Republicans want to compare President Obama getting involved in the 2016 election to Vladimir Putin's stealth campaign to undermine our democracy. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is having none of it.
The evidence Russia sought to disrupt the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, and that members of Trump's team were aware and complicit, has gotten stronger by the week and is now undeniable.
But in a deflection worthy of Kremlin propaganda, Republicans have repeatedly tried to protect Trump by changing the subject — going after the whistleblowers who leaked the evidence, endlessly relitigating discredited conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and insisting it was really President Obama's fault because he retaliated against Russia either too much or not enough.
The result is that bodies of Congress which are supposed to hold the White House accountable have instead become partisan kangaroo courts investigating everything except Russia. And Democratic lawmakers are losing their patience with this charade.
At a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, during which Republicans forced through a resolution to investigate James Comey and Hillary Clinton instead of Russia, Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen laid into Republicans for how they have handled the entire process:
y'all should watch this. maybe twice. then share it. pic.twitter.com/v5nZ7wYtEA
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) July 27, 2017
Cohen took Republicans to task for a number of things in his tirade, including the fact that they did not consult any Democrats for their joint request to the Justice Department, and ignoring Trump's lavish pay-for-play functions at Mar-a-Lago.
But he saved his real anger for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who had asked "We've got all these investigations into Putin's influence in the election. How about the Obama administration's influence on our election?" In response, Cohen went off:
COHEN: You know, the question was asked about, oh, they talk about Russia, but did the Obama administration get involved in this election? There's a big, big difference between Obama getting involved in the election, a partisan election, and helping someone who was part of his administration run for office, and the Russians and Putin getting involved.
Y'all get it totally wrong. It's not about somebody getting involved in the election. When Americans get involved in the election, it's OK. When Russia gets involved, we need to be united and be against that. Russia and Putin have no business being involved in—
JORDAN: Will the gentlemen yield?
COHEN: No, sir, I won't. Russia and Putin have no right getting involved in our elections, never have, this should be bipartisan, and we should be together on this. Instead, we are divided, and we're bringing up issues from the past election. We need to get answers. America does not need to have Moscow give its imprimatur to actions.
There is something afoul in the White House when the President of the United States goes up to Putin and says, I'm honored to meet you. The mayor of Chicago never went up to Al Capone and said, "I'm honored to meet you." It's in essence the same thing. He is a thug. Once KGB—
JORDAN: Will the gentleman yield? Just a question—
COHEN: No, I don't yield. Once KGB, always KGB, and you're not honored to meet the man who was the KGB and still is the KGB and who murders his opponents, and who gets them wiped out, puts them in jails so they're not eligible to run against him.
And the idea of having a joint Kumbaya committee to look into election fraud is absurd. They don't have elections in Russia. They kill or imprison their opponents, and they count the votes. It's not the same.
In this one speech, Cohen perfectly laid bare the magnitude of the crimes, and the odiousness of the actors, which Republicans are prepared to overlook to protect one of their own.
Party politics has pushed the rule of law to the brink in America, and is threatening to let the greatest violation of our democracy in a generation go unpunished. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to lawmakers like Steve Cohen who refuse to sit back and let it happen.