The impact of Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election has caused great concern among many Americans, for our democratic government, and has “undermin[ed]” the trust people have in the “electoral college system” according to the Chicago Tribune. The beginning of the Russian influence in the election pre-dates the Democratic National Convention, when Putin and Trump were looked at as allies. This relationship has proven to be dangerous for our country.
The extent of the Putin/Trump relationship is unclear, but one thing is evident – Trump has benefitted from Russia’s influence on our election process, and the various acts committed by Russian linked personnel. The global intelligence community has provided evidence of cyber infiltration of private Democratic servers, which had a significant impact on Hillary Clinton’s reputation and the results of the 2016 presidential election. This is explained in detail by Security Week. Russians utilized malware called “Fancy Bear” to gain unauthorized access to private information, which they leaked.
Mitchell Shaw wrote that, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the CIA and FBI were investigating potential Russian influence or meddling with the election. Trump and the White house have recently attempted to debunk both agencies and their leadership, hoping to conclude the investigation surrounding the controversial 2016 election. They claimed that the FBI director should be “fired” and not remain in his current position due to his handling of this investigation as well as the closed investigation around Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, the president has yet to act, according to CBS News.
Despite the executive branch’s best efforts to divert attention from the investigation, “the CIA has concluded the Russians intervened to help elect Donald Trump.” It has been shown that certain members of Trump’s campaign staff have close affinities to officials in the Russian government or large corporations in the country. The number of individuals with connections to Russia makes it hard to deny any relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia. The New York Times has shown Trump has contradicted himself publicly about his own relationships with these individuals in his campaign.
The President’s frequent contradictions in public addresses and via Twitter makes it difficult to identify his own position on these issues. He himself claims that he has had no ties to Russia in the past, but there is mounting evidence to the contrary. TIME identified “two-thirds” of the President’s public statements during his campaign to be false, confirming that fact-checking is a necessity when reviewing Trump’s statements.
The results of the election tell a story about the American Democracy that the average people may not be aware of. The popular vote elected Clinton, but Trump won by a hefty majority in the electoral college system. During the Republican primary debates, Trump refused to state that he “would accept whatever the results of the 2016 election were,” since he himself thought the election was privy to influence. Now that he is President he has yet to concede that, in fact, the Russians did meddle in the U.S.2016 presidential election.
Putin’s campaign to “undermine” the American people’s confidence in the electoral college system has been effective. Many Democrats were shocked at Trump’s victory in election, thinking that the country would decide to vote for Hillary. The logic being that Clinton is a career politician and Trump a businessman. The effects of the leaked emails and Trump’s persistence in criticizing Hillary for her inadequacy for office due to her ignorant use of a private email server damaged her campaign’s reputation. This damage was irreparable, no matter how Clinton performed after the DNC and throughout the presidential debates.
Examining the election map, many key states that Hillary won in the primaries elected to vote Trump and Pence into office. Russian influence may have been the leading factor in changing many voters’ minds regarding the election. Since the primaries, the DNC servers were infiltrated by Russian hackers, utilizing malware to identify passwords of key individuals working on Clinton’s campaign. The hackers used these passwords to gain access to private email accounts, choosing to only leak emails and attachments related directly to Clinton, her campaign advisers and campaign manager.
Putin’s influence is Russia is dominant. The past election was won in a “landslide,” showing how his political influence can dominate the populous in his home country. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” The extent of this influence is being investigated by the FBI and CIA, which Trump has fought to bring to an abrupt and early conclusion.
Business Insider reported that, at the time of the election, the only published article showing a relationship between Trump and Russian government was the “sub-tabloid ‘dossier’ published by Buzzfeed” which smeared Trump. Further investigation has established a clearer connection between Trump’s campaign and Putin’s Russia. What remains unclear is the extent of the influence and whether President Trump was aware of the connection.
Recently, the US intelligence community utilized this dossier. They utilized this as the first piece of evidence to obtain a warrant to surveille Cater Page, “an early foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s campaign.” Court documents portrayed Page as a foreign agent of Russia, working under President Trump’s campaign and state that he “knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities” on behalf of the Russian government in Moscow.
Intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA are investigating connections between individuals in Trump’s office and Russian spies and government officials. As the evidence stacks up against Trump, he has attempted to distance himself from any connection to Russia. The lack of straightforward honesty that the executive branch has shown leads investigators and the American people alike to question many of Trump’s motives. The individuals supporting the president throughout his campaign have been dismissed if there has been any connection shown between these individuals and Russia.
There are “multiple investigations” being conducted “in Washington into” connections between Trump campaign personnel and Russia. Washington Monthly reported that the FBI has acquired “specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion…relating to the use of hacked material.” Despite Trump’s attempts to halt the investigation, the intelligence agencies heading the investigations are “making headway” and turning up some concrete evidence to back their claims against the President and his staff.
There are conflicting opinions on the issues surrounding the 2016 election, and many of the American people may wonder what the ‘big deal’ is if Russia influenced our election. The reality is that the extreme polarization in the country leaves our democracy in a very fragile state. Trump’s claims of “fake news” and his use of alternative facts have led many to distrust both politicians and the news sources reporting on them. The right to a free press is essential to maintain a strong democracy, as it provides critical checks and balances on those in power. The American people have a right to know the full story about Trump’s connection to the Russians and Trump’s claims of “fake news” should not be used to silence news sources.
The divide between political parties in this country has never been stronger. Many stand behind our President in support, many others would like to have him impeached. This division creates for a divided country, and as Abraham Lincoln once said in a speech in 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” It is time for Trump to reconcile his past claims with current truths.
Despite officials from several intelligence agencies substantiating claims of Trump’s connection to Russia, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, issued statements saying that the investigation surrounding this connection has concluded. While Mr. Spicer may want the investigation to be concluded, the reality is that it will take time to complete due to its complex and sensitive nature, and it is far from concluded.
Overwhelming proof of many different possible connections to Russia by Trump or his campaign team linger. However, as seen in his tweet below, Trump’s position remains unequivocal – he refutes any ties to Russia, claiming that he has had “no deals, no loans, no nothing!”
This investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election has shocked many of the American people and caused many to question the connection between Russia and our current president. This uncertainty leads to a distrust of the President and the Executive branch. The American people should to follow the investigation closely, as it pertains directly to the legitimacy of President Trump and his word. The President is only as good as the statements me makes and actions he takes. If his supporters cannot trust him, then is he really the person America wants in office?