Misunderstanding Russia

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On the roster: Misunderstanding Russia - Trump campaigns in Louisiana ahead of Saturday Senate runoff - Report: Trump still skipping daily intel briefings - ‘Clinton Cash’ author calls on Trump to divest - Too much strudel

It seems curious that there is such a hot debate over whether Vladimir Putin’s Russia tried to disrupt America’s elections this year.

Of course it did! It’s what they do.

President Obama has ordered an investigation into Russian cyber-attacks around the election, presumably including the hacks of prominent Democrats’ emails as well as efforts to disrupt state elections’ systems.

This comes as congressional Republicans are also pushing for more on Russia’s role in disrupting our elections. While it would be good to know as much as possible what the Kremlin was up to in 2016 for the purposes of prevention and potentially retaliation, the question of “whether” ought to be a settled matter by now.

Except for the brief period in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and before Putin took control, one can assume that Russians tried to interfere with every U.S. election since the end of the Second World War

Russians, for their part, would probably tell you Americans have interfered with their elections too. Certainly, the degree to which the U.S. propped up the unsteady reformer Boris Yeltsin would give some credence to the claim.

But when it comes to Russia and the political affairs of the West, particularly NATO nations, there is no ambiguity. As much as Americans puzzle over Russia’s role in the world, Russians are not confused: their nation is one of the great powers of the world locked in an existential struggle with a West that is constantly trying to prevent their nation from fulfilling its God-given role.

Americans have a tendency to look at Russia as backwards and ancillary to the affairs of a modernizing world. But Russia sees itself as, among other things, the true protector of the Christian faith around the globe, the keeper of a balanced international order and the rightful hegemon of the Slavic world.

Why wouldn’t a country such as that try to destabilize its foes? As the Russian economy grinds under sanctions from the West and see its rightful ambitions thwarted at every turn by NATO busybodies, it would be only logical for it to make life harder for the states that antagonize it.

It was probably not so that the Kremlin, strictly speaking, favored President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. What the Kremlin almost certainly favored was uncertainty, suspicion and disruption.

When the KGB was propping up communists and far-left parties in Europe and the United States during the Cold War, it was probably more about sowing dissension and discord as actually trying to enact far-left or pro-Soviet policies.

Now, the Russians favor the far-right in European politics. It’s not because Putin & Co. necessarily are big believers in French, German or British nationalism, but would like to see NATO and European unity damaged. The politics themselves are not important. What matters is keeping their foes off base and at odds.

Clinton supporters want to blame Russia for her loss, whether directly through hacking or the now-ubiquitous tag of “fake news.” Given how painfully close the vote was in key electoral battlegrounds, one could argue they have something of a point.

But when we’re talking about an election in Michigan, for example, where 5,353 votes switching from Trump to Clinton would change the outcome, you could blame her loss on almost anything: one bad ad, weak ground game, the weather, whatever you want…

Clinton lost the election because the Democratic coalition did not march for her and the white-working class voters who had once been the bulwark of the party in the Midwest substantially abandoned her.

One of the reasons some Republicans don’t want to fully confront the realities of Russia’s efforts to destabilize America is that their party was the perceived beneficiary this cycle, especially when it came to hacked emails. Any effort to highlight Russian mischief would sound to some Trump supporters to delegitimize Trump’s win.

So, because of the narrow political interests of both Democrats and Republicans, American leaders as a group are failing to confront the realities of their situation.

And what better proof could there be that Putin’s efforts are succeeding than that?

“If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation…But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts should either remain separated…our liberties would be a prey to the means of defending ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 8

Wired:  “When the botnet named Mirai first appeared in September, it announced its existence with dramatic flair. After flooding a prominent security journalist’s website with traffic from zombie Internet of Things devices, it managed to make much of the internet unavailable for millions of people by overwhelming Dyn, a company that provides a significant portion of the US internet’s backbone. Since then, the number attacks have only increased. What’s increasingly clear is that Mirai is a powerfully disruptive force. What’s increasingly not? How to stop it.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

The Hill: “President-elect Donald Trump is speaking at a get-out-the-vote rally in Louisiana on Friday. Trump is stumping on behalf of Republican Senate candidate John Kennedy one day before the runoff election for Louisiana’s open Senate seat. Kennedy is facing Democrat Foster Campbell in the race for retiring Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) seat. Trump’s stop in Baton Rouge comes during his ‘thank you’ tour throughout states he won on Election Day.”

Top pick for RNC boss gets a house call from Trump tonight - Reuters: “Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel has emerged as the consensus favorite to head the party with President-elect Donald Trump headed to Michigan on Friday as part of his post-election ‘thank you’ tour. The Republican National Committee will soon have a vacancy at the top of the party when current chairman Reince Priebus becomes White House chief of staff when Trump takes office on Jan. 20. With Trump to attend a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Friday night, party officials said he may signal his support for McDaniel, a niece of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. McDaniel helped deliver the state of Michigan for Trump in the Nov. 8 election.”

[Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, will join him at his rally in Michigan today.]

Reuters: “President-elect Donald Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter, far fewer than most of his recent predecessors. Although they are not required to, presidents-elect have in the past generally welcomed the opportunity to receive the President's Daily Brief (PDB), the most highly classified and closely held document in the government, on a regular basis. ... An official on the transition team said on Thursday that Trump has been receiving national security briefings, including ‘routine’ PDBs and other special briefings, but declined to specify their content or frequency, saying these matters were classified. … Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trump's vice president-elect, has been receiving his own PDB at least six days a week, the sources familiar with the matter said.”

WaPo: “A bipartisan group of ethics experts, former elected officials and activists have written to President-elect Donald Trump warning him that if he leaves his private business under the control of his adult children, he will not fully rid himself of dangerous conflicts of interest that could hurt his credibility around the world. The group includes experts who have been vocal on the subject in recent weeks and several former Republican officeholders who endorsed Hillary Clinton in the campaign. But the letter’s signatories also include two conservative allies of Trump senior adviser Stephen K. BannonPeter Schweizer, the author of the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ …as well as John Pudner, who went to high school with Bannon in Richmond and now runs the advocacy group Take Back Our Country.”


--Washington State Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is slated to be Trump’s pick to run the Interior Department, reports WSJ.

--Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn has been selected to head Trump’s National Economic Council, NBC reports.

--ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is expected to return with another meeting for Trump in the coming days, a source close to the transition tells Fox News. Tillerson is being considered for secretary of state.

--Boston sports radio WEEI reports that multiple sources tell them former Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine is on the president-elect’s shortlist to be ambassador to Japan.

--House Speaker Paul Ryan met with Trump in New York today to discuss the upcoming government transition.

Fox News Sunday - Mr. Sunday talks with President-elect Donald Trump as he continues to build his cabinet and prepare to take office in January. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

“I hate to say this, one chicken died. About a month before the election, Hillary died. We’ve got Hillary, Jr. now. She is bright and fluffy and making a lot of noise and healthy as an ox.” – Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., talking to the Atlantic about one of his family’s chickens named for you know who…

Senate Dems likely to lose spending fight as deadline looms - Politico

Poll: Americans more optimistic about Trump but major anxieties remain - Pew Research Center

Conway says Trump will produce reality television show in ‘spare time’ -
The Hill

Controversy grows about potential Trump pick to lead FDA - The Hill

Lessons for Trump from Italy’s businessman head of state, Silvio Berlusconi -

Trump to attend Army-Navy game Saturday -
Fox Business

What’s the link between substance abuse and 2016 vote patterns? -

Final campaign spending numbers: Trump spent $40 million less than Hillary -
Fox News

Senate Dems look very exposed in 2018 -
UVA Center for Politics

Obama, Biden lean on Labor Secretary Tom Perez to run for DNC chairman -
The Hill

“I wanted to thank you for keeping my spirits up, pre & post-election. I really didn’t think I’d make it. The media speculation, especially the ENDLESS Electoral College speculations were mind-numbing. You, sir, brought the most refreshing outlook and dare I say, objective reporting that just made sense to me. You get the pulse of politics. I figured out, either way, I’d be stuck with our next president. Cynicism seems to be the nature of the beast in politics. Thanks again and I love your podcast with Dana and look forward to the Halftime report. All the best to you and Merry Christmas!” – Janet Shrieves, Covington, Wash.

[Ed. note: Ms. Shrieves, I’m right there with you. Pessimism, negatively and cynicism are so common because they are so much easier than the alternative. Convincing people to be afraid is no challenge for there is always much to fear. Life is in fact, “nasty, brutish and short” but it is also the best thing going. American politics today is a manifestation of the anxieties attendant to affluence. No culture has ever been so rich, so secure and so free as this one, but we are always looking for the monster under our bed. I am an unabashed believer in the American spirit and the creative genius of our people. It is conventional to deplore the year just passed, but when we take a longer view, the pain of our recent experience will undoubtedly be a touchstone for growth and change for the future. Thank you for your kind words and for your readership. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.]

“Hey Chris & Dana. It was a pleasure having the chance to meet both of you. I enjoy your pod cast and your halftime column every day! You both are very talented in your field, keep up the good work.” – Lee Majors, Los Angeles

[Ed. note: Mr. Majors, I will never forget the shock when you walked through the door on the evening of one of our polling briefings. More amazing was your appreciation of my work and the kind things that you had to say about me. I grew up as a devoted fan “The Fall Guy” and always knew that the good guys acted like you. It was great to find out that you were the same way in real life. I will pass your kind wishes onto Dana, who I know is a fan of yours as well.]

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BBC: “A red squirrel who got stuck halfway through a manhole cover thanks to his curvy hips is recovering after a lengthy rescue operation in Munich. Initial attempts to free the animal by slathering him in olive oil failed, with his huge behind preventing him from squeezing his way out. He was finally freed after animal rescue services lifted off the cover and eased his head through the hole. Locals have nicknamed the squirrel ‘Olivio’ after his oily encounter. After the ordeal on Friday, an exhausted Olivio was wrapped in a warm towel and fed glucose, local media report. Staff at a local animal shelter say Olivio is recovering well and has now moved on to a diet of Christmas nuts.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in you inbox every day? Sign up here.