Confronted with uncontested facts about the Russia scandal – a foreign adversary attacked our political system in order to put a Republican in power – Donald Trump and his team have increasingly tried to blame Barack Obama. After all, the argument goes, if the attack happened while the Democratic president was in office, then it stands to reason he’s responsible.
Last month, the Trump campaign went a little further down this road, claiming that Obama’s cyber-security team was “told to ‘stand down’ from countering Russian meddling,” deliberately allowing the Russian attack. That’s bonkers, of course, but it’s what the Republican president’s base was told anyway.
It’s against this backdrop that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the #2 Republican in the chamber, delivered remarks yesterday recommending an investigation – not into Trump’s misdeeds, but into the Obama administration’s actions during the 2016 election.
“We know Russia interfered with the elections. Why did the Obama administration allow Russia to interfere in the elections? That’s a question we should be probing. Why? Not just to go back in time, but to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“How much time is being spent going and looking and seeing just exactly what Russia did to interfere with out election while Barack Obama was president?”
I’m not sure the far-right Louisianan has fully thought this one through.
It’s true that the investigatory focus has been on Team Trump’s alleged cooperation with our Russian attackers, the attack itself, and the president’s alleged efforts to obstruct the investigation while it was ongoing.
But if Scalise wants a related probe into what Obama tried to do in response to Moscow’s efforts, the GOP congressman may not like where the investigation ends up.
As regular readers know, the Obama White House, swayed by the evidence compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, wanted bipartisan support to push back against Russian intrusion, and in mid-September 2016, the then-president dispatched counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, then-FBI Director James Comey, and then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to brief top members of Congress.
Obama didn’t want to be seen as using intelligence for partisan or electoral ends, so he sought a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against foreign manipulation of our democracy.
That didn’t happen – because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused.
As the Washington Post previously reported, when national security officials told congressional leaders about Russia’s interference, it was McConnell who not only didn’t want to alert the public, he also questioned the validity of the intelligence.
If Scalise wants some kind of official inquiry into who interfered with the Obama administration’s efforts to push back against Russian election meddling, I have a hunch some Democrats would welcome the scrutiny.