Trump Is Colluding With Russia Again
President Donald Trump is already colluding with Russia again to attack American democracy and help him win the 2020 election. According to The Washington Post and The New York Times, Trump berated and then fired his acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire because career officials briefed Congress about the fact that Russia intended to help him in 2020, just like it did in 2016.
In other words, Trump is aiding and abetting the Russian government by undermining the U.S. government’s response, and is using his power as president to do so.
Russian interference, and the Trump campaign’s collusion, worked in 2016 in part because both remained largely hidden.
- The American public didn’t know the Kremlin was blanketing social media with pro-Trump (and anti-Clinton) propaganda until after the election.
- Reporting on WikiLeaks’s email dumps—stolen from Trump’s political opponents—often failed to adequately convey that the emails were part of the Kremlin’s pro-Trump effort, giving the email “revelations” undue legitimacy without context.
- That also enabled Trump to cite WikiLeaks 164 times—more than five times per day—in the final month of the campaign without it clearly being labeled collusion.
- The Trump campaign knew as early as April 2016 that the Kremlin was intervening to help them, thanks to Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor. He told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russia planned to anonymously release emails stolen from their political opponents to impact the election.
- The Trump campaign did everything they could to capitalize on this information, like:
- sharing internal polling data and campaign strategy memos with alleged Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik on the explicit understanding that he would give it to oligarchs close to the Kremlin;
- taking the June 9 meeting on the explicit understanding that it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump;”
- and, at Trump’s explicit direction, setting up a backchannel to WikiLeaks to “get the emails” so they’d have advance information about what Russia would be releasing through WikiLeaks.
- Trump’s team understood the importance of this secrecy: Trump’s campaign chairman, national security adviser, personal lawyer, longtime political adviser, and foreign policy adviser have all been convicted of lying to investigators rather than revealing their contacts with Kremlin-linked actors.
- Meanwhile, Trump has done everything in his power to falsely exonerate not only his campaign for collusion but also Russia for attacking American democracy in the first place. This opens the door to run the same playbook in 2020.
Trump is actively enabling Russia’s next attack for his own personal benefit.
- Initial reports said Trump was concerned that Democrats could “exploit” the fact that Russia is supporting him, but the reality is clear: Trump is concerned that revealing Russian interference would undermine his ability to benefit from it.
- Replacing Maguire with Grenell undermines the intelligence community’s ability to do its job by uncovering attacks, whether they’re from Russia or anywhere else.
- It also sends a clear message to hostile foreign governments that they are free to attack American democracy all they want, as long as it helps Trump.
- Meanwhile, Trump’s accomplices, once again led by McConnell, are leaving America’s elections vulnerable to foreign intervention while doing everything they possibly can to obscure not only the possibility of another Russian attack, but also the truth about the last one.
Congressional Republicans cleared the way for exactly this type of interference. This is what every Republican Senator (except one) condoned when they voted to acquit Trump. They ratified the authoritarian argument that, as long as Trump believes his reelection is in the national interest, he is allowed to use his powers as president to strike any corrupt bargain with a hostile foreign power—even if it means sacrificing American democracy, to make it happen.
We may not yet know exactly how Russia intends to disrupt the 2020 election, but we know that Trump intends to enable and exploit them just like he did in 2016. Dismissing his acting Director of National Intelligence to make sure Russian interference stays secret is just the first step.