Reporters are increasingly sounding the alarm on Russia’s likely attacks on America’s next elections — and there’s little likelihood that President Donald Trump will try to stop them.
As Paul Waldman wrote in The Washington Post Tuesday, Russia’s electoral interference “was hard enough to resist when the executive branch wanted to resist” it. With Trump in office and likely to feel “more politically threatened by upcoming elections and Robert S. Mueller’s investigation,” there’s no telling how bad it could get.
Waldman, a senior writer at The American Prospect, cited a Christmas Day report from the Post about successful Kremlin operations to infiltrate left-wing news sites. The article details how a suspected Kremlin operative under FBI surveillance managed to get published in sites like CounterPunch under the pseudonym “Alice Donovan” — all while American intelligence experts fumbled to figure out their true objectives.
“U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions,” the report read. “Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back.”
Waldman noted that experts in the intelligence community admit that Russia’s media interference didn’t end after November 8, 2016, and that “most experts believe Vladimir Putin’s motives are more complex than that, and involve sowing discord and confusion that destabilizes our system.”
If and when American intelligence agencies conclude that Russia is once again attempting to meddle in our elections, the danger lies in how Trump will respond. Given reports that claim Trump “views any and all questions about Russian meddling as nothing more than an effort to delegitimize his glorious 2016 victory,” Waldman concludes that the president will respond any differently than he has in the past to such alarms.
He goes on to outline what may happen: Trump will call the intelligence community’s investigations “fake news” and try to discredit the FBI and other organizations (as he did this morning and has for months). Right-wing media will then parrot his discrediting and “attack the analysts and agencies warning of the Russian efforts.” Finally, GOP members of Congress may try to “launch their own investigation of the investigation.”
As Waldman notes, this scenario isn’t just conjecture — it’s happening now as Trump, right-wing media and congressional Republicans have raised their voices to decry the “deep state” conspiracy against the president within the intelligence world.