The Threat to America and its Allies Posed by Russia and Its Connections With the Trump Administration
In the continuing saga of the Russia investigations, the calls for a “smoking gun” or direct “evidence of collusion” ignore the obvious and continuing threat we face as a nation from Russian interference with our elections. Since taking office, the Trump administration has been silent on this grave threat to our democracy. Partisan Members of Congress have shown an unwillingness to set aside party loyalty to question the mounting evidence of improprieties by the Trump team during the campaign, the transition to the presidency, and these first months of the Trump administration. An Independent Commission — and only an Independent Commission — will follow the evidence wherever it leads. The American public deserves to fully understand the extent to which our democratic election system was compromised, whether any Americans aided the Kremlin against American interests, and the risk of future cyber-attacks.
Russia interfered with the 2016 election because it saw how a Trump presidency could benefit its long-term goal of of rebuilding a new Russian Empire by weakening the democratic Western nations that stand in its way. It’s working here in the U.S. because we have a president and an administration actively working to further Russia’s agenda. During the campaign, Trump pushed Russian disinformation and propaganda on American voters, encouraged Russia to hack his opponent, and when he was confronted by the U.S. intelligence community finding that Russia hacked and released democratic materials, Trump denied Russian culpability. In short, he sided with Russia, even though he took an oath on January 20, 2017 to protect and defend the Constitution and the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
As soon as he came into power, Trump’s pro-Russia campaign rhetoric materialized into action. Instead of showing interest in investigating Russia’s meddling with our election, as his oath of office requires him to do, President Trump explored ways to unilaterally ease sanctions, demanded loyalty from the FBI Director, and attempted to hinder or interfere with the investigations. When Trump did not get what he wanted, he fired the FBI Director. President Trump also terminated key personnel who were investigating his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia, and the White House coordinated with the chair of the congressional committee investigating Russian hacking to ensure that his committee would not fully and fairly investigate this matter. All signs point to Trump wanting to quash the investigation. Again, he sided with Russia.
Republican Members of Congress who have allowed this to continue are equally responsible. They have strayed from their duty to the country and failed to provide moral leadership. We need an Independent Commission that can fairly, objectively, and accurately uncover all the facts and make smart, practical recommendations about how we can hold the appropriate persons accountable and safeguard our elections and institutions. We need elected officials with the resolve to strengthen our democracy, not weaken it.
Appointment of a special counsel like Robert Mueller was legally the right step — indeed the only step — for the Justice Department to take in order not only to determine whether any laws have been violated by members of the Trump team, and, if so, what criminal charges are warranted, but also to secure the public’s faith in the Justice Department and the FBI. But the special counsel investigates in darkness, with his only task being to look for criminality, not to report to Congress or the public on what he has discovered, or to investigate the full scope of Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, broader problems of continuing cyber-attacks by Russia, risks of future election interference, and what if any leverage Russia has over Trump or anyone else in his administration.
We, the American people, deserve to know the truth about any connections between Donald Trump and members of his presidential campaign and Russia, regardless of whether they amounted to a violation of U.S. law. This matter therefore cannot end with the appointment of the special prosecutor. Congress must now also move to create an Independent Commission to investigate these matters, and to enact recommendations of the Independent Commission into law. The alternative is simply not an option.