Congress must delve into Trump’s links to Russia

Recently, a comment from President Donald Trump about Russian President Vladimir Putin went viral because of what it implied.

Trump was on Fox News being interviewed by TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly when the conversation turned to the U.S. president’s admiration for the Russian strongman.

“He’s a killer though – Putin’s a killer,” O’Reilly pointed out.

“Lotta killers. We got a lotta killers,” Trump replied. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

O’Reilly came back with this: “I don’t know of any government leaders who are killers in America.”

That elicited the following reaction from Trump: “Take a look at what we’ve done – made a lotta mistakes.”

Does President Trump truly believe there are parallels between the murderous regime in Moscow and this country’s democratically elected government in Washington?

That question goes to the heart of the administration’s view of Russia – and Putin’s avowed desire to resurrect the old Soviet Union.

The invasion of Ukraine resulting in the annexation of Crimea, as well Russia’s involvement in last year’s U.S. presidential election make clear that Putin is not to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his view of a new world order.

The Trump-Putin connection is at the heart of this week’s resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn amid allegations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House about his contacts with a Russian official late last year.

Flynn, who was one of the more prominent supporters of Republican Trump’s presidential campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, was said to have been in frequent contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day that the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia.

Intelligence reports

The sanctions were prompted by U.S. intelligence reports that Russia had sought to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election.

Did the discussions involve the lifting of sanctions by the Trump administration? Flynn had been tapped by Trump to serve as national security adviser during the time he and Russian Ambassador Kislyak were in contact.

Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina are among a handful of GOP lawmakers who recognize the seriousness of this situation.

McCain, one of the first members of Congress to call for a congressional investigation into Russia’s alleged attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election, didn’t mince words about the Flynn resignation.

The veteran senator and genuine American hero said the national security adviser’s exit “raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the president suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections.”

A full-blown congressional investigation into the Trump administration’s connection to Russia is warranted. The president has said that Putin is a valuable ally in America’s war on the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic extremist groups that are operating in Syria.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said this week that the investigation of Russia’s actions with regard to its alleged interference in U.S. politics is no longer sufficient, according to Bloomberg Politics website.

But Democrats are demanding an independent commission. They contend that the committee hearings will be nothing more than a whitewash.

Rather than a special commission, a joint committee of the Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations panels would be a compromise.

The political undercurrents of this scandal cannot be ignored.

Here’s the question about Flynn’s conduct that’s now being heard with greater urgency: What did the president know, and when did he know it?

Only a transparent, bipartisan investigation will provide the answer.

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