I hold the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by Lowell Weicker Jr. He turned 86 yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about him a lot this week.
Weicker was around the same age as I am today when he was appointed to the Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in during his first term in the Senate. Weicker stood out on the committee as one of the few Republicans willing to press the case in public and pursue the truth no matter the cost. He drew the ire of his fellow Republicans, but the hindsight of history looked kindly on him as a man who was willing to speak truth to power at a fulcrum moment in our nation’s history.
We need a Lowell Weicker right now. Badly.
The unfolding story of President Trump’s apparent attempts to scuttle the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election is beginning to eerily parallel that Watergate story. The firing of FBI Director James Comey looks an awful lot like the Saturday night massacre. And while I cannot independently confirm yesterday’s New York Times story about Trump’s alleged plea to Comey to stop the Flynn investigation, it’s worth remembering that the “smoking gun” that brought down Nixon, after two years of crisis, was a tape in which Nixon admitted to pressuring the FBI to end the investigation of the break-in.
These are serious times, and I want you to know where I stand given yesterday’s bombshell report. First, it is more important now than ever that an independent prosecutor, like the one appointed to investigate Watergate, be chosen immediately. Enough is enough. The investigations currently occurring in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees will continue, but ultimately an inquiry that is led by Republican partisans cannot be trusted to dig vigorously for the truth. A congressional committee is little better, as the panel would only be as strong as the Republican chairman selected to lead it. We need a prosecutor, and we need one now.
Furthermore, we need James Comey to come forward and tell his story. If indeed Trump pressed him for a pledge of loyalty, or asked him to stop an investigation connected to the Trump campaign’s wrongdoing, then we need to hear this directly from the former FBI Director, not from secondhand news reports. And we need to ask Comey why he didn’t resign or come forward with this information when it happened if his interactions with the President are as serious as these news stories represent.
But if Congress does get confirmation that the President was actively and consistently trying to scuttle the Russia investigation, the questions presented to us get even graver. “Obstruction of justice” is a complicated concept to apply to a chief executive who heads a branch of government under which the FBI falls. During this time of crisis, I will approach this issue carefully and methodically–but do not mistake that for a lack of outrage over the circumstances in which we now find our nation. I will take the time to learn the law and the precedent, and make a thoughtful decision about how I and the Congress should proceed. And I will not stop speaking out for what is right.
Ultimately, I do hope Republicans realize that we are at another fulcrum in American political history, like we were in 1974. Rarely does a moment come in your political career in which a choice must be made between your party and the republic. This is one of those moments, and just as history judged kindly the actions of a 43 year-old freshman Senator from Connecticut in 1974, so will history look upon Republicans today who choose to step out from their partisan shell and do the right thing.
Thank you for reading.
Every best wish,