Why does Trump ignore top officials’ warnings on Russia?15 February 2018 | 14:26 | The New York Times
No one knows more about the threats to the United States than these six officials, so when they all agree, it would be derelict to ignore their concerns. Yet President Trump continues to refuse to even acknowledge the malevolent Russian role.
It’s particularly striking that four of the men who gave this warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday — the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo; the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley — were all appointed by Mr. Trump.
They testified that the president has never asked them to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes.
Mr. Trump isn’t completely oblivious about Russia, of course. He fired Mr. Wray’s predecessor, James Comey, to derail the F.B.I.’s investigation of possible Trump campaign involvement with the election hacking, and reportedly asked Mr. Coats and Mr. Pompeo to help end the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Mr. Flynn’s contacts with Russians.
With the midterm elections only nine months away, the federal government is taking some defensive measures. It is trying to get at least one election official in each state a security clearance to make them aware of threats, and is providing states with enhanced online security to ensure that Americans’ votes will not be manipulated.
Nevertheless, absent Mr. Trump’s commitment, there can be no robust mobilization to take all measures needed to confront an insidious problem that strikes at the heart of the democratic system. These would include a comprehensive and well-funded plan for protecting critical infrastructure, countering cyberattacks and mitigating propaganda.
The president should not only be strengthening electoral defenses, but also pushing back against Russia, instead of ignoring a law Congress adopted overwhelmingly to impose sanctions for election meddling and aggression against Ukraine. The list of potential activities meriting sanctions covers weapons deals, human rights abuses and Russian cyberattacks against the United States and other democracies.
Although Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured Congress on Wednesday that sanctions “are coming,” there’s little reason to believe him. The State Department recently argued that it didn’t impose sanctions against companies doing weapons deals with Russia because the threat of sanctions was enough to deter some of those deals. But there is no excuse for not acting against Russia for cyberattacks — Mr. Trump’s own intelligence chiefs say such activity has increased, not diminished.
So why is Mr. Trump still ignoring such conclusions? Some have said he is giving Russia a green light to tamper with the 2018 elections. That would have once been an absurd suggestion. It can no longer be dismissed out of hand.
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