Senator John McCain last week when asked about his comment invoking Watergate in describing the controversy over ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. Credit Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency
We certainly don’t want leading Republicans to tumble into hypocrisy, so let’s refresh their memories.
Patriots like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have eloquently warned of the importance of ferreting out the truth and holding politicians accountable, including for leaking classified information. Thank God for their insistence on truth-seeking!
As McConnell warned, for example: “The president did not value the sacred oath. He was interested in saving his hide, not truth and justice. I submit to my colleagues that if we have no truth and we have no justice, then we have no nation of laws. No public official, no president, no man or no woman is important enough to sacrifice the founding principles of our legal system.”
Such passion for justice and accountability (expressed in 1999, during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton) inspires us all. And at this historic moment when timid or myopic politicians balk at congressional oversight and resist an independent commission to investigate President Trump and possible collusion with the Kremlin, it behooves us to cherish the wisdom of such honest souls.
They’re busy, but no problem! I’ve helpfully dug out their brilliant insights:
“Extreme carelessness with classified material … is still totally disqualifying.”
— Donald Trump, July 11, 2016
“It’s simple: Individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ w/ classified info should be denied further access to it.”
— House Speaker Paul Ryan, tweet, July 7, 2016
“The security clearance of any officer or employee of the federal government who has exercised extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information shall be revoked.” — Senate Bill 3135, co-sponsored last year (to shame Hillary Clinton) by 16 Republican senators: Cory Gardner, John Cornyn, Shelley Moore Capito, Tim Scott, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Dean Heller, Kelly Ayotte, John Barrasso, David Perdue, Johnny Isakson, Thom Tillis, John Thune, David Vitter, Mike Rounds and James Inhofe
“Those who mishandled classified info have had their sec clearances revoked, lost their jobs, faced fines, & even been sent to prison.”
— Reince Priebus, tweet,July 6, 2016
“What do I say to the tens of thousands of people that live and work in my district who work for the federal government, including more than 47,000 Marines? What do I say [to them] when saying something that isn’t true and handling classified information in an extremely careless way has no criminal ramifications?”
— Representative Darrell Issa, July 12, 2016
“In my opinion, quite frankly, it’s treason.”
— Representative Michael McCaul, Nov. 3, 2016, on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server
“Presidents are not ordinary citizens. They are extraordinary, in that they are vested with so much more authority and power than the rest of us. We have a right; indeed, we have an obligation, to hold them strictly accountable to the rule of law. … It is self-evident to us all, I hope, that we cannot overlook, dismiss or diminish the obstruction of justice by the very person we charge with taking care that the laws are faithfully executed.”
— Senator John McCain, Feb. 12, 1999, in voting to convict President Clinton in his impeachment trial
“By his words and deeds, he had done great harm to the notions of honesty and integrity that form the underpinnings of this great republic. … If we do not sustain the moral and legal foundation on which our system of government and our prosperity is based, both will surely and steadily diminish.”
— Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Feb. 12, 1999, as a senator
“The true tragedy in this case is the collapse of the president’s moral authority. … There was no better reason than that for the resignation of this president.”
— Senator Charles Grassley, Feb. 12, 1999
“Our freedom is assured by the rule of law. … Even the most powerful among us must be subject to those laws. Tampering with the truth-seeking functions of the law undermines our justice system and the foundations on which our freedoms lie.”
— Senator Mike Crapo, Feb. 12, 1999
Such Ciceros! At a time when so many Americans have a narrow, partisan vision, I am grateful that we are blessed with patriots of such vision.
In all seriousness, let’s adhere to the spirit of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who as a senator during the 1999 Clinton trial declared:
“The chief law officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend and protect the law and, in fact, attacked the law. … Under our Constitution, such acts are high crimes, and equal justice requires that he forfeit his office. … It is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the truth.”