Senator Lindsey Graham has distinguished himself as a clear-eyed and vehement champion of equal justice, and never more so than in the past week, as the nation digested the long-awaited conclusions of the Mueller investigation.
Graham is the loudest voice calling for a second special counsel to be named to examine the genesis of the Trump-Russia hoax (as we now know it to be), and Republicans would do well to heed his call. The American people will have only one chance to set right the wrongs that were done to their President, and by extension to them. We cannot let it slip away. We cannot afford to allow the collusion-fabricators get off scot-free. If they do, a plethora of similar hoaxes and witch hunts are sure to follow. Our democracy, already shaken, might not survive successive waves of calumny, delusion, and hysteria.
The great question that hangs over the country now, and especially over the Democratic Party, the 2016 Clinton campaign, and the Obama administration, is this: who planted the seeds of the Trump-Russia hoax, and did they break the law in doing so?
We must find out whether the merchants of collusion were mere fools, seduced by their own propaganda, or actual villains, knowingly deceiving the FBI, the FISA courts, the media, and the American people. We must find out whether the Clinton camp’s funding of the Steele dossier involved violations of campaign finance laws. We must find out whether a pattern of leaks designed to harm candidate and then President Trump constituted crimes, and if so by whom? We must find out what sources Christopher Steele employed to create his dossier. We know several of those sources were Russians with close ties to the Kremlin and/or Russian intelligence services — we must find out whether, in spinning their false, defamatory tales about President Trump, they were operating at the behest of the Russian government. (After all, blackening the name of both major party candidates in 2016 would have been consistent with Russia’s broad goal of destabilizing the U.S. political system.) We must find out the role played by the CIA and other U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies in creating and perpetuating the Trump-Russia hoax. We must find out whether the Steele dossier was used as a pretext to spy on the Trump campaign. We must find out the degree to which the “Russian ties” of the Trump campaign were extraordinary or ordinary — and whether they were replicated among Democrats. We must find out whether figures in the Democratic Party, the Clinton campaign, and the Obama administration criminally conspired to generate the false impression of Trump-Russia collusion. We must, in short, get to the bottom of how our national discourse was hijacked for over two years by a dark Russophobic fantasy.
Some are now suggesting that we can answer these burning questions with more investigative reporting, with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, or with criminal referrals to the Department of Justice (the same Department of Justice that so happily indulged the Trump-Russia conspiracy theorists in the first place.) None of these approaches will suffice. Only a special counsel will have the resources, the legal authority, and the political detachment to pursue all leads and to flush out the truth.
We need a special counsel because we need a figure who has prosecutorial experience and judgment, and who enjoys a reputation for even-handedness and professionalism. We need a special counsel because we need someone who is independent of both the White House and Congress. We need a special counsel because only they will have the sweeping subpoena power and grand jury access needed to unearth the evidence of a conspiracy that might, for instance, be concealed in the private communications of prominent collusion-fabricators. And we need a special counsel because the enormity of the damage done to the nation by the Trump-Russia hoax demands that justice, in the form of prosecutions and severe criminal penalties, be meted out to those legally responsible. In short, we need our justice system to take alleged Democratic dirty tricks as seriously as those of Republicans.
In this hour of decision, some Republicans and conservatives are inclined to breathe a sigh of relief, turn the page, and put the Trump-Russia fiasco behind us. They are wrong.
The perpetrators of this colossal smear must, in the interests of the nation, be brought to justice — and all those who might contemplate future hoaxes and hit jobs must be made to fear the wrath of the American people and of their justice system.
The future of our democracy is at stake, and we must rise to the occasion.
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com.