Opinion

Editorial: Burr's committee work wasn't a hoax; He needs to say so

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 -- As a loyal and partisan Republican, U.S. Sen Richard Burr may want to stand with the president on the question of impeachment. But loyalty should not be blind. Burr needs to stand up for the work of his committee - one that he has proudly pointed to as a bipartisan effort to find and tell the truth about Russia's efforts to manipulate U.S. politics and elections.

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DRAUGHON DRAWS: Spotting the hoax
CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019; Editorial #8486
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

The “Russia hoax” has become an indisputable article of faith, expressed nearly unanimously by Republicans in Congress. Of course, it is not a partisan myth. Russia did engage in a massive campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee – most prominently ranking Republican Devin Nunes of California and Jim Jordan of Ohio – have been unequivocal in their adherence to the myth. If anyone was meddling in our elections, they falsely contend, it was the Ukrainians and not the Russians.

The reality, regardless of President Trump’s statements on Twitter and elsewhere, is that Russia DID CONDUCT a massive campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. It is far from a partisan Democratic conclusion.

Just about a month earlier, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded there was a “Kremlin-backed” effort to “use social media to sow societal discord and influence the outcome of the 2016 election.”
FILE -- Sen. Richard Burr ( R-N.C.), who speculated that a Senate impeachment trial could last six to eight weeks, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 16, 2019. Senate Republicans are conflicted about how quickly to move on an impeachment trial, with some arguing for a speedy vote and others seeing an opportunity to drag out the proceedings and tie down some Democratic senators at a prime moment in their presidential campaigns. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

North Carolina’s Richard Burr, the committee chairman, said: “Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election. Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government.” How? “By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories and trolls, and exploiting existing divisions.”

From what we heard the last two weeks out of the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee during hearings into possible impeachment of the president, the Russian disinformation campaign continues to show success.

There were no Republicans on the committee heeding the warnings of diplomatic professionals – Russia experts -- like Fiona Hill.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she said. “… We must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm.”

Particularly disconcerting has been Burr’s silence as his House Republican colleagues ridiculed and dismissed the work and conclusions of his committee:

  • Months of research and closed-door questioning of confidential witnesses;
  • Five open hearings on Russia’s use of social media;
  • The release of two independent analyses of Russian activities;
  • A two-volume, 156-page final report.

As a loyal and partisan Republican, Burr may want to stand with the president on the question of impeachment. But loyalty should not be blind.

Burr needs to stand up for the work of his committee – one that he has proudly pointed to as a bipartisan effort to find and tell the truth about Russia’s efforts to manipulate U.S. politics and elections.

Burr needs to set Reps. Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Trump’s other reflexive defenders straight. He needs to call out the president, as well. Russian meddling is no hoax. It is, to paraphrase a witness from an impeachment inquiry long ago, a cancer on American politics that can’t be ignored and is wrong to deny.

Richard Burr, for the sake of the nation, stand up for your work; the efforts of your committee; and most important THE TRUTH it uncovered.

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