Peter Marshall: President Trump crosses the line
February 26, 2018
This paper has published numerous letters over the last 18 months reflecting a stark partisan divide within Routt County regarding the ability of Donald Trump to carry out his responsibilities as President of the United States. While that divide persists, the weekend before last saw President Trump cross a line that ironically, and unfortunately, may well result in somewhat more consensus regarding our President's performance in office.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Department of Justice announced the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for widespread efforts to undermine the 2016 Presidential election. It is clear from the limited focus of the indictments that they covered only a portion of the "information warfare" conducted by Russian related individuals and entities.
One can certainly disagree whether the original intent of Russian's meddling was to support candidate Trump or simply to sow chaos regarding the results of a probable Hillary Clinton victory. One can also disagree whether the meddling affected the outcome. However, that would miss the point.
Shortly after the announcement of the indictments, President Trump's own National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster confirmed what the entire U. S. Intelligence Community has been reporting for the last year, i.e. that the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election is "incontrovertible."
Nonetheless, President Trump's response to the indictments has been to criticize everyone except Russia. In a tweet flurry President Trump criticized the FBI, CNN, the Democratic Party, his own national security advisor, former President Barack Obama as well as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Yet not a word was uttered criticizing the Russian government or its leader Vladimir Putin.
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More importantly, Trump’s Twitter blast overshadowed last week's Senate testimony of the heads of the six major U.S. intelligence agencies that uniformly agreed that Moscow's next target is the 2018 midterm election. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, went so far as to say that the United States is currently under attack.
One can disagree about why the President has refused to criticize Moscow or to take any actions to protect the sanctity of the 2018 vote. However, President Trump, like all federal officials, took an oath to "protect and defend" the United States Constitution. Most reasonable people would agree that oath includes protecting and defending the American electoral system.
If as the U.S. intelligence community agrees, we are currently under attack, the President has an obligation to defend us and our elections. Yet, all President Trump has done to this point is refuse to enforce the sanctions already passed by the Congress against Russia.
This leads to the fundamental question each of us must answer for ourselves. If we can agree that President Trump has an obligation to protect and defend the sanctity of the American electoral system, how are we to interpret his lack of outrage at the conduct of Moscow; let alone his failure to lead, or at least not obstruct, the effort to ensure that Russians are not allowed to engage in further cyber-warfare against the U.S. in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections?
However each of us answer that question, we should all be prepared, regardless of political persuasion, to immediately contact the offices of Sen. Cory Gardner, Sen. Michael Bennett and Rep. Scott Tipton and implore them to take whatever legislative steps are necessary to insure the integrity of the 2018 midterm elections. If President Trump refuses to be a willing participant in that effort, the Congress must take that obligation upon itself.