GOP Missing the Real Elephant in the Room

Taking a walk on the wild side, I happened upon MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" during my morning drive. Not my first choice in news, but my other favorite radio stations were on commercial break. Senator Bob Corker was being interviewed over the Michael Flynn resignation.

Senator Corker asserted, “The base issue is getting to the bottom of what the Russian interference was and what the relationship was with associates of the Trump effort.” The proverbial “elephant in the room” as the senator described it.

He also wondered if the White House would have the ability to, “stabilize itself.” He went further talking about “the American people counting on us to do big things this year.” He did briefly mention intelligence leaks, as a “subissue that needs to be dealt with” using his words. But then reiterated that Russian involvement was the “big issue.”

Where to start?

How about President Obama’s admonition to Donald Trump last October, when Mrs. Clinton was on her way to a landslide electoral victory and Mr. Trump was headed back to reality TV. Trump claimed that the election was rigged against him. Obama advised Trump, "Stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes." Which he did. Going further, Mr. Obama added that there was, "no serious person" who would suggest it was possible to rig American elections. I presume this statement included the Russians.

Yet to Senator Corker, there is still concern that Russia “hacked” the election. Despite the U.S. intelligence community finding that the Russians, “were not involved in vote tallying.” Did the Russians try to meddle, influence, propagandize? Sure. What’s new about that?

Senator Corker, and I’m sure many of his colleagues such as senators McCain and Graham, believe the big elephant in the room of General Flynn’s resignation is the Russians. The reality is that the Russians are a sideshow, a distraction from the true elephant in the room -- intelligence agencies spying on American citizens.

The New York Times'  big headline this week is, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” How can they know that? The article begins with, “phone records and intercepted calls” between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies. The campaign officials being U.S. citizens, not to be spied on by the CIA or NSA without cause and warrants.

How could the NY Times have this information? Is the Times tapping phones? Doubtful. Instead it appears that U.S. intelligence agencies are listening in on phone calls and other communications of American citizens. And then passing on the information to friendly news agencies.

How’s that for an “elephant in the room,” Senator Corker? Are we now a police state? Speaking of the Russians, this was the modus operandi in the old USSR, and may still be the case in the new and improved Russian Federation.

Is it really a “subissue” that American intelligence are spying on and attempting to undermine a lawfully elected president and his administration? That’s not an elephant in the room. It’s a mammoth!

The other elephant is that the American people are counting on the Congress -- including Senator Corker -- to “do big things this year.” We have actually been counting on that for several years since electing Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, without any return on our efforts. Where is the ObamaCare repeal and replace? Tax relief? Immigration control? The issues that elected Donald Trump and GOP majorities in Congress. Rather than “big things” from Congress, we seem to only get “big talk”.

Perhaps the #NeverTrumpers in the GOP are secretly delighted with apparent White House chaos. Maybe that’s why they choose not to see the evidence of a shadow government operating in the bowels of the murky intelligence world, seeking to undermine the president and his administration. The same intelligence community which leaked a bogus dossier on Trump prepared by a former British intelligence operative.

The Republicans don’t need to be investigating Trump, his people, or the Russians. Trump and much of his team are from the business world, a world that includes Russia, China, and other not-so-U.S.-friendly regimes. Instead they should be investigating which agencies are spying on Americans, under whose orders, and why. And who is leaking such classified information to newspapers?

When the GOP establishment willfully ignores this, all they are doing is encouraging more elephants. And they will be among those crushed in the stampede. Appeasement, as history has taught us, doesn’t work. If the deep state can undermine President Trump, its next target will be Congress. This is a real potential powder keg. The GOP, as the majority party in Congress, had better be careful else they will light the fuse, intentionally or not. And America will lose.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter