In 2016, if you were born then, you might remember how weird and unsettling that election season was, as we realized in real time that the presidential race was under attack from Russia, our most hostile adversary. As time went on, it would become clear Russia wasn't just seeking to sow chaos — though that was part of it — but rather was actively working to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Today is Tuesday, July 21, 2020, and the general election is 105 days away. For context, Thursday, July 21, 2016, was the last day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The Russian ambassador had just met with Trump officials at the RNC, and the GOP platform had been bizarrely amended to weaken American support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. The next day, Friday, as journalists started heading toward Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, Russian intelligence front WikiLeaks would drop a shit-ton of DNC emails to create chaos in the Democratic primary and weaken support for Hillary Clinton.

Every day in that campaign was a new, fucked up moment, where things were just off. Something was wrong, and everybody who gave a shit knew it. This year, shit is still wrong, but it's not a surprise.

Monday, July 20, 2020 — yesterday, if you are keeping track of what day it is — Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, released a statement on foreign interference in our elections, which Russia is engaged in again for the same reasons as last time. He is not taking Russia lying down:

When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America's sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security.

Biden cites Trump FBI Director Christopher Wray's statement that Russia is absolutely at it again in 2020, and expresses regret that we don't have an America right now where both major political parties give a shit about this. (Subtext: The GOP is fine with Russian interference, and so is Trump, because it's the only way he can win.)

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

However, don't get too comfy, Russia:

In spite of President Trump's failure to act, America's adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation's government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In other words, Joe Biden will kick Russia's fucking ass, just like we would be kicking Russia's fucking ass right now if we had an actual American president, for paying Taliban fighters bounties to kill American troops.

Biden closes by saying he doesn't want to "escalate tensions with Russia or any other country," but if he has to, he will: "[I]f any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs." All right then.

In 2016, as it became clear to President Barack Obama's administration what Russia was doing, Obama went to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had been briefed as part of the Gang of Eight on what was going on, and asked him to join him in a bipartisan condemnation of the attack. In response, McConnell not only told the Obama administration to fuck off, he also questioned the intelligence showing that Russia was behind the attack, like a common Donald Trump. Oh yeah, and he told Obama that he would call it dirty and uncool "partisan politics" if Obama told America the Russians were attacking the election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

And then (AND THEN!) McConnell had the fucking gall later on to blame Obama for the success of the Russian attack on that election, literally saying Obama didn't do enough to stop it.

This year is different. Everybody fucking knows Russia is doing this. Nobody is going to go on "Meet The Press" and have Chuck Todd look at them like they are just wild-eyed and crazy to suggest Russia is currently attacking the election. (Probably.) Everybody knooooooows.

And Biden saying this early and often and as loudly as possible? Well, you're either with him or you're against him, and if you're against him, you're Russia and its chosen candidate. Again.

Trump has refused repeatedly to say he won't accept foreign reacharounds. He was impeached for extorting Ukraine to help him win re-election, using congressionally appropriated money Ukraine desperately needs to fight its hot war against Trump's buddies in Russia. He's been barking up China's tree for the same help for ages.

Everybody knooooooows.

It's not that we won't be surprised by specific things that happen between now and November 3. It's going to be an absolute shitshow. It's remarkable right now that Russia appears to be, using proxies in Ukraine, laundering bullshit propaganda through America's most impressionable GOP senator, Ron Johnson, in order to smear the Bidens.

But it's not the same kind of surprise it was in 2016. Once you realize what Russia and any other hostile foreign actor are doing, it's like "Oh, that makes sense that they would do that, considering. We get it."

Politico reports on what's happening inside the Biden campaign:

[T]he Biden camp believes [Russian interference] at least requires constant attention, and has invested significant resources into monitoring the disinformation, according to three people close to the campaign. It has stood up a team that works with the DNC to track misinformation and foreign interference efforts, which is now positioned to quickly flag issues to staff to determine the best response, the people said—though in most cases, that means no overt response at all.

Michael Carpenter, the managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement who now serves as an informal foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign, said the campaign is "closely monitoring and exposing these methods, and actors, as Russian tools, precisely so that it's unmistakably clear to the American people, if something fabricated or tampered with or dishonestly presented were to drop later in the campaign, that it's coming from the same people who have been spewing lies and disinformation for months."

Read the whole thing, because there's much more.

Point is, the Biden campaign sees this shit coming. That's a much stronger position to be in than where we were in 2016.

The next 105 days are still going to be hot garbage, though. Sorry.


[Biden statement / Politico]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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