“No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.” -- Donald Trump during the third presidential debate, October 19, 2016During those halcyon pre-election days of summer, I wondered whether Trump's Putin fetish and Russian connections would not only be problematic to Democrats but would prove to be an anathema to Republicans who, we all know, love a good Cold War and hate a good Communist. (Has Red Donald Finally Gone Too Far For The GOP?)
At that time, the bill of particulars was already pretty damning:
1. Trump repeatedly praised Putin as a leader, alternatively stating that he knows him, has a relationship with him, and never met him.
2. Trump reportedly relied on Russian capital to prop up his businesses, the extent of which would likely be revealed by tax returns that he refused to release.
3. Trump supporters eliminated from the GOP party platform support for providing lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine.
4. Trump's campaign manager had been a lobbyist for several pro-Putin clients, including a deposed pro-Russian Ukraine president.
5. Trump appeared to have legitimized Russia's seizure of Crimea, contending that the people there actually welcomed it.
6. Trump stated that he would not necessarily defend NATO countries if they were attacked by Russia, in direct violation of our heretofore unquestioned security commitments.
7. After Russia hacked the DNC, Trump invited Russia to intervene in a United States presidential election by "finding" Hillary Clinton's missing emails and disseminating them.
Let me repeat that last one. After Russia hacked the DNC, Trump invited Russia to intervene in a United States presidential election by "finding" Hillary Clinton's missing emails and disseminating them.
Of course, as we came to learn, the Republicans and a wide enough swath of the electorate were not only unconcerned about voting for an erratic, grossly ill-informed, racist creep but did not care that they were also voting for someone who might be an erratic, grossly ill-informed Russian stooge.
After the election, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov revealed that “there were contacts” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, and that “quite a few” members of Trump’s team “ha[d] been staying in touch with Russian representatives” before the election.
More recently, Trump announced his choice for Secretary of State -- the CEO of ExxonMobil -- whose key qualification besides being a wealthy Trump supporter appears to be his close connection to Vladimir Putin.
And, finally, we have the belatedly-reported assessment of the CIA that not only did Russia interfere with the election but did so in order to help Trump get elected.
This is some serious shit that demands investigation at the highest levels of government. Unfortunately, the highest levels of government are soon to be controlled completely by Republicans, and Republicans only care about investigations that will undermine Democrats and help Republicans. As they have shown over the past eight years of obstructing all things Obama and investigating all things Clinton, and over the last few weeks of kowtowing to all things Trump no matter how much he lies, tweets and enriches himself, Republicans are always willing to put the interests of their party over the integrity of democratic rule. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cohorts refused to permit a pre-election bipartisan statement about the CIA's assessment because it would hurt Republicans.
So the Republican leadership will pay (and already have paid) lip service to the need to get to the bottom of Russia's role. But don't be fooled. They will do as little as politically possible. They will keep secret as much as possible. They will narrow the inquiry as much as possible so that it will avoid the key question of the Trump campaign's role. They will control as much of the investigation as possible by refusing to appoint a bipartisan select committee and instead rely on what McConnell describes as "inquiries ... through normal committee channels."
Democrats need to demand more. They should threaten to filibuster every Trump appointment pending an expedited but broad and meaningful investigation. President Obama needs to demand more. He should request the Justice Department immediately appoint a Special Counsel to conduct an independent investigation. The Electoral College electors need to demand more. They should refuse to vote until they are fully briefed on the investigations' findings. And we need to demand more too.