Russia Using Top GOP Senators For 2020 Election Meddling

Senator Ron Johnson(R-WI) and Senator Chuck Grassley(R-IA)

A bombshell segment on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explored the fact that Russia (read Putin), is planning to meddle in the upcoming November 2020 elections in much the same way as it did in 2016–via a misinformation campaign. The only difference in the Russian misinformation campaign in 2020 however is that this time, instead of relying heavily on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Putin is using two top GOP Senators namely Ron Johnson (WI) and Chuck Grassley (IA), to facilitate the misinformation campaign.

You’ll remember reports by right wing media outlets which suggested that former vice president Joe Biden’s son used his father’s influence to profit from corrupt deals in Ukraine. President Trump seriously played up this supposed Biden-Ukraine scandal in the hopes of knee-capping Biden’s 2020 presidential run, a scheme that didn’t work. As it became evident that Biden was poised to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2020, Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley who heads the Senate Finance Committee, launched investigations into the Biden-Ukraine affair, investigations which many suspected were merely extensions of President Trump’s efforts to undermine Biden’s presidential campaign.

This week U.S. intelligence agencies, in addition to warning us of Russia’s attempt to meddle in our 2020 elections, specifically singled out Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian, as the point man in the misinformation campaign. The shocking part, according to Maddow, is that the same Andriy Derkach, is the one feeding Senators Johnson and Grassley with misinformation about the Bidens for their supposed Senate investigations. In essence, Putin is running his misinformation campaign through two top GOP Senators.

Maddow specifically said, “He [Andriy Derkach] is spreading these claims by providing those claims to…the Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The same pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian named in today’s intelligence report also indicates to us that he is spreading these claims by providing them to..the Republican senior U.S. Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, who runs the Finance Committee in the U.S. Senate. This is remarkable, the guy who is named by U.S. intelligence in the specific public warning today about what Russia is doing to interfere in the 2020 elections to try to reelect Trump, the way he’s been doing his work for the Russian government to mess with our election, is by feeding material to a purported investigation of Joe Biden by Senator Ron Johnson on the Homeland Security Committee and Senator Chuck Grassley on the Finance Committee in the Senate.”

Also crucially important per Maddow, is the fact that these two GOP Senators are scheduled to release the findings of their “investigations” into the Bidens, sometime in mid-September, right before the November elections. This leaves absolutely no doubt that Senators Johnson and Grassley are knowingly using their powerful U.S. Senate positions to facilitate a Russian misinformation campaign aimed at affecting the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This is conduct quite unbecoming of U.S. Senators, and should result in their immediate resignation.

Bottom line folks, America is still coming to terms with the effects of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Congress has expended a lot of time and energy trying to figure out a way of preventing any future foreign meddling in our elections. Where, as here, top U.S. Senators are the ones responsible for facilitating such foreign meddling in our elections, the only solution is for them to resign from the U.S. Senate. Simply put, Americans have a right to free and fair elections, and any U.S. Senator working to deny them of such a right, does not belong in the U.S. Senate.

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Trump says Putin Told Him Ukraine Meddled In U.S. Elections

In the midst of all the controversy surrounding Republican members of congress spreading Russia’s debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine who meddled in our 2016 elections, a bombshell Washington Post piece now says President Trump actually told one of his aides that it was Putin himself who told him about Ukraine meddling in our 2016 elections.

According to the Washington Post piece, White House officials have been worried about President Trump’s insistence that it was Ukraine, not Russia who meddled in our 2016 elections and have long suspected that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may have planted the idea in Trump’s mind. This was always their suspicion but they had no tangible evidence to prove it. However, according to the WaPo piece, their suspicion became reality when Trump, questioned about why he held on to the strange belief that Ukraine meddled in our elections, explicitly told one White House official, “Putin told me.” The shocked White House official reportedly shared this conversation with his/her peers.

Needless to say, this bombshell revelation raises a whole host of national security questions given the fact that Trump has repeatedly denigrated U.S. Intel officials as being unreliable because their “intelligence” erroneously led us to war with Iraq—a plausible argument that reasonable people can reasonably disagree about. Trump has repeated this argument to suggest that likewise, we should not believe everything we hear from U.S. intelligence agencies re Russia and Ukraine.

The troubling revelation in this Washington Post piece however will blow a huge hole in Trump’s argument because it demonstrates that he took Vladimir Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence officials regarding Ukraine. In other words, a lot of people who were were inclined to entertain Trump’s plausible skepticism of U.S. intelligence officials, will have a totally different reaction when they find out that it was Putin himself, who fed Trump this narrative.

This bombshell Washington Post piece also raises a lot of questions about Republican members of congress who have echoed Trump’s accusation of Ukraine. Have these Republican members of congress known all along that Putin said that to Trump directly? If so, their arguments about Ukraine meddling in our elections take a whole new turn and opens them up to accusations of knowingly spreading Putin’s propaganda.

Bottom line folks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was spot on when she recently pointed out that with Trump, “All roads lead to Putin.” This particular WaPo bombshell however raises the stakes dramatically because it leads to the inevitable question; “What else is Trump doing because Putin told him so?” If the accounts in this WaPo piece hold up, and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t, then Democrats and the mainstream media must actively pursue this question and insist that Trump release the transcripts/notes of all his meetings/phone calls with Vladimir Putin.

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Austrian Video Reignites TrumpRussia Questions

In case you missed it, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recently veered into a story about Austrian politics that even by her own admission, appeared awkwardly off topic. However a few minutes into the Austria segment, it quickly became apparent as to how the story was 100% relevant to the current situation in American politics especially as it relates to the ongoing TrumpRussia controversy.

Maddow featured a bombshell video that is reportedly making rounds in Europe showing details of how the Kremlin helped install an ex-Nazi political party to power in Austria. The video which is apparently seven hours long, shows a meeting between an Austrian politician and a Russian woman, the niece of a Russian Oligarch, scheming on how the Kremlin will install the politician’s party(Freedom Party) to power in return for lucrative government construction/infrastructure contracts. In other words, the Russians help the Austrian get elected and once he is in office, he swings Austrian government contracts to companies run by the Russian Oligarch. The full Maddow segment is available here but relevant clip is below.

Maddow summed up the bombshell video thus; “The blonde lady who you see there whose face is pixellated, she is posing in this interaction as the niece of a Russian Oligarch who would like to support the Freedom Party. That’s who these Freedom Party guys think she is. She is visiting from Russia with a whole bunch of money to spend to help them out. In this video which stretches for seven hours, the Vice Chancellor of Austria, the guy in the front of the screen here, head of the Freedom Party….a group founded by ex-Nazis, who they[Russians] elevated to the number two person in that government, he chats with this young woman about what he wants from her uncle, what he wants from a Kremlin-connected Russian Oligarch to support his party and to support his political aspirations. He tells this woman that this Russian Oligarch should use Russian money to take control of the biggest tabloid newspaper in Austria, turn that tabloid into a mouthpiece for the Freedom Party, help them get elected. Once they get control of the government, the Russian Oligarch should then form a construction company and then this guy who would then be running the government would make sure that all the road building contracts, all the big infrastructure contracts in Austria would then go to the new construction company secretly set up for that purpose and run by the Russian Oligarch who spent all that money to get the ex-Nazi party in charge. So you pay for us to get in power, we will pay you. You infiltrate our country and our press on behalf of Russia. You install a Kremlin-friendly far right political party in Austria and once we are in there we will pay you back in cash with public contracts. Win win win!”

Millions of Americans followed closely Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into TrumpRussia. Any one of them presented with the details of this video of the Kremlin’s operation in Austria would immediately be struck by the shocking similarities this video has to the Russian influence in our 2016 elections. The first image that comes to mind when watching this Austrian video is the infamous Trump Tower meeting where Don Jr and other senior members of the Trump campaign met with now confessed Russian agent Maria Butina. Was a similar deal struck–help us get elected and we will pay you back with government contracts?

Fox News and The National Enquirer also come to mind. The Austrian politician is seen begging the Russians to buy an Austrian tabloid newspaper and turn it into his political party’s mouthpiece to help him get elected. Was Fox News, The National Enquirer, or both of them influenced by Russia to help Trump get elected in 2016? Are they still being influenced by Russia for Trump’s benefit as we head into 2020?

The proposed $200 million investment in Senator Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky by a formerly sanctioned Oligarch who was a key TrumpRussia suspect also comes to mind. Is Oligarch Deripaska getting “paid” by Mitch McConnell for helping Republicans win the White House in 2016? Remember Sen Mitch McConnell was one of the Senators who voted down efforts to keep sanctions on Derpaska’s businesses. If the U.S. Senate had left the sanctions intact, Deripaska’s company Rusal would not have been able to invest $200 million in Kentucky.

Maddow also points out the troubling role of Steve Bannon in Russia’s global quest for political dominance. Bannon who was part of the Trump campaign and helped craft Trump’s far right nativist, even xenophobic message, is apparently now based in Europe helping nativist political parties like the one featured in this Austrian video, gain political power in Europe. There is no question that Putin’s Russia is behind Bannon’s efforts in Europe, just like they were during our 2016 elections.

Bottom line folks, this Austrian video is yet another stark reminder that despite Trump’s constant dismissal of the TrumpRussia conspiracy as a hoax, the Russian global political operation is alive and well. Yours Truly sincerely hopes that this seven hour video depicting Russian election meddling in Austria will be carefully perused by the relevant U.S. law enforcement agencies as a blueprint of how Putin’s global election meddling scheme works. Importantly, U.S. law enforcement agencies should look at the implications of this Austrian story to our current political climate. Americans for example would like to know why a formerly sanction Russian Oligarch with deep ties to the Kremlin is all of a sudden making a significant investment in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. Isn’t this exactly the kind of pay-for-play scheme we see in the Austrian story? This video should also be cause for further inquiry into the infamous Trump Tower meeting featuring Natalya Veselnitskaya. Lastly but not least, there should be more light shed on the troubling actions of Republican Party operative Steve Bannon who is seemingly helping Russia install nativist, xenophobic governments in Europe. Does that help or hurt the U.S.?

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DHS Gutting Election Meddling Task Force

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

A bombshell Daily Beast piece says despite the threat of a Russian/foreign attack on the upcoming 2020 Elections, DHS is gutting two task forces specifically created to counter such attacks. According to the Daily Beast piece, the two DHS task forces being downgraded are part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) whose job is to guard the nation against foreign cyber attacks including those targeting our election infrastructure.

This is of course very serious news given the ongoing TrumpRussia investigation but predictably, it has also escaped the attention of the corporate mainstream media which instead devotes much of its attention and resources to Trump/GOP-inspired “scandals” implicating Democrats, the latest being Senator Warren’s ancestry and the mess in Virginia state government.

The Daily Beast reports that the two task forces meant to guard our elections against foreign meddling, especially by Russia, have seen drastic staff reduction since the 2018 midterm elections and there are no plans to ramp them back up to full force even as we face similar threats in 2020.

One of the excuses being put forward by DHS, an unavailing one, is that the task forces were meant to be temporary in nature and therefore as bad as the staff reductions look given the ongoing Russian threat, there is nothing abnormal or sinister about them. In other words the staff reductions were bound to happen one way or another because the task forces were not set up to be permanent.

Bottom line House Democrats and indeed the mainstream media must put pressure on DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to explain why two DHS task forces specifically charged with election security are being downgraded. Simply put, after the horrendous family separation policy and now this, Secretary Nielsen’s tenure at DHS is becoming increasingly hard to justify from both a professional and moral standpoint.

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