By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – At least we will know more.
This is how we should look at the investigations launched by the U.S. House of Representatives into the affairs of President Donald Trump.
Once the investigations are over, we will know some things that we don’t know now. We will find out the degree to which Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election. We will learn whether the president violated campaign finance laws by paying women to stay silent about affairs he may have had with them. We will discover if the president’s complicated financial and business dealings have broken any laws.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
All of this is important to know.
The president and his followers, of course, don’t see it that way.
They say these investigations are partisan. For that reason, they say, it’s wrong for the House to investigate the president.
The investigations in the House will be partisan. That’s the nature of such things.
These investigations and hearings will be partisan in the same way that the then-Republican-controlled House’s investigations into Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s actions were partisan.
Republicans who grilled Clinton then had partisan motivations. They wanted to discredit her as a presidential candidate. And they wanted to embarrass President Barack Obama.
But that didn’t mean that the Republican members of the House didn’t have a right to investigate.
In fact, at the time, I wrote that they had a duty to investigate.
And that Clinton and Obama had a duty to answer their questions.
U.S. interests and U.S. laws were involved. The members of the House owed it to the public to check things out.
What was true then is true now.
The evidence that Russia attempted to attack and undermine our elections and our institutions is compelling if not yet conclusive.
The president as both commander-in-chief and the nation’s law enforcement official should be the first to demand that the evidentiary trail be followed to the end. If true, these actions were an attack on the nation, not on him.
And Donald Trump took an oath to defend the nation.
The same goes for the other matters the Democrats in the House want to investigate. If, as he says, the president has done nothing wrong, then the evidence should reflect that.
Either way, he has a duty to submit to the investigation because he is the president.
That makes him the human equivalent of public property.
None of this means, though, the congressional hearings won’t provide moments – many moments – of polarizing political theater. They will.
Democrats will try to put the president and his colleagues, current or erstwhile, in the worst possible light. Republicans will attempt to discredit witnesses critical of the Trump administration and the motives of the Democrats asking questions.
It’s a human process, so every human failing – blind ambition, seething resentment, short-sighted mistrust, etc. – will be on full display.
These natural tendencies will be exacerbated by the hyper-partisan tenor of these times.
I wrote when Clinton was being investigated that there were few people in the country who hadn’t already made up their minds before the hearings even began. Many were ready to convict her without a trial. Many others were just as ready to acquit her. Again, without a trial.
Once more, what was true then is true now.
Most of the people in this country already have made their minds up about Donald Trump, one way or the other. The chances that congressional hearings will do anything to change the feelings of either Trump idolaters or Trump haters is miniscule.
But that’s not the reason to conduct investigations and hold hearings.
There are some of us – admittedly, fewer and fewer – who think the reason to ask questions is because we don’t know the answers. We don’t know if or how much Russia affected our election. We don’t know if the president has broken the law – or if any of his lawbreaking, if it did occur, is so important that we should set aside the results of a national election for the first time in our nation’s history.
To find out, we’ll have to go through a process that often will be nasty, divisive and painful.
But, at the end of it, at least we’ll know more.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.