Congress needs to act on Russia

The allegations that the government of Russia actively sought to interfere with the 2016 presidential election are chilling and if true represent a significant threat to the security of the nation and to the very principles of democracy. It is incumbent on the U.S. Congress to uncover the truth.

We call on Congress to pass legislation currently in the U.S. House of Representatives that would form an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the extent of interference in the election.

Connecticut’s representatives in the House have all signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, and both of our U.S. senators are co-sponsoring the Senate version. Good for them.

The bill, first introduced in December, would create a commission that would have broad subpoena power, $3 million and 18 months to complete its investigation and submit a full report. It would be composed of regular citizens, not members of the Senate or House, although legislative leaders would appoint the members.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said a full select committee is unnecessary and that the Senate Intelligence Committee could investigate.

But it seems reasonable to give the job to people who aren’t interested in re-election and are relatively immune to political pressure. A bipartisan commission is the right way to go.

Complicating any such investigation is the issue of whether President-elect Donald Trump or his campaign officials had any knowledge of Russian interference in the election.

U.S. intelligence agencies recently briefed President Obama and Trump about a 35-page "dossier," paid for by political opponents of Trump, that claimed representatives of the Trump campaign met with Russian officials during the campaign. It also claimed that Russia had collected potentially compromising information about Trump. Neither the F.B.I. nor media outlets that had seen the dossier have been able to confirm any of the information it contained, they said.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Trump dismissed the report as "fake news," "phony stuff" and "crap," while saying he believed Russian President Vladimir V. Putin had ordered the hacking of Democrats’ computers before the election.

Even though the material in the dossier is unconfirmed, it remains that officials saw enough merit in it to bring it to the attention of both President Obama and President-elect Trump. Congress would be derelict if it didn’t pursue an independent investigation into its veracity, as well as into the allegations in the U.S. intelligence report.

If officials from Trump’s campaign did indeed meet secretly with Russians and discuss the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, it could represent a treacherous betrayal of the most basic democratic principles.

Better to fully investigate, quickly and thoroughly, than to let questions and doubts fester.

The Hartford Courant

Hartford, Conn.