Some say Russia ‘collusion’ investigation distracting from Black issues

 

By Barrington M. Salmon

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Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was among several members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the hearing room as Comey testified.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – During former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, the irony of Black people cheering for Comey didn’t escape African-Americans who watched the on-going saga unfold in public view last week.
In more than three hours of testimony, Comey said under oath that the president repeatedly pressed him for a pledge of loyalty and asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And after Comey failed to fulfill the president’s wishes, Trump fired him.
In casual conversations, political discussions and debates in Black communities across the country, the question has centered on how invested African-Americans should be in the hearings and their outcome given the FBI’s history of unfairness to Black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Moreover, with Black progress at stake,some wonder whether the focus on the Trump-Comey controversy is too much of a destraction.
Mimi Machado-Luces, a documentary filmmaker, photographer and mother of two, said she watched the hearing and believes Trump is a liar who lacks the skills or temperament to be president. This is all the more reason that Black people must escalate thier attention to Black progress.
People of African descent in America, she said, were lulled to sleep by eight years of a Barack Obama presidency and now most still can’t rouse themselves to fully confront the dangers that the Trump administration has spawned.
“I think that we’ve fallen back onto this lull of ‘Oh…good times are over.’ We’ve fallen back into this reactionary mode,” she said. “Black Lives Matter and other groups like that are grand but I don’t see anyone coming out aggressively about things we need to be pursuing in our agenda, talking about the effects of things Trump is coming in to dismantle.”
Machado-Luces, an artist-in-residence teaching Digital Media at several DC and Maryland schools, said she wonders if and when Black people will come together and coalesce around a meaningful, substantive agenda.
“I don’t know if that will happen, probably not in my lifetime,” she said. “All I know is that there’s so much work to do. I don’t want to say we as a people lack vision. We’re psychologically lulled into accepting the oppression. I see some people trying to change things but part of the oppression is written into law. People get off when they shouldn’t.”
The intrigue and importance of the topic of possible collusion with a foreign country by a U. S presidential administration has not escaped coverage by the Black press, which has historically covered the antagonist relationship between the Black community and the FBI as well as other law enforcement agencies. DC-based independent journalist and political analyst Lauren Victoria Burke said she was among those glued to coverage, mainly because of the gravity of the events.
Burke said unlike the Iran-Contra scandal, for example, the ethical lapses and conflicts of interests swirling around this White House is a “much more serious matter because of the possibility of the president or his people being involved in treasonous activity.”
She said, “It’s a spy-level novel situation…No. I’ve never seen anything like this. The idea that somehow this is normal – none of this is normal.”
Burke, who covers Capital Hill daily, says Black Democratic lawmakers like Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green (D-Texas) have been leading the charge in criticizing Trump, calling for a special prosecutor and seeking impeachment.
“They’ve been a little bit more out in front than most people. Green and Waters have called for impeachment. They’re the only members to call for impeachment,” said Burke. “Waters came out in front very early. She talked in a way that people were saying to take it back. But it’s almost mainstream now.”
Sam Collins, a millennial grassroots journalist and activist, said he watched sections of the Comey hearing with a jaundiced eye. He’s tired, he said, of the mainstream treating critical, potentially life-and-death issues and the dysfunction and chaos emanating from the White House as a pay-per-view event. Even though he has a good handle on the inner-workings of government and its relationship with the people it purports to serve, Collins said he’s still not sure whether the entire Russia debacle is just a diversionary tactic.
“Our leaders are following Russia while districts are going through issues, such as access to quality healthcare, unemployment and other problems that were here long before Russia or Trump,” said Collins, who is a teacher with District of Columbia Public Schools. “It’s proxy war. They’re putting up this proxy war to distract us.”
As he’s watched the Trump White House try unsuccessfully to fend off a rising chorus of accusations of collusion with Russia and a variety of other potential misdeeds, Collins believes Black leaders have become distracted as African-Americans and people of color face more overt racism, unprovoked attacks, hostility from the Trump administration, and the reversal of hard-earned gains by regressive forces.
“We need to organize among ourselves,” he concluded. “The NAACP is going through an identity crisis and may be about to fall under. I wouldn’t be mad,” Collins said with a chuckle. “There are no radical voices…All this political stardom and we have no juice to move anything.”

Congress must investigate Trumps potential Russian ties

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 By Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.)

The endurance of our nation’s security, sovereignty, and democracy is not a partisan issue. This is a top concern for all Americans and should be a top priority for the leaders that we send to Washington, whether Democrat or Republican. As elected officials, my colleagues and I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We, therefore, have a responsibility to do our due diligence in investigating Russian interference, and potential influence, into our democratic elections and the potential Russian ongoing connections within this current presidential administration.

Despite all of the evidence gathered thus far – evidence that has led all 17 of the U.S. intelligence agencies to conclude with confidence that the Russians had indeed interfered in the past election – the current administration seems unable or unwilling to put its full weight behind a full and proper investigation that seems necessary to the American people. In the face of evidence that campaign and administration officials seem to have had relationships with Russian officials, the president cannot simply move on from this issue. In fact, the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn this month seems to provide us with more questions than answers.

The potential conflicts between the Trump Administration and its apparent ties to Russia seem numerous. The president has refused to release his tax returns – a move not seen from any other modern major party candidate – leaving questions unanswered as to potential Russian business ties and conflicts of interest that President Trump was all too happy to gloat about in years past. The president is unable to criticize Russia and its dictator-like leader Vladimir Putin, but, instead, praises him and prefers him to President Obama.

When confronted with the assertion that Putin has had journalists and political opponents killed, President Trump doubled down on his support of Putin by shockingly asserting a moral equivalence between Russia and the United States.

The president’s ties to Russia don’t end with him, however, they trickle down into his administration. As in the campaign, President Trump continues to surround himself with advisers that have expansive and well-documented financial entanglements to Russia. Recently, “The New York Times” reported that phone records show Trump associates communicated with senior Russian intelligence officials throughout the campaign, including his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who is known to have involvements in multimillion-dollar business deals with Putin allies in Ukraine.             Additionally, Michael Flynn was forced to resign following information revealing that he had lied about privately discussing U.S sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office, a potentially illegal act. It has since been reported that White House officials were made aware of Flynn’s actions and made no effort to correct the record. It was only after leaks to the public that President Trump’s hand was forced, raising concerns regarding the ability of this White House to maintain honest and open communication with the American people.

This intricate web leaves us with critical questions that must be answered. What did the President know and when? Was the White House ignoring or covering up the truth and spreading misinformation? Did Flynn operate at the direction or the knowledge of the President and were others involved? The American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s financial, personal and political strings attached to President Trump and this administration.

Now more than ever, we need an independent, bipartisan commission to fully investigate Russia’s interference in the election and any potential Trump campaign ties to the Kremlin. Unfortunately, Republican leaders in the House seem less than enthusiastic about investigating their own President. In turn, last month, Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) reintroduced legislation that would create a 12-member, bipartisan, independent commission empowered to conduct an in-depth investigation into attempts by the Russian government or others to use electronic means to influence, interfere with, or undermine trust in last year’s elections. This would be similar to the highly-praised 9/11 Commission – which was led by well-regarded national security experts that were not elected officials. Such a commission is not only necessary in order to ensure our security, but to restore trust in this administration and in the democratic process. All Democratic members of the House of Representatives, along with one Republican, have co-sponsored this critical bipartisan legislation.

The American people deserve transparency and peace of mind when it comes to their elected leadership. The Trump Administration has insisted on remaining friendly with Russia despite the very clear threat that they have presented to our national security. In doing so, they have put our nation at risk while keeping American citizens in the dark. The Trump Administration’s intent to ignore these ongoing acts of aggression sends a message that this type of meddling is acceptable. The only democratic way forward is to launch a complete investigation into not only the interference into our democratic election, but also into the ties and communication that this administration has had with Russia.

U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District and is the ranking member on the House Committee on Homeland Security. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.