When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would not recuse himself from the confirmation hearing of wife, Elaine Chao, for transportation secretary, that news got buried among Trump's latest tweet storm and his more controversial cabinet picks. But it shouldn't.
Now that pressure has grown for a bipartisan investigation into Russian influence into our election, McConnell's actions offer a window into our democratic process that should concern every American. Recusing oneself from one's spouse's confirmation hearing is Ethics 101. How can McConnell, a lawyer who should know better, possibly be objective? Does she really need his vote to get confirmed? If so, that is concerning, and if not, that is equally concerning.
Now, with the CIA and FBI agreeing that Russia meddled in our election, with the goal of having Trump elected president, based on evidence from 17 intelligence agencies, McConnell finally says there should be an investigation. With Trump's surprise victory, McConnell will get to carry out his Republican agenda, and his wife will get a prestigious and influential job. Just how deep is McConnell going to dig into any investigation that a hostile foreign power may have helped him get everything he's ever dreamed of? Just deep enough to say, "we had an investigation, we didn't find much wrongdoing, and Trump would have won anyway"
One of the first things any investigation will uncover is why McConnell himself sat on this information when Obama asked him to go forward and publicly condemn Russia in bipartisan fashion after a secret intelligence briefing prior to the election, and McConnell refused, putting party ahead of our country's national security. Without bipartisan support, Obama had to sit on his hands so as not to appear to influence the election himself. Now, Trump's number two National Security pick, John Bolton, has gone on to accuse the Obama administration of sabotage to undermine Trump's election and then of framing Russia for it. This is a person who is supposed to be in charge of US national security.
In the meantime, here's the evidence we have so far. That Russia hacked Democratic National Committee and into the emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta. They were leaked to the press via another foreign organization, WikiLeaks, at strategic times. These leaks revealed embarrassing if true information. The US intelligence community found that Russia hacked the Republican National Committee, too, but chose not to leak that information.
The Rand Corporation notes the Russians now use a "firehose of falsehood" propaganda model against the US and others. The Washington Post summarized some of these stories as portraying Clinton "as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers."
And it worked: According to a Pew Research Poll conducted at the end of October, even among Republicans, 51% supported Trump only because they were "against Clinton" while only 45% were actually "for" Trump, whereas 57% of Democrats were "for" Clinton.
We also know that Republican public opinion about Russian President Vladimir Putin skyrocketed since last July, yet went down among Democrats. We know that the FBI sent agents to Denver to aggressively investigate Hillary's email server in August 2015, yet from September 2015 until June 2016 the FBI did not set up a single formal meeting with DNC officials just 10 minutes away to discuss hacking by a hostile foreign power, content to spend months just talking to people at the DNC help desk by phone, getting nowhere. Is this kind of preferential treatment of Russia over Hillary Clinton and the Democrats going to get a thorough investigation under McConnell's leadership?
What is the price of colluding with Putin? He has already invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine, has aligned himself with brutal Bashar al Assad in the ruthless killing of Syrian civilians, helping cement Assad's power, has been implicated in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, and leads a regime where the free speech of a punk band is punished with years of imprisonment.
At this moment, more than ever, we rely on our journalists to expose what is happening in our government, and we rely on free speech of Americans, and our right to protest. Mitch McConnell has shown us, sadly, that we cannot rely on Republican leadership to put our country's interests and security first.