From ethical transgressions to possible criminal obstruction of justice, here are just some of the damning top-line news items from this whirlwind week:
In a briefing with US senators yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein confirmed that he knew of plans to fire FBI Director James Comey BEFORE he crafted the memo recommending Comey’s ouster for his handling of the Clinton email investigation. That memo was the official rationale given for Comey’s ouster but Donald Trump later said in an interview on national television that he had planned to fire Comey for some time because of his focus on the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Earlier this week, Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia and that country’s interference in the 2016 election.
Last night, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer headlined a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Virginia at Trump’s Virginia golf club — meaning fees paid to venue will directly benefit the president’s financial interests.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that in a closed-door of meeting of Republican members of Congress last year, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asserted that he thinks Vladimir Putin pays Trump! When some of his fellow lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment, he reportedly was quick to assure them it was no joke, saying, “swear to God.” Speaker Paul Ryan then reined in the conversation and demanded that those present keep the conversation secret — which it has remained until now.
Reuters reported yesterday that the Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russian officials.
And the New York Times reported on Wednesday that disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn first told the Trump transition team on January 4 that he was under investigation for not reporting that he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. Now, questions are swirling about if Vice President Mike Pence, who led the transition, knew about it, since he said on Fox News in March that news reports from that time where the first he had heard about the investigation.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates also recently testified that she alerted the White House on January 26 about Flynn’s compromising relationship with Russian officials — nearly three weeks before Flynn was forced to resign.
We’re fighting to make sure EVERY method of investigation and accountability is being pursued diligently.
We launched a campaign to get a special prosecutor appointed for the Russia probe, which included significant pressure from tens of thousands of PFAW members and activists, and we won. But this is just the beginning.
The special prosecutor’s investigation will be well resourced and is positioned to ferret out potential criminal conduct not only by the president but by his associates both inside and outside of the administration. We now need to ensure that the special prosecutor be given the independence necessary to do his job effectively.
We’re also calling for:
- The formation of an independent commission. The special prosecutor is necessary to providing an efficient criminal investigation of these matters but, at the end of the day, the special prosecutor still technically falls under the chain of command of the Department of Justice. Democrats have filed a discharge petition in the House of Representatives to bring to a vote a bill to form the independent commission — something we strongly support.
- The resignation (and investigation) of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for lying to the Senate in his confirmation hearings about his own meeting with the Russians and for violating his recusal oaths in his involvement with James Comey’s firing.
- Legislation by Congress to shield the special prosecutor from being fired by the president or his underlings. We’ve already seen his willingness to fire anyone in in his way. Even Richard Nixon never fired the FBI Director.
- Ongoing investigations by committees in the both the Senate and House that are as public and transparent as possible. The special prosecutor investigation will be conducted largely in private. Same with any investigation by an independent commission. But the American people deserve to know information about potential wrongdoing at our highest levels of government as soon as that information is available.
- A second special prosecutor to investigate corruption in the Trump administration. Robert Mueller’s investigation will focus on issues around Russia but the undeniable appearances of financial self-dealing, nepotism, and other abuses of power by this administration and the president himself make the need urgent for a thorough investigation into these matters as well.
- The news media’s continued tenacity in investigating and reporting on all of this and more. A wide array of news outlets have done a stellar job at showing us the value the necessity of a strong Free Press, and they have refused to be cowed by the Trump administration’s anti-constitutional threats to punish reporters, deny press access, and otherwise undermine free speech.
We need to keep resisting.
The above list is long but sadly there is no one silver bullet for these complicated and far reaching scandals. As we strive to hold this administration and its allies accountable in all the ways listed above, we’re also working to hold them accountable at the ballot box.
That means identifying and supporting progressive leaders in their local campaigns and in their bids for elected office.
And it means mobilizing voters for special elections and state elections between now and the 2018 midterms, and making sure that the 2018 elections amount to a sweeping defeat of Trump Republicans.
We’re so grateful to have PFAW’s dedicated members and activists with us for all of these critical fights.