Russia Monitor: Beyond Anyone’s Expectation – The Political Crime Of The Century


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/26/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

The Political Crime Of The Century

The Russians hacked the election, Valdimir Putin directed the effort and the intent was to help Donald Trump and damage Hillary Clinton. As reported previously, the intrusion worked beyond anyone’s expectations – most likey even Putin’s.

I start with this because on Friday the Washington Post released a lengthy description of what transpired between August 2016 and January of 2017. There are two important narratives of this story: 1) the Obama administration was ineffectual in both stopping the interference and in retaliation for the interference, and, 2) the Trump administration is now of a mind that Russian hacking was NOT a HOAX as long as they believe they can make the ongoing narrative all about the Obama administration. For Trump the narrative is not that it was meant to benefit Trump, or about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, nor about the Trump denials and deflections to date. And certainly the narrative is NOT about Trump’s failure to investigate or take any steps to reduce ongoing threats to our election system.

Russian Hacking Is Not A Hoax … As Long The Blame Can Be Pinned on Obama

Trump now believes he can denounce Obama for failures while not attracting any attention to his own failures or his FLIP on the issue: Obama did IT, don’t worry about IT, just know that Obama is a bad guy. And as of Sunday Fox News seems to have adopted a new message: Trump did nothing illegal. Not a hoax, nothing illegal all Obama’s fault.

Just like Trump’s birther fake news, he made up the story, promoted it for years but once it finally was no longer useful he gave himself credit for finally putting the ‘issue’ to bed once and for all.

Putin Orders Russian Hacking To Benefit Trump And Damage Clinton

In early August 2016 CIA Director John Brennan alerted the White House that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an operation to defeat or at least damage Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump. The information was deemed to be so sensitive that the steps to inform followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid (from the same Washington Post article).

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

First Narrative – Obama Holds Fire: “We Choked”

The first narrative can be summarized by looking at what little happened after the election and the lack of retaliation against the Russians for such a grave act of aggression. In late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues — expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds in the United States — with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic.

“The punishment did not fit the crime,” said Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia for the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014. “Russia violated our sovereignty, meddling in one of our most sacred acts as a democracy — electing our president. The Kremlin should have paid a much higher price for that attack. And U.S. policymakers now — both in the White House and Congress — should consider new actions to deter future Russian interventions.”

The FBI was tracking a flurry of hacking activity against U.S. political parties, think tanks and other targets. Russia had gained entry to Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer systems in the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016, but the breaches did not become public until they were disclosed in a June 2016 report by The Washington Post.

It is important to note that upon transition, Obama handed Trump an entire battle plan for a cyber attack in retaliation; ready for launch and nothing happened. Just like Trump says he ignored former acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s warning about Michael Flynn – he didn’t believe her, didn’t trust her – before he fired her two days later. So sits the Russian cyber retaliation plan.

The Second Narrative: Trump – It’s A Hoax, Obama Should Have Stopped The Collusion

The second narrative, the allegations and denials of Trump Russian collusion, can pick up here. In parallel – in late July, Russian Ambassador Kislyak met with Trump campaign persons Carter Page, J.D.Gordon and Sen. Jeff Sessions, then representing the campaign. At the July Republican National convention Trump staff changed the GOP platform on Ukraine, softening any criticism of Russia after Russian annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. WikiLeaks published the Democratic National Committee emails. You’ll see a pattern with timing of events.

The Gang of Eight, a bi-partisan group of eight U.S. Senators – four Democrats and four Republicans, was briefed after Labor Day. It’s fair to treat the political reaction to the news as a third narrative.

Third Narrative: Do What Congress Does Best – Argue

In addition to steps to inform Congress, Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security security secretary began communicating with state officials – running into a wall of resistance. Reactions ranged from “neutral to negative”. This is very much a summary of the third narrative – reactions were partisan, there was no rallying to the fight – not by Congress and not by the affected states. News of an act of aggression by Russia that has been compared to an act of war resulted into partisan finger pointing and resistance to action. Nothing happened.

Key congressional members were assembled in early September and the responses were partisan as well. Dems were for telling the public. The GOP resisted. The stated basis for resistance was about confidence in the election. Dem reaction to the republican resistance: stunned immobility.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were “secure from attack.” The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers “would oppose any effort by the federal government” to encroach on the states’ authorities.

First public comments on the brewing crisis were made on October 7 in a three-paragraph statement. Direct references to Putin were edited out at McConnell’s insistence.

“The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” the statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

NOT A Coincidence, The Public Announcement Gets Buried

The statement was released to the public on October 7th at 3:30 p.m. ET, at 4 p.m. The Washington Post published a story about the Access Hollywood tapes.

At 4:30 p.m., one hour after the statement of threat to our election by the Russian government WikiLeaks published emails stolen from Hillary Clinton and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

“Where Democrats need to take responsibility,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who co-chairs the House Intelligence committee said, “is that we failed to persuade the country why they should care that a foreign power is meddling in our affairs.”

Schiff is right, the response was not proportional to the scale of the threat.


Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say

Time magazine ran this story the day ahead of the Washington Post article. The Russians probed the election databases of all 50 states. As I mentioned in my last column, there is an entire new line of investigation around how hacked data was used to affect the outcome of the election. While this may be a reassuring statement of no changes of votes this should not be so reassuring:

“That has not reassured some Hill leaders. “There’s no evidence they were able to affect the counting within the machines,” says the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. But, he added, “the effect on the election is quite a different matter.”

“The integrity of the entire system is in question,” says Bahar, “So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.””

The Trump administration has shown NO appetite for finding out what happened.

““If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?” the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, tells TIME. “That is a crux of the investigation.”

“Spokesmen for the House and Senate Intelligence committees declined to comment on the search for stolen data. No one contacted for this story said they had seen evidence that the stolen, private, data had actually made its way to the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee plans to seek testimony this summer from Brad Parscale, the digital director of the Trump campaign, CNN reported last week. Hill investigators in February asked the White House and law enforcement agencies to ensure that all materials relating to contacts between the Trump administration, transition team and campaign had with the Russians had been preserved. Parscale did not return messages requesting comment for this story. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, referred questions regarding the investigations to Trump’s legal team, which did not respond to requests for comment.

We will hear much more about Brad Parscale and his work for the Trump campaign. The investigation of stolen data and voter influence is now part of the broadened scope.

Parscale worked at the direction of Jared Kushner.

Putin Denied Meddling & The CIA Caught Him

The Russians hacked our election, Putin ordered the hacking and the intended consequence was to benefit Trump. Of course Putin denied Russian involvement.

One former CIA official likened the intelligence to the “holy grail,” a rare window directly into the plans and intentions of Putin, a former KGB operative who takes extraordinary precautions to protect himself from foreign surveillance. The intelligence was as raw as it was compelling, and it took other U.S. spy agencies months to reach consensus that Putin not only directed the interference but worked to defeat Clinton, a politician he disliked and suspected of fomenting internal Russian opposition.


Trump Jumps On Board – NOT A HOAX; Russians Meddled, Obama Did Nothing

Trump’s tweets have changed remarkably over the last few days but the message has not settled on (Trump tweet):

“Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?”

Trump is critical of Obama for not doing more.

Trump Works To Soften Russia Sanctions While Criticizing Obama

You can’t make his up. While the Trump message is “Obama did nothing”, which is only relevant IF something happened, the White House is working to soften Russia sanctions as passed by the Senate but not yet voted on by the House. As previously reported, the House has ‘discovered’ a procedural problem and a vote is not yet scheduled as efforts continue to soften the impact against Russia.

The Hoax message was a Hoax – fake news fake news. But pay no attention while we try to remove sanctions put in place in December, return the seized Russian spy facilities and work against proposed new sanctions to punish Russia for interfering in our election.

This is ‘Pay Attention To What I Say, Not What I Do.


Flipping An Election – Shockingly Few Jurisdictions, A Few Votes Would Do It

There are roughly 9,000 U.S. voting districts, some tout this ‘diversity’ as a form of protection against election hacking. I touched on this in my last column with the Senate Intelligence committee focus on technology and hacking. I will repeat this comment by Senator Angus King:

“A sophisticated actor could hack an election simply by focusing on certain counties,” said Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats. “I don’t think it works just to say it’s a big system and diversity will protect us.”

Are we safe? Was our election compromised?

Department of Homeland Security Assures No Votes Were Changed, No Audits Of Results

Maybe we’re Okay. But what if all you had to do was keep a few voters in a few high Democrat districts from voting?

“When you consider he only won by 77,000 votes in three swing states it seems a more heroic assumption to assume it didn’t effect the result than that it did. But then you have the fact that Guccifer 2.0 also hacked voter information from the DNC and this was disseminated out to Roger Stone, Florida GOP operative Alan Nevins, and likely many GOP operatives across the country. Indeed, despite Mike Pompeo’s tough talk about Wikileaks now, he lauded their hacked emails at the time.”

Dallas Under Seige

Did anything happen to limit voter participation on the day of the election?

Dallas is Blue. Forth Worth is Red.

Dallas was the only county in the immediate area that was a target. Surprisingly, the hackers did not go after actual votes to manipulate. Instead, they went after voter information to try and make it more difficult for people to vote.

As Dallas County voted in the presidential election, there were 17 unsuccessful attempts to penetrate the county’s election system. All of the attacks had IP addresses originating in Russia.

“The issue is not the voting machines,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. “The issue is the registration roles.”

So Something Happened In Dallas… A Single Instance? NO

Russian operatives hacked into the Florida headquarters of VR Systems, Inc., the vendor that sold them digital products to manage voter registrations.

A week before the election, the hackers sent emails using a VR Systems address to 122 state and local election officials across the country, inviting them to open an attachment wired with malicious software that spoofed “legitimate elections-related services,” the report said.

So what you say, it didn’t affect votes, right? Or did it?

Local officials consistently play down suspicions about the long lines at polling places on Election Day 2016 that led some discouraged voters in heavily Democratic Durham County, N.C., to leave without casting a ballot.

Minor glitches in the way new electronic poll books were put to use had simply gummed things up, according to local elections officials there. Elections Board Chairman William Brian Jr. assured Durham residents that “an extensive investigation” showed there was nothing to worry about with the county’s new registration software.

He was wrong.

Extra Credit

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder…

Meet another Sunny Isles, Florida Trump property resident. Oh – he’s important alright, and he’s Russian! And meet his Russian motorcycle gang.