Matching a growing popular demand, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Saturday urged Congress to create an independent commission to investigate the possible role that members of President Donald Trump's campaign or transition teams may have had with alleged Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
In a video message released on Twitter, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) informed his colleagues why he believes new revelations—coupled with the recent troubling behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee—make a nonpartisan, independent commission necessary. Watch:
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 25, 2017
Though serious questions remain regarding the depth and veracity of the government's claims that Russia interfered in last the 2016 elections and what, if any, coordination members of Trump's team may have played, Schiff argues his committee, under the leadership of Rep. Nunes, has now lost the necessary credibility to complete its probe. Schiff further explained his reasoning in a op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee on Saturday:
In order to do a proper investigation of Russian intervention, Congress must commit itself to a truly nonpartisan effort that follows the facts wherever they lead, and looks at questions like these: When did the Russians decide to turn intelligence gathering into data weaponization, and why? What was the U.S. government response and how do we protect ourselves in the future? And did the Russians have the help of U.S. citizens in this compromise of our democracy, including people associated with the campaign they assisted?
The opportunity to conduct that type of investigation had two severe setbacks this week. The first occurred after the Intelligence Committee’s Monday hearing – in which FBI Director James Comey revealed that persons associated with the Trump campaign are under an investigation to determine whether they acted as agents of a foreign power. Within days of that hearing, the chairman of our committee announced to the press he had obtained information that he was unwilling to share with his own committee and presented it to the White House.
The second setback occurred at the end of the week, when the chairman decided on his own to cancel the open hearing scheduled for Tuesday with former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
It was the cancellation of that public hearing, it appears, that sent Schiff from earlier saying an independent probe "might" be necessary, to Saturday's outright call for creating one.
In the wake of Comey's testimony at the beginning of the week, as Common Dreams reported, demands escalated for Democrats to put a hold on all "Trump-related appointments and legislation" until a full and open establishment of the facts could be presented to the American people. And while some are cautioning the Democrats in Congress against putting too much emphasis on the Trump-Russia storyline, the calls for a complete and credible probe into the matter continue to surge.
As Jo Comerford, a campaign director for MoveOn.org, said in a statement, "How can Congress, with good conscience, agree to further Trump’s agenda amid such serious allegations regarding possible illegal activity? The answer is simple: It can’t."
And Michael Winship, senior writer for BillMoyers.com, argued the "craziness" that emerged this week between Rep. Nunes and Rep. Schiff clarifies the limits of their committee.
These events, Winship wrote, "make the need for an bipartisan investigation and/or independent prosecutor all the stronger. The crisis deepens. Is democracy unable to solve the problems it has created for itself? Please, if there are still grown-ups in the GOP, the Senate or the House, give Americans what they need to save the republic: the truth."
As of this writing, #FollowtheFacts was created quite active conversation on social media: