Leahy In Key Role As Congress Investigates Possible Russian Ties To Trump Campaign

Jun 13, 2017

Sen. Patrick Leahy is in a unique position among Senate Democratic leaders during the current session of Congress: He has the most seniority of any member of the Senate and serves as the senior ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Committee.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says this puts Leahy at the center of several investigations looking into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

"The Judiciary Committee is responsible for oversight of the Justice Department and one of the issues here does involve the ability of the Justice Department to conduct a fair investigation into the matter,” said Davis. “And the Appropriations Committee is responsible for oversight of all the money that government spends."  

Leahy has been very critical of the way that the Trump Administration has responded to the Russian efforts to undermine the future of democracy in this country and Leahy is very disappointed with the performance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Leahy says Sessions gave false testimony to the Judiciary Committee about his own contact with Russian officials.

"I do not have confidence in him as Attorney General but I think what I especially don't have confidence in him being there and possibly meddling in the investigation of the involvement of Russia," said Leahy.  

"I do not have confidence in [Jeff Sessions] as Attorney General and possibly meddling in the investigation of the involvement of Russia." — Sen. Patrick Leahy

There are reports in Washington that the president is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is heading up the investigation into Russian involvement in the election. The White House has distanced itself from these reports, and Leahy says such an action would be unthinkable.

"That would be a partisan fire fight if they were to fire Mueller,” said Leahy. “I know he's going to run a tough and fair investigation and if they're afraid of anything at the White House it's a tough and fair investigation of how involved the President and those around him were with Russia."  

Several days ago, the president said he would be willing to come before a congressional committee and testify under oath that he believes former F.B.I. director James Comey lied last week in his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Leahy does not take the president's offer seriously.

"There's nobody up here, Republican or Democrat, thinks the President no matter what he's said would ever agree to come up and testify under oath." — Sen. Patrick Leahy

"There's nobody up here, Republican or Democrat, thinks the President no matter what he's said would ever agree to come up and testify under oath ,” said Leahy. “We've sort of put this in a category of him saying as soon as Barrack Obama releases his birth certificate I'll release my tax returns."  

Davis says the Russian issues need to be resolved if Congress is going to take action on the major parts of the president's agenda.

"The more the Congressional attention is devoted to investigations of the campaign, Russian involvement, whether Trump is trying to cover things up, whether there's any obstruction of justice, that diverts Congress' attention from legislating on the issues that  Trump claims were part of the reasons he won the election,” said Davis.

Davis notes that many of the people who voted for Trump still strongly support him but Davis wonders if this support will remain if Trump is not successful in winning legislative approval for his core issues.

"Is health care easier to obtain for them and does it cost less ? Have their wages increased faster than inflation? Have their taxes gone down?” said Davis. “How do all those things look after Trump has been in office for two years?"   

Davis says the results of the mid-term elections in 2018 will serve as a good barometer about the strength of Trump's political future.