*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Now that the world comprehends that Russia had an overpowering hand in giving the White House to a Russian sympathizer claiming to be a good American, there isn’t much anyone will, or possibly can, do to stop what is a bloodless coup. Oh, there will be gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands, and threats of non-acceptance, but the takeover of America’s government is over and all that remains is just how much Trump will do to help his adopted nation and blood brother Vladimir Putin. Americans got a fairly good inclination that Trump is going to do whatever Putting wants as evidenced by his choice of “old Vlad’s” other BFF and two-decades-long confidante as the next secretary of state.
No-one in their right mind questions the motivation behind Putin’s crusade to install his puppet in the White House; he wants to rule America from Moscow and Trump will allow Putin to shape, if not ultimately control, American foreign policy going forward. Although there is some concern among decent Americans at Russian intervention in America’s government, most Republicans are doing their best to pretend nothing happened and it is just business as usual. Besides, according to some Republicans, Russia will only wield control over the Executive Branch and “sore loser” Democrats have to get on board the Trump train and let him do Putin’s bidding; it is about all minority Democrats can do because they control absolutely no part of the federal government.
Some Americans may wonder whether or not the Ruskies used any of the stolen data that helped Trump to victory to affect “unglamorous House races” when they already had control of the presidential outcome. As it turns out, the Russians also targeted about a dozen Democratic candidates in competitive House races and House Speaker Paul Ryan was complicit in helping the Russians hijack America’s government at the legislative level and effectively inflicting fatal wounds on, as Senator John McCain noted; “the pillar of our democracy.”
The New York Times ran a fairly involved article on Wednesday that detailed how the Russians used the data they stole from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to attack Democrats seeking House seats. It is definitely worth a read if for no other reason than to cement the idea firmly into Americans’ consciousness that their democracy is likely finished. Something Republicans, the Koch brothers and their legislative arm ALEC have been working toward for the past eight years.
According to the NYT’s report, the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) and a second Republican group intricately tied to the House speaker Paul Ryan made good use of the Russian-hacked documents to attack Democrats running for House seats. This is, although stunning, another blatant example of Republican hypocrisy by another blatantly hypocritical Republican.
It is noteworthy to mention that Paul Ryan has said “for months” that “foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable.” And yet, by early October, a “super PAC” close to Paul Ryan used the stolen material in a campaign ad to attack at least one Democratic House candidate during the election in Florida.
It is remarkable that at least one Republican House candidate from Pennsylvania, Rep. Ryan Costello, was aware that unflattering material about his opponent had been stolen by the Russians and did the American thing; refused to use the Russian espionage materials.
A campaign consultant for Mr. Costello, Vincent Galko, spoke on behalf of the Republican candidate and said, “We believed it was neither necessary nor appropriate to use information from a possible foreign source to influence the election.”
A Democrat from New Mexico, Representative Ben Ray Luján, said the Russians wanted to hurt Democrats at all levels of the party, from lesser known races in Florida to the leadership. Mr. Luján wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart in the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) after the first political advertisement materialized using the stolen material urging him to not use this stolen material in the 2016 campaign.
Mr. Luján’s letter in late August said,
“The N.R.C.C.’s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries. Put simply, if this action continues, the N.R.C.C. will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote a similar letter in early September:
“As you are aware, the D.C.C.C. and other Democratic Party entities have been the target of cybersecurity intrusions — an electronic Watergate break-in. It has been widely reported that this cybersecurity incident is part of a Russian cyberattack which appears to be an attempt to interfere with our elections. We take this troubling situation very seriously and have notified the appropriate authorities, including the F.B.I. and Sergeant-at-Arms.”
Like Mr. Luján, Minority Leader Pelosi received no Republican response whatsoever and the stolen data was still being used by the super PAC tied to Paul Ryan in October.
As a flimsy excuse for helping Russia hijack America’s democracy, Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said the House Speaker didn’t really control how “his” super PAC used the stolen data. In fact, in a god-damning indictment, Ms. Strong never disputed that the material used against Democratic candidates was “stolen as an act of Russian espionage.” Instead, she reiterated that “Speaker Ryan has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable” – except, apparently, if it helps Republicans complete their coup d’état of America’s government.
There is a seemingly faulty belief that besides owning the puppet in the White House, Putin really wants to show his citizens, and the neighboring countries he wants to control, that democracy like America’s democracy was “unattractive” and wrought with and by corruption. By interfering with House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina, Putin was highly successful in ensnaring Democratic candidates in races distracted with accusations of leaks and subterfuge.
It is true that American democracy has been damaged over the past eight years because Republicans at all levels of government cannot countenance the idea that all Americans have a right to vote in fair elections. But the latest election was as unrelated to “fair” as Republicans were prone to reject campaign assistance from Vladimir Putin. One thing is becoming increasing clear: this Republican treason against the United States of America is much more widespread than just Trump and if Paul Ryan is involved, it is likely rampant.
Tragically, Americans will never know just how much of their government is shaped by a foreign adversary’s espionage because complicit Republicans are as unlikely to conduct fair investigations as they are to ever support fair elections or democracy.