Weekly Feature

2017-07-13 / Editorial

What do deflated footballs have to do with election hacking?

Managing Editor

Imagine if the ownership and coaching staffs of the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots were to discuss a joint venture to prevent teams from tampering with game balls in an effort to keep competition fair.

After all, the Patriots were found guilty of tampering with game balls during the 2015 AFC championship game. Quarterback Tom Brady eventually dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension imposed by the league. Why would any team trust the honesty of a team that cheated?

This is pretty much what President Donald Trump proposed last week when he talked about working with the Russians, a nation that allegedly interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“[President Vladimir] Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” Trump said Sunday on Twitter. “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham broke from the party line.

“When it comes to Russia, I am dumbfounded, I am disappointed, and at the end of the day, he’s hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is a bad guy,” Graham said on “Meet the Press.” “He is literally the only person I know of who doesn’t believe Russia attacked our election in 2016.”

Graham stressed that there is no evidence the Russian meddling influenced the vote, but he said that by denying the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump “throws our intelligence communities under the bus,” according to news source The Hill.

“I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency, and to help President Trump’s election chances,” said former CIA Director John Brennan during a May 23 House Intelligence Committee hearing, according to The Washington Post.

Graham calls it the president’s “forgive and forget” approach.

Another news source, Roll Call, reported Monday that Sen. Maria Cantwell has been warning the administration that Congress needs to do more to keep the nation’s energy supply safe from cyberattacks. Reports from The New York Times last week indicated that Russian-backed groups may be responsible for recent targeted cyberattacks on nuclear power plants and grid operation system manufacturers, threatening the electric grid and the economy it supports, according to Roll Call.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokesman said in an email to Roll Call that “The Committee is aware of these reports and is monitoring the situation. There is much we do not know at this time, but we are in contact with the relevant authorities and stakeholders.” The president backpedaled on the security issue on Monday.

“The fact that President Putin and I discussed a cyber security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen,” he tweeted.

So why sit down with an untrustworthy head of state and propose such a concession?

Perhaps it was an attempt to follow up on the following Trump tweet from June 16:

“After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my ‘collusion with the Russians,’ nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!”

The NFL investigation found that Brady was “generally aware” of the conduct of two Patriots’ employees regarding the altered balls. Aren’t we “generally aware” that the Russians have something up their sleeve? (Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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