Russian cyber attacks

January 3, 2017 – Schumer says Trump is ‘really dumb’ for attacking intelligence agencies

“New Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump is “being really dumb” by taking on the intelligence community and its assessments on Russia’s cyber activities.

“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

“So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Trump said Tuesday evening that an intelligence briefing on Russia’s cyber activities “was delayed until Friday” and suggested that intelligence agencies weren’t prepared. NBC News reported, however, that the briefing was always planned for Friday.

“The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” the president-elect wrote on Twitter.”

(Read more: The Hill, 1/03/2017)

December 12, 2016 – Clapper says CIA is wrong on Russia and Clinton leaks

“The overseers of the U.S. intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election, three American officials said on Monday.

While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named.

The position of the ODNI, which oversees the 17 agency-strong U.S. intelligence community, could give Trump fresh ammunition to dispute the CIA assessment, which he rejected as “ridiculous” in weekend remarks, and press his assertion that no evidence implicates Russia in the cyber attacks.

Trump’s rejection of the CIA’s judgment marks the latest in a string of disputes over Russia’s international conduct that have erupted between the president-elect and the intelligence community he will soon command.

An ODNI spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

“ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent,” said one of the three U.S. officials. “Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose evidentiary standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, declined to accept the CIA’s analysis – a deductive assessment of the available intelligence – for the same reason, the three officials said.” (Read more: Reuters, 12/12/2016)

September 6, 2016 – Clinton responds to question of whether she thinks Putin is helping Trump: He “has generally parroted what is a Putin/Kremlin line.”

Clinton is accompanied by traveling press secretary Nick Merrill (l) and director of communications Jennifer Palmieri (r), and listens to a question from a member of the media, Sept. 6, 2016. (Credit: The Associated Press)

“When a reporter aboard Clinton’s campaign plane asked if Putin is using cyberwarfare to help elect Trump, Clinton said “I’m not going to jump to conclusions.” She then proceeded to jump away.

She said recent events aren’t mere coincidence. “I often quote a great saying that I learned from living in Arkansas for many years: ‘If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn’t get there by itself.’ ” She then added, in case anyone didn’t get her point, that “I think it’s quite intriguing that this activity has happened around the time Trump became the nominee.”

She said that Trump “has generally parroted what is a Putin/Kremlin line.” Etc., etc.

(…) But a casual glance at the timeline shows how fanciful such speculation is. Russians reportedly breached the DNC’s servers back in June 2015. [The DNC lawsuit and Crowdstrike report the servers were breached in July, 2016.] That was long before anyone took Trump’s campaign seriously.

Also, the fact that the DNC had been hacked was publicly announced in June 2016 — more than a month before Trump had said anything about Russia and Hillary’s emails. And the first item released from that hack was the DNC’s opposition research file on Trump.

At the time, nobody claimed Russia was trying to elect Trump, since the first release wasn’t exactly flattering to him. In fact, the Washington Post reported that the DNC hack was part of a broader effort by Russians to target both political parties.

“The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees, U.S. officials said,” the Post article stated.

The claim that Russia was trying to help Trump win an election only came about after WikiLeaks posted embarrassing DNC emails.”  (Read more: Investor’s Business Daily, 9/06/2016)

Early September, 2016 – In response to Brennan’s warnings, Johnson, Comey and Monaco warn congress about a possible Russian attack on the election

Lisa Monaco (Credit: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/The Associated Press)

“In early September, Johnson, Comey and Monaco arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties.

The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

On Sept. 22, two California Democrats — Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff — did what they couldn’t get the White House to do. They issued a statement making clear that they had learned from intelligence briefings that Russia was directing a campaign to undermine the election, but they stopped short of saying to what end.

A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were “secure from attack.” The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers “would oppose any effort by the federal government” to encroach on the states’ authorities.” (Read more: Washington Post, 6/23/2017)

August 15, 2016 – In response to Brennan’s warnings, Jeh Johnson floats the idea of designating state voting mechanisms as “critical infrastructure”

Jeh Johnson (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

“Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation’s archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms “critical infrastructure,” a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks.

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.

The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective.” (Read more: Washington Post, 6/23/2017)

August 2016 – Head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, flies to Washington and briefs John Brennan on an alleged stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow

John Brennan (l) and Robert Hannigan. (Credit: Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

(…) “Steele believed that the Russians were engaged in the biggest electoral crime in U.S. history, and wondered why the F.B.I. and the State Department didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Likening it to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt that President Obama needed to make a speech to alert the country. He also thought that Obama should privately warn Putin that unless he stopped meddling the U.S. would retaliate with a cyberattack so devastating it would shut Russia down.

Steele wasn’t aware that by August, 2016, a similar debate was taking place inside the Obama White House and the U.S. intelligence agencies. According to an article by the Washington Post, that month the C.I.A. sent what the paper described as “an intelligence bombshell” to President Obama, warning him that Putin was directly involved in a Russian cyber campaign aimed at disrupting the Presidential election—and helping Trump win. Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.) But, as the Post noted, the C.I.A.’s assessment that the Russians were interfering specifically to boost Trump was not yet accepted by other intelligence agencies, and it wasn’t until days before the Inauguration that major U.S. intelligence agencies had unanimously endorsed this view.”

(…) “In early September, 2016, Obama tried to get congressional leaders to issue a bipartisan statement condemning Russia’s meddling in the election. He reasoned that if both parties signed on the statement couldn’t be attacked as political. The intelligence community had recently informed the Gang of Eight—the leaders of both parties and the ranking representatives on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees—that Russia was acting on behalf of Trump. But one Gang of Eight member, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed skepticism about the Russians’ role, and refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning Russia. After that, Obama, instead of issuing a statement himself, said nothing.

Steele anxiously asked his American counterparts what else could be done to alert the country. One option was to go to the press. Simpson wasn’t all that worried, though. As he recalled in his subsequent congressional testimony, “We were operating under the assumption at that time that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and so there was no urgency to it.” (Read more: The New Yorker, 3/12/2018)

August 9, 2016 – In response to Brennan’s warnings, Rice, Haines and Monaco convene meetings in the Situation Room

Susan Rice (Credit: U.S. Institute of Peace)

“National security adviser Susan Rice, deputy national security adviser and former deputy director of the CIA under Brennan, Avril Haines, and White House homeland-security adviser Lisa Monaco convened meetings in the Situation Room to weigh the mounting evidence of Russian interference and generate options for how to respond. At first, only four senior security officials were allowed to attend: Brennan, Clapper, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey. Aides ordinarily allowed entry as “plus-ones” were barred.

Gradually, the circle widened to include Vice President Biden and others. Agendas sent to Cabinet secretaries — including John F. Kerry at the State Department and Ashton B. Carter at the Pentagon — arrived in envelopes that subordinates were not supposed to open. Sometimes the agendas were withheld until participants had taken their seats in the Situation Room.”

(…) “They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.

They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

Before departing for an August vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, Obama instructed aides to pursue ways to deter Moscow and proceed along three main paths: Get a high-confidence assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia’s role and intent; shore up any vulnerabilities in state-run election systems; and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.” (Read more: Washington Post, 6/23/2017)