We don’t generally subscribe to the notion that Donald Trump intentionally tries to be unpresidential on Twitter to distract Americans from bad news about the investigation into Russia and the 2016 election. Rather, we think Trump is who he is – a self-absorbed blowhard who does real damage to the country, 140 to 280 characters at a time.
That was dangerously apparent Tuesday, when Trump began the day declaring that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin should be in “jail” for disregarding security protocols with emails, then recklessly tweeted that he had a bigger nuclear “button” than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In between, there were attacks on Pakistan, Democrats and a favorite target, the media. It was, on the whole, an embarrassment. Was it cynically strategic, too? Probably not.
But if ever there were a day to buy into the Trump Distraction Theory, perhaps it was Tuesday. That’s because Trump’s tweets coincided with an alarming New York Times op-ed from the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the so-called Steele dossier, a collection of documents alleging Trump ties to Russia. In the op-ed, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch reiterated those Trump-Russia links and suggested the FBI investigation into Russian collusion was prompted in part by a tip from within the Trump campaign – a potentially devastating revelation to the president, if true.
Just as troubling, however, are the op-ed’s suggestions that Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence committees might be covering up for Trump. Simpson and Fritsch say Republicans are leaking info from testimony the firm gave to Congress last year, and that they aren’t pursuing elementary leads and evidence in their investigations. Those allegations buttress a Washington Post report last week that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a Trump loyalist and chair of the intel committee, has blocked Democratic efforts to interview Trump officials, including Donald Trump Jr. Democrats are so frustrated that they’re considering issuing a minority report with details about how Republicans have tried to impede the investigation.
The good news, of course, is that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing everything being told to and blocked from congressional ears. Still, at least some Republicans appear to be actively trying to minimize, deflect or even thwart an investigation that could harm the president. What’s to stop them from doing the same with Mueller’s findings?
It’s time for North Carolina’s Richard Burr, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, to step in. We’re reluctant to call for Burr to release transcripts of Fusion GPS’s testimony, as Simpson and Fritsch demanded in their op-ed. It’s rarely a good idea to release pieces of an investigation before the whole. But Burr should publicly address questions raised in the op-ed, and he should do so with intelligence vice chair and Democrat Mark Warner at his side, as he has before.
Americans need that comfort, now and moving forward. There’s an unmistakeable smell coming from Washington that suggests some Republicans aren’t very interested in the truth about Trump and Russia. Burr needs to regularly clear the air.