Donald Trump Jr. has done what his father’s political opponents hadn’t – provide verified proof that the Trump campaign actively tried to work with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
The president’s son released emails Tuesday (seemingly in an effort to undercut a pending release by The New York Times) that show he met with a Russian lawyer who he believed would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Those emails show explicitly that the Trump campaign at the highest levels – Trump Jr., top White House adviser Jared Kushner, former campaign manager Paul Manafort – knowingly tried to collude with the Russian government.
That’s why July 11, 2017, will not soon be forgotten. Before Tuesday, supporters of President Trump could make a plausible case that even if Russia interfered in our elections, as top intelligence officials have said happened, the Trump camp didn’t know and shouldn’t be blamed.
Screaming by the president and his supporters about “liberal media” and “fake news” every time news they didn’t like surfaced has never been credible. Such a defense is even more specious now. Maybe that’s why some of the president’s supporters have taken the unseemly step of trying to downplay actual evidence of potential collusion with a foreign power.
Multiple denials by Trump campaign officials about questionable contacts with Russia have turned out to be false, including those by Vice President Mike Pence and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has frequently called investigations about Russia a witch hunt. But after these revelations, it’s imperative we find out how deep and how effective were the efforts by Trump’s associates to help Russia undermine our democracy.
Still, that wouldn’t solve our most vexing problem: How vulnerable does the U.S. remain to the Kremlin?
It’s important to note that a special counsel continues his investigation, and various congressional groups – maybe the most important one is led by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr – are also diligently (we hope) digging through evidence and interviewing pertinent sources to provide the American public as thorough an examination as soon as possible.
That doesn’t mean every-day Americans have the luxury of waiting. According to intelligence officials, Russia is gearing up to reach into our 2018 and 2020 elections. The time is now to pressure members of Congress to commit to making strengthening our defenses against another incursion a priority, no matter the political ramifications. And the House must immediately take up the bipartisan Senate bill imposing additional Russian sanctions or explain why we shouldn’t take a stronger stance.
If we instead keep giving into hyper-partisanship, that will damage our democracy in more profound ways than Russia ever could.