The administration’s antipathy toward the so-called deep state is familiar and enduring. “My guess is 1,690 of them voted for Hillary Clinton for president, and 1,600 of them came to work every single day trying to make sure the president failed,” groused White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney last Wednesday about the 1,700 or so civil servants at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under his leadership. But these are the same professionals who are trying to make sure that our democracy continues to function, and in the case of the intelligence community, they’re the ones trying to deliver honest assessments of an enemy power’s attempts to meddle with this nation’s right to self-determination — whether by aiding Mr. Trump or by aiding Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, as U.S. officials have briefed the Vermont senator.
Now the ability to deliver these assessments is imperiled. Lawmakers worry that the appointment of a man who, as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) put it, has “no intelligence background but simply a background of having the president’s back” will slow the flow of interference-related information to Congress. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration with key allies accusing Russia of a reckless cyberattack against the republic of Georgia was supposed to be a warning sign to the Kremlin. But these name-and-shame efforts are worth a lot less when naming and shaming Russia for its attacks on this country is verboten.
There’s much Congress could do to help, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republicans would only sign on. Mr. Van Hollen continues to fight for his bipartisan Deter Act imposing automatic sanctions on a foreign adversary that interferes in a future election. The catch? Punishment is contingent on a finding in a mandated report by . . . the director of national intelligence, who for now is Mr. Grenell. Mr. Van Hollen says his bill contains safeguards even with the DNI role in danger. These include contributions to the report from agencies such as the FBI and the National Security Agency, where those same professionals the White House habitually scorns are coming into work every day and doing their jobs with integrity.
We have a president who refuses to recognize reality and who increasingly demands that the people around him refuse to recognize it, too. Congress must do all it can to ensure those who are still interested in the truth are able to tell it, hear it and act on it.