Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorial takes Richard Burr to task for spreading Trump’s lies about Ukraine

Richard Burr conferring with Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia at a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the new lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer/News & Observer twins on Senator Richard Burr’s latest maddening and disingenuous statements about foreign interference in U.S. elections. As the editorial notes, Burr clearly knows the score.

As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that investigated the issue at great length, Burr knows that Russia was guilty of massive meddling in the 2016 election and that claims by Russia’s lackey (President Donald Trump) that it was actually Ukraine that was doing the meddling are pure baloney.

Unfortunately, as the editorial points out, Burr still went along with other Republican apologists for Trump recently in advancing the debunked claims about Ukraine.

“There’s no difference in the way Russia put their feet, early on, on the scale — being for one candidate and everybody called it meddling — and how the Ukrainian officials did it,” Burr said as he and other Republican senators spoke with reporters around their weekly lunch on Tuesday.

That comment must have startled the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., since the committee’s investigation found that Russia alone engaged in a systematic effort to help the Trump campaign. Warner tweeted: “There is absolutely no factual basis for this Ukrainian election interference/CrowdStrike nonsense. None. Spreading this discredited conspiracy theory only serves to advance Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign against the United States.”

Discarding his tin foil hat, Burr later retreated from his comment, telling CNN: “I don’t think anybody interfered in the same way Russia did.” Though, deferring to Trump, he added that Ukraine played a role: “But it’s a legitimate argument that they interfered — that they were active.”

That “legitimate argument” is illegitimate according to Burr’s own committee. Politico reported on Monday that in the fall of 2017 the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated whether Ukraine played any role in the election “and found no evidence that Ukraine waged a top-down interference campaign akin to the Kremlin’s efforts to help Trump win in 2016.”

In other words, Burr is — Surprise!! — talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Of course, if this were Thom Tillis in action, such behavior would be completely expected. In the case, however, of Burr (a veteran GOP lawmaker who has already decided not to run for re-election and who has generally acted as a straight shooter on the election interference issue), the statements are especially frustrating and potentially destructive.
Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

It’s no surprise that Burr is supportive of Trump. He was the national security adviser to the Trump campaign. But at a time when other Republican senators are giving weight to claims that the nation’s intelligence agencies have found without merit, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman shouldn’t join in.

Trump brought this impeachment inquiry on himself. Let him defend himself. Burr’s role, if he can manage to stay in it, is to defend the United States.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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