This week the GOP House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes wrote a letter to the country’s 17 intelligence directors asking them for a closed-door Congressional briefing to find out if Russia tampered with the presidential elections. They declined.
The California lawmaker expressed concern with conflicting media reports and wrote in his letter: “The Committee has an urgent need to accurately understand the current IC[Intelligence Community] assessment of alleged Russian cyber-activities relating to the election and any disagreements among IC components.”
However, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin disagreed and told CNN’s WBAL: “What has been publicly released by our Intelligence Community is that the United States was attacked by cyber and that Russia, at the highest levels, signed off on that type of attack and their purpose was to interfere with our free elections.”
So there you have it, another he said, she said inside the beltway. A more likely explanation lies within the story being politically based but not empirically supported.
Proof comes from average Americans. Only one-third of US voters say they believe Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
And when it comes to interfering with elections, it’s the Central Intelligence Agency who has plenty of experience. “The CIA got its start trying to influence the outcome of Italy’s elections in 1948, as author Tim Weiner documented in his book “Legacy of Ashes,” in an effort to keep Communists from taking power. Five years later, the CIA engineered a coup against Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s democratically elected leader, when the United States and Britain installed the Shah. The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government, the agency concluded in one of its own reports, declassified around the 60th anniversary of those events, which were engineered in large part by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., a grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.”
Nevertheless, the usual suspects in Washington DC continue to push the latest “conspiracy theory” in an effort to remain relevant and to reject reality as the new Trump administration blows into town next month.
Senators John McCain, Chuck Schumer and an unnamed group of bipartisan lawmakers will try to form a Senate select committee to explore the idea that Russia influenced the 2016 election cycle. However, GOP Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would employ existing committees to investigate what exactly Russia did or didn’t do.
President-elect Donald Trump continues to push back, via Twitter, that it was Russia who gave him the Oval Office, nor has he included the “hack” within his 100 days agenda.
Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told Fox News Sunday that the president-elect “would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they are actually on the same page.”
Conversely, on Sunday CNN’s State of the Union, McCain said Russia did interfere with the 2016 election. “We need to get to the bottom of this. The question is now, how much and what damage? And what should the United States of America do?”
On a rare occasion, President Obama agreed with McCain and has ordered a full study to be put on his desk before he leaves on January 20th.
Meanwhile, Obama acknowledged that he learned about the DNC cyber attacks “early last summer.”
That information came last Wednesday via The New York Times when they disclosed the “Democrat National Committee had virtually no protections for its electronic systems, and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, had failed to sign up for the ‘two-factor authentication’ on his Gmail account. Doing so probably would have foiled what Mr. Obama called a fairly primitive attack.”
California Democrat Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said, “The response should mix additional economic sanctions along with our allies, and clandestine means of exacting a cost on the Russians for their flagrant meddling in our election. I have little confidence that the incoming president will take the actions necessary to make the Russians pay any price for the most consequential ‘active measures’ campaign against us in history.”
Nonetheless, it was WikiLeaks that published 30,000 emails for the world to read and there is little doubt that the government investigation into the alleged hacking will decide if WikiLeaks is an arm of the Russian government or an honest broker for whistleblowers.
Perhaps, President-elect Trump can send a strong message in his bid to “drain the swamp” by pardoning NSA’s Edward Snowden, WikiLeak’s Julian Assange, as well as other whistleblowers currently serving prison terms for disclosing illegal or inappropriate conduct by the US government and its officials. Assange and Snowden are currently serving self-imposed prison terms without ever having been charged with a crime based solely on their publication of illegal or embarrassing US government activities.
By pardoning these whistleblowers, the President-elect will send a strong message to government officials that illegal and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated in his administration and whistleblowers will be treated appropriately under US laws.
It’s also important to keep in mind the press serves, as an integral part of our Constitutional First Amendment “checks and balances.” The media should not operate under fear of arrest and incarceration for publishing alleged illegal and inappropriate activities. If Mr. Trump truly intends to “drain the swamp,” he needs an inquisitive press and conscience-based whistleblowers to step forward without fear of recrimination.