In the wake of President Donald Trump firing FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of special counsel, many citizens may feel powerless to comprehend, let alone influence, where this story leads next.
Recently, a small group of Montana citizens committed to calm, thoughtful, nonpartisan engagement joined together to ensure our representatives in Washington, D.C., hear our concerns about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential race. That is the concept behind a group we formed called Montanans for National Security, and you are invited to join our efforts.
On Jan. 6, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a declassified document that listed a number of troubling conclusions: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election; that Russia’s goals included undermining public faith in the U.S. democratic process; and that Moscow is likely to apply lessons learned to future influence efforts worldwide, including those targeting U.S. allies.
Since then, the story has taken many additional unexpected twists and turns, including the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the recusal of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Russian efforts to influence the French presidential election, President Trump’s firing of James Comey, and the appointment of special counsel by the Justice Department. While we support the special counsel appointment, we were deeply disturbed by the findings and events leading to that decision, and struggled to answer a simple question: What can we do about this?
This is where the Montanans for National Security comes into play — because we have a plan.
With two Senators for a population far lower than most states, Montanans have an out-sized voice in what happens next. That means we have a power and also a responsibility to our great nation to engage carefully and forcefully on this issue. U.S. senators have access to the highest level of classified information, and the U.S. Senate has the power to determine where the Russia investigation goes next. Now that it appears the president has taken actions to interfere with the FBI’s investigation, Congress’ response is more important than ever.
Congress must conduct vigorous oversight over the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to ensure the White House does not impede the work of FBI investigators. We strongly support the immediate establishment of an independent commission to investigate possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election, with findings that could be made public.
In order to further Montanans’ understanding of these issues, we have invited Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines to join us for a town hall style meeting in Montana to discuss their own (unclassified) assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election and exchange ideas with constituents on what Congress should do in response.
When that town hall meeting happens, we need you to be there with us. This historic, massive issue is too important to go without public input.
Take a moment and reflect on the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin’s goals included undermining public faith in the U.S. democratic process. Whether Putin accomplishes his goal is largely up to us. The time to act against him is now.
When we come together — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans — to ensure that Congress conducts a thorough and impartial investigation that follows all leads, regardless of where they go, we will have shown the world how robust and strong American democracy really is.
If you are interested in joining our effort to host both our senators for a public discussion in Montana about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with contact information, and we’ll help you get involved.
— Andrew Person, a former Democratic legislator, lives in Missoula. This guest opinion has been signed by Montanans for National Security members Julie Sirrs, Andrew Person, Charlie Cromwell, Danny Tenenbaum, Tom Leonard, and Randy LeCocq. The group includes Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, former Defense Intelligence Agency officers, and former diplomats from the U.S. Department of State.