Ramp Up the Senate Investigation
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to create a special committee to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is short-sighted, even from the vantage of partisan self-interest. He can make up for it by ensuring that the Senate’s existing investigation gets the resources it needs.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is woefully understaffed, conducting a vital national security investigation with fewer than a dozen full-time staff. The independent commission studying the Sept. 11 attacks, by contrast, had a staff of about 75. At its peak, the Watergate committee had about 100; the Church Committee investigating intelligence abuses had some 150.
The case of Russian interference -- and any connections to the campaign of President Donald Trump -- is sprawling and complex. There is no way for the intelligence committee to research and analyze the facts without additional people.
Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina should call for a Senate resolution authorizing more staff and resources. If McConnell blocks it, Burr should go to the Rules Committee with his request, while also seeking skilled staff on loan from other congressional committees and agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office.
Trump’s decapitation of the FBI last week and the subsequent White House confusion and misdirection have brought on a crisis of confidence. To reassure the public, establish an accurate record of what transpired and create the basis for appropriate responses, Congress must aggressively take the lead.
Because the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee squandered his credibility, and undermined his committee’s investigation, by holding a secret meeting to review documents on White House grounds, Burr’s committee is the only credible congressional investigation. Without adequate staff and resources, however, that investigation too will be compromised.
The country needs a comprehensive and reliable report on what went wrong and how it might be prevented from recurring. Burr and the committee’s ranking minority member, Mark Warner of Virginia, need to get what they need to complete that job as expeditiously as possible.
--Editors: Francis Wilkinson, Michael Newman
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