The indictments brought against Russian military intelligence officials who interfered in our election on President Donald Trump’s behalf are proof positive of why Congress must urgently defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and protect our democracy.
Based on Mueller’s findings, the Department of Justice last week indicted the 12 Russians for hacking American emails and voter databases to help Trump’s campaign. In fact, the indictments show that on July 26, 2017, the same day Trump publicly urged Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s server, the Russian hackers – who already had stolen data from the Democratic National Committee and other sources – actually did go after Clinton’s emails.
And though Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that these latest indictments don’t name American citizens, he noted the Russians “corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet.”
The Justice Department’s career professional prosecutors found probable cause to believe these crimes were committed against our nation.
Our intelligence committee unanimously has high confidence in this too, in a report issued more than a year and a half ago.
The Senate Intelligence Committee this month reached bipartisan agreement that it’s true.
And I and my fellow Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have been saying it all along.
Who doesn’t acknowledge it? Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and President Trump’s other partisan protectors.
You saw it Monday at the appalling Trump-Putin press conference in Helsinki. The president’s principal job is to protect and defend us, yet this president sided with Putin instead of our own law enforcement and intelligence communities.
He still calls Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” that has dragged on too long. Yet Mueller’s probe has been spectacularly productive: 32 people charged so far, of whom five – including the president’s former national security adviser and several campaign aides – have pled guilty. The president’s former campaign manager was indicted, and then jailed after being indicted again for witness tampering.
Meanwhile, the Russians are coming at us again in the upcoming midterms while watching us spin our wheels in the muck created by President Trump and his enablers.
The Kremlin must have echoed with laughter last week during the absurd joint House Judiciary and Oversight hearing with FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, former chief of the bureau’s Counterespionage Section. Those committees’ Republicans proved yet again that they’ll stop at nothing to obstruct, undermine and end Mueller’s investigation.
For hours on end, they harangued and personally insulted Strzok over a few private texts in which he had expressed disdain for candidate Trump – never coming close to proving that his opinion affected his work. Would that any of them had shown such fervor in pursuing facts about Russia’s interference.
Don’t get me wrong – Mueller was right to boot Strzok from his investigative team. As a former prosecutor, I know any perception of bias or prejudgment can undermine an investigation and so must be removed from the equation.
But what my GOP colleagues fail to understand is that most law enforcement professionals – and most Americans, in fact – can separate their political opinions from their work, and do so every day. They can’t conceive of this because many of them are fundamentally incapable of doing this themselves: Their politics, their need to protect their party’s president, overrides their reason and guides their actions. When bias rules your world, you see bias in everyone else.
That’s why I and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) long ago introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act, to create an independent, bipartisan-appointed commission of respected experts to conduct a full-time, subpoena-empowered investigation of foreign interference in our election. Only such a commission can produce an unbiased report Americans truly can trust, and make effective recommendations to ensure it never happens again.
Our bill is supported by all House Democrats plus two brave House Republicans. If recent days’ shameful spectacles – the ridiculous Strzok hearing, and the president’s refusal to confront Putin as the scheming antagonist he is – don’t convince more Republicans to put country over party and sign onto this bill, I truly don’t know what will.
Meanwhile, as indictments pile up and hearings continue, we’ve seen many targets of the president’s vitriol stand before Congress, raise their right hands, swear their oaths, and tell what they know.
President Trump must do the same with Mueller without further delay or obstruction. That’s how to help bring this sordid chapter in our nation’s history to a swift and just close.