Like millions of Americans, I have in one way or another followed the public impeachment hearings against President Donald J. Trump. I have watched hearings live, watched opinion shows afterwards that show some of the brightest in American politics break down testimony and pivotal moments, and have scoured Twitter to see the reactions from my fellow Americans on all aspects of the political spectrum. Unexpectedly, tempers are high on both sides of the aisle, and no one can say they are truly “happy.” Well, maybe one person, but not an American.
While many Americans struggle just to follow the back and forth of the hearings, the lies and truths and the tearing apart of friendly relationships over guilt or innocence, at least one person around the world is sitting back and laughing, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The impeachment of the 45th President of the United States is the culmination of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton won the election, the goal of the Russian government was to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election and mar the reputation of the candidate who would then occupy the White House. If Hillary Clinton won, there would surely be four years of investigations into the ongoing email scandal, among others. If Trump won, investigations would fly over his financials and questionable foreign policy. But if the Russians were really smart, they could ensure an investigation would be launched into a campaign working with them to steal the election. Their plan worked, and we started Donald Trump’s tenure as President with the two year Mueller investigation.
The Russians saw from the start of the 2016 campaign in 2015 that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the two most controversial candidates. If either won their subsequent primaries, they could easily push fake news to rile up Americans more than ever before. Social media made this even easier, with Russians running pages pretending to be patriotic Americans, spreading fake news about vital issues in the country and about both candidates.
It was evident on Day 1 of the Trump Presidency that Putin’s plan worked, with many prominent Democrats in Congress demanding Trump be investigated and even impeached before even signing his name as President.
It is one thing to have disagreements with the politics of a President, but to wish them failure and immediate removal from office does not do anyone any good. But the divide we have seen in America goes beyond Donald Trump, it has crossed into nearly every single policy disagreement between individuals. Gone are the days where we can “agree to disagree” or find common ground. Arguments quickly turn to personal insults and name calling instead of articulate discussions. Political violence has even taken a turn for the worst on both sides, from Republican Congressmen being shot at during a baseball practice to Democratic leaders having dangerous packages sent to their homes and offices. These actions benefit nobody in the United States of America.
The United States and Russia have been at another Cold War for almost a decade now. Vladimir Putin wishes to place Russia back at the forefront of the world stage, but understands that can’t happen with a strong, united America. I have raised this concern for years, yet our members of Congress still fall for Putin’s master plan.
If Congress may not hear my concern, maybe they will agree with the testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top White House official on Russia, from a recent impeachment hearing in the House Intelligence Committee. Two parts of Dr. Hill’s opening statement stand out to me:
The Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country—to diminish America’s global role and to neutralize a perceived U.S. threat to Russian interests. President Putin and the Russian security services aim to counter U.S. foreign policy objectives in Europe, including in Ukraine, where Moscow wishes to reassert political and economic dominance.
President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a Super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.
Dr. Hill’s powerful words are further proof to the dangerous slope that we continue down, and it is my hope that these warnings are heeded before our discourse moves past a point of no return.
Read more about the 2016 US Presidential Election and Russian interference in my book, America 2020: The Grand American Political Landscape. Available at Amazon today! https://www.amazon.com/America-2020-American-Political-Landscape/dp/1696126401/ref=sr_1_1?crid=IKK320AMO0U1&keywords=america+2020+pat+obrien&qid=1575904689&sprefix=america+202%2Caps%2C144&sr=8-1