Dereliction of DutyPosted: March 2, 2018
There are a number of perplexing events unfolding in and around the White House. My sense is that many Americans are uninterested, unaware, or just minding their own business until all of the facts are in. I hope that the lack of concern is the latter and not that we as a nation have become inured to the unprecedented developments and are numb to the plethora of constant noise and fury emanating from the White House. There are so, so many troubling developments surrounding this administration. Thus far, only one is an existential threat to our democracy.
Yes, Russia again.
It is now over two weeks since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations as another step in the ongoing investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in our 2016 election. The indictment shows that the clear intent of their actions was to undermine the presidential election by active measures to disrupt the process, and specifically, to hurt Secretary Hillary Clinton and to favor the election of Mr. Donald Trump. But don’t take my word for it, if you haven’t done so already, read the full 37 page indictment. The indictment details how the Russians conducted “information warfare against the United States of America.” Warfare.
News reports today indicate that Mr. Mueller will soon file more indictments, this time specifically naming Russian hackers and outlining their methods in stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and from Secretary Clinton’s campaign manager Mr. John Podesta. Please recall that the hacking of the DNC and the campaign were the original reasons for the investigation into the Russian meddling.
Additional reports inform us that seven states had their systems compromised in some way including in at least two cases, getting into the voter registration data bank. Attempts were made on a total of twenty-one states to get into the voting system. While there is no evidence to date that any actual votes were compromised or voter information changed to prevent people from voting, many experts consider these to be “probing attacks” to find vulnerabilities for exploitation in the future such as in the 2018 mid-term elections and/or the 2020 national elections.
Last month the heads of the major U.S. intelligence agencies testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Russian meddling attacks. This included the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Robert Ashley and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo. They were in agreement that the Russians did interfere and that it would happen again. As Director Coats put it, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations.”
When asked by committee member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) if the FBI had been directed by the president to take any specific actions against the Russians, FBI Director Wray said the FBI is undertaking “a lot of specific activities” to counter the Russians but was “not specifically directed by the president.” If you saw the body language as Mr. Wray answered, it would sound even worse than it does here.
And it does get worse.
This week during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency and the head of the U.S. military Cyber Command, said that he was using his existing authorities to combat the Russian attacks. When asked a question similar to that asked last month of Director Wray — had the president given him any direction — he acknowledged that the president had not asked his agencies that are charged with conducting cyberoperations to find ways to counter the attackers and had not been granted new authorities to conduct counter operations.
Director Wray and Admiral Rogers are saying that they are on the defensive and doing the best that they can. However, they are inhibited by the apparent lack of interest from the Commander-in-Chief and have been given no authorization to go on the offensive. I am sure that the hard-working men and women in the intelligence agencies are doing what they can to protect our country, but they are having to do so with their hands tied and with no consequences for our attacker.
Here is the plain truth from Admiral Rogers during his testimony:
“President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity.’ Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”
I can go on, but you know the story. And it isn’t pretty.
Here are Mr. Trump’s responses, warnings, actions, deterrent activities, and punishments for Russia, in order: Bumpkiss, Nada, Zilch, Nothing, Goose Egg, Diddly-Squat.
Thank you Commander-in-Chief for keeping us safe from our adversaries and protecting our greatest democratic principle.
The latest story from the administration is that it is all President Obama’s fault. Should one take that story hook, line and sinker, it still begs the question as to why the president, in office for nearly 14 months, has directed nothing to be done to dissuade and deter further Russian meddling, much less to punish them and hold them accountable for their actions in 2016. He won’t even implement the sanctions voted on by both parties in the House (by a vote of 419-3) and Senate (98-2) last year designed specifically to punish Russia for their attack.
Why? The most common answer from pundits, politicians and prognosticators is that in his eyes, to even acknowledge that the Russians interfered, much less to help him as delineated in Mr. Mueller’s court papers, lessens his election victory and somehow makes it less legitimate.
I have other ideas as to why he won’t hold Russia and Vladimir Putin accountable for their actions, but so far, that would be pure speculation. Let’s go with the “my feelings would be hurt” reason.
Why does anyone accept that as an answer? Even if he feels that way, he is the president. As president he took an oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” To my knowledge there is nothing that precludes that responsibility just because the president’s ego may be bruised. As Commander-in-Chief he has an obligation to do his duty. If he refuses, then he is derelict in his duties as delineated in the Constitution.
Why do we continue to pretend otherwise?