By Susan A. Davis
Probably one of the most shocking aspects — and there are many to choose from — about the attack on our democracy during the 2016 presidential election is how it has divided our nation.
Americans have always come together in a show of unity whenever we are attacked. It happened after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The same unity was on display after Sept. 11.
On one side, this attack on our sovereignty has sparked serious concern and calls for accountability. On the other side, it seems to have elicited yawns.
The release of a redacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller was unequivocal in confirming what our intelligence community had determined: The Russian government orchestrated an effort to undermine our election.
But in today’s political climate, partisanship has won the day.
The president’s supporters have tried to portray the report as a total exoneration, even though the report specifically says it does not exonerate him.
Despite the report’s conclusion that there is not sufficient evidence to prove the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians, there were numerous contacts between Russians and campaign officials. Ignorance got them into this and also probably protected them from criminal prosecution.
If any other presidential campaign had been contacted by Russians, their next call would have been to the FBI.
The report’s section on obstruction of justice shows a president desperate to thwart the special counsel’s investigation and White House staff protecting him from himself.
We should not have a White House where staff must ignore orders from the president to keep him/her from breaking the law.
While the Mueller report did not make a prosecution decision on obstruction, it gives Congress a path to follow as it continues its investigations.
There have been calls from the president’s supporters and even some independent observers saying it’s time to move on. After all, there was no crime committed.
But as former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberger recently said on MSNBC: “You don’t have to complete the crime of obstruction in order to be culpable of it… Asking someone to destroy records or request that another person lie is obstruction of justice even if they don’t carry out that order.”
Congress does not “move on” from its constitutional obligation to act as a check on and provide oversight of the executive branch, particularly when foreign powers threaten our democracy.
And especially when we have a White House that uses lies and deceit on a daily basis to achieve its policy and political objectives.
If anything, it is a clarion call for Congress to look further. We still don’t know what we don’t know.
Congress needs to hear from special counsel Robert Mueller. We need to hear from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who on more than one occasion ignored President Trump’s directive to fire the special counsel.
But doesn’t Congress have more important things to work on? One of the things my colleagues and I are pretty good at is multitasking.
House Democrats will still push our agenda of lowering health care costs, raising wages, and ending corruption.
Ending corruption: Another prime reason for conducting further oversight investigations.
Unfortunately, I’m not expecting much cooperation from my colleagues in the minority.
But I hope that will be different when it comes to protecting our nation from future attacks.
The Russians are still engaging in their sabotage and President Trump doesn’t even want to talk about it, according to administration officials. To do so would call into question the legitimacy of his presidency and require him to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The House, however, has already taken action when it passed comprehensive election reform legislation earlier this year.
The election security measures in the bill require the Department of Homeland Security to designate election infrastructure as critical and assess threats to the system at least 180 days prior to a federal election.
It also creates a National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions to counter threats and requires testing of voting systems nine months before a federal election.
In my role in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I am working with our allies to prevent Russian aggression. We aren’t the only nation under attack.
The threat is real. If we are going to end that threat, we need to be united in a common goal of ensuring our security.
My hope is that we will come together as a nation to make sure our elections are decided by the American people and the American people alone. The integrity of our elections should not be a partisan issue.
Neither should the honesty and integrity of those working in the White House. The founders wanted Congress to be the check on the executive branch and we must not shirk that responsibility.
— Congresswoman Davis represents central San Diego, including the communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge, Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.