Last night I wrote that it was a problem that Senator Sanders sat on the information that Vladimir Putin was interfering in the Democratic primaries to elevate his candidacy for a month. That by waiting, by not finding a way to get the information released or even leaked in a manner that he could control to get ahead of the information, he placed himself at the mercy of someone else leaking it. Someone else did leak it. And that leak was not done to assist Senator Sanders or his campaign. By sitting on the information, Senator Sanders made himself vulnerable to the other two principal leaders who also had the information: the President and Vladimir Putin. Neither of whom wants Senator Sanders to be the nominee because they want him to become President. Rather the President wants Senator Sanders to be the nominee because he has determined that Senator Sanders will be the easiest of the Democratic primary candidates to defeat. Vladimir Putin wants Senator Sanders to be the nominee because he has assessed that Senator Sanders is the most likely to create chaos within the Democratic Party, which furthers his goal of seeing the President reelected.
As was easily predictable, the information is now being weaponized by the President’s surrogates.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien tells ABC in interview to air tomorrow that he hasn't seen any evidence of Russia seeking to help Trump. Asked whether Russia might be helping Sanders, he says reports could be credible. "That's no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow."
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) February 22, 2020
Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor (APNSA) O’Brien’s statement clearing the President of suspicion, but reaffirming the negative information against Senator Sanders will just be the first of many. Expect the Acting DNI, Ambassador Grennell, to make similar statements. Likely backed up by further leaks and/or official disclosures. US intelligence will be weaponized to dirty up Senator Sanders by the political loyalists the President has placed in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The narrative will be to tie the information that Putin is interfering in the primaries on behalf of Senator Sanders with Senator Sanders long history of support for hard socialist and communist leaders and officials in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia. This may not be fair, but this is what is going to happen.
This influence campaign, one which will be carried out not just by surrogates and supporters outside of government, but by actual appointed senior officials in the President’s administration like APNSA O’Brien has done with his statement today are not really intended to effect Senator Sanders’ core supporters. Nor is it really intended to influence the Democratic primary. What it is intended to do is create material for Facebook ads to micro-target more moderate Democrats, Democratic leaning Independents, and formerly Republican leaning Independents, as well as to provide material that can be weaponized to reach these same people on Twitter and other social and digital media platforms. The point of doing this will be to depress Democratic turnout, as well as the turnout of non Democrats that will be needed to ensure an Electoral College victory against the President should Senator Sanders be the Democratic nominee. It is also intended to effect down balance races to maintain the Republican majority in the Senate, flip the House majority back to the Republicans, and capture as many Democratic held governorships and state legislatures as possible before the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census.
I’m not writing this to harm Senator Sanders. I guarantee that there is a similar influence operation already planned for each of the potential Democratic nominees. Whichever Democrat gets the nomination is going to face something similar. We’ve been watching the operation against VP Biden for well over a year now. And we know, because I’ve put it on the front page at least eight times, that the seeds of that influence operation against VP Biden were first sown in 2o14. And that should be a concern to Senator Sanders, his campaign, his key surrogates, and his supporters because Senator Sanders has over 40 years of taking controversial, hard left positions and supporting some of the worst hard left, socialist, and communist leaders outside the US. And because the Soviet Intelligence Services were collecting video and audio on him the entire time he was in Soviet Russia for his honeymoon; video and audio that Vladimir Putin will weaponize if and when he feels the need too. And that’s before the President, his campaign, and his surrogates decide to juxtapose the now leaked intelligence that Putin is acting to aid Senator Sanders in the Democratic primary with Senator Sanders voting record regarding Russia – a voting record that leaves a lot to be desired. He voted against the Magnitsky Act in 2012, the sanctions against Russia in 2014 and 2017, and didn’t vote at all when the sanctions against Russia bill came up in 2019. This voting record combined with the now leaked intelligence that Putin is interfering in the Democratic primary on his behalf is all the President, his campaign, and his surrogates need to argue that the President is the one who has and will continue to stand up to Putin, not Senator Sanders who always votes in Putin’s favor. That’s not my argument, that is me anticipating the President’s argument.
This is the reality of the 2020 election. I warned everyone who reads Balloon Juice that the 2020 election was going to be open information warfare back in March 2019. What is happening should not be surprising to anyone. And if Senator Warren or Mayor Buttigieg or Senator Klobuchar were the front runners right now, we would have different weaponized information to produce influence being deployed against them right now. And if one of them should become the front runner, we will.