by George Rasley
Remember when the Democrats lost the 2016 election and the charge was that the Russians “hacked” the election?
Then the charge morphed into, the Trump campaign, or maybe even Trump himself, “colluded” with the Russians to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?
As Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times summarized the charges:
Christopher Steele’s Democratic Party-financed dossier said Mr. Manafort worked with Russia to coordinate the hacking of Democratic Party computers.
In addition, a number of media reports last year claimed that Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s erstwhile campaign manager, sought Russia’s help to bolster his candidate. U.S. surveillance captured the collusion in copious amounts of phone records, the stories said.
CNN declared in September: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.”
But, reported Scarborough, that and similar reports seemed to be dashed by Kevin Downing, Mr. Manafort’s attorney. He filed a brief in U.S. District Court subject to an accuracy review by a federal judge. In a cut-and-dried manner, he said Mr. Mueller has no evidence that Mr. Manafort communicated with Russian officials.
Mr. Downing is defending Mr. Manafort against federal charges that he laundered money paid by Ukrainian politicians and failed to pay income taxes.
In his filing, Mr. Downing said he specifically asked the Mueller team for any such surveillance evidence during mandatory evidence discovery. Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors answered that they had none.
Indeed, Mueller’s team has repeatedly averred that no communications intercepts of Manafort, Trump or any other member of Trump’s team “colluding” with any Russian exists.
Even James Comey said so.
Comey was asked by senators about a New York Times’ February story saying such transcripts existed. He said it was wrong and testified that he took the extraordinary step of warning senior lawmakers against believing it.
Mr. Comey said “many, many” stories on the Russia probe were “just dead wrong.”
So, the narrative has slowly evolved away from the Russians “hacking” the election, to Trump “colluding” with the Russians, to Russians “interfering” in the US election.
What’s more, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein just announced, the attempted Russian “hacking” and “interference” came to naught.
In a press conference held on Friday, Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian military officers for a variety of cybercrimes.
The most ignored sentence in Rosenstein’s statement was, “There’s no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”
Jen Kirby of VOX reports the indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election.
One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer, reports Ms. Kirby, are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.
But did Rosenstein announce any evidence of “collusion” between the Russians and any member of the Trump campaign or the President himself?
No, indeed quite the opposite.
Rosenstein said, quite unequivocally:
There’s no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.
The blame for election interference belongs to the criminals who commit election interference.
That Russians try to influence American elections is not new. Russians have been interfering in American politics since at least 1917 and as we explained in our article “Fighting Russian Interference In American Politics” they have in the past been quite effective in sowing social discord to undermine faith our constitutional system of government.
And we have likewise done the same; it was part of our strategy to win the Cold War, and it worked.
We started and funded Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to spread the message that America was on the side of the captive peoples of the Eastern Bloc and to provide them with news unfiltered by Communist propaganda.
During the Reagan years we also provided Xerox machines, printing presses and other equipment to the Polish Solidarity Movement and other pro-Western political movements in the Communist orbit.
That the Russians had their own active measures to interfere in our politics was a given – that’s what geopolitical adversaries do to advance their interests.
However, during the Obama years the FBI, CIA, NSA and other organs of the American national security services that were supposed to be working to disrupt such activities were apparently not just asleep at the wheel, with people like the libidinous FBI counter intelligence agent Peter Strzok on the case they were totally out of the game.
In fact, former Obama administration National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel confirmed during a Senate hearing that a “stand down” order was given to counter Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 election.
As the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Kugle reported, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sen. James Risch (R-ID) asked Daniel about a passage in the book Russian Roulette. The passage was about a staffer from Daniel’s team, Daniel Prieto, retelling the time that Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice told Daniel and his team to halt their efforts and to “stand down” in countering Russia’s cyberattacks.
Daniel was quoted saying to his team that they had to stop working on options to counter the Russian attack: “We’ve been told to stand down.” Prieto is quoted as being “incredulous and in disbelief” and asking, “Why the hell are we standing down?”
So, with the indictments of the 12 Russian military officers, we are now back to the Russians trying to “hack” the election.
It was long a given that our adversaries would and were conducting operations against us, such as the Russian operations against the 2016 election. It is time for Congress and the media to stop chasing the phony charges that Trump “colluded with the Russians” and start asking what changed during the Obama years that allowed this extensive cyberattack on America to go unchallenged, and with such ease, and why were our cybersecurity operators told to “stand down.”