The President’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, says it is “incontrovertible” that the Russians interfered in America’s 2016 presidential election. The President rebuked McMaster for the statement. Daniel Coats, appointed last year as Director of National Intelligence by the President, joined other top American intelligence officials recently in warning that the Russians will continue interfering in our elections.
Yet, for reasons apparently known only to him, the President has taken no punitive action against the Russians, nor has he even acknowledged that they committed acts of aggression against the United States. This, even though the U.S. Congress, by an overwhelming vote, passed legislation urging and authorizing the President to punish Putin’s government for transgressing American sovereignty. What gives?
It is possible that the substantial Russian election interference documented in the Mueller indictment changed the outcome of the election, but that is beside the point. No matter what, the election will stand. There is absolutely no reason for the President to continue to deny Russia’s hostile acts against America. And, absolutely no reason to hold off on taking action to counter further Russian cyber aggression.
I grew up in a Republican Party that took the Russian threat to America very seriously. By countering Soviet aggression wherever it rose its ugly head, we were able to prevail against the USSR. Had we rolled over and allowed it to continue unchallenged, the outcome would likely have been very different. Back in my Republican days, anyone who denied clearcut aggressive Soviet action against American interests would have been branded an out-and-out traitor.
Now, Putin is trying to resurrect Soviet glory and doing pretty well with his new cyber weapons. But, our President absolutely refuses to protect this great country from that new threat. That is not likely to make America great.
Rather than disputing the indisputable, the U.S. should be vigorously building its cyber defenses and developing a tough offensive capability. We are at a juncture in the electronic era much like we found ourselves in during the infancy of the rocket age. The Russians caught our attention with the launch of the Sputnik, demonstrating they had the lead in a technology with military applications. We had to up our game in that arena. Now, the Russians have shown their expertise in the offensive use of cyber systems and it is incumbent on this country to take steps to counter Russian cyber aggression, not to deny it.
Furthermore, the time has come for top administration officials to publicly side either with America or with the President. The words and deeds of McMaster, Coats and others demonstrate that they understand the seriousness of the new Russian threat and want decisive American action to punish past actions and prevent future aggression. If behind-the scenes entreaties will not work, those officials must step forward to protect America’s vital interests.
In the law there is what is called a “noisy withdrawal” where a lawyer withdraws from representing a client intent on engaging in wrongdoing. The lawyer essentially discloses that he will not take part in wrongful activity. If the President will not take action to protect America against Putin’s Russia, our top security officials should make a noisy withdrawal from the administration.