The Russian ties to the Trump administration are increasingly disturbing. The Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, seems to have been a Zelig-type character in the Trump campaign, popping up all over the place. Most recently, it turns out he was at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland meeting with top Trump advisors.
Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has admitted to talking to Kislyak twice after denying during his confirmation hearing that he spoke to any Russians about the campaign. Democrats pounced, many calling on Sessions to resign. Rep. Keith Ellison, who just lost his bid to become DNC Chair, implied Sessions should be facing jail time.
Democrats need to be careful. At this point, they should be calling for investigations more than consequences. Demanding Sessions resign or be charged with perjury might play well with the base, but it also makes Republicans dig in. Democrats need to reach out to Republican Members of Congress for allies who want to get to the truth, not score political points. A comprehensive and honest investigation will expose more than just Sessions and, if he did something wrong, it will show up in a proper inquiry.
In North Carolina, we need to be reaching out to our Senators and Representatives to ask them to help us get to the truth. Unfortunately, Sen. Richard Burr, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, worked with the White House to push back on unfavorable stories related to Russia meddling in the campaign. He needs to work hard to prove his neutrality in his investigation. The stakes are not about partisanship; they are about the separation of powers and our system of government.
Conservative commentators like John Podhoretz and David Frum have expressed skepticism that Republicans in Congress will hold Trump accountable. Frum tweeted yesterday, “American institutions are built to withstand an attack from the president alone. But they are not so well-built as to withstand an attack from a conscienceless president enabled by a hyper-partisan Congress.”
I agree. If the Trump administration really has illicit ties to Russia, Democrats need to turn down the partisan rhetoric to get to the bottom of the matter. They need to make it easier, not harder, for Republicans to question the administration. They need to appeal to their sense of patriotism and their oath to defend the constitution.
If Jeff Sessions perjured himself, a proper investigation will prove it. More of the Trump nominees may have ties to Russia. His son-in-law and campaign advisors certainly did. The intelligence community is clearly worried. We need to come together as a nation to find the truth. If it’s just a few bad apples, then we need to get rid of them. If it’s a larger threat, then we clearly need to protect our country from outside interference. Only a unified effort will do that. A partisan fight will fail to protect anybody.