The need for congressional investigations into the Trump White House's Russia scandal has never been more obvious. The fact that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been forced to resign only helps shine a light on the seriousness of this dramatic controversy, making it that much more difficult for even the laziest and most partisan White House allies on Capitol Hill to look the other way.But they may very well try anyway. The Hill
had this report
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) says he expects embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn to keep his job amid controversy over his talks with the Russian ambassador."It just seems like there's a lot of nothing there," Nunes told Bloomberg News on Monday.
Note, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes -- who served proudly
as a member of Donald Trump's transition team -- has access to the nation's most sensitive intelligence. The California Republican is in a position to know, for example, that Flynn apparently lied about his communications with a foreign adversary, which launched an illegal espionage operation to help put Trump in the White House.But Nunes, as of yesterday afternoon, apparently found all of this rather dull. The GOP congressman went so far as to say
, "I have great confidence in Michael Flynn."Nunes even lauded Flynn in writing
after Trump's NSA was forced by the weight of his scandal to quit.In case this isn't already obvious, leading the House Intelligence Committee is an important position. When it's led by a sycophantic partisan, reflexively repeating ridiculous talking points and showing indifference towards intelligence-related scandals, the system of checks and balances cannot work as it's designed to.And what about the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)? The Washington Post
's Dana Milbank took a closer look
yesterday at what's captured the chairman's attention.
True, Chaffetz, after his unending probes of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, hasn't shown any appetite to examine, say, the Trump administration's ties to Russia or its many conflicts of interest. But the chairman has shown determination to probe, without fear or favor, the threat to America posed by Sid the Science Kid.The chairman of the powerful panel -- the main investigative committee in the House -- sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding to know why, in an attempt to raise awareness of the Zika virus, "CDC appears poised to make a sole source award to the Jim Henson Company for $806,000 to feature Sid the Science Kid in an educational program about the virus."Scandalous!Sid, for readers not familiar with PBS children's programming, is a preschool cartoon character. Like President Trump, Sid is orange. Unlike Trump, he is highly inquisitive... Chaffetz was quick to recognize the danger. On Jan. 26, the day after TMZ reported that the CDC was planning a Zika-education partnership with Sid, Chaffetz fired off a letter to acting CDC director Anne Schuchat, demanding a "written explanation" and "communications between CDC and the Jim Henson Company and also PBS."
So, here's the challenge for Republicans and their allies: try to explain, with a straight face, why the House Oversight Committee would demand answers about "Sid the Science Kid" but not the White House's Russia scandal.The Atlantic
's David Frum, lamenting the "ominous indicators of a breakdown of the American political system," recently noted
that raw partisanship has led to a collapse in congressional oversight of the executive branch. "Congress has increasingly become a check only on presidents of the opposite party," Frum wrote.This is an untenable governing dynamic. Lawmakers have a job to do and they have a responsibility to do it -- even if the man in the Oval Office has an "R" after his name.