The seemingly interminable investigation into President Donald Trump and his campaign’s potentially treasonous collusion with agents of the Russian Federation is finally getting back on track.
After the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation was purposefully derailed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman and noted Trump lackey, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Senate Intelligence Committee picked up the slack with reassuring speed. Just a day after their preliminary press conference, they held their first public hearing — and the testimony they heard was interesting, to say the least.
Their first witness was former FBI counterterrorism Agent Clint Watts, currently the Senior National Security Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Watts “How can the committee track this fuzzy line between the Russian oligarchs, Russian organized crime, and the Russian government?”
Watts did not mince words (video below). “Follow the trail of dead Russians,” the foreign affairs expert said, and he didn’t stop there:
“There’s been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead, even in western countries. We have seen arrests in I believe it’s Spain and different computer security companies that are based in Russia, which provide services to the United States. These are all huge openings to understand how they are funded by the Russian government. I don’t have the capability to do that from where I sit, but I think that’s a huge angle.”
Questioned not only on the origin of Russia’s tactics but their effectiveness, Watts explained that Trump was an all too willing pawn in Russia’s game.
He specifically called out Trump for taking advantage of Russian “active measures” – “active measures” — what Russian expert Roy Godson described as the “tools of political warfare used to influence world events” in order to damage his opponents.
He citedTrump’s proclivity for parroting baseless conspiracy theories like the “birther claims” as well as false accusations of election rigging, a habit which amplified the foreign disinformation campaign and undermined the credibility of our democratic system.
“Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election,” he said, “is because the commander in chief has used Russian active measure at times against his opponents.”
Watts recommended that the government needs to take an active role in identifying and combatting the lies from overseas, explaining, “The quicker they’re refuted, the faster they die on social media.”
Instead of an administration that works to stop the deception, however, we have a president who actively works to promote it. That could soon be a problem for more Americans than just Trump’s political adversaries, Watts warned, telling the committee “Somewhere in [Russia’s] cache right now, there is tremendous amounts of information laying around they can weaponize against other Americans.”
While the White House and Republican House Leadership have ignored — and are possible even covering for — that threat, the Senate is showing signs of rare bipartisanship in its efforts to uncover the truth behind Russia’s attack on American democracy.
As their investigation continues, we can expect more answers, as well as questions, about how Trump and Russia undermined the 2016 election and, no less important, how America can protect itself from them moving forward.
Sheila Norton is a writer with ten years of Capitol Hill experience. Subscribe to the OD Action email to get all the hottest news delivered right to your inbox every day at www.odaction.com