by Brent Budowsky
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee should ask former FBI Director James Comey whether he can assure the nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not obtain derogatory information about President Trump or individuals close to him that would give Russians the power to blackmail them.
Committee members should ask whether or not the Russians obtained Trump’s tax returns or other financial information about Trump or those close to him, or material that might be more salacious, that Putin could use to pressure Trump to influence American policy in Russia’s interest.
If Trump contradicts Comey on core matters in his testimony this week, the committee should call Trump to testify as a material witness, and subpoena any tapes Trump might possess that would resolve any dispute with Comey. Trump should either produce the tapes or admit he was not truthful when he publicly suggested such tapes might exist.
The committee should ask Comey directly whether investigators should consider Trump’s repeated actions to pressure, persuade, intimidate, divert, influence or fire key leaders of major investigations in New York and Washington constitute probative evidence of obstruction of justice or “consciousness of guilt.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee, through the Comey testimony until the conclusion of its investigation, should fully and publicly address the fact that former KGB agent Vladimir Putin is systematically pursuing one of the most bold and audacious covert actions since the Second World War, which poses an existential danger to the security of America and the free world.
Putin seeks to destroy democracy itself, discredit democratic institutions, divide democratic nations from each other, foment bitter divisions within democratic nations, divide America from democratic allies, divide Britain from continental Europe and dismember democratic organizations including the European Union and NATO.
Why, the committee should consider, does Trump repeatedly and often aggressively act in a way that aids and abets Russia’s covert war against democracy when he insults democratic allies, weakens democratic alliances and leaves America standing virtually alone on key issues such as climate change?
Why, when Russian intelligence forces mobilize to fix democratic elections and destroy democratic institutions, does Trump deny this fact and then attack our intelligence services while they defend our democracy against Russian attack?
The committee and the British parliament should fully investigate whether Russia covertly supported Brexit, which Trump supports, which advances Putin’s purpose of dividing Britain from continental Europe.
Comey should be asked whether there is now a grave danger that future elections could be simultaneously cyber-invaded by Russian intelligence, Chinese intelligence, North Korean intelligence and Iranian intelligence seeking to destroy friends of freedom, as Putin sought to destroy Hillary Clinton in 2016, or elect leaders dictators consider friendly, as Putin sought to elect Trump?
American intelligence, British intelligence, French intelligence, German intelligence, Israeli intelligence and other allied services should issue a joint comprehensive statement detailing Russia’s cyberwar against democracy throughout the free world.
Committee members should ask Comey whether it would raise alarm bells worthy of seeking a warrant if Jared Kushner or anyone not in government sought covert communications with leaders of an enemy state solely through communications channels controlled by that enemy state, to keep those communications secret from leaders of our nation and their national security teams.
The committee should invite Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, to testify about the grave existential threat to democracy from Putin’s military doctrine of waging war against democratic nations — and its modern warfare designed to achieve regime change in democratic nations — through cyberwar, subversion, espionage and covert action.
I was troubled by McMaster’s apparent support for a Russian-only communications network that may have been proposed during the Trump transition, and by his recently stated and wrong assertion that “America First” is not leaving America dangerously isolated from democratic allies. It is.
In his brilliant book “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster condemned military leaders who did not challenge policies that damaged our country. His words ring truer than ever today, as Putingate investigations proceed.