Ears plugged? Still waiting for the bombshell? So am I.
Pundits talked about the witnesses. The Director of National Intelligence Clapper James Clapper would be there. Admiral Mike Rogers, Commander for the United States Cyber Command, would join. Speculation mounted about the testimony. The reality is the hearing was oversold and under delivered. The hinted bombshells were either delayed fuses or broken eggshells.
The intelligence community leaders present provided little new information on Russian hacking. Everything we heard is already public. The one bit of news was a statement that a public report would be forthcoming next week. This defeated the entire purpose of the hearing’s timing. This hearing was to give Members of Congress pause. Today is when last month’s Electoral College votes are confirmed.
Trump sides with Russian President Vladimir Putin and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange almost daily. He does so in opposition to his own intelligence services.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) questioned why he always rushes to defend Putin. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) started his hearing questions about Julian Assange. McCain reminded the audience Assange previously published the identities of American covert operators.
On Thursday, Clapper avoided going beyond his previous statements. He did say evidence backing the intelligence community’s findings has only grown stronger. He also said “the hacking was only one part of it. It also entailed classic propaganda, false information, fake news.”
No one is suggesting Russia hacked voting booths. It is a consensus opinion that Russia did hack the American elections. Seventeen separate American intelligence organizations are in consensus on that view. Donald Trump denies this reality though and says it untrue.
One oddity in all this is important to remember. Donald Trump is the same man who pursued Barak Obama’s birth certificate for years. He offered a five million dollar reward to prove he wasn’t a citizen. Trump still hasn’t paid up on this debt.
While the intelligence community believes Wikileaks is a Russian front, further proof will wait. DNI Clapper said next week’s report would ascribe intent for the hacks. Other reports say the intelligence community have identified the go-betweens. Those people the Russians used to provide stolen emails to Wikileaks.
Officials deny a “smoking gun.” Reports senior Russian officials celebrated Trump’s win were provided to President Obama and Vice-President Biden on Thursday. This does provide more credence to the idea Trump either cooperated with Vladimir Putin or is his “useful stooge.”
This comes as the Congress today ratifies the election of President-elect Trump. A new report out yesterday questioned the appointment of at least fifty Republican Electors. This report raises questions whether objections will be raised to their votes in Congress.
Given my own experience in the Electoral College, this is likely a dead end. We could not find forty individuals willing to take a stand against Mr. Trump before. I doubt you will find the votes in the House of Representatives.
This raises the specter of impeachment for the Republican Party. We know that Mr. Trump will violate the Emoluments Clause from his first day in office. It also appears he and/or his campaign may have had inappropriate conversations with Russia during the campaign.
So, no bombshells in yesterday’s hearing. It is possible the new information will put Speaker Paul Ryan in an awkward position. If Trump is connected to Russia his hand may be forced. A special committee may be required. Donald Trump is at war with the intelligence community. His war is unlike anything seen since Richard Nixon and I doubt they will lie down. There may come a point where Paul Ryan has to choose. Will he be part of the Grand Old Party (GOP), or will he put Country Over Party (COP)?