Former Trump security adviser dismisses Russian spying as 'penny-ante'


Former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert shows that loyalty to Trump means downplaying serious threats to our democracy.

Trump's rolling Russia disaster has many people wondering why members of his team don't resign in protest over Trump's constant undermining of U.S. intelligence.

But as one former Trump official just demonstrated, many Trump loyalists simply care more about protecting Trump than they do about protecting American democracy.

On Sunday morning's edition of "This Week," former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert downplayed Russia's criminal attacks on American democracy as "penny-ante."

Host George Stephanopoulos asked Bossert to react to accusations that Trump is compromised by the Russians.

"It’s an easy, cheap shot to say the president’s been compromised by the Russians," Bossert said. "I think the Russians elected a former KGB agent, and he spends all of his time and their resources squandering it on penny-ante spy tactics to try to get into loser, kind of, lobbyist pockets and so forth."

He added that the criticism of Trump is "smoke ... meant to undermine to the president."

"You say 'penny-ante spy tactics,' but don’t you accept that Russia did interfere in a serious way in our 2016 election, and the threat is still out there?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Bossert acknowledged that "interfering in our election system is unacceptable" — then immediately turned around to describe "things like the Steele dossier and the Butina indictment" as "penny-ante smoke."

Bossert was referring to the indictment of Russian national Maria Butina, who is accused of being an unregistered agent of the Russian government and of spying for Moscow while she studied in the United States. According to the indictment, Butina tried to infiltrate organizations like the National Rifle Association in order to, among other things, establish a "back-channel" with Trump.

After Bossert's shocking minimization of the seriousness of Russian spying, Stephanopoulos turned to House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) for his take.

"The Maria Butina indictment ... she of course was charged this week with being a Russian agent as well, is that 'penny-ante?'" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No, of course not," Schiff said. "And it’s surprising to have someone with a homeland security background say that it is. Here you have someone acting as an agent of a foreign power essentially trying to infiltrate the NRA, making contacts with U.S. persons, trying to establish a secret back channel."

"I think there's no ignoring the fact that for whatever reason, this president acts like he’s compromised," Schiff added. "There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin former KGB officer rather than his own intelligence agencies, why he would continually attack NATO."

Schiff added that House Democrats had tried to look into allegations that Russia was funneling money through the NRA, but that Republicans "found that too hot to handle" and shut the inquiry down.

On the same day Butina was indicted, Trump's Treasury Department moved to make it easier for the NRA to accept money from foreign sources without disclosing it. That move also came after the NRA was forced to disclose it took money from at least 23 Russian sources.

Bossert isn't just dismissing the Butina indictment and the "Steele dossier," much of which has actually been corroborated. He's trying to narrow the scope of what counts as Russian attacks on our "election systems" in order to dismiss and minimize other dangerous Russian behavior.

Current Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen attempted to do something similar earlier this week.

During an Aspen Institute forum, Nielsen tried to draw a distinction between the hacks of Democratic emails and the probing of U.S. voting systems — but was forced to admit that the hacks were, in fact, committed by Russia in order to benefit Trump.

As Schiff noted, someone with Bossert's background and former responsibilities ought to be deeply concerned about Russia's crimes, not minimizing them.

The same should go for Nielsen. Even now, those who are responsible for our nation's security are failing the basic test of loyalty to our country over loyalty to Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.