Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump, Republicans, and the Russians

I may have been wrong.  I recently posted that the Republican establishment would let Donald Trump get away with almost anything, with two exceptions.  Shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and the Republican establishment would dismiss it as a mere private indiscretion and not something that would effect Trump's public duties.   But the two things they would give battle on were infringing on the financial freedom of the Republican donor class, and being a Russian agent.  I got a comment expressing skepticism.  Republicans would be perfectly willing to accept Trump's crony capitalism so long as they got to be cronies.  And now Republicans appear to be more tolerant of Russians being in the tank for Trump than I would ever have expected.  (Whether they would tolerate Trump being in the tank for the Russians is another matter).

The CIA's revelation that Russia's hacks were not just attempts to undermine Americans' confidence in our system, but actual attempts to get Trump elected belongs in the Department of Duh.  But two things in the account are new.  One is that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee  as well as the Democrats but did not publish their findings.  The other is that President Obama assembled twelve relevant members of Congress -- the ranking members of the two houses, and the chairs and ranking minority members of the intelligence and homeland security committees of the two houses -- to inform them of the hacks and suggest a course of action.  The story reports that Obama proposed a strong bipartisan statement against Russian interference, but that two Republicans, refused, saying they were unconvinced the Russians were behind the hack.  One of the Republicans to dissent was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  The other is not named in the story, but it does quote House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes as expressing similar skepticism, and also as serving in the Trump transition team.  The inference is obvious.

This lays Congressional Republicans in general, and McConnell and Nunes in particular, open to charges of placing partisan loyalty ahead of national security, or at least being too intimidated by the Republican base to stand up for the integrity of our election system.  But another thought has occurred to me as well.

The Russians hacked Democratic e-mails and passed them along to Wikileaks.  There was nothing very damning in the e-mails, just politics as usual, but private communications do tend to look ugly if posted in public.  And I wondered if the Russians actually succeeded in getting Trump elected, how they would keep him in line once he was in office.  And the answer was a little too painfully obvious. Having seen how successful the technique could be, they would threaten to hack his e-mails and publish the results on Wikileaks.  Can anyone doubt that Trump e-mails would contain stuff a whole lot more damning than anything the Russians found on Clinton or Podesta?  (The pussy tapes make clear enough how Trump talks in private).

And I have to wonder if that, too, plays a role in the Republicans' reluctance to make any public accusations against the Russians.  The Russians have their e-mails, but haven't published them yet. There is no reason to believe that they contain anything scandalous, just politics as usual, including using the party apparatus to prevent a Trump nomination.  (Just as the Democrats used their party apparatus to prevent a Sanders nomination).  But they saw the damage that publication did to the Democrats.  And so they have to be wondering what would happen if their e-mails ended up on Wikileaks. . .

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