Opinion: Russian assault on the American electoral system is real

A deadly serious conclusion can be drawn from former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee: Donald Trump cares more about himself than about the security of the United States.

That disturbing reality is getting scant attention, however, as Republicans and Democrats cull through the various things Comey said to find further justifications for their predisposed and opposing positions. Comey told the senators that the president had improperly urged him to pull back from the FBI investigation into ex-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s dealings with the Russians while pushing the director to give him a pledge of personal loyalty. Democrats insist Trump’s actions showed clear intent to obstruct justice. Republicans are shrugging it all off as a rookie mistake.

Republicans are also making a big deal out of Comey’s acknowledgement that Trump was not a target of the FBI probe. Meanwhile, Democrats have latched onto Trump’s firing of Comey as another example of Trump trying to subvert the investigation into his campaign aides.

Comey made the point that Trump himself confirmed his dismissal was driven by the president’s concerns about the Russia inquiry, not by alleged poor management.

“The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”

The assertion that the president is a major league liar is hard to dispute, but being caught in a lie has never hurt Trump. The bottom line after Comey’s testimony: Unless the special prosecutor or one of the congressional committees finds a hot, smoking gun, the Republicans will never start an impeachment proceeding against Trump, no matter how fervently liberals across America long for it. Comey did not provide that gun.

What he did provide was a reminder of the core concern that has been nearly ignored in all the partisan jockeying: The Russian assault on the American electoral system is real.

“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans,” Comey said. “And that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government, using technical intrusion and lots of other methods, that tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal.

“And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. (The Russians are) coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them, and so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible.”

Despite his rookie failings and mendacious ways, Trump could redeem himself in the eyes of many people if he would start taking the Russian meddling seriously. Instead, he has gone out of his way to make excuses for Vladmir Putin’s hackers and spies. He has asserted that no one really knows who hacked what, despite the universal conclusion of U.S. intelligence services that it was the Russians. He has repeatedly alleged that the concern about Russian activities is being manufactured by the Democrats to provide an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in November. Other than disingenuous pro forma statements in favor of getting the facts about Russian interference, Trump has done nothing but undermine efforts to uncover the extent of Russia’s attack on American democracy.

Instead of caring about the country, Trump has been concerned only about himself. That is what came through in Comey’s testimony. The president is obsessed with his own reputation, not the nation’s security. He did not ask Comey to fill him in on Russian subversion, he only wanted to know if anyone was coming after him.

Trump’s true crime may not be obstruction of justice, but dereliction of duty.

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By David Horsey

Los Angeles Times

Email [email protected] or follow him at @davidhorsey on Twitter