What if? What if the results of the Mueller probe into Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential campaign prove to be as big as Watergate or the storied Teapot Dome scandal? What if the “see, hear, speak no evil” approach of the GOP and right-wing media regarding President Donald Trump is, in retrospect, the dumbest political decision ever made and the eventual cause of a national party’s demise?
Don’t forget we started with Trump’s claim there’s nothing to this “Russia thing” and have progressed to a mind-boggling accumulation of evidence that’s delivered seven indictments and five guilty pleas. Most involve Trump’s close campaign aides who first lied and then “fessed” up to their Russian contacts. Additionally, 13 Russians and three Russian entities have been indicted for tampering efforts that blatantly supported Trump.
The NSA/CIA have a recording of the Russian ambassador telling his superiors that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner had suggested they set up a secret communications channel so that Trump aides could speak to the Kremlin without fear of being monitored by our intelligence agencies. Last Friday, we learned that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian billionaire before the inauguration. Cohen later received $500,000 in “consulting” fees. See a pattern yet?
Trump sent six tweets between 9:04 and 10:04 a.m. May 20, trying to delegitimize the Special Counsel’s investigation. You have to wonder why a man who professes so much innocence is acting so guilty. The triggering event for the tweet storm was the latest discovery that his son, Donald Jr., met with an envoy representing the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These two foreign powers were offering their help to the Trump presidential campaign. Bottom line: the more Mueller digs, the more crimes he uncovers. His investigation may take us well into the Elizabeth Warren administration.
If the charge is proven, that makes three foreign powers, including Russia, who violated federal law to get Trump elected. It is illegal for any person to "solicit, accept or receive" a contribution or "anything of value" from a foreign person for a U.S. political campaign or "for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office." The statute includes an "express or implied promise" to give something of value, so it doesn’t matter if the Gulf States followed through or not.
We know Russia actually did, given the clear evidence of the Kremlin’s hacking of DNC emails; their timed release through WikiLeaks; and the cyberattacks on social media to spread disinformation about Clinton and boost Trump. Under the law, those who knowingly and willfully engage in such activities may be subject to fines or imprisonment. That includes both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, like Donald Jr., Kushner and Paul Manafort — all attendees at a June 9, 2016, meeting with the Russians.
Last January, Twitter testified to Congress that 50,000 automated bot accounts linked to Russia retweeted Trump messages almost 500,000 times between September and November 2016. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, this could have accounted for 3.23 percentage points of the votes for president in critical districts, thus helping Trump.
The president’s attack-dog tweets are part of his obvious strategy to sabotage the mounting findings of the Justice Department, the FBI, CIA and NSA. All agree without doubt that Russia did its best to throw a monkey wrench into our electoral process to benefit Trump. The Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed this conclusion on May 16.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, charged with defending our soil against foreign attacks, circled the wagons. She said on May 22 that she was unaware of any intelligence assessment charging Russia with interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Her cave must not have Wi-Fi. Let’s hope she isn’t equally as obtuse about Al-Qaeda’s ongoing plots against our country.
So, where’s the “scam” and “witch hunt” that Trump has so adamantly complained about? Don’t we now have enough evidence that something was terribly rotten within and about the election? Shouldn’t all loyal citizens, regardless of political affiliation, be concerned that foreign powers put their fat thumbs on the scales of our electoral system? In this obvious quid pro quo between Putin and Trump, what was the quo promised for the quid? The notorious dossier? The lifting of sanctions against Russia? Something as banal as money laundering or real estate opportunities?
Lastly, why was Russia so fearful of a Clinton win? This is a question that has animated the events of the past 18 months and promises to impact the trajectory of U.S. history for the rest of our lives.