Independent Investigation into Russian Interference Needed
Let’s not mince words: in the fall of 2016, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his agents attacked our country. Their interference in our election was an attack on our democracy and on our national security. The American people deserve not only answers about what happened and who was involved, but also to know that their government is doing everything in its power to hold the perpetrators responsible and ensure it never happens again. As Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are united in demanding action.
The Committee recently held a hearing focused on Russia’s disinformation efforts. This is an important topic worthy of our attention, but it pales in comparison to Russia’s criminal interference with American democracy.
The American people need to hear from administration and Trump campaign officials—under oath—to explain why the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia’s agents. Until that happens, too many questions will remain unanswered.
That is why every Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives has called for an independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and supports legislation to do just that. Yet, our Republican colleagues have failed to take up this legislation. We repeated that call at our hearing and will continue to do so until an independent commission is established.
Americans should be unsatisfied with anything that falls short of a thorough and complete investigation. We take an oath upon being elected to serve our government and the American people. We swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” But now, when the very democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution are targeted by a hostile foreign power, and when we discover more and more contacts between that same government and the campaign staff of our new president—staff who, in some cases, joined his White House team—where is Republican leadership in calling for answers and accountability?
It should not be this hard to mobilize bipartisan support for an investigation. The GOP has long fashioned itself as the party of patriotism and there should be nothing more patriotic than protecting our democratic institutions.
We further urge our Republican colleagues to reflect on how they would handle this situation if Russia had influenced the election to assist Hillary Clinton in becoming president. At the very least, we urge our Republican colleagues to take action because we are not secure until we have answers about what happened and have prepared for future attacks.
As members of Congress, we are among the relative few who have the authority to oversee and respond to threats to our national security. We must not abdicate our responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution and the safety and security of Americans. But that is exactly what we are watching unfold in Congress. We need to have more hearings in every committee of jurisdiction on Russian meddling in our democracy and on every possible vulnerability of our government to Russian influence. We urge our Republican colleagues to separate partisanship and politics from patriotism.
We must have an independent commission investigate Russia’s interference. Many of us have also called for the appointment of a special counsel to avoid potential conflicts of interest by providing for prosecutorial power outside of the Department of Justice. Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from any Department of Justice investigation is not enough; many of us have called for his resignation. We need sanctions to punish those responsible for this attack on our country from overseas. And Congress must act to protect and defend our democracy as each of us has sworn an oath to do.
Signed by 20 Democratic Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.) Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee; William R. Keating (Mass.), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, & Trade; Brad Sherman (Calif.), Ranking Member Subcommittee on Asia & the Pacific; Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, & Emerging Threats; Albio Sires (N.J.), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), Ranking Member, Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations; Theodore E. Deutch (Fla.), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on the Middle East & North Africa; Karen Bass (Calif.), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, & International Organizations; David N. Cicilline (R.I.), Ranking Member, Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial & Antitrust Law; Ami Bera (Calif.), Vice Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Lois Frankel (Fla.); Joaquin Castro (Texas); Robin L. Kelly (Ill.), Ranking Member, Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology; Brendon F. Boyle (Pa.); Dina Titus (Nev.); Norma J. Torres (Calif.); Bradley S. Schneider (Ill.); Thomas R. Suozzi (N.Y.); Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.); Ted W. Lieu (Calif.)