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Ex-CIA Officer: Trump Gang Bullies Intelligence Experts Who Probe Russia

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council (NSC) senior director specializing in Russian and European affairs, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on November 21, she stressed that there was zero evidence to support the claim that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the United States’ 2016 presidential election. Nonetheless, the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory persists on the far right. And journalist Alex Finley, in a report for Just Security, discusses the extremes that President Donald Trump’s allies have been willing to go to in the hope of discrediting intelligence on Russian election interference in 2016.

The CrowdStrike conspiracy theory claims that in 2016, the cyber-security firm CrowdStrike conspired with Democrats and the Ukrainian government to frame the Russian government for interfering in the presidential election. According to the false claim that the Ukrainian government — not Russian President Vladimir Putin — was the real villain in 2016, Finley notes, “Trump never could have colluded with Russia, because Russia never did anything wrong.” And Finley notes that Attorney General William Barr has been investigating people in the U.S. intelligence community who have been part of the Russia investigation — and appointed federal prosecutor John Dunham to head that investigation.

Finley explains, “Last month, media outlets reported that Barr’s investigation had become a criminal one. Whether true or not, the claim — much like the public attacks from Trump, Republicans and the conservative media ecosystem —  seemed like a clear signal to civil servants — whether in the FBI, the CIA or the NSA — to tread very carefully if they planned to take any actions that came anywhere near the Russia-Trump nexus again.”

Finley adds, however, that Barr’s investigation “was not the first threatening message sent to the intelligence and law enforcement community” about Russia: Trump and his allies have a long history of going after people who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.

For example, Finley points out, former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were both fired. And Trump, Finley notes, “has repeatedly attacked FBI investigators Peter Stzrok and Lisa Page on Twitter and elsewhere with particularly prurient and unsettling comments.”

Finley observes, “One of Mike Pompeo’s first actions when he became head of the CIA was to interrogate the analysts who had written the report concluding that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election and had aimed to help Trump win. More recently, Barr traveled to both the United Kingdom and Italy to meet with intelligence officials in those countries. While there, he asked those foreign governments about the actions of his compatriot American intelligence officers.”

During the Ukraine investigation and the impeachment inquiry, Finley adds, many of the witnesses have been smeared by Trump and his supporters — including Marie Yovanovitch (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine) and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

“What effect does this have on our national security?,” Finley asks. “If our intelligence community becomes reticent to chase down counterintelligence leads because the president or his associates might be involved or have an interest in how they play out, how vulnerable does the country become? The good news is: these civil servants seem like they won’t be cowed.”

Fox News Host: Indictments Prove Russia Probe Is ‘Opposite Of A Hoax’

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.com

 

Fox News host Shepard Smith shut down Trump’s frequent criticism of the Russia probe on Friday, saying that the new indictments handed down by special counsel Robert Mueller prove the investigation is not the “hoax” Trump has made it out to be.

 “The Russians set up websites and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts — pretending to be Americans — and duped us into following them and friending them and retweeting them,” Smith said Friday on Fox News’ “Shepard Smith Reporting.”

“The Russians infiltrated our system, manipulated us on behalf of Vladimir Putin — and they did it online and in person on our soil. If there was ever any question, even a single question, there is no more,” Smith said. “Russia attacked the United States of America.”

Smith’s comments came just hours after special counsel Mueller handed down indictments to 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups, including the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, for their role in an extensive effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the indictment, Russian operatives created false American personas and stole the identities of real Americans as part of a broad effort aimed at “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

The indictment also alleges that Russian operatives organized pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton rallies — with the help of apparently “unwitting” American accomplices, including people associated with the Trump campaign.

Besides laying out fresh new evidence of the extent of Russia’s influence operation, the new charges wholly debunk Trump’s frequent claim that the Russia investigation is nothing but a hoax — a point that Smith made clear on Friday.

“The Russians … posed as Americans and communicated with unwitting people associated with the Trump campaign to try to coordinate political activities. That’s a blockbuster charge,” Smith said.

“Russians, thought to be Americans, working with Trump supporters or allies to do politics together,” he reiterated. “The Russia investigation is the opposite of a hoax.”

Smith’s comments were an obvious rebuttal to Trump, who has clung to the false claim that the Russia investigation is a hoax for well over a year.

Even as four of his campaign associates were charged with crimes — including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn —Trump continued to insist that Mueller’s probe was nothing but a “witch-hunt.”

In November, Trump even said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. presidential election — despite a “high confidence” assessment from the U.S. intelligence community saying that Russia did, indeed, interfere in the election.

Trump continues to claim that he did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide, but he sure isn’t acting like it — and even Fox News is calling him out for it.

 

Ex-CIA Chief Debunks Trump: ‘Implausible’ Russia Didn’t Influence Votes

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.com

 

Former CIA Director John Brennan hit back at Trump’s claim Friday that “[t]he results of the election were not impacted” by Russian interference, calling it “implausible” that at least some votes were not influenced.

Brennan’s remarks came just hours after special counsel Robert Mueller released an explosive indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for their role in an expansive effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Predictably, Trump responded to the indictment by fleeing from the press and refusing to answer reporters’ questions. The only comments Trump has made about the stunning revelations came in the form of tweet in which he falsely claimed that the indictment exonerated him and proved that Russia’s efforts didn’t influence the election results.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Less than 20 minutes after Trump posted the tweet, Brennan took to Twitter to give his own take on the indictment — a take that completely shut down Trump’s desperate claims:

Far from exonerating Trump, the 37-page indictment handed down on Friday completely undermines Trump’s frequent claims that the Russia investigation is a “hoax” or a “witch-hunt.

According to the charges in the indictment, Russians working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency created false American personas and stole the identities of real Americans as part of an effort aimed at “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

The Russian operatives named in the indictment allegedly organized pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton rallies — and they knew to focus on swing states, thanks to help from apparently “unwitting” Americans, including people associated with the Trump campaign.

“Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the indictment says.

Furthermore, despite Trump’s claim that the indictment proves that his campaign “did nothing wrong,” that’s not actually what it says — and the evidence clearly shows this isn’t the case.

Four former Trump associates have already been charged in the investigation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Most importantly, the investigation is far from over. As Bloomberg News reported on Friday, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors haven’t concluded their investigation into whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election.”

Trump can tweet whatever he wants — but unfortunately for him, he can’t change the facts.

 

Does Hillary Owe Us An Apology? Or Does The Media Owe Her One?

Way back in April, 1994 Hillary Rodham Clinton held a press conference concerning Whitewater, the granddaddy of all phony Clinton scandals. Pressed about whether she and her husband should have known that their Ozarks real estate partnership was doing badly and paid off its loans, she responded flippantly.

“Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” she said. “We didn’t.”

Editorialists pronounced themselves offended. She was even dubbed a “congenital liar,” although the facts eventually showed that the Clintons’ partner Jim McDougal had actively deceived them about their investment. But you never saw a straightforward account in the scandal-mongering press. That would have spoiled the fun.

From Whitewater through Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and her accursed emails, it became a familiar pattern. Hillary Clinton was arrogant, corrupt, deceptive—essentially a brass-plated bitch. Each time the actual evidence revealed no real crime, her detractors simply moved on to the next damned thing. It was like something out of Lord of the Flies.

“Lock her up,” crowds chanted, although that was never going to happen.

Sorry to say, but among Hillary’s most ardent detractors were certain of the MSNBC All-Stars and New York Times columnists currently rending their garments over the misbegotten presidency of Donald Trump. I’ve yet to notice even one acknowledge his or her role in the ritual stoning.

In 2015, both the Times and Washington Post cut deals with Peter Schweitzer, author of Clinton Cash, a murky expose of imagined corruption at the Clinton Foundation. Schweitzer basically proved that to raise billions for health care in Africa, it’s necessary to pal around with rich people. Not that Bill and Hillary ever minded. Schweitzer’s book was financed by a foundation run by one Stephen K. Bannon—a fellow recently in the news.

To summarize, a recent report from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center documented that  Clinton scandals drew “sixteen times the amount of news coverage given to [Hillary’s] most heavily covered policy position.” Her emails alone drew four times more negative coverage than the old P***y Grabber’s treatment of women.

On the day FBI director James Comey released his ill-advised, ultimately withdrawn letter hinting at previously undiscovered emails, the Timesentire front page above the fold was devoted to the story. Sample headline: “With 11 Days to Go, Trump Says Revelation Changes Everything.”

As, indeed, it did. Absolutely did the bitch in. Anybody who denies Comey’s intervention settled the election can’t have looked at the data.

Fat lot of good it did him.

So anyway, there was Hillary last week giving us the shoulda, coulda, woulda version of her 2016 election loss. Given that any baseball fan can name pitchers who never got over surrendering dramatic home runs, maybe her contrition shouldn’t be surprising.

Nevertheless, I found it so.

  “Every day that I was a candidate for president,” she wrote, “I knew that millions of people were counting on me, and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting them down—but I did. I couldn’t get the job done, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

But what really eats at Hillary is her failure to confront the Bully-in-Chief when she had the chance. In a recorded excerpt on “Morning Joe,” she remembers thinking “This is not O.K….It was the second presidential debate, and Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.”

Indeed, replays show the big galoot lurching around the stage like the villain in a teen slasher film. All he lacked was a pair of overalls and a chainsaw. Hillary recalls asking herself what to do:

“Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space?” she said. “Or do you turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep, get away from me! I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’ ”

“I chose option A. I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of difficult men trying to throw me off. I did, however, grip the microphone extra hard. I wonder, though, whether I should have chosen option B. It certainly would have been better TV. Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”

Better TV maybe, but Option B risked disaster. A classic New York blowhard surrounded by bodyguards all his life, Trump revels in name-calling contests. There are no depths to which he won’t sink.

But then I don’t think Hillary Clinton owes me an apology at all.