Tag Archives: Russian meddling

Pompeo to become diplomat with thin backing

Mike Pompeo is likely to be confirmed as the nation’s next secretary of state, but he’ll take strange route on his way to leading the nation’s diplomatic corps.

Pompeo is the CIA director whom Donald Trump selected to succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department. He has run into trouble on his way to confirmation: Pompeo won’t have the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted confirmation hearings on Pompeo’s nomination.

A Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is going to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. That will result more than likely in a vote of no confidence from the panel.

That won’t derail his confirmation. The full Senate will get to vote on it, but Pompeo will gain the support of Senate Democrats who might be in trouble in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe  Manchin of West Virginia come to mind; let’s toss in Bill Nelson of Florida while we’re at it. They’re all running for re-election, which seems to give Pompeo a leg up in this strange journey toward confirmation.

Actually, I hope Pompeo does get confirmed. The State Department needs a steady hand and I think Pompeo can provide it … if only the president will allow him to lead the agency.

Tillerson had to fight the occasional battle against being undercut by the president. Tillerson would make a pronouncement and then Trump would countermand him. I don’t want that to happen with the new secretary of state, who’s got a big job awaiting him immediately — which happens to be the preparation for the planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

What’s more, as head of the CIA, Pompeo has joined other U.S. intelligence officials in confirming the obvious: that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election.

This man needs to be our secretary of state.

Obama congratulated Putin, too? Hold on!

So, critics of the media on the right have become fond in recent days of defending Donald J. Trump’s congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin. They’re using an interesting — if nonsensical — argument.

Trump called Putin the other day against the advice of his national security team. He congratulated the Russian strongman on his re-election in what many have called a “sham election.” His soon-to-be-former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Trump shouldn’t congratulate Putin because of corollary issues that have clouded U.S.-Russia relations.

The president’s phone call has gotten plenty of criticism. I’ve joined the chorus of critics on this blog.

The push back was immediate. Trump defenders point out that Barack H. Obama congratulated Putin on his re-election in 2012.

Whoa! Hold on here! Let’s examine briefly the situation and how it compares with the here and now.

Vladimir Putin was a bad guy in 2012. I get that. He is worse now. Why? Oh, let’s see. He has meddled in our 2016 presidential election and is likely going to meddle in our midterm election this year, let alone in other countries’ elections; he used nerve gas on a former Soviet spy and his daughter.

President Obama did not have issues such as those on the table when he chatted with Putin in 2012. Donald Trump had a lot of them to toss at Putin when he called him just the other day.

There’s the difference.

Leak complicates an already complicated problem

Donald J. Trump’s congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin was bad enough. He shouldn’t have slapped the Russian president on the back for winning a “sham election,” as Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain has described it.

He should have taken Putin down for meddling in our 2016 election and for reports that Russian officials poisoned a former spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom. The president didn’t say a word about either of those things … reportedly!

Now, though, it gets seriously complicated.

Someone inside the West Wing, inside the president’s inner circle, likely leaked to the Washington Post that Trump congratulated Putin against the advice of his national security team.

Let’s roll this one around for a moment.

The president is rightfully furious that someone would leak this information to the media. I understand his anger. Please note that no one is denying the guts of what is being reported. The National Security Council implored Trump to avoid making a call in the first place, but if he were to do so to avoid offering any congratulations.

I don’t know which is worse: that Trump would ignore the advice of his national security team or that someone with access to this kind of highly sensitive information would be so emboldened to leak it to the public.

This poses a couple of key questions. 1. What kind of “extreme vetting” did the president and White House chief of staff John Kelly use to ensure these secrets would be protected? 2. And what in the world is Donald Trump thinking — if he is thinking at all — if he can defy the advice of some smart national security aides who understand how it looks for the president to continue to soft-pedal Russia’s attack on our electoral system?

Trump once boasted he knows more about international terrorists “than the generals, believe me.” Does this guy also know more about how to handle highly complicated bilateral relationships than the “best people” with whom he has surrounded himself — and who implored him to use extreme caution in talking to Vladimir Putin?

This guy, the president of the United States, is out of control.

McCain speaks truth to … fraud

U.S. Sen. John McCain remains in strong voice and for that I am grateful.

Donald John Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election as Russia’s president. The message didn’t go down well with the stricken Republican senator from Arizona, who is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

McCain issued a statement that read in part, according to The Hill: In a statement, McCain called Trump’s phone call to Putin an insult to “every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said.

Did the president discuss with Putin the questions about Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election? Did he mention a word to him about his support of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad? Did he bring up the murder of journalists or the poisoning of a former Soviet spy and his daughter?

Oh, no! He wouldn’t go there. Instead, he “congratulated” Putin, despite some serious reporting about election fraud.

McCain said more about Trump’s call to Putin: “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

Trump is so very tough on American law enforcement officials, on critics here at home and even on allies abroad. Yet he soft-pedals his comments on Putin?


Trump lawyer pours gas on the flame

John Dowd is not serving his client well.

Dowd, a lawyer, represents Donald John Trump. Dowd now is calling for an end to an investigation led by another lawyer, special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s looking deeply into issues involving Trump, his campaign, his transition to the presidency and the presidency itself.

Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has fired deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a key player in Mueller’s probe, Dowd says it’s time for Mueller to wrap up this investigation.

If I were to put myself in Mueller’s shoes I might be asking: What in the world is Dowd trying to hide? Why does he want me to end an investigation that is growing more complicated by the day, if not the hour?

Thus, in my view Dowd has done his client a disservice. Oh, but then there is this: Donald Trump wants the investigation to end as well. He’s called it a “witch hunt,” which it isn’t. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who selected Mueller after Sessions recused himself, said Mueller has done nothing wrong and that his probe should continue.

At issue, of course, is the “Russia thing,” and whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians seeking to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee’s Republican leadership has said there is “no collusion,” which prompted Trump to declare that “Congress” has found nothing wrong. Oops! He didn’t say that the GOP leaders on the committee have drawn that conclusion.

Oh, but the Mueller probe has many more trails to explore, many more leads to follow.

He’s a long way from finishing his work.

John Dowd needs to pipe down and let the special counsel do his job, get to the finish line and if he finds nothing there — as Trump keeps insisting — he needs to tell us all himself.

CIA to get a professional spook to lead it

Donald Trump has made an unusual and potentially excellent personnel decision at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The president has nominated Gina Haspel to be the CIA’s new director, replacing Mike Pompeo, who’s moving from that job to become the next secretary of state.

Why is this such an important selection? Some recent CIA heads have come from the political arena. I think of Pompeo (former congressman), Leon Panetta (another former congressman), Porter Goss (still another ex-congressman); others have come from he military, such as Michael Hayden (Air Force general), David Petraeus (Army general) and Stansfield Turner (Navy admiral). They all had varying degrees of success and failure.

Haspel is a career spook. She spent many of her three decades in the CIA as a undercover agent, a spy.

Haspel — the agency’s deputy director — knows the CIA culture. She has lived it.

This nominee isn’t without some problem. She reportedly has been involved in the torture of terror suspects held captive. U.S. Sen. John McCain — a former Vietnam War prisoner who knows a thing or two about torture — has called on Senate committee questioners to probe deeply into Haspel’s involvement in that practice.

That all said, I believe Haspel’s nomination is a potentially huge selection for the CIA.

I like the idea that she has field experience as a deep-cover agent. She knows the business of intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence. None of this experience has anything to do with her being the first woman ever nominated to lead the CIA.

We’re still in the midst of open warfare against terrorist organizations. We need a well-run CIA to operate at full throttle in this effort.

Moreover, and make no mistake about this issue, we need a CIA director who is willing to speak independently and candidly about issues that well might run counter to the issues put forward by the individual who nominated her.

Pompeo has challenged Donald Trump’s apparent belief that Russia didn’t meddle in our 2016 presidential election. My sincere hope is that Gina Haspel will endorse the view expressed by the entire array of intelligence officials who have reached the same conclusion as Mike Pompeo.

It’s vital that our intelligence community work overtime to seek ways to prevent Russians — or any other foreign adversary with similar capability — from future meddling.

Another Trump campaign nut case emerges

No one had heard of Sam Nunberg until special counsel Robert Mueller decided to subpoena him to testify before a federal grand jury.

So what does this guy do? He blusters and bellows that he won’t answer the call to testify before the panel that is looking into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russians who meddled in our electoral process.

And then …

Nunberg has second thoughts. He says he might testify after all.

Oh, but first he went on cable news broadcasts — CNN, Fox, MSNBC — to offer lots of goofy bluster about how he “laughed” at the subpoena.

My initial question was this: Who in the hell is this guy?

I have learned that he attended some meetings and has some inside information about what Donald Trump might know. He has said some disparaging things about his former boss.

This clown is playing with some seriously hot fire if he intends to stiff the special counsel. Mueller is no fool. He’s not a partisan hack. He is a former FBI director and a first-class lawyer. Mueller is known to be meticulous in his approach to evidence-gathering and highly circumspect about what he says in public.

A loudmouth like Nunberg is the antithesis of Mueller. Sadly, he is the kind of clown with whom Donald Trump has surrounded himself.

Come to think of it, he mirrors the Big Man himself.


Actually, Obama did act on Russian meddling

Donald Trump went on a Twitter tirade over the weekend and in the process he managed to tweet out yet another lie.

I know. It’s just so hard to believe. Right? Actually, well … no. It isn’t. It’s Trump’s modus operandi.

While he was blasting former President Barack H. Obama, Democrats, the FBI, Hillary Clinton, H.R. McMaster and the media in the wake of the indictments over the Russian election meddling, the president accused his predecessor of doing nothing about the Russians.

Actually, sir, President Obama did do something.

I feel the need to remind Trump of that. Except that he knows it already, which makes his misstatement yet another outright lie.

Obama looked Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in the eye and told him to quit interfering in our electoral process. Then the president signed an executive order that booted several Russian diplomats out of the country, forced the closure of Russian diplomatic property and imposed strict economic sanctions on the Russians.

He sought to punish the Russians for doing what the intelligence community has confirmed what they did.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted several Russians and three Russian companies for their role in the 2016 election interference. Both houses of Congress approved — with overwhelming majorities — toughened sanctions on Russia, only to have the president decline to agree to them.

In that light, Donald Trump has the gall to say that Barack Obama has done “nothing” to punish the Russians?


Waiting for outrage from White House

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Donald J. Trump to say what needs to be said about Russian meddling in our nation’s electoral process.

The president should declare his outrage and must insist that we take measures to ensure that this kind of political aggression from a foreign adversary never happens again.

He won’t say it. Of that I am increasingly certain.

What’s more, his refusal to declare such outrage makes me question whether this man actually places protecting the nation he governs above all else.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for their role in interfering in our 2016 presidential election. The 37-page indictment does not alleged “collusion” from the Trump campaign; nor does it say that the Russian interference determined the outcome.

That was the focus of the president’s initial response. He said the indictments vindicate his campaign. He declared there was “no collusion!” yet again.

Meanwhile, national security adviser H.R. McMaster says the indictment provides “incontrovertible proof” that the Russians launched a campaign against our electoral system. They committed an act of aggression. They sought to sow discord and discontent among Americans. They succeeded!

Where in the world is the outrage from the man at the top? When is he ever going to declare virtual war against foreign powers who think they can mess with our political system?

The president took an oath to defend the United States. He swore to place our national interests above all else. Indeed, he campaigned on a pledge to “put America first.”

The president’s continuing refusal to state his intention to end this kind of meddling is a fundamental violation of that oath.


Now this: Mueller indicts Russians for meddling

Let’s see. If we’re keeping score, the tab is piling up against Donald Trump’s claim that the Russians didn’t interfere in our 2016 presidential election.

The nation’s top spooks, the folks who run our intelligence agencies, say in unison that the Russians meddled in our election.

Now, today, we get word that special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for — drum roll! — interfering in our election.

But … the president of the United States is willing to take the word of a former KGB boss, Vladimir Putin, that he didn’t do what our intelligence experts say he did. Donald Trump is the lone denier in all of this.

To be clear, the indictments don’t suggest any collusion from the Trump campaign. The president might take some solace in that knowledge, although there’s still more to be determined by Mueller’s legal team as it pores through all the material that has piled up.

Nor do the indictments say that the Russian hackers’ activity actually affected the outcome. They did not determine the outcome. I get that, too.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who announced the indictments, said the Russians did accomplish their mission in their meddling, which was to cause “discord” and to throw doubt over our nation’s electoral process.

When will the president ever acknowledge what is now widely known? My hunch: He’ll take his denial with him to the grave.