Fighting the Good Fight: Investigating Russian Influence Receives Bipartisan Support

BY JACOB GANZ

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner update the press on the state of the investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election on March 29. (John Shinkle / POLITICO)

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner update the press on the state of the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election on March 29. (John Shinkle / POLITICO)

The rancor and divisiveness in Washington have depressed the nation. Many people have become disillusioned with the political system, seeing it as a never-ending fight between two parties that care more about their electoral results than they do about the country. The bipartisanship on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation of Donald Trump, however, shows that there is still hope in Washington for politicians to work together for the common good.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was established in 1976 to provide oversight over the American intelligence services, which had run rampant during the first decades of the Cold War. Republicans currently control the committee with eight members led by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), while the Democrats have seven members led by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Richard Burr is a two-term senator from North Carolina. He is a hardcore conservative who does not fully believe in climate change and opposes restrictions on the second amendment. He was also an early supporter of Donald Trump and was criticized during the campaign for joking that a photo of Hillary Clinton on a rifle magazine should “have a bullseye on it.” Burr faced a tough race in 2016 against Democratic candidate Deborah Ross, which he narrowly won by six points.

Mark Warner took a more prominent path to the Senate. He achieved success as the governor of Virginia for four years before briefly being considered to be Barack Obama’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008. Warner then built on that momentum, running for the Senate in 2008. He won re-election in an extremely close race in 2014.

Senators Burr and Warner have a unique personal relationship that stands out against the everyday discord in Washington. Senators Warner and Burr are leaders in their respective parties. One may therefore expect their ideologies to clash on almost every issue. However, these two senators have put their country ahead of their parties and moved above the partisan rancor via their bipartisan investigation of President Trump’s ties to Russia.

Warner and Burr’s friendship also extends into the political arena. In 2014, Burr did not donate to Warner’s opponent. Warner responded in kind in 2016 by refusing to donate to Deborah Ross’s campaign to unseat Burr. The friendship will be tested this year, however, as their committee was recently tasked with investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. The investigation is a hyper-partisan issue. Russia is accused of intervening in the American election process and allegedly coordinating with the Trump campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Regardless of the results of the investigation, Senators Burr and Warner will have their work cut out for them in leading Washington to a bipartisan conclusion in the Russian investigation.

They managed to put their differences behind them, however, when the two friends held a press conference on March 29 to prepare their investigation. Senator Warner had nothing but praise for Senator Burr, stating, “I have confidence in Senator Burr that we, together with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this.” Statements that praise members of the opposing party are rare, so these comments stand out in cementing the bipartisan cooperation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After a string of errors with other investigations involving Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Select Committee on Intelligence appears to be the only one that offers any hope of impartiality. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been conducting an investigation into Russian interference, but on May 9, President Trump suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey, throwing that investigation into chaos. In the House, Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) botched the House Intelligence Committee investigation when he went to the White House to share information with President Trump before he shared it with Democratic members of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Nunes was forced to recuse himself and the House investigation has continued with diminished credibility.

Both Senators Warren and Burr are determined to find out the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Although there have been complaints about the pace of the investigation from some eager Democrats, it has avoided the drama and controversy that has surrounded previous investigations. When asked if Trump knew or worked with the Russians, Burr responded, “We know that our challenge is to answer that question for the American people.”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is a shining light of bipartisanship in a dark city of divisiveness. It is crucially important for the American people to see that there are still politicians who work together and fight the good fight. Senators Warren and Burr’s investigation should give the country hope that politicians can work together and remind the American people why they elected these leaders in the first place.

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