Some things are so obvious that no one even bothers to mention them. So I want to be clear: House Republicans embarrassed themselves Wednesday at former special counsel Robert Mueller’s hearings.
There’s nothing wrong with politicians defending a president of the same party during a scandal. It’s their job, in fact, to point out where evidence is weak, conclusions assume too much, or stories have holes in them. Nor is it a problem when they try to place a scandal in context if (as is often the case) a media frenzy or overeager out-party has exaggerated the importance of some instance of wrongdoing. Many Republicans played that role during Watergate, and while they were burned by a president who couldn’t be trusted, historians have been relatively kind to them.
That’s not what happened Wednesday. Instead of reading carefully into the evidence and finding contradictions or loose ends, House Republicans largely busied themselves with conspiracy theories. It wasn’t Donald Trump and his campaign who welcomed and benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election; it was Hillary Clinton! Never mind what U.S. intelligence agencies and Senate investigators have concluded. Never mind that this reality-denying line of inquiry left lawmakers defending Wikileaks and even, seemingly, the Russian agents indicted by Mueller.
For these Republicans, it’s still supposedly inexplicable that the FBI started investigating in the first place. In their stated conception of things, only partisanship and hatred of the president could explain such an otherwise odd decision to look into the rich web of shady contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. And yet those partisan and hateful investigators didn’t leak anything about the probe when it would’ve put Trump’s election in jeopardy; didn’t indict or recommend impeachment of the president; and didn’t rush to testify to Congress about any of it.
Meanwhile, with the notable exception of Texas Representative Will Hurd, Republicans showed no interest at all in the national-security implications of Russia’s interference. And remember, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still blocking bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. defenses against future attacks.
These are the same Republicans, after all, who spent years looking into conspiracy theories about the deaths of Americans in Benghazi in 2012 without ever attending to the real security vulnerabilities that contributed to them. It was far more important to feed the Republican marketplace with loony ideas about how President Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) actively welcomed the disaster than to figure out what had actually gone wrong or what to do about it.
A lot of people (myself included) have been critical of Democratic strategy in pursuing the Trump investigation, or critical of how Mueller acted. But let’s not forget that Republicans, too, have a choice, and in this case they’ve chosen to act irresponsibly. In doing so, they’re continuing to harm the republic.
After former special counsel Robert Mueller warned during congressional testimony of future election interference, Senate Republicans blocked 2 election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday, The Hill reports.
Mueller testified earlier that "many more countries are developing capabilities to replicate" what the Russians did in 2016. "They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign," he said. Per New York Magazine, there's concern that if the law's not updated, it could leave the U.S. open to further interference.
Democrats sought consent to pass 2 bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance and another on legislation that would let the Senate sergeant-at-arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff, The Hill notes.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked all of the bills, without stating if she made the motion by herself or on behalf of her party, per New York Magazine.
What they're saying: The magazine reports that Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said as he condemned Sen. Hyde-Smith’s motion, "Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections."
According to CNN, the GOP says that Congress has already responded to election security needs for the upcoming election. Republicans have warned of attempts to "federalize" elections, The Hill notes.
"Have we established a new normal from this past campaign [will] apply to future campaigns, aware that a hostile foreign power is influencing election, [have] no duty to report that to the FBI or other authorities?"— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) July 24, 2019
"I hope this is not the new normal. But I fear it is." pic.twitter.com/dbTK9rFLNH