Editorials

Hearing on Russians can’t contain a toxic scandal about to spread

FBI Director James B. Comey, left, joined by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, testifies on Capitol Hill on Monday before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
FBI Director James B. Comey, left, joined by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, testifies on Capitol Hill on Monday before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Associated Press

With the president of the United States tweeting furiously about “fake news” and “leaking,” the heads of two of the nation’s top intelligence agencies on Monday confirmed what rational Americans suspected: President Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Russia are under FBI investigation. And authorities have no evidence Trump was wiretapped by Barack Obama, as the president bizarrely insists.

It’s a testimony to the fog of disinformation enveloping this White House that it took an act of Congress to confirm those obvious truths for the American people. Kudos for the two Californians helming the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee chairman, and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, for clearing a small space for sunlight.

That said, it was clear that the goal of the Republicans, who control Congress, is not to learn whether Trump allies helped Moscow corrupt the democratic process, but to find out who leaked the truth and shoot the messenger. Question after Republican question echoed Trump’s Twitter propaganda.

It’s a testimony to the fog of disinformation enveloping this White House that it took an act of Congress to confirm obvious truths for the American people.

“What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?” the president baselessly tweeted. And soon there was Nunes, like a sock puppet, asking FBI Director James B. Comey whether the FBI would also investigate so-far nonexistent links between Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Kremlin.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted. And soon there was South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, listing members of the Obama administration and demanding to know if they had access to leaked intelligence.

Leaking classified information is a crime, but it pales against criminal collusion with foreign adversaries to undermine the country. As Schiff aptly put it: “If the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Of course, Trump also tweeted: “There is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” In fact, a mountain of circumstantial evidence has linked Kremlin operatives, Trump allies and creepy mutual favors. Lies about meetings with Russian officials forced the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser. Trump’s attorney general couldn’t be part of the proceedings because he, too, was outed for consorting with Russians.

Nunes may be doing his best, but this is toxic and cries out for an independent special prosecutor and bipartisan select committee. Any rational politician can see that this scandal will only spread.

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