In an attempt to force Republicans to move beyond "worthless" tweets and speeches in response to President Donald Trump's sycophantic behavior at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday outlined a series of steps that can immediately be taken by Congress to shore up the American electoral system and rein in the unhinged commander in chief.
"The Republican leadership has a personal stake in preventing anyone beyond Manafort and a few other flunkies from being held accountable. Mueller and the FBI are giving everyone a glimpse at the scale of official corruption in Washington."
"If President Trump won't confront Putin about interference in our elections and his destabilizing policies, Congress must act," Sanders declared in a statement, calling on the Senate to pass his resolution demanding urgent action to "protect our election systems" and safeguard Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe from Trump's sabotage efforts.
"Does anybody deny the importance of that?" Sanders asked in a speech on the Senate floor.
At least one senator apparently does. In yet another clear demonstration that Republicans are wholly uninterested holding the leader of their party accountable, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unilaterally blocked Sanders' proposed resolution on Thursday, arguing that "we should not stick our head in the ground and say we're not going to talk to" Russia.
Sanders was quick to point out that this objection is "irrelevant," as his resolution in no way calls for cutting off talks with Russia.
"There is not one word in this resolution that suggests that the United States of America should not aggressively engage in diplomacy with Russia to ease the tensions that exist between the two countries," Sanders said in response to Paul.
Watch Sanders' back-and-forth with Paul on the Senate floor:
We face an unprecedented situation of a president who, for whatever reason, refuses to acknowledge the full scope of the threat to American democracy. pic.twitter.com/tJ7RPyL30x
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 19, 2018
Here are the five points in Sanders' Senate resolution:
- Accepts the assessment of the United States intelligence community with regard to interference by the Russian Federation in elections in the United States and in other democracies;
- Must move aggressively to protect our election systems from interference by Russia or any foreign power, and work closely with our democratic partners around the world to do the same;
- Demands that the sanctions against Russia that were passed last year be fully implemented by the president;
- Will not accept any interference with the ongoing investigation of Special Counsel Mueller, such as the offer of preemptive pardons or the firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein;
- Declares that the president must cooperate with the investigation of Special Counsel Mueller.
Sanders' challenge to the majority party in Congress came as the GOP squashed efforts by Democrats in both the Senate and the House on Thursday to compel Trump's translator in Helsinki—the only other American in the room during his meeting with Putin—to testify about what was said behind closed doors.
The continued refusal by Republican lawmakers to do anything beyond firing off tweets and issuing righteous public statements in the aftermath of Trump's "embarrassing" performance alongside Putin has come as little surprise to many commentators, who have argued that the GOP response to the Helsinki summit fits a common pattern of feigned outrage followed by total inaction.
In an article for The Nation on Tuesday, journalist David Klion argued that Republicans won't do anything about Trump's deference to Putin on election interference not because they're incompetent, but because "all of them are fully aware that they are abetting a criminal conspiracy, and probably more than one."
"Russiagate isn't just the narrow story of a few corrupt officials. It isn't even the story of a corrupt president. It's the story of a corrupt political party, the one currently holding all the levers of power in Washington," Klion writes. "[T]he Republican leadership therefore has a personal stake in preventing anyone beyond Manafort and a few other flunkies from being held accountable. Mueller and the FBI are giving everyone a glimpse at the scale of official corruption in Washington."