You don’t have to believe there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to see this clearly: When Vladimir Putin and his top military intelligence officers facilitated the hacking of the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, they engaged in an act of war against the United States.
The indictments of 12 top Russian military intelligence officers handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday, following on his previous indictments of 13 Russians, make clear that the U.S. was attacked by a hostile power in a brazen act of aggression. Just because it wasn’t Pearl Harbor and no one was killed in the attack itself doesn’t mean it wasn’t an act of aggression by a foreign power.
And that’s what Republicans would be calling it ― war ― if they weren’t in the tank with President Donald Trump, who, instead of strongly condemning Russia, is cozying up to Putin and is infuriated that he and his campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia and obstructing the probe.
The long-term, deep ramifications of this attack by Russia ― carried out, per the indictment and prior investigations, with the intent of helping to elect one candidate ― are incalculable and disastrous, thanks to Trump’s cruel administration and the ongoing demolition of our democratic norms.
It’s true that no one knows for sure what effect Russia’s interference had on actual votes. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was quite clear in his news conference on Friday that the indictments don’t show the vote was affected (though he didn’t rule it out, either).
But with Trump losing the popular vote and winning the Electoral College because of less than 100,000 votes in three states, any impact on the election could have handed the presidency to Trump.
And the Russian tactics could be much broader than purveying fake news on Facebook or stealing and revealing private emails. The indictments on Friday actually make clear that Russia was able to get the Clinton campaign’s analytics from the DNC, as journalist Marcy Wheeler noted.
This could reveal to an opponent key areas the campaign was targeting and where it could do better. As some are now noting, the Trump campaign inexplicably switched its ad buys in the last days of the campaign to Wisconsin, for example ― a state it ultimately won, in a surprise ― even as public polls showed Clinton leading.
There are various indications from the two sets of indictments against Russians (including references to American individuals who are unnamed) that we’ll be seeing more indictments that may focus on Americans who worked with the Russians. Perhaps they’ll shed light on such campaign considerations, which would show collusion.
But again, even with all the evidence out there, from former campaign aide-turned Mueller witness George Papadopoulos to the Trump Tower meeting of 2016, you don’t have to believe there was collusion to see this as an act of aggression by a foreign power. Nor do you need further evidence of collusion to see that the attack focused on destroying one candidate and furthering the chances of another ― the candidate who ultimately prevailed and whose policies dovetail almost entirely with Putin’s interests.
Since the election, the U.S. has plunged into political chaos and, for many of us, a national emergency. Children are being put in cages at the border, separated from their parents with no plan on returning them as even the judiciary is being ignored. Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned, while marriage equality could come to an end or be damaged. Thousands of American citizens died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria while the U.S. government ignored pleas for massive help.
Protections for our environment have been rolled back. Transgender people are under assault, in the military and in our schools. Public-sector labor unions have been dealt a striking blow, severely affecting the Democratic Party and our future elections. The NATO coalition is under attack, while military exercises with South Korea have ended, even though North Korea is showing no sign of denuclearizing.
All of these things, many of which align with Putin’s goals and actions, happened because of Trump’s direct actions or because of the judges he’s put on the courts, including the Supreme Court. None of it is being stopped by the Republican Party.
And these actions, which have resulted in mass death and horrendous suffering, and have instilled fear in millions more, follow an attack orchestrated by Russia’s military against the United States.
Call it a different kind of war ― asymmetric warfare, or whatever. But it is war. Whatever role Trump played in the attack, whatever he knew or didn’t know about it previously, Russia took a hostile strike against this country. And it is, so far, winning.
Michelangelo Signorile is an editor-at-large for HuffPost. Follow him on Twitter at @msignorile.