Devin Nunes (R-CA) currently chairs the House Intelligence Committee. That committee was first tasked to oversee the House inquiry into Russian interference into the 2016 election. In the early days of the investigation, after the committee received significant evidence that implicated the Trump campaign, Nunes quickly ran over to the White House, attempted to have a secret, off-the-books meeting with President Trump, and while meeting with the President Nunes improperly disclosed sensitive and confidential evidence to protect the President. Rep. Nunes was a major Trump supporter in 2016 and a senior member of the Trump Transition Team. Due to his involvement and obvious conflict of interest, Rep. Nunes initially recused himself from that aspect of the Committee’s work. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took steps to remove Nunes as Committee Chair. Apparently, both men were “just kidding” because Nunes kept his chairmanship and withdrew his recusal.
Rep. Nunes has thwarted his committee’s investigation ever since. He has denied or limited inquiry into issues specifically concerning Russian influence and especially concerning any connection with the Trump campaign or Trump financial ties to questionable Russian interests. Instead, he led his committee on an irrelevant inquiry on the already answered issue of “unmasking” of names in surveillance actions. That issue was fully addressed and previously resolved with no discernable impropriety. More importantly, it was recently disclosed that Rep. Nunes and a group of Republican colleagues have been meeting secretly, without any Democratic knowledge (until now) or involvement. This rogue cabal was accessing the sensitive, confidential, and secret documents that belong to the committee for their own purposes and ostensibly expending funds to support their efforts. The Committee and its members are required to conduct all business in accordance with official rules and procedures. These actions may not only violate House rules, but trigger Constitutional questions as well as concerns about obstruction of justice or conspiracy. The last thing we need is another investigation, but these extreme, clandestine activities must be reviewed by competent authority and appropriate sanction taken. If reports are accurate, not only should Nunes lose his chairmanship, but he should be expelled from Congress and perhaps even prosecuted.
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee recently led a highly inappropriate and dishonest barrage against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concerning the Mueller investigation and related issues. As with the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, they, too, are shamefully determined to prevent any investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and specifically any connection to the Trump campaign or Trump interests. Rep. Jim Jordan, in a moment that could not have been scripted any better by Hollywood, went on a disingenuous tirade about the FBI and the infamous dossier (discussed below). Rep. Trey Gowdy, who was so determined to hurt Secretary of State Clinton that he reportedly manipulated, if not manufactured, evidence in the Benghazi hearings, joined the fray. They, and other members, have been attempting to deflect attention away from evidence of Trump campaign improprieties, prevent investigation of these critical issues, and focus attention on the Department of Justice and FBI.
The FBI and DoJ are organizations comprised of thousands of career professionals, selfless and dedicated to fighting crime and terrorism. In any large organization, there will be individual members who fail to meet the required standards of conduct or performance. Organizations are prepared and equipped to deal with these issues. They collect the facts, look at the individuals involved, apply the rules, and determine the appropriate sanction from corrective measures to reprimands to termination. Congressional Republicans are determined to shift all focus to two agents who sent inappropriate political messages to each other. Special Counsel Mueller immediately fired both from his team. He would not and did not tolerate any such nonsense from anyone associated with his work. The FBI has the ability to take further action as warranted. As with all agencies, not only do the leaders have the necessary tools to review and discipline errant members, but there is the Inspector General’s office that is trained, capable, and experienced in investigating any such matters. To the organization’s credit, these issues were dealt with swiftly and properly. There is no evidence of any pervasive or systemic problems of any kind in the ranks. In fact, it is widely known that the majority of agents trend toward being conservative and Republican leaning. The two agents in question unwittingly provided Republicans intent on deflecting attention away from Russia with a bright shiny object to distract attention from the important national security matters at hand.
What many of these members of Congress want is to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, not because he is doing anything they find worthy of being fired, but because it serves their nefarious political purposes to cover up Russian interference and likely Trump impropriety. With Sessions gone, a new Attorney General would not be recused from the Trump/Russia investigation and would be pressured to fire Robert Mueller and prevent any further inquiry. If there was further inquiry the new Attorney General would exercise strict control and prevent investigation or any Trump campaign or Trump business impropriety. Also, to deflect attention, they are attempting to force the FBI to investigate Christopher Steele as a means of discrediting the contents of the dossier (see next paragraph).
Fusion GPS, an American research company founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters, is the firm behind the now infamous Trump Dossier. The Mercer family have been huge financial donors to the Republican Party and Steve Bannon. They were supporting Ted Cruz in the primary against Trump. The Mercers and Cruz campaign first hired Fusion GPS to do this unfortunately common opposition research into candidate Trump. Fusion hired Christopher Steele, a reputable, capable, proven former British intelligence agent to do the job. Once Trump won the primary, the Democrats then paid Fusion GPS for the information and apparently to continue the research, which of course was the same dossier. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats ever attempted to use the dossier against candidate Trump. It was the Republican party that first hired Steele to prepare the dossier and the Democrats merely continued the same effort. Both the Republican and Democrats contracted strictly with Fusion GPS, an American company, who in turn hired Christopher Steele, a British citizen. Neither dealt with any Russian interests concerning this research project. Thus, it is utterly ridiculous for the administration to try and accuse the Clinton campaign of colluding with Russia. More blatant lies and deflection.
Steele was well-known to American intelligence agencies and had worked previously with the CIA and others. Steele was not aware of who hired Fusion GPS or who was funding the project. More importantly, neither Steele nor Fusion GPS ever paid any of the witnesses interviewed in compiling the dossier. Steele prepared a detailed credible document that raised significant questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election, attempts by Russia to assert leverage over Donald Trump, and financial ties between Trump businesses and disreputable Russian interests that appeared to be money laundering. Steele knew, based on his experience and connections with U.S. intelligence, he had discovered serious information and needed to disclose it to the U.S. and he did so. U.S. authorities were free to investigate or ignore the information. Steele acted appropriately in conducting his research and Republican efforts to investigate him are further desperate attempts to deflect attention away from any issues involving Russia, the Trump campaign, or money laundering.
The critical question is why don’t the Republicans, specifically those on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, care that Russia clearly meddled in our elections?! Put aside any connection to the Trump campaign for a moment. The sanctity of our elections and election infrastructure is a paramount national security issue. Do Americans have to vote every few years anxious about Russian or other adversaries improperly manipulating the results? Shouldn’t we all have confidence in the results as we have for generations, regardless for whom we voted? On top of that, the contents in the dossier as well as independent sources raise bona fide concerns about Trump’s connections to Russia and why they would be working to help his election. There is a duty to investigate and ascertain the truth, whichever way it goes.
We know there were multiple meetings between high level members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. We have learned that Trump had significant financial dealings with Russian interests, which increased when domestic banks refused to loan him money due to bankruptcies and reneging on deals. Based on multiple reports, there are credible allegations of money laundering and other questionable business connections. This is likely why Russia was interested in helping Trump get elected – they had influence and leverage over him. This does not necessarily equate to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, these issues are serious enough and appear to have sufficient foundation, to require more thorough investigation. Either way, whether this clears all Trump interests or proves the allegations, the American people deserve the truth and fidelity of our elections systems,
This level of blatant attempts to cover up for President Trump calls into question the ethics and ability of many of these individuals to serve as members of Congress. They all take an oath to the Constitution. They have a duty to the American people. They are obligated to put country over party and politics, especially for national security matters. These individuals have it backwards and are going to great lengths (and theatrics) to protect President Trump’s campaign and financial interests, ignoring the serious Russian interference into our elections, and are acting to the detriment of the nation. Are Republican Congressional leaders so blindly ambitious or beholden to Trump that they are willing to cover up these serious allegations? Are they so afraid of the truth coming out about alleged collusion that they need to knowingly spread false and reckless conspiracy theories and discredit the thousands of dedicated, hardworking, professionals in the FBI and Department of Justice? Wouldn’t it be better to support the rule of law, the truth, and the sanctity of our elections? Clearly many Republicans see a window to pass major pieces of their agenda while they have firm control of the Congress and the White House. Are a few legislative victories worth this? At some point we must hope the truth will come out and Republican actions now will determine how big a price they pay later. I have to believe there are enough honorable Republicans in Congress and it is long overdue to hear their voices and put an end to the outrageous and dishonest efforts at cover up. As we have learned time and again, the cover up is often worse than the crime. So let the consequences prove again.