The case alleging Russian collusion is not closed

The case alleging Russian collusion is not closed

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE characteristically tweeted that the indictments brought by Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE on Feb. 16 means that the case alleging Russian collusion with his campaign is closed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The implications of these indictments do not prove that the Trump campaign —not to mention the president — did not collude with Russian agents in 2016. Moreover, they reveal the immense scope of the ongoing Russian campaign to attack the integrity of our electoral and other political processes and incite socio-ethnic tensions throughout the United States.

First, these indictments actually confirm Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs Intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to improve communication with Trump: report MORE’ testimony to Congress earlier last week that we are under attack. Russian officials have believed themselves to be in a war with the West since at least 2004, if not even earlier, and have conducted themselves accordingly. These indictments confirm this.

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These activities began 2014 and were clearly connected with opening up an American front once we reacted to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. And these activities that are traceable back to Vladimir Putin also add credence to the argument that his invasion of Ukraine was not a spontaneous decision in February 2014 but one taken with “malice aforethought.”

 

Second, Trump’s typically self-serving tweets ignore the question of why these Russian operatives would support him rather than other candidates against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people' Mattis's Trump broadside underscores military tensions Mark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president MORE?

Third, the information relayed in the indictments displays a small part of the multiple lines of attack mounted by Russia against the U.S. after 2014. These institutions and people named in the indictment do not appear to have been involved in either stealing emails from Hillary Clinton or other Democrats and Republicans’ or in revealing them in public. They are also not the Russians that met with the Trump campaign offering Russian assistance against Clinton.

Neither does this particular set of indictments reveal what, if anything, Mueller and his team know about the long-standing financial connections between Trump, members of his campaign, Russian oligarchs and organized crime. It already is well known, as shown by Luke Harding’s book “Collusion” that Trump’s businesses have been linked with members of Russian organized crime for years.

Moreover, it is clear that the Russian agents sent by Putin to deal directly with campaign members wanted a quid pro quo that was economic in nature, i.e. removal of sanctions and the Magnitsky laws. Since there is no sign that Mueller has finished his investigations of the connections between Trump’s business, and those of his campaign team with Russia we can expect highly unsavory further revelations concerning their long-standing relations. Neither should we be surprised if criminally indictable behavior is discovered in that branch of the investigation.

Fourth, as Coats testified, Russia’s war against the United States continues without letup. Indeed, the indictments show that these Russian activities have continued after the 2016 election into 2017. We can expect that they will continue if not increase their activity in 2018. Neither should we think this is the only line of attack devised by Russia for the upcoming midterm elections.

Therefore Trump’s continuing behavior and refusal to take the lead in counterattacking Russia’s information and cyberwar upon our democracy increasingly suggests he cannot accept the reality or, worse, he has something to hide. Certainly, his administration behaves as if it is concealing a secret, exactly the worst impression it could give.

Consequently, nobody is leading the necessary counteractions against Russia that not only we but also our NATO allies need to take against this “hydra-headed” Russian information war on the West.

Such inaction merely encourages Moscow to believe it has nothing to fear by continuing what is, after all a relatively cheap way of war that can only be traced back to it with difficulty and that yields immense returns in deranging U.S. and European politics.

But there is another implication here. Trump’s reaction that the case is closed presages another round of pressure to unravel or terminate Mueller’s investigation. But it is now too late to do so as real crimes have been alleged and cited for everyone to see and the machinery of justice is now in action, even if the Russians will not be brought to trial.

Those indicted earlier by Mueller will be brought to account and the investigation will continue. Moreover, the next set of revelations will probably deal with those areas of the Russian campaign to undermine our democracy that were not mentioned in the most recent indictments. Therefore those findings will strike closer to home than Trump seems to think it is the case.

Trump has not dodged a bullet. Instead, the fire that is about to rain on his administration will actually grow. Whatever he might say, the case is not only not closed but will grow in scope and probably quite soon.

Stephen Blank, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia. He is a former professor of Russian National Security Studies and National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is also a former MacArthur fellow at the U.S. Army War College.