• 57°

Russian tampering and Trump collusion?

By BOB MARTIN

Contributing columnist

Well, this explains a lot.

Deputy Director Rosenstein announced the indictment of 13 Russians on the afternoon of Feb. 16. These people were responsible for a trolling operation in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We were not informed how many IT specialists worked on the project. The Russians began these operations in 2014. The objective was to promote chaos in the electoral process and to undermine public support for democratic institutions.

This was a direct attack on the U.S. by a totalitarian government. From the persistence of the “resistance” movement, the Russian’s efforts succeeded beyond their expectations.

The Russian disinformation project supported a variety of candidates and opposed others during the primaries. Once nominated, they supported Donald Trump; after his election they doubled down on Trump opposition, claiming he was an illegitimate president. At each step, it is clear the Russian’s objective was to promote chaos, not support a specific candidate.    

Deputy Director Rosenstein made it clear there was no evidence of collusion among the American citizens involved. They were duped by the sophisticated trolls. There was no collusion discovered among any other parties.

True to form, President Trump took this as evidence there was no collusion in the Trump campaign.  Technically, that is not true. On the other hand, the ambiguity in the announcement will make it politically difficult to bring collusion charges against the Trump Administration later. The controversy surrounding members of the Mueller team and the “Fisa” court makes it difficult to prosecute Trump et. al. for obstruction of justice. Since the purpose behind obstruction of justice charges is to impeach Trump, these efforts can be construed to be aiding and abetting Russia’s disinformation operation.

Senior Democrats and the media spin the FBI news conference as proof positive Trump lied since they are now interpreting all his previous comments as claiming the Russians did not tamper with the 2016 election. The Russians have been tampering with our elections for decades, so such an assertion would be dubious at face value. What Trump has been in-artfully saying is the Russian/Trump Administration collusion charge is a hoax and the FBI news conference seemed to verify that claim.

Trump uses very imprecise language and that causes confusion and allows the media to put the very worst interpretations on what ever he says. Politically, this is very costly to what he is trying to accomplish; but, it does not make him a dictator. Beyond what he says, what specifically has he done that undermines the power of other branches of the government? The FBI and the Department of Justice are part of the administration and he is responsible for how well they behave. If there is a problem, he is supposed to speak up.   

We can continue to squabble among ourselves, thus propagating the Russian destabilization project; or, we can come together to ensure the Russians play no part in either the 2018 or 2020 elections.  Our collective best interests are served by closing ranks in defense of the republic.

Bob Martin is the Emeritus Boles Professor of Economics at Centre College.