President Donald Trump’s ongoing attempt to conceal the full story of Russia’s role in the election that put him in power escalated Wednesday to a defining precipice. The American public has a right to the truth.
Wednesday, Trump invoked executive privilege to defy a Congressional subpoena for special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s complete and unredacted report. In doing so, he carried what should be a subject of unanimous national interest — the integrity of American elections — further into partisan-politics combat.
The House Judiciary Committee correctly voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for not producing the subpoenaed documents. Absent an unexpected reversal from the executive branch, the full chamber should vote on the contempt citation and continue to demand disclosure of the full Mueller report. The inexcusable veil of secrecy maintained by this White House belies Trump’s insistence he has nothing to hide.
The nation deserves to know whether he does. Even more importantly, the full extent of interference with the election process at the heart of American governance needs to be understood and addressed so 50 states’ election officials can prepare adequately for the 2020 election.
Many parties can fairly shoulder blame for this impasse, which has lurched steadily toward full Constitutional crisis. Trump’s intransigence remains a defining characteristic in virtually every facet of his public life. Evidence includes his refusal to disclose his tax return as has been customary for presidents, his assertions that factual news reporting is false and this claim the Mueller investigation was meritless and need not be shown to Congress or the people.
Add the refusals to testify before Congress by former White House counsel Don McGahn and AG Barr, both of whom are obligated to serve the interests of the American people above those of Trump. Also, the previous, Republican-controlled Congress displayed the worst tendencies of single-party rule by declining to conduct a thorough, good-faith investigation of the election on bipartisan terms, with or without the Trump administration’s backing.
The nation has been led into a thicket with no comfortable path forward. The hardening of party lines appears likely to force the disclosure issue into the courts. Congressional censure of Barr will amplify talk that the House should begin an impeachment investigation against the president or attorney general, regardless of whether a Republican Senate could ever be expected to vote for removal.
The political stagecraft that has shrouded release of the Mueller report ever since its conclusion, from Barr’s misleading four-page summary to the insistence on keeping parts secret, has backfired. Immense questions of accountability and oversight raised by the gamesmanship must now be confronted. To settle them, the full report must be handed over for Congressional review.