Trump’s True Feelings About Russian Election Interference Are Clear
Leah Millis / Reuters
That same month, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee if the president had directed the FBI to counter Russia’s election interference efforts. His response: “Not as specifically directed by the president.”
The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, also testified that “we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesman and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States. … There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
In March, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States government did not have an effective coordinated effort to respond to Russia’s efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting in which Trump was asked explicitly if “Russia is still targeting the U.S.” The president’s response: “No.” In case there was any confusion about the question, he was asked the follow-up: “No, you don’t believe that to be the case?” Trump responded: “No.”
Trump was asked one more time: “But can you just clarify, you don’t believe that to be the case?” Trump replied: “We’re doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia … because there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ assertion that Trump was saying “no, he’s not taking questions” defies believability. Especially in the wake of his treasonous performance earlier in the week in Helsinki.
Standing next to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Trump answered a question about holding Russia accountable by declaring that “the United States has been foolish” and that “we’re all to blame.” He categorized the Mueller probe as “a disaster for our country” that has “kept us apart” and “separated” from Russia.
In case there is any confusion about how Trump evaluates his performance in Helsinki, Trump himself said: “I think I did great at the news conference … it was a strong news conference … I don’t know what all the fuss is all about … I think we did extremely well.”
The White House can try and spin things all they want, but the truth lies in Trump’s own words and actions. It’s very clear that he either doesn’t believe Russia interfered in our election or he simply doesn’t care. Why else would he invite dictator Putin to visit the White House in the fall?
The operational reality is that earlier this year, top leaders in our national defense apparatus testified that the president of the United States had not directed them to take any action to address Russia’s cyber operations. If Trump really believes the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian election interference, as he now insists he does, then surely he has given specific directives to our national security and intelligence leaders to address it.
The Republican Congress should have hearings immediately, inviting Rogers, Wray, Coats and Scaparrotti to testify about any directives Trump has given them related to Russian meddling. They should heed the call from Republican Oversight Committee member Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who wrote in The New York Times “that lawmakers must fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger.”
Then again, given an opportunity to take matters into their own hands and ensure the integrity of our future elections, House Republicans blocked additional funding for security. Their actions are showing that, like Trump, they either don’t believe Russia is a threat or they don’t care.
The urgent question of our time is still, why not?
Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist. He is a former spokesman and senior adviser for former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella