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Why Republicans won’t shut down Trump’s election fraud claims

Richard Cohen pleaded in his Aug. 23 op-ed, “GOP: Shut down this myth,” for Republican bigwigs to disclaim Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s pre-election claims about fraudulent voting. The fundamental fault in Mr. Cohen’s supporting reasoning is that he supposed the bigwigs do not support Mr. Trump’s assertion. But, while some Republicans (the usual suspects) are on record opposing this and other crackpot ideas, the majority of those in leadership positions already have nixed Mr. Cohen’s request because they have long agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Trump on this and other fictions.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-republicans-wont-shut-down-trumps-election-fraud-claims/2016/08/24/ec3aecec-6949-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html?utm_term=.ed4bc825be8a

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Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the election being ‘rigged’

Donald Trump preemptively challenged the results of the November presidential election, claiming in media appearances and rallies that the entire system is “rigged.”

Trump’s charges of election fraud are not new to his campaign. He’s tweeted aboutdead voters delivering President Barack Obama’s victory in 2012, floated charges about multiple voting in the primaries, and suggested that undocumented immigrantsjust walk in and vote” in some polling places.

Trump revived these theories as he fell behind Hillary Clinton in the polls (which,according to his surrogates, are “skewed”).

“Nov. 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged,” he said at an Aug. 1 rally in Columbus, Ohio. “People are going to walk in and they’re going to vote 10 times, maybe, who knows?”

“I know last time, you had precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican (Mitt Romney),” he said to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that same night. “I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we better be careful because that election is going to be rigged and I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.”

This is a serious allegation that challenges the integrity of the election, so we asked the Trump campaign to elaborate. We didn’t hear back.

When Trump has offered specifics — people voting though they’re ineligible, people voting multiple times, people impersonating dead voters — he’s actually talking about voter fraud, committed by individuals and committed very rarely.

Stolen 2012 election?

To sow doubts about the 2016 election, Trump pointed to alleged rigging in 2012.

While some precincts in Philadelphia exclusively voted for Obama in 2012, it’s grasping for straws to claim this is evidence for election rigging.

Defending Trump, Fox’s Sean Hannity pointed to a Philadelphia Inquirer articlethat showed 59 precincts in inner-city Philadelphia in which “Mitt Romney did not get a single vote, not one.”

But Hannity leaves out that the same article also stated that “such results may not be so startling after all.” The Inquirer wrote that 75 to 80 percent of voters in big cities like Philadelphia identify as Democrats, and 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Obama.

When the paper sought out the few registered Republicans living in the 59 districts, it found that several had moved, others didn’t realize they were registered with the party, and others confirmed that they had voted for Obama despite their political identification.

Election inspector Ryan Godfrey, an independent who was a Republican in 2012,called Hannity’s claims “absurd and personally insulting.” After all, Godfrey argued, there’s a paper trail for the ballots in Philly and no evidence that he and the other election officials had risked prosecution to collude against Romney.

Plus, CNN’s Brian Stelter countered, “a Google search would show that there are also precincts in other states, like in Utah, where Obama did not get a single vote.”

Trumped up charges of voter fraud

Trump’s claims of voter fraud, which echo arguments for voter ID laws, are also not reflective of reality.

While the U.S. Government Accountability Office has acknowledged that it’s difficult to estimate how often voter fraud happens based on reported incidents, the evidence for rampant fraud is lacking.

News 21 found just 150 alleged cases of double voting, 56 cases of noncitizens voting, and 10 cases of voter impersonation across all elections from 2000 to 2011. Many of these never led to charges, while others were acquitted or dismissed. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on voter fraud, found an even smaller number: 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.

Put it in another way: You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than to find voter fraud.

When voter fraud does occur, it’s not always intentional. Multiple studies have traced known cases not to willful deception but to clerical errors or confusion.

For example, one case of a dead person voting (Alan J. Mandell) happened because a poll worker accidentally marked his name instead of the man who actually cast the ballot, Alan J. Mandel. Similarly, in one of just five cases of a noncitizen voting between 2000 and 2004, a permanent resident was told he was eligible and given a voter registration form by a DMV clerk when renewing his license.

So, given the rarity of occurrence, the lack of intent, and a federal penalty of a$10,000 fine or up to five years in prison, experts say it would be extremely difficult to rig an election through the ways Trump has suggested.

“I’d like to see him try to vote 10 times on Election Day. It would be virtually impossible and a knuckle-headed way to try to corrupt an election,” said Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University who wrote The Myth of Voter Fraud.  

To sway an election, an army of voters would have to visit multiple polling locations each, know the names and addresses of the people they were impersonating and produce fake ID’s or forge their signatures — plus be willing to commit perjury the entire time.

“Campaigns don’t pay people to pretend to be people they’re not. That’s too stupid,” said Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and author of Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich, a book about electoral fraud.

How to rig an election

From New York’s Tammany Hall to the motto of “vote early and often” popularized in Chicago, election fraud is certainly part of U.S. political history. But election rigging today is constrained to local elections, as implementing a national election heist would be extremely difficult.

“Given the decentralized nature of our elections, there would be no single way to throw the results,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. “Instead you’d have to target enough states to make a difference in the Electoral College.”

The first way is through buying votes, especially absentee ballots.

Berry’s Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich, which refers to the prize a Louisiana woman received for her vote, documents several cases of local campaigns and political machines purchasing votes, often from nursing homes and poor communities, in exchange for cash, whiskey or a paved driveway.

This is possible on a small scale because of a “corrupt deal” between local election officials and “family fiefdoms” with deep roots in municipal politics, Berry said.

Presidential elections, on the other hand, are under much more scrutiny than sheriff races and subject to federal prosecution. For that reason, and given how complicated organizing the conspiracy across different communities would be, Berry says it’s not probable that a national campaign or outside group would take the risk to buy a few votes.

The second way of rigging elections is through tampering with voting machines (looking at you, Olivia Pope of Scandal). Trump suggested this in 2012 when hewarned that machines were switching Romney votes to Obama.

“That’s not an indication of the system being rigged. That’s an indication that it’s lost its calibration,” said Pamela Smith of Verified Voting, which monitors technological issues in elections.

She added that Trump likely was referring to voter reports of this common issue of overuse, while election rigging “would require you not noticing.” (Smith couldn’t think of any examples of machines being tampered with and said, from her research, issues usually result from programming errors.)

Ballots cast on some electronic voting systems, however, don’t have a paper trail, meaning the votes are not verifiable. Hackers could theoretically alter the results. But this would also require a potential wrongdoer to physically access the machines on Election Day and serious coordination to circumvent all the security and auditing measures in place before, during and after voting, said Smith, adding, “There are very few paths in the present scenario to flip something off the radar.”

There’s the added security of Pennsylvania law, which mandates post-election vote audits of randomly selected precincts. The majority of precincts in Virginia rely on paper ballots. And Florida, where use of electronic machines is fairly limited to providing accessibility for voters with disabilities, has a Republican governor (Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump supporter) and secretary of state (who oversees elections).

“Technological rigging or the more classic stuffing of the ballot box are not the kind of things that could be easily done or on the kind of scale that could affect an election,” Hasen said. “Trump’s unsupported allegations are dangerous and fantasy.”

Our ruling

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. election system is rigged.

He has cited examples of voter fraud, which is extremely rare, often unintentional and not on a scale large enough to affect a national election.

While there are isolated examples of bought local elections, experts say it cannot be replicated on a national scale. While it is possible to tamper with electronic voting machines, there is no evidence deliberate malfeasance has altered any election.

We rate Trump’s claim Pants on Fire.

Source: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug/15/donald-trump/donald-trumps-baseless-claims-about-election-being/

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Donald Trump Pitches Tax Breaks, Moratorium on New Regulations

GOP nominee proposes deductions for child-care expenses, renegotiated trade agreements in Detroit speech

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump aimed to put his campaign back on track Monday with an economic-policy speech that unveiled few new policy proposals but cast himself as the only candidate who could deliver change.

Mr. Trump hammered sharp contrasts with Democratic nomineeHillary Clinton’s policies, which he said amounted to more wealth redistribution and government regulation. He also called for aggressive sanctions against U.S. trading partners, a rollback of environmental regulations and large tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

“There will be no change under Hillary Clinton, only four more years of weakness and President Obama, but we are going to look boldly into the future,” he said in Detroit.

Still, the speech showed areas of overlap with Mrs. Clinton. He promised to unveil a big infrastructure-spending plan, embracing a signature goal of Democrats, as well as a new proposal to help families facing rising child-care costs by allowing households to deduct those expenses from their income taxes.

It wasn’t clear how such a tax break might be structured and whether it would be available to tens of millions of families that don’t pay income taxes because they have lower incomes. Making child-care expenses fully deductible would provide much larger benefits to the wealthiest families that have larger tax bills.

Mr. Trump’s economic message has long promised to boost job growth, but it has included fewer appeals to voters on pocketbook issues such as child care and college tuition—a focus of Mrs. Clinton’s.

Mr. Trump delivered his hourlong speech at the Detroit Economic Club, a venue that has played host to several presidential candidates, and read from a teleprompter with few of the impromptu riffs that have been a staple on the stump. The address was interrupted numerous times by protesters, with Mr. Trump quietly pausing until each protester was removed.

On Monday, Mr. Trump also called for a temporary moratorium on all new regulations from federal agencies and would seek to roll back rules that reduce employment. The campaign said the review could target a series of environmental rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency to curb carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants and to bring more waterways and wetlands under federal protection.

It isn’t clear how such a moratorium would apply to financial regulators, whose agencies enjoy greater independence from the executive branch, and Mr. Trump’s speech made no mention of past calls to repeal or replace parts of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulatory overhaul law.

At the same time, Mr. Trump promised to aggressively use executive power to renegotiate trade agreements, to label foreign countries as currency manipulators, and to apply tariffs and other penalties to trading partners.

He gave the speech at a critical moment in his campaign. Last week, Mr. Trump faced a hailstorm from fellow Republicans for questioning the motives of the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq who appeared at the Democratic convention and for initially balking at endorsing the re-elections of three top Republican lawmakers. Mr. Trump came around to backing House Speaker Paul Ryan, Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Friday and has been stressing party unity in recent days.

Monday’s speech continues his newly trained focus on lines of attack against Mrs. Clinton that many Republicans have been pushing.

In lamenting the economic struggles of Detroit in recent decades, Mr. Trump made no mention of the federal bailout of the auto industry, which was begun by former President George W. Bush, a Republican, in late 2008 and continued by Mr. Obama.

Before the bailout, Mr. Trump gave television interviews indicating support for a government-led rescue of the crucial industry. But during the 2012 election, Mr. Trump criticized the bailout by noting that Chrysler was making Jeeps in China, though the company was also expanding production in the U.S.

“Obama is a terrible negotiator,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “He bails out Chrysler, and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China—and will!”

Mr. Trump recently announced an all-male economic advisory teamof wealthy real estate and private-equity executives that drew criticism for lacking the economic-policy experts who traditionally advise candidates.

Informal advisers to Mr. Trump have for weeks said the nominee would unveil a revamped tax-cut proposal. Mr. Trump indicated Monday he would embrace core elements of a plan unveiled this summer by House Republicans, which includes three income-tax brackets, instead of four as Mr. Trump unveiled in a proposal last fall.

That proposal, which was removed from his website before Monday’s speech, would sharply lower income-tax rates on individuals and businesses. The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, has said the plan would reduce federal revenue by $9.5 trillion over a decade, making it far larger than the tax cuts enacted last decade by Mr. Bush.

The GOP nominee has also called for a big increase in infrastructure spending that would be financed by taking on new debt, but he hasn’t fleshed out the details of that plan.

Budget experts say that even with a boost in economic growth, the combination of higher government spending on infrastructure—as well as other priorities that include a veterans’ health-care expansion and a ramp-up in border security—and large tax cuts could send deficits soaring.

The focus on child-care costs is relatively new for Mr. Trump. The federal tax code has long provided two primary means for families to receive breaks for child-care costs—a dependent-care spending account that allows workers to put aside as much as $5,000 in pretax income and a dependent-care tax credit. Mr. Obama last year proposed to triple the maximum credit to $3,000 per child.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-to-propose-tax-breaks-on-pocketbook-issues-in-economic-plan-1470663478

 

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Obama in tough spot with Russia

Pressure is growing on the White House to respond to Russia’s apparent hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), placing President Obama in a delicate political position.

Evidence has mounted that the Russian government was behind the theft of tens of thousands of damaging internal emails from the DNC, leading prominent lawmakers from both sides of aisle to call for some form of response.

The ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee have all issued calls for Obama to “seek justice” for the alleged attack.

But should Obama publicly point the finger at the Kremlin, it could expose covert intelligence capabilities and damage already touchy discussions over Russia’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine, experts say.

That dynamic reflects one the central challenges the White House faces in responding to cyberattacks. Without any international rules of engagement, officials must weigh a response to each attack individually.

The FBI has opened an investigation into the hack, but because of the risks, experts say, the public is unlikely to ever know the results, even if it is able to prove Russia’s guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Obama has a slate of possible responses at his disposal, but each carries its own set of problems.

“They are really in between a rock and a hard place. Everything they do has a downside,” said Herb Lin, a senior research scholar who studies cyber policy and security at Stanford.

Here are some of the options.

“Name and shame”

The president could publicly denounce Russia for its involvement in the hack.

But it is next to impossible to attribute any cyberattack with absolute certainty, security experts say, and the White House may be unwilling to go that far without definitive proof.

“If you’re going to name Russia, you have to really be willing to go to the mat with them,” Lin said. “You don’t get the last move. There’s no such thing as a one-move chess game.”

Even if officials had a smoking gun, it would be difficult to show it without exposing embedded operatives or drawing attention to U.S. intelligence capabilities overseas.

And like many of the options whose punitive value is largely symbolic, naming Russia risks damaging other diplomatic goals that the White House might consider more important, such as the fragile peace deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Naming Russia could also undermine U.S. attempts to secure Moscow’s support in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

Use of offensive cyber weapons

The U.S. could hack back at Russia.

That action could take the form of a tit-for-tat cyber theft, the exposure of information important to the Russians or disrupting the command-and-control systems that the Russian hackers used to infiltrate the DNC, among other things.

But taking any offensive action against Russia in cyberspace risks escalating the conflict.

There are no formal “rules of war” governing acceptable behavior in cyberspace, making it difficult to predict how Russia will respond.

Russia is one of a handful of nations believed to be capable of causing a massive power grid blackout in the U.S.

If the U.S.’s counter strike were seen as a sufficient threat, President Vladimir Putin could decide to retaliate. Although it’s an extreme scenario, Lin notes, Russia still has a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons that could be turned on the United States.

Another consideration Obama has with a cyberattack is that it would likely be done in secret, meaning he would continue to face pressure to respond to Russia.

Sanctions

In April, Obama issued an executive order giving the Treasury Department the authority to impose sanctions on individuals or entities behind malicious cyberattacks and cyber espionage.

The order has yet to be used, but during negotiations over an anti-hacking pledge signed with China in September, Obama repeatedly reminded Beijing that it was at his disposal. Some policy experts credit that pressure with the successful signing of the agreement.

The White House could employ a similar tactic with Russia — either imposing sanctions or leveraging the threat of sanctions — but experts note that the U.S.’s financial ties with Russia are far shallower than its ties with China.

Because there are many sanctions already in place, the impact of such a tactic would be limited. It could anger Putin without exacting any meaningful punishment.

Indictments

The U.S. could also treat the attack as a law enforcement issue.

In 2014, the U.S. issued indictments for five People’s Liberation Army officers on hacking charges.

Although the charges prevented those individuals from traveling to the U.S., they never led to extradition or arrest in China.

But the move did prompt China to walk away from cybersecurity discussions with the U.S. Beijing eventually came back to the table, but not until a year later.

Much like sanctions, indictments could simply risk Russian retaliation rather than act as a meaningful deterrent for future hacks.

Public messaging

One thing that Obama could do is put out a general public statement drawing a red line at attacks on the electoral system.

This would allow the administration to “deliver the message” that the hack of the DNC was unacceptable without directly calling Russia out in a public forum, some say.

But critics calling for outright retaliation are unlikely to be satisfied by an indirect response.

Diplomacy

Perhaps the most likely response to the hack is that State Department officials will raise the issue with their Russian counterparts, something that Secretary of State John Kerry has already done.

“I raised the question, and we will continue to work to see precisely what those facts are,” Kerry said last month.

A more aggressive move would be to kick out the Russian ambassador or any Russian intelligence official that the U.S. knows is in the country.

Both the White House and the Kremlin have suggested that the hack — and whatever action the U.S. might take in response — would only be symptomatic of an already frayed diplomatic relationship.

“If, in fact, Russia engaged in this activity, it’s just one on a long list of issues that me and Mr. Putin talk about and that I’ve got a real problem with,” Obama told reporters earlier this week. “And so I don’t think that it wildly swings what is a tough, difficult relationship that we have with Russia right now.”

“We are at such a black spot in our relationship, it is unlikely that anything could make it worse,” Kremlin spokesman Demitry Peskov told The Washington Post.

Source: http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/290531-obama-in-tough-spot-with-russia

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In 2012, Donald Trump suggested that the result was rigged

The night Mitt Romney lost, Donald Trump tweeted.

About 20 minutes after polls closed on the West Coast, television networks called the election for President Obama. Like Karl Rove, who’d just been told that Fox News had called Ohio against the Republican, Trump was incredulous. “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election,” he tweeted. “We should have a revolution in this country!”

Over the next half hour, he continued.

The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one! We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. More votes equals a loss … revolution! This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble … like never before. The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

The tweets about “revolution” were deleted that night. Most of the others, including the one about how “we can’t let this happen,” remain.

Trump’s assertion that Obama had “lost the popular vote by a lot” was incorrect, though by 11 p.m., the votes had not all been counted yet. In the end, Obama won by about 5 million votes.

The first time Obama won, in 2008, there were similar rumors about the election results being fraudulent — despite the margin of victory that year being nearly twice as large. When George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, rumors about rigged voting machines were rampant. It’s probably not a surprise that this followed the historically close (and questionably resolved) election of 2000. But these conspiracy theories stayed mostly at the boundaries of partisan politics.

Which is where the Trump campaign was born. So it’s probably not a big surprise that Trump embraced the idea in 2012 — or that, at a campaign stop on Monday, he warned that he thought the 2016 election might be stolen, too.

 

“Bernie, poor Bernie. He looked so upset. You know what? He made a mistake. He shouldn’t have made a deal,” Trump said about the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

“He lost, he lost. First of all, it was rigged,” he continued. “And I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest.”

Why? Because he thinks the system in the primary was rigged against him, which, of course, it wasn’t. Trump actually won a disproportionate number of delegates in most states, which is why he was able to cement his nomination in a way that Clinton wasn’t. (Trump got well under 50 percent of the Republican vote. Clinton got a majority.)

There’s a big difference between Twitter personality Trump complaining about the results in 2012 and Republican nominee Trump complaining about the results in 2016 — particularly given his past apparent encouragement of violence at his events.

At least one prominent supporter is already on board with the message. Over the weekend, long-time Trump ally (and one-time Trump staffer) Roger Stone conducted an interview with Breitbart.com, a website that’s been staunchly and unabashedly supportive of Trump’s candidacy. Stone openly endorsed the idea that voting machines can be and have been rigged — including in Ohio in 2012.

Stone encouraged Trump to start priming the pump on the issue.

“I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly,” Stone said. “He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.'”

“If you can’t have an honest election,” Stone said, according to Breitbart, “nothing else counts. I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath.”

Three days later, Trump mentioned his concerns about the general election process being rigged to an audience in Columbus, Ohio.

The problem with election-rigging accusations is that they’re usually offered independent of evidence. During the Democratic primaries, rumors of elections being rigged for Hillary Clinton were rampant, without any evidence of widespread fraud. Crafting a scenario in which fraud is occurring takes as little as a temporary glitch in results in one state to be credible to some.

For a candidate, the bar is even lower. The last time a federal candidate openly embraced the idea that an election had been stolen was Chris McDaniel in Mississippi in 2014. He had little trouble convincing supporters that fraud had occurred, but was unable to convince many others — or the state’s courts. But that was a primary in one state, not a presidential general election.

In 2000, Al Gore declined to continue fighting the results of the general election, despite having actually won the popular vote.

“I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country,” Gore said on Dec. 13, more than a month after the day of the election and after the Supreme Court had halted the ballot count in Florida. “Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.”

He later continued: “I say to our fellow members of the world community, let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.”

If Trump loses, and if 2012 or his comments on Monday are any guide — America may have another chance to demonstrate the strength of its democracy.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/02/in-2012-donald-trump-suggested-that-the-result-was-rigged-he-warned-of-the-same-thing-this-week/

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How Paul Manafort Wielded Power in Ukraine Before Advising Donald Trump

Few political consultants have had a client fail quite as spectacularly as Paul Manafort’s did in Ukraine in the winter of 2014.

President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who owed his election to, as an Americandiplomat put it, an “extreme makeover” Mr. Manafort oversaw, bolted the country in the face of violent street protests. He found sanctuary in Russia and never returned, as his patron, President Vladimir V. Putin, proceeded to dismember Ukraine, annexing Crimea and fomenting a war in two other provinces that continues.

Mr. Manafort was undaunted.

Within months of his client’s political demise, he went to work seeking to bring his disgraced party back to power, much as he had Mr. Yanukovych himself nearly a decade earlier. Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government.

And now Mr. Manafort has taken on a much larger campaign, seeking to turn Donald J. Trump into a winning presidential candidate.

With Mr. Putin’s Russia, and its interference in Ukraine, becoming a focus of the United States presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine has come under scrutiny — along with his business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.

After disclosures of a breach of the Democratic National Committee’s emails — which American intelligence officials have linked to Russian spies— both men are facing sharp criticism over what is seen as an unusually sympathetic view of Mr. Putin and his policies toward Ukraine. That view has upended decades of party orthodoxy toward Russia, a country that the previous Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

On Sunday, Mr. Trump even echoed Mr. Putin’s justification of the annexation of Crimea, saying the majority of people in the region wanted to be part of Russia, remarks that were prominently featured on state news channels in Moscow.

Photo

President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, center, with Vladimir V. Putin, right, then Russia’s prime minister, and Dmitri A. Medvedev, left, then Russia’s president, in 2011. CreditPool photo by Sergei Karpukhin

It is far from certain that Mr. Manafort’s views have directly shaped Mr. Trump’s, since Mr. Trump spoke favorably of Mr. Putin’s leadership before Mr. Manafort joined the campaign. But it is clear that the two have a shared view of Russia and neighbors like Ukraine — an affection, even — that, in Mr. Manafort’s case, has been shaped by years of business dealings as much as by any policy or ideology.

“I wouldn’t put out any moral arguments about his work,” said Yevgeny E. Kopachko, a pollster with Mr. Yanukovych’s former party who cooperated with Mr. Manafort for years and called him a pragmatic and effective strategist. “Nobody has a monopoly on truth and morals.”

Mr. Manafort did not respond to requests for an interview. In television interviews on Sunday, though, he defended Mr. Trump’s views on Russia, saying that as president, Mr. Trump would be firm with Russia but would deal with it like any other country when doing so suited American interests.

“He views Russia as a foreign power that has its own interests at stake,” Mr. Manafort said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Until he joined Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign this year, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine had been his most significant political campaign in recent years. He began his career in Republican politics in the 1970s and extended it overseas to advising authoritarian leaders, including Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mr. Yanukovych.

Mr. Manafort, 67, is the scion of an immigrant family that built a construction business in Connecticut. A lawyer by education, he served briefly in the Reagan administration before devoting himself to politics and later to business. A review of his work in Ukraine shows how politics and business converged in a country still struggling to function as a democracy, a quarter of a century after it had gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that world in flux, Mr. Manafort’s political strategy had echoes of Mr. Trump’s populist campaign.

Mr. Manafort’s influence in the country was significant, and his political expertise deeply valued, according to Ukrainian politicians and officials who worked with him. He also had a voice in decisions about major American investments in Ukraine, said a former spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Oleg Voloshyn, who also ran as a candidate in the new bloc Mr. Manafort helped form.

Photo

The Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor A. Yushchenko and his top ally, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, right, singing the country’s national anthem during a rally in 2004 at Independence Square in Kiev, the capital.CreditOded Balilty/Associated Press

He persuaded the government to lower grain export tariffs, a change that benefited agribusiness investors like Cargill, and to open negotiations with Chevron and Exxon for oil and natural gas exploration in the country.

Mr. Manafort began working in Ukraine after the popular uprising in the winter of 2004-5 that became known as the Orange Revolution. Mr. Yanukovych, then prime minister, was declared the winner of a presidential election in 2004 that was marred by fraud and overturned by the country’s highest court after weeks of protests in favor of his pro-Western rival, Viktor A. Yushchenko.

Mr. Yanukovych had relied disastrously on Russian political advisers who underestimated voter frustration. After his defeat, he turned to American experts.

Mr. Manafort had begun working for one of Ukraine’s richest men, Rinat Akhmetov, to improve the image of his companies. Mr. Akhmetov was also a prominent sponsor of Mr. Yanukovych’s party, the Party of Regions, and he introduced the two men.

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With Mr. Manafort’s advice, Mr. Yanukovych began a comeback, with the Party of Regions winning the biggest bloc in parliamentary elections in 2006 and again in 2007, returning him to the post of prime minister. At the time, Mr. Manafort called Mr. Yanukovych, a former coal trucking director who was twice convicted of assault as a young man, an outstanding leader who had been badly misunderstood in the West.

According to State Department cables at the time and later released by WikiLeaks, Mr. Manafort and his colleagues Phil Griffin and Catherine Barnes frequently pressed American diplomats in Ukraine to treat Mr. Yanukovych and his supporters equally so as not to risk being seen as favoring his opponents in the new elections. With Mr. Manafort’s help, the party was “working to change its image from that of a haven for mobsters into that of a legitimate political party,” the American ambassador at the time, John E. Herbst, wrote.

During this time, lucrative side deals opened for Mr. Manafort.

In 2008, he and the developer Arthur G. Cohen negotiated a deal to buy the site of the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. One partner was Dmytro Firtash, an oligarch who made billions as a middleman forGazprom, the Russian natural gas giant, and who was known for funneling the money into the campaigns of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, including Mr. Yanukovych. The three men intended to reopen the site as a mall and spa called Bulgari Tower, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan by Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine. In the end, though, the project unraveled.

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Violent demonstrations in February 2014 in Kiev. CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

A separate deal also funneled Russian-linked oligarchic money into Ukraine. In 2007, Mr. Manafort and two partners, Rick Gates and Rick Davis, set up a private equity company in the Cayman Islands to buy assets in Ukraine, and invited the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to invest, according to a court filing. Mr. Deripaska agreed to pay a 2 percent annual management fee to Mr. Manafort and his partners, and put $100 million into the fund, which bought a cable television station in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, before the agreement unraveled in disagreements over auditing and Mr. Deripaska sued Mr. Manafort. The case is still pending.

By 2010, Mr. Yanukovych’s revival was complete. He had won a presidential campaign against Ms. Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abuse of office and sent to prison.

Mr. Kopachko, the pollster, said Mr. Manafort envisioned an approach that exploited regional and ethnic peculiarities in voting, tapping the disenfranchisement of those who felt abandoned by the Orange Revolution in eastern Ukraine, which has more ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.

Konstantin Grishchenko, a former foreign minister and a deputy prime minister under Mr. Yanukovych, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Manafort had ultimately grown disillusioned with his client.

Mr. Manafort pressed Mr. Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the European Union that would link the country closer to the West — and lobbied for the Americans to support Ukraine’s membership, as well, despite deep reservations because of the prosecution of Ms. Tymoshenko.

Mr. Manafort helped draft a report defending the prosecution that Mr. Yanukovych’s government commissioned from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2012.

Mr. Manafort’s role was disclosed after a document was discovered in a box in a sauna belonging to a former senior Ukrainian official. Other documents in that cache are now evidence in a criminal case against a former justice official, and could shed more light on Mr. Manafort’s role.

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A portrait of former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine was moved in April 2014 at the country’s National Art Museum. CreditJoseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

Ultimately Mr. Yanukovych disregarded Mr. Manafort’s advice and refused to sign the trade agreement, which Mr. Putin vehemently opposed. Mr. Yanukovych’s decision led to the protests that culminated in two nights of violence in February 2014 and Mr. Yanukovych’s flight.

Mr. Manafort has said little about Mr. Yanukovych’s fall. “I don’t think he’s very happy with the outcome,” Mr. Grishchenko said.

Mr. Manafort’s chance for a comeback, however, came sooner than anyone had expected.

When the government of President Petro O. Poroshenko called snap parliamentary elections for October 2014, just eight months later, Mr. Manafort rallied the dispirited remnants of Mr. Yanukovych’s party.

He was now on the payroll of Mr. Yanukovych’s former chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin. Mr. Manafort flew to Ukraine in September 2014 and set to work rebranding a party deeply fractured by the violence and by Russia’s intervention.

Rather than try to resurrect the disgraced party, he supported pitching a bigger political tent to help his clients and, he argued, to help stabilize Ukraine. The new bloc would woo everyone in the country angry at the new Western-backed government.

It was Mr. Manafort who had argued for a new name for the movement — the Opposition Bloc, or Oppo Bloc, as it was called. “He thought to gather the largest number of people opposed to the current government, you needed to avoid anything concrete, and just become a symbol of being opposed,” recalled Mikhail B. Pogrebinsky, a political analyst in Kiev.

The strategy worked. Under the new name, the Party of Regions kept a foothold in Parliament. Its new bloc now has 43 members in the 450-seat chamber.

It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended with his work with Mr. Trump’s campaign. A communications aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retainer or how much he had been paid.

Mr. Manafort has not registered as a lobbyist representing Ukraine, which would require disclosing his earnings, though at least one company he subcontracted, the public relations firm Edelman, did in 2008. It received a retainer of $35,000 a month to promote Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts as prime minister “toward making Ukraine a more democratic country.”

Source:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html?_r=0

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Election Fraud

Washington Post: By November, Russian hackers could target voting machines

As we’ve said before, voting machines are in fact hackable. They can be hacked by unsophisticated means, and if you add in Russian hackers who are by all intents and purposes, extremely sophisticated, these machines are probably very vulnerable to being hacked.

From The Washington Post:

Russia was behind the hacks into the Democratic National Committee’s computer network that led to the release of thousands of internal emails just before the party’s convention began, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded.

The FBI is investigating. WikiLeaks promises there is more data to come. The political nature of this cyberattack means that Democrats and Republicans are trying to spin this as much as possible. Even so, we have to accept that someone is attacking our nation’s computer systems in an apparent attempt to influence a presidential election. This kind of cyberattack targets the very core of our democratic process. And it points to the possibility of an even worse problem in November — that our election systems and our voting machines could be vulnerable to a similar attack.

If the intelligence community has indeed ascertained that Russia is to blame, our government needs to decide what to do in response. This is difficult because the attacks are politically partisan, but it is essential. If foreign governments learn that they can influence our elections with impunity, this opens the door for future manipulations, both document thefts and dumps like this one that we see and more subtle manipulations that we don’t see.

Retaliation is politically fraught and could have serious consequences, but this is an attack against our democracy. We need to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin in some way — politically, economically or in cyberspace — and make it clear that we will not tolerate this kind of interference by any government. Regardless of your political leanings this time, there’s no guarantee the next country that tries to manipulate our elections will share your preferred candidates.

Even more important, we need to secure our election systems before autumn. If Putin’s government has already used a cyberattack to attempt to help Trump win, there’s no reason to believe he won’t do it again — especially now that Trump is inviting the “help.”

Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with Internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified.

We no longer have time for that. We must ignore the machine manufacturers’ spurious claims of security, create tiger teams to test the machines’ and systems’ resistance to attack, drastically increase their cyber-defenses and take them offline if we can’t guarantee their security online.

Longer term, we need to return to election systems that are secure from manipulation. This means voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trails, and no Internet voting. I know it’s slower and less convenient to stick to the old-fashioned way, but the security risks are simply too great.

There are other ways to attack our election system on the Internet besides hacking voting machines or changing vote tallies: deleting voter records, hijacking candidate or party websites, targeting and intimidating campaign workers or donors. There have already been multiple instances of political doxing — publishing personal information and documents about a person or organization — and we could easily see more of it in this election cycle. We need to take these risks much more seriously than before.

Government interference with foreign elections isn’t new, and in fact, that’s something the United States itself has repeatedly done in recent history. Using cyberattacks to influence elections is newer but has been done before, too — most notably in Latin America. Hacking of voting machines isn’t new, either. But what is new is a foreign government interfering with a U.S. national election on a large scale. Our democracy cannot tolerate it, and we as citizens cannot accept it.

Last April, the Obama administration issued an executive order outlining how we as a nation respond to cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure. While our election technology was not explicitly mentioned, our political process is certainly critical. And while they’re a hodgepodge of separate state-run systems, together their security affects every one of us. After everyone has voted, it is essential that both sides believe the election was fair and the results accurate. Otherwise, the election has no legitimacy.

Election security is now a national security issue; federal officials need to take the lead, and they need to do it quickly.

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Latest News

Trump urges Russia to hack Clinton’s emails

Democrats prepared to use their convention Wednesday night to raise fresh doubts about Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as commander in chief, as the Republican presidential candidate called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email server to find “missing” messages and release them to the public.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said during a news conference at his South Florida resort on Wednesday.

“They probably have them. I’d like to have them released. . . . It gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them,” Trump added later when asked if his comments were inappropriate. “If Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.”

The Clinton campaign quickly expressed alarm at Trump’s remarks.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement. He added later: “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Trump’s comments earned another rebuke from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). His spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in a statement that “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin should stay out of this election.”

On several occasions throughout the GOP primary campaign, Ryan disavowed controversial Trump statements and withheld his endorsement for a month after the candidate had locked up the necessary delegates. Once he endorsed Trump, Ryan vowed to speak out if he felt that Trump had crossed a line.

Meanwhile, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the man who wants to succeed him, Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.), spent Wednesday morning previewing what they plan to say tonight to tout Clinton’s national security experience.

On NBC’s “Today” show, Obama sought to raise fears about a Trump presidency. Responding to a question on Trump’s electoral chances, Obama said “we don’t know” whether the Republican could win the presidency and warned Democrats that “anybody who goes into campaigns not running scared can end up losing.”

Biden delivered a blunter assessment, saying that Trump “knows nothing about foreign policy, nor should he, based upon his background. But the thing that bothers me is, I don’t see any attempt for him to go out and to get people who really know on the Republican side” to advise him, he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Trump dismissed the attacks during his news conference, calling Obama “the most ignorant president in our history. His views of the world, as he says, don’t jive, and the world is a mess.”

Trump appeared to be alluding to comments Obama made last week that disputed Republican views of a country “on the verge of collapse.”

“I think it is important, just to be absolutely clear here, that some of the fears that were expressed throughout the week just don’t jibe with the facts,” Obama said at a news conference last Friday.

Trump’s exchange with reporters on Wednesday was free-wheeling and tense. On several occasions, he interrupted reporters and accused them of bias. In one instance, he told a female reporter to “be quiet.”

The real estate mogul sought to distance himself from allegations that the Russian government hacked into the Democratic National Committee to benefit his campaign, which Clinton’s campaign manager suggested earlier this week.

“It is so farfetched. It’s so ridiculous. Honestly, I wish I had that power. I’d love to have that power, but Russia has no respect for our country,” Trump said.

Trump said repeatedly that “I have nothing to do with Russia” and distanced himself from previous positive comments he made about Putin: “I have nothing to do with Russia! I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?”

Earlier on Twitter, Trump called Biden “not very bright.”

In Philadelphia, Kaine spoke Wednesday morning to Virginia Democrats and focused on Trump’s rhetoric and his frequently controversial remarks about women, minorities and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“Is it too much to ask to have the first woman president rather than someone who offends women every time he opens his mouth?” he said on Wednesday morning.

Kaine, whose Marine son deployed overseas Monday, also said Trump has fought to avoid paying taxes that pay for the military — a potent message in veterans-rich Virginia.

“Who’s funding veterans’ programs?” he asked. “Who’s funding veterans’ services? Folks like you and me, but Donald Trump’s too big to have to fund veterans, too big to have to fund our military . . . too big to have to fund the things that make us a great nation.”

“I guess that’s just for suckers to have to pay for the society we have,” he said, as the audience of friends and supporters cheered.

Kaine is expected to focus on Clinton’s national security and foreign policy plans in his prime-time address, according to a campaign official.

The topics are consistent with the theme that Clinton officials have crafted for a third night of the convention, as foreign policy and terrorism have risen to the fore in the 2016 election. Trump has seized on those issues, casting himself as the candidate more focused on keeping the country safe.

Kaine’s pick as Clinton’s running mate drew praise from many quarters, but the former Virginia governor faces a challenge in convincing some progressive groups that he will champion their issues. Longtime watchers of Virginia politics say the question during much of Kaine’s career there has actually been whether he is too liberal for their state.

But Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), who sits alongside Kaine on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the Virginian on Wednesday as “a next-level intellect.”

“There’s nobody better on that committee to distill these complicated issues into easy, digestible ways,” Murphy said in a Washington Post Live interview in Philadelphia. “I think he’s going to bring a readiness and humanity to this role. And all the press he gets about being a nice guy — it’s all true.”

Other speakers on Wednesday will include Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA director who served alongside Clinton during Obama’s first term, most notably during the military operation that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, plans to endorse Clinton during Wednesday evening’s proceedings amid concerns about Trump’s fitness for the presidency.

Relatives of the victims of the recent Orlando nightclub shooting will also appear on Wednesday night, as well as the daughter of the principal of a Connecticut elementary school who was shot dead in a 2012 shooting; and astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the victim of a 2011 assassination attempt. The couple leads a gun safety organization.

The Clinton campaign meanwhile sought to tamp down fresh questions about whether the candidate intends to reverse her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership if she is elected president.

The controversy erupted on Tuesday night when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a reporter for Politico that Clinton, who is a longtime friend and ally, would support a version of the deal, which is supported by Obama.

But Clinton’s campaign chairman, senior aides and prominent supporters quickly corrected the governor, saying that Clinton opposes TPP before and after the election.

McAuliffe also clarified his position, blaming a misunderstanding for the gaffe. He said he believed that Clinton would oppose the deal unless her concerns were addressed.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democratic-national-convention-obama-biden-kaine-set-to-tout-clinton-as-commander-in-chief/2016/07/27/afc57884-53e8-11e6-bbf5-957ad17b4385_story.html

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Latest News

The DNC Hack Is Watergate, but Worse

The email dump isn’t a high-minded act of transparency. It’s a foreign power attempting to swing an election for its favored candidate.

A foreign government has hacked a political party’s computers—and possibly an election. It has stolen documents and timed their release to explode with maximum damage. It is a strike against our civic infrastructure. And though nobody died—and there was no economic toll exacted—the Russians were aiming for a tender spot, a central node of our democracy.

It was hard to see the perniciousness of this attack at first, especially given how news media initially covered the story. The Russians, after all, didn’t knock out a power grid. And when the stolen information arrived, it was dressed in the ideology of WikiLeaks, which presents its exploits as possessing a kind of journalistic bravery the traditional media lacks.

But this document dump wasn’t a high-minded act of transparency. To state the obvious, only one political party has been exposed. (Selectively exposed: Many emails were culled from the abridged dump.) And it’s not really even the inner workings of the Democrats that have been revealed; the documents don’t suggest new layers of corruption or detail any new conspiracies. They’re something closer to the embarrassing emails that fly across every office in America—griping, the testing of stupid ideas, the banal musings that take place in private correspondence. The emails don’t get us much beyond a fact every sentient political observer could already see: Officials at the DNC, hired to work hand in glove with a seemingly inevitable nominee, were actively making life easier for Hillary Clinton. It didn’t take these leaks to understand that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a hack and that the DNC should be far more neutral in presidential primaries.

What’s galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks. Leaks are an important tool of journalism and accountability. When an insider uncovers malfeasance, he brings information to the public in order to stop the wrongdoing. That’s not what happened here. The better analogy for these hacks is Watergate. To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon’s goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible. This is trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy. It falls into that classic genre, the dirty trick. Yet that term feels too innocent to describe the offense. Nixon’s dirty tricksters didn’t mindlessly expose the private data of low-level staff.

We should be appalled at the public broadcast of this minutiae. It will have a chilling effect—campaign staffers will now assume they no longer have the space to communicate honestly. This honest communication—even if it’s often trivial or dumb—is important for the process of arriving at sound strategy and sound ideas. (To be sure, the DNC shouldn’t need privacy to know that attacking a man for his faith is just plain gross.) Open conversation, conducted with the expectation of privacy, is the necessary precondition for the formation of collective wisdom and consensus. If we eviscerate the possibility of privacy in politics, we increase the likelihood of poor decision-making.

It is possible to argue that Russia is just behaving as great powers often do. States try to manipulate opinion beyond their borders. Barack Obama recently attempted to sway the British public to reject Brexit; we don’t just broadcast the Voice of America to expose the world to jazz. Russia does this, too. It has a website and television network, Russia Today. We might not care for Russia Today and its propagandistic coverage, but it operates in the open. It uses reporting and opinion to sway hearts and minds. The interconnected nature of the world means that it would be malpractice for states not to make the best case for its policies to enemy and ally alike. The United States is better when it understands the world and argues with it.

Still, we have a clear set of rules designed to limit foreign interference in our elections, to protect our sovereignty. We should be open to rational arguments from abroad but terrified about states playing a larger role than that. This is why we don’t let foreign entities make campaign contributions. We don’t allow noncitizens to vote. Consider our reaction, if an American political leader had pulled this stunt: He would be prosecuted, and drummed from political life. These are unacceptable tactics for an American; they can hardly be more tolerable when executed by a foreign power that wishes us ill.

The DNC dump may not have revealed a conspiracy that could end a candidacy, but it succeeded in casting a pall of anxiety over this election. We know that the Russians have a further stash of documents from the DNC and another set of documents purloined from the Clinton Foundation. In other words, Vladimir Putin is now treating American democracy with the same respect he accords his own. The best retaliation isn’t a military one, or to respond in kind. It’s to defeat his pet candidate and to force him to watch the inauguration of the woman he so abhors.

Read more about Donald Trump’s connections to the Kremlin, and about his campaign manager’s work for Putin’s allies.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/07/the_dnc_hack_is_watergate_but_worse.html
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Latest News

As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue

This sub plot seems to be gaining traction. Is Donald Trump managed by Vladimir Putin? This story from the New York Times is gaining speed.

 

WASHINGTON — An unusual question is capturing the attention of cyberspecialists, Russia experts and Democratic Party leaders in Philadelphia: Is Vladimir V. Putin trying to meddle in the American presidential election?

Until Friday, that charge, with its eerie suggestion of a Kremlin conspiracy to aidDonald J. Trump, has been only whispered.

But the release on Friday of some 20,000 stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign.

The emails, released first by a supposed hacker and later by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and triggered the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention’s first day.

Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.

On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. Mr. Mook also suggested that the Russians might have good reason to support Mr. Trump: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times last week that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the countries had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.

It was a remarkable moment: Even at the height of the Cold War, it was hard to find a presidential campaign willing to charge that its rival was essentially secretly doing the bidding of a key American adversary. But the accusation is emerging as a theme of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, as part of an attempt to portray Mr. Trump not only as an isolationist, but also as one who would go soft on confronting Russia as it threatens nations that have shown too much independence from Moscow or, in the case of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, joined NATO.

Mr. Trump has also said he would like to “get along with Russia” if he is elected, and complimented Mr. Putin, saying he is more of a leader than President Obama. Mr. Putin has in turn praised Mr. Trump. But Trump campaign officials on Sunday strongly rejected any connections between their candidate and efforts to undermine the Democrats.

“Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?” George Stephanopoulos, of “This Week,” asked Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.

“No, there are not,” Mr. Manafort shot back. “That’s absurd. And, you know, there’s no basis to it.”

One of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., was more definitive, charging the Clinton camp with a smear campaign. “I can’t think of bigger lies,” he said on CNN. The younger Mr. Trump mockingly suggested that Mr. Mook’s “house cat at home once said this is what happened with the Russians.’’

It may take months, or years, to figure out the motives of those who stole the emails, and more important, whether they were being commanded by Russian authorities, and specifically by Mr. Putin. But the theft from the national committee would be among the most important state-sponsored hacks yet of an American organization, rivaled only by the attacks on the Office of Personnel Management by state-sponsored Chinese hackers, and the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which Mr. Obama blamed on North Korea. There, too, embarrassing emails were released, but they had no political significance. The WikiLeaks release, however, has more of a tinge of Russian-style information war, in which the intent of the revelations is to alter political events. Exactly how, though, is a bit of a mystery, apart from embarrassing Democrats and further alienating Mr. Sanders’s supporters from Mrs. Clinton.

Evidence so far suggests that the attack was the work of at least two separate agencies, each apparently working without the knowledge that the other was inside the Democrats’ computers. It is unclear how WikiLeaks obtained the email trove. But the presumption is that the intelligence agencies turned it over, either directly or through an intermediary. Moreover, the timing of the release, between the end of the Republican convention and the beginning of the Democratic one, seems too well planned to be coincidental.

Mr. Trump himself leapt on the news after the WikiLeaks release on Saturday. In a Twitter message he wrote: “Leaked emails of DNC show plans to destroy Bernie Sanders. Mock his heritage and much more. On-line from Wikileakes, really vicious. RIGGED.”

The experts cited by Mr. Mook include CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that was brought into the Democratic National Committee when officials there suspected they had been hacked.

In mid-June the company announced that the intruders appeared to include a group it had previously identified by the name “Cozy Bear” or “APT 29” and been inside the committee’s servers for a year. A second group, “Fancy Bear,” also called “APT 28,” came into the system in April. It appears to be operated by the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, according to federal investigators and private cybersecurity firms. The first group is particularly well known to the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence unit, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies. It was identified by federal investigators as the likely culprit behind years of intrusions into the State Department and White House unclassified computer system.

Russian intelligence agencies went to great lengths to cover their tracks, investigators found, including meticulously deleting logs, and changing the time stamps of the stolen files.

Officials at several other firms that have examined the code for the malware used against the Democratic National Committee and the metadata of the stolen documents found evidence that the documents had been accessed by multiple computers, some with Russian language settings. Moscow has outsourced politically motivated hacking to outside groups in the past. A crippling attack on Estonia in 2007, for example, was attributed to the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth organization. Intelligence officials and security researchers believe this outsourcing is done, in part, to preserve a measure of plausible deniability.

Intrusions for intelligence collection are hardly unusual, and the United States often does the same, stealing emails and other secrets from intelligence services and even political parties. But the release to WikiLeaks adds another strange element, because it suggests that the intelligence findings are being “weaponized” — used to influence the election in some way. The story has another level of intrigue involving Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman. Working through his lobbying firm, Mr. Manafort was one of several American advisers toViktor F. Yanukovych, the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine until he was forced out of office two years ago. Mr. Yanukovych was a key Putin ally who is now in exile in Russia.

In April, asked on Fox News about his relationship with Mr. Yanukovych, Mr. Manafort said he was simply trying to help the Ukrainians build a democracy that could align more closely with the United States and its allies.

Correction: July 25, 2016

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a reporting credit with this article misspelled the surname of a reporter. He is David E. Sanger, not Sangar.

 

Source: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/07/25/us/politics/donald-trump-russia-emails.html?_r=0&