Commentary: An open letter to Rep. Chris Stewart, who never responds but expects campaign contributions anyway

Dear Rep. Stewart:

You’re my congressman. I’ve written you more than once, but I never receive a response.

I recently received your Feb. 2 email which announced, “BREAKING: House Intel Committee Releases Memo.” This “breaking news” message about the Nunes Memo was issued on your campaign letterhead and, at the end, you wrote, “David, we cannot let Democrats undermine the importance of this memo. Stand with me to uphold the Constitution and conservative values in 2018.” This line was linked to your solicitation for a campaign contribution.

Whoa! I’m puzzled. First, by immediately turning your chairman’s memo into a campaign fundraising tool, youundermined its significance by showing it to be a two-bit political stunt. The Steele dossier had its actual genesis and initial funding not in the Clinton campaign, but in opposition research undertaken by a Republican “Never-Trumper” in 2015. Steele has not said, publicly, whether that individual was connected to one of Trump’s GOP primary opponents. It’s curious that you were not more interested in Steele’s British intelligence chops and the reliability of his sources – which is why he was of interest to the CIA and FBI.

Second, as a retired military officer still (technically) subject to recall, I took the same oath you did to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It’s a presumptuous stretch to suggest that the depth of my commitment to that oath requires giving money to your re-election campaign.

Third, you really lost me over the “conservative values” I must stand by. I’m still spinning from your metamorphosis from “Trump is our Mussolini” to “[Trump] has really won my respect; he has had an incredibly effective first year.” Who benefits from his and your one-sided and concerted efforts to undermine America’s premier investigative and intelligence agencies? Who benefits from trying to derail an independent inquiry into the extent of foreign meddling and interference in the election process of the United States? Who benefits from a president who has spent half his time in office golfing or on vacation? Who benefits from a president who considers the failure to applaud him as treason? Since when are these “conservative values”?

Here’s an idea: Perhaps you could suggest that the House Intelligence Committee take a look at some honest-to-gosh threats to our national security that are part of our Dear Leader’s “incredibly effective first year.” How about looking into credible news reports that the National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs, Matthew Pottinger, said in a recent closed-door meeting that “a limited strike on North Korea might help in the midterm elections”?

Maybe note that the Chinese have devoted considerable (and successful) efforts to understanding how Trump can be played to their advantage? There’s a particularly informative report by Evan Osnos in the Jan. 8 issue of The New Yorker, “Making China Great Again,” and it’s all unclassified. At the Mar-a-Lago meeting last April with Xi Jinping, Osnos reports that on some of China’s most sensitive issues, “Trump did not know enough to push back.” Afterwards, a Beijing think tank published an analysis of the Trump administration, describing it as “a den of warring cliques. The Trump clan appears to directly influence final decisions on business and diplomacy in a way that has rarely been seen in the political history of the United States — ‘jiatianxia’ — to treat the state as your possession.”

Osnos continues, “The 2018 Trump budget proposes to cut scientific research by fifteen per cent ($11.1 billion). That includes a ten percent decrease in the National Science Foundation’s spending on ‘intelligent systems.’ Reductions in the funding of basic science research will help China overtake the U.S. in artificial intelligence within a decade.”

This week is the 15th anniversary of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations to sell a pre-emptive war with Iraq. You might want to invite Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson (Secretary Powell’s Chief of Staff) to explain the disquieting parallels between the falsification of “ironclad evidence” leading to the invasion of Iraq with the “undeniable evidence” cited by Ambassador Haley in her recent denunciation of Iran for “noncompliance with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen.” Is Iran an instance of history about to repeat itself?

If the president can’t or won’t do his job, you really need to do yours.

This op-ed by David Irvine originally appeared as a commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune here.  Mr. Irvine is a Salt Lake City attorney, a retired Army intelligence officer and a board member for Alliance for a Better Utah.

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