Flake did however go after the worst of Trump’s lies — birtherism, which Trump rode to power, and his nonstop attack on the Russia investigation:
To be very clear, to call the Russia matter a “hoax” – as the president has many times – is a falsehood. We know that the attacks orchestrated by the Russian government during the election were real and constitute a grave threat to both American sovereignty and to our national security. It is in the interest of every American to get to the bottom of this matter, wherever the investigation leads.Ignoring or denying the truth about hostile Russian intentions toward the United States leaves us vulnerable to further attacks. We are told by our intelligence agencies that those attacks are ongoing, yet it has recently been reported that there has not been a single cabinet-level meeting regarding Russian interference and how to defend America against these attacks. Not one. What might seem like a casual and routine untruth – so casual and routine that it has by now become the white noise of Washington – is in fact a serious lapse in the defense of our country.
But here, too, Republicans are part of the problem. Members of Congress continue to undermine the investigation. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) spread the lie that President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump. And House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) leaves him in his job as Intelligence Committee chairman. Senate Republicans’ questioning of Fusion GPS founder Glenn R. Simpson wasn’t aimed at getting facts but at smearing the witness. They then misrepresented what he said, tried to suppress the transcript and made a patently unfounded criminal referral of Christopher Steele to the Justice Department. Republicans refused to join in a comprehensive report Senate Democrats compiled on Russian interference throughout Europe, perhaps because it details the kind of conduct Trump denies occurring in the United States in 2016 — weaponized social media, hacking and more.
Flake gave an impressive and far-reaching speech indicting Trump’s web of lies and the damage his international pals (e.g., Vladimir Putin) are doing to freedom of the press. He correctly admonished his Senate colleagues that undermining truth strengthens the hand of despots. Give him credit — but only partial credit. Elected Republicans engage in much of the same anti-truth propaganda as the president does. The evening programming of an entire TV cable “news” network is dedicated to conspiracy theories, misleading information about immigrants and terrorists, and refusal to cover facts that contradict the president’s tropes.
Trump did not materialize out of thin air. He masterfully manipulated white grievance and anti-elite conspiracy-mongering. But the ground was plowed by many of Flake’s colleagues and by Republicans’ self-selected news outlets. Getting rid of Trump will help, but unless and until the mind-set that permeates the right is dismantled, the war on the truth will rage on.
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