Andy Schmookler: Where is Sen. Warner?

Andy Schmookler

Dear Senator Warner,

A great many Americans were heartened – one might say, relieved – when you and Sen. Richard Burr stood before the press together, one month ago, and assured us that you and your committee were going to get to the bottom of that most troubling issue: the Russian attack on our election and the question of the Trump campaign’s relationship with that attack.

You would pursue the truth, the two of you told us, and would follow the investigation wherever it leads.

A month has gone by, and we learn from a stunning article by Michael Isakoff that – after all these weeks — the investigation has gone pretty close to nowhere. No key witnesses interviewed. Not a single subpoena issued for relevant documents. A tiny staff that is only part time on this investigation, and that contains no one with the kind of background suitable for such a task.

So many welcomed the reassurance your bi-partisan news conference in March gave us that our system of government was going to deal appropriately with this possibly grave threat to the integrity of our constitutional system.

We’d all just witnessed how the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee had driven that investigation off the rails with his ludicrous charade revealing him to be serving the president he was supposed to be investigating.

But now, the Isakoff article reports that your committee, too, may have a serious problem with its Republican chair. The reason the committee hasn’t even requested crucial evidence, Isakoff tells us, is “because the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel’s Democrats to sign letters doing so…”

So we, who care deeply about this potential national crisis, naturally look to you to represent us in our deep concern about the damage being done to our constitutional order.

When Rep. Devin Nunes subverted the House investigation, after its strong beginning, the ranking member – Rep. Adam Schiff – stood up before the American people and spoke the truth — powerfully, responsibly, in a clear and measured way. He made it clear that he would not stand by idly while someone who put party ahead of nation tried to sabotage the fulfillment of their solemn duties.

Sen. Burr may be sabotaging the effort in a less flamboyant way, but it seems that you’re in a similar position to where Rep. Schiff was.

But where is your voice? I’ve been listening for it, but haven’t heard it. Did I miss something?

You presumably don’t need to be reminded of how high the stakes are in pursuing this investigation, and thereby maintaining the integrity of our constitutional system. You yourself said, “This may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.”

That sounds right to me. Not only have we been attacked – in a meaningful sense – by a powerful adversary. But we are being governed by a president, and a group, that may well have collaborated with that adversary to subvert our democratic process.

We have good grounds to suspect the worst — but not because of your committee, or any other part of Congress. The suspicious evidence is piling up — but only because a great many journalists are doggedly pursuing the truth.

Journalism cannot get the job done by itself. Getting at the truth isn’t enough. We also need responsible power able and willing to act on that truth.

I’d really like to hear how you’re dealing with this “most important” responsibility. Maybe if we knew what you were up to, we could see that you’re taking a wise and appropriate course. Frankly, though, from what is visible now, I cannot imagine how your silence is what would best serve the nation.

But if you are doing the right thing, the American people need to hear from you, explaining why we should feel confident that everything will be done to make sure that power can be held accountable in the America of today. We can’t afford for that American majority — who understand that this Trump/Russia issue is a big deal — to become disheartened.

So please, Sen. Warner: Reassure us. Tell us how – even though the investigation appears to be dead in the water – “the system is working,” to use a phrase from Watergate days.

Or if it’s not working, let us see you fighting for the responsible investigation you promised, in order to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Andy Schmookler is an award-winning author, and was the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012. His newly published book is “What We’re Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World – And How We Can Defeat It.”