By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (4/29/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
If there was a ranking for the president who is worse than the worst president in history it would be Trump. I’m not even going to look up the number, but he is now around 10,000 lies while in office. The thing about Trump, words fail, it’s impossible to adequately describe his deviancy.
Trump doesn’t just shade, misrepresent or exaggerate – he’s now in the class of Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones – full-on stories that have no bearing in fact. Here he is in Green Bay in the last few days telling a story to an adoring crowd about parents that decide the life-or-death fate of their child with their doctor after the birth of the child. After birth, the baby is “wrapped in a blanket” and then “the mother and the doctor decide whether to execute the baby.”
Trump’s lies may not even be the most dangerous part of his leadership even while presiding over a culture of lies and criminality with the likes of Trump aides and appointees Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Wilbur Ross, Steven Mnuchin, Ryan Zinke, David Bernhardt, Patrick Shanahan and on and on. A glaring danger is Trump’s unwillingness to admit to problems because of how they reflect on him – there are two blatant categories.
Trump refuses to acknowledge the increasing aggressiveness of white nationalists. Compare Trump’s willful denial to the actions of President Ulysses S. Grant who founded the Department of Justice in 1870 to combat a reign of terror by white supremacists in the South, especially the KKK. Grant’s confronting of white supremacists contributed to his reelection to a second term; will Trump’s unwillingness to confront a rising threat from white supremacists 150 years after reconstruction contribute to his reelection?
The second Trump blind spot is Trump-Russia. Trump cannot bring himself to admit that Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in the 2016 election to his benefit. This conclusion is well documented whether you want to reference the statements made by US intelligence agencies from January 2017 or Robert Mueller’s remarks in his report or the charging documents for his indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in July 2018 or his indictment against Russia’s Internet Research Agency in February 2018: For Russia, Unraveling US Democracy Was Just Another Day Job.
But the real risk with Trump’s refusal to admit Putin’s help is we have yet to fully assess what happened and early indications are the Russia sees Trump’s inaction as an invitation to interfere in our 2020 election. There are two threads here, more is now known about the extent to Russian hacking in the 2016 Florida election systems and the FBI is issuing warnings about Russian risk with interference for 2020: What Trump Won’t Admit: Russia Breached 2016 Election Computers & FBI Issues 2020 Russian Interference Warning.
The issue of how deeply Russia penetrated US election systems is ongoing, Russians Breached Florida County Computers Before 2016 Election, Mueller Report Says.
“In the months before the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s military intelligence agency penetrated computer systems in at least one Florida county government and planted malware in systems at a manufacturer of election equipment, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said on Russian interference in the election.
“The report did not cite any evidence that the breaches compromised election results in Florida or elsewhere, and said Mr. Mueller had left further investigation of the incidents to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.
“The disclosure of the suspected breach added to accounts of Russia’s systematic effort to access voter-registration rolls and other election systems outlined last year by American intelligence officials and .”
With no intent to embellish or overstate, it is frustrating to find new news of how far Russian hacking went after so many prior statements about limited effort or success though we are two and a-half-years past the election. Here is a statement from last week:
“The FBI will meet with Sen. and Gov. Ron DeSantis in the next few weeks to discuss the agency’s suspicion that Russians had hacked at least one county in Florida during the 2016 presidential election.”
Remember Sen. Rick Scott was Florida Gov. Rick Scott during the 2016 and 2018 elections. Scott used the issue of Russian hacking of election computers against then Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who lost in his 2018 reelection bid to Scott.
“When incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, made a similar assertion last year, Scott assailed him on the campaign trail, demanding proof and calling the comment “irresponsible.” Scott, a Republican and governor at the time, unseated Nelson in November.
“While Russian attempts to access county election offices in the 2016 election had been previously reported, state officials — including those who reported directly to Scott at the time — had maintained that none of the efforts were successful.”
Nelson has said his remarks prior to the 2018 elections were based on comments made to him by the ranking Senate Intelligence committee heads, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) though both have remained out of the news.
A bit of a tangent, but Sen. Burr was recently implicated with another example of Trump-Russia investigative gamesmanship: GOP Sen. Richard Burr Apparently Briefed White House On FBI’s Russia Probe, Mueller Report Says.
“Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, apparently provided the White House with information on the Russia investigation after a private briefing with then-FBI Director James Comey, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report.
“Within a week of Comey briefing the “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders about the FBI’s Russia probe in March 2017, Mueller wrote that then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn’s office was in contact with the North Carolina Republican “and appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation.””
It does not feel like a stretch to accuse Trump and Russpublicans of putting their political advantage ahead of truth finding and protection of our elections. Still feel this is an overstatement? F.B.I. Warns of Russian Interference in 2020 Race and Boosts Counterintelligence Operations.
‘The F.B.I. director warned anew on Friday about Russia’s continued meddling in American elections, calling it a “significant counterintelligence threat.” The bureau has shifted additional agents and analysts to shore up defenses against foreign interference, according to a senior F.B.I. official.
“The Trump administration has come to see that Russia’s influence operations have morphed into a persistent threat. The F.B.I., the intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security have made permanent the task forces they created to confront 2018 midterm election interference, senior American national security officials said.
““We recognize that our adversaries are going to keep adapting and upping their game,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said Friday in a speech in Washington, citing the presence of Russian intelligence officers in the United States and the Kremlin’s record of malign influence operations.
““So we are very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020,” he said in his remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations.”
Trump and our government seem to operate in parallel universes at times – occasionally to our benefit. Between ‘Fire and Fury’ and the Mueller report and much reporting in between we know that many times Trump’s White House personnel simply ignored his demands. At this point we know that former Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn not only refused Trump’s command to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, he resigned referring to “crazy shit”.
Of course Russpublicans are determined to rewrite history to protect Trump. Trump shill Sen. Lindsey Graham offered on Sunday that “he doesn’t care if President Donald Trump told then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller — the Mueller investigation is over”.
“It’s all theater — it doesn’t matter,” the South Carolina Republican told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan. “I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn — it’s what he did. The president never obstructed.”
“It doesn’t matter to you that the president is changing a version of events and some would say lying?” Brennan asked.”
Therein is the point. It is crazy shit, it is not over, Trump did obstruct the investigation, is guilty of obstruction, and Republicans want to just move on as if nothing happened, bending to Trump’s will and putting us at risk.
It’s like Trump firing former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen whose expertise was cybercrime because she wasn’t inhumane enough for mistreating legal immigrants are the border. Ignore a real crisis while creating a false-flag crisis based on whim and politics.
The Washington Post paperback edition of The Mueller Report includes an introduction co-authored by Rosalind Helderman who was also part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team for their coverage of Trump-Russia. She reminds us on page 14 that the FBI was sufficiently concerned by the conduct of Trump and his campaign staff that they opened a counter-intelligence investigation in July 2016. The New York Times wrote an excellent account of the origination of the investigation code-named Crossfire in May 2018.
For anyone thinking the Mueller Report ends the focus Trump-Russia I am afraid they will be disappointed. Mueller’s scope didn’t even include a counterintelligence component and while Trump crows about coup his own Department of Justice has a different view: FBI Director Wray Says Russia A ‘very significant counterintelligence threat’.
“Asked at the Council on Foreign Relations about Mueller’s characterization of Russian interference in 2016 as “sweeping and systematic,” Wray said that although “everybody has their own adjectives,” he agreed the threat is serious.
“Reiterating what officials have said in the past, Wray said, “we did not see in 2018 was any material effect on election infrastructure.” And while Wray said “enormous strides” have been made since 2016, the FBI director warned adversaries are going to “keep at it” and the intelligence community very much viewed the 2018 midterm elections as the “dress rehearsal” for 2020.”
A Nothing-Burger Versus An Ongoing Counterintelligence Threat
Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is quoted in the same article for his recent remarks that Russian interference was about a “few” FaceBook ads underscoring the gap between the official Trump line and the real world – a nothing-burger versus an ongoing counterintelligence threat.
A Wall to protect from exaggerated caravans while not building a (fire) wall against Russian election interference.
Meanwhile Trump stonewalls all Dem oversight: House Democrats Grapple With How To Respond To Trump’s Refusal To Cooperate With Investigations.
‘House Democrats are grappling with how to respond to President Trump’s blanket resistance to cooperating with their investigations — defiance that legal experts say could upend the nation’s fundamental principle of checks and balances.’
It’s a battle that’s been underway for 3 years whether we understood that the entire time or not. We may not have a victory until 2020, or we may not have a victory even then.