Peter Marshall: President Trump crosses the line

Dear Editor:

This paper has published numerous letters over the last 18 months reflecting a stark partisan divide within Routt County regarding the ability of Donald Trump to carry out his responsibilities as President of the United States. While that divide persists, the weekend before last saw President Trump cross a line that ironically, and unfortunately, may well result in somewhat more consensus regarding our President’s performance in office.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Department of Justice announced the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for widespread efforts to undermine the 2016 Presidential election. It is clear from the limited focus of the indictments that they covered only a portion of the “information warfare” conducted by Russian related individuals and entities.

One can certainly disagree whether the original intent of Russian’s meddling was to support candidate Trump or simply to sow chaos regarding the results of a probable Hillary Clinton victory. One can also disagree whether the meddling affected the outcome. However, that would miss the point.

Shortly after the announcement of the indictments, President Trump’s own National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster confirmed what the entire U. S. Intelligence Community has been reporting for the last year, i.e. that the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election is “incontrovertible.”

Nonetheless, President Trump’s response to the indictments has been to criticize everyone except Russia. In a tweet flurry President Trump criticized the FBI, CNN, the Democratic Party, his own national security advisor, former President Barack Obama as well as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Yet not a word was uttered criticizing the Russian government or its leader Vladimir Putin.

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More importantly, Trump’s Twitter blast overshadowed last week’s Senate testimony of the heads of the six major U.S. intelligence agencies that uniformly agreed that Moscow’s next target is the 2018 midterm election. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, went so far as to say that the United States is currently “under attack.”

One can disagree about why the President has refused to criticize Moscow or to take any actions to protect the sanctity of the 2018 vote. However, President Trump, like all federal officials, took an oath to “protect and defend” the United States Constitution. Most reasonable people would agree that oath includes protecting and defending the American electoral system.

If as the U.S. intelligence community agrees, we are currently under attack, the President has an obligation to defend us and our elections. Yet, all President Trump has done to this point is refuse to enforce the sanctions already passed by the Congress against Russia.

This leads to the fundamental question each of us must answer for ourselves. If we can agree that President Trump has an obligation to protect and defend the sanctity of the American electoral system, how are we to interpret his lack of outrage at the conduct of Moscow; let alone his failure to lead, or at least not obstruct, the effort to ensure that Russians are not allowed to engage in further cyber-warfare against the U.S. in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections?

However each of us answer that question, we should all be prepared, regardless of political persuasion, to immediately contact the offices of Senator Cory Gardner, Senator Michael Bennett and Representative Scott Tipton and implore them to take whatever legislative steps are necessary to insure the integrity of the 2018 midterm elections. If President Trump refuses to be a willing participant in that effort, the Congress must take that obligation upon itself.

Peter Marshall

Clark

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We Are Still A Sitting Duck For Russian Hacking

Trump, no slouch at undermining both, has a foreign enabler. So while his generals, his intelligence chiefs, the Department of Homeland Security and most Republicans in Congress take this threat very seriously, Trump is delighted to surf it. While special counsel Robert Mueller is still sorting out what occurred in 2016, Trump’s tacit acceptance of ongoing Russian threats is every bit as much of a potentially impeachable offense as his initial wink-and-nod understanding with Putin.

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Spotlight: This American president has provided aid, comfort to our enemies

Chris Doscotch

Donald Trump finally acknowledged that the Russians meddled in our election after previously saying it was a hoax. Special Counsel Robert Mueller laid out the case in a detailed indictment for the public to see. Mueller is a patriot. Trump has provided aid and comfort to our adversaries.

Trump falsely claims the indictments vindicate him. He is only concerned with himself. His fragile ego cannot handle that the Russians aided his campaign. The irony of this is that if not for Mueller, it is Trump’s fake news that has misled Americans.

Meanwhile, his administration has done nothing to protect us from similar future attacks on our democracy by the Russians or other foreign actors. Instead, his message to our enemies is that they can continue these activities without question or response. Russia continues to undermine not only our democracy but has tried to influence other elections in France, Germany and most recently the Czech Republic. Trump’s failure to take action and condemn Russia makes the United States complicit in this cyberwarfare.

Foreign leaders cannot look to this U.S. president for leadership. His lying has compromised our standing in the world and made the United States an unreliable partner.

Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies were delegitimized by Trump’s claims that this was all a hoax. As public trust and confidence in them has eroded, our national security is undermined. While oversight is necessary, our national security agencies need our support to do their job.

In the future, how can we trust what Trump is saying? How can we not question whether Trump is sowing seeds of doubt and discontent to serve his own ego and self-interest? The president’s loyalty should be to the people, not himself.

Make no mistake, Russia’s election activities are acts of war. Absent constitutional removal from office or resignation, Trump will be around for three more years. Let’s pray that our democratic institutions, Robert Mueller and the people push back, and that we make it to 2020 without complete disaster.

Chris Doscotch is an attorney. He lives in Peoria.

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Martin Schram:We meet the enemy again: It’s still us

We are reporting today from the battle lines of a nation at war, besieged by attackers on multiple fronts — yet tragically unable to even identify its prime enemy.

So we must begin not by analyzing another round of fresh battle plans from our frayed commanders. Instead, we need to consult our nation’s most sage philosopher, in the hopes that he can once again set us straight. I refer of course to Pogo, the comic strip possum who functioned as the philosopher king of newspaper comic strip Walt Kelly’s satirical swamp.

“We have met the enemy and he is us,” Pogo famously told us in the 1950s. And lo, Pogo is spot on, yet again, in the America of 2018.

America today is a nation at war with itself. In one week:

• Fourteen Parkland, Fla., teens and three teachers were slaughtered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They were killed by a mentally troubled, expelled student spraying his former classmates with a military-styled AR-15 assault weapon he’d purchased legally. Cops came to his house 39 times; he’d had mental counseling; teachers feared him. The FBI was twice warned he wanted to be a school shooter; but the FBI shockingly failed to act. Background checks failed because federal, state and local computers didn’t tell each other what they knew about the accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, age 19. Just days later, Florida’s Republican state legislature refused to debate the gun controversy yet found time to drone on about the peril of pornography. So teenage survivors of the Parkland massacre went to Tallahassee to courageously confront legislators for their un-American failures to act.

• Thirteen Russians with ties to the Kremlin were indicted by the Justice Department’s independent counsel for launching an attack on the United States democracy, seeking to spread lies and dissension during the 2016 election via cyber warfare and also on the ground. The independent counsel is investigating evidence of ties between the campaign of the ultimate winner, President Donald Trump, and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In statements, Trump did not condemn or even mention Putin. But Trump repeatedly attacked his Democratic opponents.

In his Pogo Papers anthology, Walt Kelly explained that he came up with Pogo’s core philosophy while thinking through the Cold War crisis that led to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist Cold War abuses — excesses in reaction to the Soviet efforts to infiltrate spies into the U.S. government.

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism … I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process,” Kelly wrote. ” … The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself.”

McCarthy’s abuses were ultimately curtailed because America’s Republicans and Democrats used to say that politics stops at the water’s edge. In today’s multiple battles, we need to pay homage to — and heed — the patriotic instincts of the father of the modern conservative movement, Sen. Barry Goldwater. The Arizona Republican was a patriotic leader in both of the arenas that marked this past week’s major news.

Goldwater famously posed with his rifle (the one he made!) for the National Rifle Association’s recruitment ads, proclaiming: “I am the NRA.” Yet, as the iconic “Conscience of the Conservatives” spoke out strongly in defense of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, he also believed that no hunter should be able to buy military-styled assault weapons. “I’ve never used an automatic or semi-automatic for hunting,” Goldwater once said. “There’s no need to…If any SOB can’t hit a deer with one shot, he should quit shooting.”

Now the NRA calls such talk blasphemy, cuts off funding if pols dare speak such common sense — and runs a primary opponent against them. Which makes gun-toting Republicans cower in fear and run up their laundry bills. Never mind that Ronald Reagan agreed with Goldwater on that.

Gun enthusiasts need to re-channel the Goldwater/Reagan greatness they once admired, defend the commonsense strength of the Second Amendment — and really make America great again.

Meanwhile, Goldwater and Reagan were in the vanguard of the Grand Old Party’s leadership in standing strong against Russian spy efforts to infiltrate the USA during the Cold War. They would be sickened to see their once-Grand Old Party being led by a president who wouldn’t condemn a Russian attack on America’s most globally admired principle — our democracy. And unlike Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other too-weak-to-lead Republicans, Goldwater and Reagan would have strongly condemned Trump’s failures to oppose, block and defeat Putin’s assault on the greatness of America’s free elections.

Finally, thanks to Pogo’s insightful reminder, we can identify, debate and defeat the our prime enemy — ourselves! — before our enemy defeats us.

 

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.

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Trump’s missteps on Russia, ‘fake news,’ women and guns

When our country is being attacked by propaganda or cyber-warfare, why does our leader criticize our own skilled intelligence people in the Justice Department and FBI? We have very reliable, skilled and loyal agents protecting us. He had sided with Putin numerous times. Interviews and tweets show he believes our enemies.

Journalists validate issues they search and put to print in appropriate manners. They cannot make a living on faking it. Once compromised, they are unprofessional and are not doing what they went to school for. Take, for example, the Watergate journalism where the reporters were required to substantiate information by verifying it through multiple sources and devoting multiple reporters to the effort when Nixon was in “flight, lie and evade mode.”

Trump evades the obvious truth that he was helped by foreign interference. He has been compromised by lenders, marital affairs, payoffs, his cronies and also refusing to protect our constitutional systems. He acts personally wounded when facts come forward he does not like. He dodges the obvious by mocking the loyal and good people of our clandestine corps and agents and special-ops people.

But he does know how to touch women since he has money for it. And he pays for their silence. His body language is defensive. Even teens notice his ineptness, but the older folk surely feel it. Then see his measured words against our own agencies who do such a fine job warning us and catching the crime perps. Or providing the evidence for criminal pursuit.

Let’s make AR-type weapons unavailable to those under 27 years old. Connecticut has already seen a reduction in gun-related violence when it took internal measures along the lines of the Obama administration’s overlook on guns , their availability and sources. The mentally ill should not be allowed the use of guns either. But Trump removed funding continuance for mental health determinations. Wrong way, Donald. What a dumb, tragic move.

Bob Plesha

Elm City

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Opinion: Digital Discourse, Not Division

After a Facebook user posted an old satirical Onion spoof on teachers, guns and the National Rifle Association as an expression of her political opinion on the gun control issue, one of her buddies on the social media platform lamented, “I can’t tell Onion headlines from NYT and WaPost ones any longer.”

In this case, the issue was the Parkland school tragedy, hardly the stuff of satire, but when it comes to digital literacy and political discourse in general, this exchange only illustrates a larger point, that some folks may need a crash course in just how to tell when they’re being played — by the Russians or anybody else.

At a recent Department of Homeland Security meeting on election security, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill put it this way: “The biggest threat seems to be from the American public believing false stories that were told out there during the last election.”

But let’s put the blame, at least in part, where it belongs. Russian fingerprints can be found on too many of the false memes and narratives that conned too many Americans and helped fuel one of the most divisive elections in memory.

Little red playbook

Last week’s indictments of 13 Russian nationals by special counsel Robert Mueller outlined chapter and verse how our cyber adversaries used new technology and social media to disrupt the 2016 presidential election and erode American social order, by spreading a steady diet of disinformation and propaganda through outlets from political media to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We learned that neither Democrats nor Republicans, progressive nor conservative activists were spared the destructive attentions of the Russian troll factory that began its information warfare program in 2014 with a budget of more than a million dollars a month.

Unwitting Trump and Clinton backers were duped by Russians masquerading as American activists using sophisticated online personas and virtual private networks to create, in essence, a cyber false flag that not only misinformed the public and provoked voter outrage but actually impacted campaign events and activities.

When a pro-Trump rally and an anti-Trump protest headlined by Michael Moore were held on the same day in New York City days after the election, neither side knew that both events were the creatures of Russian information warfare.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reported in his announcement of the Mueller indictments that there was “no allegation that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.” That is good news for both President Trump and the political process.

Threats abound

But it still leaves the country clearly vulnerable to more of the same from the Russians and other cyber criminals determined to use new technologies to undermine our elections and sow social discord of every kind.

There was a time when we had safeguards in place to protect the integrity of our electoral process from external interference. The Foreign Agents Registration Act and strict prohibitions on noncitizen campaign contributions, for example, were effective in defending our elections from undue outside influence.

But cybertechnology has dramatically changed our electoral environment with the potential to affect voting systems, ballot security, voter rolls and registration, and campaign communications, and equally sinister efforts to chip away at voters’ confidence in their own democracy.

While the Russians have a long history of attempting to influence our elections, it is a combination of a digitally unsophisticated electorate and new cyberwarfare technologies that puts our country and our democratic process at risk. While there is no evidence that hackers, Russian or otherwise, have managed to change election results, we do know that voting systems in 21 states were targeted by Russians for attack.

Watch: Intelligence Officials Aware of Russian Activity Aimed at 2018 Elections

Tom Kellerman, a cybersecurity expert, told Fox News, “The endpoint security on most of those voting systems are outdated and can’t match up to the modern-day weaponry being created by the Russian cyber adversaries.”

Clearly, if we are to defeat the Russians on the cyber battlefield, the federal government and the states need to step up their game. Time is short, especially given government’s dismal track record of adopting new technologies quickly or effectively.

Looking ahead

Still, it’s important to put Russia’s interference into perspective. Yes, they achieved a part of their mission by further tearing apart a country already bitterly divided by partisan politics, and so we should expect more of the same as we head into the 2018 and 2020 elections. But Rosenstein also stated, “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

There is no way to know definitively whether the Russians had any impact on the election results, but an objective analysis of postelection data indicates it is highly unlikely.

Our election night Winning the Issues, or WTI, survey asked voters to rank 20 issues by importance in terms of their vote decision. Republicans and independents ranked “allegations of Donald Trump and ties to Russia” 19th and 20th respectively while Democrats put the issue at 15th. These questions were asked on Election Day so respondents did not know the presidential outcome when answering.

Similarly, in our most recent WTI survey (Jan. 24-25), we asked voters to rank the importance of a series of issues and news stories on how they are likely to vote in this year’s congressional elections. Of the 17 options, “allegations of Donald Trump ties to Russia” came in dead last among Republicans and independents but ranked fifth for Democrats.

In a Twitter post late Friday, Rob Goldman, vice president of ads for Facebook, described the Russian disinformation campaign this way, “The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.”

I agree. We may have not yet lost the disinformation war or even the battle for voting system security, but the deep anger driving partisan politics in America today should concern everyone — Republicans, Democrats and the media.

David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, and is an election analyst for CBS News.

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US and North Korea planning ‘cyber war’ as hacker armies faces off

“North Korea is not alone in having developed these capabilities”

Fireye

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump appear to have reached a truce period, after threatening each other with nuclear annihilation.

A meeting between emissaries of the two countries was even scheduled to take place, before the North is said to have pulled out at the last minute.

But experts believe the Hermit Kingdom is stepping up its cyber attack capabilities, where they have an army of 6,000 hackers ready to target security services.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions launches cyber force to review election interference, infrastructure …

WASHINGTON — Less than a week after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three related firms in a broad conspiracy to undermine the U.S. political system, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a cyber task force to review election interference efforts and threats to critical U.S. infrastructure.

The action, outlined in a one-page memorandum, does not mention Russia by name or refer to the special counsel’s case. Instead, it establishes an internal unit with a broad mandate to combat myriad threats, including the use of the Internet to recruit and radicalize vulnerable U.S. followers.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists and enemy governments,” Sessions said Tuesday.

Much of the work Sessions described Tuesday is being done in other parts of the government and within the Justice Department, but the attorney general said the task force would “canvass” those efforts and identify “how federal law enforcement can more effectively” combat the threats.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to appoint a Justice official to oversee the work and prepare a report to the attorney general by the end of June.

Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s interference, meanwhile, is continuing. The indictment made public Friday offered an extraordinary view into Russia efforts, coordinated by a firm tied to the Kremlin, to wage “information warfare against the United States” with the goal of “spreading distrust toward the candidates and the political system.”

That operation, prosecutors said, extended from social media posts meant to pick at Americans’ political divisions to staging rallies to support then-candidate Donald Trump and to disparage his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

More: Takeaways from Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian nationals who meddled in presidential election

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Why Is Our Commander-in-Chief AWOL On Russia? (Message to Trump Supporters)

On Saturday, I posted here a piece titled Trump is Showing He’s Putin’s Man: A Real-World Version of “The Manchurian Candidate.” That piece was written at a white heat, in the way the ideas spontaneously came to me.

But as I indicated in the introductory remarks, I planned to recraft those ideas into a form suitable for sending the message to Trump supporters that their man has been betraying the nation right before their eyes.

Here is that newly crafted message, which will be appearing this week in newspapers in my very red congressional district (VA-06).

As I said on Saturday, this new version represents my own effort to do what I call for at the end of that piece: i.e., to use the opportune moment created by Mueller’s indictment of the 13 Russians “to rouse Americans against this President who, James Risen has just suggested, is looking like a traitor.”

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Why Is Our Commander-in-Chief AWOL On Russia?

Last week, the United States Department of Justice announced the indictments of 13 Russians who were part of the Russian attack on our American elections. So rich and full was the picture painted in the 37-page indictments of these Russians – and their attempts to sow discord and to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton — that whatever room there ever may have been to deny Russian meddling is gone forever.

Soon thereafter, President Trump tweeted: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election … The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia…”

Trump seems unaware how thoroughly –in that very tweet — he is damning himself.

If Trump really has recognized that Putin’s regime has been engaging cyber-war against the heart of our constitutional order,why has this President done absolutely nothing to protect the United States from an attack?

(An attack that American intelligence tells us is continuing unchecked, as our next elections approach?)

Trump has been President for more than a year. But Trump has said nothing, and done nothing, to respond to these attacks by Putin’s regime.

Being President means being America’s commander-in-chief. Throughout our history, Americans have always been able to look to our commander-in-chief to lead us when a hostile power (like Russia) commits a hostile act (like this cyber-warfare election meddling) against the United States.

But not this time. Not from Trump, who stands aside while Putin’s regime attacks our democracy.

“Trump’s Silence Leaves Struggle Against Russia Without Leader.” That was the main headline on the New York Times website at the same time as Trump was tweeting to defend himself against the charge of collusion with our Russian attackers—while still saying nothing whatever against the Russians.

Why is Trump – otherwise so combative – AWOL, leaving us leaderless, when it comes to defending the United States against Putin’s attack on the United States?

A few months back, Congress passed a law that required Trump to impose new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for their attack on this country. Not only did it pass, it passed nearly unanimously, with the support of nearly every member of both parties.

But the deadline for Trump to impose those sanctions came and went, but Trump did nothing. With that failure to act, Trump not only violated that law, but he also violated his oath of office in which the President swears he “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfullyexecuted.”

Congress wanted to punish Russia for its cyber-war attack on America, using the sanctions to punish the hostile power attacking us. Why doesn’t Trump share that desire? Why has Trump chosen to protect Putin and his gang from Congress, rather than protect the United States from Putin’s gangster regime?

Isn’t Trump’s refusal –since he became President — to defend America against Putin’s regime in itself a form of collusion— not hidden, but in plain sight?

What explains Trump’s acting more like an agent of Putin’s than like the commander-in-chief of the United States?

Does Trump’s failure to lead in that “Struggle Against Russia” have anything to do with the fact – long known, but also clearly documented in these indictments – that the Russian regime worked hard to help Trump win the presidency?

Which raises the question, Why were the Russians so interested in helping Trump?

It’s no longer possible to believe that it was just anti-Hillary, though we know that Putin hated her. We now know (also from these recent detailed indictments) that they picked Trump as their guy early on—at least early enough to help Trump defeat his Republican rivals. We know that the Russians used their propaganda tools against his main rivals for the nomination, Rubio and Cruz.

What did the Russians expect from a Trump presidency that motivated them to help him reach the White House? Were they in a position to blackmail Trump into doing their bidding? Or did Trump enter into some deal with Putin, a kind of deal with the devil where Trump got help in gaining the power he wanted in exchange for doing Putin’s bidding (in ways such as not interfering with the Russian attack on the United States)?

I’m sure that in most ways, Trump is not looking for direction from Putin. But it does seem that there are boundaries that Trump does not cross, and they are boundaries where Putin would have drawn them. (Boundaries like “Don’t get in the way of our attack on American democracy.”)

If there’s any benign explanation of Trump’s actions and inactions, I cannot imagine it.

Instead, this looks like a real-life version of the Cold War movie, The Manchurian Candidate—which focuses on the danger that an agent of a hostile power might become President of the United States.

In that film, made in the aftermath of the Korean War, the “foreign agent” is pitiable rather than evil: as a POW, he was brainwashed by the Red Chinese. What excuse can Trump have for serving our nation’s enemy?

Another major difference: in the movie, America was ultimately saved from having that brainwashed foreign agent actually succeed in gaining the power of the presidency. In this real-world scenario, our enemy’s choice has actually ascended to power.

America needs for it patriots to look closely at this picture of Trump acting like he’s Putin’s man. I’m sure that’s not what any patriotic Americans had in mind when they voted for the man who declared, “America First!”

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