There was something for everyone in Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing — for Democrats, some fuel for their unproven theory the presidency was stolen from them in last year’s election, and for Republicans, confirmation that there’s a serious problem with the leaking of secrets by officials in Washington.
Russian espionage is nothing new, yet its possible role in the Trump campaign and administration is something the committee is just beginning to uncover. At Monday’s hearing, FBI Director James Comey addressed several key issues: the accusations of Trump Tower wiretapping, Russia’s influence in US elections and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign, and the dangerous illegal leaking of classified information and “unmasking” of American citizens.
Former President Ronald Reagan said “there are no degrees of honesty.” Something is either true or not true.” After a litany of House and Senate Republicans and Democrats stated there was no evidence to support President Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower prior to the election, Comey put the issue to rest by stating there was no information to support the claim. Tweets and reports to the contrary are FAKE NEWS. Full stop. The Trump administration needs to retract and repent on these claims and not continue to repeat them.
In terms of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Comey confirmed this is under investigation by the FBI. He went on to say the Russian officials meant to hurt democracy and Hillary Clinton, all the while helping Donald Trump. Comey also confirmed that FBI officials are investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
So far, there is no publicly available evidence to support the claim. In my view, Russian interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign had nothing to do with the Democrat’s defeat; Hillary Clinton lost because she had the wrong message, failed to compete in key battleground states and spiked the football in the third quarter.
The only confirmed crime discussed at the hearing concerned the leaking of classified information. This pertains to news reports of former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn’s intercepted phone calls with Russian officials. The National Security Administration’s rules of intelligence gathering protect the identity of Americans. Select NSA personnel, only about a dozen people, can request the “unmasking” of the identity. Who released the information and why they leaked it needs to be uncovered.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, referred to those who leak classified information as “cowards.” And Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, then stressed that the unauthorized dissemination of classified information is punishable by a felony of up to 10 years in prison. If nothing else comes of these hearings, members of Congress need to push for identifying and prosecuting those who leak classified information.
Even though the hearings today may have put to rest some of the issues, they also opened the door to further discussion on questions regarding the protection of intelligence and personal information.
Democrats tried their best to blame their loss on Russian involvement and Republicans sought to plug intelligence leaks. Getting the answers to these questions is not about partisanship. It’s about patriotism.