We Need to Talk About Donald Trump and Russia

This is an issue that’s difficult to discuss without sounding alarmist, but here we go. We need to talk about Donald Trump and Russia.

I want to say right off the bat that I don’t think a foreign government hacked our voting machines and stole our election. That would be, as I understand it, incredibly difficult and almost impossible to hide. My concerns don’t lie with the act of voting in this country. In some ways, I wish that was my concern. It would be so much easier to uncover and understand.

What I’m concerned about is fuzzier and harder to define. And, importantly, it may turn out to be nothing. But if it’s not nothing, it’s something that should be at the top of all of our minds.

We really need to talk about Donald Trump and Russia.

Rumor of some link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign cropped up even during the campaign season. From the outside looking in, it does seem like the two were a little more cozy than one might expect. We actually do know that Russia interfered in our elections. The week after Trump’s stunning electoral college victory, the director of the NSA made a stunning announcement of his own. According to Mother Jones:

On Tuesday, the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, was asked about the WikiLeaks release of hacked information during the campaign, and he said, “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” He added, “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily.”

This was a stunning statement that has echoed other remarks from senior US officials. He was saying that Russia directly intervened in the US election to obtain a desired end: presumably to undermine confidence in US elections or to elect Donald Trump—or both.

According to Eric Chenoweth, co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, the email hack worked exactly as intended. Writing in the Washington Post, Chenoweth explains that what we saw play out in the 2016 election was textbook Russian propaganda. There was, basically, nothing in the hacked DNC emails that hadn’t been reported before. But, the more you spin a story as negative, the more that story actually becomes negative, argues Chenoweth.

Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidence suggests were generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.

The beauty of this method is that its effects are really hard to measure. How much did the emails turn independents away from Clinton? What if, instead of treating the contents of the emails as the story, the story was about how a foreign government was trying to influence our elections? Maybe things would have been different, but maybe not.

We also know that a Russian diplomat has admitted to being in contact with the Trump camp during the campaign. Just days after the election Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “there were contacts” between the Trump campaign and members of the Russian government before the election. Russia was quick to try to make this type of thing seem normal.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said staffers at the Russian Embassy in Washington met with members of Trump’s campaign — meetings she described as “normal practice.” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign refused similar requests for meetings, Zakharova told the agency…A Clinton campaign official who was asked to comment on Zakharova’s statement answered with a one-word email: “false.”

This should make all of us uncomfortable, regardless of how we voted. Maybe you do actually think Donald Trump will make a good president for some reason. I don’t get it, but I’m sure you have your reasons. If we were talking about a President-elect Clinton’s potential ties to Russia right now instead of Trump’s, this would still be a big deal and one we as citizens should be demanding answers to.

These answers, though, are not going to be easy. To illustrate how squishy this could be, just look at an incredible story at Slate about a suspicious Trump email server that seemed to only be sending and receiving information from a Russian bank. On the other hand, there are perfectly innocuous explanations for the suspicious activity.

The point is that we don’t know what kind of ties our President-elect has with a foreign power. We should have been pushing harder for an answer during the campaign, but now it’s even more important. An FBI investigation is fine, but, as David Corn at Mother Jones argues, we really need a Congressional investigation. That investigation will pump information about any links into the public sphere. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has pushed for such an investigation, saying, “Here’s what I would tell Republicans: We cannot sit on the sidelines as a party and let allegations against a foreign government interfering in our election process go unanswered because it may have been beneficial to our cause.”

It really is that important. Maybe it’s nothing. As much as I don’t want Donald Trump to be president, I truly hope it’s nothing. But burying our heads in the sand will do nothing to keep it from becoming a big problem.

Photo Credit: Ninian Reid via Flickr

132 comments

Marie W
Marie W11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Misss D
Misss D12 months ago

Hello Will Rogers. To clarify, this is not about 'reds under the beds.' This is about an outside country potentially influencing the outcome of an ostensibly democratic election in another country. This is scandalous, whether the influence comes from Russia or anywhere else. The democratic process is either just that, or not.

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JT Smith
JT Smithabout a year ago

Ever since November 8, we are left with a man the media keep incorrectly calling the “President-Elect” (there will be no President-Elect until and unless a majority of the Electors select one when they meet on December 19), a man who lost the election by well over two million votes (a fact that is only very infrequently even mentioned in the media). Please read these articles: "Hamilton v. Trump: The Case That Could Save America" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-s-mcelvaine/hamilton-v-trump-the-case_b_13310142.html] and "32 Nonpartisan, Non-Ideological Reasons The Electoral College Must Reject Trump (And these are only based on what has happened since November 8th)" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/32-nonpartisan-non-ideological-reasons-the-electoral_us_583ef1bbe4b048862d73fd3b]; and share them far and wide.

Trump must be stopped before he does become President-elect, let alone President!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Rhoberta E.
Rhoberta Eabout a year ago

I just saw an interesting story about Paul Manafort who was fired as the Trump campaign manager( due to his association with Russian interests) is back at Trump tower advising Trump on his cabinet picks. He has apparently been an insider all along

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Maria virokhovsky
maria virokhovskyabout a year ago

Stop this propaganda and brain-washing against Russia!!! People don't believe you anyway. Putin is the only one who really fought ISIS. Putin is the man who saved the people of Cremlea from the destiny of those in Dombas whom the fascist present Ukrainian government is bombing daily. Russia under Putin doesn't bend to Western wishes to capture all oil and gas holding countries in Middle East. Putin is the man who stands between the world and this madness. And of course in turn he gets sanctions against Russia. The excuse? People of Cremlea (97% of whom are russian) chose to be annexed to Russia instead of Ukraine. And now Trump has won, thankfully, who intends to stop this madness anyway, and he and Putin see eye to eye in this. The cold war is over, finally! Let's celebrate. I'm sure we're to see a much better world now.

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Elaine W.
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Noted.

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Julie D.
Julie Dabout a year ago

Putin has been licking his chops at the hope The Donald would win, so he can play Furor Trump like a f'ing fiddle. He got his wish.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogersabout a year ago

Wow! America is still looking for 'reds under beds' ...why not try to make peace with Russia? Why aren't they trying to make friends instead of constantly warring? Why are they so paranoid and bloodthirsty? I blame their distrust of other nations on their distrust of each other, because they've got guns enshrined in their culture! They even allow 16 year olds to own them, or even younger! When they're not legally allowed to drink, get married...well to do any odult thing because they are still children! It's very sad, with or without that arsehole Trump.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA Sabout a year ago

noted

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