Do House Republicans Need Russia to Win?

Given their refusal to fund election security, that's a fair question.

On Friday, I wrote about the president’s new burden of proof.

We know that top intelligence officials showed Donald Trump concrete evidence of Russian sabotage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We know that he knows the Kremlin helped him win. (We also know he’s deadly afraid of appearing illegitimate.)

Therefore, we know he’s lying when he calls the Russia investigation a hoax.

We don’t need to ask whether it’s true. The news media does not need to expend limited resources pinning down every instance in which Trump lies and walks it back before lying and walking it back again. The facts have been established.

(Max Boot, of the Washington Post, takes this one step further, saying that Trump could not have won without Russian aid. Al Hunt, the anti-crank over at Bloomberg, agrees: “It’s a Republican talking point: Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, but it didn’t affect the outcome. More likely than not, that’s wrong.”)

It is now on the president to explain why he keeps lying, and why he keeps rewarding the enemy for attacking our sovereignty. If he cannot, it’s fair to presume the worst.

But Trump isn’t alone.

Last Thursday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted down a measure that would have provided millions to states to beef up election security. The mostly party-line vote came days after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats compared the cyber-attacks on Nov. 9, 2016, to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In congressional testimony on July 13, Coats was the first top intelligence official (to my knowledge) to publically equate those events. Coats said we are involved in an ongoing one-sided cyber-war. "The warning lights are blinking red again,” he said. “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack."

This, along with Trump’s stunning deference to Crypto-Czar Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, pushed at least two vulnerable House Republicans—one a former CIA agent, the other a former FBI agent—to break ranks. US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania, said "the president was manipulated” by Putin. US Rep. Will Hurd, of Texas, said the same thing, only in an op-ed in the New York Times.

Sensing a rare opportunity last Thursday, US Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, launched into a thundering denunciation of colleagues for killing off a measure to defend against future Russian cyber-attacks. If you have not seen the footage, please take a moment. You can expect more of this in the future.

Per the AP:

"The flashing red light calls us to action!" Hoyer thundered. "Surely we can rise above pandering to party and Putin to act on behalf of our freedom and our security." Democrats broke out in chants of "USA! USA!" as Hoyer spoke.

It’s not like the Republicans don’t know what’s happening. They know Trump was informed of the Kremlin’s espionage. They know a bipartisan Senate report affirmed the intelligence community’s assessment. They know Coats, a fellow Republican, is now sounding the alarm. They know beefing up security is the right thing to do.

So why did they kill the measure? You could say they’re afraid of backlash, but that’s not credible. Most voters have no idea what they were doing, and anyway, no Democrat is going to criticize them for doing the right and patriotic thing. Indeed, in refusing to fund election security, the Republicans gave the Democrats a gift—an occasion to wrap themselves in the American flag just in time for November’s midterm elections.

No, the burden of proof is shifting. Just as the president must explain why he keeps lying, and why he insists on making nice with the enemy (by the way, he still has not ordered military officials to defend the country, much less mount a counterattack), the Republicans must explain why they refuse to honor their oath of office, which is first and foremost to defend and protect the United States. If the Republicans cannot explain, it’s fair to presume they don’t want to stop the Russians from attacking us.

Then we have to ask why.


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