WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS.
On May 9th, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Director Comey was in the process of leading the investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential elections, including possible connections to the Trump campaign. We’ll repeat that: Donald Trump fired the man charged with investigating his Administration. This is a big, flashing, red alarm sign for our democracy.
This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about the defending our most basic democratic institutions and values. Your Members of Congress (MoCs) need to decide whether they’re on the side of truth, or on the side of Trump.
All signs suggest Trump fired Comey to kill the FBI’s Russia investigation. We know that the Russia investigation was on Trump’s mind when Comey was fired, because Trump himself said that. In an interview with NBC on May 11, Trump said, “And in fact when I decided to just [fire him], I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
This is about American democracy, not political party. Whether you voted for Trump or not, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, Independent or other, this should frighten you. The President of the United States essentially admitted to obstructing justice, and feels he has absolute impunity to do it. And your Senators are letting him get away with it.
Sham Russia investigations in the Senate and House. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees are supposed to be handling the investigations into Russian interference, and for months they have been acting as if they were doing that. But these investigation have been a total sham. Trump officials and Republican Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have simply been wasting their time—and they’ve done it on purpose. Their goal has not been to find the truth; it’s been to obfuscate and protect Trump. For the sake of American democracy, we cannot continue to accept this.
Senate Republicans continue to shield the White House. It is no surprise that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation has been fruitless—the chairman of the committee, Richard Burr (NC), advised candidate Donald Trump on foreign policy. And now, he’s overseeing the committee charged with investigating whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And, in a recent Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Republicans failed to probe into the White House’s failure to fire a key White House official who was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. This is a dereliction of duty.
House Republican’s investigation has been a sad joke. The House investigations into the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia have also been utterly untrustworthy. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former member of the Trump transition team, violated House protocol in an effort to provide evidence for Trump’s bizarre claim that he was wiretapped during the campaign. He was forced to recuse himself temporarily after the Ethics Committee found that he may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information. He was denounced by Democrats and Republicans alike for his shady behavior. Now the House Committee on Ethics is conducting its own investigation—into the suspicious actions of Rep. Nunes.
In short, neither the Senate nor the House committee are carrying out a responsible investigation into these Russia ties. We can no longer wait on them to do it.
Trump can’t be allowed to appoint his own investigator. By firing Comey, Donald Trump will now be able to appoint a new FBI Director to continue the investigation. And the new FBI directly would serve under Attorney General Sessions, who has said he would recuse himself from the Russia inquiry but seems not to have done so when firing Comey.
This presents an unacceptable conflict of interest. We must be certain that the person leading the investigation isn’t beholden to Donald Trump. In order to restore faith and confidence in our government and in the justice system, the investigation must be independent.
3 WAYS TO GET AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION.
There are three possibilities for achieving an independent investigation.
Independent commission. Congress can pass legislation creating an independent commission, which is what the Protecting our Democracy Act (H.R. 356) in the House and a similar bill introduced by Sen. Cardin (S. 27) in the Senate would do.
Independent special prosecutor authorized by Congress. Congress can pass a bill authorizing the appointment a special prosecutor. Given that Republicans continue to choose party over country, this not happening anytime soon. Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell can and will unilaterally squash this legislative action.
Special prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice can unilaterally appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation, something that the Department has done in the past, such as during Watergate.
Slow the Senate to a crawl until we get a special prosecutor. Congress should not be conducting business as usual when our democracy is under direct threat. It is every Member of Congress’ sworn duty to protect and defend our country, including from abuses of power by the sitting President. And, we have some leverage in the Senate, where any individual Senator has the power to slow and even shut down legislative business. That gives them a lot of power, and they should be using it.
Demand that your two Senators stop the Senate from conducting business until a special prosecutor is appointed. Tell them to object on every motion and filibuster every piece of legislation. This will effectively slow the Senate to a crawl, making it difficult to carry on business as usual. For a refresher on withholding consent and filibustering, see our explainer.
Eventually, Trump will attempt to appoint a replacement FBI Director. If no special prosecutor is in place before Trump nominates a new FBI Director, your Senator should refuse to confirm a Trump crony until one is appointed. If just three Republicans choose to stand up for truth instead of for Trump, we can block any nominee until he appoints the special prosecutor. (Source: Indivisible Guide)
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