Why The Russia Investigation Matters And Why You Should Care
Updated at 11:13 a.m. ET
Some people have FOMO that they might miss an Orlando Bloom waitress update.
Others have a fear of missing out when it comes to the latest on whether Michael Flynn is going to turn over documents that have been requested by Congress — and what's going to happen next in the Russia investigation.
Your author is in the latter category — and doesn't really know how much people care about Orlando Bloom and his waitryst (see what we did there?), but it was a trending Google search.
There is a divide in this country — and it's not the one between Democrats and Republicans. It's the one between people who are deeply captivated by politics and those more engaged with other priorities and "real" lives.
At NPR, it's our goal to try and bridge that divide the best we can — to make the complicated understandable and relatable, and especially to tell you why something in politics matters.
That's why a question asked at Tuesday's House Intelligence Committee hearing about the Russia investigation with former Obama CIA Director John Brennan caught our attention:
"Please tell my constituents, my neighbors, why they should care — and not just in Washington, D.C., but in Washington state and Texas and Connecticut and points in between — and why should they care, and why do you care, sir?"
The question was posed by Washington Democrat Danny Heck, and it provoked a high-minded response.
Here's what Brennan said in full:
Russia is accused, as Brennan said, of not only trying to influence the election by hacking and releasing emails, but engaging in a full-fledged influence campaign through propaganda to get Donald Trump elected. That's the assessment of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Not only that, but the FBI is investigating potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia to help in that effort — in Russia's interest.
Trump's former national security adviser, Flynn, is at the center of all of it. Others, including Trump's former campaign manager for a time, Paul Manafort; Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser; and, the Washington Postreported, a senior adviser currently in the Trump White House, also are being investigated for their ties.
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a top adviser, also was found to have met with the head of a Russian state-owned bankand to have communicated with Russian officials. He has offered to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
James Comey was fired as FBI director after testifying twice in the past few months on the FBI's investigation. Wednesday is the deadline set by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz for the FBI to turn over any Comey memos related to the Russia investigation (though it's unclear the Justice Department will allow them to be sent over).
It turns out, Heck also asked Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, the very same question at a hearing back in March.
Regardless of party, Rogers said, as he looked across the dais where plenty of Republicans were seated.
Comey went next and delivered the most consequential answer, given his central role in the investigation. This was the same hearing at which Comey first made public that there was, in fact, an FBI investigation into Trump associates' potential collusion with Russia. The way he ended his answer may have portended his fate (emphasis added):
He emphasized that last bit and assuredly shut off his microphone.
"Shining city on a hill," of course, is a reference to Ronald Reagan. Comey was a registered Republican until saying last year he no longer was. He served as a prosecutor in the Reagan Justice Department, as well as the ones under Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, and was appointed to positions twice under Republican George W. Bush, including No. 2 at DOJ, before being appointed by Democrat Barack Obama to replace Robert Mueller as head of the FBI.
Trump has derided the Russia investigation as a "witch hunt," essentially declaring it Democratic sour grapes for losing the election. He has tried to reassure Flynn with encouraging notes telling him to "stay strong," per Yahoo.
Trump also seemed to dismiss the concerns of Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, because she was "somebody who we don't even know," he told NBC, as compared to Flynn, whom Trump described as a "very good person."
Brennan, Rogers and Comey, who have long, distinguished careers serving under presidents of both parties, all believe asking the questions and getting the answers are important. They should guide decisions for America's future, they said, because the American democracy and its ability to choose its leaders without fear of foreign influence is at the core of the republic.
Many Trump supporters are skeptical and view even any questions asked as attempted indictments.
But these three men would argue that Americans should let the conclusions be guided by the facts and allow a rigorous effort to attain them, because there's nothing more fundamental to a free and fair democracy.
That's why this matters.
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