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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Trump's attacks on Biden's mental health came from Russia

Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff

Over the last week, Donald Trump and William Barr have been working hard to un-vestigate foreign interference in the 2020 election. Also known as conduct a massive cover-up.

Only … is it still a cover-up when you’re openly dismissing the official in charge of assessing legalities around this issue, informing Congress that they’re getting no more briefings on election interference, and making it clear that no one but Barr is allowed to check in on what campaigns are up to?

Cover-up seems to imply some level of stealth. They’re not bothering with that. They’re also not bothering to hide the fact that this is an all-government effort, with Trump making no differentiation between the functions of the government and the boundaries of the Trump campaign.

In 2000, the Bush administration infamously ignored a bulletin titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the U.S.” Bush’s failure to respond to that bulletin led to the death of … almost half as many Americans who perished from Donald Trump’s COVID-19 disaster in the last week.

But now it’s Trump’s turn to dismiss a critical bulletin. Only the title of this one was “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election.” Though it’s not really fair to say that Trump ignored the bulletin. It’s more like … he absorbed it.

As ABC News reports, the bulletin was created by intelligence officials at the Department of Homeland Security in early July. It contains warnings that Russia was going to carry out operations to promote “allegations about the poor mental health” of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The draft reported that analysts had a “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors” would attack Biden with claims of poor mental health “to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.” This analysis was supposed to be distributed to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on July 9, tipping them off to potential Russian schemes.

Two days before it was set to be released, DHS chief of staff John Gountanis blocked the release with a note asking that the bulletin be held until it could be discussed with illegally acting DHS head Chad Wolf. Apparently, it was a long talk, because two months later, the bulletin has still not been released.

That delay is on the illegally installed Wolf’s orders. “After briefing the Acting Secretary and he asked questions,” said a DHS spokesperson, “career leadership decided to delay the product for further review.” 

Two months worth of further review and counting. Good thing it’s not a critical security bulletin on an issue immediately facing the nation … except it is.

As might be expected, Joe Biden has been the focus of Donald Trump’s attacks over this period—and well before. Just since June, Trump has attacked Biden 325 times on Twitter alone. 

Over that time, Trump called Biden not just “sleepy” but “slow” dozens of times. And Trump’s tweets include multiple attacks on the mental acuity of “Sleepy Joe” such as the “Do you think Joe Biden is experiencing some form of cognitive decline, such as the early stages of dementia?” tweet that Trump sent just four days ago.

By a complete non-coincidence, the draft bulletin points to a March story includes information on a website created by Russian operatives that "refuted media claims that the candidate’s gaffes are a result of a stutter, instead arguing these verbal miscues are symptoms of dementia.” 

Trump is not just protecting Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election, he is building on the messages they are using against Biden. And the lackadaisical effort in suppressing the DHS bulletin fits perfectly with Trump and Barr’s open plot to coddle foreign interference.