The need for an independent, nonpartisan investigation into the role Russia played in the November election, and the potential influence it may have in the Trump administration, becomes more urgent and sobering by the day.
Most disturbing, though, is the possibility that we might not be capable of conducting such an investigation, one that takes us only where the facts lead, because of a hyper-partisanship that has long been with us but went into overdrive during the Obama era and has taken flight even more since.
The list of concerns is long and growing, including news that Trump campaign aides may have had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials throughout the 2016 election cycle, despite previous adamant denials from the Trump camp.
All of this is coming to a head as Russia secretly deployed a new cruise missile in possible violation of a treaty that helped end the Cold War and showed other provocations. Given that, along with earlier hints from Trump that he is considering rethinking sanctions against Russia and is threatening to radically change NATO – the most important bulwark against an aggressive Russia – there is no time to waste. A complete investigation must be launched. Now.
Despite the red flags, Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has reportedly been going slow on the U.S.-Russia investigation. That’s unacceptable.
If ever there was a time to put politics aside, this is it. We can’t let hyper-partisanship blind us to the threats we face, not as Democrats or Republicans or independents, but as Americans.
This is about the integrity of our democracy. That’s why the investigation shouldn’t become yet another political football or witch hunt designed to protect or harm the Trump administration. Legitimate questions have been raised and they can only be answered by a legitimate process.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been among the clearest-eyed in Washington. He has long declared he would lead the charge to determine just how much influence Russia has in our government. He reiterated that point in a statement Wednesday.
“If in fact there are campaign contacts between Trump officials and Russian intelligence officers, that would be a very serious event and would justify the Senate forming a Select Committee to look at all things related to Russia,” the statement read. “The Russians have been trying to break the backbone of democracies all over the world, and clearly in my view, interfered in the 2016 election.”
There are too many legitimately concerning questions to slow-foot this process, including the nature of the leaks that have informed much of the reporting. Were they the result of whistleblowers wanting to expose wrongdoing? Or political actors trying to undermine a presidency?
Adhering to political orthodoxy is not an option we can afford. There’s too much at stake. History will not look kindly on Sen. Burr, or anyone else, who puts party before country at a time like this.