Saturday, April 1, 2017

President Donald Trump, his associates, the Republican Party, and interventions in the 2016 elections by Putin's Russia

U.S. Intelligence officially concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections. Their assessment stated, "Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Hillary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for president-elect Donald Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments."

Moreover, the agencies assessed that Putin personally directed the hacking.

Former President Barack Obama called for a report on foreign interventions in the 2016 elections. The Senate called for a bipartisan investigation. President-elect Donald Trump initially rejected the report, saying that Democrats were reacting to their election loss, and attacked the intelligence agencies in a transition team statement. Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell expressed confidence in the intelligence agencies and supported a bipartisan investigation, which started by the Senate Intelligence Committee on January 24, 2017. On December 29, 2016, the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats, denied access to two Russia-owned compounds, and broadened existing sanctions on Russian entities and individuals. On March 20, 2017, FBI Director James Comey testified to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI has been conducting a counter-intelligence investigation about Russian interference since July 2016, including possible coordination between associates of Trump and Russia.

The questions most Americans want to have answered are "what did Donald Trump know and when did he know it, and from Senator Bernie Sanders, "why is it that President Trump has only positive things to say about an authoritarian type guy like Putin?"

Two interesting columns from the N.Y. Times with commentary by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and from Journalist Dan Rather's Facebook new's page, "News and Guts.

Senate Intelligence Committee Leaders Vow Thorough Russian Investigation
By Matt Flegenheimer And Emmarie Huetteman

Robert Reich:

"The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and a supporter of Trump during the campaign, promises his investigation "will go wherever the intelligence leads." Asked whether he saw any 'direct links' between Trump and Russia’s interference, Burr said, 'We know that our challenge is to answer that question for the American people.'

"But I have my doubts about Burr. Last month, Burr did Trump’s bidding: After speaking with the White House, he talked with the press to dispute reports that Trump campaign advisers had been in consistent contact with Russian intelligence operatives.

"The only way we get to the truth about whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia in winning the election for him is through a bipartisan select committee, an independent special prosecutor, and perhaps even an independent commission. We must demand them."

By Matthew Rosenberg, Maggie Haberman And Adam Goldman

News And Guts:

Breaking from the The New York Times:

"A pair of White House officials played a role in providing Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

"The revelation that White House officials assisted in the disclosure of the intelligence reports — which Mr. Nunes then discussed with President Trump — is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the last presidential election."