On Wednesday, It was a big day in Washington for the smoke/fire dichotomy regarding our neighbors from Russia. First, some Russian spies and hackers were charged in the massive 2014 hack attack aimed at Yahoo. From Reuters:
"The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI's point of contact in Moscow on cyber crime matters, is beyond the pale," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord. McCord said the hacking campaign was waged by the FSB to collect intelligence but that the two hackers used the collected information as an opportunity to "line their pockets." The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but McCord said she was hopeful Russian authorities would cooperate in bringing criminals to justice. The United States often charges cyber criminals with the intent of deterring future state-sponsored activity. The administration of former President Barack Obama brought similar charges against Chinese and Iranian hackers who have not been extradited. The 47-count indictment includes conspiracy, computer fraud and abuse, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identify theft.
Meanwhile, up on Capitol Hill, Devin Nunes, Republican of California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and his Democratic counterpart, Adam Schiff-no, the other Adam Schiff-stepped in front of a bouquet of microphones to explain that the president* had been tweeting out his ass again. From NBC News:
"To date, I've seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made that his predecessor had wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower," the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff said. "Thus far, we have seen no basis for that whatsoever." Schiff said he will ask FBI Director James Comey directly about the claims when he testifies March 20 as part of the committee's investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election. Trump tweeted earlier this month "Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory." The claim, presented without evidence, was met with immediate skepticism from lawmakers questioning what the Republican meant. A spokesman for Obama called the claim "simply false." "Are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong," Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters.
And, finally, over on the other side of the Capitol, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina appears to be fed up to the gills with the whole business and is rattling his saber in every direction. Again, from Reuters:
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had no reason to believe a judge ever issued a warrant, which would have reflected there was probable cause that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. If it is not true, he said, the FBI should confirm that. "The longer it takes to answer that question, the more suspicious I get," Graham said on MSNBC. Graham and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, both Judiciary Committee members, asked Comey two weeks ago to provide information on Russian activities and the wiretapping by Wednesday. Graham said he was prepared to issue subpoenas for that information. "Congress is going to flex its muscles," Graham said on CNN.
The importance of the first story is that it lends some sort of credence to the other two. Clearly, if the indictments are accurate, elements of the Russian intelligence system are engaged in a massive program of cyber-espionage and/or cyber-ratfcking. This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. Presumably, this country is doing much the same thing.
All that being said, it finally should surprise absolutely nobody that the previous administration would act upon evidence that the Russians were in some kind of cahoots with the Republican nominee for president. However, so far, the evidence is not as thick as the clouds that are gathering. And people are beginning to lose it. On Wednesday, Senator John McCain accused Senator Rand Paul of "working for Vladimir Putin." From The Daily Beast:
This set off McCain, who railed against Paul: "I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number, perhaps 98-at least-of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away." He then directly connected Paul to the Russians: "The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."
Good thing McCain didn't read a letter from Coretta Scott King. Mitch McConnell might have had a stroke.
It's clear now that some sort of independent investigation into this entire mishigas is the only way to go. Within the existing institutions of government, it just gets people to waving their mighty swords around, and why do we laugh at their mighty swords, anyway? Seriously, though-and I speak as one who distrusts the reflexive Washington impulse to put together collections of Wise Heads to solve things that have gone badly wrong because the people in government are stupid or criminal. But the children can't play nice together on this one, so there we are. Somebody must have Lee Hamilton's phone number.
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