On Monday, President Trump met one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. On the prior Friday, 12 Russian intelligence operatives were indicted by a U.S. grand jury for a conspiracy to interfere with Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and help Trump win the White House.
- Juan Williams
Right now, the Russians are already busy hacking into the 2018 midterms. "With the U.S. midterms approaching, Russian trolls found ways to remain active on Twitter well into 2018, trying to rile up the American electorate with tweets on everything from Roseanne Barr's firing to Donald Trump Jr.'s divorce," the Wall Street Journal wrote last week.
Senate Intelligence Committee member James Lankford of Oklahoma recently explained the Russian interference as an ongoing successful propaganda effort intended to "create instability and doubt in governments, because they believe they benefit from the chaos and loss of confidence in U.S. Institutions."
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Republican senator, said on Friday that "the warning lights are blinking red again" when it comes to the danger from Russian cyberattacks.
But President Trump doesn't see a problem. "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election," the president tweeted. Last week in London, Trump was pushed to say he will bring up Russian interference in U.S. politics but he predicted little would come of it.
"I don't think you'll have any 'Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me,'" Trump said. "There won't be a Perry Mason here ... But I will absolutely firmly ask the question. And hopefully we'll have a very good relationship with Russia."
Democrats are pointed in explaining why Trump sees no problem. Putin "supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton," said Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel added, "If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we've put party before country and put our democracy in crisis."
That didn't stop a delegation of seven Republican senators from going to Russia recently on what looked like a water-carrying mission for Trump's alternative reality. Senator Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, came back to say that Russian interference in U.S. elections is "not the greatest threat to our democracy," and "we've blown it way out of proportion."
Senator Richard Shelby, who led the delegation to Russia over the Independence Day break, offered a Trump-like view of U.S.-Russian relations: "The United States does not want, nor does it need, to resume a Cold War posture with Russia, and our delegation trip was a small step towards trying to ensure that does not happen."
And last week the president distanced himself from U.S. NATO allies. A translated clip from Russian state-run television has gone viral. It shows a Russian commentator marveling at Trump's trashing of NATO: "I never thought I'd live to see this!" the Russian commentator exclaims. "Neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but the main player, Washington, and President Trump himself is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance and unity."
Trump falsely claimed that Germany was a "captive" to Putin because "60 to 70 percent of their energy comes from Russia." The insulting mischaracterization drew a sharp rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany," Merkel said. But Trump never misses an opportunity to say nice things about Putin. And despite pleas from his aides, Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory earlier this year — legitimizing what international observers believe to be a sham election.
Meanwhile, Trump's campaign manager awaits trial for illicit ties to Russia and his former national security adviser is now a felon for lying about his contacts with Russia.
Trump is banking on Soviet-style propaganda in the U.S. to make Russian hacking and the Mueller investigation into a partisan issue. The winner in all of this is Putin, who is dividing Americans against themselves and America against her allies. Only the American voters can stop it.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.