My response: James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, reiterated on CNN Thursday that his office’s report, Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution(1), is 100% accurate in its assessment that Russia directed the cyber attack against the United States 2016 presidential election. He stated he is absolutely certain that it was Russia and Russia alone, under the direction of its President, Vladimir Putin.
When Donald Trump speaks extemporaneously and either discounts the DNI’s report or, worse, hedges on its veracity, he demonstrates his consistent lack of probity. For all his bluster and narcissism, Trump seems to be a man with a very fragile ego. Any question of Russian interference in the 2016 election is a personal attack against him because it invalidates his presidency.
Thus, Mr. Trump displays selective memory; he assigns blame to others. Addressing his audience in Poland on Thursday, Trump compared the likelihood of Russian interference in the U.S. election to the Bush administration’s supposed discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Then paradoxically, apparently having lost his train of thought, he assigned blame to former President Barack Obama for failing to alert the public to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
This plays into Mr. Putin’s hands. Trump cannot excoriate the Russians for something that, in his estimation, has not happened. Putin will continue to offer effusive praise of Mr. Trump, while exacting significant concessions from the U.S. president.
The U.S. intelligence community will continue its efforts to protect America and its interests, despite the insults and vagaries inherent in Trump’s tweets or his rants to his core base. It is unfortunate that Mr. Trump does not possess their restraint and dedication to truth.