The House Intelligence Committee’s probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, including potential ties between the Trump team and the Kremlin, is effectively on hold, after its chairman said the panel would not interview more witnesses until two intelligence chiefs return to Capitol Hill for a still-unscheduled private briefing.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s declaration Tuesday that “until [FBI Director James B.] Comey comes forward, it’s hard for us to move forward with interviews and depositions” comes as an indefinite stop order on a roster of expected interviews and testimony, from top Trump campaign surrogates to top intelligence and law enforcement officials serving during the election and transition period.

Nunes still refuses to reveal to fellow committee members the identity of the source for his purported information about surveillance of the Trump team. That and his inability to provide a believable and complete account of his jaunt to the White House (Who let him in?) should disqualify him as chairman and as a member of the committee.

This comes as we learn more and more about Russian money. Remember how President Trump claimed that he had nothing to do financially with Russia? Well, according to an investigation by USA Today, that doesn’t quite give us the whole picture:

To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.
The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

Any credible intelligence investigation would demand a full accounting and explanation for Trump’s claim of non-involvement with Russian deals. Then there is Paul Manafort, whom Sean Spicer treats like someone who ambled by the campaign office. Trump’s former campaign manager has his own peculiar money trail:

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A bank in Cyprus investigated accounts associated with President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for possible money-laundering, two banking sources with direct knowledge of his businesses here told NBC News.
Manafort — whose ties to a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin are under scrutiny — was associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies on Cyprus, dating back to 2007, the sources said. At least one of those companies was used to receive millions of dollars from a billionaire Putin ally, according to court documents.

Once again, a glimpse into the Russian connections of Trump and his team (Did they have such robust dealings with any other country?) suggests that there needs to be a full accounting of money flowing between Russia oligarchs and officials and also between Trump’s family and advisers. No fair-minded person can credibly claim that Nunes is the man to lead the inquiry.

Given all of this, Democrats would be wise to take several steps. First, they should refuse to participate in Nunes’s half-baked investigation. He has made a mockery of the bipartisan tradition of the intelligence committee. Democrats should walk out and refuse to give him the veneer of credibility. Certainly, the Senate Intelligence Committee can take on an appropriate oversight role that should include an investigation of Trump’s and Manafort’s finances. Second, Democrats should introduce legislation requiring the president to disclose his most recent tax return (which cannot be under audit) as well as returns for those years that Trump says are no longer under audit. Republicans’ refusal to go along with this basic level of transparency should make clear the degree to which they are enabling the president to escape scrutiny. Third, Democrats should demand a select committee to investigate Trump’s almost certain violation of the emoluments clause.

Republicans will block all of that, you say? Of course they will. Democrats then should run in 2018 asking voters to give them the majority. The House GOP leadership’s utter incompetence and refusal to perform its constitutional oversight obligations have demonstrated that the Republican Party isn’t fit to govern. If we ever to get to the bottom of the Russia scandal, the GOP will need to radically change its approach — or barring that, be booted out of the majority.

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UPDATE: Count Elijah Cummings (Md.), ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, among those fed up with Nunes. “This drip-drip-drip is turning into a steady gush of connections to Russian interests,” Cummings told Right Turn. “Instead of interviewing key witnesses about their dealings with Russia, House Republicans abruptly halted the proceedings and now have nothing on the calendar, even though the White House claims they want the testimony to go forward.” He added, “Both House and Senate Republicans are now recognizing the need for an independent commission. How long will it take Speaker Ryan?”

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