Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He provided for sanctions (if he feels like it) against foreigners who meddle in American elections (which he says doesn't happen). 

This morning, 55 days before Congressional elections, Trump signed an executive order providing for sanctions against foreign individuals or governments who interfere with American elections. 

While one member of the Trump administration called the sanctions "automatic," they are not. They would be imposed only if and only if Trump (or a future president) decided to do so, which in Trump's case is a problem. 

The only confirmed case of foreign meddling in an American election was Russia's intervention on Trump's behalf in 2016, through propaganda and cyber-attacks on his opponents. Trump has stubbornly refused to admit that the Putin regime helped get him elected, even taking Putin's side against the unanimous verdict of the U.S. intelligence community during their summit in Finland this summer. Even on the rare occasions that Trump has been forced to acknowledge the possibility of Russian interference, he has quickly walked those comments back

Trump has also been singularly unwilling to impose other sanctions on Russia, including those passed in Congress by a margin of 517-5. His transition team, through the now-convicted Trump advisor Mike Flynn, coordinated with Russia on how to respond to election-attack sanctions imposed by President Obama in December 2016.

Russian propaganda efforts, which use (actual) fake news and armies of deceptive social media accounts to weaken Americans' faith in democracy, have continued to the present day. Other than the sanctions forced on Trump by Congress, the only concrete response from the U.S. government has been the indictments against Russian individuals obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt."

Why does this matter?

  • Policies are meaningless if a president is unwilling or unable to enforce them.