The Corner


Maybe Because They Could

President Donald Trump receives a soccer ball from Russian President Vladimir Putin as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Grigory Dukor/Reuters)

Robert Mueller’s investigation is over. And my friend David Frum asks a question.

The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? …  The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?

He asks the question in several leading ways.

Did they admire Trump’s anti-NATO, anti–European Union, anti-ally, pro–Bashar al-Assad, pro-Putin ideology?

Were they attracted by his contempt for the rule of law and dislike of democracy?

Did they hold compromising information about him, financial or otherwise?

Were there business dealings in the past, present, or future?

Or were they simply attracted by Trump’s general ignorance and incompetence, seeing him as a kind of wrecking ball to be smashed into the U.S. government and U.S. foreign policy?

In the article, and in subsequent tweets, Frum refers to Trump as a security risk. I might even agree with that last statement, if it were properly qualified. Frum is a dear friend, and I’m sad to be on the other side of him on the particulars.

Can I suggest another possible answer to his question: “Why?” 

Because they could.

We know from congressional reports and other investigations that Russia’s campaign of organized trolling was not all that effective. As an internet campaign, the number of impressions it made is tiny compared to even one of the most high-volume Twitter personalities.

The heart of the Russian intervention is its hacking of computers, and leaking through information clearinghouses like Wikileaks. This certainly had an effect on the election.

But Frum has laid all the emphasis on Russian intervention, and none at all on Hillary Clinton’s self-inflicted information insecurity. Russia interest in hacking Clinton and the Democrats makes Trump guilty in Frum’s eyes. But why isn’t Clinton’s vulnerability to this hacking a “security risk?”

I will never understand why Clinton’s incompetence, dishonesty, and vulnerability to foreign spying is used as an argument that she should be president.

As for all the ideological reasons that Frum identifies as attractive to Russia, what are they getting for their efforts?

I didn’t need to employ the FSB to figure out that Donald Trump is notoriously unreliable for his promises. So far Trump has expanded NATO, including in Montenegro. NATO expansionists loved the move. (Only I seem to think that this expansion makes NATO more vulnerable to Russian interference.)

Trump’s ignorance, bombast, and cruelty trouble me too. But who, considering the Mueller report’s principal findings, can’t wonder about the same of men like John Brennan, Obama’s supposed conscience and keeper of the “kill list?”

As for being anti-democracy, by seeding disinformation to Christopher Steele, the Clinton campaign, and elsewhere Russia has made the defenders of the “liberal world order” demand that democratic votes are overturned in the United Kingdom and the United States. Christopher Hitchens used to say that religious people trying to be good can be convinced to do wicked things. Over the past few years conscientious liberals are doing the supposed anti-democratic work of the Russian state more effectively than Trump ever could.

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