What’s the Deal with Trump and Russia?
By Eugene Robinson / 01.06.2017
Washington Post Columnist
Coming from a presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s misty-eyed admiration of Russia and its autocratic leader was weird. Coming from a president-elect, it’s nothing short of alarming.
I repeat the questions I asked back in September: What’s the deal with Trump and Russia? Does he have financial entanglements with Russian banks, businesses or billionaires that color his views? If not, as he claims, then why won’t he release the personal and business tax returns that could put the matter to rest?
The latest sign of Trump’s infatuation is his refusal to accept the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russian state-sponsored hackers meddled in our election — a risky and provocative operation that could only have been authorized by Vladimir Putin.
“It could be somebody else,” Trump told reporters on New Year’s Eve. “And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.” The president-elect added that “I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove.”
It is unclear how Trump could know even a little about hacking, since he rarely uses computers. Aides reportedly must print out news articles for him to read. In my experience, experts on cybersecurity know how to use a web browser.
Trump is scheduled to receive a full briefing on the issue Friday from senior officials including FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. President Obama has seen the evidence — and was convinced enough to impose new sanctions against Russia as punishment.
When Putin decided not to reciprocate, given that Obama will soon leave office, Trump offered this glowing comment on Twitter: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!”
Trump has argued that since the CIA was in error about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it may well be wrong about Russian hacking. That’s ridiculous. It’s like saying that since Trump was wrong when he claimed early in the campaign to have seen thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11, everything he has said since may well be exaggerated, half-baked or a flat-out lie.
On second thought, maybe I should choose a different analogy.
One possible reason for Trump’s stubbornness is that intelligence officials believe the intent of the hacking was not merely to shake public confidence in the U.S. electoral process, but to help Trump win the election. The hacked material that was allowed to surface, mostly through WikiLeaks, contained embarrassing information about Democratic institutions and individuals, including the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Republicans were almost completely spared.
Perhaps believing that the legitimacy of his victory is being impugned, Trump is willing to take the founder of WikiLeaks — a fugitive from justice on sexual assault allegations — at his word. Trump tweeted Wednesday: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ — why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
Another possible explanation is that Trump is deliberately making a huge shift in U.S. foreign policy regarding the other two global superpowers. Not only has he been much more indulgent of Russia than recent presidents, he has also taken a much tougher and more confrontational line toward China. This smacks of 18th- and 19th-century balance-of-power statecraft, which became obsolete with the advent of modern weapons. Such machinations cannot be advisable in the nuclear age.
On New Year’s Eve, as Trump prepared to host a black-tie gala at his Mar-a-Lago estate, two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in meeting with front-line Ukrainian troops who are defending their country against Russian-backed military aggression. In 2014, Putin annexed Crimea by force. A few years earlier, he sent troops into the sovereign nation of Georgia.
Perhaps Trump doesn’t believe all of this is really happening. Maybe he doesn’t care.
The senators made clear they want tougher sanctions against Russia to punish its territorial ambitions and its outrageous attempt to influence our election. How to deal with Putin could be the first big foreign policy fight between the new president and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Perhaps McCain and his colleagues will get to the bottom of why Trump, who sounds like such a tough guy with regard to the rest of the world, is such a pussycat when it comes to Russia. Senate committees can issue wide-reaching subpoenas, and should.
U.S. Intercepts Capture Senior Russian Officials Celebrating Trump Win
By Joe Gandelman / 01.06.2017
Editor-in-Chief, The Moderate Voice
It apparently was a happy happy HAPPY time in the Kremlin when the votes were counted on U.S. election day. As President-elect Donald Trump continues to go on the Twitter offensive against U.S. intelligence agencies that insist Russians were behind hacking during the election, a new tidbit emerges: U.S. intelligence intercepted Russians celebrating “their” victory. The Washington Post:
Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.
The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.
Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of “actors” involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.
Those and other data points are at the heart of an unprecedented intelligence report being circulated in Washington this week that details the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and catalogues other cyber operations by Moscow against U.S. election systems over the past nine years.
The classified document, which officials said is over 50 pages, was delivered to President Obama on Thursday, and it is expected to be presented to Trump in New York on Friday by the nation’s top spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan.
Trump is responding the way he always does: by going on the attack and in effect trying to change the subject from the issue at hand (issue=evidence intelligence services have):
President-elect Donald J. Trump said in an interview Friday morning that the storm surrounding Russian hacking during the presidential campaign was a political witch hunt being carried out by his adversaries, who he said were embarrassed by their loss to him in the election last year.
Mr. Trump spoke to The New York Times by telephone three hours before he was set to be briefed by the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials about the Russian hacking of American political institutions. In the conversation, he repeatedly criticized the intense focus on Russia.
“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”
Given the president-elect’s skepticism about the intelligence community — particularly its conclusions about Russia — the Trump Tower briefing has taken on the tenor of a showdown between the president-elect and the intelligence agencies he has disparaged.
“The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on Nov. 8 and they also felt pretty good about what they did,” a senior U.S. official said.
But he didn’t stop there:
I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2017
Some reaction on Twitter:
Wikileaks echoes Donald Trump attacking leakers. This is getting so weird and disturbing. https://t.co/aG57m1aMyt
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) January 6, 2017
In 1 day, Trump was dissed by all 3 intelligence heads, dumped by former CIA director Woolsey, & thrown shade by former chair of jt. chiefs.
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) January 6, 2017
Nobody is accusing President-elect Trump of hostility to all intelligence gathering. He profited enormously from the work of Russian spies.
— David Frum (@davidfrum) January 5, 2017