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THE MAN WHO SAVED DEMOCRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2021 at 12:19 am

As a result of the vast increase in election security, President Donald Trump failed to get the help he expected from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The result: He lost the 2020 Presidential election.

Thus, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 81,268,924 to 74,216,154 for Trump—and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. 

Two days later, Trump claimed: “And this is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election.”  

Chris Krebs was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And the man most responsible for ensuring election security. 

WATCH: Ousted DHS official Christopher Krebs testifies about 2020 election security - YouTube

Chris Krebs

On November 12, to counter the growing chorus of lies from Trump and his Right-wing allies, he put out the following statement:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs.

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

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Donald Trump

Asked by “60 Minutes'” Scott Pelley if he was surprised to be fired, Krebs replied: “I don’t know if I was necessarily surprised. It’s not how I wanted to go out. The thing that upsets me the most about that is I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my team.

“And I’d worked with them for three and a half years, in the trenches. Building an agency, putting CISA on the national stage. And I love that team. And I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so that’s what I’m most upset about.” 

Krebs was no dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but a life-long Republican. He gave up a lucrative job as Microsoft’s head of cybersecurity policy to join the Trump administration. He wanted to serve his country by creating a dedicated cybersecurity agency for the first time.

Still, he had his reservations about taking the job. As he told the Financial Times: “The flaws of this man [Trump] were obvious to everybody that was willing to pay attention. [But] to do your job, you have to be able to compartmentalize. I was willing to do that.

“Over time, it eats away at you. It eats away at you, the other parts of the department that were doing stuff that just seemed so inhumane. I was never involved in any of those policy conversations.”

By January 6, 2021, Trump had exhausted his legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

From November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Of these attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election, Krebs told Pelley:

“It was upsetting because what I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people. It’s not me, it’s not just CISA. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months.

“They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that I just– it didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, met to certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

At noon, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence. A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at his loss—and thus intimidate Congressional officials to reject the results.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

Three hours passed before the mob was dispersed and order was restored.

Yet for all the terrible drama of that day, the true hero of the moment went unrecognized.

By depriving Trump of Russian help, Chris Krebs had ensured a victory for democracy.

On the evening of January 6, the House and Senate met again to count the Electoral Votes.

And as expected, the two bodies pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Donald Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

THE MAN WHO SAVED DEMOCRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2021 at 12:28 am

“TIME’s Person of the Year over the course of nearly a century has been a measuring stick for where the world is and where it’s going. But how to make sense of 2020, a year without measure? A year marked by multiple crises, all at once, all over the world: A once-in-a-century plague. Brutal racial injustice. Glaring inequality. Apocalyptic wildfires. Democracy under fire.”

Thus opens the web page advertising TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year” choice of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

On the surface, choosing Biden and Harris makes sense: “Joe Biden was elected President of the United States in the midst of an existential debate over what reality we inhabit. Perhaps the only thing Americans agree on right now is that the future of the country is at stake, even as they fiercely disagree about why.”

As for the shared legacy of Biden and Harris: “If Donald Trump was a force for disruption and division over the past four years, Biden and Harris show where the nation is heading: a blend of ethnicities, lived experiences and worldviews that must find a way forward together if the American experiment is to survive.”

Time Magazine logo.svg

Yet a lesser-known but far more consequential choice for “Person of the Year” would have been Chris Krebs.

Because, without Chris Krebs, there would not now be a Biden Presidency.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote—65,853,514 to 62,984,828 for Trump. But in the United States, what counts in Presidential elections is the Electoral College vote. And there Trump won: 304 to 227. 

What put him over the top in the Electoral College was the help he got from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And the point man for this was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by DHS.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. As he explained to Scott Pelley during a “60 Minutes” interview aired on November 29, 2020: 

“So we spent something on the order of three and a half years of gaming out every possible scenario for how a foreign actor could interfere with an election. Countless, countless scenarios.” 

Krebs’ to-do list included paper ballots:

“Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure that you got the count right. And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election. Ninety-five percent of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it. Compared to 2016, about 82%.

“That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia. Georgia has machines that tabulate the vote. They then held a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote.”   

Krebs’ duties included:

  • Sharing intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

At his command lay the resources of a series of powerful Federal investigative agencies:

“We had the Department of Defense Cyber Command. We had the National Security Agency. We had the FBI. We had the Secret Service. We also had representatives from the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal independent agency that supports the actual administration of elections.

“We had representatives from some of the election equipment vendors. And they’re critical because they’re the ones out there that know what’s going on on the ground if there’s any sort of issue with some of their systems. And we had representatives from state and local governments.”

Misinformation led CISA to create a new “Rumor Control” website ahead of the 2020 election. Its main goal was to debunk rumors surrounding the 2020 election that had been spreading throughout the country.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Donald Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly.

DICTATORS AND DEMOCRACY DON’T MIX

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2020 at 12:14 am

For the first time in its history, a President of the United States demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, President Donald Trump sounded like a petulant child whose planned outing has been suddenly called off.

“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it, we will not stand for it.”

For a man who had tried—often successfully—to deprive millions of their right to vote, Trump made it clear that he didn’t know what disenfranchisement means.

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote such a success.” 

It was Trump-–not his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden—who was demanding that the electoral process be halted. And that those votes that had not yet been counted be, in effect, flushed down the toilet.

“The citizens of this country have come out in record numbers, this a record, there’s never been anything like it to support our incredible movement….Most importantly, we’re winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount of votes. We’re up 690,000 votes.” 

Donald Trump

Owing to the Coronavirus pandemic—which Trump had refused to aggressively address from its outset in January—millions of Americans had voted by mail. The idea of standing in Coronavirus-infected lines had not appealed to them. And they believed they could perform their civic duty in a far less dangerous way via the Postal Service.

“These aren’t even close, this is not like, Oh, it’s close. With 64% of the vote in, it’s going to be almost impossible and we’re coming into good Pennsylvania areas where they happen to like your president. We’re winning Michigan…I said ‘Wow, that’s a lot’…

“And we’re winning Wisconsin…so when you take those three states in particular and you take all of the others…and all of a sudden it’s not like we’re up 12 votes and we have 60% left, we won states and all of a sudden, I said, ‘What happened to the election? It’s off.’ And we have all these announcers saying, ‘What’s happened’ and then they said, ‘Ohhh.’”

Many Americans were outraged at this brazen attempt to subvert democracy. But it was hardly surprising, considering Trump’s reaction to the defeat of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Mitt Romney

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race himself, Trump said of Romney:

“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs. I’ve built a great company. I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create it.”

But by February 2, 2012, Trump had changed his mind: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it.”  

But Mitt couldn’t do it. On November 6, 2012, Obama defeated Romney.

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Barack Obama

Trump was outraged—and immediately took to Twitter:

  • More votes equals a loss…revolution!  [For Trump, allowing all Americans the right to vote is a travesty—especially when they vote for a candidate he dislikes.]
  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. [Overwhelmingly, the world welcomed Obama’s re-election.]
  • We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. [This is essentially advocating violent overthrow of the government—treason.]
  • The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. [The 2012 Republican Platform had spoken lovingly about the need for preserving the Electoral College: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.”]
  • The loser one! He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election.  [The loser didn’t win: He lost. Obama got 65,915,795 votes; Romney got 60,933,504.] 
  • We should have a revolution in this country!  [In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote (50,999,897) to George W. Bush’s 50,456,002. But Bush trounced Gore in the Electoral College (271 to 266). It was only when Obama won the Electoral College count by 332 to 206 that this was—according to Trump—a “travesty.”]

This was the man 63 million ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected in 2016. And the man millions have tried to re-elect in 2020.

This does not bode well for democracy.

A NATION WATCHES–AND CRUMBLES–AS A TYRANT REIGNS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 4, 2020 at 12:10 am

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—surrendered to Hitler’s demands for the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. 

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” World War II erupted. 

Most Germans blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—not just on the battlefield, but through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Americans have learned nothing from this warning from history about subservience to a madman.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President. 

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another. Among his outrages:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election,
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion. 
  • Gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Allowed predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment.
  • Shut down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.
  • Threatened members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him.
  • Since being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. 

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Donald Trump   

Through all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

Democrats seemed unable to cope with Trump’s legislative agenda and his personal attacks on Twitter and in press conferences.

Even when the press unearthed his latest corruptions, the public didn’t care.

And now, with the 2020 Presidential election fast approaching, Trump has unleashed his latest outrage—while Americans who could stand against it do nothing: Trump now is laying the groundwork to discredit the outcome if he loses.

And it’s increasingly looking as if he will.

His tactics: Make it difficult to vote, guarantee voting is slow and complicated and raise questions about the outcome.

He wants to claim that if former Vice President Joe Biden wins, he was elected through a fraudulent mail-in vote.

Republicans have not protested any of this. Nor would they likely protest if Trump illegally occupied the White House in the face of massive vote fraud—on his part.

(His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote in 2016—but lost in the Electoral College. But that didn’t prevent Trump from claiming that he would have won the popular vote except for massive fraud—which never happened.)

Whatever happens, Trump will claim he won.

In 2012, after President Barack Obama defeated his endorsed candidate, Mitt Romney, Trump tweeted:

  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! 
  • The world is laughing at us. We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. 
  • Our nation is totally divided!
  • The loser one! [Trump’s spelling]
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!

And even if he’s forced to leave office, he will undercut the ability of his successor to govern. 

During World War II, scores of  high-ranking German army officers risked their lives to plot the overthrow—and even assassination—of Adolf Hitler. Their efforts culminated in the ill-fated July 20, 1944 bomb plot that left Hitler badly injured but still in total command of Germany. 

It would take only Vice President Mike Pence and eight Cabinet officers to courageously invoke the 25th Amendment and find Donald Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,”

Yet even that small a number of honorable men cannot be found within the Trump administration.

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