On October 30, special counsel Robert Mueller announced charges against three of President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers, offering the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian sources to derail the campaign of Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. One of the three charged was Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who resigned in August of 2016 following a New York Times report citing ledgers that revealed undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russian party for Manafort’s work for them between 2007 and 2012.

The charges against Manafort, which he has pleaded not guilty to, also include money laundering of millions of dollars through overseas shell companies, using the money to finance personal expenditures such as cars, real estate and antique furniture. Potentially more damning for Trump’s administration is former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to the charge that he had lied to the FBI about his Russian contacts and his now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into the Russian intermediaries who used Papadopoulos as a way to gain influence with the campaign, offering dirt on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

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Mueller’s charges against Manafort and Papadopoulos, as well as Papadopoulos’ admission and relinquishing of emails related to the Trump campaign, cement the collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, who was willing and eager to accept the help offered by the Russians. The United States has reached the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election to tip the scales in favor of Trump through the release of a trove of embarrassing and politically damning emails related to the Clinton campaign.

Among threats by officials in the White House, led by former chief strategist Steve Bannon, to take a harder line against the Mueller investigation, including threats to cut his funding and insisting he limit the scope of his investigation to presumably exclude investigation of the president, the response of Republican officials has been abysmal at best.

Speaker of the House and Wisconsin native Paul Ryan said he hadn’t even read the indictments when questioned about how they will affect the administration’s agenda.

“It’s big news, but this is what you get from a special counsel. They’ve made an indictment,” Ryan said. “I really have nothing to add because I haven’t even read it, so I’m not going to speculate on something I haven’t even read.”

Trump, sticking with what he does best, took to Twitter to defend his White House, tweeting that “there is NO COLLUSION”, as allegations against Manafort extend prior to his involvement with the Trump campaign. Trump also attempted to refocus the attention to Clinton and the never-ending email scandal; “Crooked Hillary” and the Democrats are obviously more pressing an issue than, at this point, what is evidence of real Russian interference swaying the 2016 presidential election.

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It does not bode well for the future of this country and the democratic systems that are so enshrined in both legal documents and public understanding of American politics if the leaders of the nation respond in such a flippant manner to some of the most severe allegations of collusion in history. For a party that insists on upholding the sanctity of the democratic process through Voter Identification laws that are allegedly put in place to protect against voter fraud, lest Americans become disenchanted with voting in a corrupt system, but in actuality pad the vote in Republicans’ favor, the overwhelmingly blase attitude taken towards tangible evidence of mass disruption and muddling of an election is about as hypocritical as it gets.

Then again, maybe it shouldn’t surprise Wisconsinites that Ryan reacted this way to evidence of an election being tampered with, as the Republican gerrymandering of Wisconsin has ensured his victory and fast tracked his ascent to Speaker of the House. Regardless of Ryan’s personal gains from election distortion, his response to Mueller’s investigation and its findings is pitiful, and reiterates the party politics that run rampant in Washington D.C.

Ryan also made it a point to comment on the government’s commitment to pushing policy through in the wake of the indictments.

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“I really don’t have anything to add other than nothing is gonna derail what we’re doing in Congress because we’re working on solving people’s problems.”

While a government shutdown in the midst of an investigation into the legitimacy of the election that lifted the Republicans into the White House is a recipe for disaster, it is very problematic that the leaders of the party are refusing to address the potential consequences the investigation has on their ability to accomplish policy goals. Considering the lassitude and confusion with which Congress has responded to most any major legislation that Trump has wanted passed, it is unrealistic for Ryan to promise that Congress will make progress under the duress of an investigation into their party leaders.

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI has taken a more concrete stance on Mueller’s first indictments, but it’s a stance that will absolutely do more harm to the United States, and potentially to the Republican party, than good. Johnson called for the resignation of Mueller and claimed there is no need for a special counsel, as Congressional committees have been set up to investigate any Russian interference that occurred.

There absolutely is a need for a special counsel, as Congress is dominated by Republicans who remain tepid about insinuating their own party may not have won a fair and free election, and who undoubtedly would attempt to remain as far-removed from any investigation of Trump himself as possible. Additionally, if Trump and his associates are as innocent as Trump and the rest of the party maintain, Mueller shouldn’t find anything incriminating and the faster the special counsel is able to work through all of the evidence, the quicker the party can return to its policy agenda.

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The failure of Republicans like Johnson and Ryan to see the enormity of Mueller’s indictments and findings thus far raises concerns moving forward with both basic governing and with the investigation and its conclusions. How will Congress function with a president who could potentially be indicted in the very near future? Will a Trump indictment spur any Republican admission of collusion, or will leaders like Ryan remain detached and uninterested?

The answers to those questions will be revealed with time, and through the work of Mueller. Hopefully for the future of this country, the answers don’t push the government even further into a downward spiral of denial and impotence.

Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.