Archive for Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Opinion: Let Mueller finish finding truth

November 1, 2017


— Has there ever been a covert action that backfired as disastrously as Russia’s attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign?

Granted, we know all the reasons Moscow is gloating: Donald Trump is president; America is divided and confused; Russia’s propagandization of “fake news” is now repeated by people around the world as evidence that nothing is believable and all information is (as in Russia) manipulated and mendacious.

But against this cynical strategy there now stands a process embodied by special counsel Robert Mueller, which we will call, as a shorthand: “The Truth.” Mueller has mobilized the investigative powers of the U.S. government to document how Russia and its friends sought to manipulate American politics. We are seeing the rule of law applied.

Put aside for the moment what the indictments and plea agreement announced Monday will ultimately mean for Trump’s presidency. Already, Mueller has stripped the cover from Russia’s machinations: Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has confessed that he lied to FBI agents about his contacts with individuals connected to Moscow who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton; Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been charged with laundering $18 million in payoffs from Russia’s Ukrainian friends.

Russian meddling is now advertised to the world. This topic will dominate American debate for the next year, at least. In Europe, meanwhile, a similar reaction to Russian influence operations is gaining force. President Vladimir Putin once imagined that Trump would be Russia’s bridge back from isolation. Not anymore.

Next comes the overtly dangerous part: When covert operations are exposed, nations sometimes adopt more aggressive actions. On the continuum of warfare, Russia has been playing somewhere in the middle, between war and peace. Now, as the world focuses on Russian mischief, will the Kremlin move the dial up or down?

Putin made some comments last week that worry me. Before a meeting of his security council on Oct. 26, Putin announced that he was augmenting cyberwar policies to take into account “that the level of threat in the information space is on the rise.” He proposed “additional measures” to combat adversaries and protect Russia. He argued that Russia was simply protecting its citizens from cybercriminals, but his language was emphatic: “It is necessary to be tough as regards those persons and groups that are using the Internet and the information space for criminal purposes.”

To me, that sounded like Putin was doubling down on Russia’s bid to shape the “information space,” by whatever means necessary. That was reinforced by his call for “a system of international information security,” in which Russia would seek to impose new rules for the internet through the United Nations and other pliable international organizations. That’s a threat I noted a week ago, now confirmed explicitly by Putin.

The potential scope of Russia’s cyberoperations was highlighted in a little-noticed report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, “Russia Military Power: Building a Military to Support Great Power Aspirations.” Its conclusion: “Russia views the information sphere as a key domain for modern military conflict ... critically important to control its domestic populace and influence adversary states.”

The DIA explains how “Russian propaganda strives to influence, confuse and demoralize its intended audience.” The report describes Russian trolls, bots and cover organizations. Among the major themes of Russian propaganda, the DIA says, is this Steve Bannon-esque message: “The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.” And remember, this expose of Moscow’s hidden hand is coming from Trump’s Pentagon!

Here’s the strategic impact of Mueller’s investigation. He is probing efforts by Russia and its foreign allies to manipulate our political system. He is unraveling a covert action. Trump’s protests of “witch hunt” and “fake news” are words similar to those used by Moscow-controlled media outlets.

Perhaps we begin to see a timeline: In March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a Russian-linked “professor”; in April, the professor said Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from her emails; in June, Donald Trump Jr., Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a Russian who had promised “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary”; in July, Trump was touting WikiLeaks’ release of documents about Clinton allegedly supplied by Russian cutouts.

Trump may or may not have colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign; we’ll leave that question for the lawyers. But if Trump seeks to derail Mueller’s probe, he is implicitly colluding with Russia now. By many people’s definition, that would be aiding a foreign power, which might be deemed a “high crime or misdemeanor.” Let Mueller finish his job of exposing Russian manipulation.

— David Ignatius is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

According To Radio News The FBI Is Investigating The Trump Admin Fraudulent Selection Of Whitefish Energy To Restore Power To Puerto Rico.

After a $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid was awarded to a tiny firm from Whitefish, Montana—Ryan Zinke's hometown—thousands of Sierra Club members and supporters reached out to Congress demanding that this lucrative no-bid deal be investigated.

And this past Sunday the governor of Puerto Rico cancelled the deal! The FBI and FEMA are beginning an investigation into how Whitefish Energy, a company with no experience in disaster recovery, but strong ties to Zinke, landed such a plush contract.

Keep the pressure on for a thorough investigation of the fishy Whitefish Energy deal. It seems both Zinke and little bitty White Fish are from Montana.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Conservatives Raise Taxes through The Back Door Which Means They Lie About NO Tax Increases Which Has Been Going On With Every Conservative Administration Since Reagan.

Last Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to more than double entry fees—from $30 per vehicle to $70 per vehicle—at 17 of our most popular national parks during the five-month summer season.

If this proposal goes through, U.S. public lands, rightly celebrated as an inspiring example of our democratic aspirations, are at risk of becoming exclusive playgrounds for the well-to-do. The Department of Interior is accepting public comments until November 23.

Read Sierra magazine editor in chief Jason Mark's analysis of what's behind the move.

Send a message and let the Department of Interior know what you think about the proposed entry fees aka tax increase.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

" "Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller’s investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.

“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”

Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller’s probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.

This portrait of Trump and his White House on a day of crisis is based on interviews with 20 senior administration officials, Trump friends and key outside allies, many of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

Trump and his aides were frustrated that, yet again, Russia steamrolled the start of a carefully planned week of policy news. "

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