Here is what the publisher of the Washington Post said about the White House scandal: “It was a conspiracy not of greed but of arrogance and fear by men who came to equate their own political well-being with the nation’s very survival and security.” Although this could be said today of President Trump’s campaign and administration, this was actually an old quote of former Post publisher Katharine Graham talking about the Watergate scandal.
But the nation survived that crisis in large part because back then members of Congress took their Constitutional responsibilities seriously; they placed the country above partisan politics.
In February, 1973 the Senate voted unanimously to establish a committee to investigate activities related to the presidential campaign of 1972. That committee was authorized to subpoena witnesses and materials and to investigate the Watergate break-in and any subsequent cover-up, as well as any other illegal, improper or unethical conduct occurring during the campaign. The bi-partisan committee held televised public hearings, asked questions of subpoenaed witnesses under oath and eventually got to the truth. President Nixon resigned and others in his administration went to prison. The country survived because Congress did its job of overseeing the executive branch just as the drafters of our Constitution envisioned.
Contrast that with our current Congress. The House Intelligence Committee prematurely ended its investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, apparently fearing what they might actually find. The Republicans on the Committee issued a report concluding that all was well without having talked with several key witnesses, without having subpoenaed relevant documents and after allowing witnesses while not under oath to answer only the questions they wanted to answer.
The Senate Intelligence Committee apparently is not making much progress on its investigation either although it is hard to know since it is all taking place behind closed doors. There are some in Congress who want to end the special counselor’s investigation, and Congress thus far has failed to provide Mueller with any legislative protection. Who cares about truth, justice and the preservation of democratic principles with mid-term elections coming up? Not our Congress.