What We're Reading

Morning Reads: How the Democrats Got Hacked; DC Swamp Floods Cabinet Appointments

A roundup of some of the stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: How the Democrats Got Hacked

The emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, were a prime target of Russian hacking during this year's election, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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How those hacks happened –> An in-depth New York Times investigation by Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane tells the story of how Russia allegedly attempted to manipulate this year’s election and chronicles a series of screwups among Democratic Party employees that helped Russians gain access to the emails that bedeviled Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. For one, an outside contractor providing tech support for the Democratic National Committee fielded a call from the FBI warning that at least one of the committee’s computers had been compromised by a group linked to Russia. But he doubted that the agent calling him was really with the FBI, and did little to verify the agent’s claims.

John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, relied on aides to help him manage his email accounts; when one saw an email telling Podesta to change his password, the aide sought a second opinion. “This is a legitimate email,” another Clinton campaign aide replied. That second aide told The Times he had meant to type “illegitimate.” Oops. Podesta clicked the link to “change his password” and gave hackers access to tens of thousands of personal emails.

The Times also reports that “a handful of Democratic House candidates became targets of a Russian influence operation that made thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington available to Florida reporters and bloggers… The impact of the information released by the hackers… in nearly a dozen House races around the country was largely lost in the focus on the hacking attacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But this untold story underscores the effect the Russian operation had on the American electoral system.”

Perry to head Department of Energy –> The former governor of Texas, candidate for president and contestant on Dancing with the Stars is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of energy. Ironically, Allegra Kirkland writes for Talking Points Memo, the department he’ll oversee is one of the three he said during his presidential campaign that he would eliminate — although he famously couldn’t remember the name of it during a televised debate. At The Daily Beast, Jeffrey Lewis writes that the department “doesn’t actually have anything to do with energy policy. It would be more accurately named the Department of Nuclear Weapons.” The largest part of the department’s budget, he continues, is “for making nuclear weapons and cleaning up their legacy.” Ernest Moniz, the current DOE secretary — and a physicist — played an integral role in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.

Pick for Interior –> Rep. Ryan Zinke, an ex-Navy Seal commander and Republican congressman from Montana, is Trump’s pick to head the Department of the Interior. DOI manages a lot of environmental policy and, Katie Herzog writes for Grist, Trump’s pick “could have been worse.” Zinke claims not to believe climate change is proven science, and is a big proponent of coal and oil leasing on public lands, but he at least doesn’t want to liquidate those lands, as some in Congress do. Herzog writes that he “has been a defender of public lands and public access to them, which is notable because the Interior Department manages more than 500 million acres of federal lands. He has gone against his party when Republicans have proposed selling off federal land or transferring it to states. Zinke is a lifelong hunter and fisher, and his Twitter bio says he’s a ‘Teddy Roosevelt fan.'”

How Rex met Donald –> In an interview with The Washington Post, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that when he heard that Donald Trump wasn’t happy with his choices for secretary of state, Gates suggested a meeting with Exxon chief Rex Tillerson. One day earlier, in a meeting with Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also suggested Tillerson as a candidate. Coincidence? The two are partners in RiceHadleyGates, a consulting firm that contracts with… ExxonMobil.

Hedging his bets –> Tillerson’s might-be No. 2 man, Bush-era foreign policy hawk John Bolton, has spent millions helping to elect legislators who will now be asked to vote on his nomination for office. “Bolton launched the John Bolton Super PAC in 2013, which some speculated was a way to promote himself ahead of a potential 2016 president run,” Paul Blumenthal writes for The Huffington Post. “That run never materialized, but the PAC, which could raise an unlimited amount of money, enabled Bolton to bring in huge contributions from wealthy benefactors while lending his hawkish credentials to congressional candidates.” In the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, Bolton spent $5.6 million on independent expenditures — things like ads and campaign-related expenses — to help elect Republican candidates.

Managing those conflicts of interest –> “Donald Trump was supposed to give Americans a fuller picture of how he’d separate himself from business as president at a press conference on Dec. 15. Instead, he canceled the press conference and sent two tweets,” Libby Nelson writes for Vox. “Trump’s plan to separate himself from his conflict of interest is to let his sons — Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — and his executives manage his businesses, and to pledge that ‘no new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.'”

That plan falls far short of what ethics watchdogs had been hoping for. Elana Schor reports for Politico: “Donald Trump would not ‘eliminate conflicts of interest’ by transferring his business holdings to his children, according to the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, although the office noted it had no power to require him to divest his assets or put them in a blind trust.”

Preserving the evidence –> Brady Dennis for The Washington Post: “Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference. The efforts include a ‘guerrilla archiving’ event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.”

Meanwhile, Coral Davenport at The New York Times reports, “The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas extraction technique also known as fracking, has contaminated drinking water in some circumstances, according to the final version of a comprehensive study first issued in 2015. The new version is far more worrying than the first, which found ‘no evidence that fracking systemically contaminates water’ supplies. In a significant change, that conclusion was deleted from the final study.”

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.