The secrecy undermining the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe

Ryan Lizza writes: On Wednesday, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the body that is widely considered to be the most likely to produce a bipartisan report about Russia and Donald Trump, gave a press briefing on their work.

Their presentation made clear why many in Washington hold out some hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee will produce a report that will give a full picture of Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 Presidential election. In recent decades, there have been very few congressional investigations affecting a sitting President that don’t descend into partisan combat, with one side working as a defense lawyer for the President and the other acting as an overzealous prosecutor. That’s not to say that partisan investigations don’t ever uncover important facts—partisan investigations from Iran-Contra to Whitewater to Benghazi added crucial information to the public record—but, unlike in a courtroom, there’s no judge or jury to decide the case, and the public is often left confused about the over-all conclusions.

This was always one of the greatest dangers of leaving the Russia probe up to the current investigative machinery in Congress. Unlike the 9/11 Commission, which produced a well-respected consensus report, congressional committees often produce a majority report and a minority report that only serve as fodder for endless partisan debates. The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation succumbed to this dynamic earlier this year when it became clear in open hearings that some Republicans, including the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, only cared about protecting Donald Trump, while some Democrats, like Jackie Speier, were willing to publicize spurious conspiracy theories. [Continue reading…]

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