A big election story got buried

Do a gold-plated resume and pleasing personality translate into effective law enforcement? Not necessarily.

They might even explain, in part, how Donald Trump became president. Take Jeh Johnson, honored last week by the city’s independent Citizens Crime Commission for his work as Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama. Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College and Columbia Law School. He was a federal prosecutor, general counsel to the Air Force and to the Defense Department before becoming head of Homeland Security in Obama’s second term.

Like Obama, he’s soft-spoken, genial and gracious. But apparently those qualities and qualifications did not prepare him to be Homeland Security secretary. When Johnson’s big moment came last year, he blew it. Some might say he, and the Obama administration, failed the American people.

The moment came on Oct. 7, 2016, near the end of the presidential race, when the administration acknowledged publicly the Russians had hacked Democratic National Committee computers and into several state voting systems.

“We recognized we had an overriding responsibility to inform the public that a powerful foreign state actor had covertly intervened in our democracy,” Johnson later told PBS’ “Frontline.”

So with then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Johnson issued a statement. Within a half-hour of the statement’s release, he explained to “Frontline,” an “Access Hollywood” video surfaced showing Trump’s crude remarks about women. That same evening, WikiLeaks published its hacked emails of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“I thought our statement was going to be really, really big news,” Johnson told “Frontline.” “We issued the statement at around 3:30, and it ended up being below-the-fold news . . . And frankly, it wasn’t until December when the national media started paying attention to what we had been saying for two months.”

He added: “We were very concerned that we would be perceived as taking sides.”

In fact, the Obama administration waited until after the election to explainthe role of Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the hacking. Not until December did Obama retaliate, expelling suspected Russian operatives from the United States and sanctioning Russian intelligence services.

It was too late. Trump had been elected president.

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