Thursday Reads: “The United States faces a national-security emergency” — David FrumPosted: July 19, 2018
I’m not too with it this morning. My mother is in the hospital and we still don’t know what is wrong with her. A few days ago, she started feeling weak and tired and she suddenly was unable to tie her shoes. Her blood pressure has been too high and her oxygen levels are too low. At the hospital the physical therapist found that her left hand wasn’t working properly, so that might explain the shoe-tying problem.
Whatever is wrong, it doesn’t seem to be life-threatening, because she has had all kinds of tests that have so far shown nothing wrong. She had an MRI yesterday and today they are going to check for blockage in her carotid artery she will work more with the physical therapist. A neurologist told my sister and my niece that she doesn’t think it’s serious, but they still don’t understand why her blood pressure is so high.
Anyway, I’ve been very anxious about Mom, and between that and the Trump madness. I can’t really think straight.
So what’s happening in the news today?
I’m sure you’ve heard about the shocking story that broke in The New York Times last night: From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered.
Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.
The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.
Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.
So Trump saw specific information proving that Vladimir Putin ordered the interference into our election to help him win, and he has spent his entire administration so far attempting to cover up for what his buddy Putin did.
The Jan. 6, 2017, meeting, held at Trump Tower, was a prime example. He was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command.
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was also there; after the formal briefing, he privately told Mr. Trump about the “Steele dossier.” That report, by a former British intelligence officer, included uncorroborated salacious stories of Mr. Trump’s activities during a visit to Moscow, which he denied.
The briefing revealed that a highly sensitive source close to Putin had provided information.
According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.
They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.
And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role.
That included one particularly valuable source, who was considered so sensitive that Mr. Brennan had declined to refer to it in any way in the Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration, as the Russia investigation intensified.
Instead, to keep the information from being shared widely, Mr. Brennan sent reports from the source to Mr. Obama and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security.
Mr. Trump and his aides were also given other reasons during the briefing to believe that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hacks.
I was exhausted last night and fell asleep early. I woke up about 3:30AM and check Twitter. A number of people were saying that this story was likely leaked to the NYT in response to Trump’s performance in Helsinki and afterwards and that the highly placed source must have been burned–possibly by Trump–or the story would not have been leaked.
No one except the interpreters knows what Trump gave away to Putin during their more than two hour meeting in Helsinki, and now Russia is claiming Trump and Putin made a number of deals.
The Washington Post: As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity.
Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.
“Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said that Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.
But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.
At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.
This is interesting:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.
One thing Trump and Putin apparently discussed was allowing Russia to question 11 American citizens, including former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
At this week’s summit in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed what President Trump described as an “incredible offer” — the Kremlin would give special counsel Robert S. Mueller III access to interviews with Russians who were indicted after they allegedly hacked Democrats in 2016. In return, Russia would be allowed to question certain U.S. officials it suspects of interfering in Russian affairs.
One of those U.S. officials is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, a nemesis of the Kremlin because of his criticisms of Russia’s human rights record.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out the Kremlin’s request to question McFaul and other Americans. Asked during the daily press briefing whether Trump is open to the idea of having McFaul questioned by Russia, Sanders said President Trump is “going to meet with his team” to discuss the offer.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
The Daily Beast: U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout.
Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.
One serving diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was “at a fucking loss” over comments that can be expected to chill American diplomacy in hostile or authoritarian countries – a comment echoed by former State Department officials as well.
“It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,” the U.S. diplomat told The Daily Beast.
During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.
Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.
I’ll end with this piece by David Frump at The Atlantic: The Crisis Facing America. The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has.
We still do not know what hold Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump, but the whole world has now witnessed the power of its grip.
Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating Russian intervention in the U.S. election—and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees….
The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior—whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else—remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process—and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process—is video-recorded fact.
And it’s a fact that has to be seen in the larger context of his actions in office: denouncing the European Union as a “foe,” threatening to break up nato, wrecking the U.S.-led world trading system, intervening in both U.K. and German politics in support of extremist and pro-Russian forces, and continually refusing to act to protect the integrity of U.S. voting systems—it all adds up to a political indictment, whether or not it quite qualifies as a criminal one.
America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing about whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.
Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!