The Mueller report paints a picture of a President who repeatedly engaged in actions that would keep the average person from getting a security clearance. He wanted to win, and he was fine with accepting Russia’s help.
Well, it’s not the first time Putin has interfered and it won’t be the last. All 2016 represented was the first time that a candidacy openly welcomed that interference.
What implications does this have going forward? A story in the New York Times answers that question.
In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.
President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.
Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
It’s not just that these issues are kept under his level, though. The administration is doing little as a whole, and in places is actually weakening protections. The story notes that John Bolton “eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator at the White House last year.” Yeah, because cybersecurity is pretty much a small threat, and getting smaller all the time, amirite? Also:
Ms. Nielsen grew so frustrated with White House reluctance to convene top-level officials to come up with a governmentwide strategy that she twice pulled together her own meetings of cabinet secretaries and agency heads. They included top Justice Department, F.B.I. and intelligence officials to chart a path forward, many of whom later periodically issued public warnings about indicators that Russia was both looking for new ways to interfere and experimenting with techniques in Ukraine and Europe.
One senior official described homeland security officials as adamant that the United States government needed to significantly step up its efforts to urge the American public and companies to block foreign influence campaigns. But the department was stymied by the White House’s refusal to discuss it, the official said.
Trump’s refusal to act on interference, and his positive weakening of protections against cyber interference, makes perfect sense — not from the perspective of national security, of course, but from the perspective of amoral hardball politics. If Trump welcomed Putin’s interference as a citizen candidate — and he did — why wouldn’t he again welcome it as the incumbent? And many of his superfans — including people at this very blog — will cheer him on. Yes, there are Republicans who are so happy that Trump won and Hillary lost, that they positively applaud Vladimir Putin’s actions interfering with the election. To quote one particularly cynical Trump superfan who posts here: “if it was Russian interference which provided the tipping point which kept Hillary Clinton a private citizen, we owe Vladimir Putin a debt of gratitude which can never be fully repaid.”
Anything to keep Trump in power (within reason, for now). Whatever it takes. It’s a hardball world, and as that same commenter says: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” (He thinks this sentiment is OK, apparently, because Joe Montana said it about the Patriots.)
After all, if we don’t cheat, lie, accept the help of murderous dictators with alacrity and glee, and break the law, then we won’t get to keep appointing judges who will help us, um, maintain the rule of law.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]