The ‘typo’ that shook the world
“The political equivalent of 9/11” is what former CIA Director Michael Morell called the spy agency’s conclusion that Russia’s cyberhackers deliberately meddled in the election to help Donald Trump.
Now another parallel is emerging: As with 9/11, warning signs were there, according to a New York Times investigation. But lackadaisical responses and mistakes left the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign vulnerable.
When an FBI agent warned the DNC in September 2015 that one of its systems was compromised, his call was routed to a “help desk.” The technician took little action, in part because he suspected the caller might be an impostor. The agent’s subsequent calls weren’t returned. He never visited in person.
When Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta got a message, supposedly from Google, warning that he needed to change his Gmail password, a campaign tech aide advised via email that it was “legitimate,” so Podesta did so — unwittingly giving the hackers access to his account.
The aide told the Times he had meant to type “illegitimate.”
President Barack Obama has tried to keep it positive when talking about his successor. But in an interview aired on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” he defended the work of intelligence agencies, which Trump has derided, and gently coaxed the president-elect to stop blowing off their daily briefings.
The agencies are “not perfect,” Obama said, “but they are full of extraordinarily hardworking, patriotic and knowledgeable experts. And if you’re not getting their perspective, their detailed perspective, then you are flying blind.”
To protect the nation’s security, Obama said, “You have to have the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.” (Video here.) Late Tuesday, Trump aide Sean Spicer said Trump was now sitting in on briefings three days a week. It was previously reported he was listening only once a week.
The take-away: Strong men
Trump fashions himself as a “strong man”-type leader and has shown an affinity for those in the same mold — Putin, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan among them. A common characteristic, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, is invoking nationalism as a defense against a hostile world.
Manhattan Birder Mystery?
A search-and-rescue plane seen flying over and around Manhattan Tuesday was involved in a Secret Service protection operation, CBS Newsradio reported. Black Hawk helicopters were spotted along with the HC-130 plane.
But the city's Office of Emergency Management announced it "did not have any information about this flyover before it happened" or it would have issued its standard public warning about a potentially alarming sight in the sky. Official word from the Secret Service was that the NYPD and FAA had been informed.
State Air National Guard's spokesman Eric Durr was quoted as saying: "All I can tell you is the aircraft belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing, and it was a training mission." The 106th is based at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.
High-level talk for high-tech
Executives of Apple, Facebook and other tech giants are due to visit Trump Tower on Wednesday to meet with a president-elect with whom they clashed during the campaign.
Aaron Levie, who heads the cloud-storage company Box, told Politico: "“Any industry needs to feel safe to voice their opinions and their issues without fear of retaliation. That’s going to be the biggest question that Trump will have to face.”
Testimonials for Tillerson
Trump’s choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee to lead the State Department was applauded by senior officials of past Republican administrations, including former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who also served under Obama.)
Still, his confirmation is no cinch, with some in the GOP’s 52-48 Senate majority leery about his long ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“I have serious concerns about his nomination,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he “looks forward to supporting” Tillerson.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was announced Wednesday as Trump’s choice for energy secretary. When he ran for president in 2012, Perry had called for abolishing the department, and then famously had a brain freeze in a debate when he tried to recall that.
Reports also said Trump has asked Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), a former Navy SEAL, to be secretary of the interior, but it was not immediately clear whether the freshman congressman accepted the offer.
See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday on Trump’s latest Cabinet picks.
Trump as Kanye life coach?
Kanye West, whose meltdown last month cut short a tour and landed him in the hospital, paid a visit to Trump Tuesday. Asked as they posed together in the Trump Tower lobby what they had talked about, Trump said, “Life. We discussed life.”
The rapper had little to say there, but tweeted later: “I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues,” which “included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago.”
Rebuff to Trump’s team
The Department of Energy refused to comply with a request from the Trump transition team to provide names of employees who worked on the Obama administration’s climate policy efforts.
Employees feared a witch hunt to root out those who — unlike Trump — believe in man-made causes of climate change. “There were reports about what certainly could have been an attempt to target civil servants, career federal government employees,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
What else is happening
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will launch a probe into Russian cyberhacking early next year, becoming the third Senate panel to plan an investigation. The others are the Armed Services and Intelligence committees.
- Putin is not Tillerson’s only Russian pal, The Washington Post reports. He is close with Igor Sechin, head of the Russian oil giant Rosneft and a former deputy prime minister. When the U.S. imposed sanctions over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Sechin lamented he couldn’t go to the U.S. to take motorcycle rides with Tillerson.
- Who else has a beef with Tillerson? Evangelical leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council does. Among other reasons, he noted Tillerson’s role when president of the Boy Scouts of America in getting the group to accept gay troop leaders.
- Putin said he is ready to meet with Trump “at any moment,” but it was more likely to happen after the inauguration.
- Republican insiders such as GOP chairman-turned-Trump adviser Reince Priebus are clashing behind the scenes with conservative "outsiders" such as presidential adviser Steve Bannon, Politico reports.
- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates came away from a meeting with Trump seeing parallels to John F. Kennedy. “In the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that,” Gates told CNBC, Trump could foster “American leadership through innovation.”
- Trump is a constant watcher of cable news in general and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in particular. The Washington Post looked at host Joe Scarborough’s influence on the president-elect and their sometimes-volatile friendship.
- Ready or not, here’s a poll on Democratic voter preferences for the 2020 nomination: Joe Biden 31%, Bernie Sanders 24%, Elizabeth Warren 16%. Public Policy Polling conducted the survey.