The big story right now concerns the Trump administration's attempt to interfere with the FBI's investigation of the Putin connection.
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
The obvious (but not exact) precedent would be Watergate. Nixon hoped to convince the FBI not to investigate the break-in on the grounds that it was a matter of national security, a cover story made credible by the fact that CREEP had hired so many "former" CIA guys. (I believe that there was an under-recognized CIA component to Watergate -- primarily in the way the scandal unraveled. Of course, this has nothing to do with Nixon's attempt to tell the Bureau to go to sleep.)
Nixon engaged in a clear obstruction of justice. Can the same be said of the present case? Right now, I don't think so -- although we can't be sure, due to the lack of details. Besides, this administration has, in its short life, earned an impressive reputation for mendacity.
The contact man was Reince Priebus, who was not among the small universe of individuals authorized to talk to the Bureau, as Rachel Maddow carefully explains in the embedded video. (She goes on to discuss many Trump hires have failed their background checks and were unceremoniously marched out of the White House. Shocking stuff.) The only real excuse is ignorance. In Trump's case, that excuse is semi-credible, since he really does seem to be under the impression that a president is a kind of king. But surely Priebus should have known better...?
Even if we don't have a Nixon-level case of obstruction, we do have an additional indication that the Trumpers are living in fear. As Guy Pearce says in L.A. Confidential: "You've got a big guilty sign around your neck."
I think I know how the Republicans plan to divert the public from these investigation. They intend to focus on Hillary. They intend to make good on their chants of "Lock her up."
The biggest clue: The Bernie trolls are suddenly out in force, after a long period of quiet. Suddenly, they are crawling all over Kos, DU, and the anti-Trump Reddit boards, caterwauling their usual nonsense about Evil Hillary (and, as whim strikes, Evil Soros). I can only guess what they've been up to on Facebook.
Once more into the breach, dear friends. We're going to have to fight that battle again.
Fortunately, we now have an important new weapon: The Steele Dossier.
On January 14, The National Observer published a supremely important piece on how the troll army -- almost certainly masterminded in Russia -- used the Bernie movement to cow the Clinton supporters while spreading many of the same falsehoods that later propelled Trump into office.
Earlier in the campaign, supporters of each candidate diverged in a more benign dispute over policy and candidate appeal. Clinton was seen as a status quo candidate, while Sanders offered a frisson of excitement.
But then things changed. The negativity built and built, eventually rising to a crescendo. Something indefinable shifted, and something that felt like hate entered the campaign, and never left it. Many, if not most, of Hillary's millions and millions of supporters kept quiet, avoiding confrontation.
There were two main reasons for their relative silence:
It felt risky. It was obvious that publicly and strongly supporting Clinton could result in immediate attack and possibly retaliation on social media. This especially affected women, who have learned to fear social media;
Clinton supporters knew that to engage with Sanders supporters while emotions ran so high risked alienating them during the general election.
All this had the effect of muting her supporters, while the clamour against her rose to near hysteria. “She’s going to be INDICTED!” screeched Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat.
It was so unhinged that even during Clinton's historic nomination speech, a yelling chorus of opposition literally tried to drown out her speech and shout her down from the floor of the Democratic convention.
Christopher Steele's now infamous intelligence dossier may offer fresh insights into the genesis of the almost frenzied attacks on Clinton from the left.
What's a little more troubling is the CV of his chief strategist, Tad Devine. It turns out that Devine worked as an advisor for Vladimir Putin's man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovich in 2006, and then for his 2010 election campaign. By curious coincidence another American had very close ties to Yanukovich during this exact period.
That would be Paul Manafort, Trump's one-time campaign manager.
We've discussed this matter at great length in this very blog. Back to the National Observer piece:
At a time when civil rights hero John Lewis is openly challenging a man who cheated his way into the White House, Bernie Sanders seems to have spent more energy attacking Democrats.
To what purpose?
Oh, I think that's pretty clear by now...
The dossier alleges extensive active co-ordination between Russia and the Trump team, and suggests that much of the anti-Clinton rhetoric from the left was deliberately orchestrated by Russia and Trump's team to harm her campaign.
The dossier reports that "the aim of leaking the DNC emails to Wikileaks during the Democratic Convention had been to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump."
If the Steele memo is to be believed, a very great deal of the pro-Stein and Sanders, anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric was a Russian propaganda op. It certainly silenced and intimidated a great many of Hillary's supporters who deeply wanted to cheer for her unabashedly and without reservation.
That gap gave doubt an open runway.
It is happening again. Team Trump (which includes Team Putin) wants to see the Democrats split into irreconcilable factions, which means that they are going to bury the liberal blogs with lies, even as Sessions uncovers new bullshit "evidence" against Evil Hillary. If Hillary-hate dominates the headlines, the Putin/Trump connection will recede -- at least, such is the hope.
Speaking of news management... Yesterday, the BBC ran an important story on how the Russians conduct cyber-war:
Keir Giles, an expert on the Russian military at the Chatham House think-tank, has warned that Russian "information warfare" occupies a wider sphere than the current Western focus on "cyber warriors" and hackers.
"The aim is to control information in whatever form it takes," he wrote in a Nato report called "The Next Phase of Russian Information Warfare".
"Unlike in Soviet times, disinformation from Moscow is primarily not selling Russia as an idea, or the Russian model as one to emulate.
"In addition, it is often not even seeking to be believed. Instead, it has as one aim undermining the notion of objective truth and reporting being possible at all," he wrote.
Russia has been testing Nato in various ways, including targeting individual soldiers via their social media profiles, Mr Giles told the BBC.
"They have been reaching out to individuals and targeting them as if it comes from a trusted source," he said.
Russia's effort in cyberspace is under intense Western scrutiny following high-level US accusations that Russian hackers helped to swing the presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.
According to Mr Giles, the Russian military decided to prioritise information warfare after the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. The country's security apparatus drew lessons from its "inability to dominate public opinion about the rights and wrongs of the war", he said.
Commenting on Mr Shoigu's remarks, former Russian commander-in-chief Gen Yuri Baluyevsky said a victory in information warfare "can be much more important than victory in a classical military conflict, because it is bloodless, yet the impact is overwhelming and can paralyse all of the enemy state's power structures".
I hate to thank you for this, but thank you. I guess if it means Trump will excoriate Hillary instead of having a false flag event with bloodshed, I believe Hillary can take it. And this time, I believe women are so incredibly irate that she will have an army of her own by her side.
posted by prowlerzee : 9:58 AM
Thanks for this, Joseph. You are dead-on right about the unrepentant Berners coming out of the woodwork now (especially with the DNC chairperson election)--just take a glance at H.A. Goodman's Twitter feed (or on second thought, don't!) for example. The unhinged, bat-s**t crazy attacks on Hillary and any Democrat who didn't suck up to Sanders, the threats to split the party in two, and, of course, either ignoring or dismissing outright Trump's assault on the Constitution...yep, very suspicious indeed.
Of course, as you pointed out, it was featured in the dossier, especially when Jill Stein was named. The fact that she's also present at that dinner that Flynn attended--seated at the same table with him and Putin--should have triggered the warning klaxons.
Not to mention the first one to say "lock her up" or something to that effect was Mrs. Sanders.
posted by Anonymous : 2:32 PM
The Clintons are easy targets because they have media representation, aka a media channel that supports Moderate Democrat thinking and reminds all of the successes of past Moderate Democrat presidencies, aka Bill Clintons two terms. Almost every achievement of the Clintons from the 90's was twisted around and made to look like an assault on society during the 2016 campaign by both Sanders and Trump. Hillary Clinton decided to shut up because there was no entity out there defending and PRAISING the Clinton record and she figured Sanders would disappear sooner rather than later. But then the Michigan primary happened and that was the fulcrum point for 3 more months of Bernie and an excuse for his supporters to falsely attack Hillary Clinton at every turn. Any plan to attack the Clintons going forward will work simply because as time goes on, people become clueless as to what it was that the Clintons did anyways. Even Haiti hangs out there and the more the Clintons ignore Haiti, the more out of touch they look. Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of 30 years of failed policies and without a constant harbinger of a media channel for Clinton supporters to rally around, Hillary Clinton will continue to be "Snowball" for opposing candidates. The progressive led attack against Trump is not a cry for righting the 2016 election.
But the really serious question is why the Clintons just sit there and take it without any significant effort to defend themselves? Obviously whatever they think they doing isn't working. So are they guilty,incompetent or iust lazy. Something just doesn't add up
posted by Anonymous : 4:37 AM
Well you would think that winning the popular vote would speak for itself
all very interesting, as ever; thx, joe. but i fear this needs to be taken to task.
first, the weak links red glare when tad devine is lumped in pell mell with manafort? just a quick review of their respective wiki bios shoots that one down pretty soundly. sorta like, hey, did you know matt taibbi and manafort were in moscow at the same time? is taibbi therefore a secret ruskie? credulity, peeps; it stretches. especially when the new observer piece linked to above begins with the phrase, "unconfirmed revelations," and goes for a wild ride from there.
look, i voted for HRC/against trump, and i don't doubt there is something nefarious about the russian involvement. but there is something intellectually masturbatory about this level of bizarre speculation.
evidently it will take clinton supporters far longer to drop the conspiracy theory that bernie bros lost the election than it took bernie to step up to the plate and help deliver for her; she did win the popular vote, did she not? the loss of the key states of WI, MI, and PA - states they presumed were in the bag - expose campaign errors, pure and simple.
but to place the blame on bernie himself, even to suggest he's in league with the russians? say wha'? that's where the credulity just breaks.
so much so, cannot bring myself to bother to address it. but, the bernie bros fabrication, that's easy, and evidently necessary.
first, please consider this piece glenn greenwald wrote on the phenom over a year ago:
it's long, detailed, and - true to greenwald form - measured and reasonable, rational. he even points out that we all bring our unique expectations and biases to the web cruise, which inevitably colors our perspectives. but it's incumbent upon each of us to really scrutinize those expectations and biases, as well as whatever information these lead us to.
or not. case in point: i find it of particular interest this fact, also from about a year ago, is apparently absent from the bellyaching and speculations (from the daily news):
it's the first (and damn near last; funny how the media ignored this) mention of the fact that david brock's HRC pac was actively and aggressively trolling for her/against bernie. the 'bernie bros' meme, it seems, was brock's own creation.
and, to top all that off, here is thom hartmann in early jan., 2017, reading the letter brock wrote to bernie, apologizing for the campaign "heat":
would that he had had the courage to be more specific, and less obviously currying favor with the person who by then was proving to be a continuing source of popularity and power in the party. hard not to recall his 'confessions' to anita hill. after, of course, so much damage was done.
all that said, i repeat; i voted for hillary, and suspect russians did as much damage as they could. but we cannot deny the damage that was done, shall we say, very in-house. not by bernie the challenger/visitor, but truly in-house.
however, i fear more the damage done by floating too many of these breathless, pearl-clutching exercises in connect-the-dots when not even the dots hold much substance.
it's not just a potential for damage to the country - it's a lapse of rational thought.