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How to handle the Russia mess

By Staff | Apr 7, 2017

The recent announcement by FBI Director James Comey that his agency is investigating links between members of President Trump’s campaign and Russia has upended Washington. Yet there needs to be an even stronger and broader investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.

There are really two questions at hand. The first involves Russian meddling in our election and their attempts to manipulate the outcome. The second means looking into whether members of the Trump election team colluded or worked with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.

The FBI investigation will move the ball forward on both fronts. White House denials and the reluctance of Republicans in the majority on Capitol Hill to dig deeply into the election of a president of their own party has bogged the public investigations down.

Yet the truth is, we’ve been attacked by the Russians and we’re not investigating it adequately- which is why the FBI’s investigations are necessary, but not enough. The FBI’s principal charge is criminal law. What we need is much broader: an open and bipartisan inquiry on a broad range of issues – not just criminal, but also civil, political, and diplomatic.

Getting at the facts ought not to be a political exercise, but resolving what to do about them surely will be. What the Russians did was an attack on the heart of our system; if we are to rebuild and sustain public faith in our democracy’s integrity, we need an investigation conducted in the light of day, by people who seek the truth and have standing and legitimacy on both sides of the political aisle.

In theory, Congress could do this, either with a select committee or through its standing committees. But it has lost credibility by dragging its feet and by the sheer partisanship already on display.

Instead, we need a fully staffed, well-resourced commission that can look into all aspects of the Russians’ involvement in our election. What members of the Trump campaign did or did not do with the Russians should certainly be part of it, but the paramount focus should be on Russian involvement in our electoral system and how to prevent it from happening again.

It’s critical to the success of our representative democracy that we understand what happened.

A highly visible inquiry by a credible, independent commission would give us the best opportunity to move forward.

Lee Hamilton is a senior advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years

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