The Washington Post‘s “Russia” storyÂ is getting real traction, in spite of the fact that we sorta kinda knew this for a long time, as far as I’m concerned.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clintonâ€™s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clintonâ€™s chances.
â€œIt is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russiaâ€™s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,â€ said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. â€œThatâ€™s the consensus view.â€
Let us be clear that nobody officially is saying that Donald Trump is not the legitimate winner of the Electoral College vote. Hillary Clinton might have lost, anyway, for a whole lot of other reasons. And, again, mostÂ of this isn’t new. It was kind of obvious.
Some elements of this story were new, however. And the picture that emerges is dirty as hell.
One is that some time back Russian hackers broke into both the RNC and DNC networks. That the DNC and other Democratic networks had been hacked was public knowledge. But the Republicans have denied all along that their networks had been hacked, which was a lie.
The CIA now confirms that Wikileaks received materials from hackers working for the Russian government and released those materials. The Russian hackers apparently passed only material stolen from Democrats on to Wikileaks, however, which is why the CIA concluded Russia wanted Trump to win.
Further, the CIA presented this assessment to key members of Congress back in September. Democrats wanted the information to be made public; Republicans wanted to quash it. And the chief Republican who blocked release of this information before the election was Mitch McConnell.
You might remember that Donald Trump nominated McConnell’s wife to be Secretary of Transportation. Â Stinks, much?
One of the individuals who knew about this intelligence was our old buddy FBI Director James Comey. You might remember that the FBI released a statement a week before the election saying there was no clear link between Trump and Russia, and that the Russian hacking was not part of an attempt by Russia to mess with the election. But Comey was fully aware of the CIA assessment that said otherwise.
Today outgoing Senator Harry Reid called for Comey to resign.
â€œI am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes. Thatâ€™s why I call him J. Edgar Hoover. Because I believe that,â€ Reid told MSNBCâ€™s Joy Reid on Saturday.
Later asked if Comey should resign as FBI director, Reid replied, â€œof course.â€ Reid also said that Comey should be investigated by the U.S. Senate and other security agencies of the government.
Some senators — including Republican senators McCain and Graham, to give credit where credit is due — are calling for an all-out Senate probe into this situation. And President Obama has asked the intelligence agencies to give him a full report before he leaves office.
Typically, the yam-elect threw a tantrum.
Mr. Trump, in a statement issued by his transition team on Friday evening, expressed complete disbelief in the intelligence agenciesâ€™ assessments.
â€œThese are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,â€ Mr. Trumpâ€™s team said, adding that the election was over and that it was time to â€œmove on.â€
Though Mr. Trump has wasted no time in antagonizing the agencies, he will have to rely on them for the sort of espionage activities and analysis that they spend more than $70 billion a year to perform.
At this point in a transition, a president-elect is usually delving into intelligence he has never before seen and learning about C.I.A. and National Security Agency abilities. But Mr. Trump, who has taken intelligence briefings only sporadically, is questioning not only analytic conclusions, but also their underlying facts.
â€œTo have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions â€” wow,â€ said Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the N.S.A. and later the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush.
Further, the current frontrunner for the Secretary of State job — a bleeping Exxon CEO with no public sector experience whatsoever — has extensive ties to Russia.
Tillerson received the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. Tillerson’s work with ExxonMobil included a stretch working for Exxon Neftegas Ltd., putting him in charge of the subsidiary’s fields in Russia and the Caspian Sea.
Two years before receiving the award, ExxonMobil won a contract to explore for oil in a Russia-controlled portion of the Arctic Ocean, which was made more economically viable for drilling in part thanks to the sea ice decline that’s followed global warming. Putin himself announced the deal at a meeting in Sochi (where the Winter Olympics would be held the next year).
Tillerson’s stake in ExxonMobil will certainly raise questions at a confirmation hearing. Once Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the United States instituted sanctions against Russia that froze ExxonMobil’s Arctic agreement. Were those sanctions to be lifted, the deal would probably move forward â€” making Tillerson’s shares of ExxonMobil stock much more valuable. (The Wall Street Journal noted that he’d probably have to divest from that stock if appointed to run the State Department.)
Bob Cesca wrote last July that the Russian hacking was a bigger scandal than Watergate; I’d say he was right.