Mueller Report raises fundamental constitutional issues we must pursue

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, one of my most important duties is to protect the integrity of our democratic process. And the most important aspect of that process is the American people's right to freely elect their leaders. When a foreign adversary tries to influence the outcome of our elections, that is a very serious transgression that must be investigated and fully addressed.

The first volume of the so-called Mueller Report, released Thursday with significant "redactions" or blacking-out of certain paragraphs and pages, leaves no doubt as to the Russian government's efforts to influence the 2016 election. Here in Illinois, the Mueller Report confirmed that the Russians hacked into the Illinois Board of Elections in 2016 through its website and databases containing records on millions of registered voters in Illinois. Russian hackers searched sensitive information in the elections database such as Social Security numbers of registered Illinois voters.

While Special Counsel Mueller's final report did not establish that there was a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians for which to recommend prosecution, it catalogued a long list of contacts between campaign and administration officials with individuals known to be connected to Russian intelligence and the Kremlin.

I find it very troubling that these campaign officials pursued, invited or welcomed these foreign contacts rather than reporting them to the FBI or another law enforcement agency. One would hope that future candidates and their campaigns would respond very differently - putting the defense of our democracy ahead of partisan advantage.

One of my goals on the House Intelligence Committee will be to search for ways that we can prevent such foreign interference in the future through whatever law enforcement, technological or intelligence methods we can devise. At my and others' urging, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California, has invited Special Counsel Mueller to testify before the committee, so we can hear from him directly - without interpretation by others - so we can learn specifically of the threats to national security he uncovered.

The second volume of the Mueller Report focuses on whether the president or officials in his government sought to obstruct justice by interfering in or even attempting to end the Justice Department's investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 election. Here, despite the representations of both President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Mueller stated very clearly that the evidence does not exonerate the President. In fact, Mueller left it to Congress to pursue the evidence collected and catalogued in his report.

Attorney General Barr has announced that he will not pursue this evidence, but it is clear that Congress must. I know that some people believe that the investigation should end with the Special Counsel's report. But I believe his report has raised important questions that must be further explored. While some, including the president, would like to characterize this investigation as a partisan "witch-hunt," it's clearly been much more than that. It goes directly to the fundamental principles of our Constitution, which holds that our president is not a king or queen who rules without regard to the laws that form the foundation of our democracy.

Pursuing this evidence is critical to ensuring that our democratic elections are protected from foreign interference, and that Congress carries out its duty to check the power and conduct of the president.

As Americans debate next steps for Congress and the fate of the Trump presidency, the Mueller report makes one thing clear: In 2016, the Russian government attempted to interfere in our elections to help elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, divide our country, and to make Americans lose faith in their democracy. President Trump won the election, our nation is arguably more divided than ever before and Americans are losing trust in our public institutions. The Russians succeeded on all three counts, and all of us, regardless of party, must do everything in our power to prevent them and other foreign adversaries from further damaging the health of our republic and our institutions.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, represents the 8th Congressional District of Illinois.

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