Trump’s ‘Operation Vote’: Glimmers of the key supporting effort, and the larger strategic context

Trump’s ‘Operation Vote’: Glimmers of the key supporting effort, and the larger strategic context
Making his first calls to world leaders in 2017. (Image: Screen grab of AP video, YouTube)

Things are beginning to tumble out around us from the holding pen, and there isn’t enough time to do them justice with extensive analysis and contextualizing.

I suspect it’s going to be like that for at least the next several days.  We’ll do the best we can to keep up.

Here is the first example.  On Sunday, the Washington Post published selected audio clips from a phone call on Saturday between the White House and the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger.

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

The call was about settling a lawsuit Trump’s campaign had brought against Georgia over the state’s refusal to hold a forensic audit of the vote.

The parties to the call were supposed to keep their deliberations in confidence, but the call audio got to WaPo anyway.  There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that it was given to the paper by Raffensperger.

However, it appears Trump may have tweeted about the session first.  He definitely tweeted about it separately.

It isn’t clear whether Trump’s tweet, sent at 8:57 AM EST, preceded any overtures from Raffensperger to WaPo.

The full audio of the session was later posted by WaPo.

If you care to, go search out the blah blah blah on everyone’s opinion about this.  Here is what immediately struck me.

Trump said several times during the discussion that his team didn’t need to prove electronic vote manipulation by the Dominion machines, because there were so many ways votes were demonstrably invalid otherwise.  But he did say they had “found a way” to determine that votes had been mishandled by the Dominion machines.  The wording he used in speaking of why he preferred not to take it to that level was informative.

And later – this was the other thing that struck me – Trump tweeted about the session with Raffensperger.

Both points are interesting.  Regarding his tweet, Trump has been targeted with, or has targeted others with, civil litigation for decades, and to think he doesn’t know how to comport himself when bound by confidentiality is to be a sucker for his bad media coverage.  If Trump tweeted, he had a reason.

Perhaps it was because his tweet wouldn’t be held to violate confidentiality.  I don’t know.  It contained some pretty specific references, but did not describe settlement terms or offers of them in any way.

(Image via Twitter)

It does make me wonder if he was opening a door for Raffensperger to step through.  By disclosing the audio to WaPo, Raffensperger has now put himself on record, before the public, with responses to a very specific request by Trump, and specific concerns expressed by Trump.

I’m not so sure it’s Trump who’s going to suffer for that.  Hardly had the audio session been released, and had a little time to percolate, when a lengthy, detail-filled article was discovered at Creative Destruction Media with the promising title:  “GA’s SoS Raffensperger Gave Hackers Roadmap To Infiltrate Machines A Year Before Election.”  Read it.  The title is not an exaggeration.

The article was posted at 8:44 AM EST on 3 January, according to its page source info.  So it was posted before Trump’s tweet, and before the posting time of the original WaPo article with the audio embed, which was at 12:59 PM EST on 3 January.

But it was posted after the phone discussion on Saturday.  One way to read this sequence of events is that Trump gave Raffensperger an opportunity to clean up the vote-tampered outcome, without demonstrating publicly that Raffensperger literally made available everything hackers needed to infiltrate Georgia’s freshly contracted Dominion voting machines a year before the election.

Brad Raffensperger (Image: YouTube screen grab)

Then, when Raffensperger had declined once again to do a clean-up, an article that obviously could have been posted any time in the last eight weeks, because it’s based on information that’s been available since before the 3 November election, was published at Creative Destruction first thing Sunday morning.

Take note that this tactic of publishing stories in media to get out the fighting points of politics is exactly what the mainstream media have been doing to Trump for the last four-plus years.  Sauce, served.

Regarding the Dominion machines aspect, the discussion of it would sound one way to our ears if we didn’t know about Raffensperger posting what was effectively a hackers’ guide to intruding into them – and another way if we did know.

Here is the relevant passage in the transcript (courtesy The National Pulse; emphasis and inserts added by LU):

Cleta Mitchell [Trump team lawyer, speaking to Brad Raffensperger about the overall numbers from irregularities of multiple types]: What I don’t understand is why wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interest to try to get to the bottom, compare the numbers, you know, if you say, because . . . to try to be able to get to the truth because we don’t have any way of confirming what you’re telling us. You tell us that you had an investigation at the State Farm Arena. I don’t have any report. I’ve never seen a report of investigation. […] And that’s just one of 25 categories. […] And as I, as the president said, we haven’t even gotten into the Dominion issue. That’s not part of our case. It’s not part of, we just didn’t feel as though we had any to be able to develop —

Trump: No, we do have a way, but I don’t want to get into it. We found a way . . . excuse me, but we don’t need it because we’re only down 11,000 votes, so we don’t even need it. I personally think they’re [i.e., Dominion is] corrupt as hell. But we don’t need that. All we have to do, Cleta, is find 11,000-plus votes. So we don’t need that [an intensive probe of the Dominion machines] . I’m not looking to shake up the whole world. We won Georgia easily. We won it by hundreds of thousands of votes. But if you go by basic, simple numbers, we won it easily, easily. So we’re not giving Dominion a pass on the record. We don’t need Dominion because we have so many other votes that we don’t need to prove it any more than we already have.

We know from the full transcript that Trump isn’t asking Georgia to cook him up “11,000 votes.”  He’s asking Raffensperger to compare numbers with the Trump campaign’s, where there are discrepancies, and show good-faith verification of the numbers Raffensperger says he has that are different.

It’s been the complaint all along of the Georgia GOP and the Trump campaign that that’s a key thing Raffensperger refuses to do.  Trump is confident that if Raffensperger will do that, at least 11,780 votes will be found that should have been counted for him.

Whether one agrees with Trump’s theory or not, the request he is making is not an unfair one.  It’s legitimate to question why Raffensperger has refused so adamantly to do it.

At any rate, if we do know, as we now do, that Raffensperger made it possible for hackers to get into Dominion machines with close to zero effort, with the information he posted, Trump’s comments sound an awful lot like a negotiation.  It sounds like Trump is offering Raffensperger a way to avoid being tagged with culpability, on a source of vote-tampering that doesn’t have to be pursued, at least not immediately and in the spotlight, if the secretary of state will give it a shot and compare some numbers from the other categories of discrepancies mentioned by Cleta Mitchell.

But Trump does say “we found a way” to – apparently – prove what was being done through Dominion machines.  He said “we’re not giving Dominion a pass on the record”; i.e., they won’t be formally let off the hook.  This could come back to haunt somebody.  I think Trump wanted that to be understood.

And he said, in regard to the Dominion angle, “I’m not looking to shake up the whole world.”  Trump doesn’t say things like that merely to engage in hyperbolic embellishment.  What sounds, to conventionally articulate people, like blurted speech from Trump usually isn’t just figurative; it means exactly what it sounds like.  That sounds like an implication that pursuing the Dominion machines angle would involve overseas interests, in a way that could get spectacular.

Taken all together, these words appear most likely to allude to what I have written about before: that the U.S. government has had the means to be electronically tracking, the entire time, much of what went into manipulating the Georgia vote.

We know from prior information that people in the federal government knew the Dominion machines blanketing Georgia were extremely vulnerable.  Since Raffensperger’s posted information about the machines was available more than a year ago, they’ve almost certainly known the implications of that as well.

Dominion systems demo in 2018. Cantonrep video, YouTube

We also know that Trump put out his Executive Order 13848 a year earlier, in September 2018.  That’s the instrument that justifies using national security intelligence and law enforcement means to monitor and counter threats to U.S. elections.

After hearing Trump’s side of the discussion with Raffensperger, I have even greater confidence that U.S. agencies had everything they needed to track what was being done with the Georgia implementation of Dominion infrastructure.  The initial justification for pursuing it as a national security matter could have been based on something like the analysis done for Creative Destruction Media, which asserts with obvious confidence that foreign parties were involved.  (Really: read it.  I wish I could give more time to it.  I can’t spend a whole article rehashing it and also provide value-added with context and big-picture analysis.  It’s all in there.)

That doesn’t mean the Trump administration was going by anything the analysts who put together the Creative Destruction article said.  It means there was an actionable reality of impending foreign interference, which we the public see in hindsight through the Creative Destruction piece, but which the Trump administration could have seen through the means of national intelligence – at the time it was happening.

Trump talks like someone who is very confident of what he knows.  He’s not afraid he might be wrong.  He’s not just going by the Sidney Powell brief, or the information collated by Giuliani and Ellis.  The number 11,780 isn’t just a doodle on a notepad.  It’s an operational measure of merit: it’s what would get the job done, if the job is wringing out enough of the voting irregularities to have good-faith certainty – as opposed to a bad-faith, stonewalling proclamation – that Trump either really did or really didn’t win Georgia.

The scope of the problem

This raises the obvious question why the administration would choose to monitor the sequence of events, probably from sometime in 2019, and let it play out in the actions of those involved, rather than stopping it in its tracks somewhere.

My guess: because of the sheer scope of what was being done, and the problem that merely taking down one part of it would leave too much of it intact, hedged about with lawyers and money and the support of foreign governments, and waiting to try again.

No single tool or discipline of government could vanquish the source of this truly existential threat to America.  It’s crime but also war, requiring law, political will, and suasion, but also intelligence and foreign policy, to deal with effectively.  (If I’m right, I suspect Trump’s national security approach hasn’t been limited to intelligence, or considering defensive military preparations.  He has probably been making agreements with select foreign counterparts for forms of mutual support at need, knowing that the blowback from rolling up an all-out, transnational effort to interfere in our election could affect multiple nations.  That’s a marker for potential future development; there’s no room or time to go into it here.)

Where do we go to test that hypothesis?  Possibly not where you think.  Let’s look at some of the things that are all happening at the same time.  They may not seem related, but – cutting to the chase – I think they are.

On New Year’s Day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo started a very interesting series off tweets.  The mere fact that they started on New Year’s Day, and not on a working day, told me that they’re not just happy-snap publicity for the State Department.

They’re clearly meant to send a message.  And it’s not encoded.  It’s straightforward.  It’s the words in the tweets.

This initial series was about getting American hostages back.  Listen with your ears.

“Putting America first means putting Americans first.”

And over and over again: “Securing Americans’ freedom.”

This is a message to foreign governments.  And although the context is getting back American hostages – so it’s easy to read it as a warning against taking hostages – I don’t think it’s only that.

What my ear hears is a demarche, mainly to China, that the Trump administration will not brook seeing Americans held hostage anywhere – not in our own country, and not hostage to the machinations of foreign governments or other foreign entities, or their partners inside the United States.  Pompeo is declaring that the Trump administration’s priority is keeping Americans free and safe, including right here at home.

On a very specific note, it’s quite true that Trump is closing our last two consulates in Russia, with the announcement of that having been made in mid-December.  I think that’s related.  I think Trump has reason in the weeks ahead to not want small, vulnerable consulates parked uneasily in distant locations in Russia.  Better the whole U.S. delegation to Russia be in Moscow, where there’s no escaping visibility and media coverage.

You don’t close consulates in major nations as mere cost-cutting measures.  So whatever may be implicated in the “big scope” thing that’s going on, Russia is probably part of it.


But Russia is not the stunningly pervasive security threat China now is.  China appears to be gearing up for something kinetic, and trying to prepare the battlespace by neutralizing the United States.  Cyber warfare and political subversion are part of the Chinese effort (and it’s by no means foolish to ponder whether unleashing the SARS-CoV-2 virus is part of it too; what’s foolish is refusing the consider it).  But the asymmetric efforts are not all of it.  Interesting preparations seem to be accelerating – and these are just the ones I’ve seen reporting on in the last several days

China has reportedly acquired Bird Cay in the Bahamas, just very recently.  And is excavating for a runway there that goes the whole length of the island.

This acquisition would pair nicely with a port facility created by China in the Bahamas, through an agreement with the Bahamian government made in 2015.  According to the locals, the port, although completed some time ago, sees virtually no use, as it is not conveniently located for moneymaking commerce.

China has other infrastructure development agreements in the Caribbean, as well as in Central America.  If you think this is all about oil, I can find some old “mineral rights certificates” from Oklahoma Territory 120 years ago to sell you, and they look just like the real thing.

In an article from 2016, I wrote about China’s new 99-year lease on the Port of Darwin in Australia.  The longer China is embedded there, the more things she can funnel through that point of access – in both directions – with the aid of complacency and undetectability. Besides nationally significant Australian infrastructure, the U.S. Marines have maintained a presence in Darwin since Obama deployed them in his rebalancing of security priorities to the Asian Pacific.

Now the nearby precincts of Palau and Papua New Guinea are waking up to a Chinese fishing fleet that’s suddenly all over the place.  China’s ocean-going fishing fleet has the primary mission of intelligence collection, much like the former-Soviet fishing fleet of 40 years ago.  Fishing is a convenient moneymaker for the main enterprise.

There is far more to say on this topic, but the survey must move on.  The point to take away is that China is very active, and as with the brutal repression of the Uyghurs, the predation against the border with India, the saber-rattling in the South China Sea, and the efforts to subvert governments and industry abroad (starting with the U.S.), it’s all preparation of a wartime posture from which Xi Jinping can move out quickly.

Chinese People’s Congress celebrates removal of term limits for Xi Jinping (center, second row). (Image: Screen grab of UK Guardian video)

The move may be a cyber move, intended to paralyze, let’s say, North America.  But a strike that is only a cyber move is a one-dimensional and practically useless concept.  China will want to hold things at more conventional risk: things like U.S. forces in Guam, or in the Horn of Africa, or perhaps the interests of U.S. allies like Thailand or the Philippines, or a uniquely situated Singapore, or quiet or emerging partners like Indonesia or Vietnam.

If I were betting, it would be that Trump foresees a need to be ready to counter China in multiple dimensions, and soon.  There are no doubt more developments to be considered, but I will mention just two that have cropped up in the last week.

One is another briefly flaring theme from Mike Pompeo’s curiously timed tweets.  He could have tweeted about a lot of things; it seemed a little odd that he started with freeing American hostages, and then, early in the running, he tweeted about the diplomacy with Kim Jong-Un and North Korea.

That is a topic the New York Times doesn’t understand at all.  But China does.  That one signature move by Trump with North Korea completely changed China’s strategic reality, in a way nothing else could have.  It took China out of the center seat between a nuclearizing North Korea and the other powers of the region.  China has not recovered her former position.

And she never will.  That cord is cut.  The clock is ticking on North Korea; the division of Korea is something that now must be resolved, and China can’t control how.  She can only seek to influence it – that is, as long as Trump is president of the United States.

In a remarkably timed development, near-simultaneously with Pompeo’s portentous tweets, Kim Jong-Un reportedly decided not to make his annual New Year’s address in 2021.

That sort of thing never has the banal reason behind it that the media speculate on, but we don’t know what the real reason is.  Perhaps Kim is pretty much non-functional at this point.  That would create something of a stability crisis point for Northeast Asia, once it became known.

It does suggest a potential catalyst for crisis maneuvers in the relatively near future.  And keep in mind: China’s posture, as it relates to all Chinese strategic priorities, is about America’s election, as much as it’s about any other known effort of China’s.

Preparing for what China is trying to do or going to do is on a continuum with seeking to expose the truth about vote-tampering in the U.S. election.  It’s all part of the same problem.  If the only way readers can visualize that is to think about the ties between China and the Biden family, then by all means, factor those in.  They matter.

Joe Biden, Xi Jinping

But for the Chinese Communists, cultivating the Bidens is just one in a set of supporting efforts in their overall campaign to deflate and paralyze America.  Given China’s penchant for hacking  and becoming cyber-embedded in infrastructure, we can take it to the bank that the CCP was involved in the vote-tampering in 2020.  Analysts without access to national intelligence can only make deductions, if often good ones, about how and where.  But if we as a nation were using the intelligence capabilities we have, under the authority Trump very pointedly conferred in 2018, we should actually know.

Big deck diplomacy

All of that is background for the second development of the last week: the yo-yo deployment plans for USS Nimitz (CVN-68).  It made little sense to me for Nimitz to be ordered home, supposedly to “de-escalate tensions” with Iran.  This was especially the case since we had also just ostentatiously driven an Ohio-class cruise-missile sub through the Strait of Hormuz, and have been flying B-52s into the CENTCOM theater with trumpet fanfares.

USS Georgia (SSGN-729), foreground, and USS Port Royal (CG-73) transit the Strait of Hormuz on 21 Dec 2020. USN image via Twitter

The messaging looked particularly “off” because of a little detail that you have to be following the fleet closely to recognize.  The media, obviously writing what they were given, kept referring to Nimitz being, or having been, on a 10-month deployment.  Nimitz is well short of 10 months out at this point, even by the longest reckoning.  Counted back to her last day in home port (Bremerton, Washington), it’s been a bit short of nine months as of now.  Counted back to her departure from the continental U.S. (San Diego), which was on 8 June 2020, it would be just about seven.

Nimitz might get home to Washington around the 10-month mark, by the long reckoning, if she left CENTCOM now.  But she hasn’t been out 10 months.

That little detail, in its garbled form, made it clear the reference to length of deployment was made for messaging purposes, to offer a public excuse for moving Nimitz.

On Sunday, however, a new report indicated that Nimitz isn’t going to go home after all.  This has to make you laugh.  The New York Times wrote it up as inexperience at the Pentagon and chaos in the Trump administration.  The geopolitical context in which the article was framed was all about Iran and the Middle East.  It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that carriers are always coming and going from the Persian Gulf; the signals to Iran are being sent with B-52s, an Israeli submarine, and a U.S. sub tooling along on the surface bristling with Tomahawks.

But the upshot is that the New York Times thinks Trump is an idiot; the New York Times doesn’t know what Nimitz is going to do; the New York Times doesn’t think it knows what Nimitz is going to do, and therefore has no way to preemptively disparage or sabotage a national security decision about it; and very likely China, which doesn’t think Trump is an idiot, nevertheless doesn’t know what Nimitz is going to do either.

Mission accomplished.  In the age of instantaneous and perfect knowledge of an opponent’s major force movements, that’s how you keep em guessing.

Top to bottom: USS Nimitz (CVN-68), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) assemble for a photo op during a 3-strike group exercise in the Pacific. USN photo

The timing couldn’t be better for this passage through carrier-presence ambiguity.  Nimitz is due for a relief in the next month or so.  And there’s a carrier strike group soon to deploy on each U.S. coast: USS Dwight D Eisenhower’s (CVN-69) on the East coast, and USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN-71) on the West coast.  By the third week of January, one or both of them is likely to be in the mix of deployed carriers, ready to be moved where they’re most needed.  Nimitz will still be deployed and ready, and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the carrier in Japan, should be available as well.

Trump is obviously not just in caretaker mode with the military maneuvers at the end of his term.  Nor is there the slightest rational basis for thinking he means to tag Iran with an attack on the way out.  He has avoided attacking Iran for four years, and has made a point of drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What he is doing is preparing to keep Iran in check, probably even without a carrier in theater if it has to be done that way.  If the carriers were needed elsewhere, it’s rather obvious where that would be.

And I suspect it’s not unrelated to what’s happening with the 2020 election and the presidential election inside the United States.  It’s a virtual certainty that Beijing is invested in the prospect of a Biden administration, and may not just sit still for an alternative ending to our protracted, sometimes surreal and even absurd election drama.

Of course an outright, kinetic military attack is not something we can expect, either on the U.S. or on our forces overseas.

But a cyber attack is very possible – and one that could induce significant damage, just as the virus from Wuhan has caused enormous damage to our economy and our political and social health.  Whether China’s leaders loosed the virus on the world deliberately or not, they undoubtedly lied about it for precious weeks in which other nations, including America, could have made earlier preparations to combat it.

Lab workers suit up in the Wuhan BSL-4 facility. New China TV video, YouTube

And they had complicity from the UN in doing so.  To assume it is all merely coincidence that the U.S. election has come under attack at the same time the other major assaults of 2020 hit – the virus, the destructive violence in our big cities – is to frankly not be very bright.  The virus may well have emerged without malign, specific intent, but the collaborative lying about it, by both China and the World Health Organization, could not possibly have done so.

Nor could the violence in American cities have erupted spontaneously, especially in light of the prior indications police departments in New York had, months before George Floyd’s death, that preparations for such violence were being made.

The problems with the U.S. election are part of a larger campaign being waged against our nation.  In dealing with the vote-tampering during the election, Trump has to be mindful of everyone who was invested in it.  It would be laughably inadequate at this point to imagine that the sole investors were in our Democratic Party.  I doubt that the main investor is even China.  It’s more likely to be a consortium of the dark-money donors who frequent Davos, Aspen, and other watering-holes, along with fixtures on the international “civil society” circuit who are mostly current or former – very senior – government officials, and now decorate think-tanks and boards of directors.

The “Old” (Eisenhower) Executive Office Building across from the White House in Washington, D.C.. (Image: Wikimedia)

The same hands can be detected behind the Russiagate hoax, Spygate, and the escalated campaign against America mounted in 2020.  My perception of what Trump has in view is that he is not trying to simply right the wrong done by vote-tampering in our 2020 election.  He’s going for the center of gravity of a dispersed and hydra-headed opponent: a combination of the “Deep State,” dark-money donors, and China (and a few other foreign governments, or at least foreign Deep States).  If a blow can’t be dealt there – and I suspect it’s a moving target, to some extent – our election stands no chance of coming up free and fair, by any reckoning.

The “election campaign”

The 2020 election is effectively one of the battlefields in a larger war that has to be waged as a whole.  It has required its own campaign, and we’re starting to see the fruit, I believe, of the key supporting effort: the use of national intelligence means to track and catch the perpetrators and the crimes.

Trump isn’t neglecting the main effort either.  On Saturday, besides talking to Brad Raffensperger, he had a conference call with state legislators in which he urged them to take action, on the basis of the known problems with the vote, and notify Congress before 6 January that their state votes and electors are not certified.  (The effort being led by Ted Cruz in the Senate may or may not help with this.  If Trump got enough states to proclaim their votes uncertified, it could be more advantageous, from the multiple perspectives he has to consider, to move on to the next step now, rather than wait for a 10-day audit period to yield a result.  That said, if the audit itself produced key revelations, it could be worth the wait, and worth the adjustment in the timetable for correlating forces.)

The other supporting effort, the move through the courts, continues.  It isn’t over yet, and in the case in Wisconsin which a judge has decided to hear, it may yield a useful result.  There are still appeals to be made, and hearings and argument as to actual evidence, rather than merely  a calculation of whether the alleged injury, or the plaintiffs’ standing, merits proceeding to that stage.  Unlike the federal case brought against Georgia in 2020, in which the judge gave very extensive consideration to lengthy presentations of evidence, the courts so far have declined to hear such presentations, and have not made their rulings based on them.

Coda: we can expect this week to keep us hopping.  We pass a notable anniversary on Wednesday, 6 January, the appointed day for the congressional vote on certifying the Electoral College vote for 2020.

I mentioned at Twitter over the weekend that it’s the Feast of the Epiphany – i.e., revelation, or illumination – in the Christian liturgical calendar.  But it’s also the fourth anniversary of 6 January 2017, the day Obama’s intel team went to brief Trump on the 2016 election “intelligence” and the Steele dossier.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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