Yesterday, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu released an official statement, calling for a complete shutdown of government. “Congress cannot continue regular order and must stop voting on any Trump-backed agenda item until the FBI completes its Trump-Russia collusion investigation… We may have an illegitimate President of the United States currently occupying the White House.”
It seems as though a whirlwind of information is emerging from Washington surrounding the Trump Administration and allegations that they had illicit or even treasonous contact with Russia. President Trump has tweeted his point of view, stating: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign.”
Some suggest that this contact was isolated to a few cases of members of Trump’s frequently revolving election staff taking it upon themselves to remain in contact with Russian officials regarding their own interests in Russia. Rex Tillerson, for instance, headed up ExxonMobil’s Russian operations and received the Russian Medal of Friendship from Vladimir Putin for his work encouraging business ties between his American company and the Russian government. General Michael Flynn was another example, stepping down after it came out that he had been in contact with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition into the White House. Trump apologists like Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA, dismiss these incidents as smoke without any real fire.
Less sympathetic audiences, on the other hand, believe that Trump’s team were actively colluding with the Russian government to interfere with the American election by sabotaging Hillary Clinton. Congressman Lieu even suggested “We may have an illegitimate President of the United States currently occupying the White House,” and he isn’t the only US official openly questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. Senator Mark Warner claimed that “Russia sought to hijack our democratic process” to “cause maximum damage to one candidate,” Hillary Clinton.
In an effort to reach the truth, three separate investigations have been launched to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia. One is being conducted by the FBI, one by the Senate and one by the House of Representatives.
Primarily, the media focus has remained on the House investigations thus far due to allegations of improper behaviour by its chairman, Congressman David Nunes. Nunes served on Trump’s transition team and, when he received information that Trump’s staff may have been recorded speaking to foreign nationals who were being surveilled under President Obama, rushed to share that information with the White House. He also came out and claimed to have received information from a private source that exculpated the President, but is refusing to provide any further details about the source or the information.
The Senate investigation has been less scandal-wracked, but has received some attention after it was confirmed that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, would testify. Kushner served as the Trump campaign’s representative to foreign governments and met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian bank, as well as the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Gorkov has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and is a graduate of the Russian intelligence service.
There is least known about the FBI investigation which is the investigation with the potential to have most severe consequences for President Trump. FBI Director, James Comey, has come out and said, “President Vladimir Putin did not simply want Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to lose the election; he wanted Donald Trump to win.” This is a criminal investigation and could lead to charges up to and including treason should evidence be discovered of Trump’s guilt.
Confusing the issue further are Trump’s allegations that President Obama was wiretapping his campaign. These claims are thus far completely unsubstantiated, but have acted as a distraction from the various investigation. When asked about them, Director Comey said, “With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.”
It has been theorized that Trump was perhaps referring to the incidental collection of his data when he conversed with foreign nationals who were under surveillance, but no one is certain, which is a fair statement surrounding much of this investigation. No one is yet sure of anything, but so much information is coming out of Washington that it is impossible to form some kind of opinion. This can best be seen with Trump’s approval ratings which sit between 38% and 46% – historic lows for a President still in his honeymoon period.