Lazy Caturday Reads: Russia Backs Tulsi Gabbard; Kamala Harris Gets the Hillary Clinton Treatment.Posted: August 3, 2019
In 2016, Russian bots targeted Hillary Clinton and worked to support Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. The candidate they are most afraid of in 2020 appears to be Kamala Harris, and they are pushing hard to get Democrats to support Tulsi Gabbard.
Tulsi Gabbard is not Democrats’ friend.
Clint Watts is an expert on cybersecurity and Russian social media influence.
See also this important thread from Virginia Heffernan.
Stories to check out:
NBC News, from February: Russia’s propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.
The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat who earlier this month declared her intention to run for president in 2020.
An NBC News analysis of the main English-language news sites employed by Russia in its 2016 election meddling shows Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is set to make her formal announcement Saturday, has become a favorite of the sites Moscow used when it interfered in 2016.
Several experts who track websites and social media linked to the Kremlin have also seen what they believe may be the first stirrings of an upcoming Russian campaign of support for Gabbard.
Since Gabbard announced her intention to run on Jan. 11, there have been at least 20 Gabbard stories on three major Moscow-based English-language websites affiliated with or supportive of the Russian government: RT, the Russian-owned TV outlet; Sputnik News, a radio outlet; and Russia Insider, a blog that experts say closely follows the Kremlin line. The CIA has called RT and Sputnik part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”
All three sites celebrated Gabbard’s announcement, defended her positions on Russia and her 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and attacked those who have suggested she is a pawn for Moscow. The coverage devoted to Gabbard, both in news and commentary, exceeds that afforded to any of the declared or rumored Democratic candidates despite Gabbard’s lack of voter recognition.
The Daily Beast, from May: Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is being underwritten by some of the nation’s leading Russophiles.
Donors to her campaign in the first quarter of the year included: Stephen F. Cohen, a Russian studies professor at New York University and prominent Kremlin sympathizer; Sharon Tennison, a vocal Putin supporter who nonetheless found herself detained by Russian authorities in 2016; and an employee of the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, who appears to have donated under the alias “Goofy Grapes.”
Gabbard is one of her party’s more Russia-friendly voices in an era of deep Democratic suspicion of the country over its efforts to tip the 2016 election in favor of President Donald Trump. Her financial support from prominent pro-Russian voices in the U.S. is a small portion of the total she’s raised. But it still illustrates the degree to which she deviates from her party’s mainstream on such a contentious and high-profile issue.
The bots loved the way Gabbard attacked Kamala Harris in the second Democratic debate. Politifact looked at Gabbard’s charges against Harris and found them false or lacking context: Were Tulsi Gabbard’s attacks on Kamala Harris’ record as a California prosecutor on target? I hope you’ll read the article.
Finally, The New York Times has a major profile of Gabbard: Tulsi Gabbard Thinks We’re Doomed. Some exerpts:
A Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii who was first elected in 2012, Ms. Gabbard is a singular figure in the 2020 race. She doesn’t fit neatly into any one established ideology or school of thought.
She has a relatively bare-bones political operation and a history of outlier positions, from her foreign policy stances to suing Google for free-speech impingement. Some of her own advisers do not think she will win….
…her run, and the unusual cross-section of voters she appeals to — Howard Zinn fans, anti-drug-war libertarians, Russia-gate skeptics, and conservatives suspicious of Big Tech — signifies just how much both parties have shifted, not just on foreign policy. It could end up being a sign that President Trump’s isolationism is not the aberration many believed, but rather a harbinger of a growing national sentiment that America should stand alone.
On the far left, her supporters appreciate how she talks about respecting Native cultures. On the right, as liberal democracies see authoritarian strongmen rise, Ms. Gabbard’s allies like that she would not meddle with dictators.
The threat from Russia is severely exaggerated, Ms. Gabbard says. Do not beat the drums of war with Iran. Make nice with North Korea.
She flew to Syria in 2017 and had what seemed to be a friendly meeting with Bashar al-Assad, shocking her colleagues in Congress, and voted against a House resolution condemning the dictator’s war crimes. More recently, she said Mr. Assad was “not the enemy of the United States.”
On Russian support for Gabbard:
“Tracking metrics of Russian state propaganda on Twitter, she was by far the most favored candidate,” said Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “She’s the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat. She is such a useful agent of influence for them. Whether she knows it’s happening or not, they love what she’s saying.”
The appeal, Mr. Watts explained, is clear: “She’s a U.S. military officer and a Democrat who says the U.S. should withdraw from the world.”
And on support from the far right:
She also has attracted the attention of some figures in the alt-right, in part because they imagine that a reordering of America’s role abroad also means pulling away from its longstanding alliance with Israel. David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, has tweeted approvingly of her.
In other news . . .
The Baltimore Sun editorial board is on fire. Yesterday they once again wrote about Trump’s attacks on Baltimore: The pitiful day a U.S. president used a political rally to mock Baltimore’s homicide rate.
Slightly more than 15 minutes into his speech at a rally in Cincinnati Thursday night — right after claiming the crowd was record size but bemoaning how local authorities had limited the arena’s lawful capacity — President Donald Trump set his sights once again upon Baltimore. Basking in the crowd’s adulation, he started listing the dangerous countries where the murder rate was, he believed, not as bad as Charm City’s. El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. Then he sought his supporters’ response. ” I believe it’s higher than … give me, give me a place that you think is pretty bad,” he excitedly announced. “Give me a place. This guy says Afghanistan,” he said smiling and pointing to a member of the audience. “I believe it’s higher than Afghanistan.”
The crowd took it all in appreciatively, smiling, some cheering. They laughed when their leader joked how fact-checkers might contradict him Friday. Like Mr. Trump, they appeared wholly indifferent to people dying in Baltimore.
We have seen much in our day. Crime, poverty, drug abuse, racial discrimination, human trafficking, hate crimes. We have witnessed soldiers marched off to wars, some justified, others not. We have reported on horrible car accidents, serial killings, political corruption, disease outbreaks, air crashes, natural disasters, tragedy heaped on tragedy. But we can’t recall a president of the United States making light of the violent deaths of his fellow Americans….
And what are we to make of an audience that Mr. Trump so often described as “patriotic” yet which views Baltimore with such distaste and indifference? Cincinnati suffers these woes, too. There are murders and trash strewn alleys, overdose deaths and concentrated poverty. Why so little compassion? This was not a game, not the Reds against the Orioles, the Bengals against the Ravens. It was about the carnage on our streets, the 309 people killed here last year, the 197 murdered so far this year.
Remember the way John Delaney attacked Medicare for all at the Democratic debate this week? Here’s an interesting story from Sludge: Delaney Super PAC’s Biggest Donor is Wife of Former Health Care CEO.
As former Maryland representative John Delaney campaigns against single-payer health care and enjoys his considerable investments in the health care industry, he’s getting a boost from the wife of a close friend and former health care CEO. The biggest donor to a pro-Delaney super PAC, The Right Answer Committee, is philanthropist Katherine Bradley, whose husband, David, founded The Advisory Board Company, a major health care research and consulting firm.
In 2017, Advisory Board was acquired by Optum, a pharmacy benefit manager owned by insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann claimed that Medicare for All would “destabilize the nation’s health system” in April.
Single-payer health care, as exemplified by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) Medicare for All Act, would end the for-profit health insurance industry and decrease overall health spending in the U.S., according to multiple studies, including one published by the conservative, free-market think tank the Mercatus Center. The government would be able to bargain down drug prices, and fees for service to care providers would likely decrease (although providers would likely see an increase in patients, given that the roughly 30 million Americans without insurance today would all be covered).
Six individuals have contributed a total of $85,000 to the pro-Delaney super PAC in 2019, including $50,000 from Katherine Bradley. David Bradley hasn’t contributed to the super PAC or to Delaney’s campaign this year, but he, his wife, and two of his sons each donated $2,700 to the Delaney congressional campaign in 2017. From 2012-17, the Bradleys gave a total of over $39,000 to Delaney’s campaigns.
A judge has said that the officer who killed Eric Garner should be fired. NPR: NYPD Judge Recommends That The Officer Involved In Eric Garner’s Death Be Fired.
An administrative judge with the New York Police Department has recommended that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.
The judge found Pantaleo guilty of using a banned chokehold but did not find him guilty of intentionally restricting Garner’s breathing. Garner’s repeated cry of “I can’t breathe” triggered national outrage and galvanized activists concerned about police use of force.
As a result of the decision, the NYPD announced that Pantaleo has been suspended, “as is the longstanding practice in these matters when the recommendation is termination.” It is unknown whether he will be paid during this suspension.
The judge, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado, issued her recommendation Friday.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was hit with questions about the Eric Garner case at the last debate. At The New York Daily News, Harry Siegal writes that de Blasio was gaslighting: Garner, Pantaleo, de Blasio and truth: Let’s be honest about how New York City got here</a. It’s a bit complicated. Click on the link to read about it.
One more interesting story from Justin Hendrix at Just Security: Trump’s Encouraging QAnon May Result in Violence—Just ask the FBI.
On Thursday, Yahoo! News published an exclusive story detailing a May 2019 FBI assessment that online conspiracy theories “very likely” result in domestic extremists committing violent crimes. The report notes that it is “the first FBI product examining the threat from conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists and provides a baseline for future intelligence products,” and predicts an increased risk of violent outcomes as the United States enters “major election cycles such as the 2020 presidential election.”
If that happens, it may be in no small part due to President Donald Trump’s endorsement and amplification of conspiracy theories and theorists such as QAnon. A few hours after the FBI assessment leaked, the President held a campaign rally in Cincinnati, where the pre-rally speaker Brandon Straka called out the phrase, “Where we go one, we go all,” a rallying cry of QAnon believers. That’s just the tip of the iceberg….
The President has retweeted QAnon supporters, perhaps unwittingly, dozens of times….Perhaps more significant is the President’s eagerness to engage personally with individuals who advance the conspiracy theory. For instance, right wing media personality Bill Mitchell “has regularly used his radio show and Twitter account to boost and legitimize ‘Q,’ the central figure of the QAnon conspiracy theory, sometimes hosting major QAnon believers,” according to Alex Kaplan at Media Matters. Mitchell was among the extremists invited to the White House for its recent Social Media Summit. Another QAnon supporter and conspiracy theorist, Michael Lebron, was photographed with Donald Trump in the Oval Office last summer, according to CNN.
Much more information at the link.
So . . . What stories are you following today?