The shoe is now on the other foot. Embarrassed Democrats are facing the fact that Obama and his high administration officials had been informed by the CIA last August that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian operatives to launch cyber attacks on the 2016 presidential election. The CIA also said that the Russian goal was to “defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee [Hillary Clinton].”
Yet the Obama administration failed to inform the American people of the threat to the electoral system or do anything significant to retaliate against Putin and the Russians even after the election.
Since last summer, prominent Democrats and Obama administration officials had been accusing Donald Trump and his campaign associates of colluding with the Russians to subvert the election, even though no proof has ever been produced to substantiate the charge.
It was not until the publication of the story in the Washington Post last week that the American public learned how badly Obama administration had underestimated the Russian threat. In the end, Obama allowed Putin and the Russians to get away virtually unpunished with one of the greatest political crimes in American history.
As early as September of 2015, U.S. intelligence and security services were aware that Russian hackers were attacking the computer systems of the Democrat National Committee, but did next to nothing to protect them.
This led to a massive breach of confidential data on that system which the Russians released through Wikileaks to trigger a scandal involving Democrat party leaders on the eve of the Democrat National Convention last July. Yet, the administration did not say publicly that Russia was interfering with the U.S. elections until Oct. 7.
That announcement was buried by other sensational news that broke the same day about the campaign, causing the election interference announcement to be virtually ignored by the American public. Leaders of Congress also refused to take administration warnings about the Russian intrusion seriously, and some suspected that they were politically motivated.
OBAMA FAILED TO RESPOND TO RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE
Instead of exposing and vigorously retaliating for the Russian attack, Obama decided to do nothing that might risk provoking Putin to interfere further in the electoral process.
Part of the reason for the administration’s failure to react appropriately to the brazen Russian assault was its overconfidence that Hillary Clinton would win the election despite the Russian meddling. Instead, Obama decided to send Putin diplomatic messages, including a face to face meeting at an international conference in China, at which he told Putin that he knew what the Russian operatives were doing to disrupt the election and to warn Putin to stop. Putin knew from his experiences when Obama failed to carry through with his threat to punish Syria for using chemical weapons, and when Putin annexed Crimea and invaded Eastern Ukraine that Obama was unlikely to do anything meaningful to stop him or punish him for his brazen attack on America’s democratic government.
With 20-20 hindsight, former Obama administration officials offered Washington Post reporters all kinds of rationalizations and excuses for their top-down failure to respond effectively to clear Russian aggression. None of them were willing to admit that the more likely explanation was Obama’s chronic overconfidence and reluctance to confront foreign enemies, combined with the incompetence of his advisors.
The Obama administration adopted the same consensus-bound approach to reacting to the Russian aggression that he adopted when the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people. Once again, the Obama administration was quick to pull back in the face of any resistance to its warnings about Russian interference with the electoral process.
In light of numerous unproven Democrat accusations after the election that Trump and members his campaign had been colluding with the Russians, Trump continued to dismiss the allegations that the Russians had interfered with the election for his benefit. Trump saw the narrative as part of the larger ongoing “resistance” effort by his frustrated political opponents to discredit his victory over Hillary Clinton and the legitimacy of his presidency. As recently as last week, he tweeted that it was “a big Dem HOAX.”
TRUMP CHALLENGES OBAMA’S INACTION
A day before the publication of the Washington Post article, Trump issued a tweet which suggested he knew the Russian plot may not have been a hoax. He wrote: “if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Administration. Why didn’t they stop them?”
Just 24 hours later, the Washington Post story made it clear that the Obama administration had been told by the CIA that the Russians were meddling in the election last August and did virtually nothing to stop it.
Trump’s reaction to the story was to tweet: “Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?”
He followed up with more tweets that tried to shift the focus of the Russian meddling story from Trump and his campaign staff to Obama’s inaction.
One read: “Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!”
Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein were on congressional intelligence committees and were therefore aware of the same secret CIA information about Russian meddling that Obama had been given. They were extremely frustrated by the lack of an adequate White House response, so they did what they could before the election to warn the American people. But their warning was also largely ignored and quickly buried under the avalanche of sensational political headlines during the final weeks of the presidential campaign.
OBAMA OFFICIALS OFFER LAME EXCUSES
Former Obama administration officials offered Washington Post reporters various explanations for Obama’s failure to do more to stop the Russians, or at least issue a clear warning to the American people that the Russians were responsible for the blatant interference with the election process.
In June of 2016, the public learned that the Russians had been attacking and infiltrating the computers of the DNC. In July, the cascade of embarrassing emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta began appearing on Wikileaks. The Russians were always the most obvious suspects, and the confirmation from CIA intelligence that Putin himself was responsible for launching the Russian cyberattacks should have been enough to erase any remaining doubt.
According to the Washington Post account, the foreign source of the CIA information originated from within the Kremlin itself. It was sufficiently detailed to allow the CIA to conclude that Putin’s goal was to embarrass or defeat Hillary Clinton. The CIA had penetrated Putin’s inner circle, yet the information did not include any clear evidence of active involvement in the Russian plot by anyone in the Trump campaign.
LOOKING FOR EXCUSES TO KEEP INVESTIGATE TRUMP
By this time, the FBI had already launched its investigation of the Trump campaign, looking for evidence of such collusion. That investigation is still ongoing, now under the overall direction of special counsel Robert Mueller. Yet according to members of Congress on the House and Senate intelligence committees, no evidence has been produced to substantiate the accusations of collusion by Trump’s people.
After Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May, the thrust of the accusations against him changed to obstruction of justice, based on the memo which Comey arranged to leak to the New York Times. The memo claimed that in a private Oval Office conversation in February, just after Trump fired his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, for lying to Vice President Mike Pence, Trump briefly expressed his “hope” that Comey could be lenient in his investigation of Flynn. After their meeting, Comey did nothing to influence the Flynn investigation, and Trump never mentioned Flynn to Comey again in their subsequent conversations.
COMEY LEAKED HIS MEMO TO MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM
Yet, as Comey later admitted in testimony before Congress, arranging for the publication of his memo in the New York Times achieved his political purpose. It muddied the waters about the FBI investigation sufficiently that the Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was in charge of the Russia investigation, felt obliged to appoint an independent, special counsel to take over the probe, thereby extending the investigation indefinitely.
In the light of the continued failure of the ongoing investigations by the FBI and congressional committees to find any hard evidence that members of the Trump campaign had actively colluded with the Russians to influence the election, or did anything in their contacts with Russians that could be prosecuted as a crime, the focus of Democrat criticism of Trump shifted to suggestions that his February conversation with Comey in which he mentioned Flynn was connected to his decision to fire Comey three months later and could be construed as obstruction of justice.
NO OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
That accusation was always very problematic, from a legal point of view, for a variety of reasons. As president, Trump had the legal authority to fire FBI director Comey at any time and for any reason. As his superior, Trump also had the authority to directly order Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, which he never did. Trump also could have issued a presidential pardon for Flynn, if he really wanted to shield his friend from prosecution.
It was also clear from a memo written by Assistant Attorney General Rosenstein that there was ample reason to fire Comey for exceeding his authority in his unprecedented handling of the Clinton email investigation.
Flynn is the only member of the Trump campaign who did anything wrong with regard to the Russians. He failed to properly disclose the payments he received from Russian sources. Flynn also failed to be totally honest about the December phone conversations he had with Russian ambassador to the U.S., during which the issue of new U.S. sanctions against Russia was mentioned, and for which Trump eventually fired him.
But there is still no evidence that Flynn colluded with the Russians to influence the election, or did anything for which he could be criminally prosecuted by the special counsel.
WAS FLYNN SET UP BY THE FBI’S MCCABE?
In addition, an online publication called Circa has reported that the original FBI investigation against Flynn may have been instigated by a now-Deputy FBI Director official, Andrew McCabe, who had a personal run-in with Flynn over a complaint in 2014 about the harassment of another FBI investigator.
The story suggests that McCabe, who is now the interim chief of the FBI, and who had been directly overseeing the Russian investigation, held a grudge against Flynn because he had offered to testify on behalf of an FBI investigator who filed the harassment complaint against the agency. The Circa story suggests that McCabe used his control over the FBI investigation to take out his personal revenge on Flynn. The story also suggests that McCabe may have been responsible for the leaking of Flynn’s name to the Washington Post, which ultimately led to Flynn’s firing.
CNN CHIEF EXPOSED FOR VIOLATING ITS ETHICS
There is also growing evidence that CNN deliberately violated its own journalistic ethics by its unremitting focus on stories designed to embarrass and discredit President Trump.
The Washington Post reported Monday that CNN fired three of its employees for deliberately publishing a false story which accused a Trump advisor, Anthony Scaramucci, of discussing the sanctions on Russia with a Russian banker a few days before Trump was inaugurated. CNN was forced to retract the story when its single unnamed source could not be verified. An internal CNN investigation led to the forced resignation of report Tomas Frank, editor Eric Lichtbau, and executive editor Lex Haris, who had headed CNN’s investigative unit.
Meanwhile, CNN producer John Bonifield said on a hidden camera video produced by Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, that CNN CEO Jeff Zucker has been pressuring CNN reporters to focus on stories criticizing Trump and accusing him of wrongdoing with the Russians or for firing Comey, whether or not there was any proof to back them up.
CNN’s obsession with Russian conspiracy stories has prompted Veritas to call CNN the American Pravda.
Bonifield said in front of the hidden camera that, in his opinion, the accusations that CNN has repeated that Trump had unsavory ties with the Russians are totally unproven. “I just feel like they don’t really have it [proof] but they want to keep digging. And so I think the president is probably right to say, like, look, you are witch hunting me. Like, you have no smoking gun, you have no real proof,” the producer said.
Bonifield said that Zucker was constantly pushing his reporters to concentrate on the Russia-Trump story in order to boost the channel’s ratings, regardless of the fact that it violated CNN’s traditional journalistic ethics calling for strict impartiality. He said that Zucker dismissed “the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school. . . That’s adorable. This is a business.”
Bonifield added that from CNN’s point of view, “Trump is good for business right now.”
SENATE INVESTIGATION LOOKING AT LYNCH AND FBI CONTACTS
Meanwhile, the multiple congressional and Justice Department investigations which have been started by Trump’s enemies in an effort to find an excuse to indict or impeach him may start coming back to bite them instead.
For example, former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress that he was asked by former-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to downplay the language he used in public to describe the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. “At one point, [Lynch] directed me not to call it an ‘investigation’ but instead to call it a ‘matter,’ which confused me and concerned me,” Comey said during his June 8 testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He also said that other behavior “which I cannot talk about yet” made him worried about Lynch’s ability to make impartial decisions. Comey added that Lynch’s actions prompted him to depart from FBI tradition by calling a press conference to announce his conclusions about the findings of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.
Comey’s testimony has prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to send Lynch a letter asking her to tell them how involved she was in overseeing the Clinton investigation.
The Judiciary Committee letter also asked Lynch about a related email that was sent out by the head of the DNC. It said that Lynch had assured Clinton campaign staff member Amanda Renteria that she would prevent the Clinton email investigation from going “too far.”
Fox News commentator former Judge Andrew Napolitano said Monday that if Lynch did have an inappropriate communication with former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz about the Clinton investigation, she could be charged with “misconduct in office,” a felony carrying a sentence of five to ten years in jail.
The letter was signed by Senator Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary committee, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, and by Senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse, the chairman and ranking member of its investigative subcommittee.
Lynch might also be asked about the details of her compromising secret meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport just days before the FBI investigation into his wife’s emails concluded.
WHO WAS BEHIND THE FALSE “TRUMP DOSSIER?”
The same Senate committee is also investigating the murky ties of the political research firm, Fusion GPS, which was behind the so-called Trump dossier, consisting of 35 pages of unverifiable accusations of scandalous or compromising behavior by Donald Trump. It was generated as Democrat opposition research from dubious Russian sources for use during the presidential campaign.
Fusion GPS describes itself as a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” In fact, it’s founders, who are more political activists than journalists, and have a strong pro-Clinton, anti-Trump agenda.
In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy, to build a Russia file for political use against Trump. Steele then tried to get various news organizations to use the material in the dossier as the basis of stories which would embarrass Trump, but they refused to do so because they could not verify any of the allegations in the dossier. In fact, a number of the dossier’s allegations have been proven to be false.
However, Steele was able to interest the FBI in the dossier, which reportedly agreed to pay Steele $50,000 in October to corroborate its dirt on Trump.
The committee’s investigators are demanding to see all records of communications between Fusion GPS, the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who negotiated the deal with Steele. However, Fusion GPS and the FBI are refusing to cooperate by providing the congressional investigators with documents they have requested.
GINGRICH SUGGESTS THAT OBAMA BE QUESTIONED
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested Tuesday that all those investigating the Russian collusion conspiracy should interview former President Obama and senior members of his administration about their failure to stop the Russian interference into the election when they first learned from the CIA last August that Putin himself was behind it.
The Washington Post article quoted explanations offered by those Obama officials for their failure to do anything to stop the interference. The report contained detailed stories describing partisan bickering among members of Congress, initial skepticism by other U.S. intelligence agencies about the CIA’s findings, and White House overconfidence that Clinton would win the election.
Instead of moving quickly to expose and end the Russian interference, Obama’s top priority was to appease Putin and do nothing that would provoke him to do anything more to disrupt the election itself.
After Clinton surprisingly lost, the Obama administration pulled back again, imposing light sanctions which amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist, which Putin and the Russians simply ignored. Instead of punishing the Russian leader, after the fact, Obama let Putin get away with possibly engineering Clinton’s defeat.
The Washington Post story makes it clear that Obama administration officials were deeply remorseful about their failure to expose and stop the Russian interference and punish them for it, before the election. But at a December 16 news conference, Obama was defiant, telling reporters that he handled the Russian interference on Putin’s orders in exactly the right way. “My principal goal leading up to the election was making sure that the election itself went off without a hitch, that it was not tarnished and that it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow, tampering had taken place with the actual process of voting and we accomplished that.”
TRUMP BELIEVES HE HAS BEEN EXONERATED
Trump, had his own theories to explain Obama’s failure to mount an adequate response to the Russian aggression. Quoting an interview from the Washington Post article, Trump tweeted: “Obama Administration official said they ‘choked’ when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?”
Trump cited the Washington Post article as evidence that the intense, months-long efforts by the media, Democrats and federal investigators to find evidence that he and his campaign had colluded with the Russia was totally misdirected.
Some liberal Democrats took the Washington Post article as proof of their suspicions about Russian interference in the election.
“Nothing like the extensive hacking effort and manipulation effort could occur without involvement,” Senator Jeff Merkley told CNN. “Now we actually know: Yes, Putin directed it. . . . He had a specific goal to defeat Hillary Clinton.”
But few Democrats acknowledged that there is still no evidence that Trump or members of his campaign knew about or were involved in the Russian attempts to interfere with the campaign.
TRUTH EMERGING OVER RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE
The Washington Post story made it clear that the investigations should be about more than unproven conspiracy theories concocted by Trump’s political enemies to discredit him. The Russian interference in the election was real and deliberate, and it is also clearer that Trump and his campaign were not involved with it.
The only Republicans who seemed alarmed by the initial accusations of Russian electoral interference were Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain. They also seemed willing to believe that Trump might have been involved. But now more Republicans are expressing serious concern about the threat posed by Russian interference with democracy in the United States.
Congressman Adam Kinginger tweeted: #Russia is a problem & they attacked our democracy. This is about defending the integrity of our government & our election system.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger warned that this country still has done nothing to prevent an inevitable recurrence of the Russian attack. “The reality is, in two or four years, it will serve Vladimir Putin’s interest to take down the Republican Party. If we weren’t upset about it, we have no right to complain in the future.”
CONWAY CHALLENGES OBAMA FOR DOING NOTHING
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump went on national television Sunday morning to blame the Obama administration for failing to expose the Russian plot before the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election. They did absolutely nothing. They’re responsible for this,” Conway said in an ABC interview.
“I have a hacking question for the Obama administration,” she continued. “Why did you, quote, choke, in the name of one of their senior administration officials? Why did you do nothing? Why didn’t you inform candidate Trump?
“I know you thought Hillary would win, but how could you not reveal important information about Russia hacking?” she said.
“When [Trump] found out about it in January, as president, he said it was a disgrace. He believes Russia was behind it, but he thinks other people hacked, too.
“I think the previous administration has a lot of questions to answer given this Russian obsession by everyone.”
Conway noted that Trump has appointed a presidential commission on electoral integrity, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, to respond to the Russian cyber threat to homeland security.
“He signed very early on a cybersecurity executive order and has an entire task force. They met just this week, and it’s headed up by his homeland security adviser, taking into account what foreign governments may be doing,” she said. “That goes for Russia or anybody else who wants to interfere in our democracy.”
Conway added that the commission plans to issue a report addressing “everything from voter fraud here domestically to possible hacking by foreign governments.”
“He [Trump] takes very seriously integrity at the ballot box in all of its forms,” she added.
SCHUMER’S TRICKY RESPONSE
Conway’s accusation that Obama allowed the Russian hacking to go unpunished was immediately rebutted by an interview with Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the same program.
He said that the Obama administration is “no longer in charge” and challenged the Trump White House to support a Senate bill that would impose additional sanctions on Russia and Iran, but deny Trump the typical presidential prerogative of being able to lift them if necessary for national security purposes.
In fact, the sanctions bill was a not very subtle way for Democrats to suggest that President Trump can’t be trusted to act to defend America’s national interest because they suspect he has been compromised by the Russians. That is why his administration is opposing the Democrat sanctions bill.
Schumer dared to interpret that as an admission of guilt by the president. He said in the Sunday interview, “The American people are scratching their heads. Knowing his relationship with Putin, they’re saying why the heck is he opposing strengthening sanctions?”
The sanctions bill is currently stalled, but Schumer suggested that he could get enough Republicans to support it, not only to pass the bill but to override a Trump veto.
“So the bottom line is if Donald Trump wants to do something about Russia and Russian meddling, better than just saying Obama didn’t do enough, support our sanctions bill,” Schumer concluded.
MOMENTUM HAS CHANGED
Over the past couple of weeks, the momentum and direction of this story has changed. Media speculation is starting to subside as special counsel Mueller keeps a public silence about his investigation. One by one, the media-hyped allegations and accusation of wrongdoing by Trump and his associates are being disproved, and the focus is now turning on those making the false allegations and news organizations promoting “fake news” intended to discredit the president.
Instead of uncovering any evidence of Trump’s guilt, the multiple investigations are now revealing questionable actions and decisions by Obama and senior members of his administration, and their failure to respond to the Russian interference in the election.
The result is a reminder to Trump’s political enemies and those who hoped that these investigations would uncover evidence that would enable them to eventually bring the president down: “Be careful of what you wish for.”