On January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified assessment to the public confirming what most had already suspected: Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.1 Since the intelligence community released its assessment, the public has learned a great deal about this assault from the special counsel investigation, press reporting, and declassified intelligence. Based on analysis of available material, it has become increasingly clear when, how, and why Russia launched the campaign against American democracy. It is evident that there was a surge of activity intended to influence the American electorate and political institutions that originated in 2014 as a counterresponse to the U.S.-led international isolation of Russia following its intervention in Ukraine.
If Trump seeks to undermine the investigation and obstruct justice by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, there would be serious concerns about the impartiality of any political official at the U.S. Department of Justice who replaces him. These concerns are heightened by Trump’s repeated demands that the Department of Justice protect him from accountability for his actions. The only way to repair the trust of the American people in the integrity of the investigation would be to follow past precedent and ensure the special counsel is truly independent.
A new brief from the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Moscow Project shows that, based on public reporting and indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller, there are at least 80 known contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition, including at least 23 meetings.
Since the beginning of Trump’s administration, the White House has demonstrated a clear and consistent pattern of behavior toward Russia by not only calling for better relations with the Kremlin but also actively advancing Russia’s foreign policy objectives. There is no clear geopolitical or policy rationale for Trump’s behavior, which often comes at the cost of longstanding American foreign policy interests. As political scientist Ian Bremmer recently assessed, “No serious foreign policy analyst I know (nor any ex-Trump- Admin official) has a good explanation for why Trump is so singularly enamored with Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Nor is there a political rationale. Amid Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and charges of collusion, it would almost certainly benefit Trump to distance himself from Putin and dispel rumors that he is beholden to his Russian counterpart. Instead, at every opportunity, Trump has embraced Putin and adopted positions that only raise additional suspicion about Trump’s motives and rationale. Putin’s return on investment from Trump’s presidency has been significant.
One of the few constants throughout the Donald J. Trump administration has been corruption. Since his first day as president, when Trump took the wholly unprecedented step of refusing to divest from his private businesses, his administration has been characterized by an unending effort by him, his family, and his senior advisers to abuse their political power for personal gain.
How the hacking and strategic release of stolen emails shows how Trump and Russia worked together and provides a roadmap to better understanding their collusion in the 2016 election
Given the Kremlin’s preference for then-candidate Donald Trump, as determined in the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) assessment, it is imperative to consider how Trump’s longstanding business ties with a bevy of figures from Russia and the former Soviet Union could have been exploited in the context of the presidential campaign.
Russia’s efforts to attack and undermine American democracy did not begin or end with the 2016 election. Russia’s vast espionage and cybercapabilities continue to target the United States government, its citizens, as well as America’s democratic allies around the world.