Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr

On Monday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to join with other Trump enablers in spiking the ball a bit early on the whole Trump-Russia affair based on the four-page summary Attorney General Barr produced from the Muller report.

“It is good news that our law enforcement professionals know much more about Russia’s malevolent attempts to interfere in American elections.  And it is good news that we can conclusively set aside the notion that the president and his team had somehow participated in those attacks on our democracy. According to the Attorney General, the Special Counsel’s in-depth investigation – quote – ‘did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Further, Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein concluded the investigation did not establish that the president engaged in obstruction of justice. So, two years, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of search warrants, hundreds of witnesses, millions of taxpayer dollars, and these are the findings: No collusion. No conspiracy. No obstruction.

But of course, he couldn’t just leave it there. McConnell is someone who needs to turn every event into a partisan play for power. So he continued with this:

“The Attorney General reports that Russia carried out online disinformation campaigns and computer hacking efforts designed to sow discord in our nation and interfere in American politics. It is deeply disturbing that the Obama administration was apparently insufficiently prepared to anticipate and counter these Russian threats. It was hardly a secret prior to November 2016 that Putin’s Russia was not and is not our friend. And yet, for years, the previous administration ignored, excused, and failed to confront Putin’s malign activities at home and abroad.

That last sentence is pretty sweeping and completely ignores things like the sanctions the Obama administration imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine, and the work they did to garner global buy-in from other countries to impose their own sanctions. As Martin Longman noted, it was a desire for relief from those sanctions that drove Vladimir Putin to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump.

The president himself has been fond of suggesting that Obama did nothing to address Russia’s “malign activities.” But when the same accusations come from McConnell with respect to Moscow’s interference in the election, it does nothing but remind us of what he did to keep the previous administration from informing the public about those attempts.

Back in December 2016, the Washington Post outlined attempts by the Obama administration to inform congressional leaders about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election and noted McConnell’s response to such a briefing in September 2016.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

That reporting has now been corroborated by former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Greg Miller for his book, The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy.

What all of that means is that McConnell didn’t need a summary of the Mueller report from the attorney general to know what Russia did. He’s known since at least September 2016, but did everything he could to keep the American public from knowing.

We’ve recently learned that in May of 2017, FBI officials briefed the so-called “Gang of 8” (which includes McConnell) on their concerns that led to a counterintelligence investigation into whether or not the president’s ties to Russia posed a national security threat. Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director who reported the briefing, said that no one in attendance “objected to the bureau’s inquiry of whether Trump was being used as a Russian asset — ‘not on legal grounds, constitutional grounds or based on the facts.’”

The Republican leader of the Senate knew that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2016 election two months before Americans went to the polls. But he threatened to launch a partisan attack if the Obama administration went public with that information. He also knows that AG Barr’s letter to Congress doesn’t address the fact that there has been a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president is being used as a Russian asset. And yet he joined the chorus of those suggesting that we can put this whole Trump-Russia investigation behind us because Trump has been vindicated, even as he blocked a vote in the Senate on releasing the Mueller report. Given the majority leader’s track record, it is hard to avoid the question of what he’s trying to hide.

I understand why some people are suggesting that there has been too much speculation about what transpired between Trump and Putin. I’ve often stepped back to check myself on that front. But one of the things that feeds the speculation is the fact that, at every turn, both the president and his congressional enablers have lied to us. It is not, however, simply a matter of not telling the truth. It’s that they have done everything in their power to keep the truth from us. No one has done that more than Mitch McConnell.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.