Russian interference

What is there to say when the country's leading intelligence agency concludes that Russia interfered with the recent election and that it's part of a broader pattern of cyberattacks on this country, yet, without a shred of evidence to back up his position, the president-elect wholly rejects the CIA's findings? And this same man, easily the least qualified to hold the office in modern history, has also decided that he doesn't need daily intelligence briefings because, as he told Fox News, he's "like, a smart person?"

In a yuletide season of such utter despair, we can at least rejoice in one unexpected gift — the return of the U.S. Senate's "sanity caucus." In a bipartisan joint statement released Sunday, four veteran senators, two Republican and two Democratic, pledged to investigate Russian hacking, saying that "recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American." On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave his blessing to that inquiry, adding that the "Russians are not our friends." House Speaker Paul Ryan also condemned election-related cyberattacks, noting that "any intervention by Russia is especially problematic because, under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests."


The question now is why more Republicans haven't shown appropriate outrage at Vladimir Putin and his cyberwars. Apparently, unless there's an obvious Democratic scapegoat, many of their compatriots in Congress are uninterested in defending their nation's sovereignty or launching an investigation as aggressive as their attacks on Hillary Clinton.

President-elect Donald Trump can't continue to ignore the evidence of Russian meddling. It only adds to the impression that his relationship with Mr. Putin is too close for comfort. We understand his instinct to reject the CIA's conclusions because they are inconvenient. His unexpected victory last month was shaky enough (hardly the "mandate" the reality TV star likes to claim) given that Ms. Clinton's popular vote victory has grown to 2.8 million votes.


Difficult though it may be for Mr. Trump to grasp, this isn't really about him. The issue isn't that he won, it's that a foreign government covertly interfered in our election, period. Whether the Russians succeeded or failed, we must get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never does again.

Yet Mr. Trump has only managed to make this story even more worrisome. It's one thing to pooh-pooh any suggestion that Russian hacking — of either John Podesta or the Democratic National Committee — turned the election results, it's quite another to openly assert that the Central Intelligence Agency can't be trusted. Certainly, the CIA has made mistakes, some doozies, too, but so has every agency in the national security arena at one time or another, including those generals (David Petraeus!) Mr. Trump speaks so glowingly about.

That ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is on the short list — perhaps even at the top of the list — to be Mr. Trump's secretary of state shows the Putin blind spot in full force. Mr. Tillerson and the Russian president aren't close, they are practically family, the former having received the "Order of Friendship" from the latter in 2013. Think Mr. Tillerson, who has no foreign policy experience other than opposing U.S. limits on Exxon's deals with Russia, will be highly motivated to enforce energy-related sanctions against his best bud? Think again.

This isn't normal. This isn't how the United States conducts its foreign policy, not with a soon-to-be president deciding unilaterally that he knows what's happening around him better than those thousands of analysts and agents working with all those billion-dollar investments in spy satellites, electronic surveillance, data crunching and so forth. That's a level of ignorance and ego rarely witnessed in U.S. history. And now he's about one swearing-in ceremony away from making decisions that may rank with Iran-Contra, Santa Domingo deportation or the Kansas-Nebraska Act on the list of all-time biggest presidential blunders.

We don't know how far Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee will get in their quest to defend the nation from cyberattacks if the White House isn't interested in the problem, but we wish them and fellow members of the Senate intelligence panel well. There's yet hope that congressional investigations can be used to advance a common purpose and not just to embarrass a political enemy.

Conservatives like to laugh at the post-election misery felt by liberals, but what's more notable is that the Putin-Trump romance isn't giving them the heebie-jeebies, too. What ever happened to the party of Ronald Reagan? Mr. Trump's embrace of the authoritarian and his rejection of informed advice — that he apparently worries will prove monotonous if heard daily — should be getting a swift, solid rejection from all quarters. That's the sort of fuss that might actually capture Mr. Trump's attention.