Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence and a Trump appointee, says point blank, without equivocation, that Russia intervened in a major way during the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump, and that it will intervene again.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats told Congress.
Gina Haspel, Trump’s appointee as CIA director, has publicly confirmed her agency’s findings that Russia attempted to interfere on Trump’s behalf. So did her predecessor at CIA, Mike Pompeo, who now serves as Trump’s secretary of state.
Christopher Wray, Trump’s appointee to head the FBI, has also strongly and publicly embraced the evidence that Russia attempted to intervene in 2016 and warns that he will do so again in 2018.
Vladimir Putin, of course, claims otherwise, publicly proclaiming his country’s complete innocence. Nobody of any importance really believes him ... well, almost nobody.
Just so there’s no confusion, this is an ongoing theme with Trump.
"(Putin) said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," Trump said after a November meeting with Putin. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that. And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it."
That’s just remarkable. When forced to choose, the president of the United States -- its commander in chief -- rejects the conclusions reached by America’s top intelligence agencies and by his own appointees, and instead embraces the claims of innocence by a murderous ex-KGB dictator.
Think about that for a moment, because historically speaking it is truly stunning. We come to accept it as something less only because it is one of 10 or 20 or 100 such stunning statements coming from our current leadership.
On issue after issue, Trump sides with Putin and Russia and against his own appointees, against our longtime allies and against his own government. He attacks other leaders personally and often gratuitously, seemingly for sport sometimes, but never brings himself to issue the slightest critique of Putin.
When Russia took Crimea by force in 2014, the first territorial expansion by force in Europe since World War II, Trump responded by saying that really, Crimea should have been part of Russia all along. At the G-7 summit earlier this month, Trump told his fellow leaders that Russia had a right to seize Crimea because, well... because its residents speak the Russian language.
He argued that Russia should be readmitted as a member of good standing in the G-7.
“Why are we having the meeting without Russia being in the meeting?” he asked. “Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it.”
At that summit, Trump also attacked the existence of NATO, telling his fellow G-7 leaders that “NATO is as bad as NAFTA,” a trade agreement he is trying hard to kill. “It's much too costly for the U.S."
That’s a strange thing to say for a variety of reasons. Trump has pushed hard for significant new military spending, so it’s not as if he’s trying to save money on defense. Furthermore, NATO -- and the U.S. commitment to NATO -- represent the single most important obstacle to Russian territorial and political expansion in Europe. Over its almost 70 years of existence, NATO has guaranteed the peace in Europe and has been the most successful military alliance in history. In his most grandiose dreams -- and he does have grandiose dreams -- Putin could not have imagined a U.S. president willing to weaken and dismantle the single most important to his ambitions, yet that is what has in Trump.
In the words of Donald Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland and now president of the European Council:
"Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Also, in a related development, this: