20180312 Richard Burr gso (copy)

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., arrives at Wake Forest University in March 2018 to sign his political papers over to his alma mater ’s archives. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report suggests Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared the status of FBI’s Russia probe.

At least now we know what not to expect.

The Mueller report makes it clear that Sen. Richard Burr, unless he undergoes a major transformation, is not going to step up and do what is right .

He’s going to be a disappointing lackey for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, not a wise elder statesman.

When Burr, who makes his home in Winston-Salem, was running for his third term in the Senate back in 2016, he assured North Carolina voters that he would be independent-minded, that he would put the best interests of the state and the country foremost, ahead of partisan considerations.

Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, found himself in a critically important position as the investigation began into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and help get Trump elected.

For a time, it looked as though Burr might take this responsibility seriously, that he was working in good faith with the vice chair, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, to uncover the truth about this attack on the heart of our democratic process.

But now we learn, on page 52 of Volume 2 of the Mueller report, that Burr, after being briefed by James Comey, then the FBI director, talked with the White House counsel’s office and apparently leaked information about the Russia investigation.

This was at a time when Trump was reported to be “in panic/chaos” about the probe and was scrambling to figure out his strategy.

Burr seems to have forgotten not only his campaign promises to North Carolina voters, but, even more important, his constitutional role.

Whatever happened to the separation of powers, and to the checks and balances that are supposed to keep our government functioning honestly?

Burr’s role was to protect the Constitution and the integrity of the country’s democratic process and institutions. Loyalty to the country and all its citizens is supposed to come before blind loyalty to a political party or a president.

After all, if a powerful committee chairman in the U.S. Senate, a top leader in what’s supposed to be one of the three equal branches of government, won’t try to hold the leader of the executive branch accountable, who’s going to?

It makes you wonder what would have happened in the bad old days of Richard Nixon if some senators had not decided to step up.

What if Howard Baker, a Republican who was the ranking minority member of the Senate Watergate Committee back in the 1970s, hadn’t been brave enough to ask, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Burr, who has said he won’t run again, is in a perfect position to do the right thing.

Instead, he did exactly the wrong thing.

And now that he’s being called to account, he says he “does not recall” the communication with the White House.

Really? He’d do well to clear his memory and offer an explanation for his apparent behavior, if he has one.

Burr’s leaking information to the White House about the Russia investigation is troubling and completely inappropriate. He’s being compared to Rep. Devin Nunes of California, former head of the House Intelligence Committee who has repeatedly tried to shield Trump from investigations into Russian interference in the election.

North Carolina deserves better than this.

The nation needs better leaders than this.

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