Monday, December 12, 2016

Oh, NOW They Move Fast

Russia attacked Clinton with (apparently accurate) email leaks not to aid a Trump victory but to damage a victorious Clinton. The Russians absolutely did not engineer the election of Trump no matter how many times the left insists this is true. And I have no doubt that the Russians are as unhappy as the Democrats.

The Obama administration has spent nearly 8 years dragging out congressional investigations into administration scandals, pleading they needed more time (ranging from the day after the last election, to the day after President Obama leaves office, to sometime in the 22nd century), but when the administration wants to damage Republicans, all of a sudden they can move fast:

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, the White House said on Friday.

Ah, unleash the executive office bulldozers do knock down the stonewalling!

Why this urgency?

The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

That's the lead paragraph of the story.

So the Russians intended to get Trump elected?

As summer turned to fall, Russian hackers turned almost all their attention to the Democrats. Virtually all the emails they released publicly were potentially damaging to Clinton and the Democrats, the official told Reuters.

"That was a major clue to their intent," the official said. "If all they wanted to do was discredit our political system, why publicize the failings of just one party, especially when you have a target like Trump?"

But there is more nuance to the story:

A second official familiar with the report said the intelligence analysts' conclusion about Russia's motives does not mean the intelligence community believes that Moscow's efforts altered or significantly affected the outcome of the election.

Ah, that's different, isn't it? The intelligence community doesn't believe Russia actually affected the election outcome.

I have no doubt that the Russians were hacking the Democrats to undermine Hillary Clinton. I say again, I have zero doubt. The leaks were obviously directed at Hillary Clinton exclusively.

But I have no doubt--approaching zero--that the Russian intelligence agencies involved were as convinced as all of the American media and polling industries that Hillary Clinton would win the election.

I suspect that the Russians weren't really trying to get Trump elected because they had no reason to believe that their efforts could possibly be successful given the polling that they were well aware of.

The astoundingly poor logic of that quoted [senior U.S.] official is breathtakingly dumb. If all the Russians wanted to do was discredit our system, why just go after Clinton, is the reasoning for the conclusion? Really? That's the basis of claiming the Russians got--and intended to get--Trump? Good Lord.

Again, do you think that the Russians had different polling data than Americans had? You think they know our system better than Americans who live and breathe this stuff for a living?

After not getting along with Bush and not getting along with the anti-Bush, Obama, you think that the Russians actually figured they had any ability to conclude that Trump would be better for Russia than Clinton?

Here, let me explain why--despite the focus on Hillary Clinton--that the Russians almost certainly were trying to attack our system (and more, so it wasn't "all" Russia wanted to do):

I don't really believe the Russians are trying to influence the outcome of the American presidential election. Would the rookie Trump with a possible Putin crush really be better or worse than the blackmail-vulnerable Clinton?

Really, the Russians have seen America as a threat whether we had President Bush 43 or the anti-Bush, President Obama. If both of them were deemed hostile to Russia, could anybody be seen as friendly or compliant?

My view is that Russia is meddling in our election to weaken whoever wins and more importantly to weaken the appeal of American-supported democracy around the world--and especially the appeal in Russia itself.

Remember, Russia's rulers consider the series of "color" revolutions for democracy as little more than American plots to deny Russia client states and to destabilize Russia itself with the "alien" invasion of democracy.

This was based on my earlier view of what the leaks were intended to achieve in regard to the election itself:

Really, are you going to claim that the Russians took all those Democratic party emails but never managed to penetrate Hillary Clinton's off the books bathroom server to get her unsecured private emails, which she used instead of official email, that discussed State Department business?


And if the Russians are releasing all of this information now, can you imagine what information they are keeping under wraps to use against Clinton after she wins the election?

With a Clinton victory, the Russians will get a tainted American president weakened domestically by suspicions of her corruption revealed to be true, while retaining enough information to blackmail her into being more "flexible" than President Obama ever could manage voluntarily.

It will be quite the day when the Russians quietly inform the Clinton administration that they kept that "reset" button that Secretary of State Clinton gave to Lavrov in 2009; but that they rewired it to ensure her flexibility.

"Madam President, in Russia, we reset you. And yes, we will "overcharge," as you foolishly labeled that button. But you will pay the price we demand."

I had similar thoughts in July.

I have no doubt that Russian analysts told Putin that all their intelligence pointed to a Clinton victory. This was, if it translates into Russian, a "slam dunk" prediction.

So from Putin's point of view there was no downside of undermining Hillary Clinton. Helping Trump was not going to elect Trump. It was intended to hurt the anticipated President Clinton.

And as the intelligence notes, the Russian effort had nothing to do with Trump winning the election.

Indeed, I think the Russian effort gave them the worst of all worlds:

Russia expected to get a crippled but predictable (made even more "predictable" by the Kremlin's possession of Clinton's secret emails that would have provided blackmail material) President Hillary Clinton.

And now the Russians have to deal with a President Trump who apparently can't be damaged by any revelation. That's gotta suck from the Kremlin's point of view.

And worse for Russia, rather than showing American-style democracy to be too difficult to carry out (and thus have less appeal to Russians should Putin's aura of success crack), we got a clear result with no constitutional crisis.

And even worse, our people elected the candidate that the national media waged war against. And our people voted even though the national elites and media tried to bully them through shame into passivity.

For Putin who relies on state media to prop him up and the power of the state to bully any opposition into passivity, our election must be profoundly disturbing.

So how do the Russians like engineering Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly, both former generals?

There will be no performance bonuses in Russian intelligence over this operation. And they should be grateful that Stalin isn't reviewing their achievement.

I can hardly wait to see what the Obama administration will conclude in their uncharacteristically rapid investigation of an episode when they already claim to know the answer.

But will this go back in time to include Senator Ted Kennedy's effort to get the Russians to help defeat President Reagan's reelection?

According to Soviet documents unearthed in the early 1990’s, Kennedy literally asked the Soviets, avowed enemies of the U.S., to intervene on behalf of the Democratic party in the 1984 elections.

Probably not, I'd say. Oh, and there is a bonus fake news aspect if you read that article linked in the quote.

And given the Democratic outrage machine has been turned up to 11 on the worry of foreign influence in our recently concluded election, perhaps the Trump administration should build on this no-doubt sincere concern over the integrity of the vote by opening up a full investigation into the Clinton Foundation and just what foreign donors hoped to get by donating to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was the presumed future president.

And I know the Democrats don't really believe this accusation of Russian success that they are making, despite their eagerness to peddle the view for domestic political reasons.

If the Democrats truly believed that Russia engineered our election result, they'd be introducing a declaration of war on Russia, wouldn't they?

I find it unacceptable that Russia interfered in our election. And we should both strike back and protect our information from theft. You will never find me defending Putin here.

But the notion that Democrats are peddling to explain away their failure to nominate somebody who could defeat Donald Trump, of all people, is ludicrous.

UPDATE: The administration didn't seem to care much about past hacking, now did it?

In the new year, Congress should pass legislation to stop Russian efforts to tamper with our elections that include voter ID laws, limits on voting outside of election day, and requirements to purge voter lists of inactive voters.

I bet the Democrats lose interest in voting integrity real fast if that is done.