As evident by the sudden deluge of campaign fliers in my mailbox, the 2018 midterms are just around the corner. As with his predecessors, President Trump has hit the campaign trail to advocate for his preferred congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial candidates– albeit with his unique kind of self-aggrandizing flair. When he’s not mounting scathing, unprecedented rhetorical assaults on the media, the President is often highlighting his accomplishments. He rarely misses an opportunity to insist that everything he’s doing is to put America first.
Apparently, despite being partially defined by the opportunity to vote for one’s own representatives, that agenda doesn’t include securing American elections.
It’s no secret that the Russian government deployed a sophisticated operation to meddle with the 2016 election with the intent of bolstering Trump’s candidacy. It’s not only the conclusion of several of our intelligence agencies but that of a GOP-led Senate investigation. Despite this, President Trump continues to publicly question whether Russia interfered.
The only mistake equal in magnitude to thinking it didn’t happen is thinking that it couldn’t happen again. Because it already is.
- Just a few days ago, Facebook deleted numerous accounts, possibly linked to Russia, that were involved in “sophisticated,” coordinated political activities– some of which had hundreds of thousands of followers.
- Some congressional candidates are reporting having fake social media profiles popping up which spread misleading information about their positions. Others have been the targets of hacks by Russia.
- Both the Homeland Security chief and Director of National Intelligence have voiced concerns about what Russia has done and continues to attempt.
I do not want to suggest that law enforcement and security agencies have been standing idly by while the threat grows. The FBI, NSA, and U.S. Cyber Command have all taken steps to combat Russian hacking. Nor has the Trump administration done “nothing” entirely– it has increased information sharing between it and state elections offices to prevent the hacking of voter rolls that happened leading up to 2016. Although that was only one element of Russia’s multifaceted approach.
But Trump administration officials (current and former) admit that there is no centralized, well-coordinated effort to combating the threat posed by the Kremlin.
Despite all of this, the President does something worse than shy away from the topic. He actively strives to delegitimize it. He decries not only the collusion investigation but the entire premise of Russian meddling as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” And polling shows that he has successfully swayed the majority of Republicans into agreeing with him.
And, not uncoincidentally, roughly half of Republicans do not believe that Russia is attempting to interfere with 2018. Again despite all evidence to the contrary and the insistence of our law enforcement and security agencies.
It’s difficult to claim that you’re putting America first when you’re at best apathetic to an assault on one of its core tenets. Or, at worst, actively undermining the work and legitimacy of those trying to stop it.