Does anyone really think that without ALL the help Trump received from Russian hackers, fake news propagators, bots, the FBI and Wikileaks that he would have beat Hillary otherwise?
The past 10 days in the Trump administration have had more plot twists and hairpin turns than a Shonda Rhimes show during sweeps.
Donald Trump has gone from being Vladimir Putin’s biggest booster and fan to nearly bombing his troops on a Syrian airfield, all because the pictures of dead Syrian children after a sarin gas attack were too horrible for him (and his little girl Ivanka) to bear—or so he says. His former adviser Carter Page was revealed to have been recruited as an asset by Russian intelligence in 2013, and then monitored by a FISA warrant as a possible foreign agent in 2016. Paul Manafort has had to join former national security adviser Michael Flynn and register as a foreign agent.
At the same time, Trump’s claim that former national security adviser Susan Rice “broke the law” by unmasking the names of Trump officials that were incidentally collected during routine foreign surveillance has completely blown up, as both Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence committee who have studied the documents have stated that there was nothing “out of the ordinary.” Meanwhile Rep. Devin Nunes—like Attorney General Jeff Sessions before him—has recused himself from the ongoing investigation of Russian hacking and influence in our election.
It’s almost enough to completely lose track of what’s really going on.
Naturally, Page has proclaimed his complete innocence and ignorance of any of the allegations that have come out about him. And he was oh, so believable.
He wouldn’t admit whether or not he’s been contacted by the FBI, and he wouldn’t admit exactly who it was that brought him into the Trump campaign in the first place. He even claimed that he never met or had spoken to Paul Manafort. At first he claimed he never had any contact with anyone in the Russian government. But when it was revealed he’d spoken to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the RNC, he at first wouldn’t admit what was said, citing “confidentiality.” Now he says he only “exchanged a business card” with him and they spoke for less than 10 seconds.
“I said hello to him in passing, handed him my business card and never got a business card from him,” he said. “As I did for many ambassadors in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention.”
“Did you ever hear from the Russian ambassador again?” Herridge asked.
“Never. Not a word,” Page replied.
In the end he claims that the false information against him had far more of an impact on the election than any of the stolen information and cyber campaigning with bots and trolls did against Hillary Clinton, or in support of Donald Trump.
So there’s that then.
But this story goes far beyond what was revealed by WikiLeaks and then pushed through RT and Sputnik News with a mixture of embarrassing cherry-picked truths and outright lies, only to be ultimately repeated and amplified by Trump and his associates on the campaign trail, then boosted and promoted by 1,000 paid cyber trolls and their bots. There’s also the fact that the Russian government not only hacked the DNC, they also hacked the voter information files of nearly 20 states.
Hackers have targeted the voter registration systems of more than 20 states in recent months, a Homeland Security Department official said Friday.
The disclosure comes amid heightened concerns that foreign hackers might undermine voter confidence in the integrity of U.S. elections. Federal officials and many cybersecurity experts have said it would be nearly impossible for hackers to alter an election’s outcome because election systems are very decentralized and generally not connected to the internet.
The official who described detecting the hacker activity was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. It was unclear, the official said, whether the hackers were foreign or domestic, or what their motives might be. ABC News earlier reported that more than 20 states were targeted.
The FBI last month warned state officials of the need to improve their election security after hackers targeted systems in Illinois and Arizona. FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers this week that the agency is looking “very, very hard” at Russian hackers who may try to disrupt the U.S. election.
One has to wonder why exactly they would need to know which voters were located in which districts, unless they had plans to attempt to target specific vulnerable states and districts.
No one has said that Russia hacked our voting machines, but it seems very likely that they may have hacked the voters themselves.
For months now, there’s been a blur of speculation and information suggesting Russia was interfering in our presidential election. Early on, officials in the Obama administration figured that the objective was simply to undermine faith and confidence in the electoral process. But over the weekend, a new CIA assessment brought it all into focus: Russia turned to cyberspace to help Donald Trump win the election.
But Russia’s cyberventionism—its apparent proclivity for conducting interventionism via cyberspace—didn’t take the form of an attack we’d typically expect to see. There were no denial-of-service attacks on state election systems or website defacements like it conducted against Estonian and Georgiangovernments and political parties in 2007 and 2008, respectively. And despite a number of pre-election reports citing voting-machine vulnerabilities, anyone going in search of hacked precinct electoral computers is likely to come up empty-handed.
So how exactly did Russia hack the election? Well, it didn’t. It hacked us—the voters.
Why screw around with inefficient, resource-intensive brute force hacks on voting machines to flip ballots when you can simply convince voters to do it for you? In other words, by targeting voters’ decision-making processes instead of the machines that record their decisions, Russia could influence the election without breaking into a single electoral computer.
No one familiar with Russian operations is particularly surprised by this approach. It’s called information warfare, and its goal is to employ disinformation to manipulate a target population into making choices it might not otherwise make. I spent two decades as an information-warfare officer in the United States Navy, and it’s common knowledge in military and intelligence circles that deception, propaganda, and psychological operations are hallmarks of Russian doctrine. So on Sunday when Sen. Claire McCaskill called Russia’s intervention in the election “a form of warfare,” this is exactly what she meant.
How’d they do it? Basically, by doxxing the Democrats and unleashing fake news. Russia was behind the stories that dominated our headlines, both real and fabricated, for several weeks leading up to the election. In doing so, it bet that casting further doubt on Clinton’s honesty and character while also polluting the information environment with false stories would affect the decisions of enough voters to increase Trump’s chances. It wagered that in a close election, perhaps it could be the difference.
In light of the results, it’s easy to draw the conclusion there might be a connection between the hacking of the voter information files in various states and the open firewall at the DNC which was discovered by a Bernie Sanders staffer. That resulted in the Sanders campaign being locked out of the voter information database temporarily by the DNC, and prompted the Sanders campaign to threaten a lawsuit in December 2015.
Sen. Bernie Sanders‘s (I-Vt.) campaign manager said it would take the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to federal court Friday afternoon if it does not lift the suspension to the campaign’s voter database.“If the Democratic National Committee holds our data hostage … we will be in federal court this afternoon seeking relief,” said Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager. He added that the party had an “inappropriate reaction” to reports that a Sanders campaign staffer accessed Hillary Clinton voter data.The DNC suspended its access to the party’s voter database, which includes the Sanders campaign’s own data, after revelations that a campaign staffer obtained private data from rival Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
However after contacting DNC deputy communications director Eric Walker on this matter, he told me that this problem was the result of a software patch by third-party vendor NGP VAN, who handled the voter information. The interesting thing about this was the group that made this determination for them was the cyber security firm CrowdStrike.
“The forensic analysis conducted by the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike confirmed that the DNC’s initial findings, which were the basis of the temporary shutdown in December, were accurate. The audit confirmed that one campaign gained unauthorized access to the data of another, and the audit further confirmed that the results of those searches were saved within the system and that data was exported. Following the conclusion of the audit that confirmed the DNC’s original findings, the Sanders campaign withdrew its lawsuit.”
So because of their previous experience with CrowdStrike in December, the DNC chose to bring them back in when they began to receive indications of a potential breach—and it was CrowdStrike who first identified Russian intelligence agencies FSB and GRU as the guilty parties in the intrusion.
Again it should be noted that this occurred in the April/March time frame and that prior to the RNC (when Carter Page had his “10-second conversation” with Kiskyak, as well as meetings with J.D. Horton and A.G. Jeff Sessions which Sessions later lied about under oath), the only DNC information that had been released at that time was via DCLeaks.
It wasn’t until after the RNC concluded in July, just prior to the start of the DNC, that WikiLeaks began dropping far more sophisticated and readily searchable document dumps from what FSB and GRU had cobbled up from the DNC emails and internal files. It came just in time to force Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to step down and to reopen the still-seething wound between the DNC and the Sanders campaign. It was caused by a few bits of meaningless gossip that a few DNC staffers had engaged in, but from all indications were never a part of official DNC strategy.
It was almost as if the WikiLeaks dump was a reward for blocking the RNC platform plank about the Ukraine that was implemented by JD Horton—even though Manafort and everyone else lied about having done that for months.
The Trump campaign went out of its way to dramatically alter the Republican Party’s official position on Ukraine—against the wishes of GOP hawks and despite senior Trump aide Paul Manafort’s insistence that they weren’t involved.
The move, first reported by The Washington Post, alienated Republicans who have made up the party’s foreign policy base for decades, and indicates that the Trump campaign has a particular interest in Ukraine, where Manafort had previously worked for a pro-Putin leader.
Manafort said on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend that the change in language on Ukraine “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.”
But this account is contradicted by four sources in the room, both for and against the language.
Now months later we see the fallout from much of this. Instead of becoming close to the Kremlin and Putin, as Trump had repeatedly claimed he wanted to do, he decided to attack Syria in retaliation for their use of sarin gas on civilians. Meanwhile Russia has argued not only that they have “seen no evidence” that Assad had anything to do with the attack—even when their own troops are located at the same base. Instead, the theory has been floated that Trump’s attack was merely an attempt to distract from his own problem with Kremlin-gate.
Tomahawk missiles fired late Thursday by the U.S. Navy at a Syrian air base have put an end to the entire setup of the Russian-American relations of the Obama years. The U.S. has effectively turned the page on its de facto absence from the Syrian conflict and Russia’s stint as the only major world power willing to use force in the region
Russia’s first official reaction to the predawn strike was to condemn it as “an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.” President Donald Trump ordered the strikes under a “far-fetched pretext,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement
If Trump followed his own tune on Syria, he would have been compared to Obama. A significant portion of his current political base would have aligned with many Democrats in accusing the president of betraying weakness in the face of a murderous tyrant.
And not just a murderous tyrant but his cunning backer in Moscow. The Trump administration’s developing Russia problem would have made it practically impossible for the president to keep clear of Syria. Given the highly publicized and emotionally charged nature of the deadly gas attack, a failure to respond would have been immediately portrayed as a confirmation of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin.
The administration’s Russia story threatened to overshadow all policy initiatives the Trump team was pushing for. Putting an end to the story was clearly one of the major priorities of the U.S. administration.
Last but not least, Trump’s approval rating hit 36 percent last week, the lowest of any recorded president in his first year in office. As any Russian observer would confirm, we in Russia are tired of watching the Kremlin’s obsession with the president’s approval rates
Now Trump’s approval ratings are in the low 40 percent range, and rather than talking about Kremlin hacking, we’re now talking about how far apart Putin and Trump are from each other.
Incidentally, the sarin was something that the Russians had specifically committed to prevent by agreeing to guarantee the destruction of those weapons back when Obama went to Congress for authority to use force (and they rebuffed him). Obama then went to the UN to put an international agreement in place, which is certain far more than doing “nothing” in response to Syria crossing the Red Line.
Even after the sit down between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Putin, he proclaimed that Russia has “failed its responsibility to secure Syria’s chemical weapons” without ever mentioning who it was that arranged for them to have that responsibility in the first place—which was Obama and Susan Rice.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to play games.
They deny that they had any involvement in sarin deployment or in the election hacking. While they now admit it was “Russian hackers,” they don’t admit they were paid and directed by the Kremlin. Even after meeting with Tillerson for four hours, it appeared that the issue of the hacks didn’t even come up.
How does that happen?
They criticized Obama because he personally told Putin to “cut it out,” and yet when Tillerson gets the same chance, he says nothing about it? Wow.
We’re now at a stage where we have two sets of competing bullshit artists running most of the world—Trump on one side, Putin on the other. Both of them are full of it, and both of them are pretty much capable of doing just about anything. That ranges from murder in Putin’s case, to ordering a bombing based on false empathy for 70 victims (when he clearly didn’t care about a similar incident two years ago when there were 1,400 more victims of the exact same thing) in Trump’s case.
Methinks Donald doth cry the tears of a crocodile.
Perhaps we need to contrast all of this with the person that didn’t become president, just to gain some perspective.
At the 15:15 mark of this video, Secretary Hillary Clinton discusses the source of her falling out with Putin, which began with her criticism of the integrity of the elections that brought him back to power.
At 18:10 in the video, Nicholas Kristof asks Clinton whether she feels that a candidate who openly admitted—bragged and confessed, even—to sexually harassing women but ultimately won the the dominant percentage of the white female vote meant “misogyny won with a lot of female voters.” Clinton gave a fairly thoughtful and important answer.
I spend a lot of time [in my upcoming book] wrestling with this. I guess I’ve thought about it more than once. I don’t know that there is one answer, let’s be clear. I think that there are in any campaign, so many different cross-currents and events and some have greater impact than others. But it is fair to say, as you just did Nick, certainly misogyny played a role. That just has to be admitted.
Why, and what the underlying reason were, is something I’m trying to parse out myself. I would just say this: There is a constant struggle — and not just women, women and men — in a time of rapid change like the one we are living in now, between something that is different, and may hold out possible positive consequences and something that is familiar and something that is first, and foremost about security of what you have right now. And I think in this election there was a very real struggle between what is views as changed that is welcomed and exciting to so many Americans and changes that is worrisome and threatening to so many others. And you layer on the first women President over that, and I think some people — women included — had real problems.
Now It’s fair to say that President Obama, my husband, they also really struggled for white votes, for as many as they could get, so we have to do a better job in speaking to and with people who are on the downside of the change equation and wondering what do we have to offer, and why should they vote for us as oppose to — well, I don’t agree with him, not sure I really approve of him, but he looks like somebody whose been a President before. so why do I want to add more change or more potential anxiety to my life? We’re just gonna go and hope he does a little bit of what he says. And I think that’s where a lot of people are.
This is a fair point, but there was also a large amount of stagecraft at play.
The people behind the Kremlin campaign (in lockstep with Trump) were certainly doing everything they could to make Clinton appear the more “risky” choice—and in fact on the day that the Access Hollywood tape was released, WikiLeaks began dumping information on the Podesta emails just one hour later.
“On Oct. 7, the Access Hollywood tape comes out. One hour later, WikiLeaks starts dropping my emails,” Podesta told Chuck Todd on Dec. 18, 2016. “One could say that those things might not have been a coincidence.”
The Access Hollywood tape Podesta referenced showed Donald Trump making lewd comments about women during a 2005 interview. “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump tells interviewer Billy Bush. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
The tape was discovered and first published by the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold right around 4 p.m. ET on Oct. 7. Fahrenthold shared a link to his story on Twitter.
Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks revealed that it had received 50,000 of Podesta’s emails. It released 2,050 initially. It, too, shared the news via Twitter.
So yeah, that’s a pretty huge coincidence.
At 29:30 Kristof asks Clinton about the Russian hacks and her campaign, and she ultimately makes an even more important point.
This is a very fair question. We have spent a lot of time — “we”, the multitudinous we, most people who worked on the campaign, people who were interested observers — trying to piece it all together. There are lots of contributing factors as there would be to any big enterprise like this, I mean I basically started a $Billion start-up and ran it for 18 months. There are things we certainly could have done better, there are things I could have one better.
But I think that it is fair to say that the outside intervention, the combination of the Comey letter on Oct 28th, Wikileaks which I think played a much bigger role than I think many people understand yet, had the determinative effect.
Nate Silver, whom you know well, and was much more cautious throughout the election — still thought I was going to win — and his autopsy was that except for the Comey letter on Oct 28th, I would have won. So I think there are credible outside voices that I’m trying to bring together and analyze, because I think that for people who [will] read my book who are interested in this — the nearly 66 Million who voted for me — I want to give as clear and credible an explanation of these factors as I can. I don’t want to short-circuit it now, but certainly I and everybody around me have gone over and over and over, and have learned some lessons.
That gets me back to Russia in the sense that one of the lessons I think we’ve learned is that since they were successful in influencing voters, it’s different from interference with the actual voting machines, and there was some confusion with that, some people said that… but put that to one side. There are people who pursue that, but put that to one side.
It was really the weaponization of information, something that Putin has used inside Russia and outside Russia to great effect that we didn’t — and I’ll say this for myself — I didn’t fully understand how impactful that was. It created doubts in people, but then the Comey letter coming as it did just 10 days before the election really raised serious questions in a lot of people that I think, obviously, were unfounded but never the less happened. So I think there was a combination, and we’ve got to be really clear, Democrats, Republicans, whatever, what was done in that election, what was unprecedented, we have to be willing to say we can’t let that happen again.
I don’t want any Republican candidate to be subjected to what I was subjected to. I don’t want anybody running campaigns for the Republican party to have their communications stolen, which is what it was, it was a theft. It was a more effective theft even than Watergate, back in the day. So I want people to say, hey, we should have tough aggressive campaigning that goes with the territory, but we aren’t going to let somebody sitting in the Kremlin with 1000 agents, and bots and trolls and everybody else get mixed up in our elections. We need to end that, and make sure that it’s a bipartisan, American, commitment.
This is bigger than just this election. It’s not even about Clinton herself, as many other elections down-ticket (including Marco Rubio’s) were also hacked.
It’s about whether we can maintain the validity of our democratic system, because it has been under attack, it will be attacked again, and it will only survive if we stand up and defend it.
It’s important for us to understand how this was done and implemented in order to determine how we need to fight back.
Our democracy depends on it.
On the day I put together the first draft of this article the Guardian reported that GCHQ and other SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) services from Germany, Poland, Estonia and Australia had picked up incidental surveillance involving members of the Trump campaign and Russian Intelligence going back to 2015, and that they had gained concrete evidence that the these groups had cooperated and collaborated with each other.
A source close to the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and its ties to Russia says that there is now “specific concrete and corroborative evidence” that individuals within Trump’s immediate orbit coordinated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election.
The Guardian said on Thursday that the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been watching the Trump camp since late 2015, having noticed suspicious “interactions” between Trump associates and well-known Russian agents.
This was widely reported on that same day, but what I found even more interesting is what outlets like CNN didn’t report.
Washington (CNN) British and other European intelligence agencies intercepted communications between associates of Donald Trump and Russian officials and other Russian individuals during the campaign and passed on those communications to their US counterparts, US congressional and law enforcement and US and European intelligence sources tell CNN.The communications were captured during routine surveillance of Russian officials and other Russians known to western intelligence. British and European intelligence agencies, including GCHQ, the British intelligence agency responsible for communications surveillance, were not proactively targeting members of the Trump team but rather picked up these communications during what’s known as “incidental collection,” these sources tell CNN.
They only reported that their were contacts picked up by surveillance and that these contacts were not part of any directed spying by the Obama administration as Trump has wrongly claimed, (that information was first reported back in February so that aspect wasn’t even “News”) but they didn’t talk about the cooperation and collaboration between the Russian spies and the Trump team when we also know that the Russians were actively striving to impact our election to the benefit of Trump.
Admittedly most of the Guardian report isn’t about this aspect and mostly talks about how the U.S. intel services were tragically far behind the curve on this issue and it was a view that was only expressed by one source, but still it is rather stunning when someone, anyone, says this:
One source suggested the official investigation was making progress. “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said. “This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.
Three Days now after the Guardian report and we aren’t constantly buzzing about how now have concrete proof the Trump campaign used Russian intelligence to try and steal the election?
I find that pretty shocking because if we’re going to be able to protect future campaigns of any party from this type of full court cyber attack and online troll/bot influence campaign in the future we certainly need to make it clear that any domestic opposing campaign that knowingly and willfully collaborates with such an effort will suffer severe penalties under the full extent of the law.
The alarm bells should be screaming at us already. We can’t have this, it can’t be allowed and it must not stand. Heads have to roll. Period.
But exactly how long is that going to take as this information slow rolls it’s way through the “slow on the uptake” U.S. intel agencies and the apparently even slower FBI, House and Senate committees?