We need more than words, we need action

These are difficult days for our beloved country. Last week in Helsinki, for some inexplicable reason, President Trump chose to defend Russia while attacking our intelligence agencies, our NATO allies, our free press, and more than half a century of American foreign policy. And he had nothing but good words for Russian President Putin, a dictator who invaded Ukraine, poisoned British residents, murdered journalists, and supported the genocidal Syrian President Assad. He also took to Twitter to say it was our fault that we had a bad relationship with Russia, tweeting “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” It was a tragic and awful thing to witness, and it shook our country and our allies.

America and the world have no idea what these two men said to each other and what Donald Trump agreed to with Putin in this lengthy, secret meeting. That is frightening. Now, President Trump has announced plans for a follow-up meeting with Putin in Washington. Follow-up on what? This is cause for great concern, because 17 independent U.S. intelligence agencies have told him that Russia interfered with our elections in 2016 and plans to do so again. But our president, who says he believes the KGB agent instead of his own experts, is still defending Russia and insulting his own nation and its friends.

The President’s Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said that he would have advised Mr. Trump to handle the situation differently, but he was not consulted. He also noted that it’s possible that Russia taped the meeting. We need to learn what happened. America should at least know what Russia knows. Fortunately, there is a way to find out, because while Trump had no staff and no American experts, there was an interpreter present.

Conservative Max Boot reported that two senior, retired U.S. intelligence officials said independently of each other that “Putin has something on Trump.” The American people have the right to know if that’s true. In Helsinki, Putin was asked by an Associated Press journalist, “does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?”  It was very worrisome that the Russian leader smirked, and did not directly say no.

Even though Helsinki was a shock, Americans have been worried for a long time about the Trump-Russia relationship. Was Russia acting at the will of Trump when it began hacking Hillary Clinton’s private servers on the very day Trump asked them to do so?  Is it just a coincidence that on July 27, 2016, after Trump spoke the words, “Russia, if you’re listening...”, they did exactly what he asked them to do that same evening?

The President seems absolutely determined to reject any information showing Russian interference in our elections, and rejects any efforts to prevent it. Rather than seeking to protect the security and legitimacy of our elections going forward, the White House actually eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council this past May.

These are very serious concerns, and we desperately need Congress to perform its Constitutional duty of oversight. Republicans are responsible for taking the lead because they are in the majority in both the House and the Senate. They need to act now. We also need Republicans to do what Democrats have done—issue powerful statements that praise our democratic values and condemn the President’s words and behavior in Helsinki.

We are in dire need of a Congress with the courage to take action, and to send a message to both President Trump and President Putin—we love our democracy and we will protect it from Russian interference.  I have that courage and will be honored to stand up in Congress for our country and our democratic values.

Naomi Andrews