The biggest political scandal to hit the U.S. since Watergate occurred last year, it involves Donald Trump, and it has largely disappeared from the political-media landscape. But, is it by accident or by design?
According to US intelligence agencies, Russian operatives, under direct orders of Vladimir Putin, launched an extensive cyber operation with one single objective: Tilt the 2016 campaign in Donald Trump’s favor. The Russia-Trump connection resulted in an unprecedented attack on U.S. democracy.
Donald Trump committed several treasonous crimes during the election, including an open invitation to the Kremlin to hack into his Democratic opponent’s email server, saying Russia would be “rewarded mightily.” This action alone should have been a disqualifier.
As stated by a CIA report, this was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. Sadly, it achieved its objectives. But despite all the evidence presented by the Intelligence community, Republicans in Congress blocked any effort to investigate this assault on U.S. Democracy.
Trump himself has been working to undermine the U.S. Intelligence community by accusing them of misleading the public for political reasons.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump said in a statement released by his campaign. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’” Trump said.
In December, a group of computer scientists announced the discovery of a secret email server with a direct connection between the Trump Tower and Russia.
Days later, a series of memos attributed to a former British counterintelligence officer included allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Yet these behind-closed-doors inquiries have generated minimum media notice, and, overall, there has not been much outcry.
Only after securing the presidency, Republicans in the congressional intelligence committees announced that they will investigate the Russian hacking and also examine whether there were any improper contacts between the Trump camp and Russia during the campaign.
The move came after much persistence from Democratic lawmakers and few Republican officials who have bothered to express any disgust at the Moscow meddling —Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio.
Last month, Graham told reporters he wanted an investigation of how the FBI has handled intelligence it supposedly has gathered on ties between Trump insiders and Russia. Days later, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pushed FBI Director James Comey at a public hearing to release this information. However, no action has preceded that request.
But Democrats are determined to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes: Last week, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on the FBI to investigate Trump’s “financial, personal and political connections to Russia” to determine “the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.”
Most recently, responding to Trump’s comparison of the United States to Putin’s repressive regime, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN:
“What is this strange relationship between Putin and Trump? And is there something that the Russians have on him that is causing him to say these really bizarre things on an almost daily basis?” Yet there has been no drumbeat of sound bites, tweets, or headlines. In recent days, the story has gone mostly dark.
If you look at the White House daily press briefings you will notice a disturbing pattern: Trump tweets something stupid and the media jumps all over it.
That’s why, since Trump entered office, the WH news briefs have been limited to discussions on the inauguration crowd size and how “terrible” SNL sketches are. But the Russia scandal is nowhere to be found.
As Mother Jones states: “Trump associates are perhaps being questioned by House and Senate intelligence committee investigators, and the FBI, which according to news reports has looked at possible ties between Trump advisers and Russia, might also still be on the case. Yet this has not been a top priority for White House reporters.”
“There have been plenty of significant topics for journalists to press Spicer and the administration on—the travel ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump’s plan to dump Obamacare, various nominations and a Supreme Court pick, Trump’s fact-free charge of widespread voter fraud, Steve Bannon’s participation on the National Security Council, Trump’s contentious calls with foreign leaders, the president’s erratic behavior, and much more. But the lack of media attention to the Russia story, at the White House briefings and beyond, is curious.”
“It is true that the intelligence committee probes are being conducted secretly, and there are no public hearings or actions to cover. Mitch McConnell, hoping to confine this scandal, succeeded in preventing the creation of a special committee or an independent commission to probe this affair—either of which would have probably sparked more coverage than the highly secretive intelligence committees.”
But here are two questions that could have been posed to Spicer at his first briefing:
1- Have any past or present Trump associates, inside or outside his administration, been contacted or questioned by the intelligence committees, the FBI, or any other government body investigating the Russian hacking or interactions between Trump’s circle and Russia?
2- During the presidential campaign, did Trump or any of his political or business associates have any interactions with Russian officials or Russian intermediaries?
Go ahead, ask those questions.