Instead of enjoying Father’s Day with his youngest son, Donald Trump once again chose to spend a considerable amount of time watching TV and tweeting. In fact, he spent pretty much the entire weekend alternately railing against the Democrats and the media on the one hand and praising his remaining supporters on the other.
One person who recently received praise from the president was Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee: “Thank you Senator Marsha Blackburn for fighting obstructionist Democrats led by Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. Democrats continue to look for a do-over on the Mueller Report and will stop at nothing to distract the American people from the great accomplishments of the Administration!”
This Trump tweet does not truly reveal what Marsha Blackburn did during the most recent meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was to block a piece of legislation introduced by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.). Warner, the committee’s vice-chair, had asked members for unanimous consent to pass a bill called the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act (FIRE Act) which would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign election interference to the FBI and the FEC.
Blackburn justified her objection by claiming that the bill’s reporting requirements were “overbroad” and would affect campaigns at every level: “Consider this: vendors that work for a campaign, people that are supplying some kind of voter service to a campaign. … It would apply to door knockers, it would apply to phone bankers, down to any person who shares their views with a candidate.” This, of course, is a spurious argument, since hostile foreign governments rarely attempt to do their election meddling by approaching vendors and door knockers.
Responding to the Senator’s blocking of what should be a non-partisan piece of legislation, a livid Chuck Schumer stated: “How disgraceful it is that our Republican friends cower before this president when they know that the things he does severely damage democracy.” After all, the fear of corruption of the state through foreign interference goes back all the way to the beginning of the American nation.
In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton characterized “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils” as one of “the most deadly adversaries of republican government.” Why then would a United States Senator object to a measure designed to reduce this threat?
Perhaps an answer to this question can be found in two articles published last summer which point to a connection between Senator Blackburn and a lawyer who was involved in Russia’s efforts to establish ties with the National Rifle Association in 2011. In a ThinkProgress article entitled “Lawyer linking NRA and Russia helped lead Marsha Blackburn campaign”, Casey Michel traces the long history the Tennessee senator has with G. Kline Preston IV who also introduced then-NRA President David Keene to Alexander Torshin, the now-sanctioned Russian official suspected of having been the handler of Maria Butina.
In the same vein, an article by Pam Sohn that appeared in the Times Free Press on July 30th, 2018 links Senator Blackburn’s longtime friend Preston to the NRA’s scandal involving Maria Butina, Russian money and election meddling. The article also points out that Blackburn received substantial donations from the National Rifle Association during her senatorial campaign. Maybe Marsha Blackburn is simply carrying water for the president; maybe she showed her true colors in the Senate last week – and they are beginning to look suspiciously like the Russian flag.