation. That poll concluded a full 54% of Republicans had no concern "at all" about the allegations, while 71% of Democrats reported being "very concerned." Other polls show Republicans are much less concerned about the investigation than the rest of the public, despite Trump supporters almost universally (92%) believing the FBI erred in not prosecuting Clinton over emails.

Prominent conservative figures who thought the FBI investigation into Clinton was disqualifying seem to have mostly swung to explaining why the FBI investigation into Trump is not disqualifying.

It remains possible Comey's revelation about the FBI investigation will change mainstream GOP support for Trump. But so far, it looks a lot like Republicans are more concerned with the party affiliation of those being investigated than the investigations themselves.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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