The 2016 American election nominating the presidential office to pass from Barack Obama to Donald Trump Jr, catalysed a massive international inquiry with repercussions that are still investigated in today’s political arena. Naming Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States challenged the long-anticipated lead of Trump’s political rival Hillary Clinton and sparked a committee of enquiry which brought to light a variety of relations, sources and agencies that are argued to have influenced the election outcome.
Specifically, the collusion between Trump enterprises and Russia in the presidential appointment is an accusation raised by a variety of sources, for which three independent committee parties aim to determine legitimacy. New developments this week have fuelled further speculation surrounding this case as former White House Senior Strategist Steve Bannon has refused to testify at the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives. Bannon’s request for testimony was promoted in response to an earlier hearing on the 16th of January 2018, with a proportion of the panel of investigators failing to be satisfied with his response. The court’s subpoena issued by the House of Representatives for the testimony of Bannon and his blatant refusal of compliance places him to be held in contempt of Congress, meaning he could be issued with a federal misdemeanour if the committee so chooses to pursue.
This week The Guardian issued an article pertaining to the Bannon case and Russian allegations whereby they reported the credible refusal of Bannon to testify in the upcoming court hearing. To contextualise this issue the Guardian cited the relations between Bannon and Trump as ending messily in earlier this year. During this time, Bannon’s conflictual statements reported to journalist Michael Wolff described the questionable meeting between Donald Trump and Russian operatives in Trump Tower as ‘treasonous’ and “unpatriotic …they’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” The implications of Wolff’s reported statements have thus concluded in a court subpoena from the Special Counsel for the testimony of Bannon.
Bannon’s first appearance with the Special Counsel occurred on January 16, 2018, during which he refused to answer various specific questions due to an order of executive privilege gained by his lawyer during real-time consultation with the White House. Bannon’s decline to answer the questions set forth by the Special Counsel during this meeting concluded in a second council appeal and the present subpoena instigated by the House of Representatives in order to satisfy a credible investigation into the allegation of Russian collusion. The tensions experienced by Special Counsel members and House of Representatives in their attempts to investigate reliable Russian collusion claims were felt on Monday as Senior Republican committee members, represented by Mike Conaway, restated their commitment to enforcing Bannon’s subpoena to give testimony.
In total, three separate committees have been established to address and investigate the allegations of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election. Those are namely the Senate Judiciary, Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. Those parties each hold the ability to subpoena both witnesses and documents in their efforts to investigate allegations of Russian interference. To date, key witnesses called forth in the investigation include President Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and the former advisers, Carter Page and Glen Simpson. Each of these committees seeks to investigate the credibility of Russian interference through objective evidence and to sustain the American democratic system through judicial processes.
Despite these three major parties of inquiries being initiated and supported through the American legal system, significant steps are yet to be taken in order to progress the investigation. Astonishingly, in the face of both public publicity and scrutiny, the President of the United States still fails to recognise and reconcile the exact magnitude of this line of enquiry. Instead of respecting, acknowledging or supporting the importance of this investigation, the President has instead elected to degrade and disrupt all manors of an official inquiry. Trump’s mindset towards this investigation was demonstrated exquisitely and globally in the events of early 2017 through his crude firing of FBI investigator James Comey, who was coincidentally the lead investigator of the Russian Investigation at the time. Similarly, Trump’s mundane attitude towards the implications of this inquiry, should they prove to be true, either stemming from his strategic political performance or personal philosophy, creates a clear index to the globalised world of an unfit and unstable leader.
The significance and magnitude of this case should not be ignored. Should the Russians have knowingly and deceptively manipulated the results of the American 2016 election towards the favour of Donald Trump, this case then becomes an issue of global significance. Steve Bannon’s refusal to testify despite the committee’s appeals is another critical stonewall in what is seemingly a never-ending epic narrative between two nations. The loyalty between person and nation is a conflict which is becoming increasingly evident through the reign of Trump’s presidency as he increasingly calls for a commitment not to the former good of the nation but rather to the good of his ideological power.
If one of the most developed economic, political and social countries in the world is able to be hijacked by an external agency then the security of other globalised and democratic nations must be addressed. More significant is the social consequence of this election whereby only a proportion of the population seems to be politically active in shaping a nationalised political standard.
Presently, crowdsourcing campaigns with the aid of digital media are more accessible and influential than ever and are able to create lasting legacies of change and accountability. The freedom to vote is a sorely misunderstood right and value which many people fail to understand the significance of. The political freedoms of today to which we are entitled is a system that must be protected for further generations, just as our previous ancestors have protected ours.