Friday, June 23, 2017

Washington Post: Intel Agencies Had Proof Putin Ordered Russian Interference

Bombshell reporting from the Washington Post this morning on the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including the confirmation that U.S. intelligence officials captured Putin’s specific instructions to disrupt the elections.

It's a long read, but very worth it. The Post reporters chronicle each chapter of the Russian attack from the day President Obama was informed, to the very closed circle of high level officials who dealt with the issue, to how the public was finally informed.

The report consists of interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services.

Of particular note:

• Former administration officials admit that the sense of urgency was "contained" to some degree because a Clinton win was expected by virtually everyone. Obama continued to believe he would be handing over the Oval Office to Hillary. There was concern that coming forward with the details of Russian interference would further Trump's cries of a "rigged election."

• Obama ordered the planting of digital cyber-bombs in Russia's infrastructure to be used at a later date should frictions escalate. It was left to President Trump whether or not to ever use them.

Here's just an excerpt of the article:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The CIA breakthrough came at a stage of the presidential campaign when Trump had secured the GOP nomination but was still regarded as a distant long shot. Clinton held comfortable leads in major polls, and Obama expected that he would be transferring power to someone who had served in his Cabinet.


Obama’s approach often seemed reducible to a single imperative: Don’t make things worse. As brazen as the Russian attacks on the election seemed, Obama and his top advisers feared that things could get far worse.

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.

They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

I haven't bought into actual collusion theories between the Trump campaign and Russia before, but this morning I do wonder: how did Trump happen to begin dropping the "rigged election" comments when he did? Was that the collusion? Did Russia tell the Trump campaign to get out ahead of the Obama administration with the "rigged" comments expecting it might silence the administration?

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