Constituents who called Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s offices this week to express their support for H.R. 356 (“Protecting Our Democracy Act”) were dismayed to hear from staff that the she plans to vote “no” on this important piece of legislation.
“I just called. and Comstock will vote no on HR 356. She believes it is a political tactic by the Democrats that she will not support,” said one dismayed constituent on social media, yesterday.
The Resolution, which seeks to form an independent Commission to investigate alleged Russian collusion with the Trump administration, has over 200 co-sponsors from both parties. Signatures are currently being collected for a petition to discharge it from Committee in order to put it up for a House vote.
Many people wonder, however, if the independent Commission would be necessary, given that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been appointed, and that several Congressional investigations are underway.
The answer is, without a doubt, yes.
Reuters has just reported that the Trump administration is “exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation.” Writes Reuters,
Within hours of Mueller’s appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring. An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years.
The news site concludes that, based on Mueller’s former work at Wilmer Hale, he would therefore be prevented from investigating firm client and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as former campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, who resigned under a cloud of suspicion due to his unreported work for the Russian government.
“What is needed,” writes The Economist, “is either an independent commission, along the lines of the one set up to inquire into the events leading up to September 11, 2001, or a bipartisan select committee to investigate the Russia allegations. Neither would have prosecutorial powers, but they could have substantial investigatory resources and be able to subpoena witnesses.”
Others are concerned that too many concurrent investigations could cause jurisdictional overlap and conflicts. However, the The Washington Post counters, “during the administration of Democratic president Bill Clinton, there were no fewer than seven investigations, led by independent counsels, looking into the behavior of his administration and its top officials.”
At the time, Barbara Comstock was chief Investigative counsel for the chairman of the House oversight committee. “We did investigations separate from what the Justice Department was doing, and often, we found documents before they did,” she explained, adding, “The purpose of the congressional investigations is the public’s right to know, and I think the two can be done concurrently.”
That brings us to the last and most cynical concern. That H. R. 356 is nothing but “a political tactic by the Democrats.”
That partisan attack strikes us as particularly cheap, coming from Barbara Comstock, who made her name digging up dirt on the Clintons, while working for Congress in the 1990s. Nearly two decades ago, Politico wrote, “Comstock’s legal training prepared her to burrow through mounds of government documents, spotting patterns in discrete facts that eluded others. She deposed countless high-level White House officials and allies, including John Podesta and George Stephanopoulos. When Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung appeared before the committee in 1999, Comstock did the grilling.”
Speaking on the Benghazi investigation, Politico quoted Comstock from an interview on “The John Fredericks Show, saying, “Previously, when I was on Capitol Hill in the ’90s, I served as chief counsel on the House Government Reform Committee, and we had similar investigations where we were just blocked at every turn, we had people take the Fifth Amendment, we had the administration refuse to turn over documents,” “And you just have to really go at it. We wrote contempt reports, we insisted on getting documents and then finally we were to break open these cases.”
Are we to understand, then, that this self-same Barbara Comstock, with the intense legal training and zeal to investigate possible wrong-doing at all hours of the day and night, feels that it shouldn’t be done now? Because the subject of the investigation is Trump and the Russians, or perhaps because the subject is not a Clinton? Or because the Democrats have joined with Republicans in calling for the independent commission?
Regardless of her reasoning, it appears her obstructionism is nothing more than a partisan ploy of her own: party before country. It’s past time that she be called out for it.