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Batavick: Why won't Trump stand up to Putin?

It has been more than 13 months since our intelligence services initially reported that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections using a variety of cyberattacks.

The intelligence chiefs again described this aggression last month before a Senate panel. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has warned, “When a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that’s warfare.” Yet President Donald Trump hasn’t “specifically directed” the intelligence chiefs to stop Russian hacks aimed at the 2018 midterm elections, according to Adm. Michael Rogers, the outgoing head of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. Why?

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In his annual state of the nation address on March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened the U.S. and its allies with a new class of nuclear weapons he described as “invincible” to U.S. defenses. His talk included a crude animation of multiple warheads striking Florida. Despite Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort located precisely there, he didn’t respond to this brazen threat to American soil. Why?

In 2017, the Russians hacked America’s electric grid, its water supply and miscellaneous factories. Cybersecurity experts saw the attacks as a rehearsal for disabling the country prior to a nuclear strike. Trump, who won’t stop tweeting about former FBI Director James Comey and Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin, has yet to comment. Why?

Now let’s circle back to the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference. Why were the Russians so eager to join the “Anyone but Hillary” movement, per our intelligence chiefs? Why all the proven pro-Trump and anti-Clinton activity on Facebook and internet chat sites? Why were the Russians helping to organize pro-Trump rallies?

Unless you are a clueless Inspector Clouseau, it is pretty obvious that Clinton was feared as too strong an opponent for Putin. He wanted someone more malleable, someone who would be a weak challenger to his designs to diminish Western democratic institutions like free elections, a free press and an independent judicial system. He also wants to reduce the influence of alliances like NATO, the World Trade Organization, and regional trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership that have helped create an American hegemony. So, what’s been our president’s position on the importance of these institutions and alliances? Are his actions really making America great again?

Putin wishes to challenge our world supremacy and he’s just “won” another six-year term. Unexplainably, Trump was one of the few world leaders to call and congratulate him. Why is there such a pattern here?

Perhaps Putin found Trump more malleable because there just may be something to that Steele dossier and the growing evidence that the Trump real estate empire is propped up by Russian oligarchs. What exactly is the Kremlin holding over our president’s head that would explain his bizarre behavior regarding all things Russian? He was even reluctant to comment on the Russian use of a nerve agent in the UK to disable a former spy. Trump: "As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” Yes, Mr. President, “whoever.” Maybe it “could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” a claim you made while denying Russian hackers had meddled in the election.

Last Thursday, the Trump administration finally sanctioned several Russians and Russian organizations for interfering in the presidential election and for multiple cyberattacks. The president used a law passed last August by Congress in a bipartisan vote. Don’t you wonder why he waited so long to respond to this unprecedented attack on U.S. democracy?

Barry McCaffrey is a retired four-star U.S. Army general — “the youngest and most heavily decorated combat general in the history of the U.S. Army,” according to MSNBC. On Sunday, he tweeted, “Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr. Putin.”

This is just one of many wake-up calls we’ve received over the last year. We are under attack by an unfriendly foreign power and are sadly saddled with a chief executive who refuses to act. In fact, he absolutely will not criticize Putin. Either the Russians have compromised Trump in some way or we have the most gullible and naive man ever to inhabit the Oval Office. Either way, we are at peril.

The results of the Mueller investigation can’t come fast enough. If Trump attempts to fire the special counsel as he’s done to the FBI director, then that’s as great an admission of guilt as we need to petition Congress to remove him from office.

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