President Trump will head to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany next week, and the question everyone’s asking is, “What will he and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk about?”
It will be the first meeting between the two world leaders since Trump became President, and the potential topics of conversation are endless. Putin has already leaked his wish list for their meeting. Syria, ISIS, sanctions, NATO expansion, and Ukraine are all issues with which he intends to confront and corner President Trump.
The White House has been coy about its expectations for the meeting, and they won’t confirm one way or the other whether Russia’s hacking operation that infiltrated and undermined the 2016 presidential election will be on the table. Administration officials as late as yesterday told CNN that they’re unaware of any plans the President may have to discuss the issue.
Admin officials telling CNN that – at least as they see it – POTUS is unlikely to raise Russian election interference https://t.co/ehRsbrcfLk
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) July 3, 2017
It is a forgone conclusion of every U.S. intelligence agency that Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to direct and execute a cyber attack and misinformation campaign in 2016. We’ve learned more recently that the cyber attack included hacking into voter registration offices in at least 22 states – 4 of them successful. While the White House and their allies have attempted to conflate, discredit, and outright obstruct the many investigations trying to get to the bottom the Russian operation, the debate over what they did and how they did it is over.
“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever,” fired FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee during his June 8th testimony. “The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. It was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government.”
Current National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers, echoed that conclusion back in November of 2016, days after the election, when he told a Wall Street Journal forum, “There shouldn’t be any doubts in anybody’s mind: This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in May, “I think every American should be concerned about what the Russians did. From my point of view, there’s no doubt in my mind it was the Russians involved in all the things I just described — not some 400-pound guy sitting on a bed, or any other country. Russia is up to no good when it comes to democracies all over the world.”
When President Obama met Putin at the 2016 G20 Summit in China in September – just weeks before the election – he and our intelligence agencies were well aware that the Russian operation was underway. Obama confronted Putin directly during their meeting and told him to “stop it.”
But now, despite all of this certainty on behalf of his own government and his own intelligence services, President Trump has no plans to bring it up with Vladimir Putin during their face to face meeting in Hamburg. We can only speculate why.
He delayed admitting Russia’s guilt for months after U.S. intelligence reached its conclusions. And even after his begrudging acceptance, he only went so far as to say that Russia “probably” did it.
Could it be he simply doesn’t want to believe anyone helped him achieve his controversial victory? It’s not hard to imagine a man with his ego would be reluctant to admit his victory was tainted. Or is there more? Is he fearful that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller may discover Russia had some help from inside the Trump campaign itself – as investigators are looking into as we speak – and he intends to deny for as long as he can?
Maybe his much celebrated and hardly disguised affection for Putin and Russia is so deep and visceral that he just can’t bring himself to say anything critical about him – even when the evidence is overwhelming.
Whatever his reasons, it’s clear he intends to overlook the Russian cyber attack at all costs, even at the expense of the national security of the United States of America.