July 19, 2017

Tammy Duckworth: Trump is derelict in his duty

Source: CNN


(CNN)When I enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1992, I swore an oath — the same oath members of my family dating back to the Revolution had sworn — to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same." I also pledged to follow the orders of the officers appointed above me, as well as the President of the United States.

In 2004, I lost my legs fighting in a war with which I disagreed, and following orders from a President for whom I did not vote.

That oath, this country and its institutions meant more to me than any political party could, and they still do. It didn't matter who occupied the Oval Office.

I retired from military service in 2014, but during my 23 years, I regularly trained and participated in exercises to keep our military prepared to fight at the Fulda Gap. That area in Germany is one of the avenues of approach that the former USSR would likely have used to launch a kinetic strike (a military strike involving lethal force) against the West. Nearly all Americans who've served in the last 50 years have taken part in similar exercises, because our military leaders — and commanders in chief from both political parties — recognized the threats posed to our country by the Soviet Union's, and later Russia's, expansionist desires.

When I enlisted in the 1990s, our main security concerns with the USSR were the threat of ground invasion of our allies in Europe, and the threat their stockpile of nuclear weapons posed to our own nation. After the demise of the USSR and its Cold War ideological struggle with democratic nations, former KGB officer Vladimir Putin has shifted Russia's focus toward espionage, hacking and cracking, and destabilizing democracies to support the expansionist goals of their country, and personal profit for their leaders. The wolf may put on slightly different clothing, but it is still a wolf. Russia is not our friend.

This past January, I swore a slightly different oath and began my first term in the United States Senate. That oath still includes defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Whether in or out of uniform, I've always held a deep concern for the security and safety of our country— and it's never been partisan. That concern is why I was flying that Blackhawk over Iraq in 2004, and it's why as a US senator I am so appalled that after our nation's voting system came under cyberattack by Russia, a known adversary, the commander in chief is derelict in his duty to recognize definitively that Russia is working against us.

After one of the the most blatant attacks on our democracy to date, he has taken no steps to punish Putin and protect the nation. Despite the fact that defense and intelligence experts agree that Russian hacking and meddling present a clear and present danger, our commander in chief continues to deny the evidence, takes Putin's word as more credible than all our national intelligence agencies combined, and refuses to even admit directly that Russia is responsible for meddling in our elections.

For a full year, candidate and then President Trump and his team have denied any connection or collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, all while failing to do anything to counter their persistent attacks against our democracy, our electoral institutions and our nation's standing in the world.

Instead, he honored Russia's foreign minister with a private Oval Office meeting where he reportedly disclosed highly sensitive intelligence and put lives in danger. His administration is also working behind the scenes to weaken a Russian and Iran sanctions bill that the Senate passed with overwhelming support. Just last weekend, he bizarrely suggested partnering with the Russians on a so-called "cybersecurity unit" to protect America from election hacking, and then abruptly took it back.

Last week, we learned the President's closest advisers and his son knowingly and gleefully sought help from people they thought were Russian government officials who were trying to interfere in our election. President Trump is now changing his tune and claiming, "Most people would have taken that meeting." Note his language; he refers to a potentially traitorous act with the business euphemism "taking a meeting" and he doesn't claim that it was legal or the right thing to do. He only gives his opinion that most people would do it.

I would not do it. My moral compass tells me that such a thing is wrong. I do not believe that most American people would do it, either.

The President has also stated that there is nothing wrong with his son's actions because "nothing happened from the meeting" -- in other words, he didn't get any good dirt on Hillary Clinton out of it. That's a peculiar defense that rings as hollow as a bank robber pleading his innocence because the teller didn't happen to have any money in the till. It doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Some things must rise above petty partisanship. All Americans should be unified against foreign attempts to influence our government. And every American should expect their commander in chief to put this nation's security above personal, financial, or political gain. Sadly, it seems one of the few people who disagrees is the man who currently sits at the Resolute Desk.

By:  Senator Tammy Duckworth