It’s becoming more and more clear: President Trump has failed to defend the United States from attack on our electoral infrastructure by a hostile country.
There is ample evidence that Trump has known for some time that Russia cyber-attacked the United States in 2016 and knows that we are still under attack. His own national security officials have bolstered the damning evidence that is mounting against the president.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Trump has “a complete and proper understanding of what happened,” referring to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Pompeo continued, “I know — I briefed him on it for over a year,” when he headed the CIA.
In other words, this isn’t Watergate, where the issue was, what did the president know and when did he know it? Presidential knowledge of the Russian attack is not in dispute.
Trump knows the attacks are still going on. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has stated, “the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.” Coats identified Russia as the “most aggressive foreign actor.”
The president surely understands the serious nature of these attacks. Before Trump appointed national security adviser John Bolton, Bolton asserted that the Russian interference in the 2016 election “is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war.”
Trump hasn’t used the powers of his office to stop the attacks, for example, by issuing an ultimatum that Russia cease or face severe consequences. Instead, at the Helsinki summit he backed Russian President Vladimir Putin, contradicting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence officials and denying any election meddling.
After a political firestorm broke out in the United States, Trump said, “I now accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.” Trump then added in the same breath, “Could be other people. A lot of people out there.” The president’s waffling unmistakably signals that he will not hold Russia accountable, which will only encourage Putin to continue the attacks.
Despite blatantly ignoring his own intelligence officials, siding with Putin and dismissing the validity of Russia’s threat to American democracy, there has been remarkably little discussion of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense by abandoning his post in the face of attacks on the United States. The public apparently just isn’t shocked enough to angrily demand explanations and accountability from elected leaders — although they should be.
In another era, such as the Cold War, the reaction would have been different. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan would not have waffled in responding to interference by the Soviet Union in an American presidential election. Americans wouldn’t have accepted such a reaction if they did.
Whatever the explanation for our apathy, the country is under attack by Russia and the president of the United States evidently couldn’t care less.