You've been hearing a lot about Russia. And the Trump campaign. And the 2016 US election.
What’s the issue?
Last year, the US intelligence community raised its hand and said Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Think: a state-sponsored campaign including fake social media accounts, organizing rallies, and buying politically charged ads meant to rile up millions of Americans and pit them against each other. And the intelligence community says Russia did this in part to help Donald Trump win. All signs point to it trying to pull a repeat for the midterms. Meanwhile, Facebook says it uncovered more sketchy pages. Many people don’t know whether to trust their news or what they see online – and that’s a big problem.
How do we know all this again?
Back in 2016, hackers leaked emails from Democratic National Committee servers. Russia’s believed to have been behind it. Days after the emails leaked, the FBI opened an investigation. Last year, the investigation hit turbo speed after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. He was leading the investigation – and looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Trump later said he had "this Russia thing" on the mind at the time he fired Comey – raising questions as to whether Trump obstructed justice. Questions that special counsel Robert Mueller is now trying to answer.
Catch me up on that.
Mueller was one of the FBI's longest serving directors, and worked with presidents from both parties. So far, the investigation has led to more than 100 criminal charges for more than 30 people – many of whom are Russians. The first trial to come out of the Mueller investigation wasn’t about Russian meddling or campaign collusion. It was about tax fraud allegedly committed years ago by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Last month, Manafort was found guilty of eight counts and faces nearly 80 years in prison. Meanwhile, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen stirred things up this summer by accusing Trump of directing him to violate campaign finance law. How? By paying off porn stars to not talk about their alleged affairs with Trump. TBD how all that plays out.
What does the left say?
There is plenty of evidence of wrongdoing by the Trump campaign. Mueller’s investigation has been fair, and we need legislation to protect him from being fired by the president.
What does the right say?
We’re torn. Some of us think Mueller’s job should be protected by law. But a lot of us think the investigation shows that the Justice Department has turned political, and is bent on delegitimizing Trump and his presidency.
What can my elected reps do?
Congress has a lot of power here. And can do a bunch – about both Russia and Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. Last year, Congress passed a bill to punish Russia for its activities, including attacking the 2016 US election. When it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation, Congress has also been muell-ing over legislation that would give the special counsel some job security.
There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. And likely won’t be until well after this election has come and gone.