Is Donald Trump shutting down attempts in his administration to expose Russian election hacking because he doesn't want to hear he'd never have been elected without it, or because he wants to keep it going for 2020?
His chief of staff Mick Mulvaney now insists that he doesn't recall instructing former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to let up on preparing a cyberdefense plan for 2020. A well-sourced New York Times report Wednesday said that Mulvaney "made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory" in a meeting, forcing the issue out of the Oval Office and out of the top levels of the administrations.
Mulvaney now says "I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting," and attempts to deflect. "Unlike the Obama administration, who knew about Russian actions in 2014 and did nothing, the Trump administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we've already taken many steps to prevent it in the future," he said. Yeah, do we need to go back to the history of Mitch McConnell working against the interests of the nation and the Obama administration to cover-up the Russian hacking? Apparently so, because that moment of history isn't recounted here in this Politico story.
But that does raise the question of whether it's 2016 Trump is worried about or 2020, and what he may or may not have planned with Russia for the next round. Trump's closest advisers are busy downplaying Russia's 2016 involvement, with Trump's son-in-law and security-clearance-challenged adviser Jared Kushner saying that it was just "a couple of Facebook ads" that didn't hurt anything. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani goes on national television saying it's absolutely fine to take information from Russians—"nothing wrong" with it, he said. Neither of these things is particularly comforting when it comes to the security of the 2020 contest. Neither is the pattern pointed out by Marcy Wheeler of Trump's ongoing instructions to his national security officials "not to protect the country."
By the way, this is another element in the argument for House Democrats to start up the impeachment hearings. This was made clear in an interview Greg Sargent conducted with constitutional scholar Philip Bobbitt earlier this week. Trump isn't just trying to derail an investigation into his conduct in 2016, his refusal to cooperate is also, Bobbitt says, "impeding an investigation to stop a determination of what Russia did, why, and how they did it. Because this is not over. It’s going to happen again, not just in our country. In many countries."
Securing the 2020 election might actually depend on impeachment.