The top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee held an informal briefing for the press yesterday, updating the public on the state of their investigation into the Russia scandal. And while there weren't any blockbuster revelations, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) agreed with U.S. intelligence agencies about Vladimir Putin's government having intervened in the American election on Donald Trump's behalf.
The president, meanwhile, would like the Senate panel to ignore the foreign adversary's attack on our democracy, and instead turn its attention to a different matter entirely.
"Why Isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!"
Yes, I know, we've all grown quite inured to routine Trump nonsense, but let's not brush past the fact that the sitting president of the United States wants an investigation into American news organizations that publish reports he disapproves of.
Trump's authoritarian instincts do not serve him well in our system of government.
What's more, let's not overlook the context: the Senate Intelligence Committee is in the midst of an ongoing examination of foreign intervention in our political system -- a probe the White House is desperate to see end -- including Russia's media and propaganda tactics. None of this is of interest to the president who's benefited from Putin's efforts. Trump is far more interested in cracking down on American journalists.
To be sure, the president will not get his wish. Not only does the Senate Intelligence Committee have its hands full, but it has no jurisdiction to "look into" U.S. outlets that report news Trump doesn't like. The fact that he doesn't know or care about this only adds insult to injury.
And for those keeping score at home, Trump has called for investigations into quite a few people and institutions so far this year, including:
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
- Former FBI Director James Comey
- U.S. news outlets
There was a point in the not-too-distant past in which a sitting president calling for an investigation meant something. Now it's just what happens when Donald Trump sees something on television he doesn't like.