Archive for the 'Russia in 2016 election' Category

A reader has asked whether I am abandoning this site for others in writing about the campaign finance issues in the Russia-Trump campaign matter. Not so. But I did agree to write on this subject for Just Security, and I have touched on other related issues for Lawfare

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Here are the various Just Security postings grouped together. (One earlier posting relates to another subject altogether, but all the recent ones address the Trump campaign-Russia issues.)

Also, there are always interesting questions to be asked about the ethics of political speech and action, not just the governing law. I wrote for Lawfare yesterday on President Trump’s defense of the June 6 meeting at Trump Tower. He takes it to be nothing more than politics-as-usual. I question that.

In 2016, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson found that state election officials were suspicious of federal offers of assistance in defending their voting systems from cyber attack. He tried to persuade them to accept DHS designation of those systems as “critical infrastructure,” which would have given states access on a priority basis to a range of protections. The response he received ranged from “neutral to negative.” DHS concluded that, in the middle of an election, it was best not to have a protracted, politicized fight over this step. It focused on providing assistance where it could, and a large number of jurisdictions requested help. In January 2017, even with officials remaining skeptical about the designation, Secretary Johnson proceeded to issue it.

According to Johnson, and as further reflected in reporting by The Washington Post, election officials resisting this engagement with the federal government viewed it as a threat to” states rights.” At least one, Brian Kemp of Georgia, suspected that the Administration might be using the claimed Russian interference as a ploy to advance the political prospects of its favored candidate, Hillary Clinton.  Kemp and others were not convinced that the Obama Administration had properly fixed blame on the Russians. Congressional Republican leadership stayed close to their state allies on these points, also stressing the rights of states and declining to embrace the finding of Russian intrusions.

This is a revealing part of the 2016 story: government at war with itself, in the grip of partisanship, when under cyber attack from a foreign government. The attack was directed at the electoral process, and yet it was still not enough to produce a unified, fully coordinated federal and state response. For all the progress in bipartisan election administrative reform in recent years--and there has been a fair measure of it--Johnson’s account exposes key, and altogether familiar, structural obstacles.

This is a follow-up to a first posting on this issue, now up on Just Security.

The text is also reproduced below:

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As a potential crime under the campaign finance laws, the Trump campaign collusion with the Russians is well documented. As I contended in a recent essay, there is ample evidence in plain sight. The President applauded a foreign government for its interference in the election and suggested that he would be happy to see more of the same. Asked to disavow it, he declined to do so. Both the candidate and his campaign made extensive use of the material the Russians supplied via WikiLeaks on the campaign trail and in the presidential debates. The Russians had a willing partner in their design to influence the election and a clear signal that their intervention had value. There is more than enough in the public record to warrant inquiry into the Trump campaign’s “substantial assistance” to a foreign government in violation of the campaign finance laws.

Some analysts believe that this is evidence is insufficient. They insist that more is needed in the form of direct communication between the campaign and the foreign government. But they are mistakenly discounting the significance of the evidence in plain sight, and looking in the wrong direction for more proof, if in fact more is needed.

I wrote the following piece for Just Security on the campaign finance issues raised by what is known about Russian activities in the 2016 election. It also appears below.

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Commentary on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections has included one confidently expressed and perhaps growing view: that there may be a scandal there, but no conceivable crime. It is claimed that the Trump campaign could wink and nod at Russian hacking, and derive the full benefit, but that without considerably more evidence of direct involvement, there is no role for criminal law enforcement. The matter is then left to Congress to consider whether new laws are needed, and the public, of course, will render its judgment in opinion polls and in elections still to come.

This view is flawed. It fails to consider the potential campaign finance violations, as suggested by the facts so far known, under existing law. These violations are criminally enforceable.