Tag Archives: Russian hackers

More Random Thoughts and Musings: Friday Fun Edition

Trump windsor

Now this is interesting.  Her Majesty decided on a nice BLUE outfit.  A nice Democratic blue ensemble.  The Independent has more.  Perhaps she didn’t get a laminated copy of his election map? Neither, apparently, did the Evening Standard’s estimated 250,000 London Protesters. Faux News was pleased to call them “rowdy.”  And then the indictments came down, just before Orange Foolious’s meeting for his performance review with Putin in Helsinki. Timing in indictments, as in the preparation of Pilau Rice, is important.

Meanwhile, the Russians remain “unapprehended” as the Chicago Tribune reports nearly half the children under the age of 5 separated from their parents remain apart from their families. The ACLU has called for the Misadministration to hand over information regarding reunifying children with their families.

House Republicans may want some separation from the Misadministration after their Strzokanalia (©@Karoli) proved to be a “terrible day for Republicans.”  Stephen Colbert has more. He usually does.

Today seems not the day to shut the TV machine down. Thus, there may (or may not) be more updates to this post as the Blimp Baby Flies, The Brits march, the Misadministration squirms, and GOP members of Congress muse about how to salvage their tattered party banner.  The Queen showed her ‘tea guests’ the exit in about 58 minutes…wishing we could do the same.

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Monitoring and Messaging: Russians Coming? They’re Already Here

Perhaps before we exchange “Hail to the Chief” with “Troika, from the Lt. Kije Suite,” it would be nice for the Oval Office oaf to consider giving his NSA the word to DO something about the current Russian interference problem:

While Rogers pushed back on the notion that the administration has done nothing to counter Russian interference, he acknowledged that the response so far—which has included sanctions passed by Congress—has been insufficient in deterring such behavior.  “They haven’t paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior,” Rogers said.

First, those sanctions passed by Congress on overwhelming (veto-proof) majorities, and signed into law (PL 115-44) last August 2nd, have not been implemented.  Not only have those sanctions not been enforced, the rationale borders on bizarre.

“So to recap, the head of America’s foreign intelligence agency (Pompeo) is suggesting Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn’t “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” But then the State Department announces that it doesn’t need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent?”  (January 30, 2018)

The administration’s insistence upon interpreting PL 115-44 as a “deterrent” rather than the punishment it was meant to be is reflected in Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) comments: “… the Administration announced that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act is deterring malicious Russian behavior and new sanctions will not be imposed at this time.”  And, he’s happy with that.  To which we might ask: Deterring What?  Both the NSA and the CIA are telling us the Russians are happily carrying on without a significant change in their nefarious behavior.

But the Treasury Department issued a list of possible Russian citizens who might be targeted — yes, and by all accounts the list was simply a compilation from Forbes Magazine’s list of rich Ruskies.  A high school student with a tablet could have produced this! In a couple of minutes.  Somehow this doesn’t inspire a surfeit of confidence on my part.

But wait, there’s more —

The Russians are also pleased to be violating the sanctions against North Korea. Their actions could be directly approved by Moscow or the product of profit keen oil dealers, or both, but either way the Russians have been ignoring maritime sanctions on oil.  Surely the administration in D.C. would have something to say about this?

On Friday, the Trump administration issued a new set of sanctions that aimed to crack down on North Korea’s ability to profit from maritime activities. The new sanctions targeted one person, 27 companies and 28 vessels located or registered in countries such as China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tanzania and Panama, among others. The sanctions did not target Russia. [Newsweek]

The “sanctions did not target Russia.”  It appears not only are we not imposing the sanctions enacted by Congress on Russia, we aren’t even imposing penalties on Russians for trading with North Korea.  However, at present Senator Heller seems content to “monitor” the situation.  At this juncture that could be tantamount to watching the bank robbers remove the safe deposit box contents in the hope they won’t take the loot out the door?

The administration’s various excuses for not only doing practically nothing about Russian interference, but doing even less to prevent further incursions, are becoming more tenuous by the day.   Those explanations make less sense than the constant barrage of tweets about witch hunts, and other aspersions cast at the investigation of any and all suggestions of Russian activities against the interests of the United States.  Each day passing offers both a challenge and a choice.

The challenge for Republicans in Congress is to maintain support for the White House without making the choice to be an enabler of extremely untoward conduct.

Senator Heller, and others of his party, are rapidly approaching the point at which their choice will serve to augment the attraction of their challengers.

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A Brief Reference Desk on Russian Interference Conspiracy

It no longer matters what the Twit in Chief thinks of the investigations into Russian interference in our election systems and institutions.  He’s staked his territory and if in a major tweet-tantrum this weekend he could not bring himself to say “Putin,” then that should tell us all we need to know.  However, at the risk of redundancy, I’d like to make a list of links to reports and information which concern the Russian conspiracy to sow discord and distrust in our democracy.

At Number One:  Please look through the Cardin Report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Here is the link to the press release summation of the report.  Here is a link to the full report (pdf).  There are also links related to the report at the press release page. Those are highly informative.

At Number Two:  Please read the US District Court for the District of Columbia versus 13 Russians and related corporations. (Also in pdf)  If anyone is not yet convinced the Russians were serious about attacking the United States, this indictment should be very educational.

At Number Three:  The Center for American Progress issued its report on election security in all 50 states. No state received an A grade. The report illustrates precisely why the current situation should be taken very seriously.  Please keep in mind that we are no longer speaking of “meddling” or ‘collusion,” but of an outright conspiracy to disrupt our elections.

At Number Four: The January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian interference into US elections. (pdf) This is the public version of a highly classified report, so it is missing a significant amount of specificity.  However, it is still useful as an early guide to the nature of the Russian’s conspiracy.

I believe these are the best public sources of information I’ve found to date regarding the Russian conspiracy and the US response or lack thereof.   I’d highly recommend a perusal of them to those who have not already done so.

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Now A Warning? Same Old News About Russian Interference Without Any New Response

No, it’s NOT okay.  Merely because it isn’t thought the Russians actually changed any voting results doesn’t mean things are hunky-dory for the 2018 elections.  Today’s ‘news’ is in reality old news.  Consider the following excerpts from times gone by:

September 22, 2016 – “Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff, ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, issue a joint statement declaring that based on information they received during congressional briefings, they believe that Russian intelligence agencies are carrying out a plan to interfere with the election. They call on Putin to order a halt to the activities.” [CNN]

September 29, 2016 –  “There have been hacking attempts on election systems in more than 20 states — far more than had been previously acknowledged — a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News on Thursday.  The “attempted intrusions” targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day and are not tied to the Internet.The DHS official described much of the activity as “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable.”  “We are absolutely concerned,” the DHS official said. “The concern is the ability to cause confusion and chaos.” [NBC]

Fast forward to 2017, and the story remains essentially the same, albeit with more details.  In September 2017 the Department of Homeland Security finally got around to officially notifying the states they’d been hacked.

“The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had “ownership” of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices.” [NPR]

Yes, it took ten months for the Department of Homeland Security to officially tell the states what was going on.  And now…. this is “news:”

February 7, 2018:  “The U.S. official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking says the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn’t talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”  [NBC]

Indeed, this isn’t coming as news to the 18 states that volunteered for the free cyber-hygiene scans offered by the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security in 2016.  However, a person would have to wonder what happened to the two states which refused the free scan offer, and why we keep getting what is at best a repetition of the same warnings issued at least a year ago.

And what has happened since November 2016? It would be far easier to track what has NOT been done.  For example, there has not been a single cabinet level meeting concerning the issue of Russian interference.  There has not been a single report issued by the current administration issued on the subject of Russian interference.  There has been nothing done by the current administration to implement the sanctions overwhelmingly enacted by the 115th Congress against the Russians for their interference — their continuing interference.  And yes, the Russians did in fact hack into some voter rolls. [TheHill] And yes, the Russians are still at it. [NYT]

How do we know this? Because CIA Director Mike Pompeo says he’s reasonably certain the Russians will meddle in the 2018 midterms. [BBC/Politico]  The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says we’re going to be a target in 2018 (and there’s probably nothing we can do about it.)’ [WashExam]

So once more it’s time to refer to the only comprehensive report on Russian interference issued from Washington so far — the Cardin Report:

“A Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff report released Wednesday and commissioned by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Committee’s ranking member, details Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country. The report comes one year after Senator Cardin introduced the Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, which served as the basis for the sanctions package signed into law last August, and makes a series of recommendations to adequately bolster U.S. and European defenses and counter the growing Kremlin threat to democratic institutions.”

It is well past time for the administration to take action.  One obvious suggestion would be for the administration to do something more efficacious than publishing a list of Forbes’ Richest Russians and apply additional sanctions as a response to continuing Russian interference in our political systems and institutions.  “Name and Shame” has obviously NOT stopped Russian efforts.  As the Cardin Report points out, the timidity of the US reaction to Russian activities as compared to actions taken by European nations has a source, in the White House:

“Despite the clear assaults on our democracy and our allies in Europe, the U.S. government still does not have a coherent, comprehensive, and coordinated approach to the Kremlin’s malign influence operations, either abroad or at home. Although the U.S. government has for years had a patchwork of offices and programs supporting independent journalism, cyber security, and the countering of disinformation, the lack of presidential leadership in addressing the threat Putin poses has hampered a strong U.S. response.”  [CardinReport pdf]

So, the British have publicly chastised the Russians for their meddling and have taken steps to secure their cyber-systems and election procedures.  The Germans upgraded the cooperation between the government and the campaigns, taken stronger measures against bots and trolls, and issued strong warnings of consequences for any additional Russian games.  The Spanish cracked down on Russian based organized crime groups, especially those seeking to use the country for money laundering.  The French took direct action to address cyber-hacking and smear campaigns.  The Nordic states have adopted a “whole society” approach to address Russian propaganda and cyber efforts. The Baltic states have employed public information campaigns, strengthened cyber-security systems, and reduced their energy dependence on Russian sources. [Cardin] If most of our western allies can take active measures to address Russian interference, the question remains — Why has the US done so little?  The Cardin Report conclusion that the lack of presidential leadership has not been helpful takes on more credibility.

There are some activities good old Average Americans can do to help rectify this situation.  (1) Get informed.  Read the Cardin Report.  (2) Evaluate the suggested steps the US could take to directly confront Russian interference. (3) Contact Senators and Representatives to let our lawmakers know that the public IS interested in Russian operations in the US.  (4) Contact those Representatives to tell them the American public (and their constituents in particular) insist the administration implement and enforce the sanctions enacted by Congress.

Perhaps there’s a sufficient number of phone calls, post cards, e-mails, and constituent meetings which will prevent the Russian Meddling from being an annual event in the American press, each time reminding us that nothing has been accomplished thus far to prevent Russian activities to sow discord, dissension, and advance the demolition of American political institutions.  We should not only hope so, but also work to make this happen.

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The Problem Of Focus: Viewing the Russian Interference Issue

At the risk of redundancy, please remember the findings and suggestions in the Cardin Report:

Putin’s Asymmetrical Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security,” finds that President Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the threat posed by the Russian government has hampered efforts to mobilize our government, strengthen our institutions, and work with our European allies to counter Putin’s interference in democracies abroad.

Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president, and without a strong U.S. response, institutions and elections here and throughout Europe will remain vulnerable to the Kremlin’s aggressive and sophisticated malign influence operations.

Notice the three elements incorporated in this introduction.  We haven’t mobilized our federal agencies into preventative action. We haven’t strengthened our political institutions to prevent further incursions from Russia.  Nor have we cooperated fully with European allies to prevent more interference.

The current occupant of the Oval Office and his apologists appear to define Russian meddling only in terms of electoral results, if the Russian interference didn’t cause any change in the voting returns then there was no big problem, and hence no sense of urgency in addressing the Russian bots, trolls, and other efforts.  There has been no cabinet level meeting to date during which the Russian Interference constituted a major agenda item.  Recall AG Jefferson B. Sessions’ statement last October:

“We’re not,” Sessions said, when asked by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., if the government is taking adequate action to prevent meddling in its elections. “The matter is so complex that for most of us we’re not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.”

Sessions said he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and may attempt to do so again. He said the Justice Department has been aggressively looking into the stealing of trade secrets in the private sector and noted that the FBI’s computer experts are also highly trained.

“Are we at the level we need to be yet? I don’t think so,” Sessions conceded.”

Sessions made the statement in mid-October 2017, if finger counting is correct that’s 8 months since the onset of the current administration. Nor has the Cyber-security page on the DoJ been updated since that date.  “Are we at the level we need to be yet?”  I don’t think so either.

The Department of Homeland Security also has a cyber-security component.  DHS describes its concerns:

“Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards. Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy, or threaten the delivery of essential services.”

The idea that the Russians might be profoundly interested in disrupting the delivery of essential electoral services doesn’t seem to have moved to the top of the department’s concerns, at least not to the point of making any special reference to those instances of interference.  There is a draft of a DHS publication on cyber-security efforts (pdf) available online for the purpose of public comment, published this month.  At this point let’s review the Cardin Report summation of the problem, and then read a portion of the DHS Draft Report on what might be the same subject.

Cardin Report: “Mr. Putin has thus made it a priority of his regime to attack the democracies of Europe and the United States and undermine the transatlantic alliance upon which Europe’s peace and prosperity have depended upon for over 70 years. He has used the security services, the media, public and private companies, organized criminal groups, and social and religious organizations to spread malicious disinformation, interfere in elections, fuel corruption, threaten energy security, and more.”

 DHS Draft 1-5-18: “Given the networked nature of the risks, real coordination is necessary to fully understand the problem and identify paths to solutions. While the information technology and communications sectors do actively work to understand security risks, sectors often are unable to coordinate well with other sectors. Even though some entities coordinate domestically or regionally, there are few global mechanisms to share information about threats, solutions, and their adoption and efficacy. In many cases, lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities has impeded collective action, resulting in security failures.”

At no point in the draft does one find any specific reference to interference in political institutions and operations.  A generous interpretation might be that political interference is included in the general category of infrastructure.

In short there’s not much in the DHS Draft which would offer any Nevada voter, of any stripe, comfort as to the security of our political institutions, or our election processes.  In fact, a quick reading of the draft leaves the impression that the issue of political cyber-security is left to the private sector, and market forces, whatever that might be.

Therefore, we’re back where we started, with a federal Executive Branch unable or unwilling or un-directed to develop specific guidelines or regulations toward preventing Russian interference in political matters and a market (Google, Facebook, Twitter) adrift and stumbling around what they may perceive as business and public relations pot holes on the road to prosperity.

“Russian trolls sought to steer Facebook users toward events, even protests, around contentious issues like immigration. In its response to Congress, published Thursday, Facebook elaborated that Kremlin-aligned agents created 129 events on 13 of its pages. Roughly 338,300 unique accounts viewed these events, while 25,800 accounts indicated they were interested and about 62,500 said they would attend. “We do not have data about the realization of these events,” Facebook explained.”

“Google, meanwhile, previously informed Congress that it had discovered that Russian agents spent about $4,700 on ads and launched 18 channels on YouTube, posting more than 1,100 videos that had been viewed about 309,000 times.”

“And Twitter told lawmakers at first that it found 2,752 accounts tied to the Russia-aligned Internet Research Agency. Last week, however, the company updated that estimate, noting that Russian trolls had more than 3,000 accounts — while Russian-based bots talking about election-related issues numbered more than 50,000.”  [Recode]

There does seem to be some movement from social media operations, however nothing in the draft appears to directly address any specific assistance to state and local governments trying to secure their election rolls, ballot security, and count integrity.  Not to put too fine a point to it, but the DHS draft reads like it was crafted by the Chamber of Commerce not law enforcement agencies.  A wide and highly generalized focus such as the one presented in the DHS draft doesn’t exactly offer much satisfaction to those voters seeking an answer to the problem: What are we doing about Russian interference?

PS: “The Departments are requesting comment, asking for further insight into the issues and goals raised by the report, as well as the proposed approach, current initiatives, and next steps. The draft will be finalized based on adjudication of received comments before submission to the President. The final report is due to the President on May 11, 2018.” <https://www.ntia.doc.gov/report/2018/report-president-enhancing-resilience-internet-and-communications-ecosystem-against&gt;

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The Russians Are Already Here: Contrasts and Comparisons

A peek at the past — Most people know that Japanese forces attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  The US entered World War II immediately.  President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his famous “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8th.  While most Americans recognize the first lines of the speech, it’s time to remind ourselves of Roosevelt’s remarks later in his brief address:

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.”

At the end of the war in 1945 there wasn’t much public appetite for additional war investigations, but Congress did act.  A resolution adopted on September 6, 1945 called for the formation of a joint committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack.  One of the results of the investigations and other efforts was the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, which among other things consolidated the military into the Department of Defense and established the Central Intelligence Agency.   In other words, after an attack on the US, we were capable of thorough investigations, even when public sentiment was divided on the results, identifying problems, and legislating proposed solutions.

On September 11, 2001 radical terrorists attacked targets in New York City, Washington, DC, and attempted a third attack thwarted by passengers.  The 9/11 Commission was established by PL 107-306 on November 2002.  The commission was independent, bipartisan, and directed to publish a full and complete account, and mandated to make recommendations to prevent future similar attacks on the US and its citizens.

These are two of the most commonly cited examples of US responses to attacks on the United States as people try to evaluate current attacks on our country and our responses to those assaults.  While these are useful markers, and excellent examples of our capacity for both action and self-reflection, they aren’t precisely analogous to present Russian attacks on American institutions. To repeat the obvious, the two major previous attacks were physical and highly visible. They were both ‘mechanical’ in the sense that the main elements of the attacks were either weapons or weaponized aircraft.

Notes about the present — By contrast, the Russian assault on US (and other western nations) is better seen as an extension of the Cold War between the US and the former USSR.  Any investigation of Russian activities must, of necessity, be broader than the more focused investigations of December 7th and September 11th.  It must also take into consideration the weaponized use of non-mechanical forms of assault.  It challenges our ability to reflect on the nature, extent, strategy, and tactics of the current attacks.

We have not responded all that well to this assault.   For one thing, the weapons used relied on our own strengths.  We have an open and engaged environment with constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and press.  This very environment was used to foment discord, and disinformation — and that was the point.

In January 2017 the US intelligence services released a public summary of their findings concerning Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Two of those findings should be especially concerning:

“In unequivocal language, the report pins responsibility for the election attack directly on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, ruling out the possibility that it was ordered by intelligence officials or simply carried out by Kremlin supporters.

 United States officials believe Mr. Putin wants to damage the image of American democracy to make it less attractive to Russians and their neighbors.”

In light of these remarkable conclusions, the US response has been equally remarkably tepid, partisan, and confused.

First, the current investigations of the matter are fragmented.  Instead of following the precedent of an independent commission (such as the 9/11 commission)  or even a bipartisan investigative panel (such as the Pearl Harbor committee) the Congress established a special counsel to investigate possible violations of US statutes, and relied on standard (and partisan) congressional committees to conduct a wider range of inquiries into the wider aspects of the Russian attacks.

Secondly, the partisan nature of the Congress has interfered with the efficient and efficacious collection of evidence and testimony in regard to the nature and scope of the Russian assault on our democracy.   Perhaps no committee has been such a signal example of what partisanship can do to an important investigation as the House Intelligence Committee.  The Senate Judiciary Committee’s efforts directed by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) are questionable:

“Grassley’s role in the congressional probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has perplexed and concerned members of his own party, Republican staffers on the committee told The Daily Beast.

The probe appears to have already missed one of its own deadlines. And rather than publicly needling potential Russian meddlers, Grassley has primarily used his bully pulpit to rip an opposition-research firm and the FBI.”

In short, Senator Grassley seems at present to be more concerned with casting doubt on a specific dossier and its origins than on conducting an independent investigation.   A reasonable person could easily conclude that the current Congress has failed to create an atmosphere in which the conclusions of its various panels will be accepted as credible by the general public.  Of all the failures of the 115th Congress, this may well be the one with the most lasting deleterious effect.

The Russians are here, and the 115th Congress has neither demonstrated its interest in focusing on specific problems and solutions as the Congress in 1945 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, nor the interest in exploring the nature, scope, and specifics of the attacks of September 11th.   Perhaps this is an example of the greatest danger posed by Putin’s assault on democratic institutions?

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Deflection, Distraction, and Destruction: Trump & the GOP

“…this is exactly what Trump does when he’s in trouble. He finds an enemy and punches as hard as he can.”  [WaPo]

Now, why is he in trouble? And,  what will happen today in Reno at the American Legion convention?  Additionally, who will be standing with the President at the closed to the public event?  The Nevada Independent, which if you’ve not already bookmarked you should, reports: (1) Adam Laxalt, Tea Party Darling will gleefully meet the President and has wrangled radical right wing VP Pence to his Basque food-fest; (2) Dean Heller, maybe not so much but then he won’t say — so what is new about the Heller rope-a-dope strategy? (3) Mark Amodei (R-NV2) showed up Tuesday and may have skedaddled? “A spokeswoman for Amodei did not respond to a follow up question as to whether or not the congressman would meet with Trump while the president is in Reno.” (4) Governor Sandoval appears to be adopting the Republican Gubernatorial Avoidance Strategy — meet him at the airport and then scamper off out of sight thereafter.  If the crowd is thinning, then why the Great Counter Punch?

What makes the President go into full attack mode?  What sends him off on tangents about white supremacy, statues of CSA ‘heroes,’ and “the Media?”  There’s a pattern, the deflection and distraction flare as the investigation of his connections to the Russians progress.

Why did he fire former FBI Director James Comey? Why was he upset with A.G. Jeff Sessions?  Why did he hammer Sen. Mitch McConnell? — Why the “profane shouting match?

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

What happened prior to August 9, 2017 that’s increased the need for deflection and distraction?

On August 1, 2017 PBS reported that the President dictated the message delivered by his son concerning the meeting at Trump Tower during the campaign with a small host of Russians who were very interested in “adoptions” (read: getting rid of the Magnitsky Act sanctions.)  The President’s assertions that the investigation is fake news and a witch hunt cracks a bit when it’s known that HE was aware of the trouble his son was in for taking and arranging that meeting.  On August 3, 2017 the President grudgingly signed the new Russian sanctions bill dictated by Congress. No fanfare, no ceremony, and two explanations or signing statements.  That was the same day the Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke out in support of the Grand Jury, and Mr. Mueller’s continuing investigation of all matters related to Russian interference, and thereafter was rewarded by a “tweet storm” of abuse from the President, reported on August 7th.  The Special Counsel investigators raided the home of former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort on August 9.  They were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, and since they didn’t merely ask Manafort’s legal team for them we can safely assume Mr. Manafort was (a) not as cooperative as his press comments made him out to be, and (b) in possession of things he might very well want to destroy before they landed in Mr. Mueller’s hands.

Events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 and 13, 2017 intervened to capture public attention as Neo-Nazis and white supremacists took center stage, and as the President waffled about who might have been “responsible.”  Presidential commentary about “history” and “heritage” as if they are synonymous deflected and distracted from the continuing Russia probe.

Fast forward to August 22, 2017 on which it is revealed that the “Trump Dossier” re-emerges into the public consciousness.  Spokespersons for the President have tagged the dossier as “unsubstantiated,” “debunked,” or “unproven” as a general matter, without noting that individual contentions within the document are still under investigation.  The president of the company underwriting the dossier has now spent an entire working day with the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.    Interestingly enough, the President chose to spend a significant amount of his time during a campaign rally in Phoenix on August 22nd railing about “fake news” and the “unfair media.”

Those dismissing the dossier as “debunked” may be a bit premature.  The origin of the dossier investigation lies within the “never Trump” wing of the GOP, and after Trump secured the GOP nomination the Clinton Campaign was interested in the contents.  For a “debunked” piece of investigation it’s certainly had an impact, and the FBI now has information from the author about his sources, again as of August 22nd.  If some of the allegations in the Steele Dossier can be sourced, investigated, and substantiated, then the generalized “debunking” portion of the President’s defense can start to crack.  And, we wonder why he spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing the media on the evening of August 22, 2017?  Deflection and Distraction?

Perhaps now this paragraph concerning the cracks reported by the New York Times in the McConnell/Trump relationship makes more sense:

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Why would the President become “more animated” about Senator McConnell’s purported failure to “protect” him?  Does the President demand Senator McConnell “protect” the President from the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Protect him from What?  Destruction?  The gamble for Republicans — from reluctant Senator Heller to enthusiastic Adam Laxalt — is whether to hitch their political futures to the distraction/deflection tactics of the current administration or cut loose and hope he doesn’t lead them to destruction.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans