Distractions attempt to pull focus from Russia’s meddling

Upon hearing reports that it had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead for its missiles, Donald Trump issued an impromptu and apocalyptic warning to Pyongyang that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” This has alarmed many people around the country and around the world, especially as it coincides with the 72nd anniversaries of the American atomic bombings of Japan.

That’s why Secretary of State Tillerson tried to walk back Trump’s unseemly rhetoric and is pushing for cooler heads and continued diplomacy. Conversely, Defense Secretary James Mattis added to the saber-rattling by calling on North Korea to halt any actions “that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” It’s no wonder that the professionals in the world of foreign affairs and international relations are uneasy and on edge. When bullies shout at bullies, it is not going to turn out well.

Trump boasted Wednesday in a tweet that his first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal and claimed that it is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. This is simply not true. Our country’s nuclear stockpile is considerably smaller than at the height of the Cold War, the modernization program of which he spoke was initiated during the Obama administration and it does nothing to make nuclear yields any “stronger” or more powerful.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that the average temperature in the United States has risen dramatically since 1980, according to a federal report it had obtained. The government document is awaiting approval by the Trump administration. It apparently was leaked because scientists were fearful that the Trump administration would suppress the findings. Like many of the president’s appointments, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, is tasked with dismantling the agency he heads. A former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the EPA, he is moving effectively to dismantle regulations and international agreements on environmental issues.

Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity lurched into action recently with a letter to all 50 states requesting full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in all states. The request sparked widespread bipartisan push back among the states. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” Despite state laws which govern what voter information may be made public, Trump lashed out at the more than two dozen reluctant states by saying, “What are they trying to hide?”

It’s a good question, one that should be applied more broadly. What is this administration trying to hide? Almost every single day the country’s focus is distracted by one crisis or another, one issue or another, one attack or another. I think we know the answer: Russia, Russia, Russia.

The White House is desperate to divert our attention from the most egregious attack on our country since 9/11—Russian interference in our last election with the possible, indeed probable, collusion in that effort by individuals in the Trump campaign. Only this past Wednesday did we learn that the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s house on July 26—the day after his appearance before Congress. You’ll recall he was Trump’s campaign manager last summer and has extensive ties with Russia. He was present at the infamous meeting where the Russians offered “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. It is worth noting that the FBI must convince a federal judge that it has “probable cause” that a crime has been committed to obtain a search warrant. No Trump tweets about this FBI raid on his old crony? Coincidence? Then there were the firings of Preet Bharara and all the other federal prosecutors who were investigating Trump’s Russia dealings long before Robert Mueller got involved.

The United States prides itself on being a county of laws. The American Revolution was a break with the idea that government was the whim of one man. The Founding Fathers built a structure that required respect among all three branches of government and the First Amendment enshrined respect for a free press. The president’s policy-by-tweet does not communicate well researched and planned initiatives. It is, however, a great device for sowing confusion and diverting our attention away from the real issue at hand—the Trump campaign’s alleged role in Russia’s tampering in our elections. It is up to “we the people” to ensure that the truth wins out and that our republic is devoid of foreign meddling.

Mike McClary

Editors Note: This piece is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

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