Health Law Repeal Leaves Nevada Republican Torn Between Lawmakers – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, is the man everyone wants. This has not been a good thing for him.

Brian Sandoval, the governor of Mr. Heller’s home state, is a Republican, but he is counting on Mr. Heller to provide what could be a crucial vote to maintain President Barack Obama’s health care law, which has been a boon for the working poor in Nevada. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader who this week will be rounding up votes to fulfill his party’s biggest promise of the last decade — repealing the Affordable Care Act — is trying to prevent Mr. Heller from undermining that goal.

Democrats also want Mr. Heller, but in the form of an unemployed senator. As the only Republican who is up for re-election next year in a state that Hillary Clinton won, he may be their only shot at picking up a seat. Democrats and health care interest groups have been unloading on Mr. Heller all spring with no end in sight.

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Far-right Republicans in his state — who strongly support President Trump — also have their eyes on Mr. Heller to see if he will abandon the president. Already a group that Vice President Mike Pence has supported is preparing a seven-figure ad campaign against the senator.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter, venting about Mr. Heller and other Republicans who are not supporting the Senate bill.

On Friday, Mr. Sandoval acknowledged the obvious. “He’s in the eye of the storm here,” Mr. Sandoval said at a news conference in Nevada as Mr. Heller stood next to him, looking vaguely miserable as Mr. Sandoval announced his opposition to the Senate bill. The legislation could affect 210,000 Nevada residents insured through the health care law’s expansion of Medicaid.

On Friday Mr. Heller said that he, too, was against the bill as it is currently drafted, leaving himself just enough wiggle room to continue his longstanding practice of being the senator in the middle, the man who wants to see the Medicaid program phased out, except when he decides he doesn’t. (Mr. Heller has taken both positions publicly.) He has also voted to take away money from Planned Parenthood, but tells some select audiences that “I have no problems with federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Mr. Heller, whose spokeswoman said he was not available for an interview, said at the news conference Friday that “this bill that’s currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer — it’s simply not the answer.” He said, “It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes.”

As early as Thursday, the Senate will take a momentous vote to repeal the health law, and for Republicans from states that expanded their Medicaid program, the options are anything but palatable.

If the effort fails, the party risks being tarred as feckless: in control of the House, the Senate and the White House, but unable to come through with a promise that Republicans have been making from the day Mr. Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010.

If the effort succeeds, expansion-state Republicans face the prospects of political hellfire: blame for every potential glitch in the health care system, from premium increases to canceled health plans and benefit losses.

“The fact remains that Dean Heller owns his party’s destructive health care repeal effort,” William McCurdy II, chairman of the Nevada State Democratic Party, said in a prepared statement. He added, “The damage to Dean Heller’s flailing re-election campaign was already done long before this desperate press conference.” Mr. Heller did not respond through his spokeswoman.

Mr. Heller, 57, represents the sort of state, both rural and working class, that has much to lose from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Nevada was once a national leader in the number of uninsured, but now the program has insured tens of thousands of its residents.

The state, like many around the country, has suffered a prescription drug crisis, and has among the highest rates of prescription painkillers sold and drug overdose deaths per capita. It also has a growing population of residents over the age of 55, a group particularly hammered by the Senate bill. All this has led Mr. Sandoval to take an unusually aggressive position for a Republican governor to preserve the current law.

Other Republican senators like Mr. Heller — notably Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio — come from states with similar populations and problems and have expressed skepticism about aspects of the bill.

Further complicating the matter are the four conservative Republicans — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — who have already declared that they cannot support the health bill without changes to make it even more frugal. That put Senate leaders on notice that any move to placate the Dean Hellers of the Senate might only alienate other lawmakers still further.

Mr. McConnell continues to project confidence, even as the enthusiasm for the bill is largely muted. “I’m pleased that we were able to arrive at a draft that incorporates input from so many different members who represent so many different constituents who are facing so many different challenges,” Mr. McConnell said last week. He added: “There will be ample time to analyze, discuss and provide thoughts before legislation comes to the floor. And I hope every senator takes that opportunity.”

In fact, on the day last week that the bill was rolled out, Mr. Heller posted on Twitter a photo of himself sitting in an ornate chair plowing through it, a considerable feat of reading given the arcana of the bill’s statutory language. But in spite of his earnest decoding of phrases like the “applicable median cost benchmark plan,” what Nevadans have to say will probably have more impact — especially Mr. Sandoval, the most popular public official in the state, to whom Mr. Heller owes much.

The governor appointed Mr. Heller to the Senate seat in 2011 after the resignation of fellow Republican John Ensign and supported him during his successful run for a full term in 2012.

“Here is one thing that people don’t talk about a lot with Heller: He doesn’t like the job,” said Jon Ralston, editor of the Nevada Independent, a nonprofit news organization. “He was planning to run for governor.’’

But Adam Paul Laxalt, the current Nevada attorney general, the grandson of former Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada and the son of former Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico — is widely expected to run and has more or less pushed Mr. Heller out of the way.

Mr. Heller has never been the sort of rainmaker for the state that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate minority leader from 2015 until early this year, was. Nor has he been a legislative leader. “The bottom line with Nevadans historically had been if you took care of the home issues, then how you voted in D.C. on the other stuff was less important,” said Michael Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Mr. Heller appears to be running for re-election on a dogged effort to prevent the Trump administration from restarting licensing activities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump outside of Las Vegas. Beyond that, he has few other issues to lean on, and is stuck swatting away at critics from the left and the right as he struggles to define himself on health care, come what may.

“Now he in this position of his own making,” Mr. Ralston said, “pressed by Trump people on one side, so he has a base problem, while the other side is running the most relentless digital protest campaign on any piece of legislation I have ever seen in this state.”

The threat on Mr. Heller’s right flank is real, as shown by former Representative Joe Heck, who during his race for a Senate seat in Nevada last year openly opposed Mr. Trump. Conservative voters stayed home and Mr. Heck lost to a Democrat.

Democrats have already recruited a Nevada freshman, Representative Jacky Rosen, to take Mr. Heller on. Representative Dina Titus is also looking at a possible run. “This is probably going to be the last decision I make in my political career,” Ms. Titus said. “I want it to be the right one.”

In the meantime, Mr. Heller has a long week in Washington awaiting.

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Trump Asks ‘Why No Action?’ Amid Questions About Obama’s Response To Russian Meddling – NPR

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with then- U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on Sept. 5, 2016, in the midst of last year’s presidential race.

Alexei Druzhinin/AP

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President Trump took to Twitter to question his predecessor’s judgment and actions — at the end of a week characterized by a steady drumbeat of questions about how and when the Obama administration chose to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Why no action?,” the president asked in the first of two tweets Saturday evening that suggested the Obama administration didn’t do enough — and soon enough — to stop Russia last year.

Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017

Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017

Since Wednesday the Obama administration’s response has increasingly come under scrutiny in dueling congressional hearings held by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, in a bombshell report by the Washington Post and in the disclosure of correspondence between two Democratic senators last fall and Obama’s State Department first reported on by BuzzFeed.

In the final days of the presidential campaign last year, two Democratic senators asked President Obama to take action against Russia for its election meddling.

“Such attacks cannot be tolerated and the United States must take immediate measures to ensure that those responsible are held to account,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., wrote in a letter to Obama dated Nov. 1, 2016, just a week before Election Day.

After referencing the hacking and disclosure of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and other people and organizations aligned with the Democratic Party, Cardin and Feinstein went on to stress to Obama the importance of protecting the electoral process:

“The seminal event in a functioning democracy is an election, and the international implications of the results of a U.S. election are far reaching. Russia’s actions threaten to undermine our democratic process. Our electoral infrastructure is strong, but it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our institutions are protected. A cyberattack on our electoral process or any part of our critical political, economic, or military infrastructure is a hostile action that must be countered.”

The senators suggested that the assets of individuals found to have been involved in the Russian interference be frozen. Additionally, they counseled Obama to consider “expanding the use of secondary sanctions” and “taking proportional cyber responses beyond sanctions that would shine a direct spotlight on those responsible for the cyberattacks.” They also told Obama that the administration should indict those responsible in U.S. courts.

The State Department wrote back to the lawmakers a month later, after Hillary Clinton’s stinging loss to Donald Trump.

“As we have made clear to the Russian government and others, we will not tolerate attempts to interfere with the U.S. democratic process, and we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing,” the Obama administration told the two senators.

The correspondence, reported on by BuzzFeed Friday, was part of a release of government records sought by Operation 45, a transparency project, in the course of Freedom of Information Act litigation filed against several U.S. intelligence agencies. Operation 45 “is dedicated to ensuring transparency and accountability for the Administration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States,” the project’s website says.

The BuzzFeed report about the letters came the same day as a Washington Post report that provided a look inside the Obama administration’s response to and decision-making about Russia. The CIA notified Obama in August of last year that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the campaign to interfere in the election, according to the Post. “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump,” the Postreport says.

But it would be roughly two months — not until Oct. 7, 2016, as Feinstein and Cardin pointed out in their letter — before the Obama administration publicly declared that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC and other Democratic groups. The administration did not impose sanctions on Russia until late December 2017, some five months after the CIA’s intelligence report was hand-delivered to the White House, according to the Post. (“Over that five-month interval,” the Post report says, “the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy.”)

The U.S. intelligence community’s declassified report about the election interference was not made available to the public until early January 2017. Finally, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security did not designate state election systems as “critical infrastructure,” entitling states to seek federal help with cybersecurity, until early January of this year as well.

On Wednesday, Jeh Johnson, who was Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security during last year’s election, was asked by members of Congress about the timing of the administration’s response — specifically why the voting public was not informed about what Russia was up to until the fall of 2017.

One of the candidates, Johnson said, not naming but clearly referring to Donald Trump, “was predicting that the election was going to be rigged,” Johnson testified before the House Intelligence Committee, “and so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process.” Johnson also told the top Democrat on the committee that he had been concerned last year that he would be criticized “for perhaps taking sides” in an ongoing election if he publicly spoke out about the Russian meddling that he knew was going on.

Tony Blinken, Obama’s former national security adviser, defended the previous administration’s response Friday to CNN, saying Obama took action to protect the electoral system itself from interference by the Russians.

“We made massive efforts so they couldn’t do that,” Blinken told the cable news network. “This led to two things: President Obama issued a very stark warning to President Putin in September at the G-20 conference in China. What we saw, or thought we saw, after that, it looked like the Russians stopped their efforts. But the damage was already done.”

Trump’s tweets Saturday were not his first this week in the vein of questioning the Obama’s administration’s response. The president tweeted Thursday morning and Friday evening, apparently in response to questions faced by Johnson and the Post’s reporting.

While Trump seems to now be accepting and acknowledging that Russia interfered in the election, as the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out, also on Twitter on Friday night, Trump has previously called Russian election interference a hoax perpetrated by Democrats to explain Clinton’s loss:

This week he called the hackings a Dem hoax. But today he gets to blame Obama, so he says it’s real https://t.co/5eQlqVxpM8

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 24, 2017

Speaking to the international media this month, Putin denied that the Russian government had any role in meddling in last year’s presidential election.

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Trump: Obama ‘did nothing’ about Russia election meddling – CNN

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Former Obama intelligence official: Russian hack ‘the political equivalent of 9/11’ – The Hill

Former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaFormer Obama intelligence official: Russian hack ‘the political equivalent of 9/11’Trump notes ‘election meddling by Russia’ in tweet criticizing ObamaTrump slams Obama for doing ‘nothing’ about Russia before the electionMORE‘s top intelligence official at the Pentagon said Saturday that the Russian interference in the 2016 elections was “the political equivalent of 9/11.”  

Michael Vickers, who served as Obama’s undersecretary of defense, said in an interview with NBC News that there’s little evidence of a response from the Trump administration to protect the next election.

“This attack is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious,” Vickers said. 

“The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had,” he continued. “I don’t see much evidence of a response.”

The Trump administration disputes the claim that it is doing nothing to secure America’s voting systems. In a statement to NBC News, one U.S. official said that the White House is responding in ways “some you’ll see, some you won’t see…You certainly don’t want to telegraph your moves.”

In a separate interview on Saturday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told MSNBC the CIA has “heightened emphasis on our ability to stop” Russian hacking attempts in the face of recent threats.

On Friday, the Trump administration seemed to acknowledge Russian efforts to influence the election after months of denials. In a tweet on Friday, Trump attacked Obama for doing “nothing about it” last year while the election was still ongoing.

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“The Obama administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” Trump asked followers on his personal Twitter account.

Trump also mentioned Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election in a Fox and Friends interview that aired Friday.

“Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. But nobody wants to talk about that,” Trump said in the interview.

“The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even — before the election. And I hardly see it. It’s an amazing thing,” Trump added.

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Evidence is mounting that Russia took 4 clear paths to meddle in the US election – Business Insider

Donald Trump and Hillary ClintonUS President Donald Trump
and Hillary Clinton.
Mark Wilson/Getty
Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business
Insider

It was September 2015 when the FBI first noticed that Russian
hackers had infiltrated a computer system belonging to the
Democratic National Committee.

It was the first sign that Moscow was attempting to meddle in the
presidential election.

Nearly a year later, further reporting and testimony from current
and former intelligence officials have painted a portrait of
Russia’s election interference as a multifaceted, well-planned,
and coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the backbone of
American democracy: free and fair elections.

Now, as FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional
intelligence committees continue to investigate Russia’s election
interference, evidence is emerging that the hacking and
disinformation campaign waged at the direction of Russian
President Vladimir Putin took at least four separate but related
paths.

The first involved establishing personal contact with Americans
perceived as sympathetic to Moscow — such as former Defense
Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort, and early Trump foreign-policy adviser
Carter Page — and using them as a means to further Russia’s
foreign-policy goals.

The second involved hacking the Democratic National Committee
email servers and then giving the material to WikiLeaks, which
leaked the emails in batches throughout the second half of 2016.

The third was to amplify the propaganda value of the leaked
emails with a disinformation campaign waged predominantly on
Facebook and Twitter, in an effort to use automated bots to
spread fake news and pro-Trump agitprop.

And the fourth was to breach US voting systems in as many as 39
states leading up to the election, in an effort to steal
registration data that officials say could be used to
target and manipulate
voters in future elections.

[Un]witting agents

AP_17157670241072James
Comey.
AP Photo/J. Scott
Applewhite

Former FBI Director James Comey
confirmed
in a hearing before the Senate Intelligence
Committee in March, two months before he was fired, that the
bureau was investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016
election. That probe included an examination of whether the Trump
campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine Hillary Clinton, Comey
testified at the time.

Restrictions on disclosing classified information in an open
setting precluded Comey from naming names; but reports surfaced
before he testified that certain members of Trump’s campaign had
communicated with Russian officials in ways that raised red
flags.

Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, and
Roger Stone were among those being looked at by federal
investigators, reports said, amid the FBI and congressional
probes into whether any Trump associates acted as agents of the
Kremlin, wittingly or not.

Flynn was forced to resign as national-security adviser in
February after it emerged he had discussed US sanctions with
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, during the
transition period. The White House said Flynn resigned because he
misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with
Kislyak.

It was later reported that the acting attorney general, Sally
Yates, had warned the White House in January that Flynn could be
vulnerable to Russian blackmail, because US intelligence knew
Pence had publicly mischaracterized Flynn’s interactions with
Kislyak.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, worked to
advance Russian interests for over a decade. Beginning in 2004,
Manafort served as a top adviser to former Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman whom Manafort is
widely credited with helping win the presidency in 2010. Between
2006 and 2009, Manafort was paid millions to lobby on behalf of
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. AP reporter Jeff Horwitz

told Fox News
that Manafort was “a gun for hire” who was
willing to work explicitly “on behalf of Russian interests.”

Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s campaign,
has also become a subject of FBI and congressional
investigations. His trip to Moscow in July 2016 raised red flags
at the FBI, which was granted a warrant by the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Page’s communications
on suspicion that he was communicating with Russian officials.

Jared KushnerJared
Kushner.
Getty
Images

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, became a
subject of the investigation after US intelligence officials
intercepted communications suggesting he had proposed setting up
a secret backchannel to Moscow using Russian diplomatic
facilities on US soil. Kushner met with both Kislyak and Russian
banker Sergey Gorkov in December and failed to disclose it on his
security-clearance form.

And Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, communicated with a
self-described hacker, Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 who US
intelligence officials believe was a Russian prop.

Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts told the Senate Intelligence
Committee in May that the Trump campaign itself may have been an
unwitting agent of Russia.

“Part of the reasons active measures have worked in the US
election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian
active measures at times against his opponents,” Watts said,
pointing to Manafort and Trump’s citations of fake-news stories
pushed out by Russian-linked entities last year.

“[Trump] denies the intel from the United States about Russia,
and he claimed the election could be rigged — that was the number
one claim pushed by RT, Sputnik News, all the way up until the
election,” Watts said. “Part of the reasons Russian active
measures work is because they parrot the same lines.”

Indeed, the Trump transition team
released a statement
in December that appeared to cast doubt
on the CIA’s findings that Russia had meddled in the election
with the specific purpose of damaging Clinton’s candidacy and
swinging voters towards Trump.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons
of mass destruction,” the statement said.

The DNC, WikiLeaks, and Guccifer 2.0

In July 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced that
Russian hacking groups known as “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” had
infiltrated its servers. The intrusions came after federal
investigators warned the
DNC
in September 2015 that its servers had been breached, but
the DNC failed to take action.

After gaining access to the DNC’s system in 2016, Fancy Bear and
Cozy Bear disseminated thousands of emails via hacker Guccifer
2.0, who leaked the information to WikiLeaks. US intelligence
agencies believe Guccifer 2.0 was created by Fancy Bear, or a
Russian organization affiliated with the group. WikiLeaks
published the first batch of DNC emails on July 22, one day
before the Democratic National Convention.

julian assangeWikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange.
Carl Court/Getty
Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News’ Sean Hannity
during a January interview that
the Russian government did not provide the hacked DNC emails to
him. But US intelligence agencies believe WikiLeaks has become a
Kremlin propaganda tool.

Cybersecurity experts at the intelligence firm ThreatConnect also
linked Guccifer 2.0 back to Russia and concluded the hacker was
the product of a
Russian disinformation campaign
.
The New York Times reported
in December that Guccifer 2.0 had
also hacked into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
and released the information to reporters covering competitive
House districts.

A little over two months later, on October 7, WikiLeaks released
a batch of emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s
account. The hack of Podesta’s emails came after
Trump confidant Roger Stone tweeted in August
, “Trust me, it
will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel.
#CrookedHillary”

WikiLeaks continued releasing Podesta’s emails and published
nearly 60,000 messages leading up to Election Day. Podesta

said
after the initial breach that Russian intelligence was
responsible.

Roger StoneRoger
Stone.
Hollis
Johnson

“A big difference to me in the past was, while there was
cyberactivity, we never saw in previous presidential elections
information being published on such a massive scale that had been
illegally removed both from private individuals as well as
organizations associated with the democratic process both inside
the government and outside the government,” Adm. Mike Rogers, the
director of the National Security Agency, told the House
Intelligence Committee in March.

It soon emerged that Russian hackers had also accessed the
Republican National Committee’s servers and accounts belonging to
Republican officials, but had chosen
not to release the information
. This development appeared to
confirm intelligence findings that Russian meddling was done
specifically to hurt Clinton and aid Trump.

The US intelligence community “is confident that the Russian
Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US
persons and institutions, including from US political
organizations,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
and the Department of Homeland Security said in a
joint statement
shortly after the first batch of Podesta’s
emails were first leaked.

During a January hearing before the Senate Armed Services
Committee with other intelligence chiefs,
Clapper reaffirmed that finding
. “We stand more resolutely on
that statement,” he said.

Fake news, trolls, botnets

In early January, the Office of the Director of National
Intelligence released a
declassified report
documenting the results of the
investigation former President Barack Obama had requested into
Russian election interference.

Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir
Putin.
Adam Berry/Getty
Images

The report said that while Russian operatives did not change vote
tallies, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an
elaborate effort to propel Trump to the presidency — not only via
hacking but also through the dissemination of “fake news” aimed
at undermining Clinton and boosting Trump.

The Russians, Comey said in March, were also “unusually loud” in
their intervention, leaving digital footprints on the DNC and
John Podesta email hacks that were sloppy and easily linked back
to the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored Russian news agencies like RT and
Sputnik, openly backed Trump. And automated Twitter accounts —
many of them linked to Russia and
aided by professional trolls
paid by the Kremlin — flooded
the social-media platform with pro-Trump rhetoric and made-up
news throughout the campaign and especially in the days leading
up to the election.

The bots
favored Trump by five-to-one
, according to Sam Woolley of the
Oxford Internet Institute’s computational propaganda institute.

Russian internet trolls — paid by the Kremlin to spread false
information on the internet — have been behind a number of
“highly coordinated campaigns” to deceive the American public,
journalist Adrian Chen
found when researching
Russian troll factories in St.
Petersburg in 2015.

It’s a brand of information warfare, known as “dezinformatsiya,”
that has been used by the Russians since at least the Cold War.
The disinformation campaigns are only one “active measure” tool
used by Russian intelligence to “sow discord among,” and within,
nations perceived as hostile to Russia.

From his interviews with former trolls employed by Russia, Chen
gathered that the point of their jobs “was to weave propaganda
seamlessly into what appeared to be the nonpolitical musings of
an everyday person.

“Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest
trolling operation in history,” Chen wrote. “And its target is
nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic
space.”

In a telling case study of how widespread and pervasive fake news
was during the election,
Oxford University researchers
found that nearly half of the
news Michigan voters were exposed to on Twitter leading up to
Election Day was fake. They found that the proportion of
“professional to junk news” was “roughly one-to-one,” and that
“fully 46.5% of all content presented as news” about politics and
the election fell under “the definition of propaganda” when
unverified WikiLeaks content and Russian-origin news stories were
factored in.

donald trumpPresident
Trump.
REUTERS/Jonathan
Ernst

As many as 39 state-election systems targeted

In January, President-elect Trump issued
a statement
after he was briefed on the intelligence
community’s classified report on Russia’s election interference.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people
are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure
of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations
including the Democrat [sic] National Committee, there was
absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the
fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting
machines.”

As it turns out, that was not entirely true.

Bloomberg
reported
in June that election systems in as many as 39
states could have been attacked, though voting tallies are not
believed to have been altered or manipulated in any way.

“In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders
tried to delete or alter voter data,” Bloomberg said. “The
hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on
Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign
finance database.”

The report was bolstered by a leaked NSA document published by
The Intercept earlier this month detailing how hackers connected
to Russian military intelligence had attempted to breach US
voting systems days before the election.

National-security experts
were floored
by the document and said it was the clearest
evidence so far that Russia interfered in the election.

Department of Homeland Security official Jeanette Manfra
confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 that
Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states’ election systems in
2016, successfully exploiting a small number of networks and
stealing voter registration data. Time reported on Thursday that
the hackers successfully altered voter information in at least
one election database and stole thousands of voter records
containing private information like Social Security numbers.

The exposure of that data has left upcoming elections vulnerable
to manipulation. Virginia and New Jersey will hold gubernatorial
elections later this year, and all 435 seats in the House and 33
of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested in the 2018
midterm elections.

Putin has consistently denied the Kremlin had anything to do with
the hacking or disinformation campaigns waged in 2016 to bolster
Trump and hurt Clinton. But he acknowledged
a potential Russian role
for the first time earlier this
month when he said that “patriotically minded” Russian citizens
might have taken it upon themselves “to fight against those who
say bad things about Russia.”

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The surprising GOP holdout on the Senate’s health bill – Politico

Ron Johnson stormed Washington in 2010 by railing against Obamacare, becoming one of the law’s harshest and most persistent critics. Now, with the Senate on the brink of repealing the law, he’s one of the surprise holdouts threatening to block the bill.

The Wisconsin Republican says Senate leaders are rushing the vote before he and the public can analyze it and are not doing enough to actually bring down premiums. He joined with a trio of Senate conservatives on Thursday who say they’re open to negotiation but can’t support Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill as it is.

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“It’s not a bluff,” Johnson told POLITICO. “Until I have the information where I am certain this is … in the best interest for the folks in Wisconsin — that this puts us in a better position tomorrow than we are today — I’m not going to be voting yes.”

By joining with Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, Johnson has significant leverage. McConnell can only lose two of his 52 Republicans for the bill to still pass — so he’ll have to pick off at least two conservatives, depending on whether he can keep every other Senate Republican on board. McConnell’s job got tougher Friday when Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he would oppose the bill for being too conservative — because it doesn’t protect states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

The opposition from Paul, Cruz and Lee was somewhat expected. And even the opposition from Heller was not surprising, given that he is facing the Senate GOP’s toughest reelection race next year.

But Johnson is rarely such a thorn in the side of GOP leaders.

Johnson’s chief concerns are ensuring there is enough time to analyze the bill, driving down premiums and protecting states that refused Medicaid expansion as Wisconsin did. His opposition did not come as a surprise to Republicans working on the bill, who said he has been extremely vocal in closed-door GOP conference meetings. Johnson, a former business owner and accountant, has argued that Republicans need to rely less on politics and more on policy experts such as actuaries and insurance executives to craft their bill — a request that leadership tried to meet by bringing them to meetings.

Johnson says he wants to see a CBO score on the health bill, which is expected early next week — just days before McConnell plans to hold a vote. He said he needs time to analyze the bill’s impact on the health system, doctors and hospitals.

“I have a hard time believing I’ll have that information prior to when leadership may want to vote on this,” he said Thursday.

Johnson raised his concerns about Medicaid funding levels with President Donald Trump at a White House meeting with other lawmakers last week. His other major beef is that the bill won’t do enough to reduce premiums — a chief complaint among Cruz, Lee and Paul. They would like the bill to repeal Obamacare’s requirement that insurance companies accept everyone regardless of a pre-existing condition — a political non-starter with many other Republicans. The Senate conservatives say there are other ways to protect people with medical problems, such as high-risk pools.

“The primary driver of premium increases is guaranteed issue,” Johnson said, referring to the Obamacare protection for pre-existing conditions. “We really should be talking about providing individuals the freedom to purchase the kind of health care products they want to buy not being dictated by the federal government.”

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