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Recap of Recent Posts on Just Security (Feb. 12-17)

I. Just Security’s Traffic Statistics and a Request to Readers

II. Flynn Resignation and Russian Ties to the Trump Team 

III. The”Muslim Ban” Executive Order

IV. Norms Watch

V. Cyber Warfare: Tallin 2.0

VI.  Cooperation with Foreign Partners and Diplomacy under Trump

VII. Protests and Public Mobilization

VIII. The Politicization of the Military

IX. Sanctuary Cities Executive Order

X. Withdrawing from International Agreements

XI.  The “Forever War”

XII. Tribute to Commander Michael J. Adams

Trump’s Travel Ban Could Let Repressive Regimes Decide Who Can Enter US

 

In an apparent attempt to moot the multiple court challenges to his Executive Order on immigration, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’d issue a new immigration order by next week.

A new order will likely attempt to fix some of the most controversial elements of the original one, perhaps by limiting the impact to individuals who are not already lawful permanent residents, or to people who haven’t yet applied for visas. But as Trump senior policy advisor Stephen Miller indicated in a slew of troubling television interviews last weekend, there are parts of the order that the Trump administration is already acting upon. If the new order doesn’t change those, we may still be left in effect with a Muslim ban that will keep out those most endangered by the sort of terrorism and discrimination Trump’s executive order is supposed to be targeting.

Those provisions are found in Section 3 of the president’s order.  This section – most of which was not stayed by District Court Judge James Robart in Washington — creates a process of “review” designed “to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit” under the Immigration and Nationality Act,  “in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”  Therefore, if a country is unwilling or unable to systematically provide that information, its citizens would be banned from entering the United States.

On its face, that might sound logical. After all, we want to confirm the identities and background of people entering our country. And just as the United States stores basic information about its own citizens, we assume other countries do the same.

But if you consider some of the countries singled out by the order – Iran, Syria, and Sudan, for example, with which the United States either lacks normal diplomatic relations or has an openly hostile relationship – then it makes no sense at all.  Continue Reading »

Will Protests Against Trump and Congressional Republicans Matter?

 

For grassroots organizing, it helps to be in the opposition. We are beginning to see a blossoming of liberal and left wing organizing to oppose President Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress. A nascent group, Indivisible, is starting to mobilize, modeling itself after tea party groups from 2009 and 2010. It appears that at least some of the disruptions in recent days at Republican town hall meetings have been coordinated by local groups that are starting to make connections across the country to similar groups in other locales. Indivisible is one of these fledgling efforts. The people involved are not merely angry individuals getting up from the dinner table and deciding on the spot to go to Republican member’s town hall meeting. These are organized efforts, likely coordinated through social media, to show up at the same place and same time, with ready-made slogans and signs. Political organizing is, well, just that, organized.

Does that make them any less effective, the fact that they are organized and coordinated by local organizations or in some cases by larger, maybe even national organizations? Not really. Organized efforts can scare politicians, just as much as relatively (rare) unorganized efforts.

Here’s a broader set of questions: What to make of this new mobilizing? What effect will it have on the Republicans and on the Trump Administration? Will small, scattered protests at congressional offices matter? Will large protests matter, the ones in big cities and in the nation’s Capital that occur every once in a while?

Let us focus first on Republican members of Congress. Members of Congress, especially experienced, long-tenured ones, know their constituencies pretty well. They tend to know the basic contours of public opinion among the different groups of primary and general election voters. What they do not know is what issues and topics voters will care about in 2018. What will be on the minds of constituents when they vote in the next national election? Will it be the economy or a recession? Scandals in the administration? Security concerns, including foreign policy crises or homeland terrorism?

Members of Congress, like anyone else, prefer predictability and stability in their levels of job security. The potential surprises for members of Congress in terms of their reelection efforts are twofold:

  • who might surprisingly emerge to oppose them, either in the primary or in the general election?
  • and what current events will arise that shift the salience of certain policy issues among their constituents?

Protests matter differently for these two questions. Continue Reading »

Norms Watch: Tracking the Erosion of Democratic Traditions (Feb. 10-17)

FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Trump’s dysfunctional national security apparatus is in turmoil this week, following the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump’s discussion of sensitive security matters in the Mar-a-Lago public dining room.  

Flynn’s Resignation

On Monday night, Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after revelations that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his inappropriate contacts with Russia. Flynn stated he had “inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.” Even aside from the significant national security concerns and legal implications of the calls, Flynn’s policy discussions before Trump had assumed office breached longstanding protocol, as “the norm has been for the president-elect’s team to respect the sitting president.”

Over the last few days, Flynn’s resignation has fully embroiled the Trump administration in crisis. The murky circumstances surrounding the resignation are raising new and important questions, such as why Pence was left in the dark, who told Flynn to contact Russia, and what did the contacts imply more broadly about White House relations with the Russian government.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov denied that senior Russian intelligence officials had repeated contacts with members of the Trump campaign team and other members of his inner circle. The messages from Moscow, however, have been inconsistent. Last Friday, Peskov denied that Flynn discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S., at odds with Flynn’s admission on Monday.

According to the Washington Post, officials in the administration emphasized that Flynn’s resignation was driven by internal White House dynamics. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Flynn resigned as a “matter of trust,” because he had mislead Pence and others in the administration, not because of any implications of relations with Russia. Spicer also stated that Trump had known about the concern around Flynn’s lies for two weeks, and stressed on Tuesday that there was “nothing wrong” with Flynn’s actions.

During an extraordinary press conference on Thursday, Trump explained that when he looked at the information on Flynn, “I said, I don’t think he did anything wrong. In fact, I think he did something right.” Flynn, however, may now be in legal jeopardy, wrote the Washington Post on Thursday night. Current and former government officials told the paper that Flynn lied to FBI agents during an interview on Jan. 24, where he claimed not to have discussed American sanctions against Russia with the Kremlin’s ambassador before Trump had assumed office, a claim disproved by the transcripts of his communications intercepted by US intelligence agencies investigating the matter. Law enforcement officials told CNN on Thursday evening that the FBI would likely not be pursuing any charges against Flynn, although lying to the FBI is a felony. Officials stated that they didn’t believe Flynn was purposefully misleading them.

Investigation into Flynn’s Russian Connections

Proposals for further investigation into Flynn’s contacts proved to be divisive in Congress this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee has requested more details from the Justice Department on Flynn’s resignation, reported The Hill, while the Senate Intelligence Committee is also moving ahead in its investigation on Russian interference in the election and leaks this week.

Yet on Tuesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said his panel would not be leading an investigation on the resignation, saying “I think the situation has taken care of itself.” Chaffetz added that the House Intelligence Committee, already looking into the issue of Russian hacking, was charged with handling issues of intelligence matters. Even after Democrats blasted Chaffetz for his decision, the Utah Republican on Wednesday night called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate the intelligence leaks leading to Flynn’s resignation instead of the former National Security Advisor’s contact with Russian officials.

House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), also dismissed calls for a new probe investigating reports of contacts between Russia and Trump campaign staffers in an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday morning. Several republicans expressed vocal opposition to further investigation of Flynn’s conduct, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who said, “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party.”

Trump’s Choice to Replace Flynn Turns the Offer Down

On Thursday night, Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward declined Trump’s offer to replace Flynn as national security adviser.  According to the Washington Post, some sources said Harward was unable to get a confirmation from Trump that he could select his own team, and others said he was motivated by family considerations. CNN reported that a friend of Harward said he felt the White House was just too chaotic.

National Insecurity in the Trump Administration

When it comes to the problems of the National Security Council, the Flynn resignation is “just the tip of the iceberg” writes Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf.

The New York Times described the paper flow of executive orders as unpredictable, reporting that a senior Pentagon official had first seen a draft executive order on prisoner treatment through media leaks and rumors. NSC staffers have reportedly been instructed to keep briefing documents to one-page memos with pictures and charts, and staffers must adapt to the volatile policy momentum from Trump’s early morning tweets. While traditionally senior directors of the NSC attend presidential phone calls in the Oval Office with foreign leaders, staffers have not been invited in by Trump. The NSC has had difficulty hiring qualified staffers, and Flynn’s resignation and likely departure of K.T. McFarland only reinforce gaps in the workforce.

Trump Coordinates Response to North Korean Missile Testing from a Public Mar-a-Lago Dining Room

On Saturday night, President Trump and his aides coordinated a response to the North Korean ballistic missile test in the public dining room at the Trump Organization’s Mar-a-Lago resort. According to the New York Times, Trump’s conduct was “a remarkable public display of presidential activity that is almost always conducted in highly secure settings.” The media depicted the chaotic scene with images of aides using cell phones to help Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe read the documents in the dim lighting of the patio, as waiters continued to serve the salads and main course until Trump and Abe later left the dining room. Club members, with front seats to an emerging national security crisis, posted photos of the entire event on Facebook. Continue Reading »

The President and the Peril of Politicizing our Military

 

After his inauguration, President Donald Trump didn’t take long to boast of his purported political support from the military. In his speech to the CIA – given in front of the Memorial Wall that honors CIA employees who have died in the line of duty – he claimed that “the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military.”

As a former Army officer, I know that new officers and enlistees take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” not a particular president or party. Therefore, Trump’s comments struck me as jarringly improper. So when I learned that Trump would speak to soldiers at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Florida last week, I wondered whether he would echo the claim he’d made at the CIA or demonstrate that he’d learned his lesson.

Just a few lines into his speech, Trump answered my question: “We had a wonderful election, didn’t we? And I saw those numbers, and you liked me, and I liked you. That’s the way it worked,” Trump declared.

There are two problems with Trump’s statements. First, they are misleading at best, false at worst. Second – and more importantly – politicizing the military risks undermining the public’s trust in the armed forces, an institution that enjoys greater public confidence than any other in the country. Continue Reading »

Congratulations and Tribute to Commander Michael J. Adams–from Current and Former Senior Government Attorneys

Mike Adams, who will be familiar to many Just Security readers for his writings, is also familiar to many for his distinguished career in the service of our nation. At a ripe young age, Mike is retiring from the military, and today there will be a retirement ceremony in his honor. I came to know Mike best and witness his professional excellence when I recently served for a year in the Pentagon, where he was Deputy Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To know Mike is to deeply admire Mike. I asked leaders in government service to send me their thoughts. This collection speaks volumes about Mike as an extraordinary person and public servant.

Rear Admiral (lower half) Del Crandall, JAGC, U. S. Navy, Legal Counsel to the Chairman the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

“Mike will be greatly missed by the Navy and the Joint Force — by both operators and lawyers alike.  He is a brilliant legal mind, a sterling naval officer, a true patriot, and a committed husband and father.  We are all better for having served with him.  I wish Mike all the best in his future endeavors.
Fair winds and following seas.”

Brian Egan, Former Department of State Legal Adviser; Former NSC Legal Adviser:

“Mike reflects the best of the USG national security legal community — smart, articulate, hard-working, open to hearing opposing views, and a terrific colleague.  He was a tremendous asset to, and ambassador for, the JAG community.”

Chris Fonzone, Former NSC Legal Adviser:

“Working in the Government, the questions that arise are frequently difficult and the timelines are often tight.  When he was at Chairman’s Legal, Mike always seemed to be working the hardest issues with the shortest deadlines.  That was an excellent thing for our country, and I’m guessing not an accident:  Mike is a fantastic lawyer and, more importantly, a great colleague.  I wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement, even if, as a citizen, I’m sad to see him go.”

Colonel Matthew Grant, U.S. Air Force, Principal Deputy Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

“Commander Mike Adams is a master in operational law, that misunderstood niche practice of a small group of military officers who serve as legal advisors to commanders in the field.  Operational law practitioners inform, enable, and advocate for effective military operations through expert knowledge of applicable international and domestic law and policy, infused with the art, science, and ethos of the military profession. Few have done it better than Mike.  His physical and moral courage, brilliant intellectual capacity, and commitment to the profession of arms earned for himself, and his successors, a ‘seat at the table’ with senior commanders as a trusted military and legal advisor.  Mike’s vital contributions to the development of legal frameworks for U.S. counterterrorism and cyberspace operations will endure beyond his service to the Navy and to the Joint Force.  Bravo Zulu, my friend…may you and your family enjoy ‘fair winds and following seas.’”

Brigadier General, US Army (ret.) Rich Gross, Former Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Continue Reading »

The Early Edition: February 17, 2017

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

The TRUMP CABINET’S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied he had discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador in an interview by FBI agents last month, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications, report Sari Horwitz and Adam Entous at the Washington Post.

Trump’s top choice to replace Flynn Robert S. Harward turned down the job yesterday, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Schmitt report at the New York Times.

The FBI is not expected to pursue charges against Flynn in the absence of further information about his contact with the Russian ambassador, Evan Perez reports at CNN.

Flynn was “just doing his job,” President Trump insisted at what some have described as a “wild” and “unhinged” press conference yesterday. Matt Wilstein reports at The Daily Beast.

Trump denied any connections to Russia or any knowledge of his election campaign team having contacts with Moscow at the presser yesterday, David Smith reports at the Guardian.

Trump’s vague offering that he had no knowledge that his campaign team had contacted with Russian officials – having first claimed it was “fake news” was not a flat denial but a “dodge” followed by a “dismissal,” suggest Matthew Nussbaum and Madeline Conway at POLITICO.

The chances of pursuing a closer relationship with Russia have been all but destroyed by the mood in the US surrounding reports of contacts between Moscow and those close to Trump, the President said. Nathan Hodge, Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes report at the Wall Street Journal.

The full transcript of the press conference is provided at CNN.

The importance of information about sanctions to Russia is illustrated by two recently filed court documents involving a two-year-old case against Russian bank employee Evgeny Buryakiv, who admitted being a Russian intelligence agent, Kate Zavadski writes at The Daily Beast.

The presence of a Russian naval ship in international waters of the east coast of America has for some become a symbol of the Trump administration’s ties with Moscow, writes Christine Hauser at the New York Times.

Mike Flynn filed no documentation of his 2015 trip to Moscow where he dined with the Russian president and possibly accepted unconstitutional payments from a foreign government for his attendance, the Pentagon has told lawmakers. Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions must appoint a special prosecutor to be in charge of an immediate and full investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, as he himself advocated just before the election in relation to an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, writes the New York Times editorial board.

In the case of Mike Flynn we have the first recorded instance of a cover-up in the absence of a crime, observes Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

The US still backs a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said yesterday, Somini Sengupta reporting at the New York Times. Continue Reading »

Trump Offers New Denials on Russia Contacts, Including: “Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years”

In his 75-minute-long news conference Thursday, President Donald Trump responded to several direct questions about his and his associates’ connections with Russia during the campaign and after the election. The questions were spurred in part by a New York Times story that broke Wednesday reporting that  Trump campaign members and Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election (see also the CNN story referring to “constant” contacts during the campaign). Trump refuted this, saying the entire Russia story was a ruse, a joke, fake news. He offered a series of denials  — some familiar and some brand new.

I’ve previously catalogued instances when the Trump team’s assertions about their connections to Russia contradict what they’ve said in the past and the facts as they’ve been reported by multiple news organizations and the US intelligence community. You can read those here.

The Russia story is made up by Democrats to explain their election loss

“You can talk all you want about Russia, which was fake news, fabricated deal, to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and the press plays right into it.”

The Russia story is also made up by the press

“The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was — it’s a joke.”

No one was ever on the phone with Russia …

“I saw a couple of the people that were supposedly involved with all of this — they know nothing about it; they weren’t in Russia; they never made a phone call to Russia; they never received a phone call.”

… Including Trump

“Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time.”

The people who talked to Russia played a minor role on the campaign [also, they didn’t speak to Russia]

“The people mentioned in the story, I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia. They weren’t even a part, really — I mean, they were such a minor part. I hadn’t spoken to them.”

Without naming him, Trump repeats his claim that he never met his former foreign policy advisor Carter Page

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him. I didn’t talk to him ever. And he thought it was a joke.”

[In a March interview with the Washington Post, Trump personally listed Page as a member of his initial foreign policy team, which at the time included five people.]

Former chairman of the Trump campaign for several months, Paul Manafort (who has an apartment in Trump Tower) wasn’t involved in the Trump campaign for long

“He was replaced long before the election. You know that, right?

He was replaced long before the election. When all of this stuff started coming out, it came out during the election. But Paul Manafort, who’s a good man also by the way, Paul Manafort was replaced long before the election took place. He was only there for a short period of time.”

[Manafort’s ties to Russia, and particularly his lobbying work on behalf of ousted Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Putin, came under fire this summer, leading to his eventual resignation from the Trump campaign. He was replaced by Breitbart News Executive Steve Bannon.]

Trump owns nothing in Russia

“I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

[While it might be true that Trump has no current deals in Russia, it’s not for lack of trying. As The New York Times reported, Trump has been unsuccessfully chasing real estate deals in Russia for three decades.]

He did not direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but …

“I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

Trump denies Flynn had contacts with Russian officials before the election

TRUMP: Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that’s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.

QUESTION: During the election?

TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody…

He has nothing to do with any of it …

“I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia.”

… Nor do his associates — to the best of his knowledge

“I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”

Image: Mario Tama/Getty

There’s a Strong Case for a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Trump’s Russia Ties

 

What the U.S. Intelligence Community has concluded was a covert Russian operation targeting the U.S. presidential election to help President Trump win was an extraordinary assault on our democracy. Yet Trump’s repeated dismissal of evidence pointing to Russia’s responsibility is even more extraordinary.  There are serious questions whether his administration can conduct an impartial and independent investigation into Russia’s actions or whether a Special Counsel is now needed to conduct the ongoing criminal investigation into Russia’s influence operation and possible ties between Russia and individuals in the Trump campaign and administration.

The recent confirmation of one of Trump’s earliest and closest campaign advisers, former Senator Jeff Sessions, as attorney general, provides no assurance that the Justice Department will exercise the necessary independence from the White House to carry out the investigation.  The Senate will next consider the nominee for Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein.  He should be asked to seriously consider the necessity of appointing a Special Counsel if confirmed.  Indeed, when Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed Special Counsel to investigate the leak of a CIA agent’s name, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself because of close ties to the White House, and then Deputy Attorney General James Comey appointed the Special Counsel.

While there are various ongoing investigations into the Russian operation and its fallout, (summarized here on Lawfare) none of them, including any FBI investigation, are a substitute for a complete and independent investigation into possible criminal activity connected with these Russian operations against the United States.

Moreover, there is a strong case to be made that the Justice Department is facing the quintessential situation where an independent counsel is needed:  the Department is charged with investigating members of the administration, potentially including the President himself, of which the Department is a part.  It is possible that the President could be required to answer questions during the investigation; at a minimum it is likely that personal financial and other information from the President will be required.

With this in mind, it’s worth looking at Department of Justice regulations, 28 CFR 600.1, which provide that the Attorney General:

“will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and,

(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States

Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an

outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”

There is a strong case to be made that criminal investigation of these matters by the Department of Justice under Attorney General Sessions both presents a conflict of interest and constitutes extraordinary circumstances, and that appointment of an outside Special Counsel is in the public interest.  Continue Reading »

A Second Motive?–Putin and Trump’s Shared Interest in Undermining the Election Process

 

The FBI and other government agencies, two powerful Senate committees, and scores of journalists are now on the trail of potential contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials prior to the presidential election. In the hunt for information, many are looking to whether particular actions by Russia (and Wikileaks) were potentially coordinated with Donald Trump’s inner circle to help his election chances. But that focus is too narrow. It assumes Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin shared only one principal goal: getting Mr. Trump to the White House.

According to the intelligence community, Mr. Putin’s cyber operation during the presidential election served two ambitions: (1) to undercut Hillary Clinton’s prospect of winning; and (2) to sow doubt about the election process as a whole. The first ambition rose and fell according to the belief that Mr. Trump’s chance of winning was within the realm of possibility. Russia may have largely given up on that ambition, according to the intelligence report, when it looked like Ms. Clinton’s victory was more certain. The intelligence community concluded: “When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”

Here’s what should not be missed: Mr. Trump would directly benefit from the first effort, but he also aligned himself, to a significant degree, with the second effort as well. More specifically, Mr. Putin’s second ambition was fully consistent with Mr. Trump’s repeatedly calling the election “rigged,” and refusing to state that he would accept the election results if Ms. Clinton won. There was a stage in which Mr. Trump thought he might win, and there were long stretches in which he seemed dead set on undermining the public confidence in the election results. Notably, the latter ambition was in contrast to the positions taken by Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, both of whom tried to make course corrections.

What might explain Mr. Trump’s interest in undermining public confidence in the election results? At this point one can only speculate. And nobody seemed to know at the time. Perhaps out of concern for his reputation, he wanted any loss to be cast under a shadow of doubt. Perhaps Mr. Trump wanted to undermine Clinton’s expected presidency, especially if it would help him set up a new media company in opposition to her administration. Perhaps there are even more nefarious reasons having to do with financial and other ties to Russia and thus continuing to act in line with Moscow’s own interests. Regardless of the specific reason, Mr. Trump’s systematic effort to shape public opinion around the idea of a rigged election was not out synch with the Kremlin’s own efforts.

As you look to the various reasons that Trump’s innermost circle may have supported or otherwise colluded with Russia’s efforts, it is important to keep this wider focus in mind.