Saturday, January 7, 2017

Trump's Denial Of Russian Meddling And U.S. Intel: Tribalism Triumphs Over Integrity-Wisdom

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"Where love rules, there is no will to power, 
and where power predominates, love is lacking
The one is the shadow of the other." 
Carl Jung

The Jung quote above is companion piece to the following observation by Pat Buchanan.

Republican presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, the living American who has served longest as a White House senior staff adviser, observed: “The Republican philosophy might be summarized thus: To hell with principle; what matters is power, and that we have it, and that they do not.” 
“Where the Right Went Wrong" 
Donald Trump isolates himself by living in a state of denial on Russia
James Hohman, Washington Post

As the nation’s top spies brief Donald Trump today on how they concluded that Russia interfered in the election, the president-elect continues to isolate himself. From the truth. From intellectually-honest members of his own party on Capitol Hill. Even from the western alliance.
There are few indications that the meeting will prompt Trump to reverse himself after two months of steadfast denials in the face of mounting evidence.

If a married couple is fighting at home and they look outside and see that a guy in an ice cream truck is trying to abduct their child, they don’t keep arguing. There is nothing possibly important enough to keep arguing about when your child is in danger. Or at least there shouldn’t be.

The guy in the metaphorical ice cream truck is Vladimir Putin. The husband is a Republican, and the wife is a Democrat. The kids are the American people.
-- Trump has been trying to muddy the water, to make the hacking into a political story instead of treating it as a cyber-attack on the United States – despite a bipartisan consensus among serious and thoughtful people that this was the case.

Sources who have studied the intelligence say there is essentially incontrovertible evidence that Russia was behind the hacks, that they were authorized at the highest levels of the Kremlin and that the goal was to sow deep distrust while also undermining Hillary Clinton.
U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory
-- American intelligence agencies even intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials celebrated and congratulated themselves on the outcome, which they saw as a geopolitical win for Moscow. The Post’s Adam Entous and Greg Miller scooped last night: “The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House,” Adam and Greg report. “Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of ‘actors’ involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.” This information appears in a classified document, which is over 50 pages, that was delivered to President Obama yesterday.

-- The president-elect, who has perhaps the most fragile ego of any man ever elected to the White House, sees anyone pointing out this truth as challenging his legitimacy, so he lashes out.
-- Paul Ryan yesterday drew a distinction that Trump seems incapable of making. "Russia clearly tried to meddle in our political system. No two ways about it," the Speaker told reporters. He then argued that the hacking did not change the outcome of the election. "He won the election fair and square," Ryan said.
Donald Trump, Ed Koch and Roy Cohn at the opening of Trump Tower in 1983. (Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)</p>
Donald Trump, Ed Koch and Roy Cohn at the opening of Trump Tower in 1983

Sen. Joe McCarthy's Lawyer Roy Cohn Taught Trump To Be A Cutthroat SOB

-- Trump, who takes everything personally, lives by a never-apologize, never-back-down creed that his mentor Roy Cohn, who spent the 1950s as Joe McCarthy’s chief counsel and hatchet man in the Senate, taught him during his formative years as an up-and-coming developer. This is why he refused to ever apologize for slurring John McCain, a Gold Star family, a former Miss Universe, a Mexican-American federal judge, a disabled reporter, etc., etc., etc. (If you missed them last year, it is worth reading deep dives on the Trump-Cohn relationship by The Postthe New York Times and Politico Magazine.)
Julian Assange&nbsp;is hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy of London to avoid facing prosecution. (Carl Court/Getty Images)</p>
Julian Assange is hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy of London to avoid facing prosecution. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
-- Many rank-and-file Republican base voters, who view politics impressionistically, look for cues from leaders like Trump and his fellow populistssuch as Sean Hannitywho flew to London to interview Julian Assange earlier this week. These well-intentioned citizens are being misled and disserved by the people they depend on to stay informed.

Two smart takes on this—

From the right: Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson calls it “the triumph of political tribalism over, well, every other principle or commitment.” Sarah Palin, for example, urged the United States to go after Assange “with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda.” Now, she pleads: “Julian, I apologize.” As Gerson puts it, “Let’s be clear about what this means. … The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee is bowing and scraping to the man who materially aided the Taliban.”

From the left: “The cruelest, most condescending, and also devastatingly correct indictment of Trump’s supporters was uttered not by a member of the liberal media but by Trump himself, when he mentioned that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose support,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait.“Trump’s insinuation that his fans will ignore any evidence of his guilt, however plain, has been vindicated. Perhaps no episode has demonstrated the Fifth Avenue Principle more dramatically than the case of the Russian email hack.”
Senate hearing exposes differences between Trump and intelligence officials
-- Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., testifying yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said U.S. spy agencies “stand actually more resolutely” than ever behind their conclusions. Alluding to Trump’s tweets, he said: “There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence, but I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

“Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry . . . they would exploit it,” Clapper added, specifically referring to the proliferation of “fake news.”
James Woolsey quits Trump's transition team
-- Meanwhile, former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations, resigned yesterday from Trump’s transition team because of growing tensions over the president-elect’s vision for intelligence agencies. “People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn,” Philip Rucker reports. “They said Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted. Woolsey was taken aback by this week’s reports that Trump is considering revamping the country’s intelligence framework…”
Graham: 'It is time ... to throw rocks' at Russia

-- Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, made a straight-to-camera appeal during yesterday’s Armed Services hearing: “Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they’re the best among us and they’re trying to protect us!”

Graham, whose personal cell phone number Trump once gave out to the crowd during a campaign rally, then criticized the Obama administration for not doing more than imposing sanctions and expelling 35 Russians from the country. “What Obama did was throw a pebble,” he said. “I’m ready to throw a rock.”

-- John McCain added: “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference. That’s why Congress must set partisanship aside, follow the facts and work together to devise comprehensive solutions to deter, defend against and, when necessary, respond to foreign cyberattacks.”
Workers prepare for the Inauguration. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)</p>
Workers prepare for the Inauguration. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
-- To be sure, many Senate Republicans are too afraid to say publicly what they believe privately. Fearful of drawing Trump’s ire, they either carry his water or stay quiet. At the Armed Services hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said: “Mark my word, if the roles were reversed, there would be howls from the Republican side of the aisle.” McCain responded sarcastically, “Thank you for that nonpartisan comment.” (Sean Sullivan explores this dynamic.)
A couple kisses in front of graffiti depicting Putin and Trump on the walls of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, last May. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)</p>
A couple kisses in front of graffiti depicting Putin and Trump on the walls of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, last May. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

The Post this morning has three important columns about the far-reaching global ramifications of Trump's defiance and obstinacy.

-- Anne Applebaum calls this “an existential moment for all of Europe’s leaders, most of whom are only just beginning to grapple with the fact that Russia wants to destroy the Euro-American alliance.” Contrasting a quote from Harry Truman to the incoming president’s own public statements, Anne writes: “In the past few weeks, some of America’s oldest and closest allies in Europe have begun to fear that Trump’s White House may not just neglect them, which has happened often enough in the past, but will actually seek to undermine them and their institutions. The link between Trump, his senior counselor and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Breitbart News, the website Bannon was running until he went to work for Trump, is what worries them most. Flush from its success in the United States, Breitbart now seeks to monetize anti-immigration and racist sentiment in Europe, too, promoting it, selling it and using it to elect populist politicians who are just as skeptical of NATO as Trump, and who will do their best to destroy the European Union as well.” Because no one knows who will have the president’s ear, Angela Merkel has already started “preparing for the worst.”

-- Trump’s approach to the hacking story in recent months has been worryingly similar to Russia’s own propaganda. “This sort of information fog is precisely what Moscow seeks to spawn in its own propaganda campaigns,” David Ignatius observes. “The Russian goal is ‘to corrode democratic norms and institutions by discrediting the electoral process and to tarnish the reputations of democratic governments in order to establish a kind of moral equivalence between Russia and the West,’ Thorsten Benner and Mirko Hohmann wrote last month in Foreign Affairs. Anyone who thinks that the Russian hacking charges are simply an attempt to belittle or discredit Trump should study Russia’s current covert-action campaign in Europe. Benner and Hohmann quote Bruno Kahl, the chief of Germany’s intelligence service, who told a newspaper there that ‘cyberattacks are taking place that have no purpose other than to elicit uncertainty.’ The head of French information security similarly warned last month that Western countries face ‘the development of a digital threat for political ends and for destabilization.’”

-- Fareed Zakaria looks at how Moscow’s strategy has evolved since the Arab Spring: “The Soviet Union developed and practiced a strategy of ‘disinformation’ throughout the Cold War, complete with fake news and the penetration of Western political parties and media organizations. But the revival of this approach and the aggressive and sophisticated manner in which it is now being used in a social media landscape mark a new and dangerous trend in geopolitics. This is the political backdrop behind the technical evidence that Russia interfered in November’s election. It needs to be moved out of a partisan framework and viewed in a much broader context. Since the end of the Cold War, no major country has challenged the emerging international system. 
But now, a great-power strategy, designed to work insidiously, could well succeed in sowing doubt, division, discord — and ultimately destruction — within the West.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).
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