Barack Obama, Neo-Hawk–7jh.,b12
It will go down as a classic do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do presidential statement. At a press conference in Berlin on November 17, Barack Obama urged his successor to “stand up” to Vladimir Putin when Russia deviates “from our values and international norms.”
Obama expanded on this thought: “My hope is that he does not simply take a realpolitik approach and suggest that if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people, or even if it violates international norms, or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable or creates long-term problems in regions like Syria—that we just do whatever is convenient at the time.”
The Obama administration has been even more accommodating behind the scenes. When congressional Republicans and the FBI urged the administration to enforce existing rules restricting travel of Russian “diplomats” inside the United States, the administration, citing concerns about provocation, refused. The “provocation” would have been our enforcing the rules, not the Russians’ violating them (often intelligence officials under diplomatic cover). When the pro-Western Ukrainian government begged the Obama administration for computer equipment and other nonlethal aid that might help thwart the Russian invasion of Crimea, the State Department repeatedly denied those requests and urged Ukraine—the country being overrun—to avoid escalating tensions. Even as the U.S. intelligence community accumulated evidence that Russians were complicit in the atrocities committed in Syria by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration proposed sharing sensitive intelligence with Russians in a “joint integration cell.”
You’ll forgive us if we’re skeptical about Obama’s advice to Trump on Russia. This is the same president whose secretary of state dramatically presented a “reset” button to her Russian counterpart to signal a new era of friendliness. It’s the same president who was caught in 2012 on an open microphone whispering assurances to President Dmitry Medvedev: “After my election I have more flexibility.”
A joint statement by the FBI and the director of national intelligence reported that the U.S. intelligence community was “confident” that “the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” Sources familiar with the intelligence on the hacking tell The Weekly Standard that while there’s no question Russians hacked into these systems, the evidence linking Russia to the subsequent distribution of hacked information isn’t quite as definitive. Still, most experts believe that the Russians worked with WikiLeaks to make the information public.
What effect did it have? This may well be unanswerable. Prominent Democrats have suggested, again without evidence, that the hack is directly responsible for Trump’s election. Many Republicans have confidently declared that it played no role at all. But there’s little doubt that information from the hacks, provided to the American public in the months and weeks before the election, amplified one of Donald Trump’s main themes: The system is rigged.
President Obama has asked the intelligence community to provide him with a report on the hacking before he leaves office. Republicans are concerned that the report—and the leaks that precede and follow it—will be used to damage Donald Trump as he enters the White House. Given the politicization of intelligence over the last eight years, it’s a legitimate concern. The fact that the leaders of several U.S. intelligence agencies refused last week to brief congressional oversight committee members validates those suspicions.
And that’s what he’s done. In an interview with Time in late November, Trump said, of Russia’s involvement in the election: “I don’t believe they interfered.” In the second presidential debate, Trump seemed to suggest there may not have been any hacking at all. “[S]he doesn’t know it’s the Russians doing the hacking, maybe there is no hacking, but they always blame Russia.” This is silly. There was a hack, and it was the Russians. Claiming otherwise is denying reality. And as we’ve seen over the last eight years, that’s a dangerous quality in a president.
source–weekly std, stephen hayes,