Saturday, September 16, 2017

"This is huge news": Facebook and the Mueller probe. Plus: A comedian's brilliant response to the Cult of Bernie

I put a lot of work into the previous post (which was mostly about Cambridge Analytica) and thus had hoped not to write another piece today. Alas, events compel.

Is he or is he not rethinking the Paris Accords? The WSJ says that Trump has basically reversed course: Now he's staying in the Paris deal. If you're stymied by the WSJ paywall, visit Mother Jones:
The shift from President Donald Trump’s decision in June to renegotiate the landmark accord or craft a new deal came during a meeting of more than 30 ministers led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal.

“The U.S. has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement,” European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias CaƱete said.
Possibility 1: Ivanka has finally managed to knock some sense into her dad's thick, tangerine-hued cranium.

Possibility 2: Trump realizes that the hurricanes have transformed climate change denialism into an unbearable political burden.

Possibility 3: Trump needs a big win. He now knows that political victories will occur only if he works with the Dems. Edging toward sanity on the issue of global warming may help him when it comes to negotiations on infrastructure spending, which is the one Big Trumpian Idea that liberals actually like (in principle).

Of course, the White House immediately denied any change vis-a-vis the Paris accords. By this point, everyone knows that Trump worships the great god Janus.

Facebook and Mueller. A reader directed my attention to this important tweetstorm issued by former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. I've decided to translate his thoughts into conventional prose, a task which requires some editing for style. The words after the asterisks were written by Mariotti; I shall return when he has finished.

* * *

Why news that Mueller obtained a search warrant for Facebook content may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid.

Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller obtained info from Facebook via search warrant. The WSJ talks about some of the info Mueller obtained [see text to your right]. Mueller could not obtain content of an account without a warrant.

I was initially wary about discussing implications of this story because I worried that the WSJ may have presumed a warrant that didn't exist. But CNN has confirmed that Mueller obtained content via search warrant, including ads, account details, targeting.

That is huge news. It means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a "contribution" in connection with an election. It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things. First: That there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. Second: That evidence of the crime existed on Facebook.

Why is that big news? Until now, Mueller's efforts to obtain information about Russian interference in the election could be seen as an effort to gain counterintelligence or to investigate a matter unlikely to result in charges. Now we know he believes that he's close to charging specific foreign people with a crime. Can he do that? Yes, if they committed a crime in the United States. For example, my former boss indicted Osama Bin Laden for the first World Trade Center bombing.

So what does this mean for Trump and his associates? This news also has large implications for them. It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed. That's aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller's search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged. In addition, anyone who agreed to be part of this effort in any way could be charged with criminal conspiracy. They wouldn't need to be involved in the whole operation or know everyone involved but they would have to agree to be part of some piece of it.

One thing I should note is that this particular violation of the law preventing foreign contributions in connection with an election is far stronger than earlier speculation that Donald Trump Jr. violated the same law by accepting information from the Russian attorney.

One hurdle is that to violate the statute criminally, you have to do so knowingly and willfully. Here, Mueller has evidence that the foreigner(s) had that intent, and it is far more difficult for an American to claim that he/she didn't know that a massive Russian influence operation was against the law than it would be to claim that about hearing talk at a meeting. Jurors would be inclined to convict anyone who was part of or aided a Russian effort to subvert our election.

If I represented someone who was caught up in this part of the investigation, I'd be very worried.

ADDENDUM: In case you're curious, here's the statute I discuss in this thread.

*  *  *

Cannon here. I have to admit that I didn't comprehend the full import of the Facebook angle until Mariotti turned on the lights. I'll be following his work from now on.

Berniegate. My distaste for Bernie Sanders should be well-known by now: See here and here and here.

A Cannonfire reader who goes by the name "nemdam" directs our attention to this tweetstorm by comedian Jen Kirkman. I love what she has to say; her thoughts expand upon points I've been making for a long, long time.

I've taken the liberty of offering an edited version of her words here.

As I did with Mariotti's tweets, I've translated Kirkman's "Twitterese" into conventional prose, smoothing out the style and removing some chit-chatty interactions with readers. Keep in mind that her original text was written "in hot blood" for a twitter audience. I'm sure that if she would have worded some sections more carefully if she had prepared her piece for formal publication in Slate, Vox or some similar venue.

(I hope she likes what I've done here. If she doesn't, I'll offer deep apologies and excise this section of this post.)

You'll be particularly interested by her personal experiences, which she discusses in the second half of this piece. Having lost friends to the Bernie Cult, I know precisely what she is talking about.

The words beneath the asterisks are hers.

* * *

On June 9, Don Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort meet a Russian lawyer for Clinton oppo. That same day, Bernie -- managed by Tad Devine, a former partner of Manafort -- meets with Obama. Bernie won't concede, and does a solo press conference about taking it to the convention.

This happened two days before June 9th...

That same night Trump, makes a speech. Even though he's an opponent, he praises Bernie and claims that he's a victim of a rigged system.

According to Politico, Tad Devine was hired to "engineer" a "protest candidacy." The article doesn't say why he would want to do so. Or why that paid well.

Devine made about $10 million working for the campaign. The story is that it was all unprecedented grass roots donations.

Oh wait. The Feds are here. They're like: "Ummm...$10 million isn't accounted for. It's unnamed. Care to share?"

They don't.

I'm implying that we should be curious about behaviors dates and patterns. What I'm NOT doing is making up facts.

This is separate, BUT it shows the possible character of people who are now lawyered up...

One of my points is that there are no pure saints in politics. Yet Bernie's supporters consider anything but "purity" to be blasphemy.

I personally experienced this in September of 2016. Within minutes, hundreds of non-followers all tweeted roughly same thing to me -- that I support Hillary who kills "brown people." Jokes of mine from 2015 were screenshot. Within minutes, hundreds of people posted misconstrued jokes. These people threatened the clubs I was working for. They wouldn't stop.

Way too many to be random. I figured it came from some dude on Reddit telling people to attack. Didn't know about paid Russian bots dividing the Left yet.

It happened to me. Still does. But now I know what it is.

Sanders knows that this is being done IN HIS NAME. He knows that people are pretending to be his supporters. These bots harass with threats. It's the disgusting Kremlin tactic of trying to make the receiver feel insane. And Sanders doesn't care. He won't say ANYTHING to the media, even as he prepares to run in 2020. He doesn't say anything about these Russian bots who are weirdly on his side, and who make his "revolution" look really bad.

He doesn't care about that? Interesting.

The bots have been vicious lately. A fun thing to do is to watch the news cycle and notice when these attacks flare up. There was a big flare after the Facebook news.

Keep in mind: I'm just a comedian. I don't claim to have inside info, just a curiosity. I'm using my voice as a citizen to say: "In my spare time I'm trying to wrap my head around this." I'm Danny Noonan at end of Caddyshack watching that golf ball...

So. To continue. THIS happened this summer as you may recall...

Even people on Trump's side started running for zee hills when Junior "released" his emails to the NY Times. Junior was on the ropes. He had to release some emails before NY Times did. Conclusions weren't jumped to. Don had to hand over those emails cuz he was screwed.

So why did Bernie say that?

His followers argue that he's busy with issues like healthcare, and thus has no time to comment on Russia stuff. Well, it takes as much time to say "Hot damn, those emails are indicting" as it does to say, "Let's not jump to conclusions."

His supporters have been well-trained NOT to care about Russia tampering with our democracy.

This isn't about Hillary and a lost election. This is HUGE. The foundation of America -- democracy -- is at stake. Neither Bernie nor his followers seem to praise democracy too much. They don't realize this issue isn't going away. Russia will continue to infiltrate and to conduct cyberwar.

We can't push healthcare through if we have no democracy.

There seems to be a hateful notion that having Republicans in office may HELP Bernie's "revolution."  That's shortsighted. You can't befriend Russia because it helps you emerge as the savior of a movement.

You say you want revolution but you don't care that our democracy is being dismantled? You can't have it both ways.

Also: The whole "it's no great secret" thing? It is a great secret. To many.

It just isn't a good look, in my opinion, to seem reluctant to discuss Russia's aid in riling up Bernie's base. It says, "I like the help." Perhaps his base will say: "Well, we don't want democracy! It doesn't work!" Maybe he feels the same way? And if he does, why is it so hard to believe that he would be in business with another nation, working against our democracy?

To those diehards of his who don't follow me but call me a moderate: I'm a flaming feminist liberal progressive. This notion that one cannot be a progressive unless one is on the Bernie bus is bizarre. Believing that one man is the progressive movement, believing that my distrust of him disqualifies my decades of work as a progressive: That is the definition of brainwashed cult behavior. It's not reasoned. It speaks of a need to not be wrong. It's dangerous.

It seems as though some people have mixed their ideals with pumped-up notions of their victimhood. This leads to feelings of futility, to an attitude of "Let's blow it up. Let's take out anyone who doesn't want what we want."

America was never about one man's ideas.

I can't get the Bernie cultists to see it my way. That's not my aim. My aim is making up for my silence last year. Something is wrong.

I've been silent about my belief since the primary that Bernie is compromised. THAT particular silence is done. I was harassed by self-proclaimed feminist men. I no longer care that bros are boycotting or threatening harassment at my shows. I feel disgusted by my fear to speak. That's over.

Listen to women. Being on front lines of attacks gave us supersonic intuition. So thanks in a way for helping create a superpower.


Marc McKenzie said...

Great post, Joseph. And yes, it does look like the search warrant for Facebook content really is going to be a big deal. And while I do not step into the conspiracy theory swamp, Kirkman's tweet have made me seriously question just what the hell Bernie and company really knew about Russian interference in the election.

And never forget that many of the "Bernie Bros" like H.A. Goodman have always poo-poohed the Trump/Russia scandal, calling it a nothingburger and running to the Seth Rich story as proof that the whole thing was really a plot by the DNC and Hillary.

Jesus wept.

Alessandro Machi said...

There could be a strange twist to all of this where Russia is exonerated as being the actual leaker and instead it's Sander's supporters inside the Hillary Clinton campaign who did the leaking. So the power to brainwash may have been Russian funded, but the actual acts of leaking could have been done by brainwashed Sander's supporters, technically leaving Russia off the hook, except for those nasty bots.

William said...

Elisabeth Warren needs to see this post!

Unknown said...

@Alessandro Machi I believe that while the Russians are bad actors and are involved, this coup was initiated right here in the good old US of A, who outsourced the dirty deeds to Russia. As it is a mistake to consider Trump a cause rather than a symptom, it's dangerous to lay all blame on Russia. Both tendencies obfuscate the currents that run through people and orgs here who have wanted to destroy democracy and people since country was founded.

Amelie D'bunquerre said...

Marcy Wheeler ( argues that Mueller may not have obtained a search warrant because he didn't need one to get the Facebook info details. She says WSJ and CNN only inferred that Mueller obtained a warrant, which contradicts Mariotti's claim that CNN reported that he obtained a warrant (I have no first-hand idea what CNN reported).

Anonymous said...

I agree. This is best looked at as a joint venture, with several partners involved for differing reasons but with a commonality of near-term goals.

Who had the lead role, like the slightly different question of who had the key operational role, may perhaps be unknowable without confessions.

I wouldn't discount the role of the Christian Dominionist movement with its billionaire supporters and cadres in the military academies and among some top brass. (Mercers, cough.)

Joseph often mentions the likely participation of some in the IC, which seems correct. However, and this goes under the radar, what about the MSM? Surprisingly, given the apparent establishment credentials of Hillary Clinton, some of the flagship allegedly liberal papers like the NYT and WaPost have had an abiding animus toward her (and Bill, earlier). And the networks join in. What establishment do they threaten, and if they do, as it appears, how many onion layers need to be peeled back to find it?

And by 'it, do I mean a small Middle Eastern country? No, you didn't hear that from me.


nemdam said...

Glad I could help!

As Hillary says in her book and on her book tour, she doesn't believe there wasn't somebody in America to help the Russians weaponize their hacks. It was too sophisticated for it to be handled by foreigners. While Russia is the catalyst, there's no way their operation could work without help from Americans, both on a micro level in that some individuals helped them with the disruption campaign and on a macro level in that our country is so divided and has so many fault lines.

FYI, Jen Kirkman has stated she will add to her tweetstorm as she sees fit.

Of course, Bernie goes on Meet the Press to talk about Medicare-for-all when Obamacare is on life support...

Anonymous said...

Vincent Tchenguiz, the reported owner of Cambridge Analytica, was waist-deep in the Icelandic banking scandal. It's an important point because Trump's mid-2000s developer partner, Bayrock, was too. And there is evidence that pre-crisis Icelandic banks were money laundries for Russia.

I think we have every right to be deeply suspicious of Tchenguiz.

Joseph Cannon said...

Thank YOU nem. I hope that Kirkman won't be angry with me if she sees what I've done. I've actually done some professional editing, and I know that there is a fine line between editing and rewriting -- and that I have a bad habit of crossing that line. But some of her tweets were obviously written in anger, or at least in a state of high emotion, so they needed tweaking in order to make basic sense.

At this point, we can't know how much of what hit us was Russian in origin. There are some cases where the Russian origin of the online propaganda is obvious, thanks to the insecure English and the unbridled hatred of America. But other instances are less clear. For example, the original Pizzagate stories -- the ones published before the election -- are written convincingly and were probably composed by an American.