Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell... Yes, that Mitch McConnell ... is backing a bipartisan investigation into allegations that the Russian government tampered with American elections and maybe, just maybe, helped Donald Trump win the presidency.
So can we all agree that this is a thing now?
Can we all agree that hacking by a foreign power hostile to American interests isn’t politics or sour grapes from Democrats, no matter what the President-elect claims in a series of fact-free tweets? That it’s actually a grave matter of national security?
Because when you have Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and now McConnell, among other prominent Republicans, saying something smells bad about apparent Russian meddling in American electoral politics, that’s more than mere partisan posturing.
Campaign politics is one thing. Malevolent tampering by a serious geopolitical rival is quite another. And it should transcend mere electoral interests-- since it affects us all.
But the push, as Vox.com notes, was given some added oomph by the presence of Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, signaling that the “appetite for Republican pushback extended beyond,” Trump’s critics.
In a worrying sign, however, Trump, who claims he’s so smart that he can skip regular intelligence briefings, has dismissed the CIA findings, setting up a dangerous dynamic between the incoming White House and the nation’s intelligence community.
To be sure, there’s a lot at stake for Trump if the hacking allegations are proven to be true.
The New York billionaire clearly benefited from the Wikileaks document dump that so embarrassed Hillary Clinton during the fall campaign.
Thus, any public acknowledgment of a Russian hacking to his advantage would risk delegitimizing Trump’s claim to power at a time when his enemies are looking for any excuse to pry him loose.
“I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country,” Trump said during a Sunday interview with Fox News, conveniently ignoring Clinton’s 2.6 million popular vote advantage.
And, inevitably, the next Leader of the Free World then took to Twitter on Monday to complain about it.
“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!” he raged.
“Unless you catch “hackers” in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?” he vented.
Except that it was, during the Oct. 19, debate with Clinton -- by one Donald J. Trump:
“She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else,” Trump said. “Our country has no idea,” Trump said at the time, even as evidence emerged of Russian ties to the hacking attack on the Democratic National Committee.
Just days earlier, in a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence concluded that they believed, “based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
The latest blow up also raises anew questions about Trump’s coziness with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, as well as the longstanding ties between Russia and Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
On Monday, real signs emerged that Tillerson’s nomination could be in for a bumpy ride in the Senate, where there are real concerns that he’d put his former company’s financial interests above the national interest.
“Being a ‘Friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a Secretary of State,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.
The early pushback from Republicans is an encouraging sign that they won’t take Trump’s bloviating lying down. But it’s not without some element of risk.
“This is a difficult position to be in: Partisans don’t like to investigate their own party’s president,” Michele Swers, a congressional expert at Georgetown University, told Vox.com on Monday. “But now that you’re getting pushback from Republicans beyond McCain and Graham, it looks like Trump has something to worry about.”
Leave it to a Russian, ironically enough, to sum up the state of affairs between Trump and his fellow Republicans.
“All happy families are alike,” Leo Tolstoy famously observed. “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And Republicans can’t be thrilled with the way things are going so far.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at email@example.com