In response to the series of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings over the past couple of weeks, Utah Senator Mike Lee recommends that his colleagues and all of America just “move on.” He believes there is nothing to see so far coming from any of the four testimonies by Comey, Coats, Rogers and Sessions. Senator Lee has concluded that there is not a scintilla of evidence remotely indicating that Donald Trump is obstructing justice in the Russia investigation.
All I can say is “really?” Senator Lee is a smart man, probably the smartest legal mind in the Senate and certainly one of the most well-read conservatives anywhere. I respect him deeply and, for the record, my wife works for him. I appreciate his usual candor as well as his characteristic caution. He’s not the kind of leader to jump to conclusions or accept the merit of a case on its face. He wants to know everything and, typically, in great detail.
So I find his comment about the Russia investigation puzzling. Move on? I agree with him if by “move on” he means get on with Senate business in addition to the Russia investigation. But if, by “move on,” Senator Lee means drop the investigation, I have to disagree. I should add that Senator Lee is not alone. Many Republicans have concluded that there’s nothing to see here. But they are wrong, in my opinion. There is something to see, something to uncover, because something smells bad.
So let me offer a few reasons as to why Congress should not “move on” from investigating Trump and his team over the Russia connection.
First, we should think through historical comparisons to test our loyalty to truth. Would Republicans suggest we move on from this investigation if Barack Obama, not Trump, was at its center? My guess is Republican leadership would not move on in that case. Think of Watergate and even the Iran-Contra investigations. Republican leadership paid Richard Nixon a visit and, ultimately, demanded he resign. There was no bigger fan of Ronald Reagan than I in 1987 and I hated the Iran-Contra investigation. I knew Oliver North was lying under oath but cheered him on anyway because I believed in the anti-communist cause (not to mention I appreciated him taking one for the Gipper). Never though did I or any other thoughtful conservative in Congress call for those investigators to move on. Hell, I think Col. North being sent to prison for helping freedom fighters against the wishes of left-wing congressional ideologues would have been a profile in courage. But what is Trump’s cause? What about Trump’s dealings deserve any sort of loyalty from Americans who believe in truth and freedom?
Second, Trump never has passed the smell test. I’ve said on many occasions that I believe Trump is a pathological narcissist, a serial liar and unfit to be president. Surely, Trump is inexperienced in government but Speaker Paul Ryan’s excuse for Trump – that he just doesn’t know the written and unwritten rules of Washington – is laughable. Ignorance is no excuse. In fact, ignorance is exactly why Trump is unfit to be president – an argument Speaker Ryan often made about candidate Trump. With this history as backdrop, whom do you believe? Do you believe the ignorant Trump or the all-knowing Trump? Do you believe the long trail of evidence showing Trump and so many top campaign advisors being real chummy with the Russians? Do you believe the non-denials of those relationships? Do you believe actual White House photos of those relationships? How about Trump’s own words? He begged someone, anyone, to hack Clinton’s computers (in other words, to intervene in the election). What is it that you don’t believe?
And, third, the Comey testimony was devastating for Trump. FBI Director James Comey was fired by Trump for investigating possible Russia connections within the Trump campaign and White House. Trump conceded that point on national television to NBC’s Lester Holt and Comey confirmed that motive during his testimony. I understand there are legal definitions establishing the high bar of “obstruction of justice.” But, for most normal people, firing the guy investigating you and your friends is obstruction of justice. Is not that alone even a “scintilla of evidence”?
Yes, Comey stated, three times, that Trump was not under current investigation. So what? That fact does not preclude investigating Trump down the road or through the Special Independent Prosecutor. Richard Nixon wasn’t initially under investigation for the Watergate break-in until he was. Furthermore, while obstruction of justice might not be Trump’s fate, impeachment clearly could be. Is Mike Pence a downgrade from Trump? What do congressional Republicans have to lose even if Trump is impeached? On top of it, the majority of Americans don’t like or trust Trump anyway.
If you are a truth-seeker – and I believe that Senator Lee is a truth-seeker – you want Coats, Rogers and Sessions to answer Committee questions, not punt. Isn’t the weird non-invoking executive privilege to not answer Committee questions just one more reason to continue the investigation? Nobody is suspicious by that behavior?
We need leaders, not lapdogs, on this Russia investigation. Persistence is the virtue here, not partisan forgiveness.