Republicans have been excited all week in response to a report that says former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice asked the intelligence community to "unmask" the names of Trump campaign and Trump transition officials. They believe the report is likely proof of a deliberate and illegal smear campaign by the outgoing Obama administration against the Trump team. And now the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee wants Rice to testify about what she knows.
I have one piece of advice for those congressional Republicans: Don't do it!
Because a funny thing happens at a lot of congressional hearings meant to embarrass witnesses or get them to reveal information that hurts another political party; they often end up backfiring in a big way. And if there is anyone in Washington who is equipped and likely to do just that to the GOP, it's Susan Rice.
First off, we need one disclaimer. The Republicans and other defenders of President Donald Trump can come out OK in this demand for Rice to testify if she decides to take her Fifth Amendment rights not to appear before the committee. That result would fuel even more doubt about Rice even among more moderate voters.
But if Rice decides to testify, it's hard to believe she will do nothing other than continue the public process she began Tuesday during an MSNBC interview where she pushed back hard on these accusations and allegations that she misused intelligence data for political purposes.
Here was the key quote from that interview: "The allegations that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes are absolutely false," she said. "[Unmasking] is necessary to do my job. ... Imagine if we saw something of grave significance about Russia, or China, or anybody else interfering with our political process."
Rice's denial/explanation surely sounds solid enough to most Democrats and some others. And Republicans still expecting her to flip under less friendly circumstances should think harder about exactly how good a soldier Rice is. Remember, Rice is the one who went on national TV in 2012 and presented the outrageous notion that a obscure YouTube video was responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. So this is simply not the profile of a woman who is suddenly going to reveal damaging new information before Congress.
But this goes beyond just Rice. We have several cases in recent history of high profile hearing witnesses who absolutely turned what were supposed to be devastating proceedings for them and their causes into absolute triumphs.