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Editorial: Mueller report reveals Trump’s fake news, Burr’s toothless watchdog bite

April 23, 2019

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, April 23, 2019; Editorial #8414 The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Two critical conclusions emerged amid all the dust raised by the recently released report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

There has been a relentless effort to denounce, discredit, belittle and intimidate journalists and the news organizations reporting on the statements and activities of the Trump Administration in ways contrary to the golden, glittery portrait the White House wants the public to see.

Reporters disclosed that the president asked for former FBI Director James Comey’s “loyalty” and presidential press aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied it. She said Trump “would never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty, only loyalty to our country and its great people.” She also told reporters Comey was fired because “most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence” in him. Additionally, Sanders stated Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had decided “on his own” to examine Comey’s performance and expressed his concerns to Trump.

None of what Sanders said was true. She confessed to Mueller’s investigators. “Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue.,’” The Mueller report also disclosed: “That her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”

This is not, by any stretch, typical of the way public officials and news reporters interact – either in Washington or in North Carolina.

Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig knows. She covered the General Assembly for the Charlotte Observer before going on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The Post where she has broken several news stories concerning the strife and dysfunction inside the White House.

“There are many administrations in the past - the Obama administration, the Bush administration, the Clinton administration - that have told me partial facts or have tried to steer me away from the facts that I’ve found and have misled me by omission. But they have never directly, squarely lied to my face. And that is the difference here. The president lies to our faces and tells his aides to lie to our faces,” Leonnig told NPR.

Sanders has lost even a thread of credibility. She should resign. Networks shouldn’t waste air time broadcasting her briefings nor should reporters bother with them.

More troubling to North Carolinians is the actions of our senator. During his re-election campaign Burr did all he could to portray himself as an independent voice – focused on what is best for the state he represented and the nation.

The portrait emerging from the Mueller report “stands in contrast to the independent image Burr has cultivated while running his committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” says the Boston Globe.

Burr may have briefed the White House on the status of the FBI’s Russian election meddling investigation and named some of the investigation’s targets. There it is in Volume 2 on page 52. Following the revelation, Burr’s office lamely responded that he “does not recall this specific conversation,” adding his “stewardship over the committee’s bipartisan and fact-based investigation over the last two years speaks for itself.”

North Carolinians didn’t elect Burr and Thom Tillis to put political parties first and be rubber stamps for the executive branch. We expect them to uphold their constitutional responsibilities for the separation of powers. They work for the people of North Carolina not the Trump White House.

We expect them to hold the president accountable and demand transparency, including:

Burr and Tillis also need to be accountable for rubber-stamping unqualified and inappropriate nominees for the courts and other critical posts.

There may be a reasonable explanation for Burr’s actions. If so, he should make one and do it publicly to restore the credibility and independence of the Senate committee’s work. It is no overstatement to say the credibility of the 2020 elections rests on its work.

If he can’t explain himself, Burr needs to step aside so a less encumbered senator can lead this important investigation.