This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified the Wisconsin Elections Commission for the first time that “Russian government cyber actors” unsuccessfully targeted the state’s voter registration system in 2016.Yeah, but guess who did know? The Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who just happens to be Wisconsin's own Ron Johnson.
WEC Administrator Michael Haas has informed WEC Chair Mark Thomsen, who directed Commission staff to investigate why election officials were not notified earlier and report to the Commission at its meeting Tuesday.
“This scanning had no impact on Wisconsin’s systems or the election,” Haas said. “Internet security provided by the state successfully protected our systems. Homeland Security specifically confirmed there was no breach or compromise of our data.”
Let's go back to Bruce Murphy's excellent summary from January where he pieces together reports (since corroborated in the course of the Trump-Russia affair) that put Johnson not only in the center of the room where these hacking maneuvers are revealed.
As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson was one the so-called “Gang of 12,” the top 12 congressional leaders, who were invited to the meeting. (House Speaker Paul Ryan also attended the meeting.) Johnson later confirmed to Politico that he participated in the briefing.And now we know Wisconsin ended up being a state where Russians tried to get voter registration data from. That may not have been part of this report, but I bet Johnson knew about it either before the election, or soon after, and he hasn't said shit about it. Even worse, Murphy documents how Johnson went along with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to keep then-President Obama from letting the public know about Russia's attempts to interfere in our elections. Johnson then lied to the public about what he knew, to make it sound like the Obama Administration were the ones hiding information.
“In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals,” the Post reported.
Johnson, in short, had an opportunity to be a patriot and condemn the fact that Russia was now engaged in such activities in the United States. But he issued no resolutions — in fact, not one word — on Russian’s cyber attacks on America.The obvious question is "Why did Johnson not tell Wisconsinites about what he knew, especially if it might jeopardize their ability to vote? The obvious answer: BECAUSE RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WAS HELPING HIM AND TRUMP WIN IN WISCONSIN.
Worse, he has engaged in his own pattern of misinformation on the subject. After the CIA publicly released a report in January concluding that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election, Johnson issued a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal saying he would “would need more definitive information before drawing further conclusions.” Johnson did not reveal that he had been informed back in September this was happening.
Johnson went on to complain to CNBC that the CIA refused to brief him on Russian hacking, saying “I have not seen the evidence that it actually was Russia,” while failing to note the CIA report’s echoed the briefing he’d received from other intelligence leaders in September.
And Johnson isn't the only Wisconsin Republican mixed up in this thing. We know House Speaker Paul Ryan was also in the room before the November election, and Ryan's SuperPAC used information obtained by Russian hackers in attack ads against Dems. Again, this doesn't mean there was collusion with the Russians, but Lyin' Ryan was glad to take the help that their hacking produced.
Let's also not forget this little tidbit from earlier in the 2016 campaign, as was revealed in this column by International Business professor Ruth May in the Dallas Morning News as well as other sources during this year.
Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.I've never heard Walker be asked about this interesting donation, and I also find it intriguing that when the story of Russians trying to hack Wisconsin election information hit the local newspapers yesterday, Walker's campaign wouldn't talk about the hacking attempt itself.
During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik's donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik's holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.
Marco Rubio's Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik's two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.
In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump's Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik's companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.
Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker, said the announcement "confirms what we already knew, which is Wisconsin held an honest and fair election with no interference."Tommy sure seems quick to want to say "Nothing to see here", doesn't he? In fact, yesterday's news confirms that there were attempts NOT to make the 2016 election "honest and fair" in Wisconsin, and there's absolutely NO confirmation that this was the only attempt to mess with Wisconsin's elections.
Then again, there's probably a reason that Walker's flunky doesn't want to discuss the need to protect against past and future attacks on our election system, which comes up after an ill-timed veto from his boss.
Friday's disclosure came a day after the GOP governor cut six jobs from the Wisconsin Elections Commission as part of the state budget. Evenson said the jobs were vacant and had nothing to do with cybersecurity.And when Walker vetoed those extra positions on Thursday, he claimed that temporary staff could fill the extra needs for the state's elections as November 2018 comes closer. Yeah, because the average short-timer off the street is a match for international espionage.
But this goes back to what I mentioned earlier. The Wisconsin GOP had no problem with Russian interference in 2016, because it helped their side. And as I've mentioned before, lower turnout in the Dem-voting cities last November were a big key behind the close, surprising wins for Trump and Johnson.
To conclude, I'm not saying the Wisconsin GOP colluded with the Russians, but they were more than happy to reap the benefits of what the Russians did in 2016. And the fact that they don't seem too concerned over the alarming revelations that have come public in 2017 is a big red flag that demands more investigation by both legislators and media in DC as well as here in Dairyland.
Maybe it's all coincidence. But boy, that's a lot of coincidences that just happened to benefit one side.