Opinion | The Whistle-Blower Report Is a Test for Congress
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Democrats have bungled the Russia investigation since taking control of the House this year. The investigation has persuaded virtually nobody who wasn’t already persuaded that President Trump is unfit for office — and also frustrated many people who are persuaded.
The “collective shrug” of Congress, as Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic calls it, in the face of Trump’s outrageous attempts to interfere in the 2016 election had a predictable side effect: He quickly began trying to interfere in the 2020 election.
In May, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, announced that he would urge the Ukranian government to conduct a potentially politically damaging inquiry into Joe Biden, who obviously could end up being the Democratic nominee. “Encouraged by lawmakers’ passivity, the president is taking the same approach to 2020 that he took to 2016,” a subheadline on Jurecic’s May article for The Atlantic put it.
We still don’t know the details of a whistle-blower’s recent complaint about Trump’s conversation with a foreign leader, but the inspector general of the intelligence community considered the complaint credible enough to refer it to Congress. It seems to involve Ukraine, which raises the possibility that Trump is continuing to use foreign governments to meddle in American elections. Whatever it involves, I hope congressional Democrats are aware that their next attempt to hold the president accountable needs to be better than their last.
Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion points out that Republicans could stop Trump’s lawlessness whenever they choose: “Republicans have been okay with all this, presumably because they’re getting what they want on policy. Or perhaps out of pure partisanship. Or maybe because they’re so deep in the conservative information-feedback loop that they’ve convinced themselves none of it is real. But they should be taking stock now of just how much lawlessness they’re willing to tolerate.”
The Times editorial board writes: “The No. 1 task of America’s intelligence and law-enforcement communities is to identify and deal with threats to national security. The problem, as explained by Jack Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, is that Mr. Trump’s behavior has repeatedly revealed ‘the extent to which our constitutional system assumes and relies on a president with a modicum of national fidelity, and decent judgment and reasonableness.’”
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David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt • Facebook
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