It’s not often that I would do a re-share of a recent blog, but the story has come a long way since I posted this blog last week, and it warrants an update. The threat to the rule of law in our country has only gotten more serious and urgent. With the investigation well under way into the President’s misuse of power, the facts continue to point towards serious issues with the President’s conduct in withholding aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to dig up dirt on his political opponents. And, as if the notes of the phone call between the two Presidents were not damning enough, the extensive effort to cover up and unnecessarily classify information has brought these offenses simply beyond the pale. The cover-up effort itself raises questions about what other times this highly classified intelligence system has been misused in order to hide potential wrong-doing or restrict access to politically damaging information for the President.
The events come with grave implications for the credibility of our government, the integrity of our elections, and also for US foreign policy. And the defenders of the President have no legitimate defense. Their thin playbook only consists of attempts to discredit the whistleblower, which itself causes harm, deflecting to debunked claims against Joe Biden, or pushing Russian-created conspiracy theories that deny Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. All-the-while, Ukraine continues to struggle against Russian aggression into their country. Ukrainian President Zelensky is now caught between a rock and a hard place. He must somehow appease President Trump’s ego in order to obtain needed military aid from the US, while not isolating his country from aid from European allies, all of whom have an interest in checking Russian aggression in the region. President Trump’s corrupt "favor" request to President Zelensky trivializes a very serious national security situation, and it runs counter to our country’s long-time foreign policy position to support Ukraine against Russia’s power-grabs.
To deny a country aid that the US Congress has granted to an ally is a huge misuse of power by the executive, and the fact that it further supports Russia’s foreign policy objectives is particularly troubling given what we already know about Russia's support for President Trump’s election and re-election. The American people deserve to know whether their President supports US interests or solely his own, or Russia's, interests. This gets back to my point in the original blog post: Outside influence on our democracy will continue unless our government—and Congress—successfully fights back.
The important thing now is that the inquiry continues, thoroughly but also with a level of speed and urgency. I believe the House has taken the right steps so far in order to surface the facts for the American people and make those facts known to Republican Senators, who have a lot of soul-searching to do in terms of just how far they’re willing to go to prop up President Trump.
When we are faced with these challenges, action must be taken to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution. I’m relieved to see this effort begin, and I join the rest of the country as we watch closely to see that those who have violated their oath are held accountable.
Foreign government, adversaries in this case, interference in our elections is becoming an all too common experience as they plan to meddle again in the 2020 elections. Set aside for a moment whether or not you believe that President Trump colluded with the Russians to impact the 2016 presidential race. What we know and the President accepts is that interference did take place and he is certainly open to more help in 2020. What will be different in this coming election is that Russia may not be the only foreign government interfering. Outside influence on our democracy will continue unless our government successfully fights back.
Watergate and the Nixon Administration in the 70’s forced Congress to take action to address future law-breaking in political campaigns and elections. Out of that, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was established with bipartisan support and for decades successfully dealt with questionable activity in politics and our election system. A six-member commission, equally politically split, hammered out decisions and effectively dealt with inappropriate actions. Now in recent years, starting before the Trump administration, the FEC has been totally partisan and completely incapable of dealing with the challenges.
There is some good news. Our often dysfunctional Congress is working in a bipartisan way to craft and put into use a reform plan to hopefully deal with much of this crisis. H.R.1 has passed the Democratic House with Republican support, and is on the Senate floor waiting for action. The bad news is Moscow Mitch, current Majority Leader, refuses to bring it up for a vote. This is hard to believe. The only logical reason (not a good one) would be the President has asked that the legislation be held, not wanting to meddle in Russia’s plan to help him again in the 2020 election.
If Congress and the President fail to act, what needs to be understood is that over time, if not dealt with forcefully, this disrespect for the law can become routine, spreading across our country. India, one of the older democracies, is certainly an example of how this can happen. I know from experience in India that one must accept that paying bribes is just part of doing business there. And, given the situation in the United States with unlimited money in politics, we may not be far from this reality in our country today.
What can we do? One thing is to make sure our congressional delegation knows that election oversight is important and that the legitimacy of our democracy is at stake. Both Senators Roberts and Moran need to put pressure on McConnell to let the Senate vote on bipartisan H.R.1. The rule of law has to be much more than an often used slogan. Without such action, our democracy is seriously in danger.