Demand probe of Russian meddling

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Sen. John McCain. R.-Ariz., says he wants a thorough investigation of reports that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Sen. John McCain. R.-Ariz., says he wants a thorough investigation of reports that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. TNS

We are indeed living in very strange times if: (1) a foreign government was able to meddle in our elections and (2) the president-elect scoffs at reports prepared by the government’s own intelligence agencies that interference took place and (3) some members of Congress seem more inclined to kill the messenger rather than search for the truth.

It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here, but — again, strange times — we feel obliged to say that the above is not fake news. Rather, it is a capsule description of the real news out of Washington regarding a chain of events that began with reports that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidential election.

After the reports became public, Mr. Trump was utterly dismissive, disparaging the intelligence agencies of the government that he will soon lead and rejecting their information: “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered.”

Mr. Trump’s reaction is wholly inadequate, not to say jaw-dropping. He should be leading the charge to get the facts, instead of shoving everything under the rug. It didn’t help when at least one key member of Congress, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he does “not see any benefit in opening further investigations” into Russia’s alleged election-related hacking. That didn’t stop him from demanding to know whether classified information was revealed in media reports about the allegations.

Fortunately, there is growing interest among senior Republicans in the Senate to pursue the truth. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, was quick to say he had “the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency.” He added that he had equal confidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would “review the matter in a responsible way.”

Better yet would be the proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to form a select bipartisan committee to investigate Russian interference in the balloting. That’s the same type of committee that investigated, among other things, Watergate and the Benghazi attacks. “It’s clear the Russians interfered,” he said. “Now, whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation.”

Winning support to form a select committee, unfortunately, could take time. It’s a disgrace that so many lawmakers aren’t clamoring for answers.

Undermining Americans’ confidence in the integrity of the vote strikes at the heart of democracy. The leaders of the intelligence community must testify in public about what they know, without compromising sources of information. The investigation needs to be bipartisan, and Republicans must be aggressive and even-handed in the search for the truth. It is unacceptable for any foreign interest to meddle in an American election.

As for Mr. Trump, he must wake up to the fact that he can’t run a government by the seat of his pants like he ran his campaign. He needs the best, most reliable information he can get about the rest of the world, and only the U.S. intelligence agencies can supply it. Antagonizing the intelligence community even before he takes the oath of office is a terrible way to start a new administration.