Heed Bush’s call for answers on Russia

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

With just four words, former President George W. Bush neatly summed up Americans’ uneasiness over the Trump administration’s potential ties to Russia: “We all need answers.”

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Yes, we do. Thank you, President Bush, for drawing upon your previous position’s bully pulpit to call for a thorough investigation — something that too many members of your own political party have been unwilling to state publicly.

Bush made the comments Monday in a TV interview. The two-term former Republican president’s position stands in admirable contrast with the duck-and-cover approach taken by many congressional Republicans as concerns mount about the reach of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Asked about the issue during a town hall last week, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer said he’d defer to the House Oversight Committee’s decision. Regrettably, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, has not made Russian influence a priority, though he has found time to investigate the use of a cartoon character in a public health campaign to raise awareness of the Zika virus.

At news conference Monday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, doubled down on the dubious “nothing to see here” approach. Nunes said there wasn’t enough evidence to investigate and declined to use his committee’s subpoena power to obtain President Trump’s tax returns. This is unadulterated gamesmanship. Nunes says there’s no evidence. The reality: He won’t look for it.

Here’s a refresher list on why this is a legitimate line of inquiry. Key intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the damaging e-mail hack of the Democratic National Committee last year. More recently, Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, resigned after making phone calls to Russian contacts and misleading Vice President Mike Pence about it. The New York Times also recently reported that Trump associates had “repeated contacts” with Russian officials before the election.

Then there’s Trump’s bizarre relationship with Putin. His willingness to consider the dictator an ally is radical and alarming.

Now a former president from Trump’s own party has weighed in. Bush is right: Americans deserve answers. History will not look kindly on those who failed to provide them.