Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump, Russia, and the 2016 ElectionPosted: July 30, 2016
This has been one of the strangest and most dramatic weeks in the history of U.S. politics.
We have seen the nomination of a woman for President of the U.S. by a major political party after 240 years of male candidates only.
On the G.O.P. side, we are watching a madman campaign for President while praising the autocratic leader of Russia and inviting Russian intelligence agencies to hack into U.S. government computers and computer systems used by his Democratic opponent. This madman has also suggested that we should let Russia have Crimea and lift the sanctions on Russia that were applied after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
What the hell is going on!
A key figure at the Republican national convention where Donald Trump was nominated for president has strong business ties with Ukraine, the Guardian has learned.
The party platform written at the convention in Cleveland last week removed references to arming Ukraine in its fight with Russia, which has supported separatists in eastern Ukraine. Trump’s links to Russia are under scrutiny after a hack of Democratic national committee emails, allegedly by Russian agents.
Frank Mermoud also has longstanding ties to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who in 2010 helped pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovych refashion his image and win a presidential election in Ukraine. Manafort was brought in earlier this year to oversee the convention operations and its staffing.
Three sources at the convention also told the Guardian that they saw Phil Griffin, a longtime aide to Manafort in Kiev, working with the foreign dignitaries programme. “After years of working in the Ukraine for Paul and others, it was surprising to run into Phil working at the convention,” one said.
The change to the platform on arming Ukraine was condemned even by some Republicans. Senator Rob Portman described it as “deeply troubling”. Veteran party operative and lobbyist Charlie Black said the “new position in the platform doesn’t have much support from Republicans”, adding that the change “was unusual”.
And that’s just the beginning. The article spells out and analyzes Donald Trump’s and his advisers’ extensive past ties to Russia. For decades, the G.O.P. was the party of anti-communism and anti-Russian sentiment. In 2012, Mitt Romney even argued that Russia was the top geopolitical threat to the U.S.; in 2016, Romney’s party is getting very cozy with Russian and its autocratic leader Vladimir Putin.
Now it has become crystal clear that Russia is behind a number of cyberhacks on U.S. and Democratic Party computers.
Thousands of Democratic National Committee emails were hacked and published by WikiLeaks on the eve of the party’s convention in Philadelphia this week. They showed that officials, who are meant to remain impartial, favoured Hillary Clinton and discussed ways to undermine her rival, Bernie Sanders. The leak led to the resignation of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The FBI is investigating, with all signs pointing to Russian involvement, though Moscow rejects this. Experts note Vladimir Putin’s past attempts to damage western democracy, including cyber-attacks on French, Greek, Italian and Latvian elections. In 2014, malware was discovered in Ukrainian election software that would have robbed it of legitimacy.
Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, said: “We can’t say 100% that Mr Putin had a hand in any of this but this kind of meddling in other countries’ affairs is part of Russia’s toolkit. It’s a kind of asymmetric warfare. To me, this looks like something straight from the Russian secret service playbook, but I’m surprised at how brazen they’ve been.”
Trump and his campaign have denied any connection but on Wednesday he ignited a firestorm by calling on Russia to find 30,000 emails deleted from Clinton’s private server. “I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press,” he said. He later claimed that he was being sarcastic.
Please read the entire article to learn about Donald Trump’s extensive ties to Russia and Putin.
Donald Trump’s flurry of offhand remarks and abrupt zingers on Russia — praising Vladimir Putin, dismissing NATO — have jolted the world, not to mention the U.S. presidential campaign.
With Russia’s behavior rattling nerves in the U.S. and elsewhere, Trump is accused of cozying up to a “dictator.” Of threatening the very underpinnings of America’s relationship with Europe. And of naiveté.
Some of the GOP presidential nominee’s goals are consistent with long-held U.S. views, many experts say. The idea of fostering U.S.-Russian cooperation isn’t outlandish. After all, Hillary Clinton tried to “reset” relations with Russia when she was secretary of state. Also, past U.S. administrations of both parties have quietly complained that other NATO members should pay their share to the alliance.
It’s what Trump is willing to do to achieve those goals and the way he expresses his views that have shocked many foreign policy experts.
The notion of refusing to defend NATO allies who don’t pay their bills, for example, or of buddying up to Putin despite his aggressive stances is jarring to Democrats and Republicans alike. And it’s on the minds of foreign leaders.
“We’re going to talk about NATO and Russia,” Secretary of State John Kerry said as he met Saturday with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Paris. Kerry wouldn’t address Trump’s comments specifically, but said he would discuss anything Ayrault wanted to talk about “that has to do with our relationship.”
So Trump’s remarks are already threatening our relationships with our allies.
Reuters claimed last night that the Clinton Campaign itself has been hacked.
A computer network used by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign was hacked as part of a broad cyber attack on Democratic political organizations, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The latest attack, which was disclosed to Reuters on Friday, follows two other hacks on the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, and the party’s fundraising committee for candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.
A Clinton campaign spokesman said in a statement late on Friday that an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by the campaign and a number of other entities “was accessed as part of the DNC hack.”
“Our campaign computer system has been under review by outside cyber security experts. To date, they have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill.
Later, a campaign official said hackers had access to the analytics program’s server for approximately five days. The analytics data program is one of many systems the campaign accesses to conduct voter analysis, and does not include social security numbers or credit card numbers, the official said.
The U.S. Department of Justice national security division is investigating whether cyber attacks on Democratic political organizations threatened U.S. security, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The involvement of the Justice Department’s national security division is a sign that the Obama administration has concluded that the hacking was sponsored by a state, people with knowledge of the investigation said.
The Clinton Campaign told The Washington Post that their internal computers have not been compromised.
The Clinton presidential campaign said Friday that an “analytics data program” maintained by the Democratic National Committee had been hacked but that its computer system had not been compromised, denying news reports from earlier in the day that the campaign had become the third Democratic Party organization whose systems had been penetrated.
So far, campaign computer experts “have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised,” campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.
Merrill said that “an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by our campaign and a number of other entities was accessed as part of the DNC hack.” The campaign did not provide details, but a source familiar with the situation said that the hacked material was generally dull and did not include email communications, memos, research or other potentially inflammatory communications. Mostly, the source said, it included innocuous data such as computer code and lists of email addresses.
Senior figures in the national security community are warning that the Russian hack of the DNC and the subsequent release of committee emails by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks may be part of a broader attack on the U.S. electoral process….
If the email leak was orchestrated by the Russian government, “this is an attack not on one party but on the integrity of American democracy,” the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, a group of 32 homeland security and counterterrorism experts, said in a statement.
Besides his obvious reasons to think he could easily manage Donald Trump if he became POTUS, Putin has reasons to dislike and fear Hillary Clinton. From The Washington Post:
Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly accused Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state of interfering in Moscow’s affairs — and if Russian security was behind last week’s release through WikiLeaks of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails, it would look a lot like Kremlin payback.
Even if the breach was carried out by a mid-level intelligence official acting on his own initiative, hoping to please his boss, disclosures that seemingly raise questions about the legitimacy of Clinton’s nomination speak directly to Putin’s complaints about her….
In December 2011, large protests unexpectedly broke out in Moscow following parliamentary elections that featured brazen cheating. Clinton, as secretary of state, called the election “neither free nor fair,” and Putin jumped on that as an attack on Russia and, by extension, him.
“She set the tone for some of our public figures inside the country, sent a signal to them,” Putin said. “They heard this signal and launched active work with the U.S. State Department’s support.”
The rest of that winter saw ever sharpening attacks on the United States as Putin was in the midst of his own presidential election campaign. In the year that followed, some of the strongest anti-American steps that Russia took were only tangentially related to Clinton — expelling the USAID, forcing Radio Liberty off the AM dial, harassing then-U.S. Ambassador Michael A. McFaul….
Clinton had also pushed hard for the Libya intervention in the spring and summer of 2011, which Putin was appalled by, seeing it as unwarranted interference in another nation’s sovereignty. After she stepped down as secretary of state, she made a well-publicized visit to Yalta — in 2013, when it was still part of Ukraine — to support Ukraine’s signing of an agreement with the European Union. Putin hoped to strong-arm Ukraine into joining his Eurasian Economic Union, which Clinton had called an attempt to “re-Sovietize” areas of the former Soviet Union.
That comment and others “were in part seized upon for domestic political reasons,” Samuel Charap, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington, said Wednesday. “She became a convenient scapegoat.”
Read more analysis of the Clinton-Putin relationship at the link.
Joy Reid has been covering this story extensively on her MSNBC show. If you missed it this morning, please check it out on the website. She had some experts on who were quite alarmed by what is happening with Trump and the Russian hacks that seem designed to help him become POTUS.
More important stories to check out:
Washington Post: Appeals court strikes down North Carolina’s voter-ID law.
Mother Jones: Voting Rights Advocates Score a Huge Win in North Carolina.
Kansas City Star: What a great day for protecting voting rights in Kansas and elsewhere