The Trump Administration Slaps Russia, Finally, As More Details of Cyberattacks And Meddling Pour In
A joint report by the F.B.I. and Homeland Security found massive security breaches on power plants, public utilities, and aviation control systems over the past couple of years. And for the first time, Russia was specifically named as the perpetrator.
The game plan employed by the Russian hackers seemed to be: break in, do reconnaissance, collect information, then clean up and leave. But they got deep enough in that they could have sabotaged or shut down systems if they’d wanted. As a director at California Security firm Symantec (best known for its Norton products) put it in a New York Times article: “They were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation”.
Here’s a copy of the report itself, which is surprisingly easy to read and fascinating. It concludes in most cases, Russian hackers gained entry through subcontractors and trusted third-party suppliers, which did not have as much security. Once they’d established a beachhead in these “peripheral” networks, they then infiltrated the larger, more secure systems.
The report does not give any indication as to the exact number of systems that were infiltrated, and does not name any companies that might have been compromised.
Separately, President Trump for the first time stated that Russia was indeed behind a nerve agent attack on British soil, saying “it certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.” The victims: a former Russian spy, his daughter, and a law officer responding to the scene are all recovering in the hospital. Trump’s statement coming as part of a Q&A following a meeting with Ireland’s Prime Minister at the White House.
Here’s a clip (click on the photo to play):
Earlier in the day, the U.S. joined a multi-national statement condemning the attack and demanding a response.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration put sanctions on Russian individuals and companies for interfering in the 2016 elections, as well as “ongoing nefarious attacks“. They even used the indictments by Special Counsel Mueller as a blueprint of just whom to sanction. Those sanctioned will not be able to travel to the U.S., do business in the U.S. or with U.S. companies. One Russian oligarch attempted to minimize the potential impact (and he may be right), quoted in the New York Times as saying: ““I don’t care about this. Except perhaps that I won’t be dining at McDonald’s.”
Mueller Taking A Peek Into Trump Organization
According to the New York Times, for the first time, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is issuing subpoenas for documents from the Trump Organization. Since Mueller’s team doesn’t leak, the breadth and intent is not very clear. What is clear is that Trump has said Mueller would be crossing a line if he looked into his family’s finances beyond any possible relationships with Russia. But it’s not clear Mueller is doing that.
Meanwhile, a group of powerful Republican Senators are pushing ahead with a plan to, in effect, “investigate the investigators”, something Trump has repeatedly called for. Senators Grassley, Graham, Cornyn and Tillis say they’ll seek a 2nd Special Counsel to look into how the Justice Department and F.B.I. “handled matters related to the Trump-Russia investigation”.
Time For An Andrew Jackson Update
Trump has stopped comparing himself so vociferously to Andrew Jackson since Steve Bannon left the White House (and he’s probably subjected to a lot fewer unwanted impromptu history lessons too). But that portrait of Jackson still hangs over his desk in the Oval Office.
And Trump’s well on his way to matching one Jackson oddity that no President has achieved since: not one member of Jackson’s original cabinet made it through his first term (except the Postmaster General, which is no longer a cabinet position). Jackson was also embroiled in a major tariff controversy during his Presidency, which led to some of that turnover (although he did not instigate it).
Late last night the Washington Post reported Trump has decided to fire his National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, and is making no secret about actively interviewing candidates for his replacement.
White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that in a Tweet, sort of:
Notice the wording though: it’s in the present tense; doesn’t make any promises about the future. An actual denial would’ve read something more along the lines of “there will be no changes…” Which makes us believe the Post’s story even more.
Trump earlier in the day remarked: “there will always be change“.
Meanwhile, we’re finally getting a reason for why Trump’s “body man” was dismissed earlier this week after he couldn’t get a White House security clearance. Also according to the Washington Post, Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee has an issue with gambling. The former University of Connecticut Quarterback apparently betting tens of thousands of dollars at a time on sports, online. The Post says “there was no indication his gambling was illegal”. But online gambling is illegal in most states, especially on sports.
We’ve Been Meaning To Tell You About This Story For 2 Weeks, But We’ll Still Bet This Is The First Time You’ll Hear About It:
Trump’s always bragging about how he’s deregulated more things than any other President, and doing things like ordering his Cabinet Secretaries to chop 2 regulations for every new one they implement. Trump’s main argument: regulations put an unfair financial burden on American industry.
So what a surprise when the White House’s own Office of Management and Budget came out with a report showing that regulations actually save money…
So surprising that the White House completely buried it, releasing it late on a Friday night a couple of weeks ago. Which is why, as we’ve suggested, you probably haven’t heard about it until now.
The only reason it saw the light of day at all is that the report is mandated by Congress.
Among the findings, according to the LA Times: that while clean-air and clean-water rules do cost U.S. businesses nearly $5-billion a year, those rules save nearly $30-billion in medical bills for cancer and respiratory diseases.