McCabe, Russia and the war against American democracy

McCabe, Russia and the war against American democracy
© Getty Images

According to one of President Trump’s recent tweets, “there’s not one shred of evidence” that he has done anything constitutionally wrong. Unfortunately, like so many of his other statements, this is likely untrue. Worse yet, former acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeAndrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Trump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE told Congress in 2017 that the FBI was investigating Trump as a possible Russian asset and the possibility of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. Yet, nobody objected on legal, constitutional or factual grounds. The mounting evidence pointing toward Russian intervention and collusion with members of the campaign team that are already before the public are overwhelming. 

We know of multiple Russian contacts going back to 2015 with the campaign. Moreover, key people — including Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHuawei paid Tony Podesta 0K for White House lobbying FBI agents swarm Russian oligarch's DC home DOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report MORE, Richard Gates and Michael Flynn — have already been convicted or admitted their guilt in relation to charges arising out of such contacts. Even more disturbing is that so many of these and other actors were also caught lying under oath or to federal officials, behavior that indicates they knew they were doing unsavory if not illegal things.  Therefore, McCabe was right to launch an investigation.


The enormous range of Russia’s intervention in our elections becomes clear with every passing day and we are regularly learning new information. Russian information warfare has occurred here and across Europe. Israeli officials have warned against external intervention in Israel’s upcoming election and we may also assume a Russian presence in many Latin American countries and elections. Moscow has also attacked American and European think tanks. These attacks continued into the 2018 elections and reports indicate preparations for similar attacks in 2020.

These facts, along with the numerous indictments and convictions, reveal the far-ranging scope of Russia’s multiple interventions in the 2016 election. If press reports are correct, Mueller is also investigating the use of foreign money to influence American politics. Here again it is clear that members of the Trump campaign and administration have been operating in terms that can only be described as a conflict of interest. It is also unlikely they are the only ones so connected to this practice. In his previous business career, Trump was involved in facilitating Russian business investments in real estate or hotels internationally. In other words, McCabe, the FBI, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, Congress and the Southern District of New York have ample reasons for concern about the Trump campaign’s Russian connections.

In this context, Trump’s behavior only adds to the necessity of these investigations. He may be innocent of all criminal or impeachable activity. But his unrelenting efforts to obstruct these investigations and demean the investigators and media — as well as his unwillingness to formulate a wide-ranging counter-information program against Russian interventions — all give the impression of a man with much to hide.

Obviously, McCabe has his own actions to answer for so we cannot simply take his statements as accepted truth.  But the fact that none of the congressional leaders he briefed has denied his statements about their support for his investigation and the enormity of the Russian intervention into our elections and politics obligate the investigators currently on the case to continue working until they are finished discovering evidence, and if necessary making cases.

At the end of the day, the issue is not about one or another personality, even that of the president. Rather what is at stake is the integrity of our democratic, electoral, legislative and judicial practices. That integrity is not and should not be a partisan football. Indeed, those who have sought to politicize that integrity for whatever motive have weakened our defenses against future attacks against it.  But when the truth comes out, as it will inevitably do, they may well have to answer before those very institutions for their behavior.

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.