2008 US presidential nominee from the Republican Party and influential US senator John McCain had, in December 2016, termed the Russian interference though cyber attacks in the 2016 US presidential election an act of war. Then it did not echo much. Also, John McCain, who is chairman of US Senate Armed Services Committee, has had a long running feud with Donald Trump.
But after the recent hearing of the House Intelligence Committee where the FBI Director James Comey testified that the FBI was indeed investigating the Russian meddling in the US polls and if some members of the Trump campaign team were having Russian connections, many Democratic senators, have started voicing their opinions against the Russian belligerence. And they think the Russian interference was an ‘act of war’.
It was the first public admission by the FBI into the ongoing probe that the FBI director termed ‘unusual’, as the FBI doesn’t confirm or deny that it is investigating a matter unless it is highly ‘unusual’. Here the FBI believed the situation was so serious and in public interest was at stake, as Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
After Comey’s admission, the issue has become central to the Democratic Party’s narrative to target US President Donald Trump. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles”, charged Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat from New Jersey, during a recent security committee hearing.
Her words were echoed by Democratic Party senator from California Jackie Speier who said during the same hearing where Comey was testifying that ‘he actually thought that their (Russian) engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare and he thought that’s why the American people should be concerned about it’.
Another Democratic senator for California, Eric Swalwell, who had launched a separate section on his official website to detail Donald Trump’s officials connection with Russia, said, “I see this as an opportunity for everyone on this committee, Republicans and Democrats, to not look in the rearview window but to look forward and do everything we can to make sure that our country never again allows a foreign adversary to attack us”, as quoted by The Hill, a newspaper and website with wide following. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is currently probing Russian meddling matter and Swalwell is one of its members.
In January, the US democrats had written a letter to the US Congress to demand an independent, bipartisan commission, with equal representation of Democrats and Republicans, to probe the allegations but the House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected such calls.
US intelligence agencies believe that Vladimir Putin did order the Kremlin to interfere in the US presidential polls and the charge that it was done in order to hurt the prospects of the US Democrats and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, gained momentum after thousands of Hillary Clinton emails were leaked by Russian hackers, a revelation confirmed by the CIA. The fact that Donald Trump has always been soft on Russia and Vladimir Putin and he would often talks of new alignments with Russia during his campaign days, further bolstered the feeling.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, had to resign after it was found that he had lied on his Russian connection. Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, who had a controversial ascent to head the Trump administration’s legal team, had to recuse himself from the investigations into the Russian meddling after it was revealed that he was also in touch with the Russian Ambassador in the US during Trump’s campaign days.
After the humiliating setback in the US presidential polls, the US Democrats have got multiple opportunities to target Trump. Trump entered the White House with historically low approval ratings. His controversial travel ban targeting some Muslim majority nations has seen strong disapproval even from some Republicans and has been stayed by the US courts. Most recently, his favourite campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, fizzled out this week when his party could not arrange numbers in a house dominated by the Republicans.
Add to it are the controversies like his official weekend visits to his private mansion Mar-a-Lago that cost US taxpayers millions or his over a dozen visits to Golf Courses when he had promised that he would not take off days. Wrapping it with a grand narrative of its conventional rival Russia, attacking the US, with unconventional tools like cyber wars, that hurt the sovereign interests of the country but benefit the Trump camp, serves the purpose of showing Trump and Republicans in a questionable light. These all together create a perfect recipe for the Democratic Party to bounce back from its low confidence levels some months back.