Editorial December 15, 2017

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

Amateur Investigators

McElroy, Publisher

McElroy, Publisher

Everyone has an opinion and in today’s partisan divide those opinions are pronounced.

In the state and local government arena we regularly see those convicted years later released when more evidence was brought in to prove their innocence. Zealous prosecutors looking for notches on the gun, investigators overlooking evidence, courts that accept the ‘evidence’ without demanding more accountability and the development of science-based evidence such as DNA evidence all add to those erroneous conclusions.

It quite different at the federal level and particularly in the FBI. Republican Members of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees show an ignorance of how the FBI does its work but then those conservatives are really not interested in the truth but rather than causing Americans to lose faith in whatever Mueller’s conclusions are. We note that this hyperbolic reaction to insignificant ‘evidence’ began when Mueller started interviewing and indicting those who were close to Trump thereby moving the investigation closer to investigating Trumps knowledge of staff and advisors meeting with Russians during and after the campaign.

Now Republicans want an investigation into the investigation which, fortunately, is not likely to happen.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who chose Robert Mueller as the Special Counsel has dealt with the matter by explaining that the FBI is deeply involved in keeping track of all behaviors its agents take and investigating itself and it does it well. He said he saw no cause to investigate Mueller’s activities and, unlike all others, including Congress, is in charge of Mueller, knows what Mueller is doing, and sees no cause to investigate or remove Mueller from his position.

If such an investigation were to be taken up it would fulfill conservative dreams but not as you might expect; such an investigation would take months and would not likely be completed before Mueller wraps up his so that Mueller’s conclusions could be disputed or at least put on hold as long as the proposed investigation dawdles along. So the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees are totally into obstruction and have nothing to do with finding the truth.

Not so the FBI and here is why; you can focus all you want on imagined improprieties by demoted investigator Robert Strzok for texting negatives about Trump during the campaign but what you are overlooking is that investigators at all levels do not try the case they are investigating and if they give false or politically biased evidence to the prosecutors those investigators will never work again. One of the challenges all investigators sooner or later face is having an opinion (in favor or against a suspect) and finding evidence that does not match their opinions. That is the hard work of an investigator and the prospect of losing your job because you tainted evidence is not only formidable but would be pointless.

After listening to all the rhetorical concerns about the imagine improprieties at the FBI House Judiciary Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) asked Rosenstein how he could not be concerned given all the concerns and accusations Republicans on his committee asserted. Rosenstein’s response that Justice does a good job of riding heard over evidence that FBI investigators churn up and looking for any bias.

Goodlatte is doing what he is accusing Strzok and other FBI investigators; drawing conclusions based on his political bias. This whole issue will revolve around that bias. Watching that committee investigation it appeared (if you attempt to apply logic to the Judiciary Committee charade) that the only ones who could honestly investigate Trump would be Republican investigators.

Goodlatte’s committee is to provide oversight for the Department of Justice and he has written that his intent is to assure the American people get a fair shake. That gives Goodlatte cover but It is easy to conclude that Republicans and the conservative media are worried about the outcome of the Mueller investigation and are preparing ‘the masses’ to believe before Mueller produces his report that is biased and so Republicans in Congress can’t act on his report.

This is a charade and made more insolent by the fact that this political game is being played by those who make the laws. We are blessed to have such a legal mechanism as a Special Counsel because those in office yield tremendous power and sometimes think they are above the law. A Special Counsel applies the laws to even the most powerful to assure that we continue to function as a nation of laws.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Goodlatte and his Republican legal vandals. Maybe they got their hubris by watching how Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore get fired from two court positions for ignoring the law. Or maybe the approach to wrongdoing accusation is to deny the facts; a Moore technique raised to an art form by Trump.

Either way this Republican effort to neutralize any damning evidence brought forth by Mueller is shameful, anti-democratic and anti-American. They should all resign.

Hamilton on Congress

If You Want To Change Things… 

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

One of the gifts of living in a representative democracy is that voting is only one of the rights it confers. For ordinary people who want to make change – who in some way want to alter their neighborhood or town or state or even the nation – the promise exists that by dint of their own efforts they can do so. This is a precious gift.

But it is not an easy one to enjoy. Even in a democracy, bringing about significant change requires hard work – a level of intensity and commitment beyond the ordinary responsibilities of citizenship. You need a workable, achievable remedy that will correct the problem you’re worried about. You need patience and perseverance, and a specific set of skills and capabilities.

To begin with, you can’t make change alone. You’ll require the help of others. So you have to be able to listen carefully to people – and then identify the interest groups and individuals who can help you achieve what you want.

This means you also need to be able to look around you and understand the political lay of the land. How intensely will this or that individual or group support you? Will they actually help, or just pay lip service? What are they willing to do – and, just as important, not willing to do?

What about the lobbyists, the mayor’s or governor’s office – or the White House? What kind of reception can you expect from the media? And what will it take to get your allies to work in a coherent, coordinated way?

You also have to take responsibility for being the expert on your proposal. You’ll need to understand its weaknesses and strengths, its potential impact, and the arguments both for and against it. There’s nothing quite so challenging as appearing before a city council or congressional committee and answering questions from politicians who have their own agendas as they grill you.

You have to know what you’re talking about, and be willing constantly to update yourself on the facts. Facts drive the public dialogue, and you want always to be on the lookout for the most persuasive facts or developments that can support your proposal.

This is because you’ll also need to communicate constantly, whether you’re trying to build support one on one or before a gathering of hundreds. On radio, television, in print, online – it’s impossible to over-communicate.

And though amplifying the reach of your voice has value, so does retail persuading -plain one-on-one conversations that teach you which arguments carry weight and which don’t. Because although you might be starting with like-minded allies, inevitably you’ll need to broaden your coalition to include people who were initially skeptical or saw the issue differently from you.

Which is why you also should always be open to the idea that you could be wrong, that your proposal could be improved and strengthened, that others might have better ideas both on substance and on strategy. Part of the art of building coalitions is being open to proposals that alter or change your proposal. You may have put a lot of work into designing and drafting it, but one of the first things you’ll encounter is someone who’s got an amendment.

No one possesses all the skills needed to persuade, cajole, negotiate, and strategize his or her way to success. Especially when it comes to pushing a cause at the state or national level, it will take money: to communicate, to advertise, to travel. It takes resources to accomplish changes of consequence, which means raising money – and dealing with donors who want a role to play, with all the challenges that brings.

Fortunately, there is no single center of power in this country. It takes a complex effort within a complex system to make change, which is why it’s such a challenge and why many people get discouraged. It’s built into the idea of representative democracy that making change is difficult. But most of us wouldn’t have it any other way. Few things can exceed the satisfaction of helping shape the direction and success of your community or nation.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.


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