Tag Archives: Secretary of State

Democratic institutions are under assault from Trumpism

Donald Trump is hollowing out the federal government and undermining our democratic institutions with his authoritarianism and the cult of Trumpism.

In the past several days, Trump has repeated this statement about the U.S. intelligence agencies assessment of Russian cyber attacks:

“As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership,” Mr. Trump said  … “I believe in our agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly.”

What Trump is referring to is his appointment for CIA Director, former congressman Mike Pompeo, who is politicizing the intelligence agency on behalf of Trump.  Trump’s CIA director keeps doing controversial — and suspiciously pro-Trump — things:

The Intercept just broke a pretty big story: CIA Director Mike Pompeo reportedly met with the purveyor of a disputed theory about the internal Democratic National Committee emails that were released last year — a theory that runs counter to the intelligence community’s own long-standing conclusions about the matter.

It’s not the first example of Pompeo doing something that has been put under microscope. But there is a common thread running through just about every example: Pompeo doing and saying questionable things involving Russia — and those questionable things tend to lean in a pro-Trump direction.

The most recent example is Pompeo’s meeting with William Binney, a former intelligence official who argues that the DNC hack wasn’t a hack at all, but rather a leak from within.

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The madness of King Donald

Last week we learned that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in direct contact with North Korea in an effort to prevent the U.S. from stumbling into a renewed Korean war and possible nuclear conflict. Tillerson: U.S. is in direct contact with North Korea, is ‘probing’ talks:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is in direct contact with North Korea and is looking into whether Kim Jong Un is open to talks.

The comment, made during a brief trip to China, was the first time the Trump administration acknowledged direct communication with Pyongyang.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” he said.

“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three, channels open to Pyongyang; we can talk to them; we do talk to them,” he said.

After publication of this Washington Post report, our always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief took to the Twitter machine to undercut his Secretary of State. Trump tells Tillerson to quit “wasting his time” on North Korea:

The president’s latest tweets, a day after Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed the U.S. is in contact with North Korea.

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This is a pretty cavalier way to announce a foreign policy move with potentially massive implications.

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Trump parrots Kim Jong-un in making nuclear threats

The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. It is the only time that such weapons have been used in war.

Donald Trump, apparently unaware of these historically significant anniversary dates, yesterday threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” — a veiled nuclear threat — if it does not stop threatening the United States.

So now Donald Trump is making the same wild threats that Kim Jong-un and North Korea regularly make? Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ statement echoes North Korea’s own threats.

Hours later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to assuage Americans’ fears that a nuclear war with North Korea was imminent.

What is this, good cop bad cop? A return to Richard Nixon’s Madman Strategy with Tillerson reprising the role of Henry Kissinger?

The Washington Post reports, As Tillerson tries to assuage Americans’ fear, Trump highlights U.S. nuclear arsenal:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday defended President Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea to stop threatening the United States, and dismissed concerns that Guam is in any imminent danger from Pyongyang’s missiles.

“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with two pool reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam.

“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”

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Georgia’s vulnerabe election system: why election systems are designated ‘critical infrastructure’

There is a special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, between Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Republican candidate Karen Handel. Georgia is one of only five states that use electronic voting without any “paper trail” available for verification of the vote. (h/t Ballotpedia).

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That’s bad enough, but wait, it gets worse. Kim Zetter at Politico Magazine had an in-depth report this week about just how unsecure the voting system in Georgia is. Will the Georgia Special Election Get Hacked?:

Last August, when the FBI reported that hackers were probing voter registration databases in more than a dozen states, prompting concerns about the integrity of the looming presidential election, Logan Lamb decided he wanted to get his hands on a voting machine.

A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website.

“I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hack an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.

“I was like whoa, whoa. … I did not mean to do that. … I was absolutely stunned, just the sheer quantity of files I had acquired,” he tells Politico Magazine in his first interview since discovering the massive security breach.

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Jared Kushner: Oops! Did I forget to mention that?

Donald Trump’s utility infielder, his son-in-law and de facto Secretary of State Jared Kushner, seems to have a memory problem. Or maybe like his father-in-law, he has a lying problem. Or is it just arrogant indifference to complying with the law?

The New York Times reports that this Trump princeling Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms. Oops! Did I forget to mention that?

When Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, sought the top-secret security clearance that would give him access to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets, he was required to disclose all encounters with foreign government officials over the last seven years.

But Mr. Kushner did not mention dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months. They include a December meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and one with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, Vnesheconombank, arranged at Mr. Kislyak’s behest.

The omissions, which Mr. Kushner’s lawyer called an error, are particularly sensitive given the congressional and F.B.I. investigations into contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. The Senate Intelligence Committee informed the White House weeks ago that, as part of its inquiry, it planned to question Mr. Kushner about the meetings he arranged with Mr. Kislyak, including the one with Sergey N. Gorkov, a graduate of Russia’s spy school who now heads Vnesheconombank.

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The parade of horrors of Trump cabinet picks continues

President-elect Donald Trump made it official this morning. Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., Chosen as Secretary of State:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-10-00-13-amIn [nominating] Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.

A statement from Mr. Trump’s transition office early Tuesday brought to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most outspoken critics, might be forgiven.

Instead, Mr. Trump has decided to risk what looks to be a bruising confirmation fight in the Senate.

In the past several days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had warned that Mr. Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with Russia, which awarded him its Order of Friendship in 2013, and with Mr. Putin.

The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.

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