Monday Reads: The sitting President’s campaign is under FBI Investigation for Colluding with an EnemyPosted: March 20, 2017
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
The first thing I need to say is this is not a headline out of some conspiracy rag or The Onion. You can find it on the NYT at this link.
■ The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, publicly confirmed an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow.
■ Mr. Comey also said the F.B.I. had “no information” to support President Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped him.
■ The hearing’s featured witnesses: Mr. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.
You may find it on Politico here.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
He also shot down President Donald Trump’s explosive claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in the run-up to the presidential election.
Comey told the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing that the bureau normally does not comment on the existence of counterintelligence investigations, but that he was authorized by the Justice Department to do so in this case because of the extraordinary public interest.
“This will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” Comey told the intelligence panel, explaining that the investigation began in late July. He said he could not give a timeline or comment further on the matter, but pledged to “follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Comey also said he had “no information” to support Trump’s claim, made on Twitter, about Trump Tower being wiretapped by his predecessor.
“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. He added that the Justice Department had also looked for evidence to support the president’s allegation and could not find any.
Or, if you prefer, here’s the link at WAPO.
Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.
It’s hard to put all of this into perspective but I’d have to say this is the single most important political scandal I’ve lived through since Watergate, Arms for Hostages, and all the crazy shit we did in South America during the Reagan/Bush years. It’s up there with something that’s so hard to believe that I have to pinch myself daily.
There will be impeachment proceedings. We may even see a frog marchs. Let’s just hope no one ever gets pardoned for any of this.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It’s just under two weeks until President Obama steps down and the Kremlin controls our government. Congressional Republicans are salivating–dreaming of taking away health care from millions of people and finally destroying Medicare and Social Security. They just can’t wait to destroy everything President Obama has accomplished, crash the economy again, and destroy as many jobs as they possibly can–all while claiming they are doing good work.
The New York Times: Erasing Obama, by Timothy Egan.
And Obama? He bequeaths the incoming president “the longest economic expansion and monthly job creation in history,” as my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin noted. Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn, has already tried to seize a bit of that achievement as his own. Thanks, Obama. But he’s also likely to screw it up, perhaps by a trade war, or a budget-busting tax cut.
Already, Trump has flirted with treason, flouted conflict-of-interest rules, bullied dissidents and blown off the advice of seasoned public servants. He has yet to hold a news conference since winning the election. And did another day just pass without a word of the promise to “reveal things that other people don’t know” about Russian interference with our election? Maybe he’s waiting for more whispers in his ear from the Kremlin
n advance of his farewell adIdress next week, the president has tried to Trump-proof a climate pact that commits the world’s second leading producer of earth-warming pollutants — the United States — to making this little orb of ours a less perilous place for Sasha’s and Malia’s and Ivanka’s kids. Trump has promised to go rogue on the planet, as quickly as he can.
Until Day 1, Trump is just a 70-year-old man with a twitchy Twitter account. But on Jan. 20, he becomes what Grover Norquist wished for in a pliantly conservative president: “A Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen.”
With that pen, the new president can take health care from 20 million Americans, free Wall Street to once again wildly speculate and smash things up for the rest of us, and require schools to let people carry guns into classrooms — all campaign promises.
Please read the whole thing at the NYT.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. At this point, tRump can only be seen as an illegitimate POTUS. Unfortunately, tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
If that doesn’t scare every sane American, nothing will.
Nance published a book months ago about the Russian attack on our democracy, and it’s very similar to the report the intelligence community just issued. It’s fascinating reading, with lots of historical background on Russia’s spying activities.
This is from an ad at Yahoo News, but it’s a good summary of the book: Malcolm Nance, US intelligence expert, delivered Russian hacking details months before the CIA’s report.
In The Plot to Hack America, published one month before the election, New York Times bestselling author and MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance not only identifies the hackers as Russian but digs deep into the biggest political scandal since Watergate.
In April of 2016, computer technicians at the Democratic National Committee discovered that someone had accessed the organization’s computer servers. In the days and weeks that followed, they learned that the cyberthieves had helped themselves to everything: sensitive documents, emails, donor information, even voicemails. Nance’s investigations led him to none other than Russia’s spy service. Their method: A new hybrid cyber warfare called Kompromat.
In The Plot to Hack America, we learn how technicians discovered that Russia’s spy agency was responsible for the hack, how the Russians have devastated individuals, political groups, and entire nations with their cybercrimes, and how they may have cultivated Donald Trump as an unwitting “asset” to facilitate their ultimate foreign policy goals: disband NATO, dominate Eastern Europe, and replace America as the world’s superpower.
But why would Vladimir Putin want to tip the scales of an American election? Nance follows the fascinating real-life spy story through a labyrinth of cyber espionage, the history of Russia’s spy services, and Vladimir Putin’s rise through the KGB from junior officer to spy-in-chief. And he details Donald Trump’s many disturbing personal associations with Putin and Russia’s oligarchy, as well as Trump’s loose affiliation of advisors nicknamed “the Kremlin Crew.”
The Plot to Hack America reads like a spy thriller, but it’s all too real.
I highly recommend it.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. Unfortunately tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
Now check this out from WaPo conservative columnist Kathleen Parker: If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian spy?
No, I don’t really think he’s a spy because, unlike the man himself, I’m not given to crazy ideas. But what’s with this double standard? Under similar circumstances, how long do you think it would have taken for Obama to be called a traitor for defending a country that tried to thwart our democratic electoral process?
How surreal to realize that the man who soon will become president was long committed to a rumor soaked in paranoia and propagated by conspiracy theorists whose pursuit of truth stops at the point where facts and willful ignorance collide.
How perfectly terrifying.
And now? What is so obviously a conspiracy of Russian leadership, hackers and spies, Trump has repeatedly dismissed as lousy intelligence. Why would he do such a thing? Is it that he’s so thin-skinned he can’t tolerate anyone thinking that he might have benefited from the cyberattack? Or is it that he knew about it in advance and doesn’t want to be found out? This is how conspiracy theories get started. Then again, sometimes a conspiracy is just a conspiracy — and a fool is just a fool.
Actually, there’s little doubt that tRump is at least an unwitting tool of Putin; and if you look at his top advisers and cabinet choices, it seems quite likely that there was collusion between Russian spies and the tRump campaign.
David Remnick: Trump, Putin and the Big Hack.
Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister, once remarked while on a trip to Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, “The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they will turn out.”
On the morning of November 9th, Molotov’s grandson, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian Duma’s foreign-affairs committee, announced to the parliament, “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the American Presidential elections. And just this second Donald Trump began his speech as President-elect.” The Duma members cheered and applauded.
In the days to come, there were more declarations of acid satisfaction among the Russian élite. Dmitri Kiselyov, the host of “News of the Week,” a popular current-affairs show on state-controlled television, gloated over Trump’s victory and Barack Obama’s inability to prevent it. Obama, he said, was a “eunuch.” Trump was an “alpha male”—and one who showed mercy to his vanquished rival. “Trump could have put the blonde in prison, as he’d threatened in the televised debates,” Kiselyov said on his show. “On the other hand, it’s nothing new. Trump has left blond women satisfied all his life.” Kiselyov further praised Trump because the concepts of democracy and human rights “are not in his lexicon.” In India, Turkey, Europe, and now the United States, he declared, “the liberal idea is in ruins.”
Vladimir Putin did not showboat, but he, too, made his satisfaction plain. His spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that the similarity between Trump and Putin’s “conceptual approach to foreign policy” was “phenomenal.” Trump’s victory was the basis for Russia’s “moderate optimism”; now both sides could discuss how “to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”
All of this is all the more alarming to recall now, in the light of the latest news: according to U.S. intelligence reports, Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to undermine Clinton and work with “a clear preference” to enhance Trump’s prospects.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
WHEN I wrote in August 2016, in this newspaper, that Donald J. Trump’s character traits posed a national security threat, I didn’t imagine that the first manifestation of that dynamic could play out with the very organization where I spent the first 33 years of my career, the Central Intelligence Agency.
President-elect Trump’s public rejection of the C.I.A., and by extension the rest of the country’s intelligence community, over the assessment that Russia interfered in our presidential election is not only an unprecedented political challenge for our national security establishment — it is a danger to the nation.
While Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that he had a constructive meeting with senior intelligence officials on the Russian hacking issue was a step in the right direction, his disparagement of American intelligence officers over the last few months is likely to cause significant damage to the C.I.A.
Mr. Trump has questioned the agency’s competence — repeatedly asking, often via Twitter, how we can trust the organization that incorrectly judged that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (criticism that, in my mind, is unfair for an agency that has changed dramatically in the last 15 years). But he has also accused the agency of being biased and political, implying, in comments to The Times, that the C.I.A. manufactured its Russia analysis to undercut him. Mr. Trump, in essence, said that the agency’s officers were dishonorable. To the men and women of the C.I.A., sworn to protect the nation, this was a gut punch.
Mr. Trump’s behavior will weaken the agency, an organization that has never been more relevant to our nation’s security. The key national security issues of the day — terrorism; proliferation; cyberespionage, crime and war; and the challenges to the global order posed by Russia, Iran and China — all require first-rate intelligence for a commander in chief to understand them, settle on a policy and carry it out.
Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
More News, Links Only
Joe Conason: Investigate The Hackers — And Ignore Trump’s Chaff.
Washington Post: Hill Republicans embrace building of border wall, despite cost.
New York Times: Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal.
Now I have to get back to packing for my move. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!
This morning John McCain is holding a hearing on foreign cyberwarfare in the Armed Forces Committee. I’ve been listening to it on C-Span here. Claire McCaskill just asked James Clapper about the effect on the intelligence community of Donald Trump’s “trashing” them and “putting Julian Assange on a pedestal.”
Investigating the Russian Cyberattacks
The New York Times reports: Russia Looms Large as Senate Committee Is Set to Discuss Hacking.
Who are the key players?
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, the committee’s chairman, has made no secret of his belief that Russia was responsible for the election-related hacking, and his recent travels will not have eased his concerns about Russian aggression. He just returned from a New Year’s tour of countries that see themselves as threatened by Russia: Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat, also has taken a strong public stand in support of the intelligence agencies’ finding of Russian government interference….
The group will hear testimony from James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; Marcel Lettre, the under secretary of defense for intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, a leader of the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command….
Who is the intended audience?
He has a tower in Manhattan.
Most Republicans have avoided attacking Mr. Trump directly over his comments — even as he defended the credibility of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, at the expense of the intelligence agencies. But the hearing will offer a potent showcase for the agencies to defend their work.
They are likely to face little hostile questioning from lawmakers.
“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce from their point of view that the Russians did this,” Mr. Graham said on Wednesday.
Let’s hope this will not be the last such hearing in Congress.
The Hill: Five things to watch for in Russia hearings.
Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential election will take center stage in Washington on Thursday with two separate hearings in the Senate — including one behind closed doors.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from intelligence officials in public hearings in the morning, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will receive a classified briefing in the afternoon.
President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly rejected assertions from the intelligence community that Moscow attempted to influence the election by hacking the Democratic National Committee and the email account of John Podesta, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.n a series of tweets this week, he accused intelligence officials of delaying a briefing until Friday in order to build a case against Russia — an allegation rejected by other officials. He also appeared to side with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who released emails believed to have been hacked by Russia. Trump noted that Assange has asserted that the emails did not come from Russia, while repeating that anyone could have hacked the DNC.
Trump’s comments have put Republicans in a tough spot, underlining the more friendly approach he has taken with Russia and the more critical approach with U.S. intelligence agencies.
It has provided an opening for Democrats who hope the story about Russia will shadow the beginning of Trump’s presidency, complicating his legislative agenda.
Read the five points at the link.
More news on the hacking scandal
U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The timing of the additional intelligence is important because U.S. President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack. U.S. Senate and House leaders, including prominent Republicans, have also called for an inquiry.
At the same time, President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to help his candidacy and hurt Clinton’s. Russia has denied the hacking allegations.
A U.S. intelligence report on theCN hacking was scheduled to be presented to Obama on Thursday and to Trump on Friday, though its contents were still under discussion on Wednesday, officials said.
CNN: Tim Kaine: Why is Trump Putin’s ‘defense lawyer’?
Sen. Tim Kaine on Thursday criticized President-elect Donald Trump, alleging he is acting like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “defense lawyer” and calling Trump’s conduct “suspicious.”
“Why does President-elect Trump again and again and again take it upon himself to be Vladimir Putin’s defense lawyer rather than listening to and respecting the intelligence professionals of the United States,” Kaine told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” in his first national interview since the 2016 presidential election.The former Democratic vice presidential nominee, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which is hold a hearing on hacking Thursday, said that even if Trump believes Russia can be America’s ally in the fight against ISIS, he doesn’t have to “trash” American intelligence professionals in the process.“There is something very unusual — indeed, even sort of suspicious — about the degree to which he casually kicks aside the intelligence community when he won’t even go to the briefings again and again and takes the Assange/Vladimir Putin line on this important question” about whether Russian was behind the election-related hacks, Kaine said.California Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said Republicans’ confidence in Assange over the intelligence community is “embarrassing.”
“You hear former colleagues like mine, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, tie themselves in knots, or my colleague (California Republican) Darrell Issa, saying they put more faith in an accused sex offender tan their own intelligence agencies,” the Democrat told Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”“It’s embarrassing to be honest with you,” he added. “This is not healthy skepticism as they would like to portray it. This is very unhealthy, essentially avoidance of the facts.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker: Julian Assange’s claim that there was no Russian involvement in WikiLeaks emails.
U.S. intelligence officials have formally accused the Russian government of interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. One of the allegations of Russian involvement is that Russian hackers breached the Democratic National Committee’s network and provided tens of thousands of internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC, said in June 2016 that Russian hackers had breached the DNC network….
At least two independent cybersecurity firms have confirmed CrowdStrike’s findings that two Russian hacker groups had penetrated the DNC network. One group is believed to have actually stolen and distributed the emails.
While the independent analysts suspected that Guccifer 2.0 was linked to the Russian groups that hacked the DNC or were a part of a Russian government influence operation, they did not have hard evidence because the documents were posted anonymously. The FBI is still investigating ties between Russian hackers and the WikiLeaks emails.
Read much more at the link.
John Schindler at The New York Observer: Donald Trump’s Soft Spot for Russia Could Be His Political Undoing.
Three weeks ago, I counseled President-elect Donald Trump that going to war against the spies is never a good idea in Washington. Our Intelligence Community knows lots of things, not all of which would be flattering to someone whose retinue includes so many people with odd connections to the Kremlin. When spies get angry, they call reporters and arrange discreet chats in parking garages. The last president who entered the Oval Office with this much dislike and distrust of the IC was Richard Nixon—and we know how that worked out for him.
Trump has now outdone Nixon, upping his war on the spooks even before his inauguration, by making plain that he believes Moscow—not our country’s spies—regarding the issue of Russian interference in our election. As I’ve explained in detail, although there is no evidence that the Kremlin literally “hacked” our election in 2016, there’s a mountain of evidence that Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services stole Democratic emails then went public with them via Wikileaks to hurt Hillary Clinton.
However, the president-elect refuses to accept the consensus view of the IC, not to mention many outside experts who have confirmed their analysis. In response to President Obama’s recent public statement pointing a finger at the Kremlin for their misdeeds against our democracy, backed up by rather mild sanctions on Moscow, President-elect Trump has pursued his customary tactic of denying, doubling-down, then denying some more, regardless of any evidence proffered.
Trump and his mouthpieces continue to deny that Russians had any role in our 2016 election, which is a patent falsehood. Indeed, a few days ago, the president-elect promised to deliver revelations by the middle of this week about what happened with those Democratic emails, adding that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking. Here he apparently channeled O. J. Simpson, whose quest to find the “real killers” of his ex-wife and her friend remains unfulfilled, more than two decades later.
Trump’s promise was empty, and there is no new evidence to contradict the IC’s conclusion that Moscow stood behind the operation to politically harm Hillary Clinton and her party last year. Like his promise to reveal President Obama’s “real” birth certificate—which would show he was born in Kenya, or Mars, rather than Hawaii—this was no more than another cynical Trumpian publicity stunt.
The facts are in regarding the theft of Democratic emails, and the only people seriously disputing them are those in thrall to Vladimir Putin one way or another. (For an excellent quick primer on the evidence, this cannot be beat.) The promised “new evidence” seems to be no more than the latest lies proffered by Julian Assange in his most recent obsequious interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. Here, Assange once again stated that Wikileaks, which he created a decade ago, didn’t get the Democrats’ emails from the Russians.
Read the rest at the link.
The Boston Globe: Enough of the tweets, China’s state media tells Trump.
Vanity Fair: After Trump, Will Twitter Wither?
Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency.
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?