NDN Blog

On Trump's Meeting with Lavrov Today - Time To End The Appeasement of Russia

This morning we released the following statement to the media and our community: 

When President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin’s most senior aide at the White House today, it is essential that the President use this time to raise concerns about Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage. Among the issues that should be on the agenda:

• Russian interference in the elections and internal politics of the United States and Europe
• Russia’s violation of the INF nuclear treaty (link)
• The imperative of returning Crimea to Ukraine, and cessation of its adventurous military operations in the region
• Rising Russian support of the Taliban in Afghanistan (link), and escalation in Libya (link)
• Russia’s establishment of a military installation in Nicaragua (link)
• And of course, the need for Russia to stop propping up Syria’s murderous dictator, and prolonging the Syrian Civil War

“While Americans should be very concerned about Russia’s intervention in our election last year on behalf of Donald Trump, what is far more worrisome is President Trump’s unwillingness to challenge Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage since becoming President” said NDN President Simon Rosenberg.

“In another age we would call President Trump’s early approach to Russia “appeasement.” Today, President Trump has an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that he is capable of standing firm against this rising global threat from a newly ambitious Russia. His failure to raise these matters with FM Lavrov and demand a change in Russia’s course would send a signal to the world that America supports Russia’s newly aggressive stance. Such an approach is of course unacceptable, and would give additional fodder to those who have been argued that Trump can be friends with Putin or be President of the United States - but he cannot be both.”

Update: So the meeting happened.  Lavrov brought along Ambassador Kislyak, thought to be the chief Russian spymaster in the US.  These two men helped lead the Russian campaign to elect Trump.  And Our President met with them without any other American in the room - no translator, no press, no national security council staff.  Just Putin's top aide, and the Russian spymaster in the US.  How Kislyak was allowed into the Oval Office is beyond comprehension.  And of course the White House's read out of the meeting was milquetoast, and neglected to mention Kislyak's presence.  And of course did not mention anything about the ongoing Russian interference campaign in the US or in Europe.  Pure, clear, mighty appeasement it is. 

Update: So I took to Twitter and elaborated on this piece a bit.  Well worth your time.  Biggest issue in American politics today. 

"No Normal Time" - A Special Note from Simon

Dear Friends,

Some days it is important to note just how unusual, and pernicious, American politics has become. Sally Yates’ testimony today reminds us that our President and his allies are under an unprecedented investigation for treason and active collusion with a hostile foreign power. The House passed ACHA and its emerging budget strategy is an extraordinary betrayal of everything Donald Trump campaigned on; would do clear, measurable harm to tens of millions of Americans in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest among us; and as Paul Krugman argues today in the New York Times represents a degree of direct lying about policy that is also unprecedented in modern American history. More stories of rank and unprecedented corruption by the Trump family once again dominate our headlines this morning. And just this morning our President took to Twitter to discuss golf and once again give clumsy cover to the Russian attack on the American homeland (and French, German and many others) last year. These things are not normal, or okay.

While there is good news out of France this morning, we cannot forget just how extraordinary this moment in American politics is. There is no “business as usual” option here, a sense that things will somehow settle down to something resembling “normal politics.” This is why we’ve so aggressively advocated that Democrats start to make these matters – the appeasement of Russia, the corruption, the epic malevolent lying, the denigration of democratic norms – front and center in their negotiations with Trump and the GOP. We cannot segregate off traditional policy considerations from these broader areas of concern as doing so will be in its own way a form of appeasement and acceptance.

We also have recently advocated that the RNC be challenged to take far more aggressive steps in combating the reoccurrence of foreign attempts to influence our elections that FBI Director Comey predicted will come. The RNC and thus the entire Republican Party and all of its members played a significant role in mainstreaming the Russian operation in the US last year, and were thus critical to its success. This shameful legacy needs to be confronted by the current leadership of the RNC, and steps taken to work with willing Democrats to create a united political front against foreign interference in our elections.

These are no ordinary times. History tells us that in times like these many well-intentioned people will fail to understand how extraordinary the moment is, and to allow wishful thinking to overwhelm good sense. We in America don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of politics, so perhaps it is understandable. But let me be as clear as day – this organization will not stop challenging those in power to meet this worrisome moment head on and with force equal to what is coming at us. Creativity, strategic thinking and good old fashioned courage are required now. And we are going to do our part in making sure that America comes out of this time stronger, wiser and more just than before. We hope you will continue to partner with us in these consequential days ahead to assure that it is so.

Best,

Simon

Monday, May 8th 2017 From Washington, DC

Release: No budget passed, no budget introduced in 1st 100 days

“As Congress struggles to pass a budget originally proposed in early 2016, it is reasonable to ask if President Trump is ever going to submit a budget for FY 2018 that is supposed to be implemented in just five months. So far the President and his team have released pieces and outlines of a budget but no budget itself. Crafting, passing and implementing a budget is perhaps the most elemental responsibility of governing. There are legitimate reasons to be alarmed at Trump’s extraordinary failure to get last year’s budget (7 months into a 12 month fiscal year) passed and his first budget introduced into Congress.

These failures are among the most significant failures of his first 100 days.”

-Simon Rosenberg, NDN
 

Release: Still no 2017 budget from GOP, or 2018 proposal from the White House

“As the White House releases an outline for the revenue side of its budget today, it is important to remember that the governing party has still not yet completed a budget that was due on October 1st, 2016, nor has it proposed one that is due on October 1st, 2017. Even by Washington standards this struggle by the GOP to manage the most elemental part of our running our government is deeply worrisome.

While the President’s revenue outline today is a late but welcome development, it cannot be given serious consideration outside the eventual full budget proposal that is usually submitted to Congress in February. Budgets are about making hard choices among competing priorities, and reconciling revenue and spending proposals. No grading on a curve here for our inexperienced President – the President’s first budget is extraordinarily late, and from what we’ve seen so far not terribly serious or thought through. If our President wants to regain some of the ground he has lost in his wobbly first 100 days, he would be wise to focus on getting the budget from 2016 that is already seven months late completed, and his first budget, already months late, released for consideration by Congress.”

-Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

 

Column: Democrats should put Russia, corruption and tax returns on agenda w/Trump

Today, US News and World Report published Simon's latest column,“Standing Firm.” In the column Simon recommends that in the coming negotiations with President Trump on a wide variety of issues – including the budget, debt ceiling, infrastructure, improving the Affordable Care Act and even matters of war and peace – Democrats should add three more important issues to the agenda:

1. Full presidential cooperation with the various probes into Russian interference in U.S. politics.
2. Commonplace financial transparency - release of tax returns, public audit of Trump's holdings.
3. Cessation of presidential use of his private businesses for matters of state.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: The RNC’s Russia Problem

Friends,

Today US News published Simon's latest column,“The RNC's Russia Problem: The RNC Should Take The Lead In Preventing Future Interference In Our Elections.”

An excerpt –

"The main purpose of the two congressional investigations into the Russian campaign to interfere in America's electoral process is to prevent such a campaign from ever happening again. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about future reoccurrences. Just today, Facebook closed 30,000 accounts in France, ones it determined were spreading misinformation in the run up to the French election. So these malevolent efforts by foreign governments to interfere in the democratic processes of important Western powers continue and remain a serious threat to sovereignty and security of the United States.

As policymakers forge an appropriate response to this ongoing threat, the Republican National Committee has a particularly important role to play in future efforts to protect this part of America's homeland. For as we've learned in recent weeks, the RNC was at the center of two of the most important components of the Russian campaign – the penetration of Trump's campaign by the Russian government, and the normalization and use of Russian disinformation."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Be sure to also read Simon's statement on Secretary of State Tillerson's meetings with Putin and Lavrov as well as his statement on the White House and Department of Homeland Security to release their plan to protect US elections from future interference by foreign powers.

Release: Tillerson failed to make Russian interference in US elections central to his mtgs w/Lavrov, Putin

“Based on his statements in his Moscow press conference this afternoon, Secretary of State Tillerson failed to make the issue of Russia’s interference in US politics and its ongoing efforts to disrupt the politics of our European allies central to his meetings with Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov today. In his opening statement describing the talks he did not mention these ongoing and serious aggressions by Russia. They only came up when Tillerson was queried by a reporter, and his exact words were “we touched on it briefly.”

A direct Russian attack on the American homeland is not peripheral to the US-Russian relationship. Failure by Tillerson to make this far-ranging interference campaign central to these talks and to publicly condemn Russia for their aggressive actions here and in Europe is a tacit sign of approval of these efforts by the Trump Administration. It is also an invitation for Russia and other nations to attempt these kind of interference campaigns again in future elections here and abroad.

I for one reject the argument that what is happening in Syria and North Korea is more important than Russian’s extensive and ongoing efforts to undermine democracy in the US and Europe. These efforts should have been given equal weight to these other global challenges, and should have been central to the talks today. It is another disturbing sign of how Donald Trump’s admiration and relationship for Russia is interfering with his ability to be an effective President for the American people.

A few days ago NDN called on the White House and The Department of Homeland Security to release their plans to prevent the kind of interference we saw in 2016 from happening in this upcoming election cycle, including the special election in Georgia next week. The apparent failure of Tillerson to make these matters central to the talks today makes the production of such a go-forward strategy by the WH even more urgent.”

-Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

 

Column: The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One

Today US News published Simon's latest column,“The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One.”

An excerpt –

"In the coming days, Trump's willingness to shed his clear admiration for Putin and Russia will be central to our emerging Syria policy, and to Trump's broader foreign policy vision. It is also perhaps the most important indicator of his willingness to shed the childish fantasy world his campaign constructed that is causing his early presidency to fail. Whatever Trump believed about Putin, and whatever transactions have gone down between them, Putin is anathema to the American creed. He is working to weaken America and the West on the global stage, advance autocracy as an alternative to democracy, undermine the global consensus about the need to find a better energy paradigm than one based on fossil fuels and has been Assad's funder and partner and thus is directly responsible for the greatest humanitarian crisis in generations. There is a strong argument to be made that defeating Putinism is the most significant challenge facing our new president. And because of this Trump will have to choose. He can be president of the United States or a friend of Putin's. He cannot be both."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.
 

NDN Calls on WH/DHS To Release Their Plans for Protecting US Elections from Foreign Interference

Today, the advocacy organization NDN is formally calling on the Trump Administration to release its plans for preventing another Russia style attack on our electoral systems in the 2018 election cycle.

Russia’s interference in our elections in 2016 was among the most serious attacks on the homeland of the United States in recent decades, perhaps in all of American history. The success of the operation will certainly encourage Russia, and perhaps other foreign actors, to try again. Foreign actors will be further encouraged if the American President and his Administration continue to discount the threat, and are not doing all that is required to keep America and its electoral system safe. To deter such activity, and to hopefully to prevent its reoccurrence, the Administration must take steps in the coming days to assure the American people they have a plan and are acting upon it.

This is not some far off issue. Special elections for the House of Representatives have begun this month, and there are primary and general elections in several states in 2017 that are already underway. Systems for monitoring foreign activity and creating real time communication with the DNC, RNC and possibly affected campaigns should have already been put in place by the Trump Administration. It is time for the President to act.

Congressional leaders of both parties should be demanding a clear plan from the Administration. The Chairs of the DNC and RNC should work together this time to create systems for monitoring and sharing information. And this time, the Republican Party should commit to the American people that it will not knowingly use stolen materials and disinformation spread by a foreign power to influence an American election, as it did in 2016. This is not a partisan issue, but an American one, and it is time for the Trump Administration to lead an ambitious, bi-partisan, well-staffed and well-funded effort to prevent foreign interference in our elections.

We hope others will join our call, and encourage the Administration to act without delay.

White House Must Release Its Plan to Protect US Elections from Foreign Interference

I released the following statement today: 

 “With consequential elections coming up this year, and one in a few weeks, it is time for the Trump Administration to release its plan for insuring that the type of interference that happened in 2016 isn’t replicated in these upcoming elections.  Among the issues that must be addressed in the Administration’s plan is real time communications and amelioration efforts with effected political parties and candidates, including the malevolent use of social media and fake news used so extensively in 2016.

 “The success of the Russian effort in 2016 will not just embolden Putin’s government, but perhaps others too.  There is perhaps no greater threat to the homeland today than a new rash of aggressive campaigns from foreign actors to interfere in our election process.  Our Commander-In-Chief has an obligation to spell out what steps his government is taking to protect American democracy, starting with the all-important special election in Georgia-6 in a few weeks.  I hope Senators, Members of the House, the media and leading policy makers will press the Administration in the coming days to reveal its plans.”  

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