The Damage Being Done

To begin with, I’m not surprised by this:

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.

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.

Putin may be a lot of things, but one cannot imagine he is sloppy about security within his inner circle. Now it is possible that Trump was shown correspondence containing Putin’s personal orders to disrupt the US election, but the most prudent course of action would be to treat it with heavy skepticism. This is especially the case if you believe, with good reason, the people showing it to you have an agenda all of their own, their interests are polar-opposite to yours, and they are not averse to lying through their teeth even under oath.

If the US did have a “top-secret source close to Mr. Putin” it is a valuable asset indeed, and not one which would get mentioned in a New York Times article in order to make Trump look bad. Or would it? That’s the problem – we have former FBI Director James Comey running around shooting his mouth off, former CIA Director John Brennan doing the same thing, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spilling the beans on this latest story – and all of these men still have their security clearances intact. The quantity of classified material which has been leaked to the press by America’s various intelligence agencies is staggering, and it’s being done for one reason only – to hurt Trump. So keen they are to land a solid blow they’re even prepared to blow the cover of a highly-placed asset in Russia on the front page of the New York Times. Is this not reason enough for Trump to treat them with extreme distrust, and the information they’re providing with skepticism? I’d say it is.

One thing is for sure, no employee of Putin’s intelligence apparatus either current or former is turning up on live television or leaking classified documents to the press. If Putin is making Trump look foolish at every point and turn as his opponents claim, well, that might have something to do with it. Unlike the Americans, the Russians take things like operational security rather seriously and if they’ve read the NYT this morning you can imagine they’ll find it interesting. Which brings me onto this story:

US President Donald Trump has rejected a proposal made by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin that Russia be allowed to question US citizens.

The White House earlier said it would consider it but now says Mr Trump “disagrees” with the suggestion.

The offer was made at a summit of the two leaders. In return, Mr Putin suggested he might allow access to 12 Russians indicted by the US.

The idea of allowing a foreign power to quiz US citizens sparked outrage.

So the US indicted twelve Russian citizens, but when Russia shows (an almost certainly retaliatory) interest in American citizens, outrage ensues. If there’s one aspect of America I really don’t like is their complaining when another country does what they do as a matter of course – such as meddling in elections. Americans seem to think they have a monopoly on certain aspects of international relations; the most egregious example for any Brit is the one-way extradition agreement Blair signed with the US, supposedly for tackling terrorism but ended up being used to extradite British businessmen who’d broken no US laws on US soil. But I digress.

Anyway, what’s happened here is obvious, and it stems back to Mueller’s decision to indict twelve Russian intelligence officers for supposedly hacking the DNC’s servers and distributing stolen information with the intent to influence the 2016 election. Now if you read the indictment it is incredibly detailed to the point you have to wonder what kind of amateurs the Russians have working for them. Now perhaps the Russian intelligence services employ hackers who are so inept they cannot cover their tracks and a year or two after the deed they are named in an indictment which details who, when, and how each attack was made – even though the FBI admitted they’ve not actually seen the compromised machines, and never even asked to. Instead, they relied on a private, third-party outfit called Crowdstrike to do the forensics. Note also the indictment accuses these Russians of releasing stolen emails to the public: apparently leaking classified information is a crime after all, but only when Russians do it.

So do I think the Russians illegally accessed DNC information? Yes, of course, along with every other man and his dog. Firstly, the leak of the DNC emails may well have been an inside job from a disgruntled Bernie Bro upset at Hillary’s antics during the primaries. Secondly, John Podesta, the Chairman of Hillary’s campaign, had his Gmail account broken into via a simple phishing operation, and rumours persist that his password was “password”.  Thirdly, you had Hillary Clinton’s unauthorised bathroom server which was almost certainly compromised from the minute it was installed by highly competent IT professionals working for every foreign government with an interest in the US. For those who claim it was secure, the fact that Hillary’s IT guy turned to Reddit to ask for advice suggests otherwise.

What Mueller’s indictment looks like, to me at least, is an attempt to save face by pretending the DNC’s appallingly lax security was the result of a highly sophisticated hacking operation by the Russian government. There is absolutely no chance the Russians are going to hand over the twelve named persons, which is why Mueller can allege whatever he likes in the indictment: he’s never going to have to prove it, but it serves its purpose as a political tool. At this point, I think the American political establishment isn’t far short of going to war with Russia in order to avoid having to admit the Democrats were a shambles and Hillary an appalling candidate; it really is quite staggering the lengths to which they’re going here – and at what cost! As I said before, regarding an earlier indictment:

Whereas I suppose Putin has found much of this genuinely amusing up to now, this indictment changes things. The individuals named are in Russia and so unlikely to be arrested, but the intent is there. Putin has often accused foreigners working for NGOs in Russia of interfering in politics, shutting down various organisations in the process. He was rightly criticised for this, but it’s hard to see why Russians should tolerate Americans doing political work in Russia if Americans believe disparaging Hillary Clinton on Facebook is an offence worthy of FBI indictment. If Putin chooses to do so he could start making life very difficult for Americans in Russia now, and the American government wouldn’t have a damned leg to stand on. Those who may find themselves languishing in an icy cell on dubious charges of political subversion can thank Hillary Clinton, her insatiable ego, and her thoroughly corrupt supporters for their predicament.

It is therefore unsurprising that, during Trump’s meeting with Putin, this happened:

In what President Trump called a “tremendous” gesture, Mr Putin said he would let US prosecutors interview the 12 Russians in exchange for Russian access to US nationals the Kremlin accuses of “illegal actions”.

The individuals are related to Russia’s case against the financier Bill Browder, a fierce Putin critic who was instrumental in the US imposing sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption.

Mr Browder told the BBC he was glad President Trump “isn’t going to hand me over to President Putin”.

But he added: “I’m a little amazed that this whole conversation has taken place over a three-day period when Trump should have immediately rejected it, as any other head of state would have.”

Russia was also seeking to interview Michael McFaul, another Putin critic who was US ambassador to Moscow under President Obama.

What Putin is doing is saying:

“So you’ve indicted twelve Russian citizens, eh? Well, since we’re here, there’s a couple of blokes on your side I’d like a word with. How about it?”

Putin knows full well Trump will not and cannot accept this proposal of a quid pro quo, but it serves to remind folk that two can play this game. Unfortunately, the reaction of Trump’s opponents shows they’ve utterly missed this point, instead preferring to believe Trump committed treason by not immediately rejecting it. As it happened, Trump said he’d think about it, spoke with his staff, then said “no”. Naturally, his opponents believe he only said this because of the level of outrage on Twitter, but if anyone thinks this is the criteria on which Trump bases decisions, they’re pretty dumb.

What’s amused me about this is the reaction from the aforementioned Michael McFaul:

Now since leaving his post as US ambassador to Russia, McFaul has spent most of his time on Twitter making partisan remarks about Trump and slagging off Putin. For example, here’s what he said six days before the Helsinki meeting:

He has also written a book about his time in Moscow in which he alleges Putin has been personally harassing him. Is this appropriate? For a political hack, yes. For a former ambassador, perhaps less so. Now McFaul can expect the full protection of the US from Russia, and he has that – he is not going to exchanged in a swap with the twelve indicted Russians, that will never happen. But what amuses me is he expects Trump – the man who he has spent over a year bitching about publicly – to leap to his defence the minute Putin mentions his name. Look at these Tweets, one day apart:

I’d like to think that Trump had McFaul’s tweeting habits in mind when Putin first mentioned his name and thought “this is obviously bullshit, but let’s make him sweat a few days”. The moral of the story, which smug gits like McFaul will never learn even now, is that you should not deliberately make enemies of people you may later rely on to defend you beyond what is required by law or duty. This is especially true if you’ve been working in Russia in any capacity.

Thanks to the efforts of people like McFaul and the various US intelligence agencies, America’s relations with Russia are in absolute tatters. The one person trying to keep everyone sane – in part so he can continue with robust anti-Russian policies not related to Hillary losing the election – is Donald Trump. For that, he is accused of treason and being Putin’s puppet. The long-term damage this is doing to America cannot be understated, and history will not look kindly on those who are wreaking it.

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21 thoughts on “The Damage Being Done

  1. “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.”

    Why would any credible intelligence agency let it be known they have a source close to Putin? And add in the details of the types of intel he has provided in order to make it easier for Putin to detect him?

    I think the sad truth is the US intelligence services were mostly headed up by a bunch of incompetent, partisan, hacks.

  2. What I fail to grasp in all this is how it is that Mueller, Comey, Rosenstein, Strzok, and all the others are not getting indicted. Trump is a notoriously vindictive enemy. Hillary and Obama also should be heading to trial soon. Why is this not happening? It’s not as if there is a lack of evidence to subpoena them all with. Using bodies of state to undermine a candidate / presidency is illegal.

  3. Why is this not happening?

    If it will happen, it will happen after the mid-terms in November. If the GOP holds the Senate, look out.

  4. Tim I find the new edit function harder than the old one. I thought I had just respelled ‘enemey’ to ‘enemy’ but find it has created a whole new post.

  5. Tim I find the new edit function harder than the old one.

    So do I, but the old one stopped working!

  6. Tim the GoP would have to be slaughtered in a way of unbelievable size to lose the Senate they are only defending 9 seats.

    There are stories that Session has a Utah US Attorney investigating I like to think they have charges ready to go but don’t reallt believe it.

    It seems to me we are seeing a coup. I actually think those involved Comey, Mcabe, Page and Sykokz should be imprison but its not going to happen.

  7. I’ve stated before here that I’m no lover of Russia but I have always wished we were not so antagonistic as they would be a great asset in future struggles so top marks to the president in at least trying to lower the temperature.

  8. I’ve stated before here that I’m no lover of Russia but I have always wished we were not so antagonistic as they would be a great asset in future struggles

    Russia needs – or needed, the time for doing so may have passed – to be clobbered on several issues, particularly the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of eastern Ukraine, and the shooting down of MH-17. The west did almost nothing about them, but instead are expending all their ammunition on ludicrous charges of election hacking just because Hillary lost. It’s absolutely insane. It’s an absolute non-issue, and real issues to do with Russia aren’t being addressed.

  9. Tim the GoP would have to be slaughtered in a way of unbelievable size to lose the Senate they are only defending 9 seats.

    Maybe I’m thinking of the House. I’m a little shaky in this area.

  10. Mueller’s first batch of indictments didn’t go too well, certainly with regard to the three Russian companies two of which turned up asking for a trial and the third turned out not to exist. I don’t suppose the current batch are any better.
    But why do it two days before a summit unless the purpose is to wreck the summit.
    And as for those idiots asking why Trump doesn’t call Putin a liar in Public straight after the meeting words fail me.

  11. While being no fan of Putin’s Russia, it is agreed that the Crimean population is very Russian, and any referendum would have had the same outcome. So since the West claims to respect self-determination (except for Brexit, Catalonia, South Tyrol, Flanders and that other Belgium, etc etc…) what is basically being complained about is the Process, not the Outcome: “We would have done it differently!!!”

    And the Ukraine the Crimeans have been rescued from…..that would be the Ukraine where the EU refused to respect a democratic election result and caused an armed uprising against the elected government…that Ukraine?

    Rather topical, your recent post got me to re-read Chickenhawk, and that starts with a comment about South Vietnam and their US sponsors refusing to even hold the agreed election, because the wrong side was going to win it.

    The Ukraine is a now total mess, but it’s one of the EU’s making. Putin is left with it on his doorstep, and with a lot of ethnic Russians living there.Would you expect him to do nothing? It’s a bit hypocritical to start complaining about the mess the west has caused, I think.
    As to MH17, well, once you have an armed conflict, shit happens. What was a civilian airliner doing flying over a war-zone? Most other airlines had read the news and stayed away.
    Which is not to excuse Putin’s Russia, just to say that the MSM is totally biased and only ever covers a single,v ery simplistic, viewpoint. Fortunately, they are now so dumb about it that it’s becoming obvious.
    I think Trump is absolutely right to establish dialogue with Putin. There must be much common ground, and even agreement on areas of diasagreement. That’s got to be better than pretending Russia isnt there, until one side ends up being provoked beyond sanity. The US MSM is already there.

  12. I don’t know all the,protocols in place, but it seems like the current intelligence officials should go public and tell the former officials to shut their mouths. Do they really still have security clearance?

  13. Not sure if anyone here has been reading about Q-anon. If there is any truth to it, then things are going to get very interesting state side. I hear that Lisa Page has said that China hacked Hillary’s server and got the 30,000 emails. The FBI knew and did nothing as they didn’t want HRC to lose the election. There might be a few arrests coming after the mid-terms.

  14. I hear that Lisa Page has said that China hacked Hillary’s server and got the 30,000 emails.

    One of the reasons I don’t think there’s a shred of truth in this Russia stuff is because if Russia could do it, so could China, and they would have. Yet nobody’s mentioning China, probably because they’re a lot harder to demonise (the US is chock-full of Chinese, for starters).

  15. As soon as I read the indictment I knew that the US should watch for the other shoe to drop. It gave Putin and the Russian intelligence services a mammoth opportunity to completely undermine the FBI and the DoJ, if they aren’t already.

    Imagine if the Russians turn over the named individuals. They then get lawyers and the trial starts. They take the stand and say “yes I worked for the GRU, but we were paid by the Israelis to do this, it was an unauthorized operation.” Or some other sleight of hand. I have never in my life seen such a level of incompetence. One thing I know for certain is you never give the Russians an opening like this to exploit.

  16. While being no fan of Putin’s Russia, it is agreed that the Crimean population is very Russian, and any referendum would have had the same outcome.

    Well, I don’t know about that.

    I followed he Crimean annexation quite closely and recall reading that the Russian electoral commission claimed a 15% turnout and 50% vote in favour.

    How free an election there could be with a week’s notice and soldiers with guns by the ballot boxes is open to doubt.

    I doubt the Ukrainians in Crimea are happy with Russian rule, nor the former majority Tatars.

    You could read It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past by David Satter (which I highly recommend) for a flavour of the regime, or look what happened to Magnitsky. I take our host’s point that for most Russians who are not involved with the crime bosses or gangs, life is much better than under Yeltsin or the former Soviet union. But, still, the Russian government occupies Transnistria – a small sliver of Moldavia next to Moldova, occupies Abkhazia, a part of Georgia, occupies part of East Ukraine, and has troops there fighting against the legitimate elected Government, was complicit in shooting down MH-17, looks like it was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the UK, was responsible for the use of Polonium as a murder weapon, so no, I don’t have sympathy for the Russian Government. But I do wish that the rest of NATO would pay at least 2% of national income, rather than free load on those countries that do.

  17. Imagine if the Russians turn over the named individuals. They then get lawyers and the trial starts. They take the stand and say “yes I worked for the GRU, but we were paid by the Israelis to do this, it was an unauthorized operation.” Or some other sleight of hand.

    How about, “We were paid by the Republican party” – and then Trump loses in 2020, and President Clinton cracks down on the eco-catastrophe that is fracking, and the press loses all interest in Russian shenanigans…

  18. “Yet nobody’s mentioning China, probably because they’re a lot harder to demonise (the US is chock-full of Chinese, for starters).”

    China is the USA’s main strategic threat, the US and Trump have came out and said this and that puts them well ahead of Russia when it comes to who should be attacked first given the US theatre of wars are offensive as opposed to defensive. But the Washington war and money making machine knows that their “War on Terror” has passed its sell by date and sees ramping up the Russian military threat as opposed to a tiny Chinese one is the only credible military one, hence we have a new type of Cold War that will generate billions of dollars in new business to their stakeholders. Trump knows that a Russian attack (by military means anyway) is highly unlikely, he sees that previous administrations hostility towards Russia have pushed Russia towards China which he needs to undo, once he does that then he will have a clear shot at the real threat to US world dominance, China.

  19. what is basically being complained about is the Process, not the Outcome

    Yes, but I think that’s a very valid complaint.

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