What an extraordinary time for our nation that there would even be a debate over whether Congress should investigate allegations that another nation attempted to influence our presidential election.
After months of warnings from President Barack Obama and the nation’s top spies that Russia sought to make a mess of things, we learn that CIA officials believe that Russian-backed hackers worked to help push Donald Trump to his surprise victory over Hillary Clinton. Perhaps predictably, President-elect Trump says that’s all bunk and that further investigation would be a waste of time. For added measure, the blustery New York billionaire dismissed America’s premiere intelligence agents as hacks in their own right, and politically motivated bumblers at that.
Either way, shouldn’t Americans be granted the opportunity to learn the truth?
We take heart that top elected Republicans are calling for a congressional probe or probes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, refreshingly reminding the president-elect that “The Russians are not our friends,” joined House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans in calling for a full accounting.
Colorado’s Republican U.S. senator, Cory Gardner, who chairs a Senate committee whose responsibilities include international cybersecurity policy, renewed his call for a permanent Select Committee on Cybersecurity, in joining McConnell and Ryan.
“These allegations must be thoroughly investigated, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to address the sanctioning of Russia and specifically, bad actors identified following an investigation,” Gardner said in a statement.
How far we’ve come since the Cold Wars days, when fear of communist plotting raged, to now, when a president-elect not only brushes off expert opinion from the agencies that ought to know, but contemporaneously surrounds himself with men friendly and financially connected to Russia. (Remember Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign adviser who stepped down, in part because of reports of his ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine?)
That Trump seeks for his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin counts as a friend, raises further questions. The massive oil and gas company stands to make billions of dollars should U.S. sanctions against Russia go away under a Trump presidency. The Senate should ask especially tough questions of Tillerson while considering his nomination as top diplomat.
The question of Russian meddling doesn’t involve whether the foreign power hacked into voting results, but around the leaks of Democratic National Committee e-mails, as well as hacked e-mails from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta. Reports suggest that Russian hackers also collected Republican National Committee e-mails, but didn’t choose to leak them. Thus, the suspicion that Putin meant to hand Trump an advantage.
Meanwhile, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, echoes the president-elect’s disdain for CIA agents, arguing that the agency has become a political extension of the Obama White House.
Given so much intrigue swirling around the question of Russian interference, we suggest the best course of action is to seek a full accounting of the known facts. Too much is at stake to simply drop this one in the round file.
The Denver Post