Obama era cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel was the star witness at Wednesday’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing. A year and a half after it happened, the hacking czar officially confirmed he was ordered to pull the plug on any Russian election meddling. One of Barack Obama’s most famous lies just got nuked. Who’s “whining” now, Mr. Obama?
The bipartisan congressional watchdog committee has concluded that Obama “failed to do enough to stop the Russians from meddling,” and it wasn’t an accident. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, ordered the cybersecurity team to “stand down” on their efforts to thwart Russian election interference (what little there was) in the months leading up to the election.
Barack Obama dragged his teleprompter out to the White House Rose Garden to formally respond. “Stop whining,” Obama hypocritically read from the screen, “go try to make your case to win more votes than Hillary Clinton.”
President Trump did exactly that, even though the election really was rigged.
Looking back on the press stories from that day, it’s obvious in hindsight that the stand down order was meant to be an “insurance policy” in more ways than one.
Obama was convinced that Clinton had the election in the bag and was attempting to diffuse things he knew Donald Trump would question, “after he lost.”
“I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place.” He was trying to discredit things we know now really were compromised. Obama knew it too.
The leftward leaning New York Times reported, “Many worry that if Mrs. Clinton wins and Mr. Trump refuses to accept the result, his stand will undermine her authority going into office and sow doubts about the legitimacy of the process.”
The deeper reason the Russia cyber-probe was shelved is that everyone in the Obama administration knew that the cybersecurity team would need to investigate the claims that the Democratic National Committee server had been hacked by Russians.
If they did, they would be able to prove that it was really infiltrated by an insider. They might even find more of Hillary’s errant emails which kept inconveniently crawling out of the woodwork.
The NYT also reported that day, Obama “denied reports that the State Department and The FBI had discussed a quid pro quo to settle a dispute over how one of Mrs. Clinton’s emails should be classified.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, the committee’s chairman, Richard Burr (R-N.C.) announced that interviews conducted by committee staff with “many from the Obama administration” showed that “they were operating in the summer and fall of 2016 without a playbook.”
Obama administrators didn’t want to show the slightest hint they “might be putting a thumb on the political scale for Hillary Clinton,” to the point of paranoia.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) agreed with Burr. After pointing out “a number of steps Obama officials took to try to sound the alarm,” he was left with no other conclusion. “Officials were caught flat-footed and could have done more to push back,” he notes. “The red flashing signals were all there.”
First up on the stand Wednesday was Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs. Victoria Nuland testified that she was hacked by Russia in 2014. A transcript of a “frank discussion” on the phone with an ambassador was leaked. She “profanely dismissed European efforts to end the political crisis in the Ukraine.”
She told Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that she thinks more could have been done to prevent it even then. “I believe there were deterrence measures that we could have taken and should have taken.”
When Mr. Daniel testified next, he “agreed with Nuland.” It took “a year after the intrusion” before Obama officials were “fully cognizant” of what happened. “I don’t think we fully appreciated the scope and scale of the Russian influence operations.”
That means that as far back as 2015, with plenty of time before the election, nothing at all was done to stop “Russian meddling,” but could have been.
In 2016, Daniel and his team “along with other National Security Council officials” were deeply involved in “efforts to aggressively counter the Russian attack.” Then they got the order to step back in August of 2016, when “disputes erupted inside the Obama administration on how to respond.”
By then, he knew that it was “highly likely” that every single state had at least been scanned for vulnerabilities. At least 21 are confirmed to have been probed. The DNC server was known to have been hacked. WikiLeaks published in July, and the Democrats swore up and down that “Russians did it.”
Daniel had plans on the drawing board to use “denial of service attacks to take down Russian propaganda news sites and to attack Russian intelligence agencies.” At the same time, they were going to announce an imaginary “cyber exercise” against a random Eurasian country just to keep the Kremlin on their toes and for a distraction factor.
“Don’t get ahead of us,” Susan Rice warned him. Daniel went off to tell his staff to shut it all down. “I was incredulous and in disbelief,” team member Daniel Prieto said in a recent book. “Why the hell are we standing down?”
During this weeks hearing, Daniel confirmed the conversation as reported in the book was true. “That is an accurate rendering of the conversation at the staff meeting,” Daniel testified.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) followed up, “You were told to stand down, is that correct?”
“Those actions were put on the back burner, yes. That was not the focus of our activity during that time period,” Daniel responded.