Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Partisan Politics, Indeed

There she goes again. Interviewed Friday by Chris Cuomo, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway argued

Hey, Chris. We had a president in the United States in October who cold have, when Mr. Clapper said what he said, pushed back harder but did not because what was he doing? He and Hillary Clinton were out there with their teams absolutely believeing he was going to be the President so let's not... so they politicized it because they didn't understand in America what was going to happen in the election.

She certainly stays on message. On Monday, USA Today reported

"I predict that President Trump will want to make sure that our actions are proportionate to what occurred, based on what we know," she told Capital Download. She said the steps Obama took, including ejecting 35 alleged Russian spies, were harsher than those he ordered after reported hacking by China and North Korea and suggested the reason for the difference was political.

Conway ridiculed a proposal by House and Senate Democrats on Monday to establish a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the allegations against Russia. U.S. intelligence agencies last week reported that Moscow, under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, then leaked them in an effort to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton and elect Trump. Trump has supported investigations by the House and Senate.

"It's curious and a little bit humorous that Democrats would talk about anything bipartisan ... given how they have vowed to obstruct everything we do," she said, saying there already was "a great deal of information out there" about the hacking. "I do find it to be very ironic that the uptick and the hue-and-cry of 'investigation' and 'information' has occurred after the election results are in. ...

"The fact is, the Democrats became super-duper interested in this entire issue after the election did not go the way they, quote, wanted and the way they expected."

There was no "hue and cry" precisely because of partisan politics- played by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Three Washington Post reporters learned that by mid-September, White House officials had decided to blame the Russians publicly for hacking computer servers.  However

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.

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.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

Democratic officials were "super-duper interested in this issue"- but were effectively blocked by Republican McConnell, who determined partisan politics were more important than national security. Other Republicans focused on policy because they believed an announcement "would rattle public confidence and play into Moscow's hands."  President Obama was ready to act, but those tough guy Republicans got cold feet and decided to appease Moscow.

Continuing (at approximately 7:45), Conway remarked

In the last couple of days of Obama's eight years in office, President Obama's eight years of his presidency, all of a sudden he's going to be tough on Russia. Seriously? I can't even say it without laughing.... It doesn't make it OK that we've been so weak on Russia for eight years.

Seriously, Kellyanne?  President Obama wanted to take action- but was stymied by congressional Republicans scared of Russia and by McConnell, who would attack any statement or action taken by Obama as an effort to boost Democratic electoral fortunes.

Democrats should heed the record and notice they will be attacked by the GOP for any action they take or fail to take. The election is over, they will say, get over it, and did we mention the election is over?   They will realize, too, that Kellyanne Conway will say whatever Donald Trump wants her to say, whatever the facts or her personal beliefs.

She may not know of the President's meeting with congressional leaders in October. Surely, however, she knew months ago about an e-mail/Russia nexus, when in July a candidate urged "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you'll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

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