By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/14/17)
Dear Fellow Reader,
Patrons Of The Arts – Russians Get Republican Assist
Over at Esquire, Charlie Pearce reports the news that Illinois is described as ‘Patient Zero’ with investigators able to watch hackers at work. President Barack Obama and the Department of Homeland Security tried to declare state election systems part of national infrastructure but this was shot down by Congressional Republicans and resisted by some states leaving the electoral system more exposed to the whims and wiles of Russian hackers. (This article is well worth reading in full.)
Russian top boss-of-bosses Vladimir Putin Says Hackers Are Like Artists “Who Wake Up in the Morning in a Good Mood and Start Painting”. We can expect any time now that the Republicans will begin calling themselves patrons of the arts.
Russians Hack Electoral Data In 39 States
Bloomberg reports that Russian hacking of the U.S. electoral system was far broader than originally reported with 39 states reporting intrusions. The attacks included an attempt to delete or alter voter data according to Illinois investigators. I hold this up with former FBI Director Comey’s testimony:
“They’re coming after America,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election. “They will be back.”
Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III Kinda’, Sorta’ Testifies Before Senate Intelligence Committee
Reporting Sessions’s testimony following Russian hacking news is deliberate; it’s a remarkable contrast to see what he said but mostly his testimony is about what he didn’t say. You can read all flavors of pundit opinions and specific remarks by Sessions from “an appalling and detestable lie” when pushed about possible personal collusion or a regular refrain of “do not recall” when pushed for any detail.
I do want to highlight Sessions’s confirmation of some of Comey’s testimony. Sessions agreed that Comey was left alone with Trump on February 14 after Trump asked all other attendees, including Sessions to leave the Oval Office. Even though Sessions agrees that justice department employees are not to discuss investigations with a president Sessions agreed to leave the room, leaving Trump and Comey alone. And Sessions remembers Comey expressing his concern to Sessions following this meeting. While Comey testified that Sesssions said nothing, Sessions remembers he “affirmed his concern that we should be following” Justice Department guidelines about such communications. One of the few details he remembered.
While Sessions Tries To Have It Both Ways The Conclusion Is Damning
I highlight this as an example of what is troubling about Sessions’s testimony. When he had the chance to help Comey, his employee, he did not. When Comey expressed concern after the fact Sessions will have us believe that he lectured Comey on protocol but Never Asked About The Actual Discussion.
Even more damning: in response to questions asked by Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Sessions said he believed the Russians hacked the U.S. election – but Never Once Asked About It! Sessions is the U.S. Attorney General, U.S. election infrastructure was attacked and yet Sessions TOOK NO ACTION to even inquire. Sessions even cited the media as his source – not the Justice Department, not the FBI, not government intelligence services, not briefings – the media. Sessions made no attempt to reconcile his own belief against his failure to act or Trump’s personal failure to even acknowledge Russians hacked the election.
Here’s an opinion offered in a Senate Intelligence hearing by Clint Watts, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He says that not only did hacking happen but that Trump and the Trump campaign used active Russian measures against opponents. Yet Sessions failed to investigate.
I Express My Personal Outrage With Sessions’ Failure To Protect Us
Against this backdrop of professional malpractice, Sessions managed to muster up his sputtering his personal outrage at the doubts and questions being asked about his performance and commitment to protecting the United States. Well, as a citizen, I express MY outrage against Sessions – he has done NOTHING while acknowledging we were and are at risk.
But this failure of personal responsibility was consistent. Sessions never reconciled Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. Sessions continues to squat by the Rosenstein memo while Trump publicly says he fired Comey for not dropping the Russia investigation.
Why did Sessions never push back on Russians in meetings? Sen. John McCain (R-Az) questioned this. Here’s part of the exchange:
Senator John McCain asks whether Sessions raised concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at his meetings with the Russians.
Sessions says he did. “It was a bit testy,” he allows.
McCain: Did you raise concerns about the Syrian president?
Sessions: I don’t recall.
McCain: About Russian interference with the election?
Sessions: I don’t recall.
McCain: Security issues? I don’t recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues.
Sessions is confused.
McCain: In other words, Russia-related security issues. Did you ever hold a hearing on these things or demonstrate interest in the area?
McCain is making the point that Sessions was not big into foreign relations, Russian bilateral relations and such.
Another damning set of answers came from questions put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin (D – WV). Again, in spite of all the information we have about meetings and communications between Trump campaign staff and Russian, here’s Sessions’ answers:
Manchin: Any other meetings with Russian officials?
Sessions: “I have wracked my brain and I do not believe so.”
Manchin: Any other meetings we should know about in the Trump campaign with Russians?
Sessions: “I don’t recall any.”
Manchin: What about these people:
Paul Manafort? “I don’t have any information that he had done so.”
Steve Bannon? “No information.”
Michael Flynn: “I don’t recall it.”
Reince Priebus: “I don’t recall.”
Stephen Miller: “I don’t recall.”
Corey Lewandowski. “I don’t recall haveing any of those individuals having any meeting with Russian officials.”
Carter Page: “I don’t know… I’m not sure. I don’t recall.”
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from American Oversight the US District Court has ordered Sessions to release his SF-86 security form which will show no reporting of his Russian meetings.
President George W. Bush was once described as ‘discurious’. Sessions is now the new poster child for discurious.
This is certainly not the end of needed testimony from Sessions.
Trump To Fire Mueller?
Much was made about an assertion by Christopher Ruddy, a personal friend of Trump, that Trump was considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
As is typical, Trump spokesbots refuted this, or said they couldn’t speak about rumors (spineless Paul Ryan). As usual, only 48 hours later the headlines changed and now the ‘thing’ that never happened and if it did not happen it is not illegal and the president is right is put to rest by Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
For now, the staff has prevailed. “While the president has every right to” fire Mr. Mueller, “he has no intention to do so,” the White House Sean ‘Spicy’ Spencer stand-in Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late Tuesday.
But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised.
It’s all about managing the President’s temperament. The headline alone is fantastical: ‘Trump’s biggest problem: He can’t be saved from himself’.
“It could trigger something well beyond anything they ever imagined,” Ruddy . “I think firing Mueller could trigger an impeachment process. It could be very dangerous. I don’t think it’d be very smart at all.”