Time for Congress to Investigate Mr. Trump’s Ties to Russia

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

In history, this is where Congress steps in. During the Vietnam War, Watergate and the Iran-contra scandal, when a president’s actions or policies crossed the line, Congress investigated and held the White House to account. The time has come for it to do so again.

In the last week alone, Americans have witnessed the firing of President Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and learned with shock and incredulity that members of Mr. Trump’s campaign and inner circle were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials.

Coming on top of credible information from America’s intelligence agencies that Russia tried to destabilize and influence the 2016 presidential campaign, these latest revelations are more than sufficient reason for Congress to investigate what Moscow has been up to and whether people at the highest levels of the United States government have aided and abetted the interests of a nation that has tried to thwart American foreign policy since the Cold War.

Given that context, one might expect Mr. Trump to be clamoring for details that would eliminate any suspicion that his administration is in league with an enemy. Instead he has waged an unhinged attack on the intelligence agencies themselves, praising President Vladimir Putin of Russia at every turn and pointing fingers everywhere but at himself, while refusing to take a single step to resolve questions about his administration’s ties to Russia.

Hence the urgent need for high-level congressional intervention. The ideal vehicle would be an investigative committee of senior senators from both parties as well as members of the House. Some Senate Republicans are beginning to step up. Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has already said his committee will investigate the election hacking. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top-ranking Democrat, are asking for a briefing and transcripts of Mr. Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Pat Roberts favor a broader investigation. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, has also raised the possibility of an investigation by Senate committees with jurisdiction over the intelligence community.

The Democrats would obviously be on board — Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, has also called for the Senate Intelligence Committee to lead a bipartisan inquiry. The person who needs to make this happen is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. Whatever form the committee takes, as Mr. Schumer said on Wednesday, all members must be granted equal access to “intelligence officials, transcripts and documents that they need to answer critical questions, and they must be permitted to make their findings public to the maximum extent possible.”

More here.

Senators start bipartisan inquiry into Russian election meddling

Via The New York Times:

Remember Russia? The country that intelligence officials believe interfered in the 2016 presidential election on Mr. Trump’s behalf?

Two weeks into his tenure, talk of the foreign power’s apparent role has somewhat faded from view, at least temporarily, in the daily avalanche of White House exploits and misadventures.

But Capitol Hill will have its say. Two senators are convening an investigation into Russia’s election interference, joining other efforts in Congress to examine what happened.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said their investigation would focus on Russian interference both in the United States’ election and in other elections around the world. (They are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that is focused on crime and terrorism.)

“Our goal is simple,” the senators said in a joint statement. “To the fullest extent possible we want to shine a light on Russian activities to undermine democracy.”

There are already multiple Senate committee examinations into Russia’s role, as well as an inquiry by the House.

Bi-partisan Senate Judiciary members call for review

A bi-partisan group of Senate Judiciary Committee members have sent a letter to the inspector general of the intelligence community requesting a thorough investigation of the use and misuse of surveillance use.

From the announcement of the letter:

Specifically, the Senators are asking for detailed information on the surveillance of Americans under FISA and Patriot Act authorities and any misuse of these authorities over the last three years. Other Senators who joined the letter include: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

“We urge you to conduct comprehensive reviews of these authorities and provide a full accounting of how these authorities are being implemented across the Intelligence Community,” the Senators wrote. “The IC Inspector General was created in 2010 for this very purpose.  Providing a publicly available summary of the findings and conclusions of these reviews will help promote greater oversight, transparency, and public accountability.”

The bipartisan letter is part of the Committee’s continuing oversight in this area.  The Committee held a high-profile hearing in July featuring testimony from top administration officials. Leahy, who will deliver a keynote address at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday about national security and surveillance programs, recently announced that the Committee will hold an additional hearing next week featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Gen. Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency.

It is well past time for this to happen.