Congressional Democrats have been leading the charge to call for a bipartisan, independent investigation into foreign interference in the last election. Now, legislation originally proposed by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has garnered the support of more than 170 House members.
At the end of the last Congressional term, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, the ranking member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced legislation calling for the creation of a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate foreign interference in the 2016 election.
Now they have reintroduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act, with the support of more than 170 members of the House of Representatives. A press release notes those 170 members include: "Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and all members of House Democratic leadership; the Ranking Members of all House Committees; and all Democratic members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform."
It is a strong statement in defense of this nation's democratic institutions — and a pointed commentary on President-elect Donald Trump's campaign of hostility toward the intelligence community and their assessments.
The reintroduced legislation comes on the heels of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, during which intelligence officials provided testimony about Russian interference in the election. Referring to the hearing, Rep. Cummings noted: “The most senior leaders of our Intelligence Community testified yesterday that Russia interfered in our elections, which Republicans and Democrats alike have compared to an act of war."
He also reiterated his call to deprioritize partisan ideology in order to meaningfully and collectively address this crisis: "This grave threat calls for a truly bipartisan and independent commission that can put politics aside and conduct a complete review of this interference in our democratic process, and make concrete recommendations to protect our nation from being undermined by any foreign power. We cannot allow this to become the new normal for what we will accept as Americans."
Rep. Swalwell echoed his colleague's call to move beyond partisanship. "We continue to seek Republican cosponsors because this must be about country, not party. If we do nothing, we are telling the world our elections are open for influence by the most aggressive meddler," he said. "There’s overwhelming agreement across America that our democracy was attacked this past presidential election. Now everyone’s asking what our nation’s leaders will do about it."
This legislation is an answer to that demand for action.
Their bill would create a 12-member, bipartisan, independent commission empowered to interview witnesses, obtain documents, issue subpoenas, and receive public testimony to examine attempts by the Russian government or others to use electronic means to influence, interfere with, or undermine trust in last year’s U.S. elections. The commission would examine any similar efforts by any other foreign governments or entities and would issue a final report with recommendations to Congress and the President within 18 months of enactment.
…The 12 members of the independent commission would be appointed within 90 days of enactment of the Swalwell-Cummings bill by the Speaker of the House (3), Senate Majority Leader (3), House Minority Leader (3), and Senate Minority Leader (3). The commission would choose a chair and vice chair of different parties. No federal officers or employees would be eligible to serve on the commission. Appointees would be prominent U.S. citizens with national recognition and significant depth of experience in governmental service, law enforcement, armed services, law, public administration, intelligence gathering, foreign affairs, cybersecurity, and federal elections.
Republicans' reluctance to join in this effort is shameful. Again, I am left wondering where their much-touted patriotism has gone. The Protecting Our Democracy Act is crucial, for reasons that are right in its name.