Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
First of all, let’s be perfectly clear about what is of ultimate importance in this whole kerfufle – the nation known as Russia, acting through its virtual dictator Putin, intentionally interfered with and acted with malice aforethought to alter our presidential election. PERIOD. Why they took this action, and its impact, is truly irrelevant – the hard cold facts show that they did. And our government MUST take steps to (1) see that it doesn’t happen again, and (2) appropriately respond/retaliate.
Now let’s get down into the mud. Because it has been suggested by those that opposed President’s Trump’s election and do not accept him as our one and only legitimate president, and used as an excuse for Hillary’s pitiful performance, that the ONLY reason Mr. Trump won was the Russian interference, Trump will downplay the effect and even significance of the interference. The President’s ego will not allow him to countenance any suggestion or hint that something other than his brilliance contributed to his success.
Both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as the FBI, are investigating the Russian interference to determine (a) how and the extent of the interference, and (b) whether there was any “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russians. What they mean by “collusion” is unclear; are they suggesting that the Russians and the campaign coordinated certain events for maximum impact; did the Russians tell the campaign in advance about some of the Wikileaks; did the campaign ask the Russians to put out specific “fake news”stories? And, what real impact did the Russian actions have?
The President has flat-out said that President Obama had his phones “Wire-tapped” and conducted surveillance on his campaign. Do I believe that? No. However, here is what I do believe happened.
Our intelligence agencies routinely and LEGALLY tape/listen in to the phone conversations of foreign agents – i.e., the Russian ambassador. This is fairly well known and was certainly brought out in the Michael Flynn debacle (See earlier Post re Flynn.) It is not unusual for Americans to conduct routine business with a foreign agent or to have their name mentioned in a foreign agent’s conversation. For instance, the Russian ambassador could be discussing the details of a party he is having with his American caterer and mention the name of the florist. Unless the intelligence agency has FISA court approval to listen to that American’s conversations, those names are to be “masked”, or kept secret.
The Obama administration knew of the Russian interference long before the campaign ended. And did virtually nothing. However, after the election was over, certain members of the Obama administration were afraid that the Trump administration would not take the Russian interference seriously. So they set out to distribute the information gained through the lawful surveillance as widely as possible so it could not be ignored by the Trump administration. In so doing, they did not respect the masking protocols and revealed names that should have been kept secret. That is what I believe is the source of the whole tempest in a teapot as it relates to the Trump campaign. But not, let me hasten to say, to the fact of the Russian surveillance.
My hope is that the press, in particular, let the professionals do their job and stop hindering the work of the new administration by focusing on the sensational. President Trump has his hands full with trying to fulfill his campaign promises without this sideshow.