In the Russian war against American democracy, our so-called leader is AWOL.
It was sickening this weekend, in the wake of Robert Mueller’s meticulous depiction of Putin’s conspiracy, to witness Trump’s dereliction of duty. The oath of office requires that a president preserve, protect and defend us against enemies foreign and domestic. A real president, having read Mueller’s latest indictment document and having recognized the staggering scale of the ongoing Russian invasion, would be fighting back with every tool at his command. A real president would be reassuring us that every possible step will be taken to protect our elections in 2018 and beyond.
But instead, we get a fake president who won’t defend us. He’s pleading bone spurs again.
Confronted with the most damning detailed evidence thus far of Russia’s “active measures,” Trump communed with the voices in his head and tweet-attacked everyone and everything except Russia. He fumed at the FBI, CNN, Hillary, Democrats, Henry McMaster (his own national security advisor), Adam Schiff (“monster of no control”), Obama (natch), and Oprah. But not once did he even try to answer the most crucial question of our time:
We all know what the Russians did and what they still plan to do; so, as president, what are you gonna do about it?
Based on what we’ve seen, Trump has no desire to fulfill the oath and act in the national interest. He’s content to function as Putin’s western branch manager.
Trump didn’t need Mueller to tell him the truth. His own Director National Intelligence, Dan Coats, told the Senate last week: “Frankly, the United States is under attack…There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target.” His own CIA director, Mike Pompeo, said weeks ago that Russia “will be back” in 2018 with fresh attempts to help its chosen candidates. A real president would’ve already spoken to us from the Oval Office about this unprecedented threat to democracy. A real president would’ve already vowed to preserve, protect, and defend our voting systems in every possible way. A real president would be thinking about America.
But a fake president is only concerned about himself. At one point he tweeted, “Wasn’t I a great candidate?”
A fake president of titanic insecurity cares only about whether the Russian operation makes him look bad. And indeed it does. It makes him look like a stooge. As Mueller’s latest document makes clear, the Russian operation, birthed in 2014, kicked into overdrive in April 2016, right after Trump clinched the Republican nomination. That’s when the Russians began to spend serious money to boost Trump, with Russians masking as Trump supporters, with fake Trump activists working “to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote” for “Killary,” with fraudulent bank accounts o mask the spending. (It’s irrelevant whether the Russian campaign threw the election to Trump. Watergate didn’t change the ’72 election outcome – Nixon won in a landslide – but Watergate was still a smorgasbord of federal crimes.)
With respect to 2016, what’s done is done. What matters now is whether Trump plans to fight a Russian reprise. There is no evidence that he does. No steps to harden the voting systems. No interest in implementing the sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly passed last summer (the House vote was 419 to 3). Trump would likely tweet a new attack on Rosie O’Donnell before he’d dare to ding Putin.
Heather Conley, a State Department official under George W. Bush, who testified on Capitol Hill last week about ongoing Russian interference, said: “The U.S. government cannot mobilize an effective strategy without White House leadership and prioritization…There continues to be no policy message or response (from Trump), leaving our country unprotected and vulnerable.”
Trump’s tiresome mantra, which may or may not be accurate, is that there was “no collusion” between his ’16 campaign and the Russian operation. But he seems not to realize that every day he fails to confront the ongoing threat, every day that he resists taking countermeasures to guard our elections from future incursions, every day that he fails to lead as a real president should, he is colluding with the enemy.
Will Republicans ever rise up and call this coward to account?
If only their leaders would act as patriots and say something like this: “Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country – and never to tolerate their violation by others.”
So said Abraham Lincoln in 1838, decades before he took the oath as the first Republican. How tragically far the party has since fallen, having lashed itself to an appeaser who colludes by dint of inaction. Trump tried to claim, in a weekend tweet, that because of Mueller and the other investigators, “they are laughing their asses off in Moscow.” But it’s a cinch bet that they’re laughing at him, feting their good fortune of having the president of their dreams.