Putin pal Donald Trump said on Monday, Our ‘Friends’ in Russia, China, ‘hacked the hell’ out of DNC emails:
“Little did she (Wasserman Schultz) know, Russia, China, one of our many many ‘friends’ — Trump made a quotation gesture — “came in and hacked the hell out of us. Can you imagine? Can you imagine?” said a gleeful Trump.
The Trump remark was broadcast on CNN. A Buzzfeed video later appeared on the Talking Points memo web site.
Today Trump came perilously close to crossing the line into treason by calling for Russia to help elect him president:
Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Russia to help find the missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump proposed from a podium at his Doral Resort. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The Republican presidential hopeful added that he doesn’t believe Russia was responsible for hacking DNC materials — there’s overwhelming evidence that suggests Trump is wrong — but the GOP candidate said that if Russia did steal Democratic documents, he “hopes” the Russians have Clinton’s emails.
Let’s be very clear about what happened this morning. The Republican candidate for president held a press conference in which he urged Vladimir Putin’s espionage services to help sabotage the American election and put Trump in the White House.
No, seriously. That’s the level of genuine insanity that we’ve reached. Against the backdrop of allegations that Russia is already trying to intervene in the U.S. presidential race on Trump’s behalf, Donald J. Trump took the next step towards true madness today, publicly calling on a foreign government to commit a felony against his American rival on his behalf.
There is literally nothing in the American tradition that’s similar to this. Nothing. Trump is taking his candidacy, his party, and his country into unchartered waters.
The Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes, a conservative Fox News contributor, asked this morning, “How can any Republican support a candidate who openly hopes for foreign cyberattacks on a political opponent?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’d love to hear Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and others defend their choice in candidates.
Do you still support Donald Trump, John McCain? The Clinton campaign responded:
“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
He added: “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Remember, as far as Trump is concerned, those Clinton emails contain sensitive intelligence. In other words, the Republican nominee this morning said he “hopes” Putin’s government gains access to classified government materials because it might help advance Trump’s personal ambitions.
How did we get to this point? Why is this man a major-party nominee for the nation’s highest office? Since when does the Republican Party think it’s acceptable to appeal to rival states to help sabotage a campaign opponent ahead of an election?
Also consider what we’re learning about Trump’s perspective on intelligence. As far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing wrong with urging an unfriendly foreign state to commit a cybercrime against an American for political purposes. If Trump heads the U.S. executive branch, and has some authority over the CIA and NSA, is anyone prepared to argue that he’ll be restrained and responsible?
What more could Trump do to convince people about the dangers of his candidacy? How is this not a disqualifying moment?
This comes on the heels of new reporting about the hack of the DNC. Nancy LeTourneau of the Political Animal Blog summarizes some of the reporting. Putin Attempts to Tip the Scales of a U.S. Presidential Election:
With the release on Friday of 20,000 emails stolen from the DNC’s servers, the story about Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin have emerged from the shadows into the mainstream. Both Josh Marshall and Steve Benen have documented the growing evidence about that connection. Based on their lists, here’s a summary:
Financial ties – Marshall does a good job of laying out the fact that Trump’s debt load has grown dramatically and that he has increasingly looked to Russian oligarchs who are connected to Putin for investment funds. That is something Trump’s son stated openly.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Campaign advisors – It is pretty well-known by now that Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort “spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally.” In addition, Trump’s advisor on Russian and European affairs, Carter Page, is especially connected to Gazprom – Russia’s state-controlled oil industry.
Right-wing populist movements – As Franklin Foer documents, this has been a long-term Putin strategy.
There’s a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.
The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.
I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order.
DNC email hack – Obviously someone hacked into the DNC server. Cyber-security experts suggest that the person(s) involved have ties to Russia.
Last month, the forensic firm CrowdStrike said two competing Russian intelligence hacker groups penetrated the DNC’s computers. In the past 24 hours, cybersecurity experts have said that the email cache released by WikiLeaks on Friday appears to have been given to the anti-secrecy group by Russian intelligence.
Thomas Rid, a professor at King’s College London, said in an interview that in a private chat on Twitter on Saturday, he communicated with the entity that claimed to have released the email cache to WikiLeaks.
The party, which calls itself Guccifer2, last month claimed responsibility for the DNC hack. Several independent analysts have concluded that Guccifer2, who claimed to be Romanian, is likely linked to Russia.
There is one more tie that has not been mentioned by Marshall, Benen or anyone else that I’ve read about this. When it comes to the documents from the DNC server that were leaked, the fact that they came through Wikileaks is also a significant part of the story. That is because Julian Assange – the founder and director of Wikileaks – has demonstrated close ties to Putin and Russia as well.
For example, in 2012, Assange was given his own talk show on Russia Today (RT) – which is described like this by Alessandra Stanley.
RT, first known as Russia Today, is an English-language news network created by the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin in 2005 to promote the Kremlin line abroad. (It also broadcasts in Spanish and Arabic.) It’s like the Voice of America, only with more money and a zesty anti-American slant.
It is also true that when Edward Snowden was hiding in Hong Kong and trying to find a country that would give him asylum, it was Assange and staff members associated with Wikileaks who openly took credit for working with Russia to take him in.
None of this is evidence that Putin directly controls Trump. That is not the issue. But from start to finish what we are witnessing is an attempt by the Russian leader to use these connections to do what he can to influence U.S. policies and tip the scales of this election in favor of Donald Trump. To be honest, Putin has been relatively clumsy in covering his tracks, but the evidence will never have to pass muster in a court of law. It is simply obvious to any American voter who is actually paying attention.
James Fallows writes at The Atlantic that this controversy has renewed interest in Donald Trump’s tax returns. Trump Time Capsule #57: Russia, and Taxes:
These new developments underscore the importance of an old, familiar point: now, more than ever, Donald Trump must release his tax returns. To put it differently, the press should no longer “normalize” his stonewalling on this issue…
So Donald Trump should release his tax returns because in modern times that is the basic price-of-entry in national politics…He should do it whether or not Vladimir Putin ever existed or there was any Russian hack. That would be true in any candidate’s case, but especially this one. George Will has come out and said that Trump should release his returns because of questions about his ties to “Russian oligarchs.”
With 100-plus days until the election, a nominee about whom there are graver-than-usual financial questions is saying that, unlike previous candidates, he won’t make his finances public.
Even George Will is saying that Trump’s ties to Russia are the real reason why he won’t release his tax returns. Steve Benen adds Trump’s hidden tax returns take on new significance: “Trump can make questions like these go away quickly by doing what every presidential candidate in the post-Watergate era has done.” Trump campaign: No tax returns for you.