We now know for a fact that the government of Russia and Vladimir Putin is blatantly interfering in this year’s presidential election, most notably by hacking into and strategically releasing the emails and computer files of Democratic organizations and campaign officials. There has been no equivalent targeting by Russia of Republican organizations or the Trump campaign.
It’s also easy to see why Putin would take such steps, given that he and Donald Trump share mutual interests.
While Hillary Clinton says that Russian attacks on hospitals and other civilian targets in Syria amount to war crimes that require international investigation and accountability, Trump expresses personal admiration for Putin. He has excused the Russian dictator’s seizure of Crimea, has said economic sanctions against Russia should be reconsidered, has tried to pretend that Putin’s quasi-invasion of Ukraine never took place and has suggested that if Russia invaded NATO allies such as Latvia and Lithuania, the United States under a President Trump might stand by and let it happen. And when words like that are uttered by a major party’s presidential candidate, they dramatically undermine the credibility of the mutual defense provision that is central to NATO’s mission.
Yet when asked in Sunday night’s debate about Russia’s actions, Trump didn’t condemn them; he feigned ignorance:
“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — [Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia.”
Yes, he does know something about Russia. The U.S. intelligence community has made it clear in its face-to-face classified briefings for both Trump and Clinton that the evidence of Russian interference is quite conclusive, so Trump’s claim to the contrary has outraged U.S. analysts. As a senior intelligence official told NBC News, “To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation…. both candidates have all the information they need to be crystal clear.”
In addition, in a statement two days before the debate, U.S. officials had formally and publicly accused “Russia’s senior-most officials” — i.e., Putin himself — of authorizing the effort to subvert our democracy:
“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” the statement said. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
It’s important to note that these conclusions are coming from our career intelligence professionals. Furthermore, Republican chairmen of intelligence committees in both the House and Senate have had access to the evidence and say that they fully accept the conclusion of Russian interference.
So when Trump publicly rejects the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and defends Russia’s innocence, despite being shown the evidence, he is basically welcoming the interference of a hostile foreign power in our affairs in order to further his own personal ambitions.
There’s a word for that.