Juan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers

Juan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers
© Greg Nash

Congressional committees on national security once stood as the gold standard for American politics.

This is where our most respected politicians put aside party politics in service to the nation’s best interests.

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So, how do you explain the naked politicization of national security now taking place in both the House and Senate?

 

The answer begins with President Trump. It is old news that Trump plays loose with facts.

What is new and chilling is witnessing senior Republican senators and congressmen debase themselves to play along with Trump in the name of party loyalty.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is the prime example of a politician abandoning an esteemed role on Capitol Hill to become a Trump stooge, gladly sinking in the morass of the president’s “alternative facts.”

In April, Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election after he backed Trump’s bogus claim that President Obama had “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower.

Nunes made a secret visit to the White House without any other members of his committee to review classified information. He later stood in front of the White House to insist to reporters that Obama’s aides had members of the Trump team under illegal surveillance, if not technically wiretapped. Trump then claimed to be vindicated on the basis of that false claim.

Next, Chairman Nunes introduced the phony scandal of Obama administration national security officials improperly “unmasking” Trump campaign aides talking to Russians. It turned out to be another smokescreen to help Trump distract the public from Russia’s effort to divide the country and help Trump win the White House.

After Nunes recused himself, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia matters was supposed to be led by Texas Republican Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayHuawei: FCC proposal would hurt poor, rural communities Senate panel upholds finding that Russia backed Trump, contradicting House Trump era ramps up tech worker revolt MORE.

But last month, Nunes claimed the power of the chair to issue subpoenas for the financial records of Fusion GPS, the research firm. Fusion was the group that hired ex-British secret agent Christopher Steele to produce the infamous dossier purportedly showing Trump’s dealings with Russia and Russia’s desire to control Trump.

Nunes suggested that since the Democrats paid Fusion for opposition research on Trump, it is Clinton who is guilty of colluding with the Russians. And he smeared the FBI and its former head, James Comey, by insinuating they hid facts to help Clinton. Nunes told Laura Ingraham, my Fox News colleague, there “is no possible way the FBI did not know who paid for that dossier.”

But there was nothing to hide.

There is a big difference between paying for opposition research and coordinating with a foreign government while it attacks your political opponent. One is legal and one is not.

To Trump’s delight, Nunes’s empty charges echoed loudly on right-wing websites.

The dirt being kicked up by Nunes fits in with the smokescreen created by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteDems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans 5 takeaways from wild hearing with controversial FBI agent MORE (R-Va.).

Goodlatte and his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate…wait for it…Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Dem pollster: GOP women have a more difficult time winning primary races than Dems Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections MORE!

In a July letter, Goodlatte said the special counsel needs to spend time looking at “many actions taken by Obama Administration officials,” and implicitly less time on Russia and Trump.

In the Senate, the story is not much better.

Last week, the Intelligence Committee held important hearings on Russia’s use of social media to manipulate public opinion. U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed earlier this year that the Russian interference was done for the express purpose of helping Trump and hurting Clinton.

In the case of Facebook, some of the anti-Clinton ads were actually paid for with rubles, the Russian currency. Yet, Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrChristine Todd Whitman: Trump should step down over Putin press conference GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki GOP Intel chairman: Trump should recognize Putin lies MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to minimize the impact of Russia’s corruption of U.S. social media.

“What you haven’t heard is that almost five times more ads were targeted at the state of Maryland than at Wisconsin,” Burr said in his opening statement. “Maryland, which is targeted by 262 ads, in comparison to Wisconsin’s 55 ads, wasn’t up for grabs; it was a state the Democratic candidate carried by 26 percent,” Burr added.

Huh?

What does the number of ads in each state have to do with an act of cyberwarfare by Russia to disrupt the American elections?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa), is also using his platform and his committee’s resources to push conspiracy theories about the dossier. Not only does Grassley believe the Democrats’ funding of the dossier is a legitimate line of inquiry but he has suggested the Justice Department is involved in a “cover-up.”

A cover-up of what?

As last week’s indictment of two Trump campaign officials and a guilty plea from a third showed, the Special Counsel investigating Russian meddling is steadily building a case.

Meanwhile, Trump has reduced members of Congress to partisan hacks throwing around distractions to deflect the public’s attention, and discredit the FBI and the Special Counsel.

The president’s strategy is evident in his Tweets. After news broke of last week’s indictments, he wrote: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

The president no longer has to rely solely on tweets and fake news to distract the public. Sadly, leading Republicans in Congress have been reduced to Trump enablers.

They are giving him cover in the name of party politics — the country be damned. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.