This Tuesday, February 28, 2017, the United States will witness the what may be the single greatest act of collective treachery by its elected government officials since the Confederate States voted to secede from the Union in 1860 and 1861.
And in all likelihood, the U.S. media will completely ignore it.
On Tuesday the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee is expected to reject House Democrats’ Resolution for a formal inquiry into the the potential ethical and legal violations committed by the Trump campaign apparatus in its contacts, communications and financial transactions with Russia during the run-up to Trump’s election last November, and throughout the transition since then. It will also reject calls to examine evidence of Trump’s solicitation and receipt of foreign gifts intended to influence American policy, and the potential violations of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.
The evidence pointing to Trump’s betrayal of American strategic interests has (thus far) included illegal contacts between Trump emissaries and Putin officials concerning the lifting of existing U.S. sanctions, evidence that the Trump campaign was aware of and likely complicit in Russian efforts to sway the election to Trump through Russian propaganda, and evidence suggesting that Trump himself may be compromised and subject to Russian blackmail due to either his financial dealings or his unusual sexual proclivities. These issues, unearthed by our intelligence agencies, directly implicate the integrity of our national government. It’s difficult to imagine any matter that could be more compelling for investigation and resolution. This is, in essence, a determination whether an elected President has been corrupted, compromised, or tainted by a hostile foreign power.
As Jonathan Chait points out in New York Magazine, despite the enormous implications for the nation, the political risk to House Republicans from refusing to investigate Trump is practically nil. As Mark Sumner explains here, the Republicans have carefully assigned the House’s decision on the resolution to their own Judiciary Committee, and carefully timed their pre-ordained rejection of the Resolution to minimize or hide it from the public. Few Republicans are members of the Committee itself, and those who make it up are from “safe seats,” carefully selected by the House leadership.
The main “news event” on Tuesday will be Trump’s first address to the entire Congress. The media will parse every word of that speech, and pundits’ tongues will be chattering about that and that alone, filling up every second of available airtime. Little or no focus will be made on the single vote of a House Committee that the vast majority of the public could not identify in a lineup, and it will disappear unnoticed, lost in the wake of something outrageous Trump will absolutely make sure to spew in his speech to the Congress that afternoon:
It will be a minor story that probably receives scant or nonexistent coverage from television news, and then it will be quickly over. To be sure, coverage of Trump’s scandals will surely continue. But coverage of the House role in permitting Trump’s behavior will be extremely minimal.
But the treachery and betrayal will be complete. The moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party will have reached its apotheosis. A Republican Congress, through their own hand-picked “Committee,” will deliberately turn a blind eye towards patent evidence disclosed by our Intelligence Services of collaboration between Trump’s highest campaign officials, Trump himself, and the Russian government, its emissaries, and its President-dictator, Vladimir Putin. Putting their own interests before the integrity of the country itself, they will choose to ignore the fact that an unfriendly foreign state, is directly interfering with our system of government.
Try to imagine the reaction of Republicans if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot--if Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or some similar Democrat had been tainted with strong evidence of collaborating with the Russians to win the election. And if, following that, they refused to divulge their financial ties or their campaign’s contacts with the Russian state. Imagine if their denials turned out time and time again to be outright lies. And then just try to imagine the Democrats in Congress deliberately refusing to investigate such accusations.
The Republicans would call it Treason. And they’d be right.
Chait explains that what we are witnessing in the House’s refusal to act is a latent failure of our entire Democratic system:
One of the flaws in the design of the federal government is that, while the founders envisioned competing branches of government, unified party control of government can turn those branches into partners who do not check each other’s abuses. A second flaw is that Congress has a diffuse and often-confusing decision-making process that can make public accountability extremely difficult. Both problems come together in a new story that ought to be huge news but will instead be relegated to legislative arcana.
In this case the House simply refused to investigate the allegations of Trump’s perfidy. Coldly refused, without fanfare or explanation, thumbing their nose, in effect, at not only the Democrats and the American people. When Democrats in the House forced their hand, they responded not in accordance with their Constitutional oaths, but in accordance with their wealthy contributors who stand to benefit immensely from the tax cuts they intend to implement, and which Trump, Russian stooge or not, will eagerly rubber-stamp.
But first they had to insure they would be insulated from their constituents’ wrath at this blatant act of betrayal. And, according to Chait, therein lies the problem:
The average House Republican votes for the party leadership, which then allocates decisions like this to individual committees, which can be stacked with partisan loyalists from safe districts...
If you are a voter in the district of one of the House Republicans who might be vulnerable in a potential Democratic wave election, who do you blame? Well, in January, your representative voted for the leadership that decided to shunt the resolution of inquiry to the Judiciary Committee, that will vote … but you can already see the problem. Your district’s representative had no direct involvement in the decision. There won’t be any dramatic coverage of his floor vote, as would be the case for a major law. At best, an effective pressure campaign at home might persuade your representative to endorse an investigation, but that endorsement would be toothless anyway, since Paul Ryan is calling the shots.
The real flaw in our system is that the Founders mistakenly envisioned a House of Representatives who actually would put their country’s interests first in such a circumstance. They assumed a Congress made of individuals with with some sense of integrity and moral character. The current radical Republican spawn of the Tea Party, in firm control of the House of Representatives, have neither. And they’ve made the calculation that most of their constituents won’t care:
It requires a lot of generally partisan Republicans to vote against more familiar and long-standing beliefs about guns, abortion, race, and so on to punish their elected representatives for a procedural matter. And that is why Trump has decided he can continue to demolish norms and laws, and why his fellow Republicans have decided they can safely go along.
So on Tuesday, the Republican Congress won’t call out Trump for violating the Constitution, even for selling the country out to a hostile foreign power. Treachery, to them, will just be another day at the office.
We should never let them forget what they’ve done.
[The Republican (majority) members of the Judiciary Committee are listed here.
To call your Member of Congress:
US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121
To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov}