For almost three years now, Donald Trump has been unwilling to acknowledge that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, even as he exploited the material they hacked from the DNC and Clinton campaign. Some enterprising reporter should ask the president for his reaction to Mueller’s opening statement which says, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
Perhaps one of the reasons the president remains in denial about that is because the Mueller report goes on to say:
As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfere in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.
In one of the most damning portions of Mueller’s report, someone whose name is redacted sent a message to Russian oligarch Kirill Dmitriev right after Clinton conceded the election which simply said, “Putin has won.”
These are the two facts that even the most avid Trump enabler must now acknowledge: (1) Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) they did so in support of Donald Trump.
In is noteworthy, however, that during his press conference on Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr once again neglected to mention #2, just as he had done in his four-page summary of Mueller’s report. Instead, he talked about Russian efforts to “sow discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.”
The failure of Trump and his enablers to name the basics of what Russia did is telling. We can argue about whether Mueller identified enough evidence of a criminal conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign to warrant charges. We can also acknowledge that no one will ever be able to fully measure the impact of Russia’s efforts on the outcome of the election. But no one can look at the evidence and deny the fact that Vladimir Putin did everything in his power get Donald Trump elected as president of the United States.
The reason Trump and his enablers want to avoid that reality is that it inevitably leads to the question of why, which is the basis of this extremely prescient Clinton ad from the summer of 2016.
While it is interesting to track down every lead that was or wasn’t pursued by the Mueller team as part of their investigation, it is also important to keep an eye on the big picture. As of today, neither the president nor his attorney general have been willing to admit that Russian interference in the 2016 election was aimed at electing Donald Trump, because to do so leads to other more difficult questions that they want to avoid.