The unmitigated opinion of Clapper, who might have been speaking for all relevant intelligence agencies, was that the Russians interfered with the past election. In Twitter speak, “Not a surprise.” When news of the Trump election was announced to its Parliament, the Duma, cameras recorded a standing ovation by Russian legislators that were preceded by the announcement that it was “all thanks to you.” Without demeaning the information presented, today, the question, again, is what’s new here.
Russian involvement in the election is a given, so much so that the President has said that he could accept the fact though he, also, said China could have been responsible, too, or even someone else. The optics remain that the President refuses to acknowledge, in any meaningful way, the significance of Russian attempts to influence the past election. This is no surprise since he was the beneficiary of the Russian efforts.
There was the attempted deflection, by Senator Ted Cruz, (R), Texas, into Yates order to Justice Department lawyers to refrain from enforcement of the President’s Executive Order to temporarily bar entry of persons from what are, mainly, Muslim countries. That effort to impeach witness Yates fell flat despite Cruz’s best efforts.
Senator Lindsay Graham, (R), South Carolina, ran an efficient, bi-partisan, hearing and raised important questions at the outset though the answers he received in response were demurrers instead of direct replies. The questions still remain pertinent to a public that remains frustrated because of the requirements surrounding disclosure of classified information. If a clinical trial, the hearing would be a placebo that cured no illness.
The public heard that Flynn misled the Vice President, the reason for Yates visits to the White House, to warn about Russia’s designs and the potential for blackmail. Flynn’s lies, however, are no surprise, either, because they were the reason Trump fired him, though he later defended Flynn and said he had been treated “very unfairly.”
The pregnant question is why it took the White House eighteen days to axe Flynn, something it didn’t do until news of his deception broke in the press, despite several warnings by Yates, and even Obama. The sense is that there was, either, malevolent intent or stupidity at work because a lot of damage to national security can be done in eighteen days. Wars can be lost in less time.
Consider that there were official letters sent to Pence, when he was the head of the Trump transition that raised the same concerns that troubled Yates. This was not touched on during this hearing but is sure to arise in due course. If the Vice-President testifies, perhaps, he could explain how it was possible to hire Flynn as National Security Advisor after Pence had been informed the general was shrouded in compromise.
It would have been a salient decision for applicable committees, and the F.B.I., to have given immunity to Flynn because that could have saved time, lots of if. When building a case, however, the steps taken in that regard must be deliberate and cumulative. Looking at the hearing in this fashion, the actions of the committee were sound and provide a basis for the inquiries that, perforce, will continue. Anyone expecting that the President will be removed from his chair in the near term is bound to be disappointed.
It’s possible that the White House has been at war with national intelligence services to proactively mitigate the damage those services could do the President from revelations about Russia. The President is responsible, above all else, with protecting the security of the nation. Denying that a particular foreign actor influenced our democratic processes should be a paramount concern for the leader of our nation. Trump’s failure to acknowledge Russia’s malevolence, except in the mildest fashion, should be deeply concerning to every American.