Friday, June 23, 2017

There Is An Obvious Answer To Trump's Question. But It's Discomfiting.

Politico reported on Thursday

“Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia,” the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?”

Farmers farm drive, writers write, cooks cook, trainers train, painters paint, and Donald Trump lies. It's what he does, as effortlessly as breathing. Therefore, you won't be surprised that Jeh Hohnson had not said what Trump attributed to him. Nonetheless, the President asks a legitimate question: if Russia messed with the 2016 election, it was during the Obama Administration, so why wasn't it stopped?

In a December article Democrats, Republicans, and especially new wave centrists have found convenient to ignore, the Washington Post's Entous, Nakashima and Miller revealed

On Oct. 7, the intelligence community officially accused Moscow of seeking to interfere in the election through the hacking of “political organizations.” Though the statement never specified which party, it was clear that officials were referring to cyber-intrusions into the computers of the DNC and other Democratic groups and individuals...

Within the administration, top officials from different agencies sparred over whether and how to respond. White House officials were concerned that covert retaliatory measures might risk an escalation in which Russia, with sophisticated cyber-capabilities, might have less to lose than the United States, with its vast and vulnerable digital infrastructure.

The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left Washington weighing more-limited measures, including the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.

By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, 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.

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.

It's a good question Trump asks, one which has been largely ignored because no one comes out looking good if it's answered. President Obama believed that Republicans, who have periodically pummeled Democrats since the end of World War II for being soft on Communism, would join him in a bipartisan "show of bipartisan support and unity" by exposing meddling by Russians in the election.  McConnell in essence responded "do that and our boys will tell the country you're rigging the election," which (ironically) was a major campaign theme of GOP nominee Donald J. Trump.

Obama could have raised in return. Assuming McConnell would not have folded, the issue would have become paramount in the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, with unknown results. Given that Clinton was a fairly heavy favorite to win re-election which would guarantee survival of Obacare even with a GOP Congress, Obama folded.

It was a major tactical mistake, one that ultimately did in Hillary Clinton and soon will result in the demise of the Affordable Care Act as we have known it. Had Obama himself headed the ticket, the error probably would not have been made, for he rarely made the wrong move in any election in which he was the candidate.

Obama was intimidated. McConnell put party over country. Obviously, the better strategy was to ditch hand-holding harmony.

Trump's question deserves to be answered, and the quick and dirty answer is:  President Obama was playing the bipartisan game, which would have benefitted the nation. Senate Majority Leader McConnell was exerting extreme partisanship.  The American people made their choice. Democrats, take notice.

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