Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Ethical Bankruptcy of House Republicans

Any objective observer of the known interaction between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials and allies during the campaign … not the transition … would say that at a minimum it creates the appearance of if not collusion, that is some agreement or understanding, then an effort on the part of the Trump campaign to encourage the Russians to intervene. 

Why else would there be so many contacts during the campaign?  Especially following Trump’s public invitation to the Russians to engage in cyber-espionage and hack Clinton’s private email server.  Then there is Roger Stone’s tweet prior to the DNC email dump by Wikileaks that “Wednesday @Hillary Clinton is done. #Wikileaks.”

If there indeed was collusion or cozying-up to the Russians by the Trump campaign for the purpose of encouraging them to engage in activities to degrade Clinton and swing the election to Trump, that would be an attack on our democracy far more serious than the Watergate break-in.  This demands an impartial inquiry into the events.

Yet we have Republicans in the House doing everything possible to play down the seriousness of this matter and turn it more into a hunt for the people who leaked information about the FBI investigation.

Recently Representative Nunes, who is chair of the House Intelligence Committee and thus is head of the House inquiry, committed various serious breaches of impartiality.  The first was when he took information he supposedly was given by an intelligence source and went straight to the White House and Speaker Ryan with it, without providing the information to the rest of his committee or even the ranking Democrat.  Then it was revealed that he met with this intelligence source in the White House, for a stated reason which is totally bogus.  And I used the word “supposedly” because he has refused to either say who gave him the information or reveal the specific pieces of information.

Given these lapses, together with the fact the Representative Nunes was on the Trump transition team and thus not just a supporter of Trump but close to him, one would expect that Speaker Ryan or some Republican in the House (the Senate does not interfere in the House’s business) would call for Nunes to recuse himself from the inquiry.  That has not happened to date.  Instead, the call has only come from Democrats.  And Representative Nunes has refused, saying, “It’s their problem.”

All of these Republicans are guilty of dereliction of the duty they undertook when they swore an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution.  The Trump campaign activities vis a vis the Russians smacks of treason.  Congress and the public deserve to know the full facts so that they can come to a decision whether these interactions were innocent or not.

It is relevant to note that this is not the first time that House Republicans have acted in a cavalier manner on such a serious matter.  When the basic facts of Watergate became known, not a single Republican on the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of strong subpoena powers.  And when the final vote on articles of impeachment was taken, only 6 of the 17 Republicans on the Committee voted in favor of impeachment.  After all the damning testimony!

Thankfully, the Senate Intelligence Committee appears as though it will be acting in a bipartisan impartial manner.  Senator Burr, the Republican Chair, and Senator Warner, the ranking Democrat, have jointly pledged to follow wherever the evidence leads, even to the President.  

I have not forgotten that the FBI is investigating these contacts, but their effort is limited to whether there was collusion.  This would be very difficult to prove, without a whistleblower.  So regardless how damning the circumstantial evidence is, given that their investigation is not open to the public, the public will never know absent their finding a “smoking gun.”