It’s Time For An Independent Investigation: In Washington And In Houston

It’s Time For An Independent Investigation: In Washington And In Houston


Leonard Zwelling

Despite President Trump’s multiple attempts to change the subject, Washington is fixated on determining the extent to which the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in trying to undermine the Clinton team during the race for the White House.

Did anyone on Trump’s team work with the people who hacked into the computers at the Democratic National Committee?

Were members of the Trump election team working simultaneously as agents for foreign governments? It seems like Michael “Give Me Immunity” Flynn surely was.

Since the American intelligence community has verified the Russian interference and the preference of the Russians for a Trump win, how can we ever be sure that the Trump team wasn’t colluding with a sworn enemy of the United States to gain purchase in the quest for the White House?

And what about after the Trumpees won? Did they try to undermine the sanctions that President Obama placed on the Russians? Did Trump assure Putin that once he was President of the United States, the sanctions would drift away? If the Trump team colluded, were members of that team committing high treason?

And, of course, God bless Howard Baker—“what did the president-elect, now president, know and when did he know it?”

Congress, in the form of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees is supposedly investigating. But the fact that House Committee chair Devin Nunes reported information that he uniquely had obtained from intelligence sources at the White House, to the very people in the White House being investigated prior to reporting it to his own committee and ranking member, suggests that the House Committee will not be able to ever gain the trust of the public in this matter. Senators Burr and Warner continue their efforts on the Senate side, but it is getting to be high time for an independent group of people who are beyond reproach (thus not members of Congress) to look into the matter of the Russian interference with the 2016 election and any collusion between those Russians and the Trump campaign.

This is getting to look a lot like Watergate to me. Let’s bring in an independent investigator with sterling credentials to assess how the Russians got into our systems, whether or not they had any help, and how to make sure this never happens again.

And on the subject of making sure bad mistakes are not repeated, I believe that an independent investigator, free of any attachment to the UT System or MD Anderson needs to look into what happened that led to the resignation of the fourth president of MD Anderson after less than six years of service.

Here are the questions that remain unanswered that an independent panel could investigate:

1. Why did those selecting the president back in 2011 (presumably the Board of Regents and the Executive Vice Chancellor) light on Ron DePinho as their only finalist? What was the attraction? Was a thorough search really done? What about vetting? Did anyone talk to anyone else in Boston? What was DePinho charged with accomplishing?
2. Who was responsible for overseeing the ambitious (and expensive) Moon Shot program and the productivity of the IACS and Watson projects?
3. Why were so many prominent faculty members fired from leadership roles and why were they replaced by individuals without comparable cv’s or academic accomplishments?
4. Why did it take so long to replace Dr. DePinho after his effectiveness was clearly non-existent? Did the Board of Visitors slow this process displaying the vulnerability of the MD Anderson system to having no meaningful board leadership or external oversight?
5. What factors have been put into place to make sure such a severe mistake in naming leadership does not recur?
6. Who is responsible for monitoring the integrity of the MD Anderson leadership team as well as its adherence to the institution’s core values?
7. And who is to blame for that golden parachute Ron got after resigning?

It is time for solid answers to these questions and none of the MD Anderson or UT leadership in Houston or Austin is capable of assessing their own failings any more than is the Congress in Washington.

There’s a reason we have independent investigators, committees and investigations. These two instances both scream for independent bodies to assess what happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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