Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress.
Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February’s NBC/WSJ poll. …
61 percent of Americans say they have little to no confidence in Congress conducting a fair and impartial investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
Among Republicans, partisanship prevails — only 21 percent favor a congressional investigation.
The poll coincides with a Daily Beast report that the Senate Intelligence Committee (which is more bipartisan and serious than its House counterpart) is not equipped to do much of anything:
More than three months after the committee announced that it had agreed on the scope of the investigation, the panel has not begun substantially investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, three individuals with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast.
The investigation does not have a single staffer dedicated to it full-time, and those staff members working on it part-time do not have significant investigative experience. The probe currently appears to be moving at a pace slower than prior Senate Intelligence Committee investigations, such as the CIA torture inquiry, which took years to accomplish.
No interviews have been conducted with key individuals suspected of being in the Trump-Russia orbit: not Michael Flynn, not Roger Stone, not Carter Page, not Paul Manafort, and not Jared Kushner, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s procedures.
As Trump critics argued at the time, the Senate Intelligence Committee is not set up to do this work. Events proved them correct. (“Part of the reason why the committee has not acted more swiftly is because of its current structure. The Senate Intelligence Committee is typically an oversight panel, not an investigative one. It is set up more to review than to actively probe.”) One suspects that this is precisely why the investigation was shoved into its jurisdiction.
At any rate, neither the House nor the Senate panel provides reassurance that a legitimate, nonpartisan and thorough investigation can be undertaken. We have argued that at the very least, a select committee with proper staff and funding is required. Given how badly Republicans are dragging their feet and the lengths to which the House Intelligence Committee chairman went to assist the White House in distracting the public, there is reason to doubt that any congressional arrangement will inspire confidence. The argument for a truly independent commission or a special prosecutor gets stronger with each passing day.
As with the ethics scandals, any legitimate investigation of the Russia scandal is hampered by Republicans’ utter lack of seriousness and their determination to play defense for the White House. When meddling by a foreign government is at issue, you’d think that Republicans would take their oaths of office seriously. Alas, no. Russian efforts to hobble Hillary Clinton and the possible secret collusion by the Trump team (in addition to Trump’s open reliance on WikiLeaks material and Russian propaganda) have not sufficiently impressed GOP lawmakers.
In demonstrating their small-minded partisanship, they are making Democrats’ 2018 argument for them, namely that the GOP is not performing its constitutionally mandated role.