Dereliction of Congressional Duty

Last week’s congressional testimony by Michael Cohen riveted the nation as President Trump’s long-time lawyer, fixer and co-conspirator spilled the beans on his former boss. But Montana’s Republican congressional members, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, told reporters they were too busy “meeting with Montanans all day” to watch or listen to the hearings. That’s a clear dereliction of duty since one of the primary functions of Congress is to oversee, hold accountable, and provide checks and balances on the executive branch of government.

Calling Trump a racist, cheat, liar and fraud, Cohen, who has already been sentenced to prison for his part in the Trump crime syndicate, opened the door to an ever-increasing list of congressional investigations into almost every aspect of Trump’s — and his family’s — incredible record of corruption.

While it’s easy to dismiss Cohen’s testimony as coming from someone who has admitted to lying to Congress — and is going to prison for it — far too much of what he had to say fits perfectly with the disgusting record of Trump’s actions.

Take Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns because he claims they’re being audited. Yet when Cohen, acting in his capacity as Trump’s legal counsel, asked to see the audit request, Trump refused to give him anything. That led Cohen to say he doubts Trump’s tax returns are actually being audited and the real reason Trump refuses to release them is because they would be pored over by tax experts and then get audited.

Considering Cohen also said Trump routinely undervalued his assets when it came to taxation, but inflated those same assets when it came to applying for loans, one might credibly believe that if Trump had nothing to hide, he would have released his returns long ago as all recent presidents have.

Or how about Cohen’s testimony that he briefed Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump “10 times” about Trump’s attempts to build a hotel in Russia — a claim that both Ivanka and Junior refuted earlier? Given that the U.S. intelligence agencies already affirmed Russian interference in the 2016 elections to favor Trump’s candidacy, one may have thought our congressional delegates would be interested in whether or not we have a Russian puppet in the White House.

And then there’s Trump’s blatant overriding of thos intelligence agencies to insist that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, receive top-secret security clearance when his foreign financial involvements would have precluded such approval. Ivanka, Jared and Trump denied it, but these are incredibly serious issues, made more so by the fact that Kushner is now being sent on “missions” to represent our nation in discussions with foreign powers, such as Saudi Arabia, to whom he may have obligations.

So what did Daines have to say? “He believes it’s important to prioritize Montana over a sensationalized hearing meant to produce soundbites.” Apparently Daines doesn’t think Montanans might be interested in the rampant corruption in the highest office in our nation. Gianforte, meanwhile, was “voting to protect law-abiding gun owners” — and too busy to listen to compelling testimony about the least law-abiding president in American history.

Putting political party — and protection of a corrupt president — over the good of the nation is inexcusable. As Cohen warned Congressional Republicans: “The more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.” That’s sage advice — and a slap in the face to Daines and Gianforte, who abandoned their congressional duty in blind allegiance to a disgraced Republican president.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.