Viewpoints

Electoral College, you have a job to do

Less than a week before members of the Electoral College vote to certify the new president of the United States, 40 of those members – 39 Democrats and one Republican – have requested an intelligence briefing on reports of Russian meddling in the presidential election.

In case you’re unaware, an “intelligence briefing” is something President-elect Donald Trump has been regularly turning away because, as he said recently: “I’m, like, really smart.”

Apparently these Electoral College voters aren’t smart enough to ignore information from America’s highly trained intelligence agents and are stubbornly insistent on having all available information on why a country led by a former KGB agent might have favored Trump.

You’d almost think it’s the job of the Electoral College to ensure that voters aren’t putting a wholly unqualified person with intentionally murky financial conflicts of interest and questionable ties to a foreign power into office. Where would anybody get that idea?

Some suggest it came from Alexander Hamilton’s explanation of the Electoral College’s purpose in “The Federalist Papers”: “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

Anyhoo, who’s got time to read all those words? Besides, if the Founding Fathers were so smart, why are they all dead? Open your eyes, people.

Another reason this unprecedented interference in our electoral system by a hostile foreign government is much ado about nothing is because Trump said it might not be true. And, as previously mentioned, he’s really smart.

After the president-elect suggested it’s not true, fake news website Breitbart swiftly listed 10 reasons why the whole Russian interference thing is a bunch of fake news cooked up by the damn liberals.

That fake news from a fake news website was then transformed into real news when Sean Hannity, who has fake integrity, repeated it on his radio show, calling the CIA’s assessment a “liberal media fake news story.”

From Trump’s mouth to Breitbart’s home page to Hannity’s mouth to your ears. Who can argue with such an infallible stream of truth?

The so-called “real news” source that first reported this Russian news was the Washington Post:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.”

The Post’s reporting sounds dodgy to me. Especially when the only things Trump has done that suggest he might be Russia-curious are:

– Failed to condemn the Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee.

– Mocked American intelligence operations rather than express outrage at the possibility of Russian meddling.

– Spoken fawningly of Russian President Vladimir Putin who, by all reasonable measures, is a very bad person.

– Appointed retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a noted Putin fanboy with close ties to Russia, as his national security advisor.

– Appointed Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, even though Tillerson is so tight with Russia that Putin awarded him the “Order of Friendship,” one of the highest honors Russia can give a foreign citizen.

– Generated headlines like “Russia Is Reportedly Delighted at Donald Trump’s Cabinet Picks” and garnered praise from people like Putin aide Sergei Markov, who told Bloomberg: “These are people Russia can do business with.”

You know the old saying: “Where there’s smoke, there is almost definitely not fire, now move along and stop staring.”

And why should we worry about Russia anyway?

I mean, who’s worried about those guys, aside from a bipartisan group of senators who have called for a probe, writing that “recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.”

Every American except the current president-elect, who doesn’t appear to give a whip about U.S intelligence on Russian cyber-warfare and stealth propaganda and, in fact, seems almost as if he owes Putin something.

I could suggest that Trump has financial interests in Russia or that he owes money to Russian banks, but that can’t be proven because Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns.

If only there was some kind of body, put in place by the wise people who founded our democracy, that might feel compelled to more carefully screen the person picked to lead our country.

If such a body existed, one might expect it to do due diligence in examining all aspects of Trump’s personal and financial ties to Russia to make sure our enemies aren’t “raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union.”

If such a body existed, I would tell its members this: Please do your job.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at rhuppke@chicagotribune.com.

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