Christopher Wray, the FBI director, warned on April 26 that Russian interference in the 2020 election presents a “significant counterintelligence threat.” His warning followed the Worldwide Threat Assessment (WTA) issued by U.S. intelligence agencies in January.
The WTA predicted that in 2020, “Moscow may employ additional influence tool kits--such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations or manipulating data--in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections.” Wray characterized Russia’s malign cyberwarfare as “pretty much a 365-day-a-year threat.”
Despite Robert Mueller’s detailed and chilling report on the extent of Russian efforts to manipulate the 2016 election, Pres. Trump remains unconvinced and unconcerned. He has not taken it upon himself to rally Americans against this serious threat, nor has he taken decisive punitive action against the aggressors.
Instead, Trump has either ignored or downplayed the malevolent Russian attack on our country. When the former Homeland Security secretary tried to organize a coordinated defense of our 2020 election, she was discouraged by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff. Mulvaney reportedly told her that the Russian interference issue “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below [Trump’s] level.
Trump’s son-in-law, apparently taking his cue from the top, blew off the Russian election attack as “a couple of Facebook ads.” He should read the 199 pages of Volume One of the Mueller Report, where Kushner appears with some regularity. Mueller details a concerted Russian effort to influence the 2016 election by illegal hacking of computers, distribution of hacked documents, and sophisticated targeting of social media.
Some Congressional Republicans have urged a much more muscular response to Putin’s aggression and have worked with Democrats to put a stop to it. The president has gone along grudgingly but nowhere near sufficiently. I fervently pray it is not because he hopes to once again benefit from Russian help.
Trump seems to think that acknowledging the wide-ranging nature of the Russian influence operation and its potential impact on the election result is a threat to his legitimacy in office.
Get over it, Mr. President. You won and nobody is going to be able to dislodge you from office simply because of Putin’s handiwork. The Russian influence operation may have been sufficient to swing the election in your direction, or that could have been accomplished by Jim Comey’s blundering efforts, but it is water under the bridge.
What is critical at this juncture is to put the election behind and govern--protect the country from its enemies, rebuild our infrastructure, try to solve the growing income inequality in the country, work to reform the immigration system, try to preserve the American dream, combat the existential threat of climate change and so much more.
The president reminds me of some clients I had during my 25 years of private law practice. Instead of moving forward with their lives, they insisted on relitigating the past-- dwelling upon past mistreatment and slights, rather than living to make a better life in the present and future. It is a losing strategy, both for that person and for those around the disgruntled person.
It’s high time to move past the 2016 election and focus on the future. Whether or not the election result was questionable, there is a future to deal with, problems to address, lives to productively live. A bruised presidential ego does not take priority over the security of the United States.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho attorney general and a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice.