To describe the ongoing story of the Russian attack on our election as “complicated” vastly understates its working parts. Since July 2016, when the linkage was first established between the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee servers and a Kremlin-connected hacker collective, there have been hundreds of bombshell news items describing the extent of what happened. In some cases, we have seen multiple stories dropping in a single day.
This article was originally published at Salon
It’s understandable, then, that some observers might forget various details of how everything transpired, both before and after Election Day. One of those observers happens to be President Donald Trump, though his personal blind spot also involves deliberately misleading his Red Hat disciples about everything that went down.
As Jacki Schechner from the bipartisan InvestigateRussia.org said on the Stephanie Miller Show recently, Trump doesn’t have a narrative of innocence. He doesn’t have a legitimate explanation for what really happened. His only defense at this point appears to be that the whole thing was a hoax, with the intelligence community acting in unison with the Democrats and “Crooked Hillary” to undermine Trump’s campaign, an assertion completely without evidence or serious reportorial corroboration.
Never does Trump explain why there were countless previously-undisclosed meetings with Russian operatives. He hasn’t explained why he lied throughout the campaign, telling his cult followers that he had no business in Russia when, in fact, we have evidence of Trump and his kids talking about a potential Trump Tower Moscow -- a deal that was in the works at the same time he was running for president.
His only narrative of innocence is that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a posse of Kremlin-linked Russians to apparently discuss “adoptions.” That cooked-up explanation is leading to possible obstruction of justice charges against Trump, who surely knew that it wasn’t a meeting about adoption policy -- Trump Jr.’s publicly-released emails with Rob Goldstone make that much clear. The president hasn’t explained why millions in Russian cash was funneled to his campaign via the National Rifle Association. By the way, the Republican-controlledSenate Judiciary Committee confirmed the connection between the NRA, Russia and Trump. Dozens of similar connections have gone unexplained by Trump.
There’s one thing Trump seems to know for sure: President Obama didn’t do anything to stop the attack (which Trump incongruously calls a hoax). Over the weekend, Trump resurrected this line of attack:
The first thing Trump and his fanboys deliberately flushed down the memory hole is that Obama went public with the news of the attack before Election Day, even though the story initially broke in July 2016 but hadn’t been officially confirmed. Of course, many of us might not remember that Obama, along with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, told us about the Russian attack on Oct. 7, 2016, because it was the same day the "Access Hollywood" tape was dropped in the press and the day in which WikiLeaks dumped John Podesta’s stolen emails, obliterating every news story that preceded it.
Regarding whether Obama acted or not, we learned later, after the election, that Obama’s national security team had devised a series of retaliatory measures, including further sanctions and the planned deployment of digital “bombs” planted inside Russia to be detonated if the attack worsened. Obama also booted the Russians from a pair of “spy nest” compounds in New York and Maryland. Obama further pledged we would strike back “at a time and place of our choosing.”
The only thing Obama didn’t disclose prior to the election was the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia attacked us with the intention of helping Trump’s campaign. That said, Obama sought the cooperation of the congressional Republican leadership so that such a conclusion would be bipartisan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to go along with the president. It’s worth noting, though, that two weeks ago, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., officially corroborated the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s efforts were in support of Trump. It’s also worth noting that Burr has voted with Trump’s agenda at every opportunity -- in other words, Burr’s not a “Never Trumper,” which lends even more gravity to his committee’s conclusion.
Should Obama have done more? Sure. Given that we were under attack, though, I’d like to think other undisclosed tactics were taken -- covert strikes that we will likely never know about. Or perhaps the publicly disclosed retaliatory plan was everything. Either way, we know that Obama devised and executed a counterattack, which Trump has grossly neglected in the face of Russian aggression, all apparently in order to convince Vladimir Putin to allow Trump’s tacky Trump Tower Moscow to be built. (Trump continues to profiteer off the presidency and American taxpayers.)
The gigantic orange elephant in the room, therefore, is why Trump hasn’t done anything himself to stop Russia, knowing that Putin will likely continue his active measures to skew the midterms as well. Indeed, Trump continues to slow-walk additional sanctions while refusing even to verbally condemn Russia for its open hostilities against our discourse and our electoral process. Part of Trump’s motivation is obviously related to the fact that Russia helped Trump and the GOP last time: Why stop a good thing? The other, more treacherous, motivation has to do with Trump’s continued interest in derailing the investigation while maintaining his business ties to Russia.
Trump simply refuses to protect the nation, as well as the Constitution, against the Russian attack, while shamelessly and falsely attacking Obama for not doing anything -- even though Obama took significant and verifiable actions against Russia.
I’ve used the following extended metaphor before to describe how ludicrous this disconnect is, but it bears repeating. Imagine there’s a massive building on fire. Two fire companies are ordered to put out the blaze. One fire company shows up first but fails to put out the fire and is pulled from the scene. The second company shows up, but instead of battling the fire, it sits on the curb across the street denying the fire is even happening -- that the whole thing is a hoax inexplicably orchestrated by the first company. Later, the second company blames the first company for not doing anything about the fire, which it still claims never existed. That’s the insanity of this story. That’s the insanity of Donald Trump. That’s the collective delusion and ignorance of his base.
Sure, it’s easy to lose the details in the face of the vastness and complexities of this attack. Trump is weaponizing the memory hole and the firehose of news for his own benefit, exploiting the short attention spans of his people and, indeed, far too much of the voting public.