'Russia is still listening': Democrats take aim at Trump after report uncovers potential new election help from the Kremlin

'Russia is still listening': Democrats take aim at Trump after report uncovers potential new election help from the Kremlin
Nancy Pelosi Screengrab

A new report for the New York Times about a Russian hack of the Ukrainian oil company Burisma is giving many a disturbing sense of history repeating itself.

The company, which is at the center of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, was reportedly targeted by Russian military hackers. The Times explained:

...experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter worked on the board of Burisma while his father was in office and conducting diplomacy with Ukraine, which raised concerns about conflicts of interest and influence peddling. However, there's been no credible allegations or evidence put forward to indicate that the Bidens were engaged in wrongdoing, and the vice president's efforts to root our corruption in Ukraine may have even cut against the interests of his son's company. Nevertheless, Trump and other Republicans have tried to turn the matter — which was entirely overlooked until Biden became a formidable 2020 contender — into a massive scandal for the Democratic frontrunner.

Now, it looks like Russia is helping in the effort. This is hardly a wild accusation, given the extensive evidence that Russia intervened in 2016 to get opposition research on Trump's opponent and to otherwise manipulate the election.

Democrats are casting a critical eye at the Trump administration following the publication of the report, noting that Trump has done far too little to curb Russian election interference and has, in fact, encouraged it.

"We only learned of this hacking through the press," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is one member of the Gang of Eight that is traditionally kept in the loop on significant intelligence matters. "Congress must be briefed on what the administration knows about this attack and why the president doesn't have a plan to protect our elections."

It's not clear how much the administration knows about the cyberattack, though the Times' report does indicate that one "American security official" was a source for information about the operation.

"Russia is still listening, Russia is still attacking," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

He was referencing Trump's infamous proclamation during the 2016 campaign: "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find [Hillary Clinton's] 30,000 emails that are missing." According to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russian hackers made their first attempts that same day as Trump's request to obtain Clinton's personal emails.

So it seemed that Russia was listening then, and it seems like Russia is following Trump's lead now by targeting Burisma, the company he is so personally interested in. And he's made it clear that, if Russia or anyone else wanted to offer him dirt on an election opponent, he would welcome it.

"I think I’d take it," he told ABC News in June when asked about whether he'd accept opposition research from foreign governments. "I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening." Though he equivocated, he suggested he might not inform the FBI if presented with such an offer, despite the obvious counterintelligence risks and potential for criminal activity.

"As far as I see it now, knowing that this president in the past, as Special Counsel Mueller said, invited, welcomed, and planned to benefit as a candidate from Russia's help, if he does not condemn this, I and many other Americans will hold him as complicit in any attack on any candidate that seeks to benefit Donald Trump," Swalwell told MSNBC.


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