Within the blockbuster report from Miller, Nakashima, and Entous of The Washington Post is a metaphor for the Obama legacy, if historians can put aside their bothsiderism. President Obama "and his top advisors" were
worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.
On Aug. 15, Homeland Security chief Jeh
Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.
The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.
Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective.
Seven+ years as President and Barack Obama still believed that congessional GOP leadership would put country above politics. How quaint, and how futile as
In early September, Johnson, Comey, and Monaco arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties.
The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.
“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.
Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.
A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were “secure from attack.” The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers “would oppose any effort by the federal government” to encroach on the states’ authorities.
"States' authorities" were for over a century known as "states rights," which took on a bad connotation when used to deny rights to black citizens, but is now used as an excuse to run a dirty election. Progress in fits and starts, at best.
But a President determined not to be attacked as partisan wasn't done, and
When U.S. spy agencies reached unanimous agreement in late September that the interference was a Russian operation directed by Putin, Obama directed spy chiefs to prepare a public statement summarizing the intelligence in broad strokes.
With Obama still determined to avoid any appearance of politics, the statement would not carry his signature.
Friday night, in a rant beginning at about 33:28 of the video below, Bill Maher can be seen criticizing Democrats for failing to defend environmental action and unions against Republican attacks. He noted "this debate, this fake debate, I think, about should the Democrats move left or right. It's not about that. It's about how you fight."
Generally accurate, it describes one Democrat especially. The Post quotes"a former senior Obama adminstration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia" as lamenting "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked.” He shouldn't be so hard on himself. Ultimately, the President himself, as he did for eight years, called the shots on the reaction to Russian meddling. For eight years he "choked" and his timidity (probably) finally gave us President Donald J. Trump.