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Opinion | Bill Keating

Clear the decks — we are under attack from Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening ceremony of the Astana Expo 2017 exhibition in Kazakstan Friday. Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP of the Astana Expo 2017 exhibition in Kazakstan.Alexei Nikolsky

America is under attack. Under oath, citing classified information, former FBI Director James Comey testified that Russia meddled in the US presidential election and “did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts, and it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government.”

One of my Republican colleagues and I recently agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has secured a measure of success in undermining confidence in the election and continues to benefit from the controversy surrounding our response. A win-win for them.

When a ship is under attack, one of the first priorities of the crew is to clear the decks. You remove the unnecessary so that your vision and perspective are not impaired and you are ready for action. You discard anything that distracts from the mission.


We need to discard the distractions being put forth primarily by apologists within the president’s party to find the underlying cause of what exactly happened and who was involved. There is a significant amount of unnecessary political clutter impeding our ability to appropriately respond to Russia’s cyberattack.

Lies, plain and simple. There have been many lies put forth since the investigation into the Russia attacks was made public, but none so damaging as the president of the United States undermining our top law enforcement agency. By saying the FBI was in a state of turmoil and maligning, then firing, FBI director James Comey, Trump has called into question the FBI’s ability to do its job on behalf of the American public. As we heard Comey say in his testimony Thursday: “Those were lies, plain and simple.” And for those who believe this is simply “he said-he said,” only one of those individuals was under oath when they said it.

The president is not a Washington insider. House Speaker Paul Ryan excused President Trump’s asking Comey for loyalty as the innocent action of some naïve rube. Trump is anything but naïve, and the implication of the loyalty test, followed by Comey’s firing, is clear.


Leakers are the real problem. I will not defend those who leak classified information — especially when that information could put lives at risk. However, the consistent focus of the president and my Republican colleagues in Congress on the people who leaked is also meant to distract from what we learned from those leaks. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s undisclosed meetings and foreign government payments, other undisclosed meetings by several Trump associates, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the president’s sharing of top-secret security information with Russian officials that endangered a US source would not have come to light without these reports.

“Hope” is not a directive: Republican senators seized on Trump’s use of the word “hope” after he cleared the room of all other officials and pointedly asked Comey to let the investigation into disgraced Flynn go. The misleading parsing of words is grasping at straws to deflect from Comey’s damaging testimony.

It’s the fault of Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama. Neither Clinton nor Obama are president. And neither have been called into question regarding possible collusion with Russia. When you see their names invoked into this scandal, you are seeing a red herring.

The sounds of silence. Our country was attacked, period. Top law enforcement and military officials have been saying it without question for months now. Yet, from too many members of the Republican Party, all we have heard is silence. The oath that members of Congress takes is not recited in silence.


Fake news. Trump and his defenders have fueled a contempt of the media to deflect the results of investigative reporting of possible collusion, cover-ups, and the facts of the attack itself.

Most of Congress have been sailing too close to the wind. There is too much at stake. The fact is our country is under attack. To quote James Comey: “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever . . . it’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and it is very, very serious.”

US Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts is the ranking member of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee as well as a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee.