Now that Robert Mueller’s report has totally exonerated President Trump and his campaign from spurious accusations of Russian collusion, it is time to tell the truth about the damage that dishonest investigations can do – and the danger they pose to the nation.
It is puzzling that Democrats continue to claim that the Trump administration is violating accepted norms of transparency, particularly when it comes to cooperating with the Congress to fulfill legitimate requests for oversight of the executive branch.
For instance, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the current chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, recently excoriated the White House for “an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction.”
As a former chairman of the committee Cummings now heads, I believe his confrontational strategy is as ill-advised as it will be ineffective. His statement also ignores not only ancient history, but the most recent administration, which set a new standard for secrecy and stalling. And he knows it.
From its earliest days, the Obama administration stymied the ability of the Congress to shine a light on executive branch wrongdoing and fired up a veritable smokescreen machine that ran for both terms. And we saw it early on, in one of the first serious Obama scandals: Fast and Furious.
This was a project of the Department of Justice that allowed high-powered weapons to be purchased by Mexican drug cartels, ostensibly for the purpose of tracking them later. Inevitably, these weapons slipped out of their sight. Shortly after, a brave Border Patrol agent named Brian Terry was killed by one of the guns.
Did the Obama White House come clean about this operation? Not even close. Practically from the day Terry was killed, Attorney General Eric Holder began a cover-up that denied obvious details that were true, prevented witnesses from detailing what went wrong, and withheld documents that backed up both.
Cummings also claims the White House has yet to respond to another investigation into “White House officials’ alleged use of personal email in violation of federal law.” I’m not sure an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton could write those words with a straight face.
How do we know this? Holder admitted as much. He sent a letter to the Congress conceding that the DOJ had given false information. And on the eve of being held in contempt by the full House, he offered to reveal some of the documents we had already asked for and were entitled to. It was insincere and insufficient. Holder was held in contempt.
Cummings had a front-row committee seat for all of this, and he knows nothing even remotely similar is going on in the Trump administration. And his rhetoric reveals the fundamental hypocrisy of the Democrats’ current claims.
He says he has “sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics” over the past six weeks and has yet to receive a full supply of documents. Six weeks? Cummings knows full well that our committee essentially spent six years being told by the Obama White House that they would consider our lawful requests – before denying them. By comparison, the Trump White House is a model of co-equal cooperation.
Cummings also claims that the White House has yet to respond to another investigation into “White House officials’ alleged use of personal email in violation of federal law.”
With all due respect, I’m not sure that an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton could write those words with a straight face.
The fact is, it is necessary for the House and White House to find ways to work together, to bring to light what the public must see, and to ensure that oversight of the executive branch functions as it should. It is also true that tension between opposing parties representing opposite branches of government is as old as the republic itself – and was presaged by the Founders who envisioned and designed the current system.
Congress should be encouraged to request, review and reveal what is in the public interest. But scattershot subpoenas and editorial exaggerations won’t get the job done.
The bottom line is that Russian collusion was a ludicrous conspiracy theory, the disproving of which has left behind an enormous credibility gap in Washington. Too many Democrats jumped or fell in.
If their current rhetoric is any indication, they won’t be climbing out anytime soon.