President-elect Donald Trump and his team have engaged in an outrageous campaign to protect Russia from blame for the cyberattacks they launched to benefit him. Now, Trump has stepped up that campaign with two of his favorite tools: lies and insults.

We have been closely following the absurd and unpatriotic lengths to which President-elect Donald Trump and his team have gone to deny or deflect blame away from the cyberattacks that 17 intelligence agencies agree were the work of the Russian government, lengths which include open collusion with Vladimir Putin. And thus Trump’s latest move should not be surprising, but it is nonetheless contemptible.

First, Trump tweeted that the intelligence briefing on Russian hacking had been delayed, complete with scare-quotes, while casting doubt on the briefing before it even happens:

Trump’s claim about that briefing, of course, turned out to be a lie:

(A) senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the situation told NBC News Tuesday night that the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence were always scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.

Then, Trump credulously quoted pro-Russia Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as evidence of Russia’s innocence:

Trump’s tweets were too much even for hard-right Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), who rebuffed Trump’s assessment on MSNBC:

GEIST: Do you think it’s dangerous for Donald Trump to be attacking the intelligence community before he knows what they are going to say?

COTTON: I have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world, very smart and experienced analysts that we have here in the nation’s capital, than I do in people like Julian Assange, I can tell you that much.

On CNN, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was even more forceful, saying Trump’s willingness to cite Assange “disturbs” him, and calling on the president-elect to listen to the patriots in the intelligence community:

I don’t believe a word of what Mr. Assange has said. This is the guy who has tried to put Americans at risk by releasing classified information during the Bush years. This is the guy who basically is a fugitive from justice, an accused rapist on the run — for heaven’s sakes, don’t listen to him; listen to the American intelligence community, who are patriots.

There is little risk for Trump in continuing to wage a campaign of misdirection and dishonesty, as long as reporters continue to refuse to call out his lies as lies.

But there is significant concern for the American people: Trump’s insults and lies are designed to lay groundwork for pushback against the inevitable revelation that the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russia’s role in securing Trump’s Electoral College victory still stand — at which point his only refuge will be continued denial, deployed into an environment where he has cast doubt on the assessments.

Anyone who fails to call out this lie becomes a de facto Russian propagandist. And it will give Trump the political cover he will need in order to deliver on the promise he implied to Vladimir Putin in full view of the world: To roll back the actions that President Obama took against Russia’s attack on our democracy.