Stonewalling Won't Work

15 February 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Trump Needs Independent Investigation of Flynn-Russia Affair

The questions surrounding the behavior of General Michael Flynn, the recently fired National Security Adviser, during the presidential campaign and during the transition cast a nasty pall over the Trump White House. A great many already believe that Russian meddling in America's electoral process tilted the playing field in President Trump's favor, and the issues that are most troubling to open-minded observers didn't go away with the general's departure. The best way forward for Mr. Trump and his team at this point is to assemble a blue-ribbon commission of the nation's elder statespersons, not unlike the Warren Commission that investigated the John Kennedy assassination or the 9/11 Commission that dug into the details of that attack. It is unlikely they will go that route, but there are a great many benefits to the approach.

The biggest advantage to announcing such a panel is the immediate end it will bring to the appearance of chaos at the White House. Mr. Trump's defenders will be able to say that the commission will get to the bottom of it all and that to speculate ahead of its report would be irresponsible. This has the effect of immediately halting serious competing investigations. Anyone who persists can be labeled a conspiracy theorist.

In addition, it takes time to recruit the talent needed. A 9-member panel like the Warren Commission could easily take through the summer to assemble. Legislation to give it subpoena power, hiring of staff, allotment of office space, this all takes time. During that time, the nation's attention will be elsewhere.

When the panel finally gets to work, much of its activities will occur in secret. After all, the intelligence community and its endless struggle with its Russian rivals can't be discussed in public. So, there won't be any immediate bombshells on the evening news. Consider the effect Alexander Butterfield's revelation that there was a recording system in the Oval Office during the Watergate Hearings. Had that occurred in camera, there would probably not have been much of a hue and cry about the recordings themselves.

Most importantly, there is a chance that the Democrats will win control of the House or the Senate in 2018's elections. If they do, they will acquire subpoena power and will have a thirst for blood. An independent commission will also head that off and could delay its report until after the elections. Two years is certainly a long time to stall, but the 9/11 Commission was set up in November 2002 and did not issue a final report until August 2004. It could buy the Republicans enough time to hold both chambers. That would, in turn, protect the administration from further investigations and from the threat of impeachment.

Without an independent commission, one of two things is likely to happen. First, there are still real investigative reporters in the US, and they will go after this story. There isn't a single journalist in the country who wouldn't want to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. If that happens, even if there are facts that favor the White House and the Republicans, those facts may not be given the weight they might deserve.

The other option is a congressional investigation led by Democrats and those Republicans who see President Trump as a problem rather than a leader (John McCain, Lindsey Graham, etc.). The Senate Watergate committee under Sam Ervin is a model for this. Needless to say, it didn't result in the best possible outcome for President Nixon.

The Trump administration has surprised by being measured in its response to North Korea's missile test. Perhaps it can do likewise in setting up an independent commission to investigate Russian activities during the election and transition. One doesn't expect lightning to strike twice, though.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

Kensington Review Home


Follow KensingtonReview on Twitter