Lazy Saturday Reads: New Year’s Eve EditionPosted: December 31, 2016
Today is the final day of 2016, and naturally King tRump posted a nasty message to the country via his preferred form of communication:
What a pathetic asshole he is.
Meanwhile the tRump camp and many Republicans are seemingly embracing Vladimir Putin and his buddies. I have to believe their ultimate goal is to turn the U.S. into a kleptocracy on the the Putin model.
It looks like good ol’ Kellyanne is on board with the Putin love.
President Barack Obama said Thursday that the sanctions announced against Russia were a response to the Kremlin’s “aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.” But Republican allies of the incoming administration say those sanctions have another target: Donald Trump.
“I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote ‘box in’ President-elect Trump,” incoming counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Thursday night on CNN. “That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”
Conway was just one of multiple Trump allies to attack the president’s package of sanctions, announced Thursday afternoon. The president-elect and his team have thus far been unwilling to concede what all 17 U.S. federal intelligence agencies announced last fall, that Russia was behind the wave of cyberattacks that shook up the presidential election by releasing hacked email messages from the Democratic National Committee and other prominent Democratic figures. Instead, Trump has said the attacks could have been performed by Russia or China or “somebody sitting in a bed someplace.”
And the president-elect has taken particular objection to the assessment of the FBI and CIA, which were reported in the media but not released publicly, that the Russian government’s cyber efforts were intended not just to undermine the U.S. electoral process but specifically to help install Trump as the next president.
Instead, Trump’s team has said regularly that discussion of Russian cyberattacks by Democrats and the mainstream media are little more than efforts to delegitimize the incoming administration before it even arrives. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and prominent Trump supporter, said Friday that Obama’s decision to impose sanctions late in his second term was “extraordinary” and added that he has “never seen a president try to create more problems for a future president.”
Oh really? And what about the revelation that the same people involved in the DNC hacking also hacked into the U.S. electric grid? Is that a political lie by the intelligence community too?
A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.
While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks.
Officials in government and the utility industry regularly monitor the grid because it is highly computerized and any disruptions can have disastrous implications for the country’s medical and emergency services.
Burlington Electric said in a statement that the company detected a malware code used in the Grizzly Steppe operation in a laptop that was not connected to the organization’s grid systems. The firm said it took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alert federal authorities.
Friday night, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) called on federal officials “to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.”
“Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety,” Shumlin said in a statement. “This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.”
This is getting really scary. If our electrical grid becomes compromised we could be in serious trouble. The Russians did this in Ukraine (and here in the U.S.) previously. The Wall Street Journal:
A team of Russian hackers that has been linked to this year’s cyberbreach of the Democratic National Committee was also behind a successful attack in 2015 on three different utilities in Ukraine that caused unprecedented blackouts, according to government and independent security experts.
The same group is thought by those experts to be behind successful cyberattacks on several U.S. energy companies in 2014 that gave the hackers access to company industrial control networks.
In mid-December, Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev suffered another partial power outage when a high-voltage electric substation turned off under suspicious circumstances.
“We’re 99% sure that it was a hacker,” said Vsevolod Kovalchuk, chief executive of Ukrenergo, the utility that operates the backbone of Ukraine’s power transmission network.
Shortly before midnight on December 17, someone started disconnecting circuit breakers through remote means until the electrical substation was completely disabled, Mr. Kovalchuk said.
Utility employees re-energized the substation by manually restoring equipment to their “on” positions. Substations are linchpins in all power grids because they control voltage levels and direct the flow of electricity down power lines.
Read more at the link.
Tommy Christopher posted an excellent analysis of the tRump team’s attitude toward Russian interference in our democratic institutions: Trump openly urges cover-up of Russian hacks that CIA says got him elected.
Asked if he would back sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Russian cyber crimes that the CIA and FBI agree were undertaken to help get Trump elected (and which were directed by Putin himself), Trump said we should all “get on with our lives:”
This was an utterly bizarre event, once again showcasing Trump’s terrifying inability to personally let anything go by taking shots at a guy who dropped out of the Republican primary before a single vote was cast — even as Trump is urging the rest of us to “get on with our lives” regarding Russian interference in our presidential election.
But Trump’s brazen attempt to whitewash Russia’s role in hacking the election, with direct encouragement from Trump himself, must not be gotten over but rather ought to be top of mind with every responsible journalist and attentive citizen.
While Democrats and a few principled Republicans seek true accountability for this unprecedented and dangerous intrusion, Republican leaders are ready to sweep it all under the rug — and Trump himself has even tacitly endorsed the interference.
The GOP leaders who stick with tRump on this may find this to be a problematic choice in the future. It looks like we’ll continue to get information given and leaked to the media, especially if tRump continues to disrespect the intelligence community. History shows that the CIA tends to win these battles with presidents.
It’s fairly obvious to everyone except tRump and his crew that Vlad P. is playing him and sees him as a useful idiot. At The Washington Post, Karen de Young and David Filipov speculate about where this bromance is headed: Trump and Putin: A relationship where mutual admiration is headed toward reality.
For much of this year, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have been engaged in a long-distance courtship. They have said kind things about each other in public and separately expressed visions of a mutually agreeable future.
Since Trump’s election, the anticipation has become more explicit. It culminated this week in the U.S. president-elect’s call for America to “move on” from allegations of Russian electoral hacking, and the Russian president’s blithe pronouncement Friday that he would rather plan for a new relationship with Trump than retaliate in kind to sanctions and expulsions ordered by outgoing President Obama.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump tweeted. “I always knew he was very smart!”
But as with all such arms-length pairings, the looming question is whether Trump and Putin will find fulfillment or disappointment once face-to-face reality strikes.
U.S. and Russian officials and experts are deeply divided over the answer. Some see Moscow playing Trump like a fiddle. The Kremlin “sees Trump’s presidency as a net loss for the U.S. strategic position that Russia should take advantage of,” said Vladimir Frolov, a Moscow-based analyst.
Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
Along with many of us, Chuck Todd has noticed that tRump doesn’t have a sense of humor. He talked about it in an interview with Glenn Thrush of Politico:
Chuck Todd has interviewed Donald Trump many times, and he’s noticed something somewhat disquieting about the unquiet president-elect.
The man doesn’t laugh — not in a normal, spontaneous, regular-human kind of way.
“[It] drives me crazy. Do you know what? I’ve never seen him laugh,” the “Meet the Press” host told me during an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast earlier this month. “I challenge somebody to find him laughing, and that person has yet to find an example, in my opinion. He’ll smile, but he smiles appropriately. Watch him at the Al Smith dinner [the roast in New York City in October] … He doesn’t really laugh. He looks for others to laugh. It is just weird.”
And this is really weird:
And there’s one other thing that Todd thinks is odd: After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room replay his appearance on a monitor — sans sound.
“Then there’s the amount of time he spends after the interview is over, with the sound off. He wants to see what it all looked like. He will watch the whole thing on mute,” Todd told me, sitting in his cluttered office in NBC’s nondescript, low-slung Washington headquarters on Nebraska Avenue.
So . . . that’s what I have for you this morning? What stories are you following?