In Part 1 of “Do We Dare Call It Treason…The Case Against Donald J. Trump” posted in this blog on February 6, 2018 evidence was presented which confirmed the almost universal consensus that Russia interfered with our 2016 elections apart from President Trump and his administration. Over a year later that generally remains the case with two possible exceptions which will be addressed later in this post.
What makes the case of treason difficult under the definition stated in the Constitution of the United States in Article III is the phrase “levying War against them”, meaning the states of the United States. The framers of the Constitution 240 years ago would not have been able to envision the digital world we live in of computers, social media, trolls and bots, cyber-attacks, and the ability to spread misinformation with lighting speed to millions of viewers on the internet.
I am of the opinion that given the reality of Russia’s interference in our election, as well as meddling in other democratic nation’s elections, that the interpretation of the Constitution’s reference to “War” needs to go beyond the traditional view of war being the military act of aggression against a country with which it is nominally at peace.
The Russian interference in our 2016 was not the efforts of some mischievous hackers. Rather, the cyber-attacks were ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. A comprehensive account by The Washington Post of these findings by our intelligence agencies and the subsequent actions of the Obama administration can be found here:
The Obama administration struggled with how to effectively respond to Putin and Russian interference culminating in actions taken in and early January 2017 which imposed new, harsh economic sanctions, dismissal of 35 Russian diplomats and the seizure of two Russian compounds in the United States. At the time President Obama stated “Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government. These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Since he was officially inaugurated as our 45th president, Trump has been relentless in his attacks on our intelligence agencies, particularly the Department of Justice and the FBI. Calling their investigations into the Russian cyber-attack on our elections and institutions a “hoax”, “witch hunt” and “fake news”, Trump, his allies in Congress and the Trump cable news network, Fox “News” have become more frenetic following the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate the Russian attacks. Despite these almost daily rants and protests, the Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to essentially threaten the Mueller investigation and disparage the very institutions that enforce our laws and keep the nation safe. The question needs to be asked, “What has Trump and his administration done to determine what the Russians did, how they did it, and are they still doing it today to interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections?
Evidently Trump has forgotten the oath of office he took at his inauguration to defend the Constitution of the United States. As Commander-in-Chief he is to protect the Constitution and the nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. There is little doubt that Russia is an enemy of democracies. Its hostile cyber-attacks against the United States certainly indicates that Russia is our enemy. Trump and his administration has been reluctant to confront and take action against Putin and Russia given the following facts:
- Trump and his administration have used a series of distractions dating back to the election of 2016. A key player in these distractions is Congressman Devin Nunes an ambitious Republican lawmaker from California who serves as the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
- Nunes served as a member of the Trump transition team and almost immediately following the election launched a series of pronouncements to discredit the findings of the intelligence community that Russia had in fact interfered in the 2016 election. What would become typical of Nunes’ blatant partisanship no credible evidence would be offered to substantiate his claims.
- An excellent article in the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s initiative The Moscow Report gives a comprehensive account of Nunes’ actions, claims and misinformation over the course of the past year. It is well worth the read.
- In late July 2017, both houses of Congress voted 417-5 to order the president to impose additional sanctions on Russia. The administration was given until October 1st, 2017 to inform Congress of the additional sanctions to be imposed. Trump grudgingly signed the sanctions resolution without any of his typical media fanfare.
- October 1st came and went with no response from the White House, basically ignoring the will of Congress.
- The final deadline came on January 29th, 2018. Again, no punitive sanctions were announced by the Trump Administration. However, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaking before the Senate Banking Committee produced a list of 114 Russian government officials and oligarchs with assets of $1 billion or more to be targeted for sanctions. He promised the Committee the specific sanctions would be “forthcoming in the near future.” Exactly when that might be was not indicated by Mnuchin.
- At the same time, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated that “Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” And if she believed that, she knows nothing about Russian intelligence operations. Obviously, Russia has not been deterred in their efforts to interfere with the 2018 mid-term elections.
- Finally, according to The Washington Post, the nation’s top intelligence chiefs in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, February 13, 2018, informed Senators that Russia was in fact planning to interfere with the 2018 mid-term elections. “Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that Russia will continue using propaganda, false personas and social media to undermine the upcoming election.” Again, quoting The Washington Post the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) stated “The fact that we don’t have clarity about who’s in charge means, I believe, we don’t have a full plan,” said Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA). Voicing his concern Senator Angus King (I-ME) expressed “We cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, without a whole-of-government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). The full story can be read here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-face-questions-on-security-clearances-and-agents-independence/2018/02/13/f3e4c706-105f-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html?utm_term=.b3e78a8826bf
Given the reluctance of Trump and his administration to fully and forcefully acknowledge the Russian cyber-attacks on our country during our 2016 election and the upcoming elections in 2018, it is imperative that our intelligence communities aggressively meet these threats to the foundations of our democracy. To do anything less would put us in grave peril. If Trump and his administration continue to ignore these threats, one can only conclude that course of inaction is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And make no mistake, Russia is our enemy. In the final installment of this series we will explore what can be done and how can those responsible be made accountable.