Partisanship Should Not Get in the Way of a Russia Inquiry

In the Wall Street Journal, Gerald F. Seib offers two sensible reasons why President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters should not obstruct efforts to investigate alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election process:

The first is that a cloud of uncertainty will hang over his election as long as the charges that Russia somehow intervened to help him remain unexplored and unanswered. Mr. Trump may fear that an inquiry will somehow delegitimize his victory, but the Russian role now has become such a visible and dominant topic that the opposite likely is true: Questions will linger mostly if the issue is shoved under the rug.

The second reason is more substantive. Mr. Trump shows every sign of wanting to execute a significant shift in America’s strategic posture in the world. He seems to want to get along better with Russia while doing more to confront China, a pivot that turns much foreign-policy thinking of the past decade or so upside down. […]

Both propositions are debatable, of course, and they will be debated. But the prospects of making a persuasive case for the kind of change toward Russia that Mr. Trump wants actually will be undercut if it appears that move is part of some kind of payoff for election-year help. Trump loyalists think that suspicion is ludicrous—which is why they should want it addressed head-on.

Two things can be true at once: First, Donald Trump is the legitimate President-elect, having won fair and square in a free and fair, if messy, election. Second, Russia’s apparent hacking of DNC servers is a serious incursion, one that should be identified as such and answered forcefully.

The media have largely blamed Trump and his supporters for politicizing the fact-finding process, citing his irresponsible dismissal of intelligence community assessments. But it’s also true that liberals have sought to use this as a cudgel to tar or even invalidate his victory, raising the specter of Russian interference to push for baseless recounts and and then an Electoral College nullification of the election results. So it is not a mystery why Team Trump’s reflexive response to the Russia allegations has been defensive.

There are a number of reasons why Russia may have released hacked emails embarrassing Hillary Clinton during this election season, including Putin’s personal dislike for her dating back to 2011 and his desire to see Western political establishments thrown into chaos. There is no evidence whatsoever that Trump is some kind of Manchurian candidate.

So the best path forward is to stop making the Russia issue some kind of proxy for partisanship or the legitimacy of the 18-month election process that just took concluded. Trump will be the president, and he should express his intention to address cyber-malfeasance by foreign powers, whatever their motives.

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