Sky News Published on Sep 7, 2017 SUBSCRIBED 640K SUBSCRIBE SUBSCRIBED UNSUBSCRIBE Sky’s Cordelia Lynch investigates the expanding scope of investigations into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government, and asks whether the scandal could bring about the downfall of the US President.
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Aug 8, 2017 – Retired CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman says Russia intended for Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russians to be discovered.www.harrywalker.com/speakers/daniel-hoffman
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Jul 28, 2017 – By DANIEL HOFFMAN JULY 28, 2017 … career, including with the C.I.A., observing Soviet, and then Russian, intelligence operations. I came to …
(CNN) – When Russia sent its bombers flying over the Korean Peninsula last week, it was as much a signal to its allies in Beijing as it was a telegraph to Washington that Moscow too, was pivoting to Asia.
The Kremlin may not become Pyongyang’s most steadfast and critical defender in this newest conflagration, but its cameo in the region is another attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to insert himself into a geo-political stalemate involving the U.S.
Experts say it may also help deflect attention from upcoming military exercises in Belarus and western Russia next month, which have upset NATO members concerned about what amounts to a mass buildup of Russian troops on the edges of eastern Europe.
China, which sent bombers into the air itself shortly after, declined to comment about the show of force from Moscow. In its regular press briefing on Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it would not “quantify how close China and Russia are cooperating on the North Korean nuclear issue,” said Hua Chunying, a ministry spokeswoman.
“Just like China, Russia plays a pivotal role in maintaining global peace and stability as well as promoting peaceful solutions to hotspot issues in the region,” Hua said. “China is willing to strengthen its cooperation and coordination with Russia to jointly preserve peace and stability in the region and around the world.”
Both countries were quick to condemn North Korea’s latest boast Sunday, the successful testing of its most powerful hydrogen bomb yet.
In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for all parties to “immediately return to dialogue,” reaffirming its “readiness for joint efforts in this direction, including in the context of the implementation of the Russian-Chinese road map.”
The real trouble maker
If China is perturbed by its once-dominant Communist partner seeking to commandeer more influence in the region, it’s not outwardly displaying those concerns.
“I think China is confident that its economic development, its military development, takes place at a faster pace than Russia, so in the long run Russia is in no position to seriously challenge Chinese core interests,” said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. “There are certain elements of competition between the two countries, but their shared concerns about the U.S. very much outweigh that right now.”
Both Moscow and Beijing “share the basic perception of who is the real trouble maker and who is the biggest common threat in the Korean Peninsula,” Tong told CNN.
That trouble maker, he said, is the United States, and more specifically, the occupant in the White House.
“Secretary (Rex) Tillerson says he wants to do diplomacy before considering other options but the rhetoric from other people in the White House — (U.S. President Donald) Trump tweeting that talking is not the answer, I think from the Chinese perspective the U.S. is still considering a military option so that doesn’t reassure leaders in North Korea or China,” Tong said.
Every action Pyongyang takes, said Tong, could be construed by Beijing and Moscow as a reaction to Trump’s escalated posture.
Putin appeared to reiterate this on Thursday when he called attempts to get the regime of Kim Jong Un to cease its nuclear program “a dead-end road.”
“Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile,” Putin said in an article released by the Kremlin. “Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road.”
Russia has recently been making inroads to counter China’s perceived clout with North Korea. Overtures include Russia’s forgiveness of Soviet-era debt, of which $10 billion due from Pyongyang was written off by the Kremlin. Moscow is one of the largest donors of food aid to North Korea, and alongside Beijing, was recently hit with U.S. Treasury sanctions for selling oil to the North Korean regime.
This is all intentional, says Samuel Ramani, a Russian foreign policy specialist.
“As Russia takes an increasingly assertive approach to world affairs, it reminds its citizens of the Soviet Union’s status as a superpower that could influence conflicts worldwide,” Ramani wrote in the Washington Post in late July. “In this respect, Russia’s increased attention to North Korea is much like its military intervention in Syria and its expanded diplomatic presence in Libya and Afghanistan. Moscow is trying once again to project itself as a global power.”
Old rivalry reignites
The jostling between the two powers over North Korea has decades-long historical roots.
“To an extent it began when China and Russia became competitors for influence in the Communist world, they fought border battles in the late 1960s,” said Carl Schuster, retired Navy captain and now adjunct professor at Hawaii Pacific University.
Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, was a guerilla leader who became a major in the Soviet Red Army and served in it until the end of World War II. Upon his return to Korea after 26 years in exile, the Soviets installed him as head of the Korean Communist Party. With their help he built up an army and air force, then declared the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948.
“Russia had the greater advantage, they had much more influence in the region,” Schuster recalled. “When the Berlin Wall came down, Russia became very poor and China came to dominate.”
Over the last 25 years Russia had virtually no ability to sway Pyongyang; it wasn’t able to provide technological support or invest significantly in North Korean industry. Now, Schuster says, “Putin sees an opportunity to increase his influence, probably not by much, but it would be better than what he has, and it distracts America.”
Whatever little sway he may obtain, that, coupled with China’s own shaky standing with North Korea, highlights the possibility that neither power enjoys particularly friendly relations with the isolated regime.
“There is a profound sense of mistrust at the basis of the relationship North Korea has with China and even with Russia,” said James Person, an expert on Korea at the Wilson Center. “There’s a perception particularly with China that Beijing has been overly interventionist over the years and not respectful of Korean sovereignty.”
China and Russia both share a border with North Korea, a demarcation that has shifted over time as territorial disputes were resolved, and one that each of them jealously guards.
Person said that China’s determination to establish regional hegemony, or a “zone of deference” which takes in North Korea has created confusion among Western observers about China’s capacity to rein Pyongyang in. “People in Washington, including President Trump, believe China can just pick up the phone and solve the problem but because of this tortured history of relations they don’t have the ability to exercise at will political influence over North Korea.”
Moreover, there is risk in China’s chastising North Korea any further, something that has been compounded by statements as far back as May in which the North Korean state-run news agency publicly rebuked China for banning coal imports from North Korea after a February missile test.
The North Korean statements warned China of “grave consequences,” and said Beijing should “no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience.”
“The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is,” the commentary declared.
Yet China chooses to endure this apparent belligerence. Beijing will always prefer the current leadership in Pyongyang to any that might follow should the Kim dynasty fall, says Person.
“I think they would rather deal with the current North Korean regime with nuclear weapons than they would with a basically reunified Korea that places a U.S. treaty ally at the Chinese doorstep,” he said.
Moscow’s own relationship with Washington becomes more fraught each day. On Thursday, Trump’s administration announced it would shut down Russian diplomatic missions in U.S. cities, seemingly in response to an order from the Russian Foreign Ministry in July for Washington to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by nearly half.
Both Moscow and Beijing seek to keep the U.S. at bay to protect their own interests in the area, something Person says the U.S. could use to its advantage if it can quell North Korea’s panic and pursue diplomacy again. Even now, he said, there are “talks about talks” that could lead to a de-escalation. But that choice belongs with Trump.
“The important thing is, the U.S. has to recognize that only it has the ability to give Pyongyang what it wants,” Person said. “Yes, China is important in the region, but let’s not outsource to China anymore, especially given the fact that China is trying to reassert this hegemony in the region. By outsourcing our North Korea policy to China, we’re only abetting them in doing this.”
The U.S. must also contend with the notion that Moscow too will embrace a larger role.
“Russia wants to be, and be seen as, a great power. It wants to lead the nations that resist Western power and influence. In defying the United Nations and supporting North Korea, Russia bolsters that status at home and abroad,” Ramani says. “And so Moscow’s alignment with North Korea will likely get stronger in the near future.”
Any North Korea threat will bring ‘massive military response,’ Mattis says
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Russia probes kick into high gear
The congressional Russia investigations are entering a new and more serious phase as lawmakers return from the August recess amid fresh revelations about contacts between theTrump campaign and Russia. In the coming weeks, both intelligence …
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Top House Intelligence Committee member: Trump is being ‘dishonest’ about Russia ties
Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Sunday that President Donald Trump is misleading investigators and the public about his ties to Russia. Schiff made the remarks when CNN’s Dana Bash asked him about …
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Can America handle the truth of the tarnished 2016 election?
Then, something remarkable — unprecedented, really — took place. The nation’s highest court decided to launch a thorough investigation of what really happened on Election Day. What the justices eventually uncovered was shocking — a scheme to change …
Chicago Tribune–Sep 1, 2017
International–Daily Nation–4 hours ago
Opinion–New York Times–12 hours ago
In-Depth–Washington Post–Sep 1, 2017
International–The Standard–1 hour ago
the use of computer technology to disrupt the activities of a state or organization, especially the deliberate attacking of information systems for strategic or military purposes.“cyberwar is asymmetric, which means it benefits lesser military powers as much as military goliaths”
But months later, for Ms. Greenhalgh, other election security experts and some state officials, questions still linger about what happened that day in Durham as well as other counties in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona.
After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.
The assaults on the vast back-end election apparatus — voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, e-poll books and other equipment — have received far less attention than other aspects of the Russian interference, such as the hacking of Democratic emails and spreading of false or damaging information about Mrs. Clinton. Yet the hacking of electoral systems was more extensive than previously disclosed, The New York Times found.
Beyond VR Systems, hackers breached at least two other providers of critical election services well ahead of the 2016 voting, said current and former intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. The officials would not disclose the names of the companies.
Intelligence officials in January reassured Americans that there was no indication that Russian hackers had altered the vote count on Election Day, the bottom-line outcome. But the assurances stopped there.
Government officials said that they intentionally did not address the security of the back-end election systems, whose disruption could prevent voters from even casting ballots.
That’s partly because states control elections; they have fewer resources than the federal government but have long been loath to allow even cursory federal intrusions into the voting process.
That, along with legal constraints on intelligence agencies’ involvement in domestic issues, has hobbled any broad examination of Russian efforts to compromise American election systems. Those attempts include combing through voter databases, scanning for vulnerabilities or seeking to alter data, which have been identified in multiple states. Current congressional inquiries and the special counsel’s Russia investigation have not focused on the matter.
“We don’t know if any of the problems were an accident, or the random problems you get with computer systems, or whether it was a local hacker, or actual malfeasance by a sovereign nation-state,” said Michael Daniel, who served as the cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama White House. “If you really want to know what happened, you’d have to do a lot of forensics, a lot of research and investigation, and you may not find out even then.”
In interviews, academic and private election security experts acknowledged the challenges of such diagnostics but argued that the effort is necessary. They warned about what could come, perhaps as soon as next year’s midterm elections, if the existing mix of outdated voting equipment, haphazard election-verification procedures and array of outside vendors is not improved to build an effective defense against Russian or other hackers.
In Durham, a local firm with limited digital forensics or software engineering expertise produced a confidential report, much of it involving interviews with poll workers, on the county’s election problems. The report was obtained by The Times, and election technology specialists who reviewed it at the Times’ request said the firm had not conducted any malware analysis or checked to see if any of the e-poll book software was altered, adding that the report produced more questions than answers.
Neither VR Systems — which operates in seven states beyond North Carolina — nor local officials were warned before Election Day that Russian hackers could have compromised their software. After problems arose, Durham County rebuffed help from the Department of Homeland Security and Free & Fair, a team of digital election-forensics experts who volunteered to conduct a free autopsy. The same was true elsewhere across the country.
“I always got stonewalled,” said Joe Kiniry, the chief executive and chief scientist at Free & Fair.
Still, some of the incidents reported in North Carolina occur in every election, said Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on election administration.
“Election officials and advocates and reporters who were watching most closely came away saying this was an amazingly quiet election,” he said, playing down the notion of tampering. He added, though, that the problems in Durham and elsewhere raise questions about the auditing of e-poll books and security of small election vendors.
Ms. Greenhalgh shares those concerns. “We still don’t know if Russian hackers did this,” she said about what happened in North Carolina. “But we still don’t know that they didn’t.”
Disorder at the Polls
North Carolina went for Donald J. Trump in a close election. But in Durham County, Hillary Clinton won 78 percent of the 156,000 votes, winning by a larger margin than President Barack Obama had against Mitt Romney four years earlier.
While only a fraction of voters were turned away because of the e-poll book difficulties — more than half of the county cast their ballots days earlier — plenty of others were affected when the state mandated that the entire county revert to paper rolls on Election Day. People steamed as everything slowed. Voters gave up and left polling places in droves — there’s no way of knowing the numbers, but they include more than a hundred North Carolina Central University students facing four-hour delays.
At a call center operated by the monitoring group Election Protection, Ms. Greenhalgh was fielding technical complaints from voters in Mississippi, Texas and North Carolina. Only a handful came from the first two states.
Her account of the troubles matches complaints logged in the Election Incident Reporting System, a tracking tool created by nonprofit groups. As the problems mounted, The Charlotte Observer reported that Durham’s e-poll book vendor was Florida-based VR Systems, which Ms. Greenhalgh knew from a CNN report had been hacked earlier by Russians. “Chills went through my spine,” she recalled.
The vendor does not make the touch-screen equipment used to cast or tally votes and does not manage county data. But without the information needed to verify voters’ identities and eligibility, which county officials load onto VR’s poll books, voters cannot cast ballots at all.
Details of the breach did not emerge until June, in a classified National Security Agency report leaked to The Intercept, a national security news site. That report found that hackers from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., had penetrated the company’s computer systems as early as August 2016, then sent “spear-phishing” emails from a fake VR Systems account to 122 state and local election jurisdictions. The emails sought to trick election officials into downloading malicious software to take over their computers.
The N.S.A. analysis did not say whether the hackers had sabotaged voter data. “It is unknown,” the agency concluded, whether Russian phishing “successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accessed.”
VR Systems’ chief operating officer, Ben Martin, said he did not believe Russian hackers were successful. He acknowledged that the vendor was a “juicy target,” given that its systems are used in battleground states including North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. But he said that the company blocked access from its systems to local databases, and employs security protocols to bar intruders and digital triggers that sound alerts if its software is manipulated.
On Election Day, as the e-poll book problems continued, Ms. Greenhalgh urged an Election Protection colleague in North Carolina to warn the state Board of Elections of a cyberattack and suggest that it call in the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security. In an email, she also warned a Homeland Security election specialist of the problems. Later, the specialist told her Durham County had rejected the agency’s help.
When Ms. Greenhalgh, who works at Verified Voting, a nonprofit dedicated to election integrity, followed up with the North Carolina colleague, he reported that state officials said they would not require federal help.
“He said: ‘The state does not view this as a problem. There’s nothing we can do, so we’ve moved on to other things,’” Ms. Greenhalgh recalled. “Meanwhile, I’m thinking, ‘What could be more important to move on to?’”
An Interference Campaign
The idea of subverting the American vote by hacking election systems is not new. In an assessment of Russian cyberattacks released in January, intelligence agencies said Kremlin spy services had been collecting information on election processes, technology and equipment in the United States since early 2014.
The Russians shied away from measures that might alter the “tallying” of votes, the report added, a conclusion drawn from American spying and intercepts of Russian officials’ communications and an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the current and former government officials.
The most obvious way to rig an election — controlling hundreds or thousands of decentralized voting machines — is also the most difficult. During a conference of computer hackers last month in Las Vegas, participants had direct access and quickly took over more than 30 voting machines. But remotely infiltrating machines of different makes and models and then covertly changing the vote count is far more challenging.
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Beginning in 2015, the American officials said, Russian hackers focused instead on other internet-accessible targets: computers at the Democratic National Committee, state and local voter databases, election websites, e-poll book vendors and other back-end election services.
Apart from the Russian influence campaign intended to undermine Mrs. Clinton and other Democratic officials, the impact of the quieter Russian hacking efforts at the state and county level has not been widely studied. Federal officials have been so tight-lipped that not even many election officials in the 21 states the hackers assaulted know whether their systems were compromised, in part because they have not been granted security clearances to examine the classified evidence.
The January intelligence assessment implied that the Russian hackers had achieved broader access than has been assumed. Without elaborating, the report said the Russians had “obtained and maintained access to multiple U.S. state and local election boards.”
Two previously acknowledged strikes in June 2016 hint at Russian ambitions. In Arizona, Russian hackers successfully stole a username and password for an election official in Gila County. And in Illinois, Russian hackers inserted a malicious program into the Illinois State Board of Elections’ database. According to Ken Menzel, the board’s general counsel, the program tried unsuccessfully “to alter things other than voter data” — he declined to be more specific — and managed to illegally download registration files for 90,000 voters before being detected.
On Election Day last year, a number of counties reported problems similar to those in Durham. In North Carolina, e-poll book incidents occurred in the counties that are home to the state’s largest cities, including Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Charlotte. Three of Virginia’s most populous counties — Prince William, Loudoun, and Henrico — as well as Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, and Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, also reported difficulties. All were attributed to software glitches.
Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, argued for more scrutiny of suspicious incidents. “We must harden our cyber defenses, and thoroughly educate the American public about the danger posed” by attacks,” he said in an email. “In other words: we are not making our elections any safer by withholding information about the scope and scale of the threat.”
In Durham County, officials have rejected any notion that an intruder sought to alter the election outcome. “We do not believe, and evidence does not suggest, that hacking occurred on Election Day,” Derek Bowens, the election director, said in a recent email.
But last month, after inquiries from reporters and the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Durham county officials voted to turn over laptops and other devices to the board for further analysis. It was not clear which government agency or private forensics firm, would conduct the investigation.
Ms. Greenhalgh will be watching closely. “What people focus on is, ‘Did someone mess with the vote totals?’” she said. “What they don’t realize is that messing with the e-poll books to keep people from voting is just as effective.’”
Something smelled wrong about the election from the very start. In the weeks before the presidential balloting took place, millions of voters were bombarded with “fake news” about the candidates on Facebook and other social media sites. And when the vote tallies were announced, the nation was shocked by the results. There was scattered unrest, even violence — and loud whispers that the election had somehow been stolen. Some wondered about the role of Cambridge Analytica, the firm founded by a billionaire backer of Donald Trump.
Then, something remarkable — unprecedented, really — took place. The nation’s highest court decided to launch a thorough investigation of what really happened on Election Day. What the justices eventually uncovered was shocking — a scheme to change results from the actual polling places when they were tallied electronically. What happened next was perhaps more surprising: The Supreme Court justices ordered a new national election.
In America, there is a stubborn, almost inexplicable blindness about the myriad problems with our own 2016 election — including the alarming possibility that at least some of those problems were the result of a now-pretty-well-documented effort by a foreign power, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to meddle in the selection of this nation’s 45th president. It’s getting harder and harder not to think our nation’s top officials — not just President Trump and his aides who were the alleged beneficiaries of Russian meddling, but our intelligence agencies and even state and local officials — don’t really want to know whether Moscow’s interference was so great that it actually decided the race.
It’s as if they are terrified by what they might discover.
First, let’s review what we do know about Russia’s 2016 tampering, because that’s disturbing enough. We know that Trump officials eagerly met in June 2016 in Trump Tower with a cast of characters tied to Putin insiders and Russian intelligence who promised inside dirt on Hillary Clinton. A short time later, hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and a top Clinton aide went public on Wikileaks, at the same time Trump aides were keeping an anti-Putin plank out of the GOP convention platform and as Trump bizarrely made a public plea for Russia to find Clinton’s deleted emails (a cause also adopted by a GOP insider who claimed he was working for Trump, right before he committed suicide). Then came an avalanche of fake news — much of it grown in Russian content farms — to convince blacks or young people in key states such as Wisconsin to stay home or vote third party.
That’s bad, but it’s not as bad as what we don’t know: Whether Russia was able to hack into any state and local election systems in a way that might have changed the result — and thus throw the entire Nov. 8, 2016, result, with Trump’s narrow Electoral College win, into doubt. Although officials have slowly confirmed over the last 10 months that there’s evidence of Russian hackers trying to breach government election websites in nearly 40 states and actually gaining some access, at least in Illinois and Arizona, they’ve also assured us that a beefed-up effort by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence found zero evidence of Election Day hacking.
Now comes the New York Times to say: Don’t be so certain about that. In a blockbuster report that was inexplicably dropped on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the newspaper revealed a) in one of the key states that gave Trump the election — North Carolina — voters in heavily Democratic urban precincts faced unexplained computer glitches that in some cases prevented people from casting ballots, using an electronic system known to have been targeted by Russian hackers and b) no federal, state or local agency has really aggressively probed this possibility of Election Day hacking — despite mounting evidence that the attempted tampering was more widespread than first acknowledged.
After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.
The Times article also raises the important possibility that Russian bad guys — or some other corrupt element — could have tampered with the U.S. presidential election in ways that no one has really focused on. A key point of the article involves problems on Election Day in 2016 with electronic poll books, the online system that officials at polling places use to determine who is eligible to vote and in what precinct.
Last Nov. 8, polling officials in Durham, N.C. — a town with a large college and non-white population that skews Democratic — found widespread problems with these records as voters showed up to cast their ballots. The problems were repeated in other localities in North Carolina and across the Sun Belt that had used electronic poll books run by software from VR Systems — a company that had been breached by Russian hackers months earlier.
The Times scoop makes the point that, while election watchers have looked for evidence that hackers stole the election by changing the actual votes that have been cast — and no hard evidence of that has been found — it was also possible to mess with the outcome by making sure that some votes in heavily Democratic wards were never cast at all. A recount is meaningless for votes that were prevented from happening in the first place. The even bigger problem, as noted by the Times, is that no one is looking too hard to see how often this happened, or why.
Something else here is important to note: American elections are easy to mess with because America’s election system is terrible — Russian hacking or no Russian hacking. Voters went to the polls in 2016 after years of efforts by mostly GOP-led state governments to make it hard for citizens — but especially non-white citizens, college students or the elderly — to cast ballots. Consider Wisconsin, the state where Trump pulled arguably his biggest upset, winning by only 22,748 votes. Critics have said Wisconsin’s turnout fell sharply because of its voter ID law (although maybe not by 200,000, as one study claimed.) Voters in the Badger State were also badgered with “fake news” — some of it undoubtedly from Russia. It’s hard to tell an array of innocent computer glitches and malfunctions from criminal hacking.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or political scientist to figure out what needs to be done. In the long run, we need massive election reform — including a new and improved Voting Rights Act that would pinpoint the most pernicious voter ID laws, an Election Day federal holiday, and same-day voter registration. We need a voting system that leaves a real paper trail that can be routinely audited and easily investigated when there are allegations of vote tampering. And, as the Times article makes clear, we need a more thorough investigation of computer hacking and other problems that occurred in 2016 — regardless of the possibility that we might learn the unthinkable.
This isn’t the first time America was afraid of asking hard questions. Does anyone remember the Warren Commission? There’s no precedent for undoing an election result if an investigation uncovered proof of direct interference with the balloting, and so perhaps it’s not shocking that the political establishment isn’t eager to contemplate this. Personally, I think that Americans can handle the truth — and that a serious investigation is called for. But for right now, if you want a government that takes election tampering seriously, you may have to move to Kenya.
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If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve known all along that this would end up being inevitable. It was always a matter of time before the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian election collusion and the investigation into Donald Trump’s corrupt finances would become one and the same. Now that day has arrived: Trump is officially under investigation for financial dealings with Russia during the election.
That’s the word according to House Intelligence Committee Ranking member Adam Schiff, who appeared on CNN on Sunday. He officially confirmed that the committee is now investigating Donald Trump’s attempt at building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the election. He also confirmed that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen and Trump’s longtime business associate Felix Sater, who conspired to try to get the Kremlin itself to assist in the real estate deal, are targets in the investigation. But there’s more to this.
By now it’s become clear that the ongoing House and Senate committee investigations are working in lock step with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s own investigation. One of the committees brought in Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort for questioning, and after his testimony must have given something away, Mueller had the FBI bust down his door before the sun came up the next morning. There is no doubt that Mueller is now investigating the Trump Tower Moscow plot as well, and that he’ll proceed with the same level of aggression he’s displayed up to this point.
Furthermore, the upshot of the Trump Tower Moscow scandal is that Donald Trump has absolutely no deniability. Cohen has already confirmed that he discussed the deal with Trump three times during the election. It’s also been confirmed that Trump signed a letter of intent during the election to build it. Trump can’t pretend he somehow didn’t know what his aides were doing when they conspired with the Kremlin during the election.
The post Donald Trump is officially under investigation for Russian financial scheme during electionappeared first on Palmer Report.
New York Times
In Defense of the Truth
New York Times
Of the statements by Trump that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has checked, just 5 percent were deemed absolutely true. Another 26 percent were just “mostly true” or “half true.” But a whopping 69 percent were found to be “mostly false,” “false” or …
What role is Russia playing in the difficulties the United States, Europe, and other countries are experiencing?
Does the Kremlin reject the existing world order and aspire to a new division of the world?
Did Moscow’s political kitchen deliberately help to concoct the loathsome dish of domestic and international terrorism, the tsunami of refugees, and political destabilization in many countries?
There can be no simple and straightforward answers, but serious consideration of recent Russian history leads to distressing conclusions.
When the totalitarian USSR collapsed there was cause for hope. The germs of a multi-party, parliamentary system and free enterprise appeared, political and religious freedoms were guaranteed, censorship vanished, and the mass media were liberated. Soviet citizens were free to travel, and punitive psychiatry ended.
And then–recoil. In 1993 President Yeltsin dealt a crushing blow to the parliamentary system, killing several hundred people in the process. Russia practiced genocide against its own people in Chechnya. Political assassinations and the murder of journalists commenced.
Vladimir Putin at the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow, 08 November 2006. DMITRI ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty
The economic situation was no better. Even prior to the attempted coup by communist hardliners against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB began transferring huge amounts of “party funds” to “trusted persons.,” thereby founding the fortunes of the first of Russia’s nouveaux riches. The most infamous cases followed in the mid-1990s.
The coup is said to have failed miserably. Not so. By then the USSR was falling apart. Key positions in the executive and legislative branches had already been seized by officials and agents of the special services, often working “under cover.” The same thing happened in the world of business.
Gorbachev in power ended the Cold War. Yet after the dissolution of the USSR, Russia began a gradual return to Cold War policies. Under the pretext of defending Russian compatriots abroad, the Kremlin interfered in the domestic politics of neighboring Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova. It was suspected of involvement in the attempted assassination of Georgia’s president Eduard Shevardnadze.
Meanwhile, Russia pursued an anti-Western policy of supporting the murderous Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. Among the later results of these trends, under Putin, were a dismembered Georgia, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and prolonged Russian aggression in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Why were a number of terrorist acts in the West, such as the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, performed by visitors or emigrants from the former Soviet Union?
Did the emigrants, the brothers Tsarnaev, of Chechen nationality, responsible for the Boston attack, act on their own initiative? It seems most unlikely.
Russia must accept a share of responsibility for the Syrian civil war, the flood of refugees into Europe, the rightward drift of several European countries, the rising influence of ultra-right politicians, attempts to weaken the EU, and the U.K.’s Brexit decision.
What is going on between Russia and Donald Trump?
Is the president of the United States linked more closely to the Kremlin than any Western political figure should be?
That these questions command serious and prolonged attention in the United States puts Russia in a very poor light.
Why didn’t democracy take root in Russia? Why under Putin has the overwhelming majority of the population joyously welcomed the rebirth of authoritarianism, in a different flavor, of extreme corruption and misappropriation of state funds and natural resources?
The ultimate answer is that it is extremely dangerous when the secret police, with their nationalistic mentality, seize power in an enormous nuclear state, and when a former hunter of dissidents becomes president. Dangerous not only for Russia, but for the whole world.
When it became clear that Russia interfered in the internal affairs of the United States, in the presidential election, increasing numbers of Americans were persuaded of this truth.
Unfortunately, Russia has entered a path that leads nowhere. Power is unlimited; legislation is repressive; there has long been no real opposition. There is no coherent opposition program. The slogans “Russia without Putin,” and “Russia will be free,” are just words.
Putin cynically and regularly proclaims a struggle against the corruption that he himself sponsors.
What would Russia be without Putin? Putin himself is nothing. He is merely a facade concealing the special services and the oligarchs. They can easily replace him with another representative of the secret services.
Was Russia free under Dmitri Medvedev, president in 2008-2012? Of course not. He was a puppet of these very same forces.
Sometimes I am reproached for attributing to the Kremlin too much influence in the world. My response is that the Putin regime is so convinced of its own impunity that it indulges in actions that even communist leaders during the Cold War refrained from attempting.
Russia is at a dead end. It is vital that it not drag the rest of the world down the path it has taken.
It is our responsibility to make sure that does not happen.
Andrei A.Kovalev served as a diplomat and official in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) and then in similar capacities under presidents Yeltsin and Putin (1991-2007). He is author ofRussia’s Dead End: An Insider’s Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin (Potomac Books, University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater emailed Trump Organization executive vice president Michael Cohen, detailed by The New York Times…
We have become inured to Trumpian self-dealing, from doubling membership fees at Mar-a-Lago to profiting off his government-owned D.C. hotel. This one goes beyond pure greed. It edges into serious questions about whether Trump’s positions on Putin and Russia have been and remain tainted by considerations not of what is best for the nation but what benefits Trump’s bottom line.”
The Daily Dot–17 hours ago
Power Line (blog)–11 hours ago
MSNBC–20 hours ago
The National Law Journal (registration)–17 hours ago
Opinion–Washington Post–19 hours ago
“Certain additional documents whose existence was revealed for the first time – meeting notes taken by the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and a letter of intent reportedly signed by Trump to build a tower in Moscow – seemed to undercut previous statements by the president, his son and others about relationships now under the scrutiny of Mueller’s team…
The documents were still flowing on Friday afternoon, with a New York Times report that Mueller was in possession of a draft letter explaining Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. The draft was reportedly written by Trump and an aide, Stephen Miller, but rejected by the White House counsel, on unknown grounds…
revealed a changing narrative in Trump campaign contacts with Russian agents. The Washington Post reported Monday that during the campaign, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen wrote an email to an aide to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, asking for help with a real estate deal.
It was further revealed that early on in the presidential campaign, Trump signed a non-binding letter of intent to build a tower in Moscow, Cohen confirmed in a statement to ABC News. Trump claimed during the campaign that he “knows nothing about Russia” and had “no loans” and “no deals” there…
The details of any Trump deal or debt with a Russian connection, if any exist, are not publicly known – but yet another headline this week indicated that Mueller may have gained insight on the subject. According to a Daily Beast report on Thursday, the special counsel has enlisted the help of agents from the criminal investigation unit of the Internal Revenue Service.”
WASHINGTON — There comes a point in the unspooling of every complex political-financial-legal scandal when the story becomes so complicated that it’s easy to lose the thread of what matters. The facts dribble out, in ever more confusing increments. The lengthy cast of characters resembles a Russian novel. Competing news demands our attention.
That is where we are now when it comes to the investigation of President Trump and Russia. Harvey deluged the Gulf Coast, drowning out the news about Trump’s involvement with Russia. Still, that news is, or should be, huge. The latest revelations feel, at least for now, like more of a political bombshell than a legal problem, but the two are closely related; consider how many public officials have landed themselves in legal jeopardy trying to save their political hides.
Still, that news is, or should be, huge. The latest revelations feel, at least for now, like more of a political bombshell than a legal problem, but the two are closely related; consider how many public officials have landed themselves in legal jeopardy trying to save their political hides.
To recap, what we know now that we did not know a week ago:
While he ran for president, Trump was simultaneously — and secretly — pursuing financial opportunities with a foreign adversary. Not just any adversary, but Russia, a country described by his party’s previous presidential nominee as the United States’ “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” And not just pursuing financial opportunities in Russia, but actively seeking the help of at least one senior Russian official to gain government approval for the project.
Once again: This is not OK. When you run for president, you cannot — you should not — put yourself in the position of using that candidacy as a door-opening business opportunity. You cannot — even if the prospect of winning seems remote — put yourself in a position of being financially beholden to a hostile foreign power.
Trump Tower Moscow was not another instance of Trump as unabashed cross-promoter-in-chief, like using the campaign press corps to help tout the reopening of his Scottish golf course. It represented something much more disturbing, even unpatriotic.
It was possible, when The Washington Post first broke the news of the failed deal, to discount the proposal as braggadocio from Felix Sater, the Russian-born real estate developer pushing the deal.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater emailed Trump Organization executive vice president Michael Cohen, detailed by The New York Times.
But as it turned out, this was more than Sater freelancing in Trump’s name. The Post next reported that Cohen emailed Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in January 2016 in a bid to save the languishing deal; that Cohen discussed the project with Trump on three occasions; and that the effort was dropped when Russian government permission was unforthcoming.
The Trump Organization not only pursued this opportunity in secret, it — indeed, Trump himself — actively misled the public. Imagine how much more sharply people would have responded to Trump’s already repulsive praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin during that time — “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country” — if they knew that Trump had just signed a letter of intent with a Russian firm to develop a Trump-branded tower in Moscow.
And as the question of Trump’s Russian connections became increasingly controversial, he somehow omitted the just-abandoned deal. “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia,” he tweeted in July 2016. This past January, as Trump prepared to take office, he reiterated, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” Shades of Bill Clinton — it depends on what the meaning of “have” is.
As recently as his interview this summer with The New York Times, Trump disingenuously downplayed his financial interests in Russia. “I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? …They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one.” Including the one he was pursuing while running for president, but failed to mention.
We have become inured to Trumpian self-dealing, from doubling membership fees at Mar-a-Lago to profiting off his government-owned D.C. hotel. This one goes beyond pure greed. It edges into serious questions about whether Trump’s positions on Putin and Russia have been and remain tainted by considerations not of what is best for the nation but what benefits Trump’s bottom line.
Ruth Marcus’ email address is email@example.com.