03 April 17
estifying before Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, former FBI counter-terrorism expert Clinton Watts described how he and his colleagues battled Russian cyberattackers during the months prior to the November 8th election.
Republican senator James Lankford, questioning Watts, wanted to know why the Russian cyberattacks, which had existed for some time, had increased so dramatically during this election cycle. Why now?
Watts said two things, both cutting to the heart of the Trump-Russia affair in equal measure. Watts began with a challenge to the members, “I think this answer is very simple and it’s what nobody is really saying in this room …” and then he laid it all out for the entire country to see — “which is, part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the commander in chief has used Russian active measures at times, against his opponent(s).”
In reverse order, Watts’s statement that Trump used Russian active measures at times against his opponent(s) while campaigning is a de facto accusation that Donald Trump personally acted in concert with Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the presidential election and the Republican primary before it. He was an active participant. That is collusion, and yes, it is Treason.
To the first part of what Watts said, it is indeed what nobody in that room and no one in the media really wants to say. Evidence of collusion isn’t difficult to find, but it is difficult to wade through, because there is so much of it. Think Progress counted no fewer than 164 mentions of Wikileaks material damaging to Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump in the final month of the campaign alone. Yes, he was using the material lifted from Democratic servers and he was using it on cue. The Russians lifted it, Wikileaks disseminated it, and Trump used it like a hammer to beat down his opponent and capture the presidency.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation, while quite a bit more orderly than the House production of the Devin Nunes Show, may not necessarily be more productive. To begin, both Republican chairman Richard Burr and Democratic ranking member Mark Warner have said that their investigation will not look into any current activities by the president or his administration. Presumably that would fall to federal law enforcement. Let’s hope so.
The problem with coordination between Donald Trump and the government of Vladimir Putin is that it is the gift that keeps on giving. This isn’t something that only happened “in the run-up to the election” or something “we need to learn from, so we can protect our elections going forward.” It is an ongoing process right now.
When Donald Trump insults our staunchest European allies as he promotes Russian accord and cooperation, he is delivering on his end of the bargain. He is also knowingly compromising U.S. national security, perhaps irreparably. Rex Tillerson, in his capacity as secretary of state, is equally active on the same agenda.
Clinton Watts’s warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee members was echoed by former CIA chief of staff Jeremy Bash, speaking in an interview on MSNBC with Brian Williams. Bash was even more blunt, saying, “When I think about checks and balances, when I think about Congress being a check on the executive branch, Brian, the image I have in my head of the White House is a runaway train. The brakes are out, and you pull your last best hope, the emergency brake, the great Congress of the United States and the handle literally breaks off in your hand. That is how much trouble we are in.”
Donald Trump and his co-conspirators represent an immediate threat to the security of the nation. The evidence is abundant. The time to act has come.
Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.