Kurt Bardella: Republicans in Congress must take back their party and break with Trump
If Republicans fail to do so, they will be complicit in Trump's actions, Bardella says
Editor’s Note: Kurt Bardella is a political commentator and former senior adviser and spokesman for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The views expressed in this commentary are his.
On Tuesday night, CNN’s Dana Bash tweeted: “Source w knowledge of wh discussions tells me senior officials did not think firing james comey would be a big political explosion.”
If Republicans needed a rationale to run, not walk, away from Donald Trump – this insight into the West Wing’s mindset is it. If the President and his team are this incapable at measuring public opinion and congressional reaction, why on earth would you stand by and carry their water?
At best, Trump and his team are incompetent – and there’s a lot to be said about the possible “at worst” scenarios. In the meantime, congressional Republicans need to partner with congressional Democrats to move forward with an aggressive oversight investigation that will expose what is really behind Trump’s actions.
One of three things is happening here – either 1.) Bash’s source is lying 2.) The people inside the White House are actually this tone-deaf or 3.) The President and his team are so worried about what the FBI has found or might find in its investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election that they felt the need to fire the guy leading the investigation and assume operational control over it.
None of these options should provide any comfort for the GOP.
To me, it seems doubtful that the source is lying. What possible benefit could there be for someone close to the White House, telling a reporter something that makes everybody in the White House look this incompetent?
What I find most interesting is that for years, congressional Republicans investigated Barack Obama’s administration under the mantra that the American people had a fundamental right to know what was happening inside the government. Let me be clear, that sentiment is more relevant now than ever. Just imagine what Republicans would have done if Obama had done something such as firing the FBI director without consulting Congress during the Benghazi investigation.
During my four years at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (while in both the majority and the minority), we probed the use of stimulus funds, the taxpayer bailout of insurance giant AIG, Countrywide’s sweetheart lending program for members of Congress and staff, Operation Fast and Furious, the White House’s move to situate the US Census Bureau inside the West Wing, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Benghazi attack and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups.
Views on Comey's firing
Virtually every day, we were in communication with the White House – we sent letters of inquiry, document requests, subpoenas, conducted and transcribed interviews, and held hearings.
Keep in mind that Trump and the White House could have consulted with congressional Republicans about this plan to fire the FBI director – they didn’t.
They either knew they would get a lot of blowback, or they just didn’t care what their congressional leaders and allies thought.
I’ll tell you exactly what we would have done at the oversight committee:
1.) Send a letter to the White House, Justice Department and FBI requesting all documents and notes related to the decision to fire James Comey.
2.) Request interviews with everyone who was a part of that process, including Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the members of staff who drafted the letters that were dispatched to Trump. (And does anyone know what Trump political adviser Stephen Miller has been up to lately?)
3.) Issue subpoenas for said documents and testimony.
4.) Schedule a congressional hearing with pertinent officials as witnesses.
To this point, the Republican reaction to the firing so far has featured words such as “troubled,” “troubling,” “disappointed,” “raise questions,” but that’s just not enough.
In unprecedented moments such as this, mild words aren’t enough. Now has to be the moment when Republicans take back their party and live up to their first responsibility of protecting and defending the Constitution.
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There are more than ample grounds here to create a bipartisan select committee with subpoena authority to conduct an investigation into Comey’s dismissal. There are more than sufficient grounds to approve legislation calling for the appointment of a special/independent prosecutor to investigate.
We’ve reached a point where rhetoric and talking points aren’t enough. There needs to be substantive action.
If Republicans in Congress fail to meet this moment and break from Trump, they will be judged (rightfully so) as accomplices in his possible cover-ups and complicit in his actions.