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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

 

Moscow on the Potomac

by Tom Sullivan


Image via Pinterest.

FBI Director James Comey yesterday informed a congressional hearing that the FBI has a counterintelligence investigation underway looking into whether any of President Donald Trump's associates coordinated with Russian operatives engaged in efforts to manipulate the 2016 elections. The investigation, Comey confirmed, began last July. Both Comey and NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers dismissed allegations by Trump that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by order of President Obama. The New York Times called it "a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president."

The Trump White House was in damage control mode even before the hearing, with Trump himself firing off a series of diversionary tweets yesterday morning.

The Los Angeles Times indicates it is not only Trump knocked back on his heels. Russian hackers have been surprised by the blowback. “The story has magnified more than the Russians expected,” said William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the Rand Corp:
Traditionally, former Soviet governments were reluctant to get involved in the internal politics of America because of the risk of possible retaliation. “But Putin has been willing to do that and to take extra risks,” said Courtney, a former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and onetime presidential special assistant for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.

[...]

“The fact that they were willing to do it openly suggests Putin is trying to fire a shot across the bow, in a political sense, to show that Russia has the capacity to make it look like the integrity to the U.S. elections is not as strong as Americans think it is and to undermine confidence … that the democratic process is honest,” Courtney said.
The L.A. Times report notes that Kremlin loyalists claimed Monday's congressional hearings are meant to undermine Moscow's ties with Trump:
The aim of this week’s hearings in Washington “is not to allow Trump to improve ties with Russia,” said Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based political analyst and a former lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party. “Very serious circles in the U.S. think that they can’t let Russia become a great power, that Russia should be pressed, pressed, pressed.”
Just now, encouragement from Moscow cannot be helpful to a Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress hoping to make this investigation go away quickly if not quietly.

Alex Shepard at the New Republic offered this bit of snark on the Republicans' blue Monday:
But by the end of the day, Republicans had hit upon their strategy. “The longer this hangs out there, the more the cloud grows,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said to Comey near the end of the hearing. The suggestion was that Comey—not Trump—had put this cloud over the White House. This is a remarkable thing to say, given that it’s Trump’s campaign that is under investigation for its ties to Russian intelligence. But the subtext is clear: We’re going to apply political pressure to try to get you to wrap this up quickly. Shortly after the hearing ended, notable Google result Rick Santorum concurred that this strategy was the way to go on CNN.
Good luck with that. This morning's Washington Post online headline reads:



As of 8 a.m. EDT, both the White House and Trump's Twitter feeds are dark.