Budowsky: Putingate is our Watergate

Budowsky: Putingate is our Watergate
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There should be unanimous agreement among Americans that no foreign dictator should ever be allowed to influence or determine the selection of our president and commander in chief.

From Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive attacks against American democracy in 2016 designed to elect President Trump to his cyber-invasion of France in 2017 designed to elect far right extremist Marine Le Pen as president of France, which I discussed in my previous column titled “The Battle of Europe,” we must resist and thwart this dangerous assault against democracy.

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In his Feb. 5 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, when O’Reilly referred to Putin as a “killer,” Trump replied by morally equating America with Russia. These sickening comments slandering America were unprecedented for an American president and sent chills up the spines of many Republicans as well as Democrats.

In the latest revelations of what I call the Putingate scandal, we learned that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, was forced out after only three weeks because of conversations with the Russian ambassador, whose ultimate boss is unanimously believed by our intelligence services to have engaged in covert cyber war designed to elect Trump as president.

Flynn lied about these conversations to our people, the press and Vice President Pence. The vice president was so far outside the inner loop of the Trump White House that he was not told for two weeks by the president or his staff that Justice Department and intelligence service leaders were so alarmed they warned the White House that Trump’s then-chief of the National Security Council could be blackmailed by the Russian dictator.

The Putingate scandal is eerily similar to the Watergate scandal. Both cases involve breaking and entering into internal Democratic Party operations for the purpose of electing a Republican president. Both cases involve criminal acts with political motives followed by false denials. Both cases involve attacks against the free press for publishing information that the public has a right and need to know.

Both Putingate and Watergate involve a White House that is contemptuous of the federal judiciary that is a bulwark against authoritarian leaders who are tempted to believe they are above the law. Both involve presidents who at times treated our intelligence services like political enemies rather than guardians of democracy against adversaries who threaten our freedom.

Both Putingate and Watergate involve presidents with well-earned reputations for repeatedly saying things that were not true, surrounded by staff who often mirrored their habit of repeatedly bearing false witness, pitching denials that were repeatedly proven false.

In a stunning similarity between Watergate and Putingate, both the Nixon and Trump administrations included internal voices who exposed untruths and warned Americans against grave dangers that escalate every day. The extraordinary infighting and leaking from within the Trump administration is eerily reminiscent of Deep Throat during the Nixon years exposing wrongdoing through The Washington Post.

With new reports of countless and continuous communications between high-level Trump aides and Russian officials before and after election day, which according to some reports may include Russian intelligence operatives or officials, is there a John Dean-like figure in Trump circles who might reveal what the president knew, and when he knew it?

Republican leaders in Congress should agree to support an independent counsel or special prosecutor or, as Sen. John McCainJohn McCainRyan assures GOP senators House will go to conference Overnight Healthcare: Four GOP senators threaten to block 'skinny' repeal | Healthcare groups blast skinny repeal | GOP single-payer amendment fails in Senate OPINION | Michael Steele: Yes, GOP will own ObamaCare failure MORE (R-Ariz.) and others propose, a special select bipartisan committee to fully investigate all aspects of Putingate. If they continue to obstruct this action they may be someday accused of supporting a cover-up by delaying and diluting urgently needed investigation of matters that pose a serious threat to American security.

Congress should pass a law requiring full disclosure and divestment of any foreign assets or foreign loans held by any president to prevent any hostile foreign actor, including foreign dictators or business interests acting on their behalf, from exerting financial power over America’s president and commander in chief.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.