US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the "family photo" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017.
World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA        (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
Quigley: Trump acting like Russians have something on him
04:59 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

If you heard the repeated unanimous assessments from the US intelligence community and thought, well, I guess this means the US government has dropped everything and is going to do something about this, you have another thing coming.

For starters, the US President is under investigation from a special counsel digging into whether members of his campaign tried to collude with a foreign government.

Second, the President has expressed doubt that Russia actually meddled. And he views the investigation into collusion, which he denies, and the whole idea of meddling by Russia against his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a threat to his legitimacy.

He was again alleging the Obama administration had it in for him in a tweet Monday morning. And he threw in they did nothing about Russia.

“Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.”

Trump’s tweet ignores the warning of election meddling issued before Election Day in 2016. That bipartisan pre-election warning and statement would have been stronger, too, had it not been for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to Obama White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, in an interview with NBC Sunday. (McConnell’s spokesman pointed to a bipartisan statement issued by McDonough as evidence that Republicans worked side-by-side in the drafting of the warning.)

Obama also broached the issue directly with Putin while he was in office and told him to cut it out.

Trump said he asked Putin about it, but believed the Russian leader’s denials.

RELATED: Trump says ‘the facts’ prove he’s tougher on Russia than Obama – they don’t

Add to all that a quote and a headline from the past week and you’re left to wonder if the apparatus of intelligence, diplomacy and national defense is doing anything at all to combat Russia beyond warning that the country continues to meddle, as they have done over and over again.

The headline Monday from The New York Times is this: “State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0.

There are caveats within the story, which is worth reading, but the fact remains that Trump is dismissive of the Russian threat and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is, while not dismissive, resigned to it and taking a laissez faire approach. It also documents a squabble over the money between the State Department and the Department of Defense. Nothing new there, for sure, but nothing in it signifies a sense of urgency about the problem.

Tillerson, for the better part of a year, didn’t even opt to ask for money available to him to counter Russian propoganda – to lawmakers’ great irritation.

The quote to pay attention to is not mentioned in the Times’ story, but rather comes from National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, who testified before lawmakers on February 27.

The pertinent section of his testimony was documented by CNN’s Zachary Cohen.

Asked by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed if he has been directed by the President, through the defense secretary, to confront Russian cyberoperators at the source, Rogers said, “no, I have not,” but noted that he has tried to work within the authority he maintains as a commander.

While he did not agree with Reed’s characterization that the US has been “sitting back and waiting,” Rogers admitted that it is fair to say that “we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors we are seeing” with regards to Russia.

“It has not changed the calculus or the behavior on behalf of the Russians,” Rogers said about the US response to Russia’s cyberthreat to date.

“They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior,” he added.

nsa director mike rogers russia cyber threats sasc hearing sot_00012713.jpg
NSA chief: Need authority to stop Russian cyber threat
01:45 - Source: CNN

The White House later denied Rogers was being denied any authority, but the fact remains that the head of one of the key pieces of the US intelligence infrastructure doesn’t think the US is engaging with a foreign government trying to influence the democratic process.

None of this is to imply the US government is doing nothing about Russia. There have been sanctions imposed by the previous administration and, grudgingly, the current one.

But these have largely been continuations of Obama-era sanctions for Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Obama also seized Russian diplomatic properties in the US and expelled some of its diplomats in retaliation for the election meddling.

The Trump administration has taken no measures to explicitly counter or retaliate for Moscow’s election meddling.

The Trump White House did seize more Russian diplomatic properties last year, but it took that step in response to Russian seizures of US diplomatic compounds.

And while Congress passed a law directing the administration to sanction Russia specifically for its election malfeasance, the White House has stopped short of actually using it, to lawmakers’ great frustration.

For example, under the law this year, the US named a sweeping list of prominent Russian figures but did not take the extra step of sanctioning them.

The special counsel that is investigating the Trump White House has also indicted 13 Russian nationals over election meddling.

Besides meddling, the positioning between the US and Russia has recently jumped into a higher gear.

Russia is seen as a “revisionist” foe that’s seeking to change the status quo, and the Pentagon, as part of Nuclear Posture Review, recommended developing several new nuclear weapons to counter Russian activity.

But if, as US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates testified in February, the US is “under attack” by Russia in terms of election meddling, you’d think the State Department would be working to more quickly spend the money it was granted to fight election meddling. You’d think the White House would be using the sanctions tools Congress has given it to push back against Moscow. And you’d think the head of the NSA would be able to say the US has opted to engage, rather than not.

None of those things have happened and that’s important to consider when you think about how the Trump administration has dealt with Russia.