It seems like nearly every day, there is a new revelation of connections between Trump’s associates and the Russian government and of possible interference in the 2016 general election. We cannot trust the Trump Administration to investigate itself. At the same time, Republican members of Congress (MoCs) investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election have conducted themselves in partisan and inappropriate manners.
The American people deserve the full story behind Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. But the public cannot trust that Republican MoCs with close ties to Trump and his campaign will investigate the facts thoroughly and impartially. Republicans who were originally supposed to be leading investigations into Russia have:
- Demonstrated a lack of good judgment;
- Operated with partisan biases;
- Shown favoritism towards the White House;
- Conspired with White House staff;
- Put hearings into Russia on hold without adequate explanation;
- Triggered personal investigations by the House Committee on Ethics; and
- Quit the investigation under intense public pressure.
Nor can the American people trust Trump officials, who themselves may also be subjects of the investigation, to impartially scrutinize the situation. Others advising the White House on ongoing relations with Russia have:
- Lied under oath about meeting with Russian officials during the campaign;
- Blocked key officials from testifying;
- Failed to disclose payments from Russian sources;
- Resigned from the White House; and
- Requested immunity.
Most recently, Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey who was tasked with investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential elections. Trump cited Comey’s handling of his investigation into Secretary Clinton’s e-mail during the 2016 election and Comey’s mishandling of testimony before Congress on that topic. However, Trump’s timing is suspect. And now, after firing Comey, Trump will appoint a new FBI Director to look into his Administration’s connections with Russia.
Earlier this week, the American public also learned that Trump sat on his hands for 18 days after his White House Counsel learned that the National Security Advisor had lied to senior officials in the Trump Administration and was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia. Donald Trump’s inaction for so long raises alarming questions the American public deserves to have answered.
At this point, the connections between the Trump team and Russia create a tangled web of overlapping interests that are difficult to unpack or even to visualize without a graphic:
CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES CANNOT BE TRUSTED
For months now, Trump officials and Republican MoCs in both the House and Senate have wasted the American people’s time with their mishandling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Even after hearing damning testimony, Senate Republicans have failed to take threats to our national security seriously. In testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Crimes and Terrorism, former Attorney General Sally Yates summed up what the Michael Flynn scandal is all about: “To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians.” During the same hearing, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper revealed that multiple European allies passed intelligence to the U.S. on Trump campaign contacts with Russian intelligence agents in 2016. Clapper dismissed that this was about leaks: “The transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process.” However, the Republican Senators present failed to probe into the White House’s shielding of Flynn, or the risks posed to U.S. national security.
The House has had its own problems investigating the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former member of the Trump transition team violated established protocols and broke congressional norms. He was lambasted by Democrats and Republicans alike for his unusual behavior. Finally, after announcement by the Ethics Committee that Nunes “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information,” Nunes temporarily recused himself from the the investigation into Russia. And now the House Committee on Ethics is conducting its own investigation—into the questionable actions of Rep. Nunes.
The American people deserve better.
THE SENATE SHOULD BLOCK ALL JUDICIAL AND DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE NOMINEES UNTIL THERE IS AN INDEPENDENT LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATION
We need an independent law enforcement investigation, not a sham investigation by a partisan Congress or a Trump FBI. The Trump Administration has many slots it wants to fill for new judges and Department of Justice political appointees–including the head of the FBI. Department of Justice and judicial confirmations must stop until an independent law enforcement investigator, like a special prosecutor, is appointed. Our democracy demands nothing less.
WHAT YOU CAN DO DURING RECESS
Demand that your Senators block all judicial and Department of Justice nominations until an independent law enforcement investigator is appointed. Ask them directly in town halls or public events, visit their district offices, and make calls requesting that they hold these nominations.
SAMPLE TOWN HALL OR OFFICE VISIT QUESTIONS
ALWAYS try to incorporate a personal story when speaking with your MoCs. Below are sample questions for your MoCs on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia:
For Senate Republicans:
- I’m shell-shocked that Trump would fire the FBI Director who was leading an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. Regardless of who you voted for or what you think of James Comey, his firing is an attack on American values and our democracy. Will you choose patriotism over party, and promise to block all judicial and Department of Justice nominees until an independent law enforcement investigator is appointed?
For all Senators:
- For the sake of our national security, I want a thorough and impartial investigation into Russian interference in our elections. We cannot let a foreign power get away with manipulating our democratic process. Our enemies are emboldened when America’s response to foreign interference is incompetent and ineffective. Right now, we are all less safe. I know you, too, want a secure America. Will you stand up for our security and commit to block judicial and Department of Justice nominees until an independent law enforcement investigator is appointed?
- Trump firing the FBI Director one week after Comey asked for more resources to investigate Russian interference reeks of obstruction of justice. We need to get to the truth of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and what involvement Trump or his associates had in Russia’s interference. Will you commit to block any judicial and Department of Justice nominees until an independent law enforcement investigator is appointed?