Unless dozens of presidential electors miraculously decide to vote their consciences, we will soon be stuck with the Kremlin’s pet. But on the upside (there’s an upside?!), some senators in both parties have finally (finally!) managed to bestir themselves to state publicly what has long been obvious – that Russia’s invasion of our election, on behalf of its chosen stooge, was a national security breach not previously suffered in our history.
Over the weekend, Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in part: “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American….We have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society…This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
Well, it’s a start. But the big question is how hard the Capitol Hill Republicans will push for the whole truth. What we know about Russia thumb-on-the-scale cybercoup (as confimed by The Washington Post’s blockbuster Friday story) has already put a black cloud over Trump’s head, and he’s not even in office yet. Most Republicans have no desire to undercut Trump further – he already has the lowest favorability rating of any incoming president in living memory – and, after all, their Faustian bargain is to turn a blind eye and let him do his thing, in return for having a free hand to shred the federal safety net.
Which is why House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office refused to say yesterday whether he would support any House oversight hearings – which is precisely the stance you would expect from a guy who has allowed his soul to be sucked out. And we learned Friday, from The Post’s story, that when senators were privately briefed by intelligence officials last September about Russia’s pro-Trump cyberinvasion, Republican leader Mitch McConnell mocked the intel and said that he’d fight any pre-election effort to inform the American people. (McConnell, a month later, had no problem with FBI chief James Comey’s unprecedented decision to inform the American people about the possibility – in the end, groundless – of Hillary Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.)
Anyway, here we are. Winter is coming. Republicans are prepared to put up with all kinds of appalling Trump behavior – like what Trump did this weekend, when he essentially defended the Kremlin by sliming the U.S. intelligence community. A senior U.S. official told The Post last week that, according to the “high confidence” of the intelligence community, “Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help get Trump elected. That’s the consensus view.” But yesterday, in the friendly Fox News confines, Trump (who skips most U.S. intelligence briefings), simply said: “I don’t believe it.” He even doubled down by signaling that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson – winner of the Kremlin’s “order of friendship” – could be his Secretary of State.
For six decades, Republicans prided themselves for being tough on Russia, for resisting any and all real or imagined Cold War incursions on our sovereign soil. How times have changed. Now they’re being led (and I use that word advisedly) by a novice (currently judged “well qualified” by a mere 37 percent of Americans) who is willing to surrender without even a rhetorical retalation. Vladmir Putin could not have designed a more perfect tool to further his longstanding goal of delegitimizing western democracies from within.
To many Americans (especially those who spend three minutes a year thinking about foreign policy), this sounds like a far-fetched plot from a James Bond movie. It most assuredly is not. I yield the floor to Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution:
Putin’s regime has been embarked for some years now on an opportunistic but sophisticated campaign to sabotage democracy and bend it toward his interests, not just in some marginal, fragile places but at the very core of the liberal democratic order, Europe and the United States (as evidenced by) a dedicated campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton and tilt the U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump. The army of Russian trolls started infiltrating U.S. media with conservative commentaries, playing up Clinton’s scandals and weaknesses, and widely diffusing other right-wing narratives against Clinton. The Russian government…hacked into the emails of the Democratic Party and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and passed them on to Wikileaks to dispense in a devastating drip-drip-drip of divisive and unflattering revelations…
We stand now at the most dangerous moment for liberal democracy since the end of World War II…The most urgent foreign policy question now is how American will respond to the mounting threat that Putin’s Russia poses to freedom and it most important anchor, the Western alliance.
We’ll see whether the Republican Congress is willing to conduct hearings and defend America. (Or they could reject Rex Tillerson, and leave it at that.) Since they were so stoked about doing dozens of hearings on Benghazi, they should at least do a few on the cybercoup – especially since the Russians are already spiking the ball in the end zone. That’s what one Russian governor, a member of Putin’s United Russia party, did the other day. Viktor Nazarov, declared in a radio interview: “It turns out that United Russia won the elections in America.”
Viktor got that right. What are we going to do about it?