“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion”

Partisan posturing over Donald Trump’s partial exoneration by the Robert Mueller report has dominated attention, but I think the most important aspect of the investigation has been sadly sideline. The report stated that “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” That should alarm people cross the divided US political spectrum.

New York Times editorial: The Mueller Report and the Danger Facing American Democracy

The report of the special counsel Robert Mueller leaves considerable space for partisan warfare over the role of President Trump and his political campaign in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. But one conclusion is categorical: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

The Justice Department’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies in February 2018 laid bare much of the sophisticated Russian campaign to blacken the American democratic process and support the Trump campaign, including the theft of American identities and creation of phony political organizations to fan division on immigration, religion or race. The extensive hacks of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails and a host of other dirty tricks have likewise been exhaustively chronicled.

But Russia’s interference in the campaign was the core issue that Mr. Mueller was appointed to investigate, and if he stopped short of accusing the Trump campaign of overtly cooperating with the Russians — the report mercifully rejects speaking of “collusion,” a term that has no meaning in American law — he was unequivocal on Russia’s culpability:

“First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations — violated U.S. criminal law.”

The first part of the report, which describes these crimes, is worthy of a close read. Despite a thick patchwork of redactions, it details serious and dangerous actions against the United States.

Despite a thick patchwork of redactions, it details serious and dangerous actions against the United States that Mr. Trump, for all his endless tweeting and grousing about the special counsel’s investigation, has never overtly confronted, acknowledged, condemned or comprehended. Culpable or not, he must be made to understand that a foreign power that interferes in American elections is, in fact, trying to distort American foreign policy and national security.

It isn’t all about Trump. Far more importantly, it has been about the integrity of US democracy.

But Trump seems to see his win in the election as all important and he claims that to be on his merits alone and does not want credit attributed to the Russians (the lack of merit of Hillary Clinton was also a significant factor).

The earliest interference described in the report was a social media campaign intended to fan social rifts in the United States, carried out by an outfit funded by an oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” for the feasts he catered. Called the Internet Research Agency, the unit actually sent agents to the United States to gather information at one point.

What the unit called “information warfare” evolved by 2016 into an operation targeted at favoring Mr. Trump and disparaging Mrs. Clinton. This included posing as American people or grass-roots organizations such as the Tea Party, anti-immigration groups, Black Lives Matter and others to buy political ads or organize political rallies.

At the same time, the report said, the cyberwarfare arm of the Russian army’s intelligence service opened another front, hacking the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee and releasing reams of damaging materials through the front groups DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, and later through WikiLeaks.

The releases were carefully timed for impact — emails stolen from the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, for example, were released less than an hour after the “Access Hollywood” tape damaging to Mr. Trump came out.

A carefully and deliberately orchestrated campaign. Whether there was any collusion or not between Russia and the Trump campaign, there were plenty of interactions that should be concerning.

All this activity, the report said, was accompanied by the well documented efforts to contact the Trump campaign through business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for Mr. Trump to meet Mr. Putin and plans for improved American-Russian relations. Both sides saw potential gains, the report said — Russia in a Trump presidency, the campaign from the stolen information.

The Times documented 140 contacts between Mr. Trump and his associates and Russian nationals and WikiLeaks or their intermediaries. But the Mueller investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

That is the part Mr. Trump sees as vindication, though the activities of his chaotic campaign team that the report describes are — at best — naïve.

With an absence of evidence of direct collusion it looks to me to be more like separate campaigns with a common purpose, with some opportunistic use of each other’s efforts.

It is obviously difficult for this president to acknowledge that he was aided in his election by Russia, and there is no way to gauge with any certainty how much impact the Russian activities actually had on voters.

But the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security.

I think that it is pointless trying to rely on Trump addressing this. But this is what US authorities, and the US Congress and the Senate should now be focussing on – especially, how to prevent this sort of foreign interference from happening to the same degree again.

A perceived victory for Russian interference poses a serious danger to the United States. Already, several American agencies are working, in partnership with the tech industry, to prevent election interference going forward. But the Kremlin is not the only hostile government mucking around in America’s cyberspace — China and North Koreaare two others honing their cyber-arsenals, and they, too, could be tempted to manipulate partisan strife for their ends.

That is something neither Republicans nor Democrats should allow. The two parties may not agree on Mr. Trump’s culpability, but they have already found a measure of common ground with the sanctions they have imposed on Russia over its interference in the campaign.

Now they could justify the considerable time and expense of the special counsel investigation, and at the same time demonstrate that the fissure in American politics is not terminal, by jointly making clear to Russia and other hostile forces that the democratic process, in the United States and its allies, is strictly off limits to foreign clandestine manipulation, and that anyone who tries will pay a heavy price.

Trump is a problem, but he has been largely a distraction from a bigger and more important problem. The integrity of the US democratic system is at stake, and a lot of repair work is required for that to regain credibility.

 

 

 

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37 Comments

  1. David

     /  22nd April 2019

    The history of this is far more nuanced but Trump has put in far tougher sanctions than Obama had.
    Obama and his intelligence were well aware of Russian interference back to pre the Iran deal but they needed Russian support for it so turned a blind eye. Obama,s intelligence folk knew that Russia was interfering during the 2016 campaign and instead of approaching the Trump campaign with a warning they used it as cover to spy on his campaign.
    I dont expect the media to wait for Brennan and Clapper after their daily and lucrative appearances on CNN and MSNBC and op eds in the NY Times and Washington Post and ask them some pointed questions.

    Reply
    • Pink David

       /  22nd April 2019

      Question. Why are Brennan and Clapper not in jail?

      They should be the two people who know the most about Trump/Russia, yet here we are two+ years later and there is not a scrap of evidence of the claimed collusion. They either simply didn’t know, in which case they have been promoting a conspiracy theory from the highest chair in US security, or they did know and have been party to an attempt to depose the President in bad faith.

      What have I missed here? What justification can they have for their actions that are legitimate?

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  22nd April 2019

        Yes there is evidence of collusion.
        The Trump Tower meeting where Trump was directly implicated with the false claim of adoption when it was political. Trump wasnt at the meeting but his campaign people were and passed on information ( Donald jnr called a burner phone number right after the meeting)

        Another example -Flynn is the prime example when you look at his background before working with Trump
        ‘On December 10, 2015, Flynn attended a gala dinner in Moscow in honor of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), a Russian government-owned English-language media outlet, on which he made semi-regular appearances as an analyst after he retired from U.S. government service.
        Flynn sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the dinner,”

        of course Flynn was fired after inauguration over his lies about his Russian contacts, even though Obama warned Trump after election day about hiring him.

        The evidence of crimes ( collusion isnt a crime in itself) is in multiple occasions but according to Mueller wasnt enough to indict Trump himself. Doesnt mean he didnt direct or benefit from various forms of collusion.

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  22nd April 2019

          My god! People talking to Russians, Collusion! Collusion!

          “Doesnt mean he didnt direct or benefit from various forms of collusion.”

          Collusion, parties working together to the achieve and agreed outcome. There remains not a shred of evidence that there was such a discussion, or agreement between Trump and the Russian Government, or agents thereof.

          “Obama warned Trump after election day about hiring him.”

          Did Flynn collude with the Russian government?

          “The evidence of crimes ( collusion isnt a crime in itself) is in multiple occasions but according to Mueller wasnt enough to indict Trump himself. ”

          There is no evidence of crimes, because if there was, charges could be laid. Barr has made this point very clearly. The only evidence is of people talking to Russian, which is not a crime strangely.

          Reply
  2. Trevors_elbow

     /  22nd April 2019

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/565538/

    Damn Russians…..as if America would ever do such a thing.

    Reply
  3. Patzcuaro

     /  22nd April 2019

    Even the rats are turning their noses up

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  22nd April 2019

      For some reason Giuliani reminds me of that awful teacher character in Pink Floyd’s video clip “Another Brick in The Wall”. “If you don’t each your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat???”

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  22nd April 2019

        (I think I’ll give up. This iPad seems determined to make me make & miss typos today!)
        😐

        Reply
  4. duperez

     /  22nd April 2019

    “It isn’t all about Trump. Far more importantly, it has been about the integrity of US democracy.”

    Thing is though, for those who think Trump is the best thing to ever hit American politics it is about Trump and after the report there is even less reason to question his integrity. Nothing anyone comes up with will make one iota of difference to that view. ‘Reputable sources,’ knowledge, intellect, reason, common sense, historic legalities and proven facts are all irrelevant. 🙃

    Reply
  5. MaureenW

     /  22nd April 2019

    Trump is a warty guy. Always was and probably always will be.
    Most of the negative critique about Trump is about him personally rather than his policies. Those who accept his presidency are more inclined to focus on what he’s doing now, rather than what he may have done/said in the past.
    The cacophony of Trumps a horrible person (so therefore justify anything else said about him) remind me of Labour trying to take John Key down for 10 years.
    The 2016 election was a race between two flawed candidates – one of them had to win. I could almost guarantee that the type of personal remarks said about Trump wouldn’t have been allowed to have been spoken about Clinton – would have been labelled sexist hate speech. Funny world we live in.

    Reply
    • “Most of the negative critique about Trump is about him personally rather than his policies. ”

      I think there has been plenty of criticism of some of his policies, and lack of policies, and lack of success implementing his policies.

      Like the wall, trade wars, moving the embassy in Israel, Syria, North Korea, Europe, health care, energy, climate change…

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  22nd April 2019

        “Like the wall, trade wars, moving the embassy in Israel, Syria, North Korea, Europe, health care, energy, climate change…”

        Trump has achieved a ton of success in that list. He actually moved the embassy, something that was US policy for decades. There are huge changes in energy and climate change. Throwing the Paris Agreement out was just one small part of that. His challenge to Europe is also a success. North Korea has some prospect of changing a state that has existed for many decades and it’s the first real change in approach.

        Reply
      • David

         /  22nd April 2019

        Thing is that there is very little complaints about his policies flawed or good, all the noise is about him as a person and sure he has his faults but since when did any politician not.
        Moving the embassy has been policy for decades and seemingly no one cares all that much, Syria seems finally resolved and was something he was lumbered with from Obamas inaction, NK has been in relative terms quieter but at least he is trying and gave it a go which few PR focused politicians would try, Europe has dropped its Paris Accord plans, health care reform was torpedoed by McCain and McConnell wont touch it and Europe needs to be smacked around for its terrible trade practices.
        Face it Trump is just a great business model that has saved the media temporarily and given relevence to any number of washed up actors, singers and bit part players. With the lowest unemployment ever, growing economy and rising wages that the media go crazy over a tweet shows things are pretty bloody awesome in the US as there is clearly everything must be going well.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  22nd April 2019

          ” very little complaints about his policies flawed or good”

          hello ! His immigration policies are the source of huge protests. hes recently just fired the top layer of staff in Homeland Security . Even Trump is not happy there, he wants to double down on that.
          The government shutdown, that was a disaster for Trump. First he signs off on the first 3 continuation bills and then reneges and refuses the last one with out money for a wall. Ends up signing a continuation bill anyway. Egg of face big time.

          Its clear you havent a clue on what Trumps policies are. remember the list of must dos for the first 100 days or so ? Welshed on most of those.

          Reply
  6. seer

     /  22nd April 2019

    meanwhile..

    Reply
  7. Pink David

     /  22nd April 2019

    The really important question here is; Given Russia executed a plan to interfere with the 2016, why were they so bad at it?

    Reply
    • MaureenW

       /  22nd April 2019

      You’d think with all those backdoor hacking tools the CIA has developed (Vault 7), they would be able to thwart electronic interference in thei elections (Facebook Ads)

      Reply
  8. MaureenW

     /  22nd April 2019

    About all Russia gained from the 2016 election would have been a huge laugh. Those who knew about Russian interference and looked the other way while trying to dump it on Trump need to be held to account. The US made themselves look like hapless fools – perhaps they are.

    Reply
  9. MaureenW

     /  22nd April 2019

    About all Russia gained from the 2016 election would have been a huge laugh. Those who knew about Russian interference and looked the other way while trying to dump it on Trump need to be held to account. The US made themselves look like hapless fools – perhaps they are.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  22nd April 2019

      Just because you are unaware of what has happened in US doesnt mean it didnt happen.
      Obama ramped up sanctions before inauguration because of russian election interference.(On December 29, 2016, the U.S. government announced a series of punitive measures against Russia including expelling over 30 diplomats)
      Obama warned Trump after election day about Flynns work with the Russians.

      Other investigations have produced results
      ‘On February 16, 2018, a Federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and fraud with identification documents, in connection with the 2016 United States national elections.
      The 37-page indictment cites the illegal use of social media “to sow political discord, including actions that supported the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and disparaged his opponent, Hillary Clinton.”

      Trump once he was President was having secret ( ie without officials) meetings with Putin at various summits. What was that all about ? Adoptions …hahahahaha

      I could go on, but its clear you havent read up on the topic
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_interference_in_the_2016_United_States_elections

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  22nd April 2019

        “Trump once he was President was having secret ( ie without officials) ”

        You do realise that a discussion without officials is not secret don’t you? The correct description is private. You are trying to mislead as to what is going on.

        How many ‘secret’ meetings did Obama, or any other previous President have with Putin?

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  22nd April 2019

          That’s easy. None. Trump went to great lengths to keep the “conversations secret. ”
          What’s he got to hide….oh that’s right he had Mueller breathing down his neck

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  22nd April 2019

            “That’s easy. None.”

            You do realise this isn’t true don’t you?

            “What’s he got to hide….oh that’s right he had Mueller breathing down his neck”

            Who found no evidence of collusion.

            Reply
          • MaureenW

             /  22nd April 2019

            Idiot – it was made public at the time that Trump had those meetings. I

            Reply
      • MaureenW

         /  22nd April 2019

        I’ve read widely on the topic.
        You miss the irony in your cut and paste material.
        “..before the inauguration Obama ramped up sanctions .. “ ha, ha – he would wouldn’t he – he’d ignored it for long enough.

        Trumps campaign was being spied on by the Obama administration from July 2015. Do you really think they wouldn’t have had enough to press charges if he was working for the Russians.
        You cherrypick the bits that support your anti-Trump bias.

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  22nd April 2019

          ““..before the inauguration Obama ramped up sanctions .. “ ha, ha – he would wouldn’t he – he’d ignored it for long enough.”

          Interesting one this one, smacks of Gordon Brown slashing the Prime Minster’s salary just before Cameron took over as UK PM, 194k to 150k.

          Was Obama an honest actor in this?

          Reply
          • MaureenW

             /  22nd April 2019

            If you look at Trumps tweets they read like he will have Barr investigate the sources of the real Russian collusion.
            What’s he got to lose, the actors behind this have tried to completely derail his presidency.

            Reply
  10. Alan Wilkinson

     /  22nd April 2019
    Reply
    • Duker

       /  22nd April 2019

      Is Black out of jail ? Perhaps he could give fellow ‘billionaire’ Trump some tips about life inside

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  22nd April 2019

        He’s already shared plenty about Obama’s DOJ:
        On 30 June 2011, Black published an article for the National Review Online that provided his scathing view of the legal case, detailing it as a miscarriage of justice and an “unaccountable and often lawless prosecution”.[77] Seth Lipsky, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that ran on 28 June 2011, called the verdict against Black “head-scratching”, noting that Black was found not guilty of the most serious charges brought against him. Lipsky asked why Black was denied a retrial by jury as to whether he had committed pecuniary fraud after the Supreme Court unanimously found that Judge St. Eve’s instructions to the jury were “incorrect”, which led to two of the three fraud counts ultimately being vacated. In the end, one fraud conviction and a count of obstruction were allowed to stand.[78]

        Black’s motion that the last remaining counts of conviction be vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct and his claim that he had been denied the right to have the defense counsel of his choice were denied in February 2013, along with his request for an evidentiary hearing.[79] Black continues to maintain his innocence, and has likened the United States justice system to that of North Korea. Black has publicly stated that he is proud to have been “sent to prison for crimes I would never dream of committing, for having fought it out as well as anyone could, and for making the best I could of a bad situation.

        Much more here:
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Black

        Reply

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