Tag Archives: Russian hacking

Russia still poses existential threat

Even though Donald Trump and his grifter son-in-law, Jared Kushner, continue to downplay the threat Russia poses to our electoral system, FBI director Christopher Wray is telling us something profoundly different.

I choose to heed the words of Christopher Wray.

Wray calls the Russian threat a “365-days-a-year threat. And that has absolutely continued.”

Yes, the Russians hacked into our electoral system in 2016. They sowed discord among American voters. They spread “opposition research” material designed to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

The Russians are the baddest of a whole cast of bad actors.

Donald Trump just can’t bring himself to say it out loud. Neither can Kushner, who recently said that Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged “collusion” posed a greater threat to our democratic system than “a couple of Facebook ads.”

Memo to Kushner: Shut your mouth. And to Trump? Start defending our Constitution, which you pledged to do when you took the presidential oath.

The FBI director is among the cadre of national intelligence and counterterrorism experts who have confirmed what all of us know: The Russians are chiefly responsible for the cyber attack on our system. Mueller said so, too, in his voluminous report on collusion and obstruction of justice.

It simply amazes me that Donald Trump could appoint such a serious grownup to be FBI boss after firing another adult, James Comey. I’m glad he did give Christopher Wray this platform. What’s more, I am delighted to hear the FBI boss use that platform to speak the truth about what he believes happened in the 2016 presidential election, the 2018 midterm election and what likely will occur when we go to the polls again in 2020.

If only the commander in chief would pay attention.

So many lies, only one winner?

Politifact has announced perhaps my favorite award category of all time: Lie of the Year.

It’s a fact-checking website that has declared its 2017 Lie of the Year to be Donald J. Trump’s assertion that Russian interference in our electoral process is a made-up story that Democrats fabricated as an excuse for why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election.

I have to admit that’s a good one.

The president has disparaged the nation’s intelligence-gathering network and has stood behind Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s “denial” that the Russians hacked into our electoral system.

In fact, there have been so many lies it’s hard to pick just one.

Barack Obama ordered the wiretap of Trump’s campaign office? That’s a good one, too. Millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary in 2016, giving her a 3 million popular vote victory? That’s a serious knee-slapper. The president’s electoral victory was the greatest since President Reagan’s re-election in 1984? I can’t stop laughing at that one.

Actually, though, I think Politifact has chosen well. The “Russia thing” hoax lie is really rich, man.

Trump likely would be in the running for lying every year he’s been in politics. My favorite 2016 lie is how he would “stop tweeting” once he became president. And the 2015 winner would have to be that Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns was because of an on-going Internal Revenue Service “audit.”

Come to think of it, has the IRS completed that audit? Was there ever an IRS audit?

Liar, liar …

Trump ‘losing streak’ continues at full speed

Donald J. Trump’s boasting of being a “winner” has taken another punch in the gut.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted the president’s former campaign boss, Paul Manafort, of money laundering in his probe of the “Russia thing” that caused Trump to fire former FBI director James Comey.

Hmm. Where does this go? I intend to wait with bated breath. How about you?

The indictment of Manafort, along with that of campaign official Rick Gates signals a new pace in this investigation, which began when the president gave Comey the boot.

The ultimate aim appears to be determining whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russian hackers in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome. The president bellows “witch hunt” and “fake news” and all kinds of other things.

My understanding of Mueller, though, is that the special counsel is as serious, measured, thorough and meticulous a lawyer as they come. I don’t think he’s going to indict a proverbial “ham sandwich” just to score some points.

And so … the hunt continues.

This case is going to get even more curious as Mueller’s team continues its work.

As Politico describes it, Meuller’s task has turned into a sprawling probe.

Trump continues to disgrace his office

I simply am at a loss to understand the president of the United States.

He continues to exhibit an utter disregard for presidential decorum, such as the most recent “performance” he staged at the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Donald John Trump stood before about 40,000 Scouts and their leaders and decided to make a political speech. He denigrated his immediate predecessor, Barack H. Obama, for allegedly failing to appear at a Jamboree; he was wrong, as Obama attended the 2010 event. He tore into Hillary Rodham Clinton, who he defeated in the 2016 election. Trump excoriated Congress for failing to enact a Republican-authored health care bill.

On and on he went …

The Boy Scout Jamboree is among the last places on Earth one would expect to hear such a political diatribe. That didn’t deter this guy.

Let me point out here that Trump never became a Scout; Obama did. For him to criticize President Obama was akin to his declaring that former Vietnam War prisoner Sen. John McCain was a hero “only because he was captured; I like those who aren’t captured, OK?” Oh, yes, Trump never served in the military, while McCain flew combat missions on fighter jets during the Vietnam War.

I won’t belabor the point too much longer, but I feel the need to say that never in my entire life have I felt the utter disdain for a president of the United States that I do for the current White House resident. I cannot attach the terms “President” and “Trump” consecutively.

I say this yet again even thought I do accept that Trump was elected fairly and squarely. He won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton and won enough of them to be elected president. I do not subscribe to the idea that the Russian meddling in 2016 was decisive; Trump likely would have won even without the Russians’ interference.

However, he continues to disgrace the office. He sickens me at many levels. I’ve lost count of the “last straw” comments he has made since becoming a full-time politician. The Boy Scout riff is just the latest. I’m sure there’ll be more.

Undisclosed meeting? What are we supposed to think?

Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin had another meeting recently that no one knew about … until now.

Hmmm. And the president continues to keep secrets that need not be kept? Is that what’s going on here?

The two presidents met for more than two hours in Hamburg, Germany the other day. Trump “pressed” the Russian president on whether his government interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Putin reportedly denied any such involvement. Of course he would deny it.

Then the men shook hands and went their separate ways. Then Trump decided to meet privately with Putin for more than an hour. The only other person in the room was Putin’s translator.

What did they talk about? What do the heads of state of two of the world’s most powerful nations say to each other? Did any of it — anything at all — have something to do with that “Russia thing,” the hacking into our electoral process?

They call this kind of thing “rolling disclosure.” It lends itself to whispering, conjecture, speculation. They only way for any of that to be dispelled is for the principals to tell the public in a forthright manner what they discussed and the context that they discussed it.

According to The Washington Post: “But Trump’s newly-disclosed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke further criticism, including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cozy with the leader of a major U.S. adversary.”

Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry sought to brush the questions aside, suggesting that “other media” are casting this secret meeting in a negative light. There could be an explanation, Henry said.

Sure thing, hoss. Then we need to know precisely what these two world leaders said to each other. Absent that, what is the world expected to think?


No dirt on Hillary? Really!

Let me try to keep this straight.

Donald J. Trump Jr. accepts an invitation to meet with a Russian government operative who tells him she’s got some dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States.

Don Jr. goes to the meeting along with his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, then the campaign chairman for Don’s dad, Donald J. Trump Sr., the Republican presidential nominee.

He meets with the lawyer/government operative. What does Don Jr. get out of it? He says nothing came of it. There was no dirt of any use to the Trump campaign.

In other words, Hillary was clean.

The story, of course, isn’t entirely that the Russians didn’t have the goods on Clinton; it is that Trump the Younger thought they did and that he “loved it.” He didn’t call the FBI to rat out the Russian government. Indeed, the only grownup from the Trump team — Manafort — didn’t bother to blow the whistle, either. Oh, no. Don Jr. was accepting “normal” opposition research — from a hostile government that was hacking into our electoral process, undermining our democratic system.

As for the Hillary story, the Russians came up with as much actionable dirt on the Democratic nominee as congressional Republican investigators were able to find over the course of several years. That would be, um, nothing, man!

What a coincidence!

Bush ethics lawyer: Why not give Putin clearance, too?

Richard Painter teaches law at the University of Minnesota.

He once served as ethics adviser to President George W. Bush, so his Republican credentials are well-known. However, he’s demonstrating that ethical conduct ought to ignore partisan consideration.

Professor Painter is furious, fuming, outraged over what he believes is a lack of ethical decorum permeating Donald J. Trump’s administration. Exhibit A: the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Painter believes Kushner should surrender his top-secret White House security clearance because of his numerous contacts with Russian government officials who might have been involved in that Russian hacking and their efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Painter said via Twitter that Kushner’s clearance needs to be revoked, but if the government is going to allow the young man to keep it, then it should just give one to Russian President Vladimir Putin, too.

Check out The Hill report.

Painter has been making the rounds for several months commenting on Donald J. Trump. He isn’t a fan. Perhaps he owes his antagonism to the president’s vocal criticism of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. It might have something to do with the insults that Trump hurled at the former president’s brother, Jeb, during the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign.

Whatever. Professor Painter isn’t holding back.

I cannot blame him for demanding that Donald Trump seek to develop some understanding that “government ethics” need not be an oxymoron.

In hindsight, Don Jr., try this approach

Hindsight provides such clarity.

What we cannot foresee looking ahead appears like magic in our rearview mirror. Isn’t that right, Donald J. Trump Jr.?

Don Jr. told Sean Hannity that if he could do things differently when he got that email from a Russian lawyer he likely would take a different path.

He got the email from a lawyer saying that the Russian government had some dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was running for president of the United States against Donald J. Trump Sr. Don’s brother in law, Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort got the email, too. The subject line mentioned “Clinton-Russia: personal and confidential.”

Alarm bells anyone? Apparently not.

Trump got the email, then went to the meeting. He responded “I love it” when he learned that the Russians might have some bad stuff on Clinton.

How might he have handled it? Here’s a suggestion for Don Jr.

He should have called the FBI immediately to inform the agency that a hostile foreign government was offering to help his father win a presidential election. Yeah, he should have ratted out the Russians, who were trying to meddle in our electoral process; they had attacked our sovereignty.

He didn’t do that. Don Jr. has acknowledged that he accepted the invitation with the hope it would prove productive, that it would provide damning information on Hillary Clinton courtesy of the Russian government.

Is it a rookie mistake committed by someone with zero public service experience? Probably yes, but oh, man, it has some serious consequences.

If only he had seen as clearly then as he says he is seeing in hindsight.

Now for the big question, young Donald Jr.: Did you tell your equally inexperienced Dad about this meeting prior to its occurrence?

Is there a Howard Baker out there?

The great Howard Baker asked a question for the ages in 1974.

“What did the president know,” the late Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee asked, “and when did he know it?”

Baker was serving as vice chairman — and ranking Republican — of the U.S. Senate select committee that was investigating the Watergate scandal that eventually forced President Nixon to resign and sent several of his top aides to prison.

The question came during one of the many hearings the committee was conducting to ferret out the truth of what was blown off initially as a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.

I know that pundits have posed the question. I also have heard some pols ask it in the context of conversation.

But now we are being faced with the same scenario that confronted President Nixon and his top campaign and White House aides. It involves a meeting involving Donald J. Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (son-in-law of the president), and Paul Manafort, head of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. They met with a Russian lawyer who sent them all an email advising them that the Russian government had some dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton it wanted to pass on to the Trump campaign.

The revelation of the email now focuses investigators more sharply on whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian officials who were hacking into our electoral system, seeking to undermine Clinton’s effort to defeat Trump.

Did the three men — two of whom are members of the Republican presidential candidate’s family — advise the Big Man of the meeting in advance?

What did the president know during the campaign and when did he know it?

I am awaiting that question to come in some formal venue — say, at a congressional hearing. I also am awaiting the president’s answer.

Is there another Howard Baker out there among congressional Republicans who would dare ask that question?

Mitt was ahead of his time

It’s time for a serious mea culpa.

Mitt Romney once declared during the 2012 presidential campaign that Russia presented the “greatest geopolitical threat” to the United States of America.

I was one of millions of Americans who laughed at the Republican presidential nominee.

Five years later, I regret laughing. I regret dismissing Mitt’s assessment. I regret writing some negative blog posts about what the nominee said.

We are learning today — and in the course of the Donald J. Trump campaign and his presidential administration — that the previous GOP nominee was ahead of his time.

It can be argued, I suppose, that international terrorists presented a greater geopolitical threat than Russia in 2012. Our special forces had just killed Osama bin Laden, but al-Qaeda was still going strong. The Islamic State had emerged as a monstrous threat as well.

The Russians, to my mind, seemed at the time to have been relegated to a back bench.

Silly me. Mitt Romney seems to have been spot on.

The Russians are undermining NATO; they invaded Ukraine; they are propping up a murderous regime in Syria. They also sought to affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The startling revelation today from Donald J. Trump Jr. that he accepted a meeting invitation anticipating dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton from the Russian government suggests an existential threat to this nation’s sovereignty.

There’s still a lot of ground to cover before we determine any criminality on the part of the Trump presidential campaign. However, I do believe it is becoming quite clear that the Russians remain a force with which we must reckon.

Gov. Romney, I hereby apologize for doubting you.