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The Russia-Trump probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the most important criminal inquiry in our country’s history. It’s even bigger than the Watergate investigation, which was prompted by bungling burglars breaking into an office in 1972. In contrast, Mueller is scrutinizing a hostile foreign power breaking into our democracy in 2016.

And yet, the probe is a distraction from something even more significant.


Here’s what’s more significant, as indicated by the title of this January 10 Washington Post op-ed by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin: “Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat” – that is, Donald Trump is ignoring Vladimir Putin’s current threat to democracy. The piece is based on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority (Democratic) staff report. Though the report focuses on Russia and Europe, it warns that our own democracy is in grave danger.


Which brings us to back the Mueller investigation being a distraction. Of course, it’s vitally important. Of course, it’s inextricably linked to the ongoing threat that Putin poses.

But we may be so understandably obsessed with the inquiry into what Russia did in 2016 that we’re overlooking Trump’s ignoring or even condoning what it will do in 2018 and 2020. As an indication of what he’s paying attention to, none of President Trump’s 102 tweets about Russia address this threat – though 24 do alert the nation about NLF players sitting out the national anthem.


It’s a given that congressional Republicans won’t blast Trump’s leaden leadership on this issue. But why aren’t top Democrats making much more of Trump’s neglect of the matter? Why aren’t national security experts regularly setting off well-publicized sirens about this? Why aren’t the many alarming aspects of Trump’s inaction frequent front-page news? Why does The New York Times, while admirably inking an editorial on the Senate report, otherwise bury discussion of the document half-way through an article on whether Trump will talk to Mueller?

Why can’t Democrats argue that, even as the country waits out the Mueller investigation, Congress must decry the president for ignoring Russia’s revving up its attack on democracy? And if the Republicans could exploit Cold War paranoia for decades, why can’t the Democrats keep pounding away at this much more legitimate issue?

I don’t know. Maybe I could figure all of this out if I weren’t so distracted.

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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