Once Desperate but Increasingly Substantiated Claims of Intervention Saturate the Political Scene and Impede Good Governance
It is no secret that relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated during Vladimir Putin’s tenure as Russian President; however, until the 2016 election, the notion that we are living in a new era of the Cold War would have been dismissed as largely incredulous. However, the facts of the last several months clearly indicate that the Cold War mentality has returned after a thirty-year hiatus.
In the weeks leading up to the election, charges began to emerge that members of the Trump campaign had been in contact with Russians close to Vladimir Putin. Additionally, it is widely believed that the leaks of emails from the Democratic National Committee leading up to the Democratic Convention originated from hackers associated with Russian intelligence services. The Clinton campaign was quick to employ this narrative as a way to discredit Trump, and the Clinton campaign, along with much of the press, ignored the fact that the leaked emails revealed that Clinton ally and then DNC-chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz had worked to undermine the Sanders campaign.
Amongst all of the talk of Russians, it was revealed by the New York Times that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had ties to the Russian-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and had received over $12 million in payment from his Party of Regions. This resulted in Manafort’s resignation from the campaign, and subsequent replacement by Kellyanne Conway.
Ultimately, Clinton lost the election, and soon after, Democrats began alleging that Russian interference in the election ensured Trump’s victory, rather than placing the blame with Clinton’s poorly run campaign. Her campaign focused on the fact that she was a woman, thus her policies were largely unknown, outside of the fact that they would look very much like Obama’s. The Democrats went so far as to claim that voting machines had been hacked and that not all Clinton votes had been counted because of hacking in battleground states; ironically, when the votes were recounted, it became apparent that votes had indeed gone uncounted, many of which had been cast for Donald Trump.
The Cabinet Battlefront
Stifled in their efforts to discredit Trump’s victory, Democrats began to target his cabinet nominees. The most notable of such attacks were leveled at Rex Tillerson when Trump nominated him to be Secretary of State. As chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson had worked with the Russian government to negotiate deals on several occasions. Because of this, Democrats claimed that Tillerson would be too beholden to Russia to effectively challenge it diplomatically on the world stage. Tillerson was ultimately confirmed, but only after stating that he did believe Russia had meddled in the election in some way. The Democrats’ fears have since been proven baseless. Tillerson has thus far proven a strong Secretary of State, having now traveled to Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as Putin, and had very frank discussions with them regarding U.S.-Russian relations.
Another quick target of the Democrats was now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When Trump nominated Sessions to serve as Attorney General, Democrats began digging for anything they could stick to him in order to drag Sessions down, presumably hoping to find a less conservative candidate to follow Obama’s appointees. When the tried-and-true Democratic tactic of claiming racism failed, they claimed that Sessions was complicit in Russian meddling, simply because he had met with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. on two occasions in the months leading up to the election. Fortunately, these flailing arguments came up short when it was pointed out that it was not unreasonable for Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, to have met with the Russian Ambassador in that capacity, and that his conversations with Krislyak were among twenty-five that he had with foreign ambassadors in 2016. Sessions further eased tensions by recusing himself from any investigations that might be conducted by the Justice Department involving Russia and the election.
The Saga Continues
Nearly six months have passed since the election, and yet the Russian conundrum persists. Each day brings some new revelation of someone associated with Trump meeting with someone associated with Putin. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did indeed meddle in the election, though the extent and deeper intent remains unknown. Both the House and the Senate have begun investigating the matter, and the FBI continues its own investigation despite the dumping of former FBI Director James Comey. Now, bipartisan cries for a special counsel to look into the matters have been satisfied with the acclaimed appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
To compliment the hands-off approach President Trump should undoubtedly take in regard to the investigation from here on out, we trust must trust Mueller and his colleagues to discover wrongdoing where it exists. At this point, one can only hope that these investigations will be brought to a swift conclusion rather than being drug out for political purposes so that the Trump administration can finally focus on good governance.
This article is adapted from an article of the same name in the Summer, 2017 edition of The Arch Conservative in print.
— Christopher Lipscomb is a sophomore studying international affairs. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative.