In a classic example of a Friday night news dump, The Washington Post has reported
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
After months of considering how to respond to the consensus assessment, the White House in September decided to call out the Russians
but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.
Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.
Obama dispatched Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official.
Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.
Though U.S. intelligence agencies were skeptical that hackers would be able to manipulate the election results in a systematic way, the White House feared that Russia would attempt to do so, sowing doubt about the fundamental mechanisms of democracy and potentially forcing a more dangerous confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.
And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”
The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.
I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you, that Republicans would put politics above country. There should have been little surprise that
According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Mrs. McConnell, more commonly known as Elaine Chao, now is the President-elect's choice for Secretary of Transportation, several years after she largely slept on the job as George W. Bush's Secretary of Labor.
Yet no one, especially President Obama, could have expected Mitch McConnell to prioritize the national interest. During the transition in 2008, seven GOP senators told Vice President-elect Biden to expect "unified resistance," as demanded by then- Minority Leader McConnell. In October, 2010, McConnell stated "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." And then there is the matter of Judge Merrick Garland.
Still, the President took "no" as an answer. McConnell threatened Obama, and Obama blinked. That is a sound metaphor for the past eight years. The Post report concluded
Some Clinton supporters saw the White House’s reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries.
“The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting. “The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.”
We have a problem, and with Obama's willingness to take what McConnell gave him, we soon will have a President Trump and a Senate of 52 Republicans. Atta guy, Mr. President.