Schwab: Russian meddlers, with help from friends, still at it

In a functioning democracy, election security wouldn’t be attacked by one party as ‘hyper-partisan.’

By Sid Schwab

Herald columnist

Embracing the disappearing art of bipartisanship, Congress passed a bill blocking Trump’s proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Because, in part, the sale would give Saudi Arabia access to secret military technology. Not to mention their murderous governmental terribleness. And it’s not as if Crown Prince MBS and Putin aren’t bedfellows. From Trump to MBS to Putin? Gonna need a bigger bed.

Trump, who’s done business with and has been bailed out by Saudis, and undoubtedly has post-“presidency” plans for more, assuming he avoids prison, vetoed the bill and will proceed with the sales. Seem fishy? Any reason to suspect future quid for past quo? Ho hum, say Trumpists.

Displaying more bipartisanship, a day after Robert Mueller’s testimony, in which it appeared what he learned has blown his mind, but during which Trump’s malefactions were made clear, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on Russian election interference; those virtual acts of war Trump has called fake news.

Consistent with the new normal, the report was heavily redacted, but the essential message wasn’t. Contrary to White House claims, Russians hacked into voting-related systems of all 50 states, including some voting machines. Voter rolls, too, in ways that could have enabled altering or eliminating names. Makers of the machines were also hacked.

Are viewers of Fox “news,” which reports so they may decide, aware that a Russian oligarch just purchased the company that manages Maryland’s voting apparatus? Far as we know, it’s only one state; but, given recent history, isn’t it a little worrisome? Another Russian billionaire is pouring money into Kentucky, home of “Moscow Mitch” McConnell, the one man in Washington, D.C. more destructive to Constitutional governance than Trump. The inflow began after he wrangled the removal of sanctions on that Russian’s company. Moscow Mitch also takes a whiskey-barrel of money from voting machine manufacturers. (Moscow Mitch resents that moniker. Respectfully, we’ll stop.)

Shall we believe it’s coincidence that Moscow Mitch (we lied) subsequently quashed three Democratic bills aimed at preventing future Russian election interference, including regulating voting machines? By calling the legislation “hyper-partisan,” Moscow Mitch confirmed, in effect, that fair elections help Democrats; that he believes Trump wouldn’t be “president” without Russian help; and, one assumes, that his own reelection would be at risk. It was Moscow Mitch, as all Americans know, who threatened President Obama with a disinformation campaign were he to reveal the Russian attacks before the 2016 election.

In a functioning democracy, protecting voting integrity wouldn’t be associated with only one party, nor considered “hyper-partisan” by the other. But here we are. Broken, by Republicans who understand they can’t win fairly.

They’ll continue to rationalize Russian help. Trump’s campaign did, and Trump admitted, live on TV, he would again. His supporters rejoice in it. If that’s what got us Trump, some have said, we’re fine. Weird, though: couldn’t Jesus have enthroned him without employing a murderous dictator?

Because he refused to be silent about ongoing efforts and their implications, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is gone. Naming an unqualified sycophant to take his place — whose nomination was withdrawn Friday (Will the next be any better?) — already stashing the execrable William Barr at DOJ, Trump is turning Justice and National Intelligence into instruments of personal power and cover-ups. His enthusiasts, chanting “Send her back,” don’t care. By what standard is this conservatism?

The Senate investigation couldn’t prove votes were changed, although some relevant computers remain unexamined. Polls have shown minds were changed, though. Unanswered is whether hackers managed to hide vote-changing (at a hacker convention, American children successfully showed how to change votes on voting machines, in minutes), or just intended to undermine confidence in results, should Trump lose. No matter: Moscow Mitch’s efforts make him a de facto Russian asset.

We’re at a once-unthinkable point in our history. Manipulated into fearing imaginary bogeymen, Trump supporters fantasize immigrants voting illegally while raping their women; Democrats ready to turn the country into a socialist dictatorship while murdering newborns; rampant voter fraud; phony climate-change warnings meant to punish patriotic polluters. Efforts to preserve capitalism by improving buying power and promoting the general welfare of consumers are seen as the opposite. Accurate information and those who provide it are considered enemies.

In plain sight, abetted by enemies foreign and domestic, and by the complacency of the contentedly misinformed, our republic is being systematically dismantled by an autocratic “president” and his congressional enablers. Angered and distracted by fake news, Trumpists maintain it’s they who support America’s greatness, even as they facilitate its destruction, chanting enthusiastically, looking away.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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