The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
On Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey was emphatic that there was massive Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election. He said all Americans should be outraged about the Russian meddling. It is not “fake news” as Trump tweets. Moreover, the Russian cyberwarfare continues in other western democracies. Comey predicted more such attacks against our electoral system.
Comey did not see evidence that the Russian intervention affected any votes, but it was not for lack of effort. A leaked report from the National Security Agency detailed cyberattacks by Russian military intelligence, “a few days before the election (2016), against 122 local election officials” (New York Times). Were the Russians attempting to sabotage the U.S. electoral system? Was there collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia?
Most of Comey’s testimony was focused on his “interactions” with Trump, “nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone”. Taken in full, looking at context, Trump’s exclusion of others and Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey (with shifting explanations) – makes a case for obstruction of justice by Trump. Some examples from Comey’s testimony.
Trump “summoned” Comey to a private White House dinner on January 27. Comey testified that Trump said: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty”. Prior to the dinner the White House learned that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been questioned by the FBI about his contacts with the Russians. Moreover, on January 26, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had lied about the substance of those contacts (Yates was later fired). Flynn skated until the Washington Post exposed that he had lied to Vice President Pence about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Then on February 14, one day after Flynn’s firing, Trump met with Comey alone – pointedly excluding Attorney General Sessions and others. Trump told Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Comey testified that he did not agree to “let this go.” There’s more.
Trump tried to get Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers to stymie the FBI investigation of Flynn. They apparently did not comply. Trump went on to fire Comey. On Thursday Comey testified: “I was fired because of the Russian investigation”. What to do?
The congressional investigations will continue. And, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will try to get to the bottom. But House Speaker Paul Ryan still has his head in the sand. On Thursday Ryan said: Trump is “new at government …. He’s learning as he goes.” Not even a twitter of protest. Ryan should look up Watergate. History is knocking at his door.
In 1974, Wisconsin GOP Representative Harold Froehlich voted to impeach Nixon, putting country over party. Pay attention Ryan. Moreover, a grand jury named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator. The law is not settled on indicting a sitting president. Trump will need lawyers.
— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.