Putin’s cybercoup: ‘A crisis of presidential legitimacy’

    In this Saturday

    In this Saturday

    Let’s start with the FBI’s chilling new report on Russia’s election tampering. The details of what the FBI calls “malicious cyber activity” further confirms what the CIA and 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies have already told us.

    I’ll just quote one line from the report. Trolling Trumpkins are invited to read it, moving their lips word by word if need be:

    “This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence services to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election…”

    But, alas, Comrade Trumpsky, the intended beneficiary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, who in 22 days will swear to defend the Constitution (?!) from enemies foreign and domestic, blithely decreed yesterday that it’s time “to move on to bigger and better things,” which, when translated from Trumpspeak, really means: “Move along, peons, nothing to see here.”

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    And a day earlier, when asked to assess the ever-mounting evidence of Russian perfidy on his behalf, he bobbed and weaved, although some of his phrasing made me wonder whether English is his second language: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

    This morning, the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page assessed Trump’s computer blather: “Lord knows what the president-elect means by that, but it seems to extend his strange and dangerous habit of making excuses for Mr. Putin and treating hacking as a nuisance, not a threat to U.S. national and economic security.”

    Actually, we know exactly what’s going on. Heck, lots of clear-eyed Republicans — the ones who are demanding hearings, the ones who are applauding President Obama’s sanctions and diplomat heave-hos — know exactly what’s going on. But Trump’s gang of enablers don’t want to admit it, can’t bear to admit it, because deep down they know that the Kremlin’s meddling has irrevocably tainted Trump’s presidency from day one.

    Fact-averse apparatchik Kellyanne Conway can claim all she wants that “liberals” are trying to “delegitimize” her client, but the toughest verdicts are being rendered by lifelong conservatives like David Frum – people who remember when the GOP stood strong against the Russians, people who are astounded that a Republican president-elect would side with the Russians against American intelligence agencies.

    Frum, whose best known for coining the term “axis of evil” as a George W. Bush speechwriter, has written something far more devastating than anything I could ever muster:

    “The president-elect of the United States reportedly owes his office in considerable part to illegal clandestine activities in his favor conducted by a hostile, foreign spy service. It’s hard to imagine a crisis of presidential legitimacy more extreme than that.”

    And Trump has fueled his crisis of presidential legitimacy — because, as Frum points out, he spent the fall campaign promoting and exaggerating “the Russian-hacked, Wikileaks-published material,” making the mundane Democratic emails sound like a grand globalist conspiracy. Frum’s obvious conclusion:

    “Without Trump’s own willingness to make false claims and misuse Russian-provided information, the Wikileaks material would have deflated of its own boringness. The Russian-hacked material did damage because, and only because, Russia found a willing accomplice in the person of Donald J. Trump.”

    What’s amazing is how, even now, Trump and his defenders are still working overtime to deny reality and abet the manipulations of a foreign adversary. Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican strategist, eviscerates their twisted mindset (remember, this is a Republican talking):

    “The same people who believe Hillary Clinton and John Podesta sit atop a global organization of child kidnapping, rape, cannibalism, and murder based on pizza joints scream their lungs out denying even the possibility of Russian interference in our elections. The same people who believe in a multi-generational conspiracy to cover up Barack Obama’s actual country of origin call a Russian effort to elect Trump too baroque and complex to contemplate…

    “As a thought experiment, imagine for even a moment the eternal, apoplectic, spittle-flecked rage you’d see from Fox news hosts, talk radio, and the fever-swamp media if Hillary Clinton had won, and there was even a whisper of a hint of a rumor that the Russians had helped her. Republicans wouldn’t simply be asking about the details of their involvement, but they’d be engaged in a constant examination of the Russian’s intent. (Hell, who am I kidding? The word ‘impeachment’ would never leave our lips.)”

    So true. The good news is that key Hill Republicans like John McCain are jonesing for comprehensive hearings, and calling for measures against Russia that are stronger than those announced yesterday by Obama. Ideally, these developments will box Trump in. If he continues to deny reality, if he scoffs at the importance of hearings, if he welcomes back with open arms the Russian diplomats and intelligence operatives who were expelled yesterday, if all told he behaves like an appeaser, he will further taint his presidency at the starting gate.

    And Rick Wilson has a question for Trump’s trolls and defenders: “How much Russian intervention in our elections is OK with you?” The Republican said it better than I can.


    Happy New Year. See you on the flip side.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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