Friday, March 03, 2017
Still putting Party over Country
The Republican majority in both Houses of Congress gives them the very real power to stifle and stop anything that threatens their control, regardless of how damaging it may be to the Republic. And as the Trump/Russia scandals unfold we are seeing the exercise of that power, undiluted and in full view.
Despite new questions about contacts between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a top Russian diplomat, House and Senate Republicans remain unwilling to budge from their opposition to a special bipartisan inquiry into the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and into any connections to President Trump or those close to him. Changing their mind would probably require significant revelations of the sort that would make their current stance politically untenable.Investigating the source of your own power is not an attractive proposition even to one of unshakeable integrity. The Republicans can hardly be called that. But the nature of what is to be uncovered may change that.
Even as Mr. Sessions recused himself on Thursday from any such investigation by the Justice Department, his former Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill were adamant that any improper conduct — and they remain very skeptical that there was any — was best investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has already begun its work.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee is the best place to determine the facts regarding Russian involvement in our elections,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who sits on the panel and has been more aggressive than other Republicans in calling for a thorough inquiry.
“In my opinion, it would take at least six months for any new investigation to get to where the Intelligence Committee is today, and the ability to work with the intelligence community would never equal the daily communications of our bipartisan committee,” said Mr. Blunt, who added that he intended to visit C.I.A. headquarters in the next week to personally review relevant documents.
Democrats say there is another reason Republicans favor the Intelligence Committee: Its work is conducted mainly behind closed doors, sparing Mr. Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill from a regular parade of witnesses swearing to tell the truth before sober-faced senators — all of it televised live on cable news and C-Span.
From the McCarthy hearings through Watergate, Iran-contra and the Clinton impeachment, the American public has become quite familiar with the tableaux of the congressional investigation and the serious business that can be involved.
Republicans would like to avoid such a scene to the extent possible. Pursuing an investigation through the Intelligence Committee arms them against complaints that they are looking the other way about the allegations, while potentially limiting the fallout for them and the new administration.
But rapid-fire developments — such as confirmed reports of previously unknown meetings between Mr. Sessions and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak (meetings he denied at his Senate confirmation hearing), followed by his quick recusal — may erode Republicans’ ability to hold off demands for a wider and more public investigation. Such disclosures have a cumulative effect.
Though most of Mr. Sessions’s former colleagues stood solidly behind him before his recusal announcement, there were prominent cracks. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a respected voice among Senate Republicans, issued a statement urging Mr. Sessions to step aside from any Russia-related investigation by the Justice Department. Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, issued his own statement urging the intelligence panel to get on with it.
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