Thursday, July 19, 2018

This Guy Is Good.

We knew Donald J. Trump lies almost as often as a normal person winks. Moreover, we now have been informed by the New York Times' Sanger and Rosenberg

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

At the meeting at Trump Tower, Trump

was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command....

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role....

The same Russian groups had been involved in cyberattacks on the State Department and White House unclassified email systems in 2014 and 2015, and in an attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had aggressively fought the N.S.A. against being ejected from the White House system, engaging in what the deputy director of the agency later called “hand-to-hand combat” to dig in.

The pattern of the D.N.C. hacks, and the theft of emails from John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, fit the same pattern.

The disinformation from the election victor began even before he took office. Sanger/Rosenberg note

After the briefings, Mr. Trump issued a statement later that day that sought to spread the blame for the meddling. He said “Russia, China and other countries, outside groups and countries” were launching cyberattacks against American government, businesses and political organizations — including the D.N.C.

Still, Mr. Trump said in his statement, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

There is unintentional humor in the article:

In the run-up to this week’s ducking and weaving, Mr. Trump has done all he can to suggest other possible explanations for the hacks into the American political system. His fear, according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.

This is not the reason Donald Trump has implicitly denied that Russia interfered with the election. Charlie Pierce argues that it comes down to the business empire:

I don’t know if I buy this entirely, although it seems to be the spin du jour from the anonymous voices inside the West Wing. I don’t think the president* gives a damn about the legitimacy of his presidency. I don’t think he’s given it a second thought. I certainly don’t think he’s afraid of it. He’s grabbing all he can for as long as he can and the Constitution be damned.

He might care about the legitimacy of his victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. I could believe that—Winning!—but, even if I did, I can’t see that as motive enough to sell out to Putin and Russia as obviously as he has. No, there’s still something in Putin’s whip hand that the president* fears. As always, I think it’s something to do with the Russian money that’s kept his empire afloat, and his reputation as a shrewd businessman from going completely to tatters.

Realistically, it probably is, though we won't know for sure until and unless the tax returns probably possessed by Special Counsel Mueller are released.  Still, refutation of the notion that Trump is worried about the perception of the legitimacy of his election victory is not dependent upon his financial entanglements with Russians.

It may be simply that once voters uniformly recognize that the Kremlin interfered with the election, they will believe that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government, though absent hard evidence indicating election results were changed, the election was legitimate.

Moreover, even if the election is widely considered illegitimate, the President is still President, and the election will not be redone. However, if there was conspiracy between the campaign and outside actors, there are serious legal ramifications extending all the way to the White House.

The notion "that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency" is a diversion. It may be, as Pierce suggests, the spin du jour; it may even be the spin de la mite or the spin dela'nnee. Having in general circulation the notion that Trump worries that his election will be viewed as illegitimate is critical to the "the Democrats are trying to take the election away from us" whine.

But aides may even believe that this is Trump's motivation because he may be telling them this, and they may be buying it.   Consider that Sanger/Rosenberg write

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

This may be yet another example of Donald Trump conning the people he speaks with, insofar as intelligence officials left confident not only that the President-elect believed them, but also that he would act accordingly. He is very persuasive- and would be consistently believed were that much of what he says is objectively and undeniable false.

When the video below was aired, few voters believed Donald Trump would be spending most of his weekends playing golf.

Now ignore facts well known and all common sense.  Pretend you're a "make America great again" kind of guy or gal and make of your mind a blank slate. Watch candidate Donald Trump, serious and focused, explain that he has someone investigating the birthplace of Barack H. Obama. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that seven years later he is yet to have produced the super sleuth he claimed to have sent to Hawaii.

The star of "The Apprentice," who spent years playing to an audience convinced that he was a successful, resolute businessman who could fire someone without blinking an eye, is an exceedingly good actor.  Having fooled his old fans and enough others to become President, the actor is now embarked on another difficult- but winnable in the short term- campaign to convince people that his apparent stubborness about Russian election interference has a benign motivation.

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