Doug Thompson: The grinning arsonist

“No such thing as an ex-KGB man”

The U.S. House needs to pass the bill imposing more sanctions on Russia for interfering with our election. The Senate passed it last month, 97-2.

The House speaker promised Wednesday to support such a bill. He needs to push strongly until it passes. After the House acts, the president needs to sign it.

What Russian leader Vladimir Putin is doing to our elections is more important than whether a Trump colluded about it. The investigation into the Trumps is part of a much bigger whole.

Russian hackers, on Putin's orders, went after voter registration computer records. They hacked into at least one major party's election headquarters and released what they found. They are practically bragging about it. Putin denies eating the canary while smiling through the feathers poking out of his mouth.

The news from Tuesday gave important details, but those details are from a bigger picture. The winning presidential candidate's son, a son-in-law who is his most trusted advisor and the campaign manager leapt at the chance when they were offered useful dirt on an opponent that supposedly came from the Russian government.

Putin's greater goal was not to help anyone but to hurt the United States -- and Britain, France, Germany and others. His goal is to sully free and open elections while sowing discord.

Mission accomplished. "There is no such thing as a former KGB man," as Putin said in 2004.

Our house is on fire. One faction of the family insists there is no fire. Those smoke detectors going off are just noise. The other faction insists there would be no fire if the others had been more careful with matches. The rest of us are looking for a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, the arsonist stands on the front lawn, grinning and smoking a cigarette, still holding a can of gasoline while watching the blaze catch.

Speaking of fire, Congress needs to burn President Donald Trump's bridge to Russia for him. He is irrationally too eager to please the man attacking us.

Trump met with Putin in Hamburg. He was supposed to confront Putin about election interference. Trump walked out declaring that his administration and Russia were going to start a joint "cyber security" unit instead to safeguard elections, among other things. No better description of the Alice-in-Wonderland folly of this goofy, quickly abandoned plan can be given than that of Sen. Mario Rubio, R-Florida: "Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit.'"

Whether the president's team colluded with Putin in the election is one issue. That will require an investigation that is already underway. The fact the president is Putin's giddy fanboy, however, is another issue entirely. That is both more important and blatantly obvious. I cannot help suspecting that one reason the president and his cronies lobby against a sanctions bill in the House is because self-serving business deals hang in the balance.

"The problem with dwelling too much on the covert forms of collaboration, which we have come to call 'collusion,' is that doing so risks letting Trump at least a little bit off the hook for what is not meaningfully disputed: that the president publicly, knowingly, and repeatedly -- if only tacitly -- collaborated with a foreign power's intelligence effort to interfere in the presidential election of the country he now leads." That excellent point comes from the Lawfare.com blog, which I heartily recommend.

"Focusing on covert collusion risks putting the lines of propriety, acceptable candidate behavior, and even -- let's be frank -- patriotism in such a place where openly encouraging foreign dictators to hack your domestic opponent's emails falls on the tolerable side," it goes on.

Meanwhile, the administration seeks voter registration records from all 50 states.

Despite all prior experience, give the president the benefit of a doubt. Assume he really believes domestic voter fraud is a problem. His solution -- deliberately or not -- would put all the information Putin's hackers ever wanted into one database. They would not have to impersonate voting machine manufacturers and send emails to hundreds of different county offices. Instead, the administration would gather everything they desire. Somebody in this administration would probably give it to the Russians and ask what it all means.

Putin did not plan all these things. Things are just turning out better than he ever dared hope.

Fight the fire. If enough of the building is saved, figuring out who was responsible and in what proportion will be easy.

Commentary on 07/15/2017

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