The Senate Intelligence Committee should call former President Obama to testify about knowledge he had the decisions he made about whether or not to go public about the degree of Russian attempts to elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE as president.
Newsweek reports that, last summer, FBI Director James Comey sought to go public about Russian efforts to influence the American election and that his suggestion was shot down at a White House meeting. According to the Newsweek story, Comey wanted to write an op-ed for a newspaper such as The New York Times that would have included virtually the same information about Russian election interference that was later publicly revealed in early January.
I do not know if the Newsweek story is correct, but I do know from multiple sources that Obama was urged several times to take more aggressive action against the Russian interference in our election, but refused.
During the 2016 campaign, and after the election when Electoral College electors requested a briefing, I publicly criticized the Obama White House for not taking stronger action to expose and respond to the Russian attempts to elect Trump president.
If it turns out that Comey wanted to go public about Russia last summer but was overruled by the Obama White House, that would be disgraceful and would shed new light on one of the seamiest stories in American political history.
Comey was criticized for a double standard in going public about the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE's email scandal, but not going public about the Russia investigation. Comey's intervention shortly before the election about Clinton was disgraceful and disastrous.
If he wanted to go public earlier about Russia but was overruled by Obama, that would be equally disgraceful and equally disastrous.
Issues as momentous as Russian attempts to elect an American president of their choice should never be treated in a partisan manner. This is why in my latest column, "Putin's KGB super-PAC," I called for the removal of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. His behavior on many levels has brought the House Intelligence Committee into major disrepute and has fatally compromised his ability to chair an honest and credible investigation.
Strangely, while refusing to brief the Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Schiff: Criminal contempt charges possible for noncooperation in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, about his allegedly vital information, Nunes has violated the fundamental trust that has always characterized the leadership of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
The attempt by Russia to choose our next president is so extreme and momentous that it is not enough to criticize leaders of one political party. Obama, in my view, did not do nearly enough to disclose and respond to Russian interference in our presidential election and he should be held to account publicly and in the high court of history alongside Republicans who have earned criticism of their behavior.
The Senate Intelligence Committee should directly ask Obama and Comey whether in fact Comey wanted to go public last summer, and whether in fact his suggestion was vetoed by Obama or his administration.
The Senate Intelligence Committee should ask President Obama what he knew about Russia, what he did and did not do about Russia, and why.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He is a longtime regular columnist for The Hill and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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