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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Manafort and "The Protectors": Is Mueller going after proof of election-rigging?

Sorry for the light posting. There are days when one just does not want to read one more word about Donald Effing Trump and his comrades in criminality.

And yet we must. This will be a "mostly Manafort" post. Yes, it is long and discursive, but bear with me: I will argue that Robert Mueller may be pursuing an even bigger story than most observers realize.

Hold onto your hats (as they used to say back when men wore hats)...

Manafort's new lawyers. Many have discussed Paul Manafort's apparently hostile separation from the law firm of WilmerHale. There are indications that WilmerHale fired Manafort, not the other way around. The new legal team, Miller and Chevalier, has strong ties to Russia -- and if you're surprised by that development, you'll be absolutely astonished when I tell you that water is wet. 

WilmerHale is a very high-powered DC firm with strong links to the CIA. A day or so ago, Rachel Maddow discussed the fact that this firm represented Iran-Contra figure and old-school Agency operative Clair George, convicted of lying to Congress. (He testified under oath that CIA had nothing to do with the Contra supply effort, a moment which caused spywatchers everywhere to do a classic spit-take.)

Actually, WilmerHale has a revolving door relationship with the Agency. For example, partner Stephen Preston was a "former General Counsel of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)." Partner David S. Cohen served as a CIA Deputy Director from 2015 to 2017. In 2016, partner Shirley Woodward became the CIA Inspector General, an oversight role which generally goes to reliable "good old boys." Basically, WilmerHale seems to be the de facto law firm for Spooksville.

Another WilmerHale alum was a fella you may have heard of: Robert Mueller. Yes. Manafort's lawyer and Robert Mueller worked for the same team.

It makes sense to presume that this conflict prompted the law firm to "fire" Manafort. But why was that firm representing that client in the first place? The potential conflict of interest should have been apparent from the start.

The more I ponder the situation, the odder it seems.

It should be noted that the lawyer formerly handling Manafort's case, Reginald Brown, does not have any ties to the intelligence community, although his CV shows that he is an "active member" of the Federalist Society. This group of right-wing lawyers is hated by both progressives and by the Alt Right, since the Society played a large role in the "never Trump" movement.

Keep it on the state level! It's clear now that Mueller is going after Manafort on financial charges. Many believe that if Manafort faces prison time, he'll sing a song displeasing to orange-hued ears.

Problem: Trump has the power of the pardon. If Manafort faces a federal charge, he will have every reason to want Trump to stay in office.

Mueller's only hope is to find something on Manafort that will allow state charges to be filed against him. A presidential pardon cannot cover state-level offenses. In case you are wondering: Money laundering is usually prosecuted on the state level -- in fact, there were no federal money laundering laws until 1986.

Most people have forgotten that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been quietly investigating Manafort for months. We know that the NY AG has looked into loans made by Steve Calk -- a Trump campaign adviser who runs Chicago's Federal Savings Bank -- to Paul Manafort. Calk is said to have coveted the position of Army Secretary, although I have seen no indication that the loans themselves were shady.

I'm not persuaded that the Calk thing is going to go anywhere, but that doesn't mean Manafort is clean. There must have been some basis for the issuance of a search warrant on Manafort's home.

The hacked messages of Manafort's daughters. You may already know that Paul Manafort's daughters were hacked and published on the dark web. The story, which first made public on February 28, has gained new interest in light of recent developments. This is pretty fascinating stuff:
In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”
In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.

“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

In another hacked exchange a few months later with someone else, Andrea Manafort wrote that her father’s “work and payment in Ukraine is legally questionable.”
In a text exchange in early April, Jessica Manafort tells her sister that her father, who maintained an apartment in Trump Tower, where the campaign is located, seemed to be thriving on the campaign.

“Dad and Trump are literally living in the same building and mom says they go up and down all day long hanging and plotting together,” Jessica Manafort wrote. “Gross,” Andrea Manafort responded, prompting Jessica Manafort to come to their father’s defense.

“Its really amazing opportunity at 67 years old. And he is basically running the campaign now He is so happy,” Jessica Manafort wrote.

When WikiLeaks released a massive tranche of hacked emails from the DNC ahead of Clinton’s nominating convention in late July, Jessica Manafort seemed to assume that it was her father’s doing, texting her sister “Dad is brilliant.” Andrea Manafort responded “Well it wasn't dads doing. It was hackers,” adding “But dad has to be thrilled about this. It's overshadowing the whole convention.”
I've had a gut feeling for a while that the evidence which may break this case already exists somewhere on the dark web. 

Who are "The Protectors"? Longtime readers know of my belief that our election systems not only can be manipulated but have been. I'm therefore surprised that this page, published right after last November's election, has not come to my attention heretofore.
Regardless of Hillary Clinton’s concession, a close analysis must be done of the actual voting results (machine tabulations and paper ballots cast) versus the vote reporting (to the board of elections and Secretary of State offices). Some important facts collectively warrant this: 1) Russians have heavily influenced this election for the past six months and have successfully hacked into the election systems of more than half the states in the country; 2) Major public polls and the Clinton campaign's internal polls were historically off the mark, and in the campaign's case, didn't match the voter file records, which is unheard of to this level. This is especially odd considering that Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook is one the most brilliant in politics when it comes to micro-targeting and voter analysis. Even GOP strategist and pollster Frank Luntz called the 2016 exit polls “the worst and least accurate we’ve ever seen,” in a Tweet sent on election night.
Even more intriguing:
Homeland Security/DOJ teamed up with a group that is part of Anonymous based in Washington, D.C. called “The Protectors.” This group saw a lot of activity during Election Day from the Russians and believe that the voting results projected don’t match the internal and public polls because the voting results were manufactured in favor of Trump in heavily Republican counties in key states, and voting results may have been decreased for Clinton in key Democratic counties via malware that was placed by the Russians when they hacked the election systems of more than half our states. 4) Trump/Manafort set-up the “rigged election” narrative months ago preparing for exactly this scenario. This is straight out of Manafort’s playbook, and Putin’s, too — accuse the other side of doing what you’re doing so that you cannot be accused of doing it.
Everyone is overlooking the most compelling reason for Trump to accuse Clinton of rigging the election: A forensic examination of the machines might have revealed the presence of malware. The populace, conditioned by incessant propaganda to view Hillary as the very incarnation of deviltry, would have automatically presumed her team to be behind the malefic code.

The above-quoted paragraphs are attributed to an anonymous writer, whom I was able to identify after a bit of Google-sleuthing. But before we get to that, let's talk about "The Protectors."

Did such a group actually exist? Does it still exist? I've found a few other scattered references, such as this one.
On the morning after the election, Alexandra Chalupa, who led the Democratic National Committee’s Trump-Russia-ties research team, published a long comment on Facebook that reveals Russian sources had “successfully hacked into the election systems of more than half the states in the country” by or on our Election Day. Chalupa, a rising Democratic Party star who was featured in “16 in 2016: The people, places and moments that shaped the election,” a Yahoo News video, also wrote that “(Department of) Homeland Security/Department of Justice teamed up with a group that is part of Anonymous based in Washington D.C. called ‘The Protectors.’” She reports that the group saw multiple attempts by Russian hackers to break into state election systems on Election Day, and that The Protectors believe that the voting results we see today “don’t match the internal and public polls because the voting results were manufactured in favor of Trump in heavily Republican counties in key states, and that voting results may have been decreased for Clinton in key Democratic counties via malware that was placed by the Russians … “ In an interview with Gothamist, Chalupa stated that in Pennsylvania, a large number of voters voted for the Republican presidential and US Senate candidates, but then crossed parties down ballot. "That's usually not the pattern," Chalupa told Gothamist. An audit of state votes would be able to determine if this break from American voting norms occurred in other states as well.
The search for the earliest reference to this group takes us to Chalupa's Facebook page -- here. That link presents the Ur-text which first unveiled the Protectors to the public. As the above excerpt makes clear, Chalupa is a serious person, not a fringe writer or a conspiracy crank. Here's her Twitter feed.

After we learned about the meeting with that Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, right-wingers have attacked Chalupa for working with the anti-Putin Ukrainians for oppo research, a charge she has denied. The Trumpists pointed to Chalupa as a way of claiming that "both sides do it." That argument failed for a number of reasons -- for one thing, Chalupa didn't work for Hillary; for another, she didn't take secret meetings with an enemy; for a third thing, there were no quid-pro-quo arrangements, as there obviously were in DJT Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya. (Everyone knows that "Russian orphans" is code for the Magnitsky sanctions.)

Politico did a meaty (though overly hostile) piece on her in January.
Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the attention of a veteran Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa, who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration. Chalupa went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, though she also was paid by other clients during that time, including Democratic campaigns and the DNC’s arm for engaging expatriate Democrats around the world.

A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who maintains strong ties to the Ukrainian-American diaspora and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Chalupa, a lawyer by training, in 2014 was doing pro bono work for another client interested in the Ukrainian crisis and began researching Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russian oligarchs who funded Yanukovych’s political party.

In an interview this month, Chalupa told Politico she had developed a network of sources in Kiev and Washington, including investigative journalists, government officials and private intelligence operatives. While her consulting work at the DNC this past election cycle centered on mobilizing ethnic communities — including Ukrainian-Americans — she said that, when Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign began surging in late 2015, she began focusing more on the research, and expanded it to include Trump’s ties to Russia, as well.

She occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, Chalupa said. In January 2016 — months before Manafort had taken any role in Trump’s campaign — Chalupa told a senior DNC official that, when it came to Trump’s campaign, “I felt there was a Russia connection,” Chalupa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election,” said Chalupa, who at the time also was warning leaders in the Ukrainian-American community that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”
I've quoted this material at such length in order to make two points:

1. This story about "The Protectors" has a named source -- someone in a position to know.

2. Chalupa feels that Manafort would be Putin's point man when it comes to election rigging in the United States.

If she's right about that...well.

Well well well well well.

My friends, that is THE prize. If Mueller gets Manafort's balls in a vise, then Manafort may well become the most important bean-spiller in the history of beans.

Since 2004, I've longed for the day when this nation recognized the reality of computerized vote-rigging. Not just the possibility: The reality. Frankly, I never thought I'd live to see that day.

Well, I survived long enough to see Season 3 of Twin Peaks. I sure as hell didn't expect that. Who knows what may be possible?

Tweets. So much for the main course; time for the dessert. From Kurt Eichenwald:
Russia has put its eastern air defense on alert in response to Trump's saber rattling at North Korea. But...her emails!
From Donald J. Trump -- back in 2012:
Polls are starting to look really bad for Obama. Looks like he'll have to start a war or major conflict to win. Don't put it past him!
"Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see..."
I always believed the election was hacked. Not because I was a Hillary supporter, but because I believe in statistics and statisticians. Open any statistics book and you will find that picture of a guy holding newspaper predicting Dewy's win over Truman. They beat that to death from sampling, questions asked and analysis. They determined it will never happen again, not in that scale anyway. That's why if nothing else I can't believe professors and analysts all get it wrong at the same time. What are the odds.
I don't know how to frame it,but also I am suspicious of Hillary's hasty concession. Obama had something to do with it, how? I don't know. Anyway I was suspicious of him a lot during 2016.

I saw the link, below, from a poster while I was reading at emptywheel. (If I'm not mistaken, Marcy has been consistent in her reluctance or refusal to accept 'the Russians did it' narrative.)

"A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack
Former NSA experts say it wasn’t a hack at all, but a leak—an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system.

"By Patrick Lawrence ...

"August 9, 2017"

I was struck by the similarity between Lawrence's reportorial style and Joseph Cannon's, allowing that Lawrence has the benefit of first-tier editors.

The article attaches two Nation editorial comments, the second of which quotes the DNC's response that calls the report bullshit.
Amelie, I read that piece, or as much of it as I could stomach. Ray McGovern has been a Putin apologist for ages now, and the same -- I'm sorry to say -- can now be said of Bob Parry. That piece actually suggests that Guccifer 1 AND 2 were DNC plants!

I cannot conceive of a more inane thesis. Seriously, anyone who believes that nonsense would also believe that Hitler invaded France out of legitimate concerns of self-defense.

The point of the above post is that a DNC lawyer argued from the start that Russia would interfere with the actual vote, and that there is substantial evidence to this effect, some of which I have discussed in previous posts. During the recounts, it was Trump's lawyers who did everything they could to prevent a forensic examination of the machines and a proper recount. The Democrats did nothing to impeded the effort. You can argue, fairly, they did not SUPPORT the effort as they ought to have done. But it was the Republicans who actively OPPOSED a recount and a search for malware.

That Nation report is absolutely disgusting. Unconscionable. It is the single worst thing I've ever seen from that rag, and I picked up my first issue of the Nation back in the 1970s. I would place it alongside L. Ron Hubbard's "Psychopolitics" hoax or that Nazi tract "proving" that Jews commit ritual murder.

By this point, anyone who doubts the thesis of Russian efforts to help Trump is either a fool or a tool. The "evidence" the skeptics proffer is akin to the evidence offered by proponents of intelligent design or by opponents of man-made climate change.
I wouldn't suggest or think that The Nation article tries to cover the election itself or Russia's alleged interference with the election and campaigns. The article is quite narrow in its scope, spelled out in its title, and then providing the evidence. It's to your credit that you invoked Godwin rather than The Nation's support of Bernie, so I wonder whether or not you were at all interested in the accounts of the forensic analyses and the conclusions that followed from them, if you read that far. Time is of the essence because if net neutrality disappears, the forensics described in the article will no longer be possible or reliable (there's more at stake than Netflix consumer's rights). On the other hand, I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you or your loyal readers.
There is no evidence at all in that bullshit article. It's propaganda.
Maybe, then, it should be called fake news because it's not possible that an arcane rag like The Nation, which is read by hardly anyone, can publish actual or effective propaganda.
Amelie, it serves the purpose of the Trumpers: "As even the left-wing Nation magazine admits..."

Now can we PLEASE talk about the topic of my post? I put a lot of research into it. I'm hoping that someone will actually focus on what Alexandra Chalupa has to say vis-a-vis Manafort. We are fucking DONE DONE DONE talking about that Putinized propaganda piece published in the Nation.

As an unmuddied lake, sir. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.

Right. You propose that Mueller hopes to get Manafort pinched in New York so Trump can't pardon him for a state rap, and he'll sing instead of taking one for the team. And I think the only way to get to Trump is to begin to seize his personal and corporate assets based on Manafort's laundry list. Such a strategy threatens WW3 more than Trump's "fire and fury" because there's gigunda Russian assets involved.

I am not a lawyer, but my college roommate lived across the street from someone whose cousin went to law school, so maybe I can speculate that there will be no official investigations into vote rigging since it will open the cans of worms out of which will spring elections and primaries going back to 1988, legitimate nullification lawsuits, along with Pandora's Box, about which Albert Camus said: Of all the evils that issued forth from the box Pandora was forbidden to open, the last was the worst, which was Hope.
I enjoyed this post but mostly for the fascinating family dynamics in the Manafort family. Both Trump and Manafort seem to have disgruntled daughters who may be eager to divulge their disgust. I also would be heartened if there is indeed a faction of Anonymous grown up enough to do some Protecting. I do fantasize about the election's being proven hacked, and Hillary's acting like our president in exile, but I am deeply steeped in the art of fantasy.

I apologize for not being able to post much, but my desktop is in the Little Shop of Mac Horrors, and I'm greatly hobbled with undersized devices....including this one, perched atop a Complete Shakespeare so I can even read it! (Tom, thanks for the comments re the smell of dead elephants....I think my reply would've been along the lines of "duh, of course!" I also remember wanting to reply "Sinclair" to your post about fascism's needing local narratives to be in lockstep.)

Very interesting post. Especially finding Ms Chalupa, the one who tracked Manafort back from his connections with the Putin sphere. Clearly adds substance to the leaks and speculation.

Mueller has that vice ready, and I'm not alone in seeing fright in Trump's dead eyes when he was talking about the Manafort raid at the press conference. It's going to be anxious waiting to see what next emerges from team Mueller, or will it be Schneiderman?

Or will it be a data exposure? I share your feeling that there may already be a trove of documents somewhere, or that such documents will suddenly be found or otherwise appear. It seems to me that such a leak or dump would have to serve someone's interests. It's fun to speculate.

Joseph, I request your indulgence to discuss an aspect of that moronic Nation article. It brings up a significant issue.

What is most notable about it (equal indeed to its stupidity) is the number of commenters who are committed to boosting the article and denigrating criticism of it. It reeks of the troll infestation seen in the run up to the election, and attaching thereafter to many pieces of reporting that discuss e.g. Russian hacking.

The article is psychological warfare and I propose that the saturation trolling of the comments is evidence of it. If a small rag seems unlikely, it does represent a target audience ripe for an injection of uncertainty and confusion. Plus the right can and do point and say, "See, even the liberals...."

The depth and breadth of the "psychological operations" that we as a population are being subjected to is one of the few great mysteries of our time. That's why, I think, folks want to talk about an occurrence so much.

prowlerzee, You're welcome. And the family element is unusual. In the Manafort case, genuine emotions. My guess is that Ivanka became disgruntled only recently, watching the value of her brand put so badly at risk.
Something has struck me about Trump's use of Twitter. It gives him enormous power to make money on the financial markets.
I wonder if there's away to examine the results without the machine. What in have in mind is some sort of statistical analysis. Let say some group and conduct a parallel election using the actual registered voters from 2016. Make a sample, go ask who they voted for and analyze the result. I bet it's not going to be that costly. Accordingly we either pursue the hacking further or just put the whole thing to rest.
Isn't Katrina a Russian
b: yeah, but Consider the actual computer savant, Mercer master of Facebook bot armies. Mercer also runs a hedge fund which offerss 78 percent returns annually. Seems likely that Facebook is not the only target for his bots.

One of the reasons senible people used to regard Matt Taibbi so highly is insights such as this one regarding law enforcement profiling. When the cops see a guy known for his '89 Pontiac drive into the hood in a brand new fully loaded Escallade, they view it as evidence of remunerative criminal activity. Yet when some hedge fund guy consistently delivers above average returns, which is by definition impossible given the way markets are supposed to work, and therefore an obvious sign of criminal activity, every regulator looks away. Sorry for an inelegant paraphrase.

A hack and a leak aren't mutually exclusive. The modern question seems to be, does Mueller have the guts to penetrate the shadow conspiracy? Who danced with whom, if at all, and who looked the other way? On that day of certain reckoning, the headlines will probably read, All the President's Men or Putin's Puppets; and those like The Nation leaker will fade back into the shadows, status quo restored.
**The "evidence" the skeptics proffer is akin to the evidence offered by proponents of intelligent design or by opponents of man-made climate change.**

The mass promotion of pseudoscience on the web nowadays is profound. With a warming climate, the North American wheat growing regions are likely to move north into Canada, leaving the United States in dire straits... While the harsh cold of the Russian winter is likely to ameliorate, allowing major expansion of agricultural opportunities. Consider the possibility that Russia is a significant player in pushing the flood of climate change denial on the internet and in our media.
More on the timeline of the Russian efforts to influence the US political process.

Obama team was warned in 2014 about Russian interference

In 2014, the administration got a report of Russia’s intention to disrupt Western democracies, including the United States.

If true there was adequate time for organizing semi official or unofficial alliances such as "The Protectors."

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