The Russians are winning

Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report confirmed one thing. It is time for America’s elected officials to start offering some leadership. Unfortunately, we do not appear to be getting it.

To begin, we should go back to 2012. Famously, then-presidential candidate and now Utah Senator Mitt Romney was asked during a debate whom he believed was America’s top “geopolitical foe.” Romney replied “Russia.”

This was met with snark from President Barack Obama, with a made-for-the-internet quip: “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on October 22, 2012. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Of course, one of the apparently undisputed — and under-considered — findings of Mueller’s investigation concerns Russia. One of their objectives was, as described by Barr, “to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” More succinctly, they want to tear the United States apart from within.

And I’m not sure we can say they failed.

Within hours, if not minutes, of AG Barr’s letter, professional left-wing activists and elected allies began demanding that the entirety of the Mueller report be released immediately. Others sought to discredit the attorney general with innuendo. For example, Rep. Chellie Pingree’s statement described Barr as Trump’s “handpicked Attorney General.”

It’s political silliness. Every cabinet member is handpicked by the president. It is literally how the system works. Similarly, the shouts for immediate, unequivocal release of Mueller’s report ignores long-standing federal law. The grand jury investigatory process is a hallmark of our federal system, and the statute cited by Barr that prevents disclosure of that information was enacted in 1948, if not earlier.

Discrediting our constitutional system, such as presidential appointments subject to senatorial confirmation, or abandoning 70-year-old confidentiality provisions gives Russia what it wants. Hate, dissension, and discord.

President Donald Trump does not get away clean, either. As it appears Mueller’s investigation did not believe his campaign conspired with Russia, it is time to take the high road. Continually accusing political opponents, news organizations, and others of treason or the like simply foments more discord. It creates a vicious cycle that turns political disagreements into personal hatred.

Russia wanted “to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord.” And it’s time to fight back.

Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under Bill Clinton, threw the first metaphorical punch. She apologized to Romney for her support Obama’s critique back in 2012. Giving credit where it is due, Rep. Jared Golden offered a reasonable, measured response to Barr’s letter, reminding people to “keep open minds and be respectful of continuing investigations … without jumping to any conclusions.”

Hopefully, as the Mueller report is inevitably released while protecting that information that must be guarded by law and necessity, the Democratic majority in Congress’ lower house weighs it with an open mind as urged by Golden. Unless new evidence surfaces, maybe the verdict on Trump should be rendered by the American people at the ballot box in 2020. Drop the investigations, get back to policymaking, and fight the war of ideas.

The White House should do the same. Because the winners right now are not Democrats, Republicans or Americans. It’s the Russians. And they probably are our top geopolitical foe.

In keeping with this theme, I want to note state Rep. Dale Denno’s resignation due to health. I worked with Dale in the LePage Administration, and he was my state representative. Although we didn’t agree on many political issues, I never doubted his intentions and could always share a laugh. Go kick cancer’s tail, Dale.

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.