Opinion: Bogus GOP probes divert from serious Russia inquiry

The Russian government — with its plans to attack our democracy in the next election – scored a major victory Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Visalia — who earlier this year recused himself from our investigation of Russia’s meddling in 2016’s election — announced he is launching a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s role in a long-since-debunked “conspiracy” involving 2010 uranium sales to Russia.

Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced they are launching an inquiry into the Justice Department’s decisions regarding its Clinton investigations during the 2016 campaign.

These new investigations are nothing more than the latest round of smoke bombs dropped by Republicans in Congress and the White House, aimed at disrupting and discrediting criminal and congressional probes of Russia’s interference in our most sacred institution: free and fair elections.

We’ve seen this effort in various iterations, from claiming former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Donald Trump, to Nunes working with the White House — the subjects of our investigation — to manufacture a phony “unmasking” narrative. Fortunately, dogged determination by Democrats in Congress — joined by a few courageous Republicans — and the work of a free press has yielded important information about Russia’s attack.

Contrary to the President’s cavalier denials, our intelligence community months ago concluded unanimously that Russia undertook a coordinated operation to interfere with our election. It took part in or abetted computer hacking, and selectively disseminated stolen, private information. It scanned voter registration systems in almost half our states. It produced fake news, and both used its own propaganda outlets and abused our social media platforms to disseminate those lies and sow discord and distrust in American political institutions.

It’s clear that Russia did this to benefit Donald Trump’s campaign and destabilize our electoral process. It’s growing clearer that Russia sought to coordinate directly with the Trump campaign in doing so. And our investigation and the media’s reporting have shown that the Trump family, campaign, and businesses repeatedly demonstrated a willingness and eagerness to work with Russia to win the election.

Sadly, Russia last year infected us with a virus that we have still not kicked — a loss of faith in our nation’s democratic structures. Our disarray serves Putin’s global purposes. And with 2018’s midterm election practically around the corner, the only antidote to a future attack is showing unity among our nation’s leaders in identifying how we were so vulnerable and who was responsible.

Yet these new, plainly partisan investigations only foster disunity, only serving to sharpen Russians’ swords to attack us again.

The House and Senate Intelligence committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller must be allowed to finish our investigations without further delay or distraction. But Congress also must be allowed to vote on H.R. 356, the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

This bill, which I co-authored with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. — the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — would create an independent, bipartisan-appointed commission that can investigate Russia’s meddling free of all of this political pandering and obfuscation, and produce a report that the American people can believe and trust.

Our bill is co-sponsored by all House Democrats, plus two Republicans: Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Justin Amash, R-Mich. It is long past time for more of the House GOP to put country over party by supporting our effort to de-politicize this crucial investigation and place it in the hands of independent experts in national security, foreign policy and election law.

Our time to act decisively and in unison is growing short. And these new, bogus investigations will only help run out the clock.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Castro Valley, is the ranking member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Article: San Jose Mercury News