The Right Names for Things

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February 28, 2018

In the last of these commentaries discussion of Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the election.

There was no doubt about a number of issues connected to the Russia story. There’s much less doubt now, after Mueller’s February 16 announcement of indictments and revealing how much he had discovered about the Russian efforts. But even before that, we knew that:

1. These facts had been reported on by every major news service, from the New York Times to Bloomberg News to The Wall Street Journal to The Financial Times. All the European news services have reported on similar Kremlin efforts to disrupt elections in their respective countries, France, Germany, and Italy. In the UK, Russia pushed for a “yes” Brexit vote; a European Union that breaks apart is clearly in Moscow’s interests.

With respect to the 2016 US elections, none of the American news services has ever claimed that the Kremlin was responsible for Trump’s victory nor has Mueller’s indictment statement. But given that he won the electoral college vote by only 77,000 votes across three states, the possibility cannot be dismissed. The threat to future elections is now the main issue.

2. Trump and the Republican Party dismiss the conclusions of the Intelligence community. Trump calls the Russian issue a “hoax.” He says that he doesn’t believe it. Trump continues to say that he “believes” him when the much-admired Mr. Putin says Russia had not meddled in the election. Putin, he says, is insulted by the suggestion. In a rare moment of bipartisan accord, the congress, in July 2107, passed the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act -CAATSA.

The administration was given until 29 January of this year to come up with a list of entities and individuals to be sanctioned and to choose among a menu of sanctions that ranged from slaps on the wrist to meaningful punishment. Six months later, as of February 15, the administration has not complied and continues to deny that a threat to the integrity of the democratic process exists.

The FBI’s brief includes the defense of the nation and its electoral system from sabotage, subversion, and terrorism. Trump and the Republican Party have been engaged in a coordinated effort to discredit the FBI; the purpose of this effort is transparent, to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Russian meddling and the connection of the Trump campaign with those efforts. The effectiveness of this campaign was brought home to me personally by an email from a former friend in which he called the FBI “Clinton’s stooges.”

3. On February 13, the heads of the Intelligence and Security services testified in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee. All, with not one demur, repeated the same warnings: Another Russian attack on an American election, the 2018 midterms, will occur. FBI Director Wray stated at this hearing that he has received no instruction from the President regarding guarding against Russian interference. All insisted that this interference must be defended against, technologically by enhanced security of voting machines and voter rolls.

More importantly, however, is political defense, by transparency regarding the past events and what is known, by declarations from the highest level of government, the president, that Russian propaganda is a reality, that much of what comes from the social media feeders like Twitter is Russian in origin. The third layer of defense is economic, further sanctions against the Russians. Sanctions which were required but not enforced.

4. It would be a stretch of the Trump enablers’ inventive powers to deny the facts asserted above. I have put them forward again, apologetically because I know most of my readers are already on this same page because I am searching for the right words to use to describe these practices, to give them their right names. In my previous commentary, I cited the summary statement in the joint intelligence services statement, and I expressed the opinion that Russia is a hostile power. I did not follow this line of thought as far as perhaps I could have.

Let me be clear, I do not think Donald Trump is a Russian agent. That his actions end up “giving aid and comfort” to America’s enemy–– as treason is defined in the Constitution––is, I think, coincidental, and I think I misunderstood this issue as I explored it in the last commentary. Trump had no intention of helping the Russians; he wanted to help himself. The idea that he, by becoming president, has aided the Russians is not something he is likely to want to contemplate, just as anything that raises doubts about the legitimacy of his victory is heresy to him.

In the last issue, I quoted one of drafters of the Constitution who wrote of his concern, knowing human frailty, that “the president may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust.” Trump, we can be sure, is loyal to his interests first, not to the United States and I say that based on his words and actions. Having taken an oath to protect the Constitution or wearing a flag pin in his lapel means nothing in Trump’s case.


Federal conspiracy laws include those actions that impair, obstruct, or impede lawful government functions such as carrying out a federal election.

Comment l’agence de propagande russe sur Internet a tenté d’influencer l’élection américaine Le Monde, Paris

EE UU destapa la ‘fábrica de las noticias falsas’ y acusa a 13 rusos por la injerencia electoral El Pais, Madrid

Reino Unido acusa a Rusia de ataques informáticos para socavar los cimientos en los que se sustentan las sociedades democráticas “The United Kingdom accuses Russia of cyber attacks designed to weaken the bonds that sustain democratic societies.” editorial El Pais

US charges Russians with 2016 election interference Indictment alleges conspiracy to disparage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump Financial Times, London

US charges 13 Russians with 2016 election tampering; Trump says no collusion between campaign and Russia Straits Times, Singapore

Florida gaffes draw new scrutiny to an agency already under pressure Fox News

No mention, Times Picayune, New Orleans; Arizona Republic, Phoenix; The Post and Courier, Charleston

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