Russia Monitor: House Dems Walking Forward Slowly, Quietly

“Some things are above politics, and one of them is our constitutional responsibilities to do what is right. And the responsibility of the Congress of the United States of America, when a president breaks the law, is to bring impeachment charges against that president.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren following Mueller testimony.


“Vladimir Putin has worked harder to run the U.S. government than all of the Democrats in Congress put together.

— Satire by Andy Borowitz for The New Yorker; headline from (7/25/19).

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/29/19)

Dear Fellow Readers,

In spite of mixed reactions to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony the talking heads and pundits tell us we are now going forward with ‘the Congressional process that shall not be named’, just don’t say the ‘I’ word.

One bit of housekeeping, in the last column I overlooked crediting the hearing questioning done by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). Virginia Heffernen writing for the Los Angeles Times went so far to give Schiff this credit:

Column: Robert Mueller’s hearings were heading nowhere — until Adam Schiff spoke up

Hefferenan summarizes Schiff’s artful dismantling of Trump record of “Disloyalty, Greed and Lies”.

“As Schiff said, he understood that the two-year investigation couldn’t establish criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But then he took a surprising turn: Disloyalty to country was “something worse” than a crime, and Mueller’s team amply established it.

““A crime is the violation of a law written by Congress,” Schiff intoned, “but disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded, that we, the people, not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who shall govern us.””

Schiff talked unfairly about “core principals”, unfairly because we know Trump has none of these. A final nod, here’s Schiff explaining to NBC’s Chuck Todd the “chilling” testimony from Mueller where he explained to Schiff, the Russian interference in US elections was happening “as we sit here”. I will come back to election security, or the lack of Republican initiative to secure our elections.

Back to House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who said: “Articles of impeachment are under consideration.”

“In a press conference Friday, members of the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, announced their new suit to get the full grand jury evidence from Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia in the 2016 election. Nadler indicated that this will help inform the committee on whether to proceed with an impeachment inquiry and recommend articles of impeachment.”

While that is a very Washington political statement, I’ll use Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe’s words to reduce this to plain English:

“People who’re describing this as merely an inquiry into “whether” to begin an impeachment inquiry are totally wrong. This IS the “impeachment inquiry” that anyone who knows what’s up has been calling for. Neither more nor less. “

In even simpler language, this from four House Democrats following the hearings: Why We’re Moving Forward With Impeachment.

The statement was coauthored by House Judiciary Vice Chair Mary Scanlon (D-PA), Rep David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rep Veronica Escobar (D-TX). The authors ended their commitment to Impeach this way:

“As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we understand the gravity of this moment that we find ourselves in. We wake up every morning with the understanding of the oath that binds us as members of Congress, and the trust that our constituents placed in us to uphold that oath. We will move forward with the impeachment process. Our investigation will seriously examine all the evidence as we consider whether to bring articles of impeachment or other remedies under our Article I powers.

Our Constitution requires it. Our democracy depends on it.”

One final opinion, this from Charles Pierce of Esquire; he opens with this:

“”Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” —Mark Twain.

“Be very, very quiet. The House Judiciary Committee is walking softly toward its quarry.”

And closes with this:

“In combination, Nadler’s motion and Pelosi’s remarks strike me as the result of serious re-negotiations within the Democratic House caucus. Pelosi seems to have freed up Nadler to move on the grand jury material. Baby steps, people, but ones that are starting to echo.”

Not everyone is in favor of impeachment. New York Times Opinion columnist Maureen Dowd offers this: 

“You can argue that impeachment, morally and constitutionally, is the right thing to do. But you also have to recognize that, historically and politically, it is not the right thing to do because it will lead to disaster.”

Dowd now reads as a Dem moderate whose party moved left and left her behind, but she does make the point for why some are against impeachment:

“The recipe for emotional satisfaction on the part of the progressive left is not a recipe for removing Trump from the White House.”

BUT it is obvious, the calculus ‘for’ impeachment has changed a good deal in the few days following Mueller’s testimony. It may not have been great TV but the ‘I’ word is now a thing.


Russians in the voting box

Moving to election security and Republican resistance to measures to protect our vote… 

Mueller provided an ominous warning about Russia’s malicious activities — but it wasn’t all about hackers

In response to a question from Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Mueller offered this:

““It wasn’t a single attempt. They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” Mueller said.”

The storyline with Russian interference has been similar to Trump-Russian contacts – first we were told there were none, and now in the case of Russian intrusion, all 50 states experienced some level of Russian intention. Still, the assurance we’re offered is this:

“Across the Capitol, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a highly redacted report detailing Russian surveillance and probing of voting infrastructure in 21 states. While one state IT contractor at the time “attributed the attack to Russia and suggested that the activity was reminiscent of other attacks where attackers distract with lots of noise and then ‘sneak in the back,’” the report reiterated what’s largely known: that in 2016’s presidential election only one state’s voter registration data was exported, and no vote totals were altered.”

The RawStory article goes on to offer information about steps taken to harden election infrastructure. But let’s turn to Charles Pierce once again.

We’re Supposed to Believe the Russians Hacked Into Voting Systems But Did Nothing Once They Got There?

Taking Pierce’s comments out of order, here’s the key observation:

“Remember when we were all told that it was only a couple of precincts, then a couple of cities, then a couple of states? Remember when it was just data? Now, as far as we can read between the blacked-out lines, we are being asked to believe that the Russian ratfckers could have deleted “voter data,” that they “were in a position” to jack around with it, but, having achieved this monumental intelligence triumph, they didn’t do anything with it? Does that dog even look like it’s hunting any more?”

Pierce references a New York Times article covering the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee first report on Russian hacking of US elections:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time, but at the demand of American intelligence agencies the committee was forced to redact its findings so heavily that key lessons for the 2020 election are blacked out.”

At this point we’ll follow Pierce as he kicks the can over to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here’s why the #MoscowMitch nickname is so devastating for Mitch McConnell

The core of the article is coverage of a spot-on rant by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough referring to Senate failure to consider bipartisan proposals to protect US elections:

““He is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin’s ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy — according to the Republican FBI, CIA, DNI, Intel committee — all Republicans are all saying Russian is subverting American democracy and Moscow Mitch won’t even let the Senate take a vote on it!” Scarborough said. “That is un-American.”

“”… Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans had tried to convince the American public there was this massive voter fraud. They had people feeling that they were going to steal the election,” Sharpton explained. “Now they’re the ones that are going to shut down looking at any possibility of the fraud?”

““Clearly, they have set the table for Russia to continue to do what they want to do and I think not only Democrats but those of us in the civil rights and voting rights community are very concerned about it.”

McConnell is on record for explaining his reluctance to take any steps to make our elections more fair and secure because “more Democrats would be elected”. Here’s Mitch responding to a Dem proposal to make election day holiday, “This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A power grab that’s smelling more and more like exactly what it is.”

But McConnell is only part of the problem. I’ll end with the real problem….

Watch Trump deny that Mueller said things he definitely said

I mentioned this in the last edition, but should we be surprised? Trump lied about the Mueller report in advance of the release. And after we finally have both the report and Mueller’s testimony, he continues to lie – now about what we just heard Mueller explain to us. Trump was not, is not exonerated.

“It was among several things that Mueller said that Trump then falsely claimed were not said. You can watch what Trump said Mueller said vs. what Mueller said in the video above.

“Trump called two reporters “fake news” for correctly saying that Mueller said Trump could be indicted after leaving office.

“Trump then falsely said Mueller corrected his comments during the second hearing about Trump facing a possible indictment after his presidency.”

The only way to have the Democracy we want is to win elections.