One of the myriad problems with the Russian attack against our elections is the vast complexity of the crisis. The working parts in the Mueller investigation alone — and just the ones we know about — could take weeks to cover for someone who hasn’t been following along. Then there’s the non-Mueller reporting about the attack, and all of the granular details along the various fronts.
On top of all of this, there’s the painful and treacherous reality that a Russian agent in the White House can do a hell of a lot worse than just facilitating more attacks. Imagine the national security secrets Trump has possibly given away to Vladimir Putin due to kompromat and so forth. Imagine the intelligence Trump has ignored simply to further Putin’s reach into the core of our national sovereignty.
More than all that, there’s the layer to the attack that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats touched upon this past week: the warning lights are flashing red — “again,” he said — and another attack is imminent. Despite the advice of his intelligence and national security people, Donald Trump told a reporter earlier this week that the Russia attack is over.
“Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President,” Vega asked.
“Thank you very much, no,” he said.
Vega pressed: “No?! You don’t believe that to be the case?”
He responded: “No.”
Even without Coats’s warning and the multitude of earlier intelligence community warnings about further attacks, many of us already knew the 2018 series of Russian attacks were underway. A couple weeks ago, we observed as Russian trolls and bots helped circulate the “Walk Away” hashtag, swarming Democrats who might be susceptible to the idea of leaving the party, thus disrupting the so-called “blue wave.” Even a cursory look at the mentions of the hashtag show a legion of trolls and bots joining the usual Red Hat screechers. This alone shows the Russians are back to psychological warfare on social media (hint: they never left).
Likewise, we learned today that the malicious hacking of Democratic communications has begun. Politico:
Microsoft detected and helped block hacking attempts against three congressional candidates this year, a company executive said Thursday, marking the first known example of cyber interference in the midterm elections.
“Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for security and trust, at the Aspen Security Forum. “And we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for election in the midterm elections.”
Microsoft took down the fake domain and worked with the federal government to block the phishing messages. Burt said that none of the targeted campaign staffers were infected.
Burt did not specify whether the hacking attempts originated from Russia.
Right, we don’t know for sure whether the Russians were behind this attack, but it’s a safe bet they are because, well, you know. This is what they do now. And if they’re targeting these congressional candidates, there have to be others as well.
Usually, the American president is tasked with leading and supervising the massive executive branch as it safeguards the nation and its Constitution. Today, however, the president and many senior officials from his party, including Republican members of Congress, are in league with the enemy and therefore the law enforcement and intelligence agents under Trump have no choice but to (hopefully) proceed independently of their commander-in-chief who refuses to protect our democracy. Every time one of these attacks is stopped, it’s only because of the good will and sense of duty on display by federal agents.
After all, it doesn’t help the Republicans to stop Russia from its carpet bombing of our democratic institutions. So, don’t expect a GOP change of heart any time before November 6.