Donald Trump Has Been Incredibly Weak on Russia

President Trump and President Putin shake hands as they meet for the first time at the G20 Summit. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Let’s be clear. According to the CIA, FBI, and NSA, Russia meddled in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Nevertheless, the President of the United States will not say unequivocally that Russia meddled. In fact, he continues to cast doubt upon the findings of the entire United States Intelligence community. While on an overseas trip in Poland, the President said he thinks Russia interfered in the 2016 election, however he also said, “it could have been other people in other countries”, “no one really knows for sure”, and “I think a lot of people interfere.” Nevertheless, over and over again, the United States intelligence community has stated definitively that Russia is to blame:

In January of 2017, the United States intelligence community released a detailed report which explained Russia’s interference in the election. The report states:

“Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

You can view the full declassified report here.

In May of 2017 Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo whether or not he was sure Russia was behind the 2016 election meddling. Clapper exclaimed, “absolutely”. When interviewed by CNN’s Jim Sciutto in July of 2017, Clapper said, “We saw no evidence whatsoever that it was anyone involved in this other than the Russians.”

In May of 2017, Former CIA Director John Brennan testified in front of the House Intelligence Community. He sated that Russia, “brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process.”

On June 8, 2017, at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Republican Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) asked Former FBI Director James Comey a series of questions regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. The following is an excerpt from a Washington Post article by Ed O’Keefe detailing the exchange:

“When Burr asked if Comey had ‘any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere’ in last year’s elections, Comey replied: ‘None.’

‘Do you have any doubt that the Russian government was behind the intrusions’ of email accounts at the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, Comey said, ‘No, no doubt.’

Audible murmurs could be heard across the room.

When Burr asked whether Comey doubted that the Russian government was behind attempted cyber intrusions into voter databases, the former director said, ‘No.’

He added under questioning that he had ‘no doubt’ that Russian government officials were aware of the attempts to meddle in the elections.”

As you can see, there is no doubt among US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled. This leads to several questions. Why doesn’t Donald Trump believe these reports from the FBI, CIA, and NSA? Why hasn’t Trump taken strong action to reprimand Russia? Why is it that President Trump seems more concerned with CNN than he does with getting to the bottom of an attack on America’s election process?

Reportedly, President Trump spoke with President Putin about Russia’s interference in the election at the G20 Summit, a meeting of world leaders. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Trump “pressed” Putin on Russia’s meddling. However, as Aaron Blake of The Washington Post points out, based on Tillerson’s own account, it does not appear as though Trump “pressed very hard” because Tillerson also said, “I think what the two presidents — I think rightly — focused on is how we move forward.” He went on to say, “I think the president is rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point”. Tillerson also said, “there was not a lot of re-litigating from the past.” If Trump truly “pressed” Putin, how could there not a lot of “re-litigating” of what transpired during the election and how can the countries “move forward” without getting over such an “intractable disagreement?”

Furthermore, there was a lot of confusion regarding what actually happened in that meeting between Putin and Trump. President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov say Trump accepted Putin’s claim that Russia had nothing to do with the election meddling which took place. If this is true, why in the world would President Trump trust Putin more than his own intelligence community? Some U.S. officials denied the Russian account of what happened. However, Major Garett, White House correspondent for CBS News says that while on Air Force One, Steve Mnuchin (Trump’s Treasury Secretary) and General H.R. McMaster (Trump’s National Security Adviser) would not deny President Trump “accepted” (as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said) Putin’s denial of interference in the 2016 US election process.

Ultimately, all of this comes down to one simple conclusion. Donald Trump has responded to Russia’s interference in an incredibly weak way. No new sanctions against Russia have been announced under the Trump administration. Additionally, the Washington Post reported in May that, “The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from (by the Obama administration) in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Moreover, while Trump has announced a commission to examine voter fraud (a largely non-existent phenomenon), the current administration has not announced any such commission to examine Russia’s involvement in our election or our country’s susceptibility to another cyber attack, although Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation continues against the wishes of President Trump. In fact, I’m not aware of any action the President has taken to prevent such meddling from occurring again except for this: On July 9, 2017, Trump tweeted that at he and Putin discussed working together to create a cyber security unit to prevent election hacking. This makes absolutely no sense. Why would the United States partner with Russia, a foreign adversary which inflicted a cyber attack on its elections process, on a “cyber security unit?” Moreover, Trump has spent more time criticizing the US intelligence community than he has criticizing Russia. He seems to trust the Russians more than he does the United States intelligence organizations. That just doesn’t make any sense.

President Trump could learn a thing or two from France’s newly elected leader, Emanuel Macron. Russia meddled in France’s election process too. However, Macron responded strongly. He spoke directly to Putin’s face, scolding him for the Russian media’s propaganda campaign. He sent a clear and powerful message to Vladimir Putin. I want a President who responds with strength and conviction when America is attacked. Donald Trump’s response has been terribly weak and unacceptable.

A foreign adversary interfered in our elections with the intention of causing chaos, confusion, and division amongst Americans. It appears Russia’s attempt was wildly successful. Nevertheless, the President, the leader of this nation, does not seem very concerned.

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