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Columns
Other view: Get to bottom of email hacking

The Washington Post’s blockbuster story on Friday reported:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

“Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.”

Trump on Friday released a particularly tone-deaf statement, which will only feed suspicions about his affection for Vladimir Putin. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” it read. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’” That he would adopt the Kremlin’s position in the face of overwhelming evidence, supported by U.S. intelligence professionals, is in and of itself of grave concern.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden, speaking on CNN, expressed astonishment. “To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions. Wow,” he said. “He continues to reject the Russians did it ... and claims that it was politicized intelligence.”

Following the president’s announcement on Friday that he ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking, the incoming Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called for a full congressional review. Schumer is right that the bombshell should shake both parties to the core. But Republicans now must decide where their highest loyalties rest — with Trump or with the defense of the country and our electoral system.

The Post’s report provided an astonishing revelation: Republicans allegedly refused during the election to make a bipartisan defense of the sanctity of our electoral system. “According to several officials, (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”

Some Republicans in their narrow, partisan prism might think this about trying to invalidate the election. It’s not. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told me, “The purpose of any investigation, whether by the Obama administration or Congress, is not to question or relitigate the results of any past or present presidential election.” She explained, “Instead, any review must focus on the long-overdue task of improving the defenses of the United States against cyberattacks, including those that might seek to affect or influence political campaigns.”

It’s also about determining the degree to which Russia tried to pick our president, why Russia picked Trump and whether Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was correct in declaring there had been extensive conversations with the Trump campaign, a charge the Trump team immediately rejected.

This sounds like an over-the-top spy thriller. Unfortunately, this is all too real and raises numerous troubling questions:

Why did Russia want Trump to win?

Why does Trump disagree with our intelligence community? Who is telling him its conclusion is wrong?

Does the hacking have anything to do with the coterie of pro-Putin advisers around Trump? With Trump’s efforts to undermine NATO? With his desire to “get along” with Putin?

Has Trump reportedly chosen Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon (who has no national security experience), for secretary of state because Tillerson is cozy with Putin and opposed sanctions?

What conversations, if any, went on between Trump’s campaign and Russians, and what was the substance of those?

Does Trump have financial interests (or liabilities) with Russian oligarchs — which he is concealing by refusing to release his tax returns?

Why did Republicans before the election refuse to stand up for the integrity of our electoral system?

Trump and his advisers would be well advised to let the investigations run their course without heckling, criticism or interference. Trump would also be smart to be entirely transparent about financial, political or personal ties he or his advisers may have with Russia. If he does not, speculation will run rampant that he has something to hide.

The Senate must fly-speck Trump’s nominees, determine what their views on Russia are (and the basis for them) and get a clear understanding of what they will do in office to respond to Russia’s attempt to interfere with our electoral system. Any underqualified or unqualified nominee who appears unwilling to see Russia for what it is — an aggressive kleptocracy — should not be confirmed.

Tillerson’s expected nomination did not sit well with the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In a memo sent to reporters by the staff of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., Trump’s response was bashed as “a cavalier dismissal that comes nowhere near the gravity of what’s been reported.” The memo slammed Trump for “reportedly planning to nominate a Secretary of State with business ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin and whose company worked to bury and deny climate science for years.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CNN he had “concerns” about Tillerson’s relationship with Putin, and if his concerns were not satisfied he would oppose the nomination. That we are even facing the potential that a secretary of state would be inappropriately sympathetic toward a foe of the United States reaffirms how extraordinary the situation is in which we find ourselves.

GOP lawmakers need to act without a trace of partisanship and with alacrity and seriousness to get to the bottom of this — for it was their leaders reportedly who prevented a strong bipartisan show of strength in the face of replete evidence of Russian mischief. They should follow the example set by Collins, who told me, “a bipartisan congressional investigation could be useful towards achieving an objective accounting of any alleged meddling by foreign adversaries. The nefarious cyber-activity emanating from both Russia and China that has been well known for years has become increasingly brazen and aggressive.”

If Republicans appear to be dragging their feet, afraid that their election behavior will come back to bite them, the only recourse would be an independent prosecutor and/or an independent commission (some Democrats have already suggested this). A Senate Democratic source noted that for now it will be up to Republicans to call formal hearings and expressed confidence that investigative staff on the relevant committees can do a lot of digging on their own. The source noted, however, that access to information will be the key, which is why Democrats have been calling for declassification of relevant material.

Finally, the Russia connection makes it imperative for bipartisan consensus on two points: full release of Trump’s tax records and full divestiture of his holdings. “Frankly, we don’t know if and to what extent he has business ties to Russia. He continues to refuse to release that information,” Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me. “This is yet another reason why disclosure and divestment are so critical, so that any business ties with Russia will be known and removed.”


Mailbag
Letter: Trump will rebuild what left destroyed

The economic engines of this great republic are agriculture and mining. Under the Obama regime, thousands of onerous regulations have been mandated by fiat to stifle these industries. Soon this travesty and perversion will end. The imperial presidency and legacy of the narcissistic driven inept petulant man-child, who leads from behind, will be relegated to the ash heap of history. In order for Trump to succeed, it’s imperative that these two segments of American life rebound and the Constitutional republic is upheld. Our wellbeing is driven by fossil fuel. 

Recent articles in the Times-News infer that Donald Trump derides clean air, water, etc., and is guilty of the leftist ranting phobias and ism’s. The latest national news coverage has centered about “fake news.” Let me be clear on this point — all news coming from any of the letter news networks, TV, radio, social media or print concerning conservatives or republicans is nothing more than radical extremist alt-left-wing spin or propaganda. Character assassination of DJT and Steve Bannon or any other of the upcoming political appointees is not going to work. No MSM types are going to get what DJT is about. 

We are going to have a strong country again as DJT begins rebuilding the nation destroyed by the left. It will take time but it will happen. 

Mike Tylka

Jerome


Columns
Stapilus: Navigating the unexpected

Orval Hansen recalled that when one of his sons was born, he was celebrating with a friend in Idaho Falls who, like him, was active in politics. This was in the late 1950s, and Hansen then was one of the members of a state House Republican caucus in close contest for control with the Democrats.

Hansen said he was sorry about one thing: His son was born exactly one day too early, one day short of turning 21, to vote in the still-distant 1980 general election. The friend advised him not to worry: Who knows? He may turn out to be a Democrat.

Jim Hansen did become a Democrat, at one point leading the staff of the state Democratic Party, served in the Idaho House as his father had, and even ran for the 2nd District U.S. House seat his father had held – as a Republican – for six years.

Orval Hansen’s own concern, by contrast, didn’t materialize, and partly because of his own actions. As a lawmaker, Hansen helped push through the change that allowed 18-year-olds to vote.

Call it a case of being shaped in part by unavoidable external conditions, and in part by active reshaping of the world. All of that is the core of his new memoir, “Climbing the Mountain,” which Hansen has just self-published.

In some ways, earlier on, Hansen was more often swimming with the tide than against it. He was a Mormon Republican in a substantial family in the Idaho Falls area. (One of his brothers, Reed Hansen, would go on to serve in the Idaho Legislature years after Orval Hansen did.) He seems not to have had great difficulty winning election to the Legislature, and soon joined the ranks of leadership there. Though he lost his first bid for the U.S. House, he won his second. He became a well-established local attorney, and he wasn’t an outsider rebel, either by personal history or temperament.

But leaving it at that would distort the story. His years in the Navy gave him, apparently more than most, a perspective well beyond home. When he attended law school in Washington, D.C., he also worked as a congressional staffer. He distinguished himself from early legislative days by a willingness to vote his conscience when that cost him politically.

He lost his U.S. House seat in the 1974 Republican primary election to the similarly-named (but very different in other ways) George Hansen. That was an unexpected turn; a lot of people, including Orval Hansen, had figured him for a fourth term. After that, with his family and other connections ensconced at Washington, he decided to stay there. (Not long ago, he moved back to Idaho, and now lives in Boise.)

But here again, in that unexpected twist he made his own distinctive contribution. For many former congressmen, leaving Congress would be a prescription for a lobbying career, and he did a bit of that as a practicing lawyer. But more of his attention went to the Columbia Institute for Political Research, a research and seminar development group aimed at expanding and fostering knowledge on a wide range of issues. He also worked with a wide range of nonprofits. There are easier paths for former members of Congress situated in Washington, and some of Idaho’s other former members have taken them. Orval Hansen took a harder and more public-spirited route.

He’s set some measures against which you can fairly measure other office holders. You can find the story in “Climbing the Mountain.”