We're barely into the second month of the Trump regime, and journalists continue to drop bombshells such as the Washington Post's reveal that Michael Flynn discussed dropping sanctions on Russia with their ambassador before the inauguration. On Friday, the New York Times reported that Trump's personal lawyer and other associates, including a Ukrainian politician, had hand-delivered to Flynn their "peace plan," a backdoor method for lifting sanctions against Russia. (As Business Insider reports, the stories about this "peace plan" keep changing.) Also on Friday, members of the Senate intelligence committee had a 3-hour meeting with James Comey, one from which they emerged remarkably tight-lipped. What is going on?
The Republican-controlled Congress, of course, has to power to investigate all of this—the summer email hacks, Flynn's Russia connections, Trump's Russia connections, or anything else it darn well pleases (*cough cough emails*). So what is the GOP response to the mounting impression that, yes, Trump's team had repeated contact with Russian intelligence during the election, as was alleged in the New York Times on February 14?
To put it charitably: not much. In the Senate, there are promises from a handful of Republican Senators that the Intelligence and/or Armed Services Committees will look into this. But any hope of an independent bipartisan investigation seems pretty far away at the moment. And in the House, GOP officials are even less interested in investigation. In fact, as described by NBC News, House intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes has turned his wrath on the leakers, very much following Trump's line that they are the problem.
One part of what's going on is obvious, as Rand Paul admitted the other day: the Republicans are very busy with their plans to roll back the 20th century. Investigating Trump will certainly not make that easier.
But before it goes down the memory hole, let's also remember:
It wasn't just the DNC that was hacked. Way back in July, there was a probe into whether Russian hackers had also penetrated the Democratic Congressional Committee. In December, the New York Times followed up that story with a look at Russian-linked hacks that had been aimed at specific Democratic House candidates…and only Democratic candidates.
After the first political advertisement appeared using the hacked material, Mr. Luján wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee urging him to not use this stolen material in the 2016 campaign.
"The N.R.C.C.'s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States' most dangerous adversaries," Mr. Luján's Aug. 29 letter said. "Put simply, if this action continues, the N.R.C.C. will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections."
Ms. Pelosi sent a similar letter in early September to Mr. Ryan. Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a "super PAC" tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida.
Some of the Democrats used that material as well, in their primary races, but it's striking that the hacks were intended to harm members of one party only. And that Ryan had nothing to say about it.
Mitch McConnell in the Senate had something to say about it: don't mention it. The Post reported in December that after leaders of both parties were briefed on suspected Russian meddling in the election, Mitch McConnell opposed any kind of bipartisan announcement, going so far as to threaten Obama with trying to throw the election if he came forward.
So of course Republicans don't want a full investigation that would reveal their own complicity in hushing up the problem. They have other things to do! Jason Chaffetz of the House Ethics Committee has the time to keep persecuting those tied to Hillary Clinton, and to complain about leaks. But not to investigate Russian hacking.
That's the same Jason Chaffetz, by the way, who inappropriately Tweeted about Comey's letter in late October, claiming the case against Clinton had been reopened, and publicly revealing the letter before Democratic leaders even saw it. Yet here he is very worried about people who leak material. (And Sid the Science Kid. And whether or not the National Parks somehow had advance knowledge of Obama's national monuments decisions. And Hillary Clinton!)
At this point, the generous interpretation of GOP stonewalling is that they're merely trying to ram their garbage agenda through Congress. Less charitably, there seems good reason to suspect that many of them don't want their fall 2016 foot-dragging on foreign interference in the election to gain greater scrutiny. It might not have been a criminal act for Mitch McConnell to threaten Obama if he went to the American people with this information, but it was a nakedly cynical, partisan, and anti-democratic one.
And on the House side—were there direct contacts between any House GOP campaigns and Guccifer 2.0?
The longer they wait to investigate the harder it will be. I'm sure they know that perfectly well. They are giving Trump and Co. time to destroy documents and silence witnesses.
But the longer they wait, the more complicit the GOP appear to be. What did Congressional Republicans know about Russian hacking, and when did they know it?