Lost in the showdown between President Trump and James B. Comey that played out this past week was a chilling threat to the United States. Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again. “It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.” What started out as a counterintelligence investigation to guard the United States against a hostile foreign power has morphed into a political scandal about what Mr. Trump did, what he said and what he meant by it. Lawmakers have focused mainly on the gripping conflict between the president and the F.B.I. director he fired with cascading requests for documents, recordings and hearings.
But from the headquarters of the National Security Agency to state capitals that have discovered that the Russians were inside their voter-registration systems, the worry is that attention will be diverted from figuring out how Russia disrupted American democracy last year and how to prevent it from happening again. Russian hackers did not just breach Democratic email accounts; according to Mr. Comey, they orchestrated a “massive effort” targeting hundreds of — and possibly more than 1,000 — American government and private organizations since 2015.
“It’s important for us in the West to understand that we’re facing an adversary who wishes for his own reasons to do us harm,” said Daniel Fried, a career diplomat who oversaw sanctions imposed on Russia before retiring this year. “Whatever the domestic politics of this, Comey was spot-on right that Russia is coming after us, but not just the U.S., but the free world in general. And we need to take this seriously.”