Our President-elect’s odd reaction to the relevation that the Russians orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer systems and the strategic release of information designed to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help him is disturbing. Given his history, the generally accepted explanation is that he is just being true to his ego-centric nature. Any information that suggests that Trump is not as great as he thinks or that attacks his credibility is automatically discredited. For the soon to be leader of the free world, that adolescent attitude would be concerning but, unsettling as it may be, an even more sinister explanation exists. Could Trump could be, even unwittingly, an agent for a foreign power?
It was widely known in early 2016 that the Russians were attempting to hack the DNC computer systems and were trying to disrupt the upcoming American elections. As these actions intensified President Obama met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders in September to suggest issuing a joint statement condemning the Russian actions. As most of the attacks were being directed toward Clinton, the Republicans, particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, refused and made it “...clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics“. The administration kept silent; Trump won the election and the intelligence agencies subsequently amassed definitive evidence of Russian initial efforts to damage Clinton had she won and later to aid Trump when it appeared that he could win. The President then ordered the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a comprehensive report before he leaves office. A classified version was briefed to him on January 5, 2017, to President-elect Trump on January 6 followed by an unclassified version to the public on the same day. The report, jointly endorsed by the FBI, CIA and NSA, concluded that
- Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
- Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.
- Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”
Curiously, the Trump campaign echoed and amplified the overt actions cited above as they appeared in the news cycle.
For most of my career I worked on government defense contracts and had to have a security clearance to do so. The highest clearance level I obtained was Top Secret-Compartmental. To qualify for this clearance level I had to undergo an extensive background investigation of my life including my travel, finances and social relationships. I also was subjected to a polygraph examination. . One cannot help but wonder whether Trump could successfully pass a high security background check. His odd affinity for Putin, his non-sensical denigration of our intelligence agencies and his refusal to disclose his tax returns and business relationships are all red flags to investigators. More fundamentally, are presidential candidates even subjected to formal security background checks? If not, why not? This would appear to be a serious hole in the integrity of our system. If so, to whom are the results reported and what, if anything are they required to do with the information uncovered? What if the person being investigated is the president? Impeachment is the process for dealing with the situation once evidence of possible “high crimes and misdemeanors” exists but how is such evidence uncovered in the first place, particularly when the person being investigated is actively shielding his background? Depending on the press is thin gruel for such an important task.