As scandal-weary as we are, we all need to take a deep breath to confront the gravity of the allegations that special counsel Robert Mueller brought on Friday against 12 members of the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence organization.
The stunning accusation, in a meticulously detailed complaint lays it out: Members of an enemy army engaged in a coordinated criminal enterprise to secretly sabotage an American presidential election. The attacks were sustained, professional and largely successful. It would appear to be the most nefarious attack by a foreign government on the United States since Pearl Harbor.
Worse, the attacks allegedly involved United States citizens, including a Trump campaign insider. Paragraph 44 of the indictment spells out that the defendants communicated with a "person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump."
It's a safe bet that the person did not report this patently illegal meddling to the FBI. That a person close to the campaign was allegedly involved raises the prospect of the unraveling of a conspiracy eclipsing Watergate in its brazenness and damage to national interests. Whoever it is, though, this person or persons may well be a concrete link between the Trump campaign and the saboteurs in the Russian government.
This revelation should finally put an end to the ignorant droning of the President and his defenders that the Mueller probe is a "witch hunt" that has failed to find any evidence of "collusion" with the Trump campaign.
If the allegations are substantiated, it means at a bare minimum that members of Russian intelligence attempted to work with Trump campaign insiders to disseminate hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee to try to swing the election to Trump. Even if the insiders didn't know with whom they were dealing, it would still be outrageous to continue to pretend that the whole episode is drummed up and politically motivated.
Any public figures who now try to dismiss these events -- including the President, Rudy Giuliani, and the Trump choir at Fox News -- will only be hurting the country more. As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained, the indictments accuse the Russian conspirators of trying to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in our democracy. The only right-thinking response is to acknowledge the enormous seriousness of the charges and to take all measures to keep this from recurring.
In particular, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who famously said during the campaign, "There is no evidence, absolutely no evidence, that the Russians are trying to influence the US election," needs to acknowledge he was grievously wrong and resolve to make amends to the American people by working cooperatively with the FBI and DOJ to aggressively pursue the case. And Majority Leader Paul Ryan needs to alter his hands-off approach and rein in partisan excesses in the caucus.
Likewise, the ugly shrieking of "witch hunt" at every move of the special counsel should come to an immediate end. In doggedly investigating the interference with our elections, Mueller has done the country a great service, and deserves the nation's unqualified support, without regard to party or politics, to take the investigation where the facts lead.
Indeed, it is terrifying to contemplate what would have happened if Trump had succeeded in his early efforts to shut down the probe and discredit Mueller. We would have stumbled into the next election and beyond, not knowing about -- or doing anything to stop -- an enemy attack at the heart of our democracy.
Rosenstein is right that Congress and other political actors need to work together to defend our nation. Whether they now will do so is a basic test of their maturity, patriotism and fitness to lead. If they cannot appreciate the urgency of the challenge and rise to meet it, the people should install political leaders who can.