Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mother Jones: Why It's Impossible for Republicans to Investigate the Trump-Russia Scandal

Here's an excerpt from the Mother Jones' story:

“On Monday, Yahoo News broke an important—but unsurprising—story: the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal has made little progress, with its Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, refusing to sign off on subpoenas and witness interviews and failing to devote to the inquiry sufficient staff power and resources.

“This was the latest blow to the effort to scrutinize Russia's effort to disrupt the 2016 election and the connections between Donald Trump's inner circle and Russians. Several weeks earlier, the House Intelligence Committee led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) imploded, when Nunes discredited himself with a bizarre stunt: He claimed he had obtained from secret sources classified evidence that Obama administration officials had improperly obtained the identities of Trump associates who were unintentionally picked up in intelligence intercepts, and he dashed to the White House to inform President Trump before sharing (and evaluating) this information with his staff and committee colleagues. It turned out Nunes' sources were White House officials and his conspiratorial characterization of the material was inaccurate and overblown. This curious episode led to the House Ethics Committee launching a probe into whether Nunes had revealed sensitive information, and Nunes recused himself from his committee's Russia investigation.

“All of this rigmarole leads to an obvious question: Can the Republicans mount an independent and effective investigation of Moscow's hacking during the 2016 campaign and the interactions between Trump's crew and Russia? There is now a good argument that the answer is no.

“It would take a Republican of tremendous fortitude and independence to withstand all the political pressure and lead a thorough, come-what-may probe that could end up blemishing if not endangering the Trump presidency. So far, no GOPer has assumed this role. And in today's hyperpartisan political environment, that may be too much to ask for. The alternatives, then, would be an independent, nonpartisan commission that was not part of Congress or a bipartisan select committee of Congress. The problem: Either one would have to be backed by the Republican leaders of Congress. (A commission, if created by an act of Congress, would have to be signed into existence by Trump.) That, too, would take more guts than most Republicans can muster when it comes to uncovering the truth about Putin's operation and Trump links to the regime that waged covert political warfare against the United States.”

Robert Reich’s opinion:

What happened to the promised investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election? The House intelligence committee has been plagued by infighting and missteps. While the Senate investigative committee has pledged a thorough probe, it’s done little so far -- no high-profile hearings, until very recently no full-time staff, and its few part-time staffers have no investigative experience or expertise with Russia.

Why? Look at history. When the parties are intensely polarized, congressional majorities investigate only when the White House is held by the other party. When different parties control the executive and legislative branches, congressional investigations multiply. But when the same party controls the White House and Congress, congressional investigations stall or disappear.

The period from 1898 to 1936 — from the Gilded Age to the depths of the Depression — was, like today, an era of deep partisan polarization. And since the Reagan era began in 1981, partisan polarization has increased steadily. In polarized eras (both in the early 20th century and today), when one party held both branches of government, the president’s partisan allies have routinely ignored calls for serious investigations.

In other words, don’t expect Republicans to investigate Trump’s Russian connection. It will only happen if and when Congress is flipped in 2018. Or if and when the intelligence agencies produce (or leak) a smoking gun.

Why It's Impossible for Republicans to Investigate the Trump-Russia Scandal

By David Corn