Our national intelligence agencies unanimously agree on three critical things:
(1) Russia used cyber warfare to have an impact on our 2016 elections and perceives those efforts as successful;
(2) Russia is presently using cyber warfare to influence public opinion in our country; and
(3) Russia will continue to use cyber warfare including propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence our 2018 mid-term elections.
Despite the unanimity of agreement among our intelligence agencies on all of these points, our president - seemingly alone - refuses to acknowledge the past harm, the ongoing damage, and the future threat.
I can think of only one reason he so adamantly looks the other way. It is because he sees Russia's past and present interference as not harmful, but beneficial - beneficial to Trump. And, I believe, he welcomes Russia’s interference going forward because he sees that, too, as helpful to himself.
Assuming for the sake of argument that Trump was not in cahoots with Russia in 2016, it would seem he is now. Trump can have little doubt that Russia is in his corner. Russia is his ally, his protector, his defender. It champions his presidency and those who support him. Consider that just a few weeks ago Russian “bots” – automated accounts – heavily promoted the dubious Nunes memo on social media.
The president likes to use the word "reciprocity." Well, he has been most reciprocal with Russia. Why else would he refuse to implement sanctions on Russia, sanctions overwhelmingly passed by Congress? Why punish Russia when it did its job so well?
Time and time again we have seen that the president is only interested in his own political and financial well-being. Russia’s continued interference will help ensure that well-being, or at least his survival.
If the president can keep his majorities in the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms, he can prevent impeachment; he can stymie any serious congressional investigations; and he can systematically dismantle the institutional norms of the Department of Justice and FBI, possibly curtailing the special counsel’s investigation.
The Republicans in Congress, with precious few exceptions, have been completely unwilling to conduct credible, serious investigations into Russia’s meddling in 2016. To the contrary, GOP leadership and the likes of Devin Nunes have run defense for the White House, acting as Trump’s agents and not as members of a coequal and independent branch of government.
Incredibly, the president has not instructed our intelligence agencies to aggressively address this real and present Russian threat. He is not only “asleep at the wheel,” he's given Russia the keys to the car.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) explained that the president is making it more difficult to confront the issue of Russia's election meddling. He said that that many of his constituents tell him they think the whole thing is a witch hunt and a hoax because that’s what the president has been saying.
King did not mince words: "We cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, with a whole-of-government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists."
Russia has every incentive to keep this president in power, to see to it that he maintains impeachment proof majorities in Congress; and this president has every incentive to see to it that Russia succeeds.
All Trump needs to do is continue to look the other way and refuse to take concrete steps to prevent future meddling. Apparently, that's his idea of reciprocity.