By Patrick Murphy
In a young presidency already marred by dysfunction and infighting, last week’s revelation that President Donald Trump gave up classified information to Russia in an Oval Office meeting is perhaps the most egregious breach of trust yet with the American people. It gets at the core of why the investigation into last year’s election meddling must continue independently and unimpeded.
I served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence until January, where our main functions were to oversee the intelligence community around the globe and ensure that its operations are properly funded. Our meetings took place deep under the U.S. Capitol in a secure hearing room where no cellphones were allowed. All members and staff required a security clearance.
My colleagues and I handled classified information on an often daily basis. Outside of that committee space no national security information was disclosed or disseminated. While any president has the discretion to determine what remains classified and what does not, it’s the judgment in this particular instance that raises so many red flags – especially since it happened shortly after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who had been looking into the president’s potential ties to Russia. If the dispelling of this type of information served the interests of the American people, we deserve to know why.
And yet the broader concerns remain. If the Russians did, indeed, hack emails and meddle in our presidential election to favor one candidate over the other, what were their goals? I believe they are becoming clearer by the day: to sow doubt and distrust in our republic. And it appears to be working.
Our intelligence agencies, Congress, and the administration have been bogged down with Russia since the day Trump took office. Instead of creating jobs, passing an infrastructure bill, developing a strategy to combat ISIS and fulfilling the countless other promises made during the campaign, the White House is engulfed in strife and scandal. Worse, the American people are rapidly losing trust in the very institutions that have kept our nation the beacon of opportunity, justice, and democracy around the world.
We need an independent investigation into the Russia matter once and for all, and allow the chips to fall where they may; the naming of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel into the matter is a good start. President Trump once warned America that if his opponent had won the election, she’d be a distraction under constant investigation. Clearly, the reverse is true.
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