It's Time for a Real Investigation

It's obvious that Russia interfered in our 2016 election with the goal of electing Donald Trump as president—but none of us should pretend to know whether or not Trump and his associates colluded with the Russians in that effort. That is why the country urgently needs an independent investigation by a special prosecutor.

In the face of grave doubts over his legitimacy and trustworthiness, the president is actively working to undermine the investigations against him and his associates, calling into question their credibility and eroding the rule of law. Yet perhaps even more unnerving than the specter of a president obstructing justice is the sight of Congressional Republicans declining to conduct a robust investigation. The Constitution entrusts Congress with a powerful oversight role, but Republicans in Congress seem to have no interest in exercising any such oversight, unwilling to gather evidence that might prove a president of their party to be illegitimate. Instead, they slow-walk important lines of inquiry and confer with the White House in secret meetings.

When our most powerful leaders are suspected of serious crimes, the American people must be able to trust without doubt that justice will prevail. That’s why, when the FBI opened what I believed to be (and still do) a ridiculous investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unwise but totally unremarkable use of a private email server, I sat through it. I felt certain that the investigation was purely political and would reveal no criminal activity (which it didn’t), but I was not particularly anxious for it to be stopped; I wanted the people screaming “Lock her up!” at Trump rallies to see for themselves the outcome of an FBI investigation. Why? Because a blind, seething hatred of Hillary Clinton by 50 million people does not make her a criminal, and my belief that she had committed no crimes did not make her innocent.

The same principle applies here. I would not be at all shocked if it turned out that Trump or his associates colluded with Russia in tilting the election towards Trump, but the truth is that I have no way of knowing whether that happened, and have no choice but to wait for the results of the investigation. The same goes for all the staunch Trump defenders who think the suspicions of collusion are totally baseless: that may be the case, and I’m prepared to accept it if it’s supported by a thorough investigation—but until that time, they simply don’t know.

I am eager to see the investigation’s results, because I want to know whether or not the president was legitimately elected. But if Republicans are truly confident in the president, they should be just as eager for a credible investigation to clear the president’s name of these extremely damaging allegations.

Nobody who acts in good faith has any logical reason to oppose a thorough and transparent investigation led by an independent special prosecutor. For the good of the nation, it’s time to make that happen, so we can put this distressing episode behind us.

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