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In spite of all the questions swirling around the White House right now, the most pressing of all involve a phone call between Mike Flynn, who has just been made to resign his new post as National Security Advisor, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States.

On or just after December 29, when President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia for hacking its way into our November elections, Flynn spoke by telephone to Kislyak. The next day, December 30, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not retaliate against the sanctions.

First question, then: did Putin’s announcement have anything to do with Flynn’s phone call to Kislyak? On January 14 Flynn told Vice-President Mike Pence that he and Kislyak did not discuss sanctions, and on February 8 he repeated this point in an interview with the Washington Post. But the very next day, after the Times and the Post reported that a transcript of their wiretapped conversation did include sanctions, Flynn told the Post he “couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

Nearly two weeks earlier, on January 26, President Trump learned—through White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II—that the Justice Department disbelieved Flynn’s account of his phone call with Kislyak and thought he could be blackmailed by Russian intelligence. But Trump did nothing until after these facts were made public.

Now that Flynn has resigned, as of February 13 (after 24 days on the job), has this whole affair “taken care of itself,” in the words of Jason Chaffetz, Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee? And does it “make no sense” for Republicans to investigate other Republicans, as Republican Senator Rand Paul tells us?

Unsurprisingly, neither Congressman Chaffetz nor Senator Paul ever asked why House Republicans had to spend nearly two years and close to seven million dollars investigating Hillary Clinton’s would-be responsibility for the terrorist attack on our Benghazi consulate in 2012—only to find that all she did wrong was to use a private email address and server during her time as Secretary of State.

As Rand’s comment makes plain, the question of whether or not Republicans should investigate any case of possible misbehavior by a public official depends entirely on party affiliation. While Republicans leap at the chance to investigate anything done by a Democrat, especially a Democratic candidate for president, they recoil at the idea of investigating members of their own party. They yearn to believe, as Chaffetz says, that this little flap about Flynn’s phone call has now taken care of itself.

Alternatively, they may want to believe with President Trump that the real story here has nothing to do with whatever deal Flynn may have secretly and even treasonously cut with the Russian ambassador. “The real scandal here,” Trump has tweeted, “is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”

But of course the process of digging such candy out from under a president desperate to keep it all boxed up is just as American—and necessary—as apple pie. And there is lots more digging to do.

Let’s review what we now know for certain.

We know that Russian agents hacked into both Democratic and Republican party files during last year’s election.

We know that these agents released only material from Democratic party files.

We know that Paul Manafort and other officials in Trump’s campaign spoke repeatedly with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.

We know that candidate Trump publically urged the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email files.

We know that Trump has consistently praised Putin.

We know that Michael Flynn discussed President Obama’s sanctions with the Russian ambassador as soon as the sanctions were announced.

We know that right afterwards, Putin announced he would not retaliate for those sanctions,

We know that for nearly two weeks, President Trump did nothing about Flynn even after learning that he had lied to FBI agents as well as to Vice President Pence.

We know that Trump made Flynn resign only after the Post and the Times broke the story about Flynn and the sanctions on February 9.

Given all these facts, can anyone reasonably question the need for a full-bore investigation by an independent commission free of political interference by either party? Can anyone believe that such an investigation could be run by a Department of Justice now headed by Jeff Sessions, a former top adviser to the Trump campaign?

A few Republican Senators may be willing to agree. John McCain, for one, has said that Flynn’s resignation “raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections.”

But if McCain really wants to pursue these questions wherever they may lead, he should join Democrats in calling for an independent commission to do so. And if his fellow Republicans continue to balk at this idea, I strongly suggest that Democrats offer Republicans a simple, old-fashioned political trade: give us the commission, and we’ll confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Since he’s the best nominee that Democrats can reasonably expect from Trump, and since his confirmation is inevitable (unless the Dems really plan to filibuster it indefinitely), it would be a fair price to pay for a truly independent investigation of this appalling mess.

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