Friday saw a major development in the scandal surrounding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, with twelve Russian intelligence officers facing new formal charges over their work to hack into Democratic Party-affiliated email accounts and computer systems.
One of the contexts in which the ramifications of this development are poised to be felt is an upcoming summit where U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has now become the first Republican to suggest that in the wake of the new charges and revelations about Russian election meddling efforts, the summit should perhaps be cancelled.
The only option he sees for the summit acceptably proceeding is for Trump to confront Putin over the election meddling at some point during their interactions.
In addition to bemoaning the sluggish pace with which the currently Republican controlled federal government has addressed the ongoing threats of Russian election interference, McCain said:
‘President Trump must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate that there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world. If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward.’
Senate Democrats made assertions similar to the above quoted comments from McCain. For instance, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said:
‘Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections.’
Asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta while in the United Kingdom this week ahead of his summit with Putin whether or not he would “tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections,” Trump said, simply, “Yes.”
Earlier in that same appearance before the press, Trump said — after listing other potential topics of conversation for his summit with Putin — that he would “absolutely” bring up election meddling. He noted that topic after saying talks would also cover issues like Ukraine, Syria, and nuclear proliferation. Russia invaded and, basically, stole Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and they’ve consistently supported the murderous Assad regime in Syria. In addition, they’ve talked up their nuclear program concurrent to Trump doing so.
Trump’s record on holding Putin accountable when it comes to these issues is not great. After having met Putin at a summit involving other leaders last year, he said, remarkably, that he believed Putin’s denials of election meddling, although at that point, it was long no longer a question whether or not they’d meddled.
After facing scrutiny for that comment, he tried to explain that he just meant that he believed that Putin doesn’t believe his country to have meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections — but that flimsy defense was shot through by the indictments handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller this Friday. The court filings formally revealed the Russian intelligence officers to have acted in their official capacities; the meddling was an official Russian government operation.
It’s mind boggling for many that through these developments, Trump routinely dismisses the Russia investigation as a witch hunt and basically irrelevant to national security.
Featured Image via Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images