Since last year, I have called for a non-partisan, independent, comprehensive investigation of Russian interference in our democracy. The steady drumbeat of disclosures since the election revealing more contacts between President Trump’s associates and Russian government officials has only increased the urgency of this review. This is not an attempt to “redo” the election, but rather an important determination regarding to what extent a foreign, belligerent power meddled in our election process.
Russia is hardly our friend. Putin runs a corrupt operation that murders its opponents and threatens its neighbors. Additionally, he was involved in war crimes in both Syria and Ukraine. Russians continue waging cyberattacks against us and actively interfering in elections across Europe in an attempt to create as much chaos and as little European unity as possible. How anyone could admire anything about him remains a mystery. And NATO remains very important to counter this Russian aggression.
Already, the unanimous conclusion of all 17 intelligence services is that Russia interfered in the recent presidential election to benefit one candidate. Continued ducking, dodging, and diversion regarding Kremlin connections only heightens concerns.
This month we learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions misled the Senate during his confirmation hearings regarding his meetings with the Russian Ambassador. He volunteered that he “did not have communications with the Russians” – even though this was not the question he was asked. It was also revealed that the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, ushering him into Trump Tower via the back door. With additional dodging from others known to have met with the Russians, like now former national security advisor General Mike Flynn, J.D. Gordon, and Carter Page, you have to wonder how everyone manages to forget their interactions with the Russians only to remember that they absolutely did not talk about the election.
Now, we learn General Flynn was paid over $65,000 by companies linked to Russia in 2015, including over $45,000 from RT, effectively the Russian government’s English language channel. This comes in addition to his admission that in 2016 he was a foreign agent of the Turkish government. It boggles the mind that President Trump sought to appoint an actual foreign agent as the National Security Advisor much less allowed him to serve as a senior advisor during the campaign.
Federal investigators and computer scientists are examining whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump organization and a Russian bank. Perhaps no fire, but more than enough smoke to warrant review. While the President has claimed in recent months that he has no deals or relationships in Russia, prior comments suggest otherwise.
One way to determine the extent of any entanglement would be for the President to release his federal tax returns, as every presidential candidate has done for decades. In 2013, he said during a television interview, “Well, I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians. They’re smart and they’re tough.” Previously, his son, Donald, Jr. had indicated that “…Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…” If there’s no continuing relationship, why not try to clear things up by releasing his tax returns?
Unfortunately, the President’s congressional allies have blocked the Committee amendments that I have twice proposed to require a private, expert review of his tax returns. I will continue seeking every opportunity to obtain these returns.
There is other work keeping me very busy in Washington, including my continuing efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs and to defeat a healthcare bill, which has been firmly rejected by AARP, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, since it will likely terminate health insurance for millions of Americans.
I will not back down from defending our values, nor ignore the growing evidence of Russian meddling. It is time to put our democratic process and the American people first. As always, I welcome your advice and good counsel.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett represents Texas CD-35 and is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Tax Policy of the House Ways and Means Committee.