The last person Putin wanted to see leading the U.S. is Donald Trump

Despite the so-called hacking attempts to try to influence the results, I don’t believe Russia successfully interfered in the U.S. election in November. While no one can deny that the Russians probably attempted to — it’s a fact that the Russians and select other governments and groups try to influence elections all over the world, not just the U.S. Whatever the Russians did, or attempted to do, whether it was hacking, intercepting and reading emails, or whether it was releasing information from a strategic perspective it really didn’t have any truly measurable effect, if any affect at all.

I learned many critical lessons during my career as a U.S. Joint Military Strategic and Special Mission intelligence officer at all levels of the national security and across the U.S. intelligence communities. Among the most important was what to look for and understand about foreign propaganda, disinformation and misinformation and “false flags” – covert operations that are designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them.

While U.S. intelligence officials initially announced in early November 2016 they were “confident” that the Russian government, at its highest levels, directed hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta’s personal emails, and which were made public through WikiLeaks that the effort by Russia was not targeted against vote tabulation and voter counts, but to gather and gain internal campaign information.

In fact, the election had not even occurred yet when those efforts by Russia were conducted, if they happened at all. There is a difference between hacking into non-secure public officials private internet email accounts and electronically attempting to interfere with voting machines and swaying the actual vote count. Did they have a plan to try to and interfere, perhaps, but regardless, it certainly was not successful. Did they attempt to interfere by hacking and intercepting emails, thinking they could get away with it, of course they did – it’s what they do.

So let’s start by looking at two areas of potential impact. First, the less serious category would be the possible efforts to hack into the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and DNC officials, or to somehow encourage the spreading of “fake news” and the exploiting of misinformation. As noted, the Intelligence Community had already declared it was “confident” that Russia “directed” the widespread hacking of “U.S. political organizations.” Those led to months and months of email leaks of stories about Hillary Clinton. But most of that information was already known via other sources. We already knew much about Clinton’s Benghazi scandal and her private email server and account. Much of that we learned from Congressional Committees and hearings over the past 3-4 years. WikiLeaks however, revealed the Clinton Campaign, the DNC, and Podesta’s corroboration efforts were conducted to destroy and eliminate Bernie Sanders.

Whether, Russia provided that info to WikiLeaks, or it was via other sources, we may never know. And by the time of the November 2016 general election that information was pretty much irrelevant. Fast forward to last Friday, following President Obama’s order for an investigation, senior administration officials confirm that the investigation will focus on the hacking of the emails of Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta and DNC officials and how that caused Hillary to loose and Trump to win. Hence the stop spun by the White House that the Russian’s did it to help Trump win, by leaking Hillary’s emails.

The more serious category of the investigations and findings would be to discover or identify some form of deliberately compromising of the actual U.S. electoral process, but the chances of that would appear to be extremely remote. I will address that aspect further, later in this analysis.

That said, so why now does the Obama administration and the Democrats, and even some Republicans want to go forward and investigate the impact of the election as it pertains to Donald Trump to determine if it helped Mr. Trump get elected. The reason is President Barack Obama seems to fear that president-elect Trump will ignore U.S. intelligence that Russia may have used cyber tools to influence the result of the November 8th general election. And with good reason in Obama’s mind, because he believes Mr. Trump has displayed intense skepticism of what U.S. intelligence agencies regard as a profound risk to the American electoral system. Other Democrats have other reasons…pay back for Hillary’s loss of course comes to mind. And the other is the Obama White House fear that President Trump dismantle everything Obama accomplished and destroying his legacy.

So in retaliation, Obama is attempting to make a strong case of this in an effort to box Trump in politically — ordering a definitive investigative report on Russia’s cyber-intrusions before he leaves office in six weeks. The goal of Obama’s review of course is totally political and is most likely Obama’s attempt to prevent Mr. Trump from further casting doubt on Russia’s alleged involvement in the hacks, and the fact that the story of Russia helping to orchestrate a Trump win as legitimate.

Late last week, the Washington Post reported that the CIA has since concluded that the aim of the cyber intrusions was to help Mr. Trump win the election. Of course, Mr. Trump sees it differently as do most of us, with Mr. Trump wanting to prove the disastrous impact of eight-years of the politically and ideological-driven Obama administration and its politicization of the intelligence community, let alone the preponderance of our politicized national security policy.

Mr. Trump also wants to draw the distinction of foreign intelligence penetration and intercept against U.S. targets and that of cyber hacking against internet email systems versus non-connected, individual voting systems across the country that are run by each state’s Divisions of Election’s and county Supervisors of Elections (SOEs). This distinction alone negates the likelihood and perhaps nearly impossible chances of a foreign government or entity from massively affecting nationwide voting tabulation and vote counting across every county and district precinct across America.

Similarly, the New York Times quoted senior Obama administration officials as saying there was “high confidence” that the Russians hacked both the Democratic and Republican National Committees, but leaked only documents damaging to Clinton through WikiLeaks. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman and Mr. Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, said this past Sunday that the FBI had investigated and told the RNC it had not been hacked. At the same time, the FBI had investigated Russia’s internal cyber efforts against the U.S. political and electoral process and told the RNC that its computer systems and network had not been hacked.

Further, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has continued to deny any links or attribution to the Moscow and the Russian government. To that end Mr. Trump dismissed the intelligence reports, asserting there is “great confusion” over the issue within the spy agencies. “Nobody really knows,” he said. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. They have no idea.” Mr. Trump suggested he had little confidence in the U.S. intelligence agencies and would clean house once in office, saying “we’re going to have different people coming in because we have our people, they have their people.” Mr. Trump is obviously getting the trusted inside scope about goings-on inside the intelligence community from his key national security and intelligence experts, who are well of aware of  the continuous politicization and manipulation by the Obama administration officials and senior leadership placed inside the upper levels of the intelligence and national security communities.

Mr. Trump has kept the U.S. intelligence community at arm’s length since his election, pointedly eschewing their daily briefing on world threats. No doubt he is getting the critical information he needs from his two leading senior intelligence advisors Congressman Mike Pompeo his choice for CIA and Lt Gen Mike Flynn his national security advisor and the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Be reassured, Mr. Trump has competent people, who will ensure he gets the necessary and correct intelligence information he needs, when he needs it. In addition, I can assure you, there will be a serious vetting internally within the intelligence community to reestablish the necessary integrity and trust, again after eight-years of the Obama administration’s mishandling of intelligence information and policy.

Further, Mr. Trump’s dismissal of CIA and intelligence communities’ consensus on possible Russian hacking, also suggesting it’s an attempt by the Obama White House and the Democrats to find an excuse for their embarrassing election loss, as are others in the administration and Congress who are not Trump supporters and who are obviously contributing to this elaborate scheme. The U.S. intelligence has previously linked Russia to leaks of damaging emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, but assessed it to be a broad bid to undermine confidence in the U.S. political process, and not an effort to affect the outcome of the November Election. What information the Russians and or any other country, foreign political entity or organization, or terrorist group may have obtained from Hillary Clinton’s private email server is not known because it has not been revealed, nor has any information been corroborated via WikiLeaks, Russia or other nation’s leaks. While Ms. Clinton may believe she was safe from being found out or so she thought she was, since she had tens of thousands of emails destroyed or at least it would not be found out for some time, well after the election.

Those of us who are career intelligence professionals know all too well the real value and impact of political, national security, and personal business secrets obtained from high-ranking leaders and government officials (like Hillary Clinton), unbeknownst to them, and or without their knowledge. Such information collected through various methods of espionage can later prove to be damaging, at the personal level and or to the individual leader’s nation; by way of blackmail, bribery, or extortion. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Russians and others have this information, they would have saved it for future use against her, should Clinton had been elected President — movies can be made about this, and no doubt will. And it would have been extremely embarrassing both for her and America.

Let me take a minute to talk about who is actually crafting and pushing the tailored and tainted intelligence to President Obama, in again, this elaborate scheme. The impact of the Obama administration and its direct influence on our intelligence community is significant and has been detrimental. The following must be heavily weighed. One major fact that Americans need to be aware of and realize is that the CIA and significant areas of the Senior Intelligence Community are after 8-years, have well in- place loyal political appointees of Barack Obama. They are extremely well versed in political manipulation of information to ensure intelligence information, analysis, and assessments are written to support and correlate to the President Obama’s beliefs, ideology, and political agenda. These are not the career professionals, who serve with dignity and integrity and have taken an oath to the Constitution, these are hard-core political operatives and stalwarts in-charge at senior-levels of our government’s departments and agencies who job it is implement Obama’s agenda and provide the necessary spin to ensure Obama‘s policies are presented and to appear to be legitimate.

As we have seen so many, many times before with this administration — theses spin-masters orchestrate, manipulate, and craft misinformation, disinformation, an-out and-out lies for the sake of Obama’s reputation, approval ratings, and of course his legacy. From the Russian Re-set, the ousting of long-time U.S. ally and friend Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, and Benghazi to the falsified intelligence supporting the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq, to the Iran Nuclear Deal, to implementing undo pressure from the White House and senior-levels of the Intelligence Community on U.S. Central Command’s leadership and intelligence analysts to change their assessments in order to make ISIS appear less capable — this administration will stoop to any-level to alter and politicize intelligence, to fit Mr. Obama’s and the political left’s agenda.

To ensure their efforts are not internally challenged, they use threats and forced non-disclosure statements to bound and silence career national security professionals to remain silent, threatening careers and the livelihood of families – we saw this with Benghazi survivors and those in the know, being forced to sign non-disclosure statements, not to protect American security, but to protect Hillary and Obama and his legacy.

Following November’s election results, the Obama administration, the Democrats, and their supporters still cannot bring themselves to accept the outcome. They continue their non-stop effort to seek ways to find legal and fabricated loop-holes and ‘fake news” accounts to negate the results of the election — implementing recounts, and now the incessant regurgitated excuse that Russia manipulated the election because Putin wanted Mr. Trump to win. Why this argument, because Mr. Trump suggested that he liked Putin as a leader — more so because he sees Putin as a guy who got stuff done. And certainly, not because of Putin’s ideology and oligarchian methods. He essentially implied that he respected Putin as a strong leader, which by the way, he is. While neither Putin nor Trump have ever met personally, Mr. Trump recognizes that Putin is a world leader to be reckoned with, and after all, Russia is the world’s second or third most powerful nation, militarily, politically and economically.

Secondly, as I previously noted – the other are of potential impact, is the actual capability of Russia to affect the U.S. election process — as it pertains to our voting process and the actual physical collection and tabulation of ballots. That would be nearly impossible to do so via hacking. While voter fraud is prevalent through the country, it actually occurs at local levels; county by county and city by city. The information still must be collected, gathered, or manipulated manually. That’s the way the current systems around the country are set-up. The likelihood that Russia was able or would be able to significantly affect the outcome of a U.S. election by hacking our voting systems is quite remote, and extremely difficult. Particularly, if the implication that is trying to be made by the Democrats and the Republican anti-Trumpers,  pertains to actually affecting the outcome and or tampering with voting machines, the vote number count, tabulation, and affecting the actual outcome of the election.

To do nationwide or even at a regional level would be practically impossible. Every state has separate electronic voting machines and vote tabulation systems. As does each county which are run by their county’s respective Supervisors of Elections (SOEs).  Voting machines are not connected to those in other counties. This is the reason we have Supervisors of Elections in every county, in every state. The SOE’s are responsible for elections in their own individual counties. Nor are the voting machines connected to the internet. Each of the state’s Division of Elections provides oversight over each county to ensure credibility and integrity of the voting process. Does voter and election fraud happen? Of course it does, but it has to be manipulated machine by machine, precinct by precinct, and of course voter registration fraud. Then there are counties that still use paper ballots, along with mail-in ballots, and the absentee ballots which are also paper. Again, these are managed, audited, and ballot security provided, which is handled by and is the responsibility of each county’s SOE.

So is there any proof the Russians hacked the election or attempted to influence the November 2016 U.S. election? Here’s what we essentially know to date;

Despite the claims by the mainstream media, there is actually no new information leading the CIA and the intelligence community to its conclusion. Further, as the New York Times reported that the C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election. In fact, it is actually was an analysis of what many experts believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that most intelligence experts claim does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.

In other words, someone (most likely senior officials in the Obama administration) only decided after Mr. Trump won that the accusation was worth making. As a result, the evidence that the CIA has gathered is inconclusive. The FBI also disagrees with aspects of the CIA’s conclusions about Russia’s motives. And while lawmakers were seemingly united on the need to present a strong bipartisan response — the FBI and CIA gave lawmakers differing accounts on Russia’s motives, the CIA is not making public claims that Russia hacked the election. CIA veterans, in fact, clam that, is left-wing “fake news,” there is no evidence Russian hackers actually distorted the voting process. The most that the CIA is alleging is that the Russians may have helped third party players hack the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails and the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. There is zero evidence Russian hackers messed with voting machines, the voting system, and the vote count. One Russian hacking group in particular, known to cybersecurity researchers as “Fancy Bear” and believed to be operated by the Russian GRU, their main foreign intelligence agency (equivalent to the CIA) may have helped to coordinate the release of some information acquired from the DNC.

But, as noted, that is not the same thing as surgically hacking the vast patchwork of American voting systems in such a way as to turn three states that were not even considered swing states until election night so effectively that the outcome of the vote was reversed. Ironically, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount has eliminated any doubt about the integrity of the results.

The fact that the Russians might constantly be trying to hack U.S. systems, and might even specifically have targeted the election, does not prove that they succeeded. Nor does it prove that they tipped the election to Mr. Trump even if they had some effect. As the well know pollster Frank Luntz noted; “Did Russia also hack Hillary’s campaign calendar and delete all her stops in rural Wisconsin, Penn[sylvania]., and Michigan?” Hillary Clinton lost the election for reasons entirely of her own making. From the standpoint of leadership and dealing with the U.S., I there is much evidence that Mr. Putin and the Kremlin would much rather have Hillary Clinton on the White House. Her four-years as Secretary of State proved she was putty in the hands of Moscow – exercising no formulated, sound, or coherent foreign policy along with an endless track record of failure.

As noted previously, the Obama administration again has had a history of manipulating intelligence for political gain. The most under-reported scandal of Obama’s presidency was the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) intelligence scandal, in which it emerged that senior leaders manipulated intelligence assessments between 2014 and 2015 to make it appear that Mr. Obama was winning the war against the Islamic State, aka ISIS. And of course, the numerous other scandals and extensive list of foreign policies failures, all of which somewhere along the line involve perjury, lying, and cover-ups. This gives even more reason to doubt the truth of a selective leak about the election and certainly an effort by Putin to get Mr. Trump elected.

Likewise, in totally separate interviews by different media outlets, both former UN Ambassador John Bolton and WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange have vigorously denied that the Russians were involved in WikiLeaks’ disclosures. Of the Democratic National Committee emails, Assange said that is the circumstantial evidence that the Russians or someone who wanted to make it look like the Russians were involved. Known as “False Flag operations, as previously noted, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton earlier this week discussed this at length suggesting that is was in a fact probably the result of a False Flag effort to implicate Russia by another government of foreign asymmetric entity.

With that, understand that foreign interference in elections is nothing new — and the Obama administration is a prime culprit. In 2015, the Obama administration made a strenuous and not-terribly-well-hidden effort to swing the Israeli elections toward the opposition and away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Secretary of State John Kerry’s State Department gave $300,000 to a “pro-peace” Israeli group, which then paid political activists whose goal was to unseat Netanyahu. Further, in 1984, the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) actually asked for the Soviet Union’s help to prevent Ronald Reagan from being reelected.

What would the consequences of allowing undue Russian influence in our elections be, exactly? Would we yield primacy in Eastern Europe to Vladimir Putin? Would we give up our plans for missile defense? Would we make deep unilateral cuts in our nuclear arsenal in exchange for flimsy concessions? Would we tolerate a Russian land invasion of a friendly, pro-Western country? Would we cede the Middle East to Russian hegemony? Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and President Obama already did that. So it stands to reason, Putin would want to continue that success with the election of Hillary Clinton, and certainly not Mr. Trump.

The simplest explanation for the so-called Russian hacking is that it is fake news that it provides an easily believed story that suits the left-wing media, the political pundits, the Democrat Party and the Obama White House. It is not unknown for Russia to use false propaganda to affect public opinion in foreign countries. Nor is it unknown for the U.S. media to use bias, fake news, and outright lies to shift public opinion in this country. The current focus on Russian hacking, based on no new evidence and — again — zero evidence of tampering with the voting process, is really a false narrative to destroy and delegitimize President-Elect Donald Trump.

In the end we dodged a potential blackmail bullet had Hillary Clinton been elected President. We for the most part know the Russians hacked Hillary’s private server in her home, along with the four or five other countries. The Intelligence Community and the FBI claimed that in fact that occurred. And because of that we can surmise that the Russian and others are and were holding that information precisely for future use against a President Clinton. The Russians could and would have held her and the U.S. political hostage, threatening to release her emails that she tried to Bleach Bit as well as destroy with a hammer (i.e.; her cell phones). To date we don’t know exactly what the Russians or other foreign government or asymmetric entity obtained from her computers and servers. This is because, they have not released and what was on her computers and servers were deleted.

Anyone who believes that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to elected is a fool, correction … are delusional and damned fools. The Russians and Putin wanted Hillary because she will do their work for them — her track record as Secretary of State proves it. She gave Russia and Putin everything he wanted while he was at the helm of the State Department.

With regard to Donald Trump and his relationship with Putin, there is none, other than that Mr. Trump publicly stated that he respected Putin as the leader of Russia and because he should be. Why, because he’s a tough, because he is a formidable opponent and adversary, and is respected and perhaps feared worldwide by many. The reality is, Donald Trump is the last guy Putin wants to have to deal with in the White House. As cunning as Mr. Putin is, Mr. Trump is tougher. I tend to believe that Putin is actually a bit scared of Donald Trump, as he is of Rex Tillison, nominated as Mr. Trump’s Secretary of State, particularly because Mr. Tillison knows quite a bit about Putin — what makes him tick, how operates, how he reacts, and how he negotiates. There’s an old adage; keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Add Generals John Mattis at the Pentagon and Mike Flynn as national security advisor to foreign policy mix, along with SecState Tillison and President Donald Trump as the vanguards of our national security, Putin knows they will be tough to bullshit.

This elaborate scheme is essentially a continuation of the Democrats, the political Left, and the #NeverTrumpers war against Donald Trump. Despite their rhetoric that, “this is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election.” Or we’re not trying to relitigate the election, or we’re just trying to prevent this from happening again.

They still cannot fathom and get over the fact that Donald Trump won the election. This is one more chapter in their ongoing effort to delegitimize and destroy Mr. Trump and to render his administration ineffective. They have no interest in reversing the anti-Americanism, economic and cultural catastrophe, and destructive socialist policies of the Obama administration, and the division it has created with in America.

Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served combat and combat-support tours in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as on numerous special operations and special mission intelligence contingencies in Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units, and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force, as well as in international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism. He is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He currently provides advisory and consulting services on national security, international strategic policy and strategy matters for the private sector, media groups and outlets, and to political entities, forums, and political candidates. He provides regular commentary and opinion to national and local TV, radio networks, and both print and online publications, as well as speaking engagements to business, political, civic and private community groups in the areas of national security -- focusing international strategic policy, strategic engagement, strategic intelligence, special mission intelligence and operations, counter-terrorism, and asymmetric conflict. He has served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and is Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC, which provides strategic and operational security analysis and assessments, and strategic planning to governmental and private entities, as well as media organizations on national security issues, policy, and processes.