The foremost strategic goal of last year’s Russian meddling in US elections, former director of national intelligence James Clapper said at his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, was to sow discord and distrust among Americans.
Unfortunately, that effort worked beyond the Kremlin’s greatest hopes. And to judge by the hearing, it’s still working: Senate Republicans, especially the tedious Texas Republican Ted Cruz, continue to approach the investigation in a partisan spirit, ensuring that the chain of events the Russians began continues to yield dividends in division.
By failing to take Monday’s hearing seriously — Cruz instead went off on a tangent related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails — too many GOP senators are shying away from doing their jobs. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa senator, was more interested in obfuscating the issue of Russian meddling by instead harping on press leaks. Other senators wanted to relitigate the unrelated issue of President Trump’s travel ban. Bringing up those sideshow issues not only distracts from the real problems, but deepens the divisions Russia sought to exploit in the first place.
Clapper expressed just a hint of exasperation midway through the hearing at questions that seemed more aimed at making political points than getting to the truth about a national security threat. “The transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process,” he said.