This is not a distraction. This is about whether or not we still care for the rule of law.

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Among left-of-center folks, an interesting debate has been playing out online. Two major issues dominating our national politics, health care reform and the Russia investigation, have been framed as mutually exclusive of our attention. This is, to put it mildly, stupid.

Consider Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who tweeted Tuesday that the first three priorities for the country should be the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, namely with the Republican monstrosity that is the Better Care Reconciliation Act (better known as “Trumpcare”). The bill could decimate Medicaid in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and kick more than 20 million people off their health insurance. Those still with it would be possibly subjected to reductions in the quality of their insurance, depending upon the malevolence of their state’s governor.

It’s an awful plan, and one that should outrage all Americans. If it passes, thousands will die.

Murphy said that only as a fourth priority should the American people focus upon the ongoing legal investigations into the Trump administration, namely those involving Russia. Of course, the issues need not be in competition with one another.

In the past few days, The New York Times has reported that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest and eponymous son, held a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to discuss possible dirt the lawyer had on Hillary Clinton. The Times also reported an email that showed Trump Jr. was apprised that of the lawyer’s connection to the Russian government and the same’s insistence upon helping his father. Trump Jr. was enthusiastic! Suffice it to say, this is a pretty big deal.

The revelations come on top of the ongoing special prosecutor’s investigation, led by Robert Mueller, into Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and so many others. Collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice, perjury, money laundering and violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause are all on the table. Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Clinton’s running mate, even raised the specter of “treason.”

While President Franklin Roosevelt wanting to make medical care a constitutional right, the proposal of Trumpcare is not illegal, despite it grotesqueness. Collusion, obstruction of justice and the like are illegal. If Trump and his acolytes are able to skirt the rule of the law in this country, what does that say about us as a nation? What are the consequences of such a degradation of society?

When President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre, a scenario Trump may very well repeat with Mueller, Cox had choice words for the television cameras.

“Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people,” Cox said at the time.

The American people are called again anew to answer that question. The mid 1970s surely had their share of seminal, culture-deciding issues of political import. Watergate was a distraction from none. The conduct alleged this time around is worse.

Watergate involved a botched attempt to steal documents from the Democratic National Committee. This scandal involves a successful scheme to do the same, though this time over the Internet. The leaked information arguably affected the result of the election. And most shamefully, the modern-day G. Gordon Liddy is the Kremlin. The question of our time, among others, is whether or not Donald Trump and his campaign collaborated and colluded with the Kremlin to steal from the DNC and to taint an American election.

Such conduct, if occurred, is illegal. And so long as we are a government of laws, it is an affront to everything and anything that we hold dear if it is not zealously, fully and fairly investigated and prosecuted.  

To say we need to focus on Trumpcare to the detriment of this scandal is a dishonest false choice. It is absolutely possible--and important--to care about two things at once. Though people like Murphy do have a point that the press needs to devote more attention to the former issue, it needn’t be done to the detriment of this scandal.

This is not palace intrigue. This is not a distraction. This is about the rule of law and dignity of our system of government.

Horwitz is a second-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist.