Tag Archives: Jeff Sessions

Watching the Bear Raid the Pantry: Trump Administration Invitation by Inaction

One of the most profoundly disturbing moments during testimony given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the House Judiciary Committee was his response to Rep. Brad Schneider:

“When the attorney general appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) asked him about the department’s efforts to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference in the future. Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that election security policies needed to be reviewed, but didn’t have any updates to offer on Tuesday.

“I have not followed through to see where we are on that and I will personally take action to do so,” Sessions said. “There are a lot of things that have been happening, and we’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items, but this one is important, and I acknowledge that, and I should be able to give you better information today than I am.”  [HuffPo]

Let’s review.  The Russians sought to break into at least 21 state election systems, and may have attempted to hack into as many as 39.  The Russians launched a social media influence campaign replete with bots, and posts, and promotions.   The Russians attacked the computer systems of the Democratic Party.  The Republican response to these three elements has been, and continues to be, completely unsatisfactory.

The White House reply has ranged from “it didn’t happen because Putin said it didn’t,” to a bizarre conspiracy theory in which it’s the Democrats who conspired with the Russians (to lose the election?), to “it may have happened but who can tell who did it.”   At the risk of redundancy, it’s not like there haven’t been security assessments published since last January refuting this nonsense.  However, too often we lose track of an essential piece of this state of denial:  The administration appears to believe that this  activity wasn’t serious because no one can prove that election results were changed in any way.  The is a goal post with serious policy ramifications.

This is almost tantamount to arguing that since the bear didn’t eat so much food during his raid on the pantry as to cause family members to starve,  then the raid wasn’t actually serious.

It offers an excuse for Attorney General Sessions’ inactivity.  After all if nothing serious happened, then why should the Department of Justice assign assets toward investigating the problem?   The second paragraph quoted above is perhaps the most disturbing.  If we take the Attorney General at his word that the Russian interference is “serious” then why has he nothing to report to the House Judiciary Committee?

Because other items were more important? “We’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items.”   And what might these be?  A Muslim immigration ban?  A ban on recruiting transgender individuals in the US military?  I wish the Representative, or other Representatives, had ask what “other great agenda items?” And, why are these are more important than attempts to interfere in US elections?

Back to the bear in the pantry — The bear’s pantry raid wasn’t all that important because we’ve been busy replacing the carpeting in the living room.   There was an addendum to Attorney General Sessions’ comments:

“He added that states needed to review their election vulnerabilities, and that the FBI and intelligence community could play a key role in stopping hacking. He said he did not dispute the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. There’s no evidence that any votes were changed by hackers.

Federal and state officials have faced significant obstacles in trying to coordinate their response to election hacking. The Department of Homeland Security waited until this September to notify 21 states that Russian hackers had targeted them last year. Election officials in two of those states ― California and Wisconsin ― then turned around and accused the department of giving them bad information.”

There he goes again — the actual election returns weren’t rendered bogus, then there’s nothing to see here.  Or, no one starved so the pantry raid wasn’t important — but wait, the FBI and intelligence community COULD  “play a key role in stopping hacking.”   Could?

The FBI and intelligence community COULD assist states — but they didn’t notify 21 states until THIS September, and then two of the states got inaccurate information.  Nothing says “this isn’t a priority” quite like delaying important warnings for months and then not checking to see if the warning contents were accurate.

After the bear ate his fill from the family pantry …”we’d like to inform you that you had a bear in your pantry last Summer, but it could have been raccoons, and although the door frame was damaged, they could have gotten in through that back door, or maybe it was the window.”

As of this November:

“Most states’ elections officials still don’t have the security clearances necessary to have a thorough discussion with federal officials about what’s known about Russian, or others’, efforts to hack into their systems.

Seven states still use all-electronic voting systems whose results cannot be verified because there is no paper trail.

And hundreds of US counties rely on outside contractors to maintain their registration records and update the software on voting machines. Some of those contractors are small operations with few employees and minimal computer security skills.”

In other words — the back door frame still hasn’t been repaired, there’s still a batch of open cartons of food in the pantry, and back fence can be easily scaled by all but the most geriatric ursine intruder.

The bear will be back.  And if he had fun in the pantry, imagine how much fulfilling fun he’ll have in the kitchen?

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Focus on the issue, not the straw man in the corner

First, let me say I am utterly uninterested in re-litigating the 2016 election results. My attention to the Russian Connection(s) is based on my concern that the Russian government — read Vladimir Putin — sought to influence the trajectory and substance of American foreign policy such that it would align with Russian interests.

Russian national interests (elimination of sanctions for its actions in Ukraine, diminishing NATO support for the Baltic States, reintegrating Crimea within Russian borders, separating the interests of the United States and Germany, retaining the Assad Regime in Syria to secure its naval base) are not necessarily American interests.

Secondly, there is ample evidence that the Russians sought to influence the direction of US foreign policy.  If there was no coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, then why was Paul Manafort, a man with copious ties to Russian backed opponents of the Ukrainian government, hired as part of the campaign organization? What was the role of Carter Page in the campaign and its foreign policy pronouncements? Why did General Flynn lie to the vice-president about his discussions with members of Putin’s government? Our Commerce Secretary is tied to the Cyprus Bank and its connections to Russian money laundering.  And, now did Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions meet with the Russian ambassador on matters related to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, or did the agenda include aligning US policy with that of the Putin government?

And all the while the press reports the Oval Office incumbent said things like, “Russia is not going into Ukraine,” and trying to clean up this mess later when it was pointed out that Russia was in Ukraine — in Crimea. Further, the incumbent repeated his comments that ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we had better relations with Russia?’

The Obama Administration placed sanctions on Russia for (1) its activities in Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine where it is still supporting rebel forces, and (2) for its hacking of American political organizations and individuals — the DNC, etc.  I think we can agree that Russian arms and personnel shipments to eastern Ukraine are a violation of that nation’s sovereignty.  So, why has the current Oval Office been silent about Russian recognition of citizenship documents issued by Ukrainian rebel forces? Or, the continued military operations in eastern Ukraine?  If the administration is not aligning its foreign policy interests with those of the Putin government then it is doing a remarkable impersonation of precisely that.

The Russians perceive the expansion of NATO as a direct threat, what does the Oval Office say — we must require that all nations chip in more money to insure our support, leaving the Generals to clean up the mess and seek to alleviate the confusion on the part of our allies.  If this doesn’t align with Russian interests its hard to image what would.

The bottom line is that we need to focus on our national security, this isn’t selfish, it’s security.  We need to know if the current administration is compromised.  We need to know if the current administration is compromising American security interests.  We won’t be able to answer these questions if the Republicans are successful in driving the narrative as one of partisan politics informed by a reaction to election results.

The issues raised begin with Russian tampering in our election processes, but they don’t end there.  At issue is whether or not US foreign policy is focused on long term American interests, and is NOT predicated on promoting the interests of a hostile government.

Focus please.  The election result argument is a straw man. The “wouldn’t it be nice” argument is a straw man. The pontification upon whether specific laws were broken is a straw man.  The parsing of phrases in Senate hearings is a straw man. These subtopics are related to the essential issue but they should not be confused with it. Should these straw men take center stage, then it will be all the more difficult to discern IF American foreign policy is made based on OUR interests, or if American interests have been compromised.

We need an independent commission to investigate the possible compromising of American security interests, and the sooner the better.

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Sorry Nevada, No Trump Mall Walk For You?

Trump Soap Dish Mall Scene President-elect Mango Mess is taking a page out of the 1991 comedy “Soap Dish” in the form of a ‘victory tour’ – but only of the states he won.  So, no Mall Walk in the Silver State.   (If you haven’t seen, or don’t remember “Soap Dish,” try it. Okay, it doesn’t have all that many stars in the IMDB reviews – but I liked it, and if you’re in need of a bit of comedic relief right now, it’s a good movie for popcorn and relaxing.)

While the BLOTUS is taking his adulation tour and victory lap it might be well for him to remember (a) he lost the popular vote, and (b) there has never been a president of the United States of America who met with unadulterated adulation in the history of this benighted nation.  So, when the anti-Mango Mess signage comes out …

Recall, that calls for “give him a chance” lasted only a matter of days until he’d appointed a downright White Supremacist misogynist as his right hand man in the Oval Office.  That didn’t take long at all. Then he appointed a fringe lunatic conspiracy theorist anti-Muslim gadfly to his entourage. 

Recall, that he’s nominating Senator Jefferson (Davis) (General P.G.T.) Beauregard Session (R-AL) to be Attorney General – this nomination for a man who was declared  too racist to be a federal judge.

Recall, that no one has forgotten the whole Email Barrage leveled at Secretary Clinton while the Vice President Elect is fighting in court to keep his emails away from public scrutiny. Oh, the Irony!  And, by the way – What IS in those BLOTUS income tax returns that we aren’t supposed to see?

On the brighter side of the mall – I don’t expect the left side of the political spectrum to line up in lock step  opposition to the BLOTUS, but what I do expect is that opposition to the BLOTUS Agenda will be widespread and genuinely hostile.  For example, getting Democrats lined out is a bit like the old saw about transporting frogs in a wheelbarrow, but in this instance that may be a good thing.   Those whose special concern is environmental, plus those whose vital concerns are for civil and human rights, and those who are particularly sensitive to women’s issues, combined with those who see economic and consumer issues as primal, are all in opposition and the attacks will come on a variety of fronts simultaneously.  It should be interesting to see how BLOTUS responds.  More trips to the Mall?

As BLOTUS traipses through the Malls awaiting his recognition, it would be nice to see (1) reports that various and sundry organizations are planning “issue ad” campaigns.  Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife? Nature Conservancy? NAACP? Urban League? Planned Parenthood Action? Etc.  (2) reports that donors are making these issue ad campaigns possible.  (3) New organizations and coalitions are making informative commercials and message ads visible on TV screens nationwide.   A few “call your Congressman/woman” to “demand protection from predatory lenders,” would be welcome, as would advisories about protecting Americans from voter suppression strategies. 

Too bad it all comes down to money at some point, but we do need people to step up to support efforts by the AFL-CIO, Labor Organizations, Environmental organizations, Civil Rights organizations, consumer organizations, and women’s issue organizations, immigration organization (etc!) so that the dangers presented by a BLOTUS Administration can be publicized.  Might it be nice if for every young person who marches in opposition to BLOTUS, sign in hand, there were two older Americans, passed the marching stage, who can write a check or make a recurring donation to a progressive association or organization?

Think about it.  There’s no reason for every walk in the mall to be a walk in the park.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, racism, Republicans