I’m well aware that most Americans — afflicted as they are by attention deficit disorder, and soon to be “led” by an ADD poster child — will soon forget the Russian cyberinvasion, if they haven’t already, and dwell instead on the pigskin playoffs or whatever. And if they stick with politics, there’s the roundelay of confirmation hearings, a promised Trump press conference, the coming Coronation, wave upon wave of narcissistic tweets … it’s a bread-and-circus phantasmagoria.
But before the ’16 cyberinvasion inexplicably slides down the memory hole, or at best becomes a second-tier story, I’m still giving it the attention it clearly deserves. Because it’s not just about our recent past — what Russia did for months on a daily basis, via its hackers and trolls and WikiLeaks, to benefit its chosen presidential candidate. It’s also about our future. It’s about what Russia plans to do next.
That issue has barely been addressed. But it’s right there on page five of the intelligence community report, released on Friday:
“We assess Russian intelligence services will continue to develop capabilities to provide Putin with options to use against the United States, judging from past practice and current efforts. Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting U.S. Government employes and individuals associated with U.S. think tanks and NGOs [non-government organizations] in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields. This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans.”
In other words, what happened last year — in the report’s words, Vladimir Putin “ordered” a hacking-WikiLeaks campaign that “demonstrated a clear preference for President-elect Trump” — was merely a portent of things to come.
So the big questions should be obvious: What’s Trump prepared to do about it? Will he confront Russia over its intrusions and defend the American greatness he talks so much about? Or will he dismiss the ongoing threat and, by doing so, allow Russia to pick our pockets?
Thus far, all indications point to the latter — as evidenced by the remarks of Kellyanne Conway, the de facto empress of Mother Russia West.
In my previous life as a Philadelphia Inquirer political writer, I had many dealings with Kellyanne. She was a terrific conservative source, chatty (no surprise there) and accessible. She’s a South Jersey girl and we bonded that way, too. And if anyone had told me back in the ’90s that some day she’d be an apologist for Russia, I would’ve laughingly pointed out that such a scenario could only be possible on Bizarro World, the planet in the Superman comics where everything was backward.
But yesterday, here on Bizarro World, Conway said that we don’t need a bipartisan special panel to investigate Russia’s cybermeddlings; that President Obama’s decision to eject 35 alleged Russian spies, as a response to the intelligence report, “does seem to be disproportionate response, a punitive one”; and that Trump’s actions will be “proportionate to what occurred”; and that “Democrats” are stirring up trouble only “after the election results are in.” (In truth, 17 intelligence agencies warned about Russia’s campaign invasion back on Oct. 7, in a statement that Trump ignored.)
If indeed our intelligence agencies are correct that Russia will continue to hack and steal our crucial information — and only the densest Trumpkin trolls will claim otherwise — Conway’s remarks do not inspire confidence that the Trump regime will take the ongoing threat seriously. Heck, she’s still insisting, in her ubiquitous TV gigs, that whatever Russia did in ’16 was not very serious.
She has become a masterful bullpoop artist. On NBC News the other day, she assessed Friday’s intelligence report this way: “If you read the full report, they make clear, Mr. [James] Clapper in his [congressional] testimony made clear in his testimony, under oath, that any attempt, any aspiration to influence our elections failed. [The Russians] were not successful in doing that.”
Everything she said was a lie. The report simply detailed the Russian cyberinvasion, making it clear that what happened was sufficient cause for alarm; the report did not say whether Russia’s efforts failed or succeeded to influence the election; as the report specifically stated: “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome.” And Clapper, the U.S. intelligence chief, said the same thing under oath, that assessing Russia’s success or failure “certainly isn’t the purview of the U.S. intelligence community.”
Conway did another disinformation dance on Sunday. CNN’s Jake Tapper targeted a basic contradiction in her spin: “How can you say that the hacking had no impact on the election when Mr. Trump kept invoking WikiLeaks — which was printing, publishing things that the Russians had hacked? Obviously, he thought it was going to have an effect on the election.” (Trump, during the debates, repeatedly invoked and exaggerated WikiLeaks’ stolen info, the stuff that Russian hackers had snatched from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.)
Conway never answered Tapper’s question. Instead, she focused on the stolen info: “It was quite embarrassing to watch her closest advisers question her judgment, question whether she would ever find her voice.”
Tapper tried to persist: “But why invoke all those WikiLeaks that were the work of Russian intelligence, according to our intelligence agencies … Mr. Trump and you and others were trying to make an argument against Hillary Clinton using the work of Russian hackers.”
Her response: “We didn’t need WikiLeaks to convince the American people that they didn’t like her.”
Tapper tried again: “But if you didn’t need WikiLeaks, why keep mentioning them?”
Again, she didn’t answer the question. Instead, she brought up James Clapper’s testimony, and lied again about what he said: “Mr. Clapper even goes and testifies under oath and makes very clear that there was no impact on the election.”
Tapper made one last try — “if you didn’t need WikiLeaks, President-elect Trump sure mentioned them dozens and dozens of times” in the hope that the leaks would have an impact — but hey, what’s the use. Pinning down Conway is like chasing a wet bar of soap in the shower. And, most importantly, her ongoing attempts to minimize what happened in ’16 give us no confidence that the Trump regime will take the necessary steps to thwart Putin’s ongoing cyberefforts.
Conway said on Sunday (get this): “I don’t want any of the viewers to be misled.” But that’s precisely the plan.
In the annals of ignorance, this one is a classic:
A dolt goes on Facebook to celebrate the anticipated death of Obamacare … without realizing that he gets his coverage from Obamacare. (“I’m not on Obamacare. My health insurance is through the Affordable Care Act.”)
Read the thread. It’s profanely hilarious.