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Sun Jun 11, 2017, 08:18 AM


Is the president breaking his oath to protect and defend the country from foreign attacks?

I was an FBI agent. Trump’s lack of concern about Russian hacking shocks me.
Is the president breaking his oath to protect and defend the country from foreign attacks?

by. Asha Rangappa is an associate dean at Yale Law School.

But as a former FBI counterintelligence agent, what I saw as the most explosive aspect of the testimony didn’t involve any legal violation of the U.S. code or questions about whether Comey had broken established Department of Justice protocols. Instead, it was the prima facie evidence that Comey presented that Trump appears unwilling to uphold his oath “to preserve, protect, and defend” the country — which puts the security of our nation and its democracy at stake. In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey, it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, rather than the security of the country. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.

When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked Comey whether Trump had ever appeared concerned about Russian interference or how to stop it in the future, Comey’s answer was blunt: “No.” After a moment of reflection, he added, without prompting, that he had “attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.” This contrast alone underscores Trump’s disregard for his fundamental duty, which is to ensure the security of the nation, its government and its citizens from foreign enemies.

It’s worth noting that there is unanimity among senior intelligence officials that the Russian interference in our election not only happened, but that it was extraordinary and unprecedented. In previous testimony, Comey described Russia as the “greatest threat of any country on earth,” and he warned Thursday that Russia is “coming after America,” regardless of party, “to undermine our credibility in the rest of the world.”

Former CIA director John Brennan testified to Congress in May that he was shocked that Russia had “brazenly interfered” in the election, so much so that he took the extraordinary step of directly confronting his Russian counterpart. He added that he believes that even in the election’s aftermath, “Russian intelligence services are trying to exploit what is going on in Washington now to their benefit and to our detriment.”

It does not require an FBI investigation to see that a president of the United States who finds no reason for concern in any of these assertions — and indeed considers them a “hoax” — cannot have the best interest of the country at heart.

The FBI takes its counterintelligence mission extremely seriously, although it’s usually less visible to the public than its law enforcement duties, which lead to arrests and criminal trials. Most of these activities, like the foreign agents they target, are by design covert, and they rarely see the inside of a courtroom. Many of the cases I worked as a counterintelligence agent involved foreign intelligence officers who used First Amendment and political freedoms in the United States to their advantage. This might involve disseminating propaganda by recruiting journalists (who did not realize they were spies) to write articles favorable to their government, or getting agents working on their behalf to lobby politicians for favorable policies toward their countries. (A rare glimpse into such a case that became public is the 2011 arrest of Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after the government accused him of being an agent for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate.)



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