This will be “quick and dirty”: an update that is by no means comprehensive and merely covers items that merit priority reflection. I’m going to bang through it quickly, as Wednesday morning is coming like a freight train.
The Senate election in Georgia probably hasn’t surprised anyone who’s been paying attention, or at least hasn’t surprised them very much. Perdue and Loeffler were behind to begin with, then started gaining ground, with both surpassing their opponents.
After a sudden surge, Loeffler’s opponent, Warnock, took the lead again and the race was quickly declared for him by the media’s go-to race-callers. The Perdue-Ossoff race, with Perdue clinging to the tiniest of leads, remains too close to call.
The theme is floating around in the media that we may not know the outcome of the Perdue race for several days.
As discussed in the LU election thread, I did find it curious that President Trump tweeted at 10:28 PM Eastern seeming to prophesy that a ballot dump was going to be arranged soon. Oddly enough, about 35 minutes later, the first Twitter notices emerged that Chatham County, Georgia was suspending its ballot counting for the night.
At 11:39 PM (see the video embedded at the top link; scroll down for it), just as the Georgia Secretary of State spokesman began to discuss that suspension, the broadcast from his speaking location abruptly cut off – clearly surprising the Atlanta 11 Alive news anchor. (First take: the SoS office cut everyone off because it didn’t have a party line statement ready on the Chatham County suspension, and didn’t want anyone saying anything that might have to be walked back later. I think these guys know how high the stakes are for them, as in, personally.)
And, yes, again with the Sudden Vote Losses showing up in the mounting tallies running on news screens.
Fraud. 🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/9Ab0zKmvhT
— Badley (@badley67) January 6, 2021
Replies in the tweet thread refer to at least one instance of Democrat Jon Ossoff also losing votes, although his loss was much smaller (5,000 as opposed to 32,400 for Perdue). But the question is why it happens at all. It’s inexcusable: it cannot be written off as routine, if the American people are supposed to trust the outcome of the vote.
It defies logical possibility that all of these repeated instances of similar and/or suspicious patterns are mere coincidence.
That’s basically the character of what happened on Tuesday, 5 January. Observers are justified in finding it extremely peculiar and not trusting the outcome in Georgia. Whatever the purported outcome, it can’t be blamed on inadequate turnout. Turnout has been huge, by any standard.
This leaves us with the question of where everything goes now. It’s 6 January in Washington, D.C. as I write this. There will be some kind of action in Congress related to the electoral vote. What it may be is uncertain, however.
Pennsylvania’s lawmakers sent a letter to both houses of Congress asking that the state’s votes not be considered certified for the purposes of the 6 January decision. They cited the violations of state law surrounding the vote, and asked for a delay to allow for a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to be heard.
— Rob & Flat _ (@robandflat) January 6, 2021
This could bolster the effort in the Senate spearheaded by Ted Cruz to delay the electoral certification vote in favor of a 10-day audit, to be held in the states where there has been substantial evidence of vote-tampering and procedural violations.
I wonder, as mentioned in the Georgia runoff post, if the Democrats might decide it’s in their interest to seat two new Democratic senators if they can, before holding the certification vote on the Electoral College results. If the four known GOP objectors to disputing the electoral vote – i.e., Romney, Murkowski, etc. – voted with the Democrats, the EC vote exactly as it stands now could be accepted, without any tie-breaking by Vice President Pence.
As with each of these topics, there’s a great deal more we could say about that.
Those seem to be the highlights as regards the main effort of Trump’s “Operation Vote,” however. There’s one state so far saying “not so fast” on its vote certification, and a plan being offered in the Senate to essentially put conditions on moving forward with certification.
As regards the supporting effort of lawsuits, I haven’t seen any game-changing updates on that since the last article.
As regards the key supporting effort of national security intelligence, however, and the developments in national security conditions that relate to our 2020 election, a couple of event sequences bear a bit more scrutiny.
The phone call heard round the world
The more I think about the Trump-Raffensperger phone call, the more it doesn’t sit right with me to give it only a superficial assessment. Far from being foolish and incontinent on Trump’s part, it appears to me that it was necessary for Trump’s purposes.
Others, like LU contributor Jeff Dunetz, have done a good job showing that the media caricature of what Trump was doing in the call is biased. That’s an always-pertinent point about the media, but it’s not the sum total of what we can meaningfully say about the phone call.
I saw somewhere on Tuesday that Trump tried “18 times” to get Raffensperger to take the call. I have no idea if that number is correct, but what matters is that Trump solicited the call, and then pounded through his points in careful, deliberate language.
It sounded, frankly, like a call Trump knew would be heard by the public. That means it would also be a public record in any proceedings in court or Congress. My assessment is that Trump meant for it to be heard. He didn’t have to “leak” it because he knew someone else would.
If you want to, you can merely hear Trump in this call importuning Raffensperger to “find” 11,000 votes for him.
But you can also hear Trump saying, basically, “I know I have a lot more votes than that, and I’m giving you (Raffensperger) a last chance to loosen up some of them by doing your job on just one or two of the couple dozen forms of violation and irregularity my people have found.”
One thing that helps you hear that is Trump’s seemingly unnecessary point about having found a way to prove that Dominion machines were mis-tabulating the vote. Let’s go to the transcript again, from the last “Operation Vote” article (emphasis 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.
So, Trump interrupted Cleta Mitchell, one of his lawyers, as she was telling Raffensperger their team wasn’t going to make use of the Dominion cyber angle – e.g., the suspect vote tabulation methods and security concerns. Trump interrupted her to emphasize that his (Trump’s) people had found a basis for using it.
But he also said they didn’t have the intention to use it. That appears to be in the context of Trump’s beef with the state of Georgia, which is the subject of the lawsuit that prompted the phone call. Trump was saying it wasn’t their intention to raise the Dominion machines issue as a source of complaint against Georgia.
But he nevertheless made a point of being able to prove things in that regard. It’s quite interesting that he did so, given how quiet he and his officials have been about that topic from the beginning. He’s let Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and their stable of experts do all the talking on that. Moreover, the actions we know of that have been taken by his administration are focused on procedural violations in handling the vote – highly irregular ballot-counting conditions, violating state voting laws – and not the Dominion systems per se.
Yet in the phone call, he issued what comes across as a warning about his ability to act in that realm – the suspicious shenanigans of Dominion machines – even while saying he’s not going to use it (at least not in the lawsuit against Georgia).
He could have just let Ms. Mitchell’s point stand, without commenting on it. But he didn’t.
That sounds like a marker he needed to put down, to establish that Raffensperger was aware of what he (Trump) had the capacity to know, regarding what Dominion machines were doing.
There really wasn’t any other reason to make that point. In fact, if Trump hadn’t been pretty certain the whole phone call would be disclosed, I don’t know that he would even have said it.
The more I look at this phone call, the more it looks like a move by Trump, and one for which he wrote the script.
Keep in mind a core premise here: that Trump in fact knows he has a lot more votes than he was asking Raffensperger to shake loose. If we at least consider that possibility, everything he’s doing makes sense.
And keep this in mind as well: using U.S. intelligence and cyber ops methods, he has the means to know it. Speculating that he does is not fanciful; it’s just not based on specific evidence, but on known capabilities, opportunity, and probable intent.
One thing I am in a position to know: the U.S. federal government knows a whole lot of things that you don’t have evidence it knows. So when I speak of lack of evidence in this case – talking about what Trump may know through intelligence means – that’s not a weakness of the case made in public about what he could know. It just goes with the territory. Some things, you may never be told outright that the government knows. But that doesn’t mean government authorities don’t know it or aren’t acting on it. (It also doesn’t mean they’re omniscient, of course. That’s not the point. But it remains informative that Trump has been so very quiet about the national intel it’s quite possible to have on the infrastructure and activities of the 2020 election, while yet speaking with assurance of the votes he “knows” he has, and not behaving at all as if he expects to be out of office in two weeks.)
A brief cyber nicknames drive-by
This one can be very short. There’s no proof of it that I can discern, and I’d be fully prepared to let it go on condition of disproof. Mere mockery isn’t good enough, however.
Tuesday saw reporting that the DNI office says the Advanced Persistent Threat actor behind the massive SolarWinds attack is “likely Russian in origin.” Back in mid-December, we saw, like clockwork, reporting attributed to unnamed “sources” that the culprit is Fancy Bear, or Advanced Persistent Threat 29 (APT29): one of the miscreant entities fingered in the 2015-16 intrusion into Democratic computer systems.
We also know that in 2017, WikiLeaks was allowed to publish code-level material on a CIA capability to mimic the cyber exploits of threat actors like foreign governments. A deal with the U.S. Justice Department could have minimized the disclosures from that leak, but James Comey spiked the deal during the DOJ’s negotiations with Julian Assange.
So the tools are out there. Anybody could use them to mimic Fancy Bear in attacking SolarWinds and a list of U.S. government agencies. That “anybody” could even be the CIA, U.S. Cyber Command, or a red team of contractors hired by the Department of Defense.
It could be anybody. Where do you have to probe, when you think about it, to hack the Deep State? The executive bureaucracies of the federal government are one of the chief cyber environments you’d target.
Sauce served? If I had the task, I’d go straight for the government-contracted AWS clouds. One thing this proto-hypothesis would explain is this Trump tweet about having the SolarWinds situation “under control”:
….discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA. @DNI_Ratcliffe @SecPompeo
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2020
This is too long already, so I’ll just shotgun this out. Iran, as many readers probably know, seized a South Korean merchant tanker on 4 January, forcing it into port Bandar Abbas to await its fate as the hostage in a demand that Seoul unblock $7 billion in sanctioned Iranian assets.
Iran didn’t pick South Korea at random. I assume, with high confidence, that the tiebreaker for this move at this time was China’s desire to get leverage over South Korea. There’s something going on in North Korea, with Kim Jong-Un having forgone his New Year’s speech, but also now convening a rare session of the party congress (the first in five years), and starting it with uncharacteristic apologies for past failures.
The tanker seizure looks like an escalating strong-arm move (by China and Iran), and it is not uninteresting that it’s occurring simultaneously with a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The media coverage we’re seeing of that is all heavily slanted to the Qatari interpretation – highly gratifying to Doha – that the Saudis, after cutting ties with Qatar and ostracizing Qatar within the GCC, have blinked.
But the prospect of a Biden administration is no reason for Riyadh to do such a thing. It’s actually fatuous to argue for that interpretation; if anything, the Saudis would hang onto their Qatar Cut-off and hold out for assurances from a Biden administration before making any concessions in that regard.
Getting Qatar back under the GCC roof is something the Saudis would be willing to do for little apparent gain only if they were confident there would be a payoff. An ascendant Iran, freed from Trump’s pressure, is exactly the opposite of the condition that would induce the Saudis to give up their tougher posture on Qatar (Iran’s best friend in the Gulf).
A Biden administration will give the Saudis nothing that they want. This move by the Saudis only looks rational if they expect Trump to remain in office.
That gives one to think, about who knows which facts regarding the U.S. election and any special insight the Trump administration may have based on national security monitoring of it.
At any rate, here’s what goes along with Iran’s seizure of the South Korean tanker Hankuk Chemi. At RedState, streiff has a good compilation of treatments, including statements from China, that point to the trenchantly-worded thesis of his headline: “China Announces That It Won the 2020 Election and Expects to Collect on Its Investment.”
Basically, yeah. China is crowing over the prospect of a Biden White House. China doesn’t seem to be daunted by the likelihood that Biden wouldn’t see a four-year term out. I’m thinking China knows better than the America public does who would really be in charge (again, not Kamala Harris. Stop that).
Then there’s Xi Jinping’s order to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday to “prepare to ‘act at any second’ and maintain ‘full-time combat readiness.’” This order was written up in the South China Morning Post and reported at Breitbart.
This isn’t intelligence our national command authorities would have needed about China’s military posture. They would already have a good idea what that posture is, and Beijing knows that. This is information about the message China wants to convey in a public sense: for diplomacy, for shaping expectations, for the region, for the world, for the American people.
It’s a big gun to pull. It would be a shallow interpretation, to think that it’s a form of brinkmanship we can defuse by ushering Biden into the Oval Office. It’s precisely because there’s a U.S. presidential transition in the offing, but surrounded by uncertainty, that China has pulled this one just at this time.
China is one of the authors of that uncertainty. Xi’s not going to just holster his big gun again if Biden is making Zoom-call addresses from the White House on 21 January. Xi has pulled it because, one way or another, he intends to use it, whether for intimidation or for actual kinetic tagging on a short list of Chinese priorities. The brief flux of an uncertain transition period in Washington is the time for Xi to set up the move. A President Biden would just make it easier for him.