Imagine that you arrive home one evening, after a long, hard day counting beans at the office, and notice a scratch or two around your door. When you enter your house, everything seems in order, but the next day, a concerned friend phones to tell you he got a tweet containing a copy of the outline for the great American novel you hope to write.

You check, and sure enough, you find incontrovertible evidence that someone had sneaked in. The manila folder you've stashed those notes in has been rifled through, and smudge marks can be seen all over the folder. The police answer your call. Fingerprints on the door and on the folder match those of the weird kid from across the street, the one with the binoculars, whom you'd caught peering through your daughter's bedroom window. But the kid did compliment you on your haircut the other day, so you think: "It couldn't have been him. It must have been someone else, maybe that Julian kid from down the street." And so, even though the police urge you to press charges, if only to protect yourself from the kid doing something dangerous, you say, "No, I like the kid, he said nice things about my beautiful pompadour."


Of course, this little slice of my notes for the great American novel is a silly fantasy, except it's based on the frightening reality of our president-elect's reaction to Russian hacking and trying to influence the presidential election.

American intelligence agencies speak with one voice in claiming that Vladimir Putin's hands were all over the hacking. Last Thursday, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified that Russians tried to spread fake news and propaganda to meddle in the election. He testified that "only Russia's senior-most officials" could approve hacking the DNC's emails. He testified that our intelligence captured senior Russian officials celebrating the news that Trump won.

Leaks about DNC internal actions were timed to do the maximum amount of damage to the Democratic Party. Trump said that the source of the leaks was Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Russia had nothing to do with the hacking; later, he said he was just repeating what Assange had said and "it is for the people to make up their minds … ." When asked if any credibility could be given to Assange's comments, Clapper's answer, based on the facts he had, was "Not in my view," a conclusion reinforced by CIA analysis that actually identified the Russian officials who fed the leaks to Assange.

Do you believe the unanimous, evidence-based conclusion of the world's only superpower's intelligence professionals? Or do you agree with Trump's uninformed, self-serving tweets?

Trump seems more concerned over the legitimacy of his electoral victory than with the dangers Russian cyberattacks present. His spokesperson Kellyanne Conway visited talking heads on news programs to say in essence, "So what if Russia hacked into the DNC? It didn't change the outcome of the election." Maybe not this time, but I would sleep more soundly knowing that the president, with his awesome power, decided America's world policy based on hard facts and not a former Soviet Union spymaster's propaganda. As it is, Trump's attitude toward America's intelligence community is troubling; they're our country's eyes and ears in the world, and to dismiss them is for the president to operate blind.

At least two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and former presidential nominee John McCain, are on record as demanding the incoming administration strengthen sanctions already in place against Russia; the Obama administration expelled more than 30 people in the country on diplomatic passports and took other, classified measures to counter Russian cyberwarfare. Given Russia's track record of cyberattacks against Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Germany and several other countries, it would be prudent for the United States to do so.

Trump's rhetoric indicates he'd like to strengthen Russo-American relations, an action that would come at the expense of our successful partnerships with liberal democracies in Western Europe. A sea change such as that would threaten 70 years of stability in Europe, as well as boost radical right wing movements such as that of Marine Le Pen's National Front in France. More importantly, it would reward Russia's unacceptable conduct and encourage them to expand their disruptive interference in other countries' internal politics. The price for cooperating with Russia should not and must not be at the cost of sacrificing our nation's best interests.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at