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On the eve of the midterm elections, the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security hosted a discussion with author and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Greg Miller. The Washington Post writer traveled to Fairfax, VA to discuss his new book The Apprentice – Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy with General Michael Hayden. Following their discussion, the panelists answered questions from the audience.
Miller’s book title, The Apprentice, is not just a nod to the NBC television series featuring Donald Trump. It is an analysis of how Trump, when coming into the presidential office, was very much an outsider to government. Having spent his life’s work in the private sector and leveraging his government disconnect during the campaign, it was now he who played the role of apprentice and had much to learn about federal procedures. Miller added that his book’s title was also a suggestion that Trump, in some ways, acted as Vladimir Putin’s apprentice.
To sift through the noise, Miller created in his book an extensive chronology of the events leading up to the 2016 presidential election. In doing so, several trends became evident. First, the Kremlin worked to undermine the 2016 election process to make America look weak and vulnerable. Next, Moscow targeted Hilary Clinton’s campaign. By damaging her reputation, the Russians could weaken the election’s front-runner while sowing the seeds of discontent. Finally, as Donald Trump began to emerge as a legitimate candidate, the Russians chose to endorse him. In Trump, they found a candidate both sympathetic to Putin and likely to assist in some of their strategic aims.
Intelligence agencies agree that the Russians actively sought to influence and destabilize the 2016 electoral process. However, a rift between the Intelligence Community and the White House appeared and quickly grew when President Trump refused to acknowledge Russian meddling attempts. This fissure has caused much speculation, especially amidst ongoing Special Counsel investigations into potential collusion efforts between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Miller revealed that the Trump Tower meeting occurred nearly to the day that an American CIA officer in Moscow was physically assaulted by a determined attacker. While the officer fought off the assailant and returned to the American embassy, the attack was analogous of a greater truth – a seemingly cordial relationship between state leaders accompanied by active subversion and subterfuge sanctioned by the Kremlin itself.
General Hayden and Miller discussed the roles of numerous influential figures and events detailed in his book. People and events analyzed included former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak, the Jim Comey firing, the Mueller investigation, and President Trump’s intuition-driven decision making process. General Hayden concluded that The Apprentice is the most comprehensive book on how the American election, Russian meddling, and the Trump campaign converged and continue to influence policy and events today.
Tyler Cross is an International Security master’s student at the Schar School of Policy and Government.