Here’s a “Russian collusion” lead special counsel Robert Mueller might want to follow up on.
The investigators who’ve spent more than a year trying to find evidence that the Donald Trump presidential campaign was working with the Russian government might have gotten a big clue from testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday about which influential Americans knew about Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election.
And it wasn’t the circle around the man heading the Republican ticket.
According to The Daily Caller, Obama administration “cybersecurity coordinator” Michael Daniel told a committee hearing that then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice had ordered him in August 2016 to “stand down” rather than respond to Russian cyber-attacks during the campaign.
The order was first reported in March in the book “Russian Roulette,” by Yahoo News reporter Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Washington bureau chief for the liberal magazine Mother Jones, according to The Daily Caller.
At Wednesday’s committee hearing, which was reviewing the Obama and Trump administrations’ response to Russian cyber activity, Daniel confirmed the book’s account.
“You were told to stand down, is that correct?” asked Idaho Republican Jim Risch, The Daily Caller reported.
“Those actions were put on the back burner, yes,” Daniel said. “That was not the focus of our activity during that time period.”
The exchange during Wednesday’s committee meeting sounds awfully dry compared to how the order was presented in the Isikoff-Corn book, according to The Daily Caller.
In the book, one of Daniel’s staff members said he was “incredulous and in disbelief” when he learned about Rice’s command.
“Why the hell are we standing down?” the staffer asked, according to The Daily Caller. “Michael, can you help us understand?”
Could it be because the Obama White House wasn’t terribly interested in reacting to the Russian interference?
It’s important to remember that in August 2016, with the mainstream media acting as a national cheerleading squad for Hillary Clinton, it still looked to the Washington establishment that Barack Obama was going to be succeeded by a Democrat – and if Russian activity wouldn’t stop it, or even helped it along, who was to complain?
But on a more sinister note, it’s entirely possible that Rice was installing an insurance policy in the event of the unthinkable happening and Trump actually won the presidency.
The anti-Trump crowd at the Obama administration’s FBI certainly knew about “insurance policies.” In fact, text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page used those exact words, even though it’s never been clear exactly what they were referring to.
What Rice was doing, by preventing her own cybersecurity czar from taking action on the Russians, could well have been setting up a trail of breadcrumbs that would lead to the Trump campaign if the election somehow turned out differently from how Democrats had tried to rig it.
That would make it appear that Russian influence over the election’s outcome had boosted the Republican candidate, and tarnish Trump’s presidency even before he took the oath of office.
Even without testimony about Rice’s intent — which is unknowable at this point — no one can deny that that’s pretty much how events eventually played out.
This kind of setup for Trump isn’t the “Russian collusion” Mueller and his team of Trump-hunting zealots are expecting, of course. But more than a year into his investigation, which has turned up exactly zero public evidence that the Trump campaign was working with the Russians, checking it out might give him something to follow up on.
So far, the Mueller investigation has cost American taxpayers at least $17 million. It would be nice to get something for that money. Even if it’s not what Mueller is looking for.
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