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I wrote some notes from the Q&A with senators during the last two hours of the three-plus hour hearing:
- The general tone of the questions and answers is to blame Russia, buttress the importance of intelligence agencies, and slander Wikileaks as untrustworthy. Looks like a setup to corner Trump and oppose his position of trimming the intelligence agencies, not believing the hacking attack, and retweeting Wikileaks.
- Clapper comes across knowledgeable, as someone who fully understands the Washington system and his role he is to play in the hearing.
- Adm. Rogers is coming across as a bureaucrat who is running an organization doing tasks he does not fully understand (he runs the NSA).
- This hearing is a lovefest for the intelligence community. It is telling the intelligence community that these senators have their backs, and will resist Trump to trim these agencies.
- They were careful to not claim the “hacking” impacted the actual election result. There was no attempt to de-legitimize the election of Trump.
- Personal comment, most of these senators need to go.
References to Trump
- They (Sens. McCaskill, Graham, Hirono, and Kaine) directly attacked Trump by name. Sens. Blumenthal and McCain by inference.
References to Obama
- Two senators, including Graham, took the role in baiting those testifying to affirm how smart Obama was in expelling Russian diplomats.
Expand, not contract intelligence
- Director of NSA, Adm. Rogers, agrees that he needs more resources.
- Sen. Hirono gets Clapper and Rogers to agree more money is needed to raise cyber employee pay.
- Clapper stated twice that the intelligence community needs to be put “on steroids.”
Blame Russia and Glass Houses
- The senators generally clumped the influence of social media, fake news, cyber security, DCLeaks, WikiLeaks, and “hacking” into the same Russian hacking issue, speaking as if all were simply aspects of Russian operations.
- Clapper directly claimed Russia was behind DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks.com.
- Sen. Cotton brought up the illogic of claiming Russia would prefer Trump due to his policies harmful to Russia. He was the first senator to speak under age 60.
- Sen. Inhofe tried to broaden the discussion to include China and others.
- Clapper twice said those in glass houses should not throw rocks, because the US does espionage just like Russia and China. The senators were not hearing it and kept talking about punishing Russia for espionage.
- The term “act of war” was bantered about recklessly by several senators in reference to Russian hacking.
- Sen. Tillis pointed out that the US tried to influence elections in other countries 81 times.
Purpose of Meeting
- I could be wrong, but seemed clear to me this event was timed for today (Thursday) to influence the optics of Trump’s meeting with the intelligence community tomorrow (Friday). The briefing with Trump was scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed. Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” It seems to me, the delay was to fit this televised live-feed Senate hearing on Thursday.
- The hearing had these clear themes: Trump is recklessly disregarding the intelligence community, the intelligence community is great, the present leaders of the intelligence community are smart and competent, the intelligence community needs to be expanded not contracted, Russia hacked the political and media institutions and influenced the election (but did not hack the election directly), and US senators are smart and should guide Trump on how to improve the intelligence community.
- The meeting ended with a call for legislators (themselves) to be involved in any re-focusing of the intelligence agencies.
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