Flynn Resignation Underscores Need for Full Review of Trump-Russia Ties
Republican silence begs the question: what are they covering up?
The resignation of Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor for President Donald Trump, demonstrates that the scandal over ongoing close ties between the Russian government and President Trump and his associates has reached the highest levels of our government.
It is shocking that many of my Republican colleagues appear unconcerned about this explosive news or, worse, make excuses for the Trump administration.
Here’s what we know: In December, our Intelligence Community concluded that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential campaign to help elect Mr. Trump. As a result, President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled a number of suspected Russian intelligence operatives.
This week, we learned that Mr. Flynn conspired with Russian officials to undermine President Obama’s sanctions against Russia. This breached protocol, demonstrated extremely poor judgment, and may have violated federal law. Even worse, President Trump knew about Mr. Flynn’s misconduct for weeks and did nothing about it until it was publicly revealed.
Last night, it was reported that a wide-ranging federal investigation has discovered repeated contacts between Mr. Trump’s campaign staff and other Trump associates and senior Russian intelligence officials. Given Russia’s actions to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign, this revelation is particularly alarming.
The Republican-controlled Congress owes the American people answers to very troubling questions about the Trump campaign and administration. Full and transparent inquiries must start immediately to follow the facts, find the truth, and reassure the American people that our national security has not been undermined.
I am urging my colleagues in Congress to establish a plan of action to determine all the facts and, if necessary, hold President Trump and his aides accountable. That plan has three key parts.
First, Congress must do its job and exercise its oversight powers to conduct a comprehensive review of Russia’s actions and President Trump’s relationship with the Russian government. A bipartisan, select committee — like the one that investigated Watergate — is the most appropriate venue for a Congressional investigation. Thus far, House and Senate Republicans are shirking their responsibilities and blocking attempts to establish such a committee.
Second, we need an independent commission — like the 9/11 Commission — to review evidence, determine relevant facts, and produce a public report for the American people. Although there is a strong rationale and considerable precedent supporting the appointment of an independent, bipartisan commission to fully investigate Russia’s actions and its ties to Trump, Republicans have again balked and refused to investigate.
Finally, the criminal probe must be led by a special prosecutor. The Justice Department is helmed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a top Trump surrogate, making it imperative that Sessions recuse himself and appoint an independent special prosecutor to lead the ongoing federal investigation of Trump and his associates. Sessions has the legal authority to make such an appointment, but has shown no interest in taking this important step.
In addition to these three lines of inquiry, the American people also deserve transparency about President Trump’s tax returns. I strongly support the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which would force President Trump to release his returns, and I have urged Republicans to use Congress’ power to compel Trump to submit his tax returns for review by the Ways & Means Committee. Once again, Congressional Republicans have declined.
With so much evidence of wrongdoing and potential wrongdoing in President Trump’s inner circle, it is deeply disappointing that Congressional Republicans are still stonewalling for him. Their efforts beg the question: what are they covering up?
I will keep pressing the case for full and thorough investigations into Trump’s Russian ties. I hope that responsible Republicans will join me, put country before party, and demand that we hold this scandal-plagued administration accountable.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) represents Minnesota’s Fourth District in the United States House of Representatives.