The most basic element of the Russia scandal begins with a fairly obvious factual detail: a foreign adversary attacked our elections. Indeed, the second full sentence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report read, "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion."
It is a fact that Donald Trump and his team continue to either deny or downplay the significance of. Take, for example, Jared Kushner's public comments yesterday at the Time 100 Summit.
"You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, and it's a terrible thing," Kushner said. "But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.""I mean I spent about -- I think they said they spent about $160,000 -- I spent $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign," he continued. "So if you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country."
The president found this delightfully impressive. That's a shame, because Kushner's comments were both wrong and unsettling.
We know that the attack was part of a Russian intelligence operation. We know the operation was expansive and expensive. We know the operation included public events, advertising, rallies, p.r. stunts, outreach to domestic allies, and an aggressive social-media component. We know the efforts reached as many as 126 million people.
We know Russians did all of this (a) because they hoped it would work; and (b) because they wanted to put Donald Trump in a position of power.
To see this as "a couple of Facebook ads" is to embrace willful ignorance about a serious attack on the United States.
Even the Justice Department has no use for Jared Kushner's dismissive posture.
But let's not brush past the presidential son-in-law's other point too quickly: to hear Kushner tell it, the real "harm" was done, not by Russia, but by those who sought out the truth about what Russia did.
In this White House, military intelligence operations against the United States are meaningless, while uncovering the truth is dangerous. The fact that Kushner appears indifferent to the fact that he has this exactly backwards tells us quite a bit about Team Trump's radical perspective.