Defence

Donald Trump chooses his ego over his country

Russia has attacked America and the president elect couldn't care less

BY Rachel Cunliffe   /  6 January 2017

On Thursday, US intelligence officials presented evidence to the Senate armed services committee on Russian interference in the presidential election. And that evidence was damning.

The head of US intelligence, James Clapper, testified that “I don’t think that we have ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere in our election process”, continuing that Russia “has clearly assumed an even more aggressive cyber posture”. When questioned by Senator John McCain as to whether this constituted an act of war, he said that was a policy call that was not for the intelligence agencies to judge, but he did say the Russians “do pose an existential threat to the United States”. The director of the National Security Agency, Michael Rogers, also confirmed that Iran and China both have the same capabilities to attack the US.

Senator McCain pulled no punches. McCain, along with Lindsey Graham, has been one of the few Republicans taking the attacks from Russia seriously while his colleagues play politics. He opened the hearing by saying “every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation” and calling the cyberattacks “an unprecedented attack on our democracy”.

At the same time, Donald Trump is writing his own narrative of the Russian hacking via Twitter, under the guidance of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.


Subscribe to the Reaction Daily Email

Make sure you're not missing out on your free, daily Per Diem email & Iain Martin's weekly letter.


A quick reminder on Assange. The self-proclaimed “truth crusader” has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces rape charges. He is, at best, a deluded narcissist trapped in his perception of his own exceptional powers. At worse, he is a cyber terrorist (and a rapist) with an axe to grind against the US, who threw the global diplomatic sphere into turmoil in 2010 with a reckless flood of hacked documents. Either way, he is hardly a credible source. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, unapologetically crusaded against Hillary Clinton in both the Democratic primaries and the presidential race, releasing hacked e-mails that were clearly meant to damage her campaign as much as possible.

Trump, who perhaps has a soft-spot for anti-Clinton egomaniacs with a casual approach to sexual assault, has fallen head-over-heels for Assange. On Wednesday, he tweeted out an interview Assange did with Fox News’ Sean Hannity (another Trump favourite), and quoted Assange saying the hacked documents did not come from Russia.

Yes, that’s the president elect of the United States taking the word of a self-obsessed anti-American outlaw over the findings of seventeen US intelligence agencies.

Trump tried to backtrack his fawning over Assange before Thursday’s hearings began.

It’s hard to know where to start picking that apart. Firstly, he has offered no evidence for being a “big fan” of the intelligence agencies. In fact, his hostility towards them has been so blatant both Clapper and Rogers addressed low morale in the Senate hearing, with Rogers hinting that intelligence officers might simply choose to quit rather than subject themselves to Trump’s abuse. But more importantly, the I’m-just-highlighting-what-he-said excuse simply doesn’t fly, not when you’re a school kid in trouble and certainly not when you’re about to be president. Trump has 18.8 million Twitter followers and the entire world is listening closely to what he says. If you look at how he mentions other people, he only has two modes: endorsing them, or brutally slamming them. There is nothing neutral about Trump drawing attention to Assange’s witterings, privileging his deranged delusions over the actual evidence that the president elect either ignores or attacks.

Today, Trump is yet again wading into the debate, branding himself as an expert by lambasting the Democratic National Committee for reportedly denying the FBI investigation access to its servers (the DNC has denied it ever received this request). Last month, he claimed falsely and without evidence that there was no way to prove Russia’s involvement unless hackers were caught “in the act” – remember, this is a man who says he doesn’t need to attend intelligence briefings because “I’m a smart person”. His latest tweets question whether the DNC was even hacked at all. Perhaps the long-waited briefing on the Russian cyberattacks that is scheduled for today will help clear things up for him. Then again, he doesn’t exactly seem to be listening.

As John McCain said, this is an attack on America. Congress should be up in arms, fighting to protect US democracy from foreign aggressors, and they should be led by a soon-to-be president who is outraged such a violation could happen. Instead, Republicans are split, the Democrats are helpless, and Trump is yet again choosing his ego over his country.