The common claim that the 2016 presidential election is in many ways unprecedented doesn’t attract as much attention as it once did.
Despite how stunned and appalled many Americans were when they realized that a billionaire businessman with no political experience was headed to the White House to occupy the most powerful office in the world, many people by now have nonetheless accepted, to varying degrees, no doubt, that Donald Trump will be the President of the United States for at least the next four years.
Americans know all of that, and they have known it since early on the morning of Nov. 9 when Trump declared victory.
What we did not know until this past Friday, however, was the extent to which Russia and its President Vladimir Putin meddled with the election itself.
In a 14-page declassified report released on Friday afternoon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence informed the American public that “we assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”
The report noted that “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” It also concluded that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes.”
What started out as frivolous jokes about Putin and Trump’s relationship have now become all too real: the Russian government and Putin himself demonstrated a “clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report determined. They carried out an extensive and powerful campaign aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances to win the election.
But even though these revelations represent the most serious and egregious threat to American elections in recent history, they somehow managed to not be the most shocking aspect of the ordeal at all.
The true disgrace was the President-elect’s complete denouncement of the findings of the intelligence commu-nity — an intelligence community, to be sure, that Trump himself will oversee in a matter of days.
In the face of overwhelming evidence from the report that left no doubt of Russia and Putin’s attempts to influence the election, Trump issued a statement which asserted that “while Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
A statement like this one is grossly irresponsible and represents a long pattern in the way that Trump chooses to communicate with the American public.
The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made no mention of tampering with voting machines, and it likewise said nothing about whether Russia’s attempts to influence the election were successful It only stated that the attempts were made.
Trump’s statement, then, falls into a long line of declarations that he has made, which either ignore, sidestep, obscure or otherwise completely refute the existence of established facts.
But anyone who has followed Trump’s campaign over these past months cannot find this statement entirely surprising. After all, he has essentially made it his business to offer sweeping solutions to enormous problems while offering no concrete plan about how he will reach his goals.
When Trump affirms that he wants to make “America’s safety and security” his “number one priority,” we would like to believe him. We fully expect that he wants all of America’s citizens to be safe and secure.
But when the President-elect of the United States effectively tries to change the subject entirely when confronted with a major report from the intelligence community, we can say with certainty that something has gone horribly wrong.
Trump will surely try to keep America safe and secure during his presidency, but as is the case with basically all of his other policies, it is very unclear how he will go about doing that.