Trump and Putin at G20 in Hamburg
Credit: Алексей М/Flickr

Once again, the President of the United States is running interference for Russia, a hostile foreign adversary. Once again, we as a nation still don’t know why. We need to know.

The Solar Winds hack revealed early this week is one of the biggest security breaches in modern history, touching nearly every major industrialized democracy and hundreds of major international corporations. It wasn’t just the normal clandestine work of nation-state espionage. Rather, it constituted a malicious attack on some of the world’s most fundamental cyber infrastructure. The depth of of the intrusions into the architecture of some of the most basic building blocks of international government and business networks mean that most of those networks will have to be rebuilt from scratch, a process that will take years and billions of dollars. And we know almost beyond doubt that Russia was behind the hacks. Even Donald Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted as much.

Donald Trump–who it bears repeating is the President of the United States!–has maintained an eerie silence on the issue until today, refusing to even comment on much less denounce the attacks.

But then came this:

And it’s not just the tweet. Trump blocked the federal government from issuing a statement condemning the hack and Russia’s alleged involvement in it:

White House officials had drafted a statement assigning blame to Russia for the attack and were preparing to release it Friday afternoon but were told to stand down, according to people familiar with the plans. Officials initially weren’t told why the statement was pulled back.

The statement, the people said, placed blame on Russia for orchestrating the attack but left open the possibility that other actors were involved.
The people familiar told CNN on Saturday it wasn’t clear whether the statement will be released, and instead described a scramble inside the administration as officials work to reconcile the competing statements from Trump and Pompeo.

It’s hard to know what to even call this. Carrying water for Vladimir Putin? A disinformation campaign? A treasonous subversion of national security?

Regardless of what we call it, the American people deserve to know why this is happening. Trump has spent years calling concerns over his ties to Russian interference a “hoax,” and his Republican enablers have reinforced his propaganda. But it’s not a hoax.

In 2008 Donald Trump Jr. said that much of the Trump family’s assets were dependent on Russia. The GOP House Majority Leader said in 2016 that he believes Trump is on Putin’s payroll. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was essentially an agent of Putin in destabilizing Ukraine, and was convicted for bank fraud related to hiding money received from oligarchs. His former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was convicted of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian spies. His campaign met with Russian agents trying to pass along dirt about Hillary Clinton. His campaign associates interacted with Russian agents over 100 times. Trump himself publicly asked Russia for help finding Clinton’s emails, and Russian agents dutifully obliged the very next day by targeting her accounts. Trump’s close confidante Roger Stone was in frequent communication with Russian agents, and served as the direct intermediary between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks, which released the confidential material stolen by Russia. Trump went on to commute Stone’s sentence as well.

Yes, Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to find a smoking-gun conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. But that’s because 1) the minimum standards for proving such a conspiracy in court are very high, and 2) The key figures in Trumpworld who had the information obstructed justice. It’s the equivalent of a mob boss claiming vindication after his associates go to jail for refusing to talk to the cops.

And none of this gets into Trump’s bizarre press conferences with Putin, in which his demeanor and body language uncharacteristically resembles a terrified lapdog, or his shocking betrayals of government secrets to Russian foreign ministers and ambassadors, or his refusal to acknowledge Russian poisoning of dissidents abroad.

Trump has one month left in his presidency. Assuming his seditious attempts at staging a coup do fail, there will be immense pressure to just put this era behind us and never look back at Trump again.

But we cannot do that. For four years our country has endured a sitting President with a bizarre, as yet unknown corrupt entanglement with a hostile foreign adversary that has repeatedly interfered in our elections and the workings of our government. It is a white supremacist, sexist, fossil-fuel-backed kleptocratic oligarchic opponent of liberal democracy that has done its best to install and reinforce a likeminded authoritarian in the White House.

We deserve to know what that connection is. We deserve to know the extent of the damage done. Was it a matter of money, a desire to build a Trump Tower in Moscow? Was it kompromat related to Trump’s insalubrious activities in Russia? Something even more nefarious? Or just a matter of cultural and personal affinity with a tyrant? And what else was done behind closed doors that hasn’t been reported yet?

It must not be swept under the rug. It must not be relegated to the mysteries of history. There must be trials. If needed, there must be some version of Truth and Reconciliation committees. Immunities should be granted as needed, except for the man at the top.

But we need to know, no matter how long it takes. The truth must come out. And there must be consequences.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.