Editorials

McConnell, time to protect Mueller probe

President Donald Trump congratulated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while House Speaker Paul Ryan looked on during a December ceremony after the final passage of tax overhaul legislation.
President Donald Trump congratulated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while House Speaker Paul Ryan looked on during a December ceremony after the final passage of tax overhaul legislation. Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should allow a vote on a bipartisan bill to protect the investigation into Russian efforts to ensure President Donald Trump’s election.

In April, he insisted there was no reason to be concerned about Trump ending special counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts, despite the president’s routine denunciations of “rigged witch hunt” and increasingly personal attacks on Justice Department officials.

“I don’t think he should fire Mueller and I don’t think he’s going to,” McConnell said. “So this is a piece of legislation that isn’t necessary in my judgment.”

However, this week the situation for Trump — and for the country — has taken a turn, with troubling legal decisions and the president’s insistence that he could run the investigation himself.

On Tuesday, Trump’s personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight felonies and implicated the president in two serious campaign-finance violations. On the same day, his former campaign manager, with longstanding ties to Russia, was convicted of bank and tax fraud charges. Both could join others in providing prosecutors with information unfavorable to the president.

In the last 15 months, Mueller has indicted Russian hackers who used social media to mislead voters, and the Russian spies who managed the operation. Several Trump campaign and administration officials admitted lying about their contacts with Russians. Trump himself has expressed concern that his eldest son could be in trouble for his contacts with Russians during the campaign.

That’s a lot pressure on the president, who has demonstrated a tendency to lash out without weighing all the consequences — often to the detriment of his administration.

Yet the Republican-controlled Congress has provided little oversight, and McConnell has made clear that his immediate national priority is to get Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on the bench.

Not that our senior senator has shown a lot enthusiasm for the investigation. In May he lauded the work underway, but by June, he was complaining that the investigation needed to wrap up.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats are sure how to handle recent revelations, especially with midterm elections so close. The least the Senate can do is to finally draw one line that many members agree the president should not cross.

McConnell should step up. After all, a key function of our democracy was attacked by a hostile foreign power. We need to get to the bottom of it, no matter who it involves.

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