Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein put an end to the bullshit being pulled by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley by releasing the transcript of testimony from Fusion GPS on the Steele dossier. GOP’s crazy Russia probe conspiracies are crushed in Fusion GPS transcript.
What you may not have seen reported is six House Democrats who serve as ranking members on their committees sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling him and other Republicans out for stonewalling their efforts to “investigate, hold public hearings, and advance legislation” concerning the Trump-Russia investigation. Top Democrats accuse GOP of ignoring Russia threat:
Six senior House Democrats on Tuesday said Republicans “put President Trump ahead of our national interests” by failing to address the threat they said Russia poses to future U.S. elections and national security.
“Rather than pursue the truth on behalf of the American people, House Republicans have waged an aggressive campaign to shut down congressional and criminal investigations into Russia’s attack,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan.
Signing the letter were Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee; Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking member of the Financial Services Committee; Rep. Elliot Engel, the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee; Rep. Bob Brady, the ranking member of the administration committee and Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee.
The Washington Post reported, Democrats go it alone on Russia probe after partisan breakdowns:
Democrats are striking out on their own this week over all but one of the congressional investigations into Russian meddling, independently releasing reports and transcripts, and attacking Republicans they accuse of intentionally undermining active probes in deference to President Trump.
Senior Democratic officials in the Senate, frustrated by what they consider a Republican campaign to discredit the law enforcement and intelligence agencies investigating the president, cleared their members to release the interview transcript of one of the Russia investigation’s most sensitive witnesses and, separately, to publish a report detailing the disinformation and intimidation tactics the Kremlin deploys against democracies globally.
To this end, Senator Ben Cardin and his fellow Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee released a damning new report detailing Russia’s efforts to undermine elections in European countries and other countries and the steps officials there have taken to protect their democracies. Trump’s denial of Russian meddling is a national security threat, Democratic report finds:
A damning new report released Wednesday by congressional Democrats says President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election poses a direct threat to national security, by making the U.S. vulnerable to it happening again.
The 206-page report, commissioned by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ ranking member, details Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decades-long assault on democracy around the world as well as the risks of the U.S. president being in denial.
“[T]he current president of the United States has barely acknowledged the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s repeated attacks on democratic governments and institutions, let alone exercised the kind of leadership history has shown is necessary to effectively counter this kind of aggression,” the report states. “Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president.”
Tellingly, Senate Foreign Relations chairman Senator Bob Corker and his fellow Republicans on the committee failed to sign on to the report.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse also delivered a speech on the Senate floor that only C-Span junkies saw, which received little attention from a news media more interested in reporting on the latest tweet from our Twitter-troll-in-chief.
Prepared remarks of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on Tea-Publicans chasing after “rabbits,” WHITEHOUSE REMARKS ON FUSION GPS RELEASE AND THE RUSSIAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE (excerpt):
Instead of taking up these important measures or even ensuring a thorough investigation into the 2016 election meddling, we are–to paraphrase the legendary Senator Sam Ervin of Watergate fame–chasing rabbits when we should be on a bear hunt.
Let’s look at a few rabbits that have distracted us from the task at hand. Remember, when Michael Flynn, the President’s former National Security Adviser, illicitly communicated with the Russian Ambassador about sanctions during the transition. Then in the White House, he lied to the FBI about it, which concerned the Justice Department so badly that the Acting Attorney General warned the White House Counsel personally, after which she was fired, but the President then waited 18 days until all of this had become public in the media to ask for Michael Flynn’s resignation. Out of all of that, the topic for many Republicans was the alleged leaks of classified information that allowed the story to come to light–not the story itself of problems at the highest level of our national security establishment. Off people went after the “leaks” rabbit.
Republicans then pivoted to talking about the “unmasking”–remember that word; we heard a lot of it around here–of identities in intelligence reporting and the purported misconduct of Obama administration officials. Trump even publicly suggested that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime. So off people went after the “unmasking” rabbit.
Next, the President accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, an allegation so outrageous that even congressional Republicans have refused to stand by it, but my, what a bright and shiny rabbit it was for the weeks that it was still a distraction.
By the spring and summer, Republicans were railing against purported conflicts of interest by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a distinguished career public servant.
I ask unanimous consent that this article, “FBI ruled McCabe had no conflict of interest in Clinton probe,” be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.
So off everybody went after the “McCabe’s wife” rabbit.
After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey to impede the Russia investigation and then told the Russian Foreign Minister and NBC that was why he had done it, the President launched another leak rabbit: a coordinated effort with his lawyers, congressional Republicans, and the right-wing media to suggest that Comey had leaked classified information by sharing with a friend his own contemporaneous notes of conversations with Trump.
Just last week, the President again suggested on Twitter that Comey should be charged with a crime–another bite at the “leaks” rabbit.
In early July, we learned of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Russian lawyer and operative Natalia Veselnitskaya and senior Trump campaign leaders seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton. Republicans tried to distract attention from that mess by suggesting that Veselnitskaya was in the country on a visa issued by Obama administration officials, with some right-wing media–aided by some congressional Republicans–even whipping on the “visa” rabbit by suggesting there was a setup orchestrated by the Obama administration against the Trump campaign.
Then came the “Fusion” rabbit. Because Fusion GPS had worked on separate projects–one with Christopher Steele and a separate one with Natalia Veselnitskaya–some Republicans began suggesting either that Russia had been Fusion’s client for the Steele dossier or that Steele was the unwitting victim of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Then there is the “Uranium One” rabbit, which began when a right-wing author suggested, without evidence, that Hillary Clinton may have been responsible for a Russian state company acquiring uranium mines in the United States. This rabbit remains a topic of investigation in Congress and in right-wing media.
Then there are the attacks on Bob Mueller, which, like rabbits, multiply by the hour. As the special counsel’s investigation started heating up over the late summer and fall, the right wing began investigating the investigation–alleged conflicts of interest, history of campaign donations, inappropriate text messages, questions about spouses’ employment. But the big one was that the FBI was corruptly involved in the procurement of the Steele dossier and that this had launched the “witch hunt.” This, of course, is a very shiny rabbit.
However, a week ago, reporting by the New York Times confirmed that the FBI did not begin its investigation into Donald Trump’s connections to Russia because of the so-called Steele dossier. This should not come as a surprise. We have already been told that U.S. allies warned American national security officials about Russian interference in our 2016 elections.
In response to a question from Ranking Member Feinstein at our Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing on May 8, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that “Britain’s intelligence service”–Britain’s intelligence service–“first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious interactions between Trump advisers and Russian intelligence agents,” and the Brits passed that information on to U.S. intelligence agencies. Clapper confirmed that in “the spring of 2016, multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.” Clapper said that these reports were accurate and that “the specifics are quite sensitive.”
Now we have learned that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pled guilty last year to lying to the FBI, apparently told a senior Australian official in the spring of 2016 that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is something he said he had been told by an intermediary for the Russians. When hacked emails started showing up that summer, Australia’s Government became sufficiently concerned to let U.S. officials know about what they had learned from Papadopoulos.
So you have the British intelligence community warnings, the European intelligence community warnings, the Australian warnings, and Carter Page’s travels to Russia. You have the attribution of the DNC hack, the intrusion into those emails, to Russian hackers. You have the leaking of the stolen emails. You have abundant evidence out of all of that for the FBI that the Trump campaign’s links to Russia required further investigation. It would have been a complete failure of their duty to not have looked further based on all of that evidence.
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But you would never know this from listening to congressional Republicans. They have been repeating, in chorus with the White House and conservative media, the disproven claim that the Russians somehow commissioned the Steele dossier or that Steele somehow got suckered by the Russians or that some deep-state FBI set up the whole thing to pressure Trump. They have pushed to discredit Steele. They have pushed to discredit Fusion.
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Here in the Senate, we should stop looking for new distractions, stop chasing rabbits, and start thinking about how we are going to protect our future elections–our 2018 election–against a repeat performance, which we have been warned about, by the Russians or another foreign adversary, for that matter.
Today, Senators Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen write at the Washington Post, Our elections are in danger. Congress must defend them.
While the 2016 election may have left our country divided on many issues, it exposed one critical problem that should unite all Americans: Our democratic process is vulnerable to attacks by hostile foreign powers. [Donald Trump does not acknowledge this.] As our intelligence community unanimously assessed, Russia used social media channels to influence and mislead voters. It also hacked political campaign committees and local elections boards in a brazen attempt to undermine and subvert our elections.
There is no reason to think this meddling will be an isolated incident. In fact, we expect the threat will grow in future years. The United States must do everything possible to prevent these attacks in the future — and lay out the consequences well in advance of our next elections. Today, we are introducing bipartisan legislation to do just that.
Our bill, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act, would send a powerful message to any foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: If you attack American candidates, campaigns or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences.
We believe that clearly outlining our deterrence strategy will send an important message to any adversary contemplating interfering in a future U.S. election. This legislation uses key national security tools to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in our elections by ensuring the costs outweigh the benefits.
To start, we must ensure there is a system for continued monitoring and reporting on foreign threats to elections — and clear punishments if attacks occur. Our legislation would require the director of national intelligence to issue a determination to Congress, within one month after every federal election, on whether any foreign government had interfered in that election.
The Deter Act also spells out actions that would elicit retaliation. A foreign power cannot purchase advertisements to influence an election, including online ads, or use social and traditional media — such as the thousands of trolls and botnets deployed by the Kremlin — to spread significant amounts of false information to Americans. They also cannot hack, leak or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails. Finally, no foreign power can block or otherwise hinder access to elections infrastructure, such as websites providing information on polling locations.
Because we know Russia has already employed many of these actions, the Deter Act would mandate a set of severe sanctions if the director of national intelligence should determine that the Kremlin had once again interfered in a U.S. federal election. Within 10 days of such a determination, our bill would require the administration to impose sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, defense, metals and mining. It would also block the assets of every senior Russian political figure or oligarch and prevent them from entering the United States. We also would require the administration to work with the European Union to enlist its support in adopting a sanctions regime to broaden the impact.
These sanctions are far tougher than any action taken on Russia to date and would send an unequivocal message to the Kremlin: We will not tolerate an attack on our democracy.
But Russia is not our only concern. The director of national intelligence has identified China, Iran and North Korea as our other major foreign government cyberthreats, and they may also seek to exploit U.S. vulnerabilities in the next election cycle. That is why our legislation would require the administration to present Congress with a plan for preventing interference in our elections for each of these countries, plus any other foreign state of significant concern, within 90 days of the Deter Act becoming law.
We cannot underscore enough the urgency of this issue. In less than a year, Americans will head to the ballot box for the midterm elections. Our next presidential election will be here before we know it. It is unrealistic to think we can simply sit back and hope that we do not face another attack by a hostile foreign power.
We and other lawmakers stand willing to work with the administration to develop additional cybersecurity policies that will help protect our election infrastructure and develop a broad-based deterrence strategy. The United States must be fully prepared to defend our country, and the Deter Act would put in place a bipartisan, comprehensive strategy to prevent future attacks on our elections. We urge Congress to pass it without delay.
Good luck with that. We have a president who refuses to acknowledge Russian interference in American elections, and Tea-Publicans in Congress more interested in chasing conspiracy theory “rabbits” to discredit the Justice Department, FBI, and Special Counsel to lay the groundwork for President Trump firing Robert Mueller before he can bring charges against anyone in the Trump campaign or White House. Tea-Publicans are leaving America vulnerable to further attacks in Russia’s ongoing cyber war against the U.S.