Thursday, August 23, 2018

Warning to Trump loyalists on Russian meddling. The shoe is on the other foot.

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News August 28-29, 2018

Update 10/13/18: Israeli firm asked to interfere in the GOP nomination process to help Trump

President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has just issued a warning about Iran, North Korea and China  tampering with our November midterm elections.  The shoe is now on the other foot since both Iran and China have reasons to help Trump’s opponents in 2018. The lesson we should  learn from this is opposing interference by any foreign governments in our election process needs to be countered vigorously no matter who the perpetrators are or who they harm or help. American elections ought to be decided by Americans, not by foreign adversaries, but when it comes to the Russians,  GOP and the administration still fiddle  while Rome burns.
Until now, the Trump administration has either been permissive toward past and future Russian manipulation  or it has dismissed evidence of  Russian activities in 2016 which helped Donald Trump to be elected.  Iran and China are not friends of the Trump administration.  Iran and China  can now take a page from the successful  Russian attack methods and use the same  techniques against Trump backed candidates that the Russians  got away with.  In fact, Russians are  still getting away with it now, in 2018, per our security services.
 It is still the policy of the White House to either deny or obstruct probes into  Russian attacks or to fail to take leadership to block such attacks.   Individual security agencies are doing what they can and the private social media sector is beginning to step up to the plate . Last week Google took down 58 Iran related web sites, following the lead of Twitter, but self policing by social media using their own arbitrary standards has also met resistance from those who advocate first amendment rights in the press.
 In a press conference August 2, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, flanked by representatives of our intelligence services , warned that Russia was once again interfering in the 2018 November elections. In response, President Trump  issued an edict to security services to give counter measures a priority and then at a rally in Pennsylvania that very evening called the Russia thing a “hoax”, undermining his own position.   So which is it, Donald Trump. Russian interference  a hoax and a witch hunt or a threat to our democracy dependent on elections we can trust? And is it OK for your loyal supporters to consider Iranian and Chinese interference to be OK, too?
The GOP Congress has taken its cue from the White House and their constituents, refusing to give extra funding to states to harden their election systems to protect them from foreign hackers.  They are listening to their constituents who have swallowed the Trump administration’s  Cool aid . A  Yahoo Finance/SurveyMonkey poll of 2,509 Americans conducted July 25-27 show that  40% of Republicans are OK with Russian meddling and 11% in fact welcome it. 75% of Republicans polled by Ipsos July 16-17 believe the Mueller probe resulted from FBI bias and 30% of Republicans approved of the Mueller investigation.   Mueller has found no witches; just six felons who pleaded or were found guilty, not counting those related to the Michael Cohen case.
With the prospect of Iran and China supporting Trump’s  opposition candidates in 2018 and 2020, the shoe will be on the other foot.  One can imagine that Iran will increase anger, turnout, and identify through US voter rolls those likely to oppose Administration’s saber rattling and sanctions policy.  Chinese would   likely target   those in the US agricultural sector  who have felt the sting of retaliatory Chinese tariffs raised against their products soybeans, corn, pork and beef.
A warning to the foolish: what goes around comes around.
(poll sources:

More from an earlier blog posting on the same subject:

"“I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to prevent it,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m not going to get into what I’ve seen or haven’t seen, but I’m telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the countries we’re most concerned about.”

This falls under the "shoe could be on the other foot" category. Those Trump loyalists who think that it is OK for Russia to interfere in our elections, ignore the danger to themselves in future elections. What if Iran, angered by Donald Trump's verbal attacks on Iran,  or China, ticked off at his trade wars,, undertake using  the same techniques used by the Russians to help Trump get elected would now use the same techniques to support Trump's opponents?
 This is not fantasy, or science fiction. This is entirely possible and is happening now.  "Google deletes 58 accounts with ties to Iran from YouTube and other sites 
  • The update follows similar take-downs by Facebook and Twitter, which earlier this week revealed calculated misinformation campaigns by Russian and Iranian accounts.
  • The company "identified and terminated" 39 English-language YouTube accounts, 13 Google+ accounts and six Blogger blogs that were found to be engaged in "politically motivated phishing."
  • The accounts were found to have ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting."
A recent poll revealed that 40% of . Republicans are OK with Russian meddling in 2016; 11% in fact welcome it..
and 75% of  Republicans believe that Robert Mueller's  investigation is a witch hunt. 

What are the chances Trump loyalists will desert him? The guilty verdict in the first Manafort trial ( Trump's campaign manager) and the guilty plea of his lawyer Michael Cohen who also fingered Trump as directing his actions in criminally violating election laws are not enough to change minds of the President's loyalists. After all, Donald Trump said, campaign election violations are "no big deal".  It was a big deal in the Nixon impeachment, but these are different times.   The Mueller report may kick up the criminal wrong doings  to a really big deal if Trump's associates and family or even Trump himself   reveal overwhelming evidence that someone committed treason or conspired with foreign adversaries to break laws (euphemism for treason).  

That may convince some of the 40% GOP believers that loyalty may have been misplaced. 
) or it may not. Much depends whether  some tape or enough credible witnesses tie the conspiracy to Trump's direction.  It is easy to understand why Trump has attempted to destroy of the credibility of the Mueller probe  and in the Fox interview on August 22 he hinted at firing AG Sessions supervising the Mueller probe  after the November elections. No doubt that timing would apply to the firing of his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. We are back to the fundamental Watergate question, "what did he know and when did he know it" and it was not until the tapes provided the final proof.

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