Republicans hold the key to Trump accountability

The vexing question is not whether Russia tried to influence the U.S. election. It did.

It’s not whether President-elect Trump’s pick for secretary of state or several of his close advisers have unsavory connections to Russia. They do.

And, frankly, it really doesn’t matter if Russia intended to sow chaos in the election and undermine trust in our institutions or if they actively sought to aid Trump’s rise, though I suspect the latter is true.

The real question, and the one without a clear, immediate answer, is what do we, as a country, do about it?

Right now, our country is so deeply divided that many Republicans are downplaying the importance of Russia’s actions, the obvious ties between Trump’s team and the foreign power and his potentially undisclosed financial relationships that could create an unparalleled and unprecedented conflict of interest for a U.S. president.

Trump himself dismisses it all.

With a few notable exceptions, most predominantly U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham and a handful of others, it seems that a burning desire to undo the Affordable Care Act, unwind the Environmental Protection Agency and a whole raft of other right-wing dream policies are more important than the security and sovereignty of the country.

Our hopes rest with an investigation by the lame duck Obama administration, which will be automatically dismissed by many Republicans, and oversight by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, both controlled by Republicans.

The fact that Trump won the Electoral College vote and will ascend to the presidency speaks for itself. Most Republicans were willing to turn a blind eye to his racism, misogyny and lies. That goes for Republican voters and lawmakers alike. Would they really challenge him now, on the eve of his ascension?

Now, though, the only way we can reach consensus as a country is for Republican leaders to conduct a full and thorough investigation into Russia’s activities attacking democracy in the U.S. — and frankly, elsewhere — and into Trump’s business ties and appointments, which could compromise our country. And to make it all public.

For all the screaming — legitimate, I believe — that Democrats will do, I have little hope that we can break through in our new post-truth world. We are essentially talking to ourselves, dismissed by the minority who chose our new president.

The president-elect willfully attacks the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, and rejects his daily national security briefings. He’s willing to deny any information that doesn’t fit into his own worldview or suit his personal or political interests.

His supporters follow his lead.

He’s setting up a propaganda state where the only truth that matters is the truth that helps him. And people or institutions that dare to present inconvenient truths will be attacked and undermined, regardless of the potential long-term damage to our country.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks in November. Carlos Barria | Reuters

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks in November. Carlos Barria | Reuters

The only check that has a chance to break through the partisan frame is for Republicans to put aside politics and get to the truth. And for Democrats to give them space and the cover to do the right thing.

That’s a truly scary proposition for this Democrat.

It seems like a wish into the wind to place my faith in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, to hope beyond reason that they can rise above what they have been to do the right thing now.

The signs so far are mixed, at best.

Trump should disclose his taxes and his business ties to Russia and other countries, and as much intelligence information as possible should be released before the president-elect is sworn in. Thorough and real investigation should continue. Those steps are necessary to safeguard our country.

But I don’t believe there is any amount of evidence or investigation that will stop Trump from becoming president in January. While I can understand the hope among some that the Electoral College will intervene and prevent a Trump presidency, such an action seems unlikely.

And dangerous.

To deny Trump the presidency in that manner would throw our country into violent turmoil. It would create the very best outcome for our country’s adversaries, including Russia. There would be no peaceful transfer of authority, the hallmark of a stable and successful democracy.

It’s a move from which our country might never recover.

If the worst about Trump and his affection for Russia proves to be true, there is only one constitutional remedy: impeachment.

And while it’s premature to talk about impeachment — for goodness sake, the president-elect hasn’t even been sworn in — that is the remedy that our system of government gives us for a president who abuses his position or breaks the law.

It’s the final check on executive power. And, for at least two years, it rests almost entirely with Republicans in Congress.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at