Let’s be clear about two important facts.
First, Donald Trump and Mike Pence won a decisive victory in the November elections, and they won fair and square. While Democrats, left-wing activists, and many in Hollywood and the media hate this, it’s still true.
Second, Russian intelligence — directed by Vladimir Putin — actively tried to disrupt, influence and discredit the recent American elections. Tried, but failed. That’s the conclusion of an important new report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
Hillary’s supporters can’t nullify Mr. Trump’s victory with the new DNI report. But Mr. Trump’s supporters shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it or mounting evidence of Putin’s aggression.
- The Russians hacked into computers of the Democratic Committee, and into other American computer networks.
- Moscow leaked information negative to Hillary Clinton.
- The Kremlin used their wide array of propaganda tools to try to influence the American electoral process against Clinton and in favor of Trump.
- These are very serious issues.
- Russia launched a direct assault against America’s democratic system.
- But there is no evidence that Moscow actually changed vote totals or compromised the integrity of our voting process.
- The DNI report, for example, “assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying” — and this is important.
In the end, Mrs. Clinton lost not because the Russians stole the election. They didn’t. She lost because she was a deeply flawed and uninspiring candidate, essentially running for Mr. Obama’s third term at a time when Americans believed the country was heading in the wrong direction and needed big, bold, serious change in Washington.
The Trump-Pence ticket won, as did so many Republicans up and down the ballot, because voters perceived that they offered more hope for such real change. Thus, on Friday, January 20th, Messrs. Trump and Pence will be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States, respectively and legitimately.
I pray their administration will be successful. We all should. We need them to urgently reenergize the American economy, recommit America to being governed by the Constitution (not liberal judges), rebuild the U.S. military, protect us and our allies from the forces of Radical and Apocalyptic Islam, and begin the process of undoing the enormous damage caused by eight years of Mr. Obama’s weakness, indecision, disarmament and appeasement.
That said, it is equally critical that Mr. Trump make safeguarding the American people, our institutions and our allies, from Russian aggression one of his top priorities.
As I noted in my first column of 2017, “I believe that Vladimir Putin and the way he’s leading Russia is going to be a big, big issue over the next several years.”
Now heading into his seventeenth year in power, Mr. Putin is becoming steadily more aggressive. In recent years, he has:
- Sent Russian forces into Chechnya, bombing civilians, committing war crimes, and leaving at least 150,000 people dead or missing
- Invaded the country of Georgia
- Invaded Ukraine
- Annexed the Ukrainian region of Ukraine
- Sent Russian military forces into Syria fight on behalf of the regime of a brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad (with the help of the Islamic Republic of Iran), deliberately targeting civilians in such places as Aleppo and thus committing war crimes
- Sold state-of-the-art missile systems and nuclear technology to Iran
- Systematically silenced political opponents, dissidents, and journalists, many of whom have been jailed or found murdered
- Massed 55,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine
- Made threatening moves against the Baltic states and other NATO allies.
President Obama and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry should have gotten tough with Putin. They refused. They didn’t understand the threat he posed, or didn’t care. They tried to appease him. They offered a “reset.” We all know what a disaster that was.
The Trump-Pence team should take a dramatically different approach.
Throughout the campaign and the transition, however, Mr. Trump has had a strange and unsettlingly soft approach towards Putin. I can’t say exactly why. I’m hesitant to speculate. But if he wants to avoid the mistakes the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team made, he can and should change course.
The overwhelming evidence of Russian attacks on our political system simply underscores the growing brazenness of Mr. Putin, and the importance of the Trump-Pence team taking decisive measures to confront and contain him from the first days in office.
For starters, Mr. Trump could:
- support a full bipartisan investigation into Russia’s efforts to attack America’s electoral system
- use tougher language to denounce Putin’s aggressions against the U.S. and our allies
- move to bolster U.S. and NATO forces in the Baltics
- start providing weapons and intelligence to Ukraine to better defend themselves
- and appoint experienced senior officials in the State Department and throughout his administration who clearly see an unchecked Putin as a threat to our national security and won’t hesitate to speak and act with moral clarity on such vital issues.
Let’s pray that he and his team take these and other steps before Mr. Putin’s aggression moves to the next level.
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