According to a bombshell report from the Washington Post, the CIA concluded that Russia actively interfered in the election not just to destabilize our political system, but to actively elect Donald Trump.
This conclusion was not something they just pulled out of thin air. Intelligence agencies had arrived at their conclusion in September, and briefed a bipartisan group in the Senate and House about it then, along with President Obama. The President wanted to go forward with a full disclosure of the report, but Mitch McConnell quashed it, threatening to taint any disclosure with the claim that it was being made merely for political gain.
McConnell was willing to let the Russians meddle in the election because his guy was getting the benefit of their work. This is outrageous.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
In other words, there was active interference on the part of Russia not simply to destabilize our politics, but to actively elect one candidate over another.
Concerned that a unilateral White House statement would appear as though the administration was tilting the election in favor of Democrats, the White House decided to convene a bipartisan panel of elected officials to review the material in the hopes of issuing a unified statement and warning states about possible compromises to their voting systems.
Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.
Look who they sent to that meeting:
Obama dispatched [Lisa] Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official.
Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.
Yes, that's right. James Comey knew in September about the CIA's conclusions and was part of the team asked to make the pitch to elevate this issue to the American people on a bipartisan basis. In September. So, by the way, did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had a very specific response to the administration's appeal for bipartisanship.
The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.
According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Shall we take a moment to allow that to sink in? Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, sworn to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, chose to threaten the White House with a smear if they disclosed this information to the American people.
What happened to defending against enemies, domestic and foreign, Senator McConnell? Is this treason?
What makes this really interesting is what we can see in the rear view mirror. The Trump campaign fought tooth and nail to end the Michigan recount, in a state where there is some evidence seals were broken on voting machines there.
We don't know if malware was installed on those machines. We do know many machines in Detroit malfunctioned on Election Day, however. But what we don't know is how that impacted the final counts in Michigan, mostly because they ended the recount.
Yes, we had reports of Russian hacks. We had daily dribbles from Wikileaks, clearly intended to drive a wedge between Bernie and Hillary supporters while painting Hillary Clinton as Satan in a pantsuit.
But there's more. There's always more. You may recall the day that Rep. Michael McCaul inadvertently slipped during an appearance on CNN and said the RNC was hacked by the Russians, too. (Click for video)
Of course, McCaul walked that back right away, claiming it was a misstatement, but now there's a problem. Apparently the RNC was hacked, but no information released. The only information released by hackers was from the DNC hack.
The New York Times reports:
American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.
They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.
If Rep. McCaul's original claim is to be believed, and there's no reason at this point not to believe it, then it seems pretty clear whom Russia was interested in electing, and it wasn't Hillary Clinton.
Now take those pieces of information and blend them up with this one: Donald Trump, Jr. had a little sit-down with the Russians in October about "Syrian solutions."
Is a pattern emerging here? This is before we consider what Paul Manafort's role in all of this might have been.
The Trump transition issued an incredibly lame statement after this news broke, which said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ”
Rachel Maddow had a pretty strong response to that:
"Um, it was not one of the biggest electoral college victories in history. Also you lost by more than 2 million votes in the popular vote. But the fact that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction and the intelligence agencies indicated otherwise is indelibly true," she said.
She continued, "The fact that U.S. intelligence agencies say that Russia intervened in our election to elect Donald Trump is an entirely separate matter and if you won't engage with that on the substance, then telling other people to move on while you ignore it isn't going to persuade anyone."
I have been saying for months that the hacks into the DNC computers and attempts to compromise state voter databases were the equivalent of a 21st century Watergate break-in. But now this has taken a deeper, darker, more sinister tone even than Watergate, where at least it was engineered by Americans.
Mitch McConnell, James Comey and others intentionally aided and abetted foreign aggression against American democracy.
What Comey did may be even worse, because he not only permitted foreign aggression to continue undisclosed, but also inserted himself and the FBI into the election in a different way but with the same goal: To tilt the result toward Donald Trump.
At what point do we call this treason? Where are the hearings? Where are the investigations? This needs to be done by a bipartisan commission and it needs to be done now, before that hotline in the White House turns into Putin's vehicle for pulling President Trump's puppet strings.
This is a hair-on-fire moment for all of us.