Now that James Comey has been fired as FBI director, how will the U.S. conduct a fair and accurate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links with President Donald Trump’s campaign?
U.S. congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are discussing options.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to be appointed.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has called for the creation of an independent commission. Justin Amash, a Republican leader of the House Freedom Caucus, said he is considering that option.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain has urged the formation of a select congressional committee.
Each of these alternatives may seem reasonable, but there are key differences between them. My research on more than 50 government investigations reveals that independent commissions, like the one Pelosi is advocating for, are more likely than regular or select congressional committees to achieve consensus about controversial events.
A congressional investigation into Russian activities and ties to Trump’s advisers is likely to be riven by partisan discord. An independent commission has greater potential to generate a widely agreed-upon understanding of Russian misbehavior.
At a time when Congress is sharply polarised along partisan lines, congressional investigations tend to become microcosms of that polarisation. This is all the more true when an investigation involves an issue about which the president is vulnerable to political embarrassment or attack.