The Russian email-hacking scandal comes down to this question: Do you believe, U.S. intelligence agencies or a former Soviet Union spy chief whose iron-fisted rule is the antithesis of freedom and democracy?
Anyone who is willing to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt is either na Øve or has an agenda that should trouble all patriotic Americans.
Putin and the thuggish members of his inner circle have been caught red-handed by U.S. intelligence agencies as orchestrating a hidden campaign to influence America’s presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
At a news conference Wednesday, Trump conceded for the first time publicly that Russia was responsible for the hacking. However, he stopped short of pointing the finger of blame at Putin.
Asked about his relationship with the Russian leader, Trump said, “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that’s called an asset, not a liability. I don’t know if I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin – I hope I do – but there’s a good chance I won’t.”
An unclassified version of an intelligence report made public last week provides incontrovertible evidence of Russian hacking into email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats such as John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Why would Putin and his minions care about who will lead the United States for the next four years? The answer lies in how they view Trump and Clinton.
The Democratic presidential nominee who lost the electoral vote count but received 2.9 million more votes than the Republican nominee in the popular vote tally has long been a thorn in Putin’s side. As secretary of state, Clinton was harshly critical of the presidential election in Russia and of Putin’s stated desire to resurrect the old Soviet Union.
Russia’s occupancy of Crimea and its designs on other Eastern European countries that once formed the Soviet Union have triggered United Nations sanctions and harsh criticism from the administration of President Barack Obama.
Trump, on the other hand, suggests that concerns about Putin’s goal of global domination are overblown and without foundation.
Trump was briefed on the classified account of Putin’s involvement in the hacking scheme, but continued to insist any such interference did not affect the outcome of the presidential election.
To further demonstrate his willingness to give Putin and his dictatorial government the benefit of the doubt, Trump said Saturday that “only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” said the president-elect who will be sworn in Jan. 20.
The comment suggests that President Trump would lift the sanctions imposed by President Obama against Russian spy agencies, reopen the two Russian compounds closed by the administration and roll back the expulsion of 35 diplomats. The U.S. said the diplomats were really spies.
Obama went a step further on Monday in his continuing battle with Russia by blacklisting five Russians, including a senior law enforcement official close to Putin. The sanctions against the five are not related to the U.S. intelligence agencies findings, but instead are connected to a 2012 U.S. law punishing Russian human-rights violations.
Americans are now banned from doing business with the men, and any assets they may have in the United States are now frozen.
But given Trump’s eagerness to curry favor with Putin and the Kremlin, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine the five Russians being given a hero’s welcome by the new administration.
Americans, regardless of party affiliation and political ideology, should be deeply disturbed by Trump’s willingness to give Putin a pass.
It is fortunate, however, that there are leading Republican members of Congress who have not only publicly disagreed with the president-elect, but have made it clear that Russia’s involvement in the presidential election will not go unpunished.
“We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia,” Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said last month.