The facts are closing in — just as surely as the walls of that “Star Wars” trash compactor — on President-elect Donald Trump and his cultlike followers who take the side of Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange against the U.S. intelligence community. Trump is increasingly isolated in Washington in his refusal to acknowledge conclusive evidence that Russia used cyberwarfare techniques in an attempt to interfere with our election. While some Republicans contort themselves to avoid criticizing Trump, no member of the Senate Armed Services Committee took issue with the basic facts: Russian is a major cyberwarfare combatant that hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s and John Podesta’s computers with the purpose of undermining our democracy.
CNN and other news outlets are reporting that “US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.” And if all that was not enough, The Post reports:
Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.
The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.
Trump supporters — at least those who do not deny any facts inconsistent with their idolatry — should find this humiliating. “Putin’s poodle wins presidency” would be an apt description of the 2016 election.
By continuing to deny ascertainable facts and tweet incredulous questions about the investigation, Trump only proves that Russian officials knew what they were doing: One can see why he was their favored presidential pick. He tweeted: “How did NBC get “an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?” Who gave them this report and why? Politics!” He continued: “The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia. … So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?”
Well, certainly Trump does not understand what is going on, which raises the question as to whether his national security adviser and fellow Russia fan, Mike Flynn, is part of the problem or merely unable to extract Trump from the web of Russian propaganda that Trump swallows whole.
We can hardly be surprised that former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr. announced that he is leaving the Trump team because he “didn’t want to fly under false colors.” In short, he really isn’t getting to advise Trump, but Trump has gotten to use Woolsey’s name to shore up his own weakening credibility. No more. If this is “The Trump-Flynn Show,” they’ll have to defend themselves.
Also on Thursday, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey (who previously warned against ex-generals’ involvement in politics) tweeted: “Intelligence is hard, thankless work. Fortunately, we have dedicated, patriotic, and courageous men and women on the job.” That’s an obvious rebuke to Trump.
Intelligence officials will brief Trump today on their findings. They unanimously — along with Congress, former intelligence officials and most every sentient observer — can see what Russia did and realize that Trump chooses to side (based on no facts of his own) with a foe of the United States who has launched cyberattacks on our democracy. Trump, a few advisers and the Fox Non-News evening lineup are about the only ones who do not understand — or pretend not to understand — “what is going on.”
Today, Trump has one more, maybe his last, chance to drop his Russia sycophancy and avoid the uniform repudiation of Congress and career intelligence and military figures. (Congress will almost certainly pass sanctions by a veto-proof majority.) If Trump does not wake up, President Obama might well lower the boom, declassifying the report on Russian hacking. Additional former high officials then could step forward to repudiate Trump’s nonsensical pronouncements and explain that his refusal to grasp reality will make it impossible for him to be a successful commander in chief.
It is no exaggeration to say that if all this occurs (either because Trump’s ego does not let him back down or because he really is under Putin’s sway), he will be hobbled before his term begins. Moreover, nominees in their upcoming confirmation hearings will face the unpalatable choice between repudiating their boss’s nonsense or facing Senate rejection. We could hardly imagine a worse beginning for any president.