Editorial: Will Burr step up or be a footnote?

May 16, 2017 GMT

A CBC Editorial: Tuesday, May 16, 2017; Editorial # 8161<br /> The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Richard Burr is no Capitol Hill rookie. He’s been around for 22 years. He cruises around Washington in a battered gray 1973 Volkswagen Thing and often shuns socks, providing a bit of informality to the often stodgy and over-stuffed image of a U.S. Senator.

But there’s serious business to be taken care of these days when you’re the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and so far Burr is out to lunch.

Burr should be in the forefront assuring Americans that inquiries into foreign -- in this case Russian – meddling in the presidential election is being pursued forcefully, thoroughly and without influence from President Donald Trump’s administration.

And late Monday evening another issue arose that will likely be on Burr’s committee agenda. The president reportedly shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting last week, according to The Washington Post.

Burr’s bear-hugging embrace of Trump during the campaign have left some less than convinced he’ll be enthusiastic in pursuit of answers to serious questions raised so far.

“I’m going to be focused on continuing an investigation that I think has a tremendous amount of credibility in Washington,” Burr said last week.

Whatever thread of credibility there may be inside Washington’s beltway about Burr’s investigation, it gets frayed very quickly outside, where an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t think Congress is up to the job.

Seventy-eight percent say they’d rather see an independent commission or special prosecutor investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election compared to just 15 percent favoring an investigation led by Congress, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey released on Sunday.

That is not a credibility gap, it is a credibility canyon!

Burr’s most recent statements, following President Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey, have done little to reassure anyone of his zeal for a thorough investigation. Comey was removed after it was revealed that the agency was looking into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“To date, there has been no evidence of collusion,” Burr said. Well, inquiries have hardly begun. His comments might lead some to conclude that Burr’s already adopted a wait and don’t see attitude.

Following the firing, one of the president’s statements on Twitter raised questions of whether there were audio recordings of White House conversations between Trump and Comey. It has been Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on Burr’s committee, along with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, who have been the most assertive about finding any tapes, if they exist.

“If there are any tapes of this conversation, they need to be turned over,” Graham said on NBC’s Meet The Press. “Absolutely,” Warner responded, when asked if he’d subpoena tapes of any Trump-Comey conversations.

Forty-five years ago, a burglary to steal records from Democrats ended up in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. It took Sen. Sam Ervin, North Carolina’s dogged advocate of the Constitution, to lead a determined congressional investigation.

There is no telling, now, where a theft of e-mails from a Democratic campaign in 2016 might lead. But it is important that those responsible for getting all the questions thoroughly answered need aggressive and assertive leadership to get to the bottom of the matter.

North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr has yet to show he’s got the right stuff and is up to the task. It is time for him to step up. Since he’s not seeking re-election he’s free to transcend the petty partisanship gripping Congress and assure the nation that its leaders have a priority on security and the truth.