From the Opinion Page:
By Daniel Hoffman1 | July 28, 2017
Russians are fond of a proverb, “besplatniy sir biyvaet tol’ko v mishelovke”: “Free cheese can be found only in a mousetrap.”
Having long considered the United States its main enemy, the Kremlin deploys a full quiver of intelligence weapons against America and its national security agencies, political parties and defense contractors. Its intelligence services, though best known for clandestine operations to recruit spies, also run covert “influence operations” that often use disinformation to try to affect decisions or events in rival countries. A central tool of those operations is “kompromat,” “compromising material”: things of seemingly great value that are dangled, at what appears to be no cost, before unwitting targets. This is the “free cheese” that ensnares victims in a trap.
I know all this from having spent much of my 30-year government career, including with the C.I.A., observing Soviet, and then Russian, intelligence operations. I came to realize that President Vladimir Putin, who spent his formative years in the K.G.B., the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, and served as director of its successor agency, the F.S.B., wants, as much as anything, to destabilize the American political process. For all his talk of desiring friendly relations, Mr. Putin favors a state of animosity between our two nations. By characterizing the United States and NATO as Russia’s enemies, he can attack within his own borders what threatens him the most — the ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy, of which the United States has been a defender.
This background is necessary for understanding the real meaning of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Kremlin-connected Russians and three representatives of Donald Trump’s campaign: his son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, then the campaign manager. The evidence that has emerged from this meeting strongly suggests that this was not an effort to establish a secure back channel for collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign but an influence operation with one simple objective: to undermine the presidential election.
No conclusive proof has yet emerged that the Kremlin arranged this meeting, and the Russians involved have asserted they were not working for the Putin government. Mr. Kushner himself told Senate investigators that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But to me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered.
And, with this article, written by an OpEd contributor who is a former CIA station chief, The New York Times has:
- Admitted that there is no actual evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign;
- Claimed that the lack of evidence means that the Trump campaign was duped by the Russians; and
- Claimed that the election result was due to the American people being duped by the Russians.
Mr Hoffman continues to tell us how President Putin, himself a former KGB officer, has “resurrected the art of covert influence often in conjunction with cyberwarfare,” and then concluded with:
The most effective method to combat Russia’s intrusions into our political process is to be clear, transparent and honest with ourselves about how the Kremlin operates and what it hopes to achieve. The Trump campaign did not need to collude with the Kremlin for Russia’s cyber and covert influence campaign to be considered a serious breach of our electoral process, and hence our national security. The Trump administration and both parties in Congress need to speak with one voice against Russia’s attack on our democratic institutions. If they do not, Mr. Putin will have won.
Let’s tell the truth here: regardless of what the Trump Administration or the Congress do here, Russia, under President Putin or his eventual successors, will do whatever it wishes in what the leadership see as their own interests. Nor is this a game that only the Russians play: President Obama tried to influence the Israeli elections, in a bid to unseat Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he despised.2
Did the Trump campaign seek damaging information against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Of course they did, just as the Clinton campaign sought damaging information against Donald Trump.3 Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns understood that the only thing that mattered was victory; in an election, there are no points for second place. Both campaigns would do whatever it took to win, and we should never expect anything other than that. Timed information releases, “October surprises,” nothing is out of bounds, and nothing that might help a side win is going to be left unused out of some sense of fair play.
by Damon Linker | July 28, 2017
Hillary Clinton has written a memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign and election. I suppose that was inevitable.But did it really need to be called What Happened?
That title really is unfortunate. Because the thing is that “what happened” is patently obvious to everyone who isn’t blinded by partisanship or personal fealty to the Clinton family: She lost — to the most flagrant demagogue-charlatan in American history, a man whose lack of fitness for the job was so obvious and total that she should have won in a landslide.
There is not a chance in the world that Clinton’s memoir will frankly examine and reflect on the true causes of her catastrophic defeat. How do we know this? Because she and her surrogates have spent the last eight months doing everything they can to deflect blame away from where it belongs — on herself, on her campaign, and on the Democratic Party establishment — and onto a series of convenient Forces Beyond Our Control: James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and an incorrigibly racist and misogynist electorate that rallied to her opponent.
No one who’s appalled and disgusted by the civic demolition derby that is the Trump administration should accept such self-serving prevarication.
The point isn’t that Comey and Putin and unsavory political views played no role. Of course they did. If the FBI director hadn’t announced less than two weeks before Election Day that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server, she might have won. If Russian intelligence (with or without Trump campaign collusion) hadn’t broken into John Podesta’s email account and released politically damaging correspondence via WikiLeaks, she might have won. If fewer than 100,000 voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had refrained from casting a ballot for a professional con man who whipped up racial (and many other kinds of) animus, she might have won.
In an election that close, anything and everything could have changed the outcome.
The question is: Why was it so close to begin with?
There’s more at the original. Damon Linker is a liberal Democrat, a former contributing editor with the fast-fading The New Republic, and, as you can see, certainly no fan of President Trump. But he was certainly willing to tell the truth about Mrs Clinton, in a way most Democrats, including the editors of The New York Times, have not been.
The Times used Mr Hoffman’s OpEd piece to explain away the lack of evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump Administration, telling us that the absence of collusion is still damning, because the Trump campaign was simply duped. Mr Linker tells us that the hacked e-mails might have been enough to have tipped an election Mrs Clinton should have easily won. But what no one on the left can seem to admit is that, regardless of how or by whom the e-mails were hacked, it was the content of the e-mails that was the problem. When you have Jen Palmieri, supposedly a Catholic herself, writing e-mails critical of evangelical Christians and Catholics, or suggesting that John Podesta needs to “sober her up some,” at 4:31 in the afternoon, the problem isn’t that the Russians, or someone else, hacked the e-mails, but what they told voters about Mrs Clinton.
The editors of The New York Times, whose motto is All the News That’s Fit to Print, certainly didn’t want the news about Mrs Clinton printed, though information that the Democratic presidential nominee was a lush who needed to be sobered up in the afternoon was certainly relevant. Now that Mrs Clinton has been safely consigned to the role of private citizen, all that the Times can do now is to try to drag down President Trump, trying to call his victory into question, by yelling about the Russians.
- Daniel Hoffman, a former chief of station for the C.I.A., worked for over 30 years for the United States government in Russia, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. ↩
- The feeling was mutual. ↩
- The Washington Post tried to make the Clinton campaign efforts seem unimportant, saying, “While there are broad similarities between the two, there also are key distinctions that make this a facile comparison.“ ↩
- While I would like to read, and review, Mrs Clinton’s book, I will not, because I am wholly unwilling to contribute even a single penny to the Clinton family by buying it. If a free copy happens to fall into my hands, I’ll read it. ↩