Friday, July 27, 2018

In Claire And Present Danger

The Daily Beast is reporting that Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's office was the first known target in Russia's attempts to hack the 2018 midterms and the senator's staff was hit in August 2017 by Russian GRU phishing attempts.

The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference

McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator’s home state of Missouri.

There’s no evidence to suggest that this attempt to lure McCaskill staffers was successful. The precise purpose of the approach was also unclear. Asked about the hack attempt by Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, McCaskill told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she wasn’t yet prepared to discuss it.

“I’m not going to speak of it right now,” she said. “I think we’ll have something on it next week. I’m not going to speak about it right now. I can’t confirm or do anything about it right now.”

The senator later released a statement asserting that the cyberattack was unsuccessful.

“Russia continues to engage in cyber warfare against our democracy. I will continue to speak out and press to hold them accountable,” McCaskill said. “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this. I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.”

In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to “vote her out of office.” Just this last week, however, Trump said, on Twitter, that he feared Russians would intervene in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of Democrats.

McCaskill isn't denying that her office was targeted either, that's the big thing here.  And yes, the Russian "Fancy Bear" GRU hack team pulled a Podesta:

The hackers sent forged notification emails to Senate targets claiming the target's Microsoft Exchange password had expired, and instructing them to change it. If the target clicked on the link, he or she was taken to a convincing replica of the U.S. Senate's Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) login page, a single sign-on point for e-mail and other services. 
As with the Podesta phishing, each Senate phishing email had a different link coded with the recipient's email address. That allowed the fake password-change webpage to display the user's email address when they arrived, making the site more convincing.

Of course the Russians want to hurt Democrats.  2016 showed them that it only took one successful phish to get to "How the sausage is made" campaign secrets, and then add their own "incriminating" emails to the "document dump".  It helped them put their man in power two years ago, there's nothing but upside for them in the course of trying to hurt Democratic senators in close races to keep their man in power in 2018.

Trump will just yell "fake news!" and press on.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Trump's been letting Rudy Giuliani handle the whole Michael Cohen situation, and Cohen keeps turning up the temperature to try to get Trump to Do Something before the jaws of the state and federal cases against Cohen snap shut.  Thursday night however, Cohen dropped a thermite grenade in Trump's lap.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said
Cohen's claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017. 
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians' offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen's account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources. 
To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account. 

There's three parts to this too, one, that Cohen is willing to testify against Donald Trump, two, that he's willing to testify as part of Mueller's investigation, not just disappear behind the closed doors of the House Intelligence Committee or something, and three, if true, that means Donald Trump Jr. committed perjury in his sworn testimony on the meeting to Congress.

None of these are exactly good for Trump, but I wonder.  It's possible that somebody in Trumpland leaked this to CNN with Trump's blessing in order to justify Trump going full-bore on Cohen, because Trump really does enjoy being an awful human being to people and getting in fights.

In his two most recent tweets about his former lawyer, Trump has declined to write “Michael” or “Cohen,” as he has in other tweets about him this year. The slight is not by accident, according to multiple people who have known Trump for years. The president, they say, will often stop using people’s names if he’s convinced they’re turncoats, or if he suddenly finds them big enough “losers” not worth the attention.

They’re dead to each other [now],” said another source close to the president who also knows Cohen.

Trump allies are already gaming out how to, in the words of one outside adviser to the president, “bury” Cohen.

A Cohen ally brushed off the impending attacks, calling Giuliani and his associates “the gang who can’t shoot straight

Reached for comment, Cohen referred The Daily Beast to his lawyer Lanny Davis. Davis said Cohen is not concerned about any coming attacks from the president’s allies and surrogates. “When you’ve got truth on your side, you’re not afraid of anything,” he said. “So what are they afraid of?”

“When Michael Cohen came to me, I spent two weeks asking him about what he had done in the past for Mr. Trump and what he wanted to do in the future,” Davis continued. “I decided to represent him after hearing the answers to both of those questions and listening and watching what he was willing to say on TV to George Stephanopoulos. That’s when I made my decision. He has hit the reset button, he’s made a turn—to be on his own, speaking the truth.”

Several of Cohen’s associates have told The Daily Beast that Cohen—who for years publicly branded himself as the ultimate Trump loyalist—chose to publicize elements of his relationship with Trump once he realized that his loyalty would not be reciprocated.

Many were surprised it took him so long to realize this. The president passed over Cohen for a plum administration gig—Cohen had told friends he expected to be tapped as White House chief of staff—and displayed a nasty habit of making Cohen appear like a nuisance among peers.

Two sources with direct knowledge of Trump and Cohen’s relationship over the years tell The Daily Beast that during the 2016 presidential run, Cohen would often wander into rooms in Trump Tower where the GOP frontrunner and his senior advisers were having meetings on political strategy and other campaign-related matters. Cohen, according to these sources, would try to interject, only to have Trump tell him to leave and say they’d talk later. “Get out, Michael,” Trump ordered during one particular moment of annoyance.

Through it all, Cohen remained a committed Trump ally. But in the months after the feds raided his office, he began to feel abandoned by the president. The sense that he could be left as a potential fall-guy ultimately convinced him to go on offense.

Cohen has told associates he believes there is no going back on his latest moves, and that he expects to be finished with the president for the rest of his life.

“He has… made his peace with the loss of his friend,” one friend of Cohen assessed.

So it's possible that Trump wants a fight so he can bury Cohen.  It's much more likely however that Cohen knows he's going to hell, and that he doesn't want to be the only guy in the handbasket.

Stay tuned.


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