Lazy Saturday Reads: A Russian Intelligence Asset in the White HousePosted: July 28, 2018
It’s becoming more and more clear that we have a Russian intelligence asset acting as “president” of the U.S. It’s an full-on national emergency, and the Republican-controlled Congress is seemingly determined to brazenly aid a foreign enemy rather than live up to their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution.”
Yesterday the “president” held 30-minute National Security Council meeting supposedly to discuss election security. To show how committed he was to the project, he sent a nonsense tweet about jobs during the meeting. We’re not going to get any help from Trump or the GOP in the fight to save democracy. They’re too busy figuring out ways to suppress the votes of people who aren’t white and stupid.
President Trump chaired a meeting Friday of his most senior national security advisers to discuss the administration’s effort to safeguard November’s elections from Russian interference, the first such meeting he’s led on the matter, but issued no new directives to counter or deter the threat.
The meeting, which lasted less than an hour, covered all the activities by federal agencies to help state and local election officials, and to investigate and hold accountable Russian hackers seeking to undermine American democracy….
“It was a good meeting,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an event that was closed to media coverage. “Everybody was on the same page. We’re doing a lot of good work across the administration.’’
There was no discussion of new actions Trump wants or of a coordinated strategy to prevent Russia from interfering in U.S. politics, officials said. Instead, the meeting focused on the activities undertaken so far.
Read the rest of the article to learn what kinds of defensive strategies government officials other than the “president” have been working on.
From NBC’s Ken Dilanian: Trump admin has no central strategy for election security, and no one’s in charge.
After nearly two years of calling Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt, President Donald Trump on Friday presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation.
“The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation state or other malicious actors,” the White House said in a statement afterward.
But current and former officials tell NBC News that 19 months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge….
To be sure, individual government agencies have responded in various ways. The Department of Homeland Security is working with states to improve cyber security in voting systems. The FBI created a “foreign influence task force,” and the Justice Department announced a new policy his month to inform the public about bots and trolls on social media. The National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command are coordinating to counter Russian influence in cyberspace, the general in charge of those agencies has said.
But even members of Trump’s national security cabinet have acknowledged the need for a central, unifying effort — one that experts say is missing. Senior officials have also admitted that the government has failed to take steps necessary to give the Russians second thoughts about intervening in American politics. Trump hasn’t done so, and neither did Barack Obama, whose response to election meddling — expelling diplomats and closing Russian compounds in December 2016 — has been described by some of his own former aides as tepid.
Read more at NBC News.
According to The New York Times, Russia is focusing more on disrupting the U.S. power grid than on the upcoming election.
State-sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating that they can disrupt the American electric utility grid than the midterm elections, according to United States intelligence officials and technology company executives.
Despite attempts to infiltrate the online accounts of two Senate Democrats up for re-election, intelligence officials said they have seen little activity by Russian military hackers aimed at either major American political figures or state voter registration systems.
By comparison, according to intelligence officials and executives of the companies that oversee the world’s computer networks, there is surprisingly far more effort directed at implanting malware in the electrical grid.
Do you think Trump will do anything about that?
This week, the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.
While the department cited “hundreds of victims” of the attacks, far more than they had previously acknowledged, there is no evidence that the hackers tried to take over the plants, as Russian actors did in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016.
In interviews, American intelligence officials said that the department had understated the scope of the threat. So far the White House has said little about the intrusions other than raise the fear of such breaches to maintain old coal plants in case they are needed to recover from a major attack.
Somehow I think Russia, with the aid of their asset in the White House will probably find a way to focus more on election hacking as November approaches.
Like his role model, Vladimir Putin, Trump hates the free press, and works tirelessly to thwart the first amendment. The Washington Post reports: Venting about press, Trump has repeatedly sought to ban reporters over questions.
President Trump has sought repeatedly to punish journalists for the way they ask him questions, directing White House staff to ban those reporters from covering official events or to revoke their press credentials, according to several current and former administration officials.
At various moments throughout his presidency, Trump has vented angrily to aides about what he considers disrespectful behavior and impertinent questions from reporters in the Oval Office and in other venues. He has also asked that retaliatory action be taken against them.
“These people shouting questions are the worst,” Trump has said, according to a current official. “Why do we have them in here?”
Until this week, the officials said, Trump’s senior aides have resisted carrying out his directives. They convinced him that moves to restrict media access could backfire and further strain the White House’s fraught relationship with the press corps, whose members the president routinely derides as “fake news” and “dishonest people.”
On Wednesday, however, newly installed Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took action against CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins, telling her she could not attend Trump’s open-media event in the Rose Garden because they objected to her questioning of the president earlier in the day.
Read the rest at the Post.
I got some perverse pleasure from reading this piece by Jeff Stein at Newsweek yesterday: How Vladimir Putin Will Take Down Donald Trump When He’s No Longer Useful. According to Russian propaganda expert Julia Davis, the Russians are getting frustrated at Trump’s inability to do the things he promised them. They don’t understand about checks and balances.
Following the controversial Helsinki summit between the Russian and American presidents, Moscow’s media commentators greeted Trump’s deference toward Putin with a mix of concern, pity and ridicule, none of which could have been uttered without the Kremlin’s approval, says Ukrainian-born Julia Davis, an expert on Russian propaganda.
“They usually get a printout of some kind, about which topics they’re supposed to discuss and what their position is supposed to be,” said Davis, a featured expert at the Atlantic Council’s Disinfo Portal. The state-controlled commentary “is very closely monitored, and they would not take a chance on stepping outside of the line,” she told Newsweek.
The Kremlin, she continued, is “growing very frustrated because there’s so many controls that are being placed on” Trump by Congress, starting with Russian sanctions, upgrades to the U.S. nuclear arsenal and beefed-up military aid to Ukraine, which is under assault by Moscow-backed forces in its eastern Donbas region. And then there are the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, independent actions that would be unthinkable in Putin’s Russia….
“They like to talk about him as weak and incompetent and just pretty much a clown,” Davis said of the Moscow analysts before the Cohen disclosure. “They still think he might prove himself to do what he promised him to do. But if he goes down, I expect they would not skip a beat. They would jump in to help finish him off.”
So how would that happen?
Measures at Putin’s disposal include leaking a mix of real and fabricated details on Trump’s suspected debts to Russian bankers and oligarchs, said Milton Bearden, a legendary former CIA officer who worked against the Soviet target and later co-authored a book, The Main Enemy, with the cooperation of several former KGB officials.
“Putin can continue to plug along with his best friend and watch how tribalism and divisions within American society continue to tear it apart,” Bearden told Newsweek. “However, if things start to quiet down here, Putin can begin to release whatever it is he might have on the president. It can be real information dealing with the money flow from Deutsche Bank, or it can be carefully fabricated information that looks genuine.”
“I can imagine a wide variety of scenarios,” John Sipher, another top former CIA Russia hand, wrote in March, including the Kremlin injecting “stolen or otherwise unverified” or “well-crafted forgeries” into the U.S. media to take down Trump or just fan political chaos in the U.S. Former CIA director John Brennan suspects that the Russians have “something on him personally.”
Such suspicions have gained wider currency in recent weeks, mostly from Democrats. But last year a Russian opposition politician, Vladimir Milov, alleged in an interview with a Russian exile journalist that Moscow’s secret services had been “closely ‘following’ Trump for over 30 years and the dossier they have on him certainly comprises many, many volumes.” In the 1980s, Milov told Russian exile journalist Kseniya Kirillova, “Trump was married to a Czechoslovak woman who spoke Russian, which also offers good conditions for recruitment.”
Read the rest the link. Maybe we have something to look forward to when the time comes.
I’ll add more links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.