U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the latest top official to sound the alarm that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but there’s no sign that Donald Trump is listening yet.
The president’s silence has some experts worried that Trump and his administration aren’t taking the threat from Russia to this year’s elections, with Republican control of Congress at stake, seriously enough. . . . The lack of top White House leadership means companies like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., as well as lower-level officials in the administration and state governments, are on the front lines of trying to ensure that Russia has a harder time interfering in the November 2018 midterm elections.
Even when they are approached by state officials for help, Trump administration officials seems uninterested in acting. The president surely is. There has been no reported directive from him, no interagency plan to get on top of the issue.
The lack of concern — the refusal to defend our country — is not going unnoticed among Democrats. The Democratic National Committee blasted out an email today, which read, in part:
In the four days since we learned chilling details about the full scale of Russia’s attack on our democracy, Donald Trump has issued a stream of unhinged and dishonest tweets attacking everyone and everything from Oprah [Winfrey] to Pennsylvania’s redistricting map. What he hasn’t done is condemn the Kremlin’s attack on our democracy or vow to defend our elections against future attacks. … This is a president who has taken [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s side over his own intelligence agencies, consistently puts his own interests ahead of U.S. national security and is all but inviting Russia to attack us again by refusing to implement sanctions designed to deter future assaults on our elections. It’s hard to imagine that Russia could have gotten a better return on its substantial investment in Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Republicans should be worried about the developing impression that President Trump does not care to defend the country, or worse, knows that the Kremlin would weigh in on his side as it did last time — and is happy to take the help. (That’s, after all, what the Trump campaign did in meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer in hopes of getting “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and what Trump did in hyping the emails hacked by WikiLeaks, a Russian helpmate.) Republicans now face the prospect, fairly or not, that their party will be seen as a Russian asset.
What is even more remarkable than Trump’s unwillingness to put America first is Congress’s failure to do anything, either. Where are the hearings? Where is the legislation to pay for paper voting-system backups if states request it? Charitably one can say that the GOP majorities in the House and Senate suffer from sloth and lack of leadership. The more disturbing theory is that they won’t move to protect our election system out of fear of enraging Trump.
If Republicans won’t do anything, Democrats should. Governors and secretaries of state should write an open letter to the president and GOP Senate and House leadership demanding assistance in fortifying their election systems.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have already put forward a package aimed at election security. Last week, House Democrats put out a request for “over $1 billion in grants to upgrade and secure the country’s voting infrastructure. The request came in the form of a 56-page report and legislation that aims to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to states grappling with aging voting machines and insufficient IT budgets.” (Given the horrendous events of last week, this did not get the attention it deserves.) If the Republicans do not move on this, Democrats should make it a top campaign issue: Why won’t the GOP defend the United States?
When Trump behaves like a Kremlin lackey, it is only natural to assume the Kremlin “has something” on him. Surely he could seek to protect our electoral system with no reference to Russia. China — and that 400-pound hacker he has talked about — shouldn’t break into our systems, either. Facebook and Twitter should be cajoled to identify foreign accounts and to put out a generic warning about unsubstantiated reports pertaining to the election.
Whatever Trump’s screwy rationale for not taking reasonable measures to insulate our election system and not calling out Russia (or even disclaiming any “help”), he leaves himself open to the charge that he is violating his oath of office. That’s one more log to throw on the impeachment fire if Democrats win back the House. And it is becoming a serious political problem for Republicans up and down the ticket. They really do need to make a choice: Curry favor with Trump, or live up to their own oaths. Increasingly, it’s hard to do both.
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