It turns out that in the West Wing, a little hacking and a little interference with trivial things like U.S. elections and national security secrets are no big deal, especially when everyone is doing it. North Korea, China, some 400 pound kid in his grandmother’s bedroom, Democrats, SQUIRREL!
But it also turns out, courtesy of public comments from U.S. national security officials at the Aspen Security Forum, that many in the epicenter of the United States’ counterintelligence and national security circles may be getting just a bit nervous about the Deflector-in-Chief’s insistence on trotting out the endless string of “other suspects” and bypassing discussion about — or concern over — the elephant in the room, and the one top threat that seems to be looked past and waved through courtesy of the Oval Office. According to the USA Today’s report issued earlier tonight — In Break with Trump, top Intel, Homeland Security Officials Affirm Russia's Election Meddling
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and White House Homeland and Counterterrorism adviser Thomas Bossert all said they backed the conclusion that Russia carried out a campaign of cyberattacks and fake news to influence the election in favor of Trump.
"There is a pretty clear and easy answer to that and that is yes,'' Bossert said Thursday, adding that there was no reason to doubt the findings.
Pompeo went even further, saying Russia has been meddling in U.S. elections for years, not just in 2016.
"Of course,'' Pompeo said Thursday of the Russian efforts last year. "And the one before that, and the one before that. "(Russia) has no intention of backing off.''
For those that don’t recall, Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence and Adm. Mike Rogers, National Security Agency Director, marched in front of Senate and House investigators in June and sidestepped a number of direct questions about Trump, his dealings with the TrumpRussia investigations ongoing in the FBI under James Comey, and a number of other matters, including ongoing reporting that Russia had penetrated U.S. election sites far more broadly than had been previously reported. The evasive answers led some to believe that the Intelligence community, led mostly by Trump appointees and former Republican holdovers, might be willing to soften the public tone of the focus on Trump’s potential collusion with Russia during and after the election. Following the meeting, Democrats like Mark Warner of Virginia were furious. “I come out of this hearing with more questions than when I went in,” Warner said. While the testimony provided cable news outlets with extraordinary ratings, many concluded that Trump and his campaign team had dodged a fairly sizeable bullet in not being publicly tied to an effort to end the investigation into Russia led by Comey.
But tonight, it seems that worm might have turned. Recently, CNN reported that ...”National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers expressed frustration to lawmakers about his inability to convince the President to accept US intelligence that Russia meddled in the election.” The report added that Trump “...has vented his frustration with officials outside of the briefings about the amount of attention paid to the investigation into Russian election interference.” Numerous other current and former intelligence officials have also shared to Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams that there is “great frustration” within intelligence circles that Trump’s treatment of Russia, from off-the-cuff meetings with Putin with no paper trail to proposal of a collaborative effort on cybersecurity with Russia not previously vetted with US intelligence, does not reflect the seriousness of the Russia threat to future elections and US cybersecurity.
The public comments in Aspen seem to reflect a pre-emptive move by key US intelligence officials to ensure Russia and its threat remain front and center, despite SQUIRREL!!!. More interestingly, frayed nerves within these officials are becoming more apparent:
"Not one bad actor is paying for their actions,'' [White House Homeland and Counterterrorism advisor Thomas] Bossert said, suggesting that the U.S. “could certainly take more direct action to retaliate”.
More strikingly CIA Director Mike Pompeo seemed to signal a simmering frustration in the CIA with Trump’s inaction on Russia. According to the USA Today article:
“Asked to reconcile Trump's alternative view against a such a widely-acknowledged attack, Pompeo said: ‘My team is fully engaged; my team understands the threat. It is not always the case that you can convince the policy maker.’ “
My team is fully engaged and understands the threat. Ouch. The distinction between Pompeo’s CIA team and Trump is crystal clear, and is an obvious shot from US intelligence to the White House. It seems fairly clear to anyone paying attention that those paid to monitor and identify threats to US security are absolutely convinced that Russia waged war on our elections, has not been held to task for it by the current Administration, and is a clear and present danger to undertake more attacks in the future if we continue to stand by and wave Vladimir Putin through to accomplish his goals.
If nothing else, it seems comforting (to a degree) that while Trump singles out half the world and 400 pound kids with a Commodore 64 while ignoring his pal Putin, our Intelligence community is not buying it, and may be getting a bit frustrated with the continuing inaction and distraction from the White House.