Through The Smog: January 2, 2016
Obama Sanctions Russia
On Thursday, President Obama announced retaliatory measures against Russia for their interference in the U.S. election. Obama signed an executive order sanctioning two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies, and four Russian officials.
Obama also expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives the administration is saying are spies posing as diplomats and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island, NY. The State Department says these actions were in response to harassment U.S. diplomats were experiencing in Russia.
Despite the initial assertions, from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, that Russia would expel 35 U.S. diplomats from Moscow and close two facilities used by the U.S., Vladimir Putin did not announce any retaliation to the measures taken by the Obama Administration. He instead said he would consider the actions of President-elect Trump before moving forward with further action.
Trump praised Putin for his response to Obama’s actions.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
Since these measures were taken via executive order, Trump can reverse them upon taking office.
Trump Still Refuses To Acknowledge Russian Hacking
On Saturday, Trump once again expressed his doubt about whether or not Russia was behind the hacks on Democratic officials during the 2016 election.
“I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge. If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong so I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know. And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
When asked what he knew “that other people don’t know,” Trump said he would reveal that info on “Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Today, Trump’s spokesman and incoming Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, told Fox News, “There is zero evidence that they influenced the election.”
As we know, this claim is false.
Not only has the CIA and FBI concluded that Russia hacked Democratic officials in an effort to help get Trump elected, numerous independent cybersecurity firms have come to the same conclusion over the past several months.
In June, Crowdstrike, a firm that analyzes threats to network security, released their findings in an extensive report implicating Russia as being behind the hacks. The following week, two cyber security firms independently corroborated Crowdstrike’s findings. Then, on October 7th, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint statement directly accusing Russia of being behind the hacks on Democratic officials.
There is now bipartisan recognition of Russia’s attempts to influence the election from congressional leadership.
Donald Trump’s skepticism surrounding Russia’s interference in the U.S. election is unfounded.
Mar-a-Lago Makes Almost Half A Million From Selling Access To Trump
Over 800 guests attended Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on New Year’s Eve, among them was the President-elect himself.
According to Politico, tickets were required to attend the event. For Mar-a-Lago members the price was $525 and for guests it cost $575. Sean Spicer said that the event was “sold out” with more than 800 guests slated to attend.
Given the minimum ticket price and the estimated number of guests, Mar-a-Lago must’ve taken in over $420,000 in revenue from the event.
Many have risen concerns about this, asserting that Trump’s business directly profited from people who want access to the President-elect. This is yet another example of Trump’s many conflicts of interest that will plague his Presidency.
Trump’s incoming White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks dispelled the criticism, telling Politico:
“The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict. This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”
If Trump doesn’t appropriately handle his mountain of conflicts, it will be almost impossible for him to properly separate his business obligations from the duties of the Presidency.
Russian Malware Found On Vermont Electricity Company Laptop
On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security said they found malicious software on a Burlington Electric Company laptop that matched the malware signatures found on the DNC computers hacked by Russia.
The federal government refers to this Russian malicious cyber activity as part of a broader Russian operation they dub, Grizzly Steppe.
The Burlington Electric Company serves 19,600 in Vermont, and stated that no customer information was breached. The laptop that housed the malicious software was not connected to the company’s electrical grid system.
U.S. Official say they do not believe it was an attempt to bring down part of the electric grid.