“Any attempt by a President to use the office of the presidency of the United States for personal political gain – rather than the national interest – fundamentally undermines our sovereignty, democracy, and the Constitution … Misuse of the office of the presidency for such a corrupt purpose would thus represent a clear breach of the trust placed in the President to faithfully execute the laws of the United States and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” Statement by Rep. Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Ever since Russian interference in American democracy first was disclosed in September of 2016, the words of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address have been invoked many times:
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
Investigate the allegations
Credible allegations have been made that President Trump not only solicited a foreign government for election assistance, but also sought help in discrediting an U.S. intelligence finding about previous foreign interference and implicitly threatened to withhold military aid if his requests are not honored.
The gravity of these allegations cannot be overstated. Congress is duty-bound to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation to protect American democracy.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is correct when she says this is a sad time for our country. Regardless of where one falls along the political spectrum, no one should take any pleasure in the idea that the Commander-In-Chief could be abusing the power of his office for personal and political gain.
A somber matter
“Our tone must be prayerful, respectful, solemn, worthy of the Constitution,” Pelosi said.
Nor should the impeachment process be abused for political gain. It is a remedy for only the most egregious betrayals of the public trust. Only a fact-driven, evidence-based inquiry can determine whether that remedy is warranted.
The integrity of American elections is sacrosanct for African Americans, who have bled and died in defense of the right to vote. We at the National Urban League found reports that Russian interference specifically targeted African Americans so troubling that we devoted our 2019 State of Black America ® report to an examination of the attacks.
What we found puts the egregiousness of President Trump’s apparent efforts to absolve Russia into stark perspective. The greatest portion of Russia’s online disinformation effort was aimed at dissuading African Americans from voting.
Russian trolls exploited the credibility of legitimate online movements like #BlackLivesMatter, posing as activists, and abusing that trust to tamp down Black voter participation. One Russiancreated fake account, @WokeLuisa, garnered more than 50,000 followers, and its posts were highlighted by dozens of prominent news outlets.
All patriotic Americans should be outraged. Our leaders should be doing everything within their power to protect the integrity of our elections and thwart foreign interference. If, instead, President Trump is trying to deflect blame for this attack on democracy away from Russia, it is right to question where his loyalties lie.
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.