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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

McCain’s Moment

Timothy Egan’s New York Times column “Who Will Save the Republic?” poses a question of growing concern for Americans who care about freedom and democracy.

Trump’s firing of James Comey from the helm of the F.B.I. has diminished America’s ability to investigate breaches of the nation’s most precious assett, the integrity of our elections. “It’s obvious that Trump fired James Comey because he was getting closer to the truth of what happened with Russian manipulation of the American election,” Egan writes. “His advisers say an enraged Trump screamed at the television when this story would not go away.” Egan adds,

Donald Trump is the first president in history whose campaign has come under federal investigation for collusion with a hostile foreign power. And now the person heading that investigation, the F.B.I. director, has been fired.

We’re looking for a few good men and women in Congress to understand the gravity of this debasement. We don’t need more parsing about the bad “optics” or “timing” of Trump firing the man who could have ended his presidency. We need a Republican in power to call it what it is: a bungled attempt to obstruct justice.

And the tragic part is that Trump is likely to succeed, at least in the short term. The person he chooses for F.B.I. director will never assemble a prosecutable case of treason that leads to the doorstep of this White House.

It’s a bleak scenario. But Egan sees one hopeful path: “So, we turn to a handful of people in Trump’s own party to do something courageous — to do the job they were sworn to do.” But the top leaders of the House and Senate are among the least likely to rise to the challenge.

…The Irish Undertaker, Paul Ryan, is a lost cause — and increasingly looks like a bystander to the multiple-car wreck happening before him. The Senate leader, Mitch McConnell — whose wife, don’t forget, is in Trump’s cabinet — is also sitting this one out.

Call out the names: Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, Richard Burr and Bob Corker, Ben Sasse and Lisa Murkowski. They have committees and investigators at their disposal. Their party impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex. The least they can do is demand some accountability of a man whose entire presidency is a lie.

McCain, more than the others, has the credibility to meet the challenge. Widely-respected for his patriotism, McCain has also shown flashes of integrity and bipartisanship as a U.S. Senator. It’s possible one of the other Republican committee chairs will step up and provide the needed leadership. But none of them would have the instant media cred McCain would bring to the effort.

It may be the last chance he gets to do so much good for his country, the integrity of his party and for restoring a bipartisan spirit to the U.S. Senate.

If McCain and other Republicans choose to duck the issue of Russia’s interference in our elections, it will send a signal to Putin and other tyrants that America does not protect its greatest strength — free elections. It will encourage more efforts to undermine our democratic process.

If no Republican provides the needed leadership tp conduct a genuinely bipartisan investigation, it falls to Democrats, progressives and the media to do everything they can to hold Trump accountable and protect our democracy. Writing at Daily Kos, Joan McCarter quotes Sen. Jeff Merkley:

“I think we have to convey that it’s not business as usual…I think my caucus hopes that Republicans will join us in fighting for the integrity of the American system of government. If they won’t join us, then we’re going to have to take aggressive actions to pursue this where it needs to go, with or without them.” That’s the message Mitch McConnell and his Republicans need to hear. It’s the message Democrats need to be united in sending.

Democrats are going to have to press the case for an independent investigation and prosecutor regardless. But having to fight this battle without bipartisan support would be a tragedy for the nation. It might also prove to be an electoral disaster for the Republicans — as soon as 2016.

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