Tag Archives: Russian hacking

Trump can’t stomach being told the truth

Donald Trump’s decision to nominate John Ratcliffe as the country’s next Director of National Intelligence reveals a frightening, outrageous aspect of how the president wants to run our national security network … as if we didn’t see this already.

Ratcliffe is a congressman from Northeast Texas, representing a district once represented by the late, great Sam Rayburn. Ratcliffe would succeed Dan Coats as DNI and would be charged — according to the playbook — with providing the president unvarnished analysis of the threats to the nation’s security.

Ratcliffe is not wired that way. Coats has done it, as have many of the preceding DNIs who have held the office.

Trump wants a “loyalist,” someone who likely adheres to his own idiotic view that the Russian hack of our 2016 election is a “hoax” cooked up by the “fake news” and Democratic opponents.

Can there be anything more inherently frightening than to have a DNI who cannot or will not tell the president the truth? More to the point, can there be anything more dangerous to the nation to have a president who won’t hear the truth?

Rep. Ratcliffe showed his partisan stripes while questioning former special counsel Robert Mueller this past week. He challenged Mueller’s probe into the Russian electoral attack. As some commentators have noted, Ratcliffe appeared to be auditioning for the nomination once it became known that DNI Coats would be “stepping down.”

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I cannot grasp how this president continues to lie, deceive and flim-flam his way through the duties to which he has been charged. Even more astonishing is how he manages to cling to that 38 to 40 percent core of Americans who insist he is “telling it like it is” and speaks for them.

John Ratcliffe comes from that fervent base of Trump supporters. The nation does not need a Trump lackey in the post of DNI, which requires someone who is unafraid to tell the president the hard truth about the existential threats that put this country in danger.

If the president has a vast reservoir of talent waiting for the call to come to work in the White House — which he boasts of having — he can do a lot better than John Ratcliffe as head of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

My fear, though, is that he doesn’t care about quality. It’s all about political loyalty.

Dangerous.

Tepid GOP response to DNI pick might signal an actual break

What in the name of critical thinking is going on here?

Might there be a glimmer of hope that Republican U.S. senators are willing finally — finally! — to break ranks from behind their fellow Republican, the guy in the White House?

Reports are surfacing that Republican response to Donald Trump’s pick to be the next director of national intelligence is, shall we say, a bit tepid. GOP senators reportedly are saddened by the departure of DNI Dan Coats, who once served with them in the U.S. Senate. They have said much about Coats, but hardly anything about U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, who is Trump’s selection as a successor to Coats.

Hmm. Why do you suppose that’s the case?

It might be that the Northeast Texas cheerleader for Trump is packed a bit too snugly into the president’s hip pocket.

I remain committed in the hope that senators who will question Ratcliffe during his confirmation hearing will ask him whether he believes, as Coats does, that Russians attacked our election in 2016 or whether he stands with Donald Trump’s phony assertion that it’s a “hoax.”

I get this sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that Ratcliffe’s fealty to Trump will not allow him to state the plainly obvious, which is that the Russians interfered on behalf of Trump in 2016 and are working hard to do the same thing in 2020. That’s the view of the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff … and the Director of National Intelligence. Donald Trump is hearing none of that.

The DNI, who is the nation’s top intelligence official, should be required to tell the president what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. Donald Trump must hear from the DNI where the existential threats to our national security are coming from. Coats and other intelligence experts told the nation that Russia presented that threat in 2016 and are doing so now.

Will the new DNI, if it’s John Ratcliffe, be willing to offer the same hard-boiled advice?

My gut tells me that Donald Trump won’t hear it even if the DNI offers it, which is why he might be looking for a blind loyalist to fill a job that requires clear-headed analysis on threats to our nation.

When did GOP surrender its anti-Russia standing?

Those of us who are old enough to remember such things must be wondering: What has become of the Republican Party’s historic animosity toward Russia?

The party of Ike, Nixon and Reagan has become squishier than the Democrats were during those earlier eras. Russia — which once was known as the Soviet Union — attacked our electoral system in 2016. They did with malicious intent to disrupt our process and sow discontent among Americans about the integrity of our voting system.

They have succeeded.

Democrats now are incensed. Republicans? They are silent.

Democrats are pushing for measures in Congress that would strengthen electoral integrity and security. Republican leaders are blocking it.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller III told the nation that Russians not only attacked our 2016 electoral system in “sweeping” and “systematic” fashion, but are in the process of attacking our system at this moment.

The GOP leadership in Congress — and in the White House — are acting as if, “Hey, no big deal!”

History reminds us that in the days of Dwight Eisenhower, we shored up our military to counter the Soviet Union’s aspirations to become he world’s greatest power. Then came Richard Nixon, the noted communist-hater who made no apologies for his hatred and mistrust of the Soviet leadership. After that, the nation heard Ronald Reagan refer to the USSR as the “evil empire” and once joked into an open mic that he had just “outlawed Russia; bombing begins in five minutes.”

These days the equation has been flipped on its ear. Republicans give Russians a pass on the attack they have launched on our electoral system. Democrats have become the hardliners.

I believe this is a manifestation of the Donald Trump Era of national politics. What once was “normal” no longer is normal. Conduct we used to abhor has become part of what we believe is a “new normal.”

Russian attacks on our political system that used to become fodder for Republican politicians’ ire have become reasons for them to zip their lips. They say nothing. Meanwhile, the Democrats have become the hardliners.

What gives?

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.