Astonishing. Donald Trump’s admiration for Vladimir Putin is well established, as is his unwillingness to acknowledge the conclusion of every single one of our intelligence agencies as well as the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee: that the Russians, with Putin’s blessing, conspired to interfere in the 2016 election campaign on Trump’s behalf. We know that the Republican National Committee changed its stance to be softer on Russia regarding its invasion of Crimea, a reversal that came about at the urging of the Trump campaign.
We know that the president’s son, son in law(and senior advisor), and his campaign chairman all met a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June of 2016 because they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Don Jr. was explicitly told it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” and he accepted the meeting with no hesitation.
But still, for an American president to stand shoulder to shoulder with the ex-KGB leader of the Russian Federation, and refuse to believe his own country’s intelligence agencies because Putin denies any knowledge of election interference is appalling. When asked a direct question about who he believes, Trump said he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be behind the interference.
What are the effects of this utter surrender to an authoritarian regime? Clearly, the Russians will continue this active measures campaign in 2018, 2020, and beyond unless they are held to account. It has cost them so little, and they have gained so much that they desired: the destabilization of NATO, discord in the EU, and the most powerful man in the world cannot bring himself to say one thing about them that might be construed as antagonistic. What of the men and women in our military and intelligence agencies, who work every day to protect the US from attacks both cyber and conventional? What must they think of a president who is more than willing to talk tough when it comes to young immigrant children fleeing violence in Central America, but can’t stand up to an actual autocrat who has ordered the murder of his political enemies?
What must they feel? Ashamed? Disheartened? We must hope that above all else they feel a cold determination that, although they be leaderless at the top, truth, justice, and perseverance will see us all through this nightmare.
Republicans have issued some of the strongest condemnations of the president today. It is time for them to stop talking and start acting. They hold majorities in the House, the Senate, and for all intents and purposes, on the Supreme court. They hold the power, and they alone have the power right now to block Trump’s appointees, block his legislative agenda, and hold the executive branch accountable for its actions. Email, call, show up to your Republican congressman’s office, demand action.