Republicans May Be Just As Guilty As Trump
I’m completely baffled why there is no serious questioning of why a certain number of Republicans, especially a significant segment in the House of Representatives, are so determined to do everything in their power, potentially even obstructing justice themselves, in order to protect Trump. Most of the pundit class seems to blithely dismiss these Republicans’ motivation as simply believing that their electoral prospects are inescapably tied to Trump and nothing more than that.
Unfortunately, as these Republicans take each new step in destroying the pillars of our liberal democracy, it becomes harder and harder to believe that simply supporting Trump is their main motivation. Yesterday’s highly partisan actions by the House Intelligence Committee bring that into stark relief. The Committee, on a party line vote, decided to “release the memo”, one crafted by the Republicans on the Committee without looking at the underlying intelligence, containing national security information, and whose release is opposed by Trump’s own Justice Department on national security grounds. The Committee also voted on a party line basis to not receive a briefing from the FBI on the national security implications of releasing the memo, to block the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal of the memo, and informed the Democrats that the Committee had already launched its own investigation into the FBI and the DOJ, a violation of the Committee’s own rules by acting unilaterally.
These actions go far beyond simply providing no oversight of Trump and his violations of both the law and our constitutional and democratic norms. They go beyond simply claiming that there has been no evidence of collusion and jawboning that the investigation is a partisan witch hunt. Rather, it is part of a broad pattern among certain Republicans to actually abet the effort to discredit or derail the Mueller investigation.
This proactive effort is not just a handful of rogue Republicans. It apparently has the imprimatur of the House Republican leadership. Paul Ryan could shut down these actions by the Intelligence Committee any time he wanted. He is clearly choosing not to do so. In fact, he is all in on the cover-up. Today, he declared, “There are legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated under the FISA process… there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals”, while trying to maintain the fiction that these “questions” are entirely separate from the Russia investigation.
So the question hangs out there – why, exactly, is the GOP so determined to take active measures to help Trump. On policy alone, Mike Pence would certainly do everything that Trump is doing and with more competence and even credibility. Nothing in the Republican agenda would change with a President Pence. In fact, it might actually be easier for Republicans to get things done with Pence as President. So, protecting Trump is not about protecting their agenda.
Perhaps you could argue that they are determined not to have to face the potentiality of having to have impeachment hearings before the 2018 election. But they are never going to impeach Trump anyway and have no interest or obligation to even begin that process, no matter what evidence Mueller produces. Moreover, they knew that Trump will fight Mueller to the bitter end. There is no real need for them to actively abet Trump in his obstruction. Just standing by and doing nothing except offering verbal support for the President would be sufficient to stay on the good side of the Trump base.
All this leads me to believe that there is a far deeper reason that Republicans, especially those in the House are acting so aggressively against the FBI and Mueller. And that is they are just as guilty as Trump in receiving help, both in money and propaganda, from the Russians. Remember, the overarching goal for Putin is to get rid of the sanctions. But, in 2015, the chances of that were nil until the compromised and corrupted Trump began to look like a possible contender for the Republican nomination. And, even at the height of Russia’s efforts starting in late spring of 2016, everyone – the polls, the pundits, and the Russians – had no belief that Trump would win. At that point the goal of the Russian effort was to make sure that Hillary Clinton would be as weak a President as possible and the easiest path to accomplish that was not only to get Trump to attack her but also ensure that Republicans still maintained power in Congress to oppose her.
We know that Guccifer 2.0 shared DNC data on Democratic candidates in swing districts with a Republican operative in Florida who distributed that data within the Republican party. That data was used in races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina. We know that Paul Ryan refused Nancy Pelosi’s request that the GOP not use that stolen data to its own advantage. Both Ryan and McConnell refused to be part of a bipartisan statement naming and condemning the Russian hacking before the election. Interestingly, Ryan also delayed bringing the Russians sanctions bill to the House floor for vote. And it is unlikely that the House or even the Senate will do anything about Trump’s refusal to impose new sanctions on buyers of Russian arms, using a loophole in Congressional legislation to do so.
We also know that a Ukrainian-born oligarch, currently with dual US-UK citizenship and whose business partner is a co-partner with Paul Manafort’s (and one of Putin’s) favorite Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, gave over $7.25 million dollars to the campaigns of Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain.
In addition, the FBI is reportedly investigating whether another Russian oligarch illegally funneled millions of dollars to the NRA’s dark money PAC. The NRA reportedly spent over $70 million on the 2016 election, much of it reportedly to help Trump. But it is probable that a significant portion also went to supporting down-ballot GOP candidates, especially in swing districts. (Remember when Obama criticized Citizens United in a SOTU as potentially allowing foreign money to infect our elections and Justice Alito mouthed “not true” – hmm, who got that right?)
Finally, Mueller is also apparently looking into how the Republican National Committee’s data operation overlapped with Russian social media propaganda. Again, this effort would not only help Trump but down-ballot and swing district Republicans as well.
Ever since Citizens United, Republicans have increasingly come to rely on dark money funding from a handful of plutocrats – the Kochs, the Mercers, Sheldon Adelson, to name a few. For any foreign government trying to interfere in the US democratic process, that dark money funding is an appealing and remarkably easy way to accomplish their goals, as the theory about Russians funneling money to the NRA shows. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, it is certainly conceivable that Republicans in many swing races were being financed by foreign money based on the evidence already presented. Paul Ryan himself showed he had those suspicions when he was caught on tape saying “There’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”.
I have no doubt that foreign money also supports Democratic candidates, as the scandal involving Johnny Chung and Bill Clinton clearly illustrates. The difference, of course, is that Democrats, especially those in Congress, did not systematically abet in the obstruction of justice and attempt to destroy the integrity of the FBI when that investigation was ongoing.
I believe what has been presented above at least indicates the possibility that Republicans up and down the ballot were aided by the Russians, both with money and propaganda, in the 2016 election. There is certainly enough there to warrant further investigation, probably far more evidence than Nunes will put forth in “the memo”. And that evidence should at least warrant the possibility that Republicans in Congress have a reason for obstructing, discrediting, and derailing the Mueller investigation that goes far beyond feeling their electoral prospects are tied to Trump, namely that they themselves were also the beneficiaries of the Russian attempt to influence the election and subvert our democracy. It would be nice if the media at least entertained that possibility and focused some energy on how the Republican party, not just Trump, was helped by the Russian hacking.