As it has been known for several weeks now, Donald Trump has been skipping his intelligence briefings. The Donald knows what the Donald knows which is, quite frankly, a lot, you know. He's very smart, knows a lot of stuff. There's nothing the CIA or the FBI can tell him that he doesn't already know and if he doesn't know it, that's because the CIA and the FBI are wrong.
Guys, a confession: trying to write stuff from Donald Trump's perspective makes me kind of dizzy and a little nauseous.
And we move on.
But it seems the divide between Trump and the intelligence community has only gotten wider and no more so than on the topic of Russia.
During the campaign, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the release of emails through Wikileaks was linked to Russian activities. At the time, Trump broadly refused to accept such a conclusion. Couple this with Trump's own soaring praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and you gotta ask yourself, "What the fuck's going on here?"
Well, it seems that in the intervening weeks, the evidence against the Russians is not only piling up, but the purpose and range of their efforts have come into clearer focus. In addition to the various hacking forays into the DNC and other organizations, the Russians have been instrumental in the planting of fake news stories to drive the narrative against Hillary Clinton who you may recall was running for President before she co-leased a condo in the woods near Chappequa NY with Bigfoot.
Fake news is not a topic I've addressed specifically here in this space so let's drop a few words in that direction. You know those stories that your Uncle Cletus or your cousin Annie Mae will forward on Facebook and the like about how there is undeniable evidence that Hillary Clinton shot Vince Foster or that President Obama has issued an executive order to outlaw the Pledge of Allegiance? You know, shit like that. Anyway, these stories get circulated by alt-right purveyors of rumors and conspiracy theories like Alex Jones or Brietbart. A lot of the stupid stuff that Donald Trump has spouted on the campaign trail and continues to shovel like so much manure since he won the election comes from sites like this. But it seems that in addition to their hacking hobbies, the Russians have also been planting fake news stories knowing the gullibility of so much of the American public primed to believe the absolute worst about Clinton, Obama and the Democrats in general.
And all this activity had one goal for the Russians: to see that Donald Trump was elected President.
It is important to be reminded that even with all this, there is no evidence that the Russian efforts affected the outcome of the election or the legitimacy of the vote. For all their hacking and social media manipulation, the Russians may not have actually impacted the election. But their intent to influence the election is clear as were their efforts to try to tip the scales to their preferred candidate. Regardless if Russia had any real impact on the outcome of the election or not, their efforts to have impact are cause for concern.
Or should be. Donald Trump, who has a personal vested interest in reaffirming his status as the legally and properly elected President of the United States, has opted instead to openly mock the intelligence community.
This is not to say the CIA, NSA and other organizations are infallible. They can get things wrong. President Obama asked about the chances of street protests in Egypt after the 2010 uprising in Tunisia. The CIA put the chances of that unrest spreading to Egypt at less than 20%. The situation in Egypt exploded within days.
One of the statements coming from Trump and his surrogates is "“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." It bears remembering that the CIA was less than emphatic about those conclusions in 2003 and it was neocons in the Bush White House such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who took a more selective approach to the intelligence provided to support their case for war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein.
An element that adds some much unwanted confusion to this whole mess is that America's intelligence gathering organizations are not exactly cooperating with each other. The CIA and the NSA have alleged that Russians hacked the computers of the Republican National Committee as well as the Democrats but the FBI says it has no evidence of the RNC being hacked. And if this sounds dreadfully familiar to anyone paying attention about 15 years or so ago, that's because that lack of inter-agency cooperation was a significant factor in America being caught with its pants down on 9/11 back in 2001.
Evidence of Russia hacking the RNC would be very crucial to supporting a case that Russia was acting to guide the American election for President to a specific outcome. If the Russians hacked both the Democrats and the Republicans but only released information on the Dems, then its clear that Russia was seeking to put its thumb on the scale and affect who we elected as President.
Russian activity to that end would be most important to address in terms of our national security, no matter who was elected President. But the next guy in line is a selfish bastard with no regard for anything but his own standing. And as long as this Russian influence has any chance of diminishing Donald Trump and his influence, then Donald Trump will ignore the obvious and play to his own self interests.
In other words, Trump is being true to himself. And only himself.
OK, gang! We go LIVE again in 12 hours with the launch of a series of posts as I recount my adventures (for better or worse) in the magical world of Disney.
Until next time, remember to be good to one another.