Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A tale of two theories about Trump's failure of leadership in cyber security for 2018

It was predictable. Having largely gotten away with interfering in the 2016 election (and helping Trump win the presidency), Russia is at it again. Also predictable, Trump appears totally uninterested in protecting our 2018 election from the same kinds of malicious attacks.

The front page story carried by the Daily Star (Tuesday, July 31st) reports that Facebook finds ‘sophisticated’ efforts to disrupt elections. And the Star also reports Trump criticized for not leading effort to secure elections

I don’t usually indulge in typographical hyperbole, but in this case of our commander-in-chief not taking action, I must ask: WHY THE F*** NOT?

Trump “led” his first national security meeting that is reported to last a mere half an hour and that produced nothing of substance - not even a statement declaring cyber security to be a national priority.

Lacking leadership to focus our energies on securing our elections, we are left with efforts by subordinate agencies like NSA and DHS to act and with efforts by private entities like Facebook and Microsoft to take up the national security slack. So again, I ask where is Trump’s leadership?

OK, I hear you say, “Scriber, how can you be so naive?” Hey, I respond, let me have a little hope, a modicum of optimism. At least until Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post/Right Turn) proposes Two theories on why Trump won’t harden our election machinery.

Why is Trump so uninterested in — and Republicans so passive about — the threat to election security? We have a couple of theories.

One theory is that Trump simply hates the topic of Russian interference (so his Republican allies hate it, too). Time and again, he has sided with Putin in denying that interference occurred, only to be forced to retreat (usually via a spokesperson). Rightly or not, Trump thinks that the involvement of Russia in the 2016 election on his behalf, if widely accepted, would undercut his victory in 2016 and delegitimize his presidency. If he takes the problem seriously now, the public will be more and more convinced of Russia’s role. This is the “Trump cannot bring himself to believe” theory.

The other possibility is that Trump actively wants the help from the Kremlin. He likes the bot farms, the disinformation in social media (which he and his aides have been known to pick up and echo) and, most of all, WikiLeaks. Why would he try to shut any of that down, or expose his BFF Putin’s election interference operation? (Goodness knows what he and Putin actually discussed in Helsinki on this topic.) He might not be publicly calling for Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton’s emails, as he did the day Russian hacking of the DNC began (according to the indictment of Russian hackers in the special counsel’s investigation), but in essence, he has agreed to remain asleep at the wheel.

That’s the collusion theory; Trump is an active participant in bringing harm to America.

We do not at this point know which is correct, but if Trump knows that the Russian interference is continuing and is deliberately foot-dragging, he’s simply continuing a pattern of, yes, collusion — or a conspiracy, if you will — that involves taking something of value from a foreign national. In plain terms, this would be a grotesque betrayal of American democracy, a vivid example of Russia First policy.

He and aides should consider that if one or both houses of Congress flip to the Democrats, they will no doubt conduct an exhaustive inquiry as to what Trump did or did not do to protect our elections. Evidence of deliberate neglect would be stunning and ample grounds for impeachment.

Perhaps sensing the fallout if the latter theory is correct, Trump Tells Sessions to ‘Stop This Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now’ (reported by the NY Times).

President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday [August 1st] to end the special counsel investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation’s top law enforcement official to end an inquiry directly into the president.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!

The order immediately raised questions from some lawyers about whether it was an attempt to obstruct justice. The special counsel, appointed last year to oversee the government’s Russia investigation, is already looking into some of the president’s previous Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether they were intended to obstruct the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly moved to contain the fallout, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. An hour and a half after the tweet was posted, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contacted a reporter for The New York Times. In a subsequent telephone conversation, one of his lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling it a “bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet,” adding that it was “idiotic.”

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia inquiry. Mr. Trump has also said that he never would have made Mr. Sessions his attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from the inquiry.

Urging Mr. Sessions to end the inquiry was unprecedented and amounted to Mr. Trump asking Mr. Sessions to “subvert the law,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, a longtime prosecutor who served in top roles in the Obama Justice Department.

“What he’s saying here is that there’s no one who ought to be able to investigate his actions and, if necessary, hold him accountable for those actions,” Mr. Axelrod said.

Mr. Axelrod said this request of Mr. Sessions was part of a larger pattern — one in which Mr. Trump attacked the integrity of the special counsel, attacked the press and attacked the courts, “all institutions designed to provide checks on executive authority and executive overreach,” he said.

So, to recap. We have a foreign power mucking about in our politics and threatening our infrastructure. We have a president who by any theory is doing nothing to protect the country and its institutions. And now Trump continues his active interference with ongoing Justice Department investigations of the attacks on our 2016 election.

Have a good day!

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