Witcover: Democrats sue to push back against Russian election meddling

As President Trump continues to rant at his own Justice Department over its pursuit of the truth in the Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has found it necessary to defend his organization's costly court suit against the perpetrators, including the Trump campaign.

Mr. Perez, deploring the president's inaction and lack of interest in getting to the bottom of the meddling, told ABC News Sunday that with no end in sight to the Robert Mueller investigation, "We need to file now to protect our rights. ... We've got elections coming up in November. It's hard to win elections when you have interference in elections. They've done it with impunity, and I'm concerned that it's going to happen again. So that's why we did it now."

The lawsuit also targets Wikileaks for its role in the email hacking into the DNC's congressional campaign committee and the account of candidate Hilary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Clinton and campaign aides later blamed her subsequent loss in part on the negative publicity generated by the hacked emails. They also cited then FBI Director James Comey's discovery and reopening of the bureau's investigation of Clinton shortly before the election, only to report that nothing incriminating had been found. Yet doubts were created, and the Clinton campaign blamed that 11th hour report, and Mr. Comey's disclosure of it, contrary to FBI custom against public discussion of internal deliberations prior to completion of any agency investigation.

Mr. Perez defended the subsequent initiation of the suit, noting on NBC News that "a year ago, people were saying, 'File a lawsuit.' I didn't do it then, because I believe in doing your homework."

Now it is time to act, he said, brushing aside party criticism that the Democrats lagged badly behind the Republican National Committee in fund-raising in the last year. "We cannot afford not to do this," he said. He expressed confidence he would get a jury trial in the case.

Mr. Trump in a tweet on Friday shot back, saying the Democrats had "sued the Republicans for winning," and he called on the GOP to "counter and force them to turn over a treasure trove of material, including servers and emails." In 2016, it will be recalled, Mr. Trump pointedly and publicly encouraged the Russians to find and release 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails that might incriminate her.

At stake in the November midterm elections is the Democratic hope to regain control of one or both houses of Congress, with an eye to possible impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump. The power of impeachment lies with the House, and the Senate votes to remove, with the high bar of two-thirds required for conviction. No president has ever been thus removed from office, though Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 when key Republicans on Capitol Hill informed him he lacked the votes to survive.

Beyond this consideration is Mr. Trump's strong disinclination to address in any serious manner the Russian intrusion in the 2016 presidential election, with or without collusion by the Trump campaign, as has been unanimously confirmed by the American intelligence community. Diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed have been inadequate to the damage inflicted on the integrity of the nation's democratic process.

To this president, the whole matter has been viewed and handled only through the prism of his personal political concerns and future. His conduct remains cause enough to challenge his ability and right to remain in the office he won by law, but which he has abused ever since. Whether he has obstructed justice, and whether he has committed crimes in his various business transactions, is yet to be discovered in the ongoing investigations.

That is why those inquiries must go on, despiteMr. Trump's increasing efforts to derail them with his slanderous taunts against all who persist in the legitimate quest for the truth in this ugliest chapter in our noble exercise of self-governance.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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