Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: May 22, 2021
There’s a gossipy new book out by a reporter I don’t like very much–Edward Isaac-Dovere. He used to write for Politico and he’s now at The Atlantic. You’ve probably heard about what he wrote about Obama’s opinions of Trump. This is from an interview at The Atlantic by Caroline Nimbs Nyce.
I caught up with Isaac, an Atlantic staff writer who covers elections and the author of the upcoming book Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Trump, to discuss how Biden’s and Obama’s respective approaches to the 45th president have changed over time….
Initially, President Obama seemed pretty restrained when commenting on the 45th president. What was going on behind the scenes?
Obama definitely did not think Donald Trump was qualified to be president. He had a very cautious approach in public to what he said about Trump. But people would push him. Staff members and donors were trying to get him to talk about what he thought about Trump.
And occasionally, he would let something slip and he would say things like, Trump’s a “fucking lunatic.” Or “I didn’t think it would be this bad.” Or even “I didn’t think we’d have a racist, sexist pig.”
At one point, he’s seeing the news reports about when Trump had the Russian ambassador into the Oval Office, and he says, “corrupt motherfucker.”
I don’t think anybody ever imagined that Barack Obama was a Trump voter. But the clarity and the harshness of his view was surprising to many people.
And from The Guardian: ‘Madman … racist, sexist pig’: new book details Obama’s real thoughts on Trump.
For much of Donald Trump’s presidency, Barack Obama largely abided by the convention that former presidents do not publicly criticize or attack their successors.
Obama jettisoned any such caution during the 2020 election that put his own vice-president, Joe Biden, in the White House. But behind the scenes, with donors and advisers, Obama was reportedly much more candid.
According to a new book, Obama called Trump a “madman”, a “racist, sexist pig”, “that fucking lunatic” and a “corrupt motherfucker”.
The remarks are reported in Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump by Edward-Isaac Dovere, a staff writer at the Atlantic, which will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.
Trump’s loathing for Obama is well-known and oft-expressed, beginning with his championing of the racist birther conspiracy which said Obama was not qualified to be president.
Obama’s feelings are well-known, but have rarely been reported in such blunt detail.
Dovere reports that Obama first preferred the prospect of Trump as president to Ted Cruz, because Trump was nowhere near as clever as the hard-right Texas senator, the runner-up in the Republican primary in 2016.
But from 2017, as reality swiftly set in, Obama reacted like many in the US and around the world.
“He’s a madman,” Dovere reports Obama telling “big donors looking to squeeze a reaction out of him in exchange for the big checks they were writing to his foundation”.
“More often: ‘I didn’t think it would be this bad.’ Sometimes: ‘I didn’t think we’d have a racist, sexist pig.’ Depending on the outrage of the day … a passing ‘that fucking lunatic’ with a shake of his head.”
Obama’s strongest remark, Dovere reports, was prompted by reports that Trump was speaking to foreign leaders – including Vladimir Putin, amid the investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow – without any aides on the call.
“‘That corrupt motherfucker,’ he remarked.”
I’m not sure why anyone would find Obama’s opinions on Trump surprising. I’m glad it’s out there publicly now, but I suppose it will provide fodder for the Trumpist maniacs.
While we’re looking back at the 2016 election, there’s an interesting piece at Just Security by former CIA intel officer John Sipher: Same Data, Same Strategy: A New Look at How the Trump Campaign and Russian Intelligence Operated in 2016. Sipher takes a new look at Paul Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik–how he passed Trump campaign polling data to the Russian Spy. We now know that Kilimnik turned the data over to the Russian government.
The recent Biden administration sanctions on the Russian government are part of an ongoing effort to push back against the Kremlin’s malign influence campaign against the West. Although the White House actions are related to Russian attempts to interfere with the 2020 election, included in the announcement is a detail that has reinvigorated interest in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s potential connivance with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services.
In the announcement, the Treasury Department disclosed that in 2016, Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” that he received directly from Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort in the summer of 2016.
It was already known that Manafort had passed confidential internal polling data to Kiliminik, who was described by the 2020 Senate Select Intelligence Committee report as a “Russian intelligence officer.” While it is not a great leap to assume a Russian intelligence officer would pass material to his bosses, the recent announcement was the first time the U.S. government acknowledged Putin’s intelligence services were the recipient of the campaign data.
Those who were already troubled by the Trump campaign’s apparent collusion with the Kremlin, like myself, will see this as yet further proof of Trump’s intent to use illicit means to sway the 2016 election. Those who have long shouted “no proof of collusion” will likely scoff at the detail, labeling it as just another piece of information from the U.S. government with little public evidence to back it up.
Read the whole thing if you’re interested. Sipher’s argument is that the Russians weren’t trying to change voters’ minds with their fake news propaganda and other active measures. What they hoped was that they could appeal to new voters who might support Trump and suppress those inclined to vote for Clinton. A bit more:
As aggressive as the covert Russian influence campaign was, it is hard to imagine that fake Russian articles, tweets, and advertisements could persuade a Democrat to vote for Trump. Some researchers have echoed this assumption. Looking at the 2016 election, political scientist and Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan concluded that it is extremely difficult to change the minds of committed Democrats and Republicans. His research on the 2016 election suggests that fake news on social media was more likely to reinforce existing biases rather than change any minds.
While this theory makes sense as far as it goes, this is not what the Russian government – or the Trump campaign – were doing. They were doing exactly the opposite. They wanted to reinforce existing biases, not change minds. They were not interested in appealing to voters to consider alternatives. As information warfare expert Molly McKew explained in a February, 2018 article in “Wired,” following the Mueller indictment of the Internet Research Agency (often called the “troll factory”).
Unfortunately, Trump is still trying to create chaos in U.S. politics. At the Atlantic, Peter Wehner, who apparently still things there could be hope for the GOP, warns: Trump Is Marching Down the Road to Political Violence. The Republican Party must counteract lies rather than indulge them.
At the beginning of last week, former President Donald Trump referred to the 2020 election as the “greatest Election Fraud in the history of our Country.” By the end of the week, he had issued a statement saying, “As our Country is being destroyed, both inside and out, the Presidential Election of 2020 will go down as THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY!”
What else is new? These are the ravings of a 74-year-old sociopath, isolated and banned from social media, living in Mar-a-Lago, where he is crashing wedding parties and delivering rambling monologues.
Or at least, that would be the right way to look at things, if not for the fact that the GOP remains fully in Trump’s thrall, with its leadership more committed than ever to spreading his foundational lies and conspiracy theories. Under Trump’s sway, the Republican Party is becoming more fanatical, venturing even further into a world of illusion….
No former president, and certainly no president defeated after only one term, has so dominated his party after he left office. So Trump’s words matter. They mattered in the lead-up to, and on the day of, the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6. They still matter. And if the Republican Party doesn’t counteract these lies rather than indulge them, political violence will become more acceptable and more prevalent on the American right.
This assessment isn’t based on mere speculation; we know that many of the people who participated in the violent assault on the Capitol believed that they were acting patriotically, foot soldiers in the 21-century version of the American Revolution, doing what they understood their leader was asking of them. As a Washington Post story put it, “The accounts of people who said they were inspired by the president to take part in the melee inside the Capitol vividly show the impact of Trump’s months-long attack on the integrity of the 2020 election and his exhortations to supporters to ‘fight’ the results.” The Post story points out that a video clip of rioters mobbing the Capitol steps caught one man screaming at a police officer: “We were invited here! We were invited by the president of the United States!”
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
We know that a number of Republican lawmakers not only sympathized with the Capital insurrection, but also that some actually participated in or knew of the the planning for it. Only a few have gone against the GOP flow. Here’s an interesting piece by Jim Acosta at CNN: Chief of staff for GOP lawmaker spoke to law enforcement after overhearing talk of storming FBI building on January 6.
A top aide to Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida says he spoke with both the Capitol Police and the FBI on the morning of January 6 after overhearing a man in tactical gear talk about storming the FBI building just hours before the deadly insurrection.
Alex Ferro, chief of staff to the Florida GOP congressman, says he heard the comments as he and Gimenez were standing inside the lobby of the Hyatt Regency near Capitol Hill.
Gimenez, who was staying at the hotel as an incoming freshman lawmaker, alluded to the moment during an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday evening.
“I know for a fact that I saw people in my hotel room that were saying they were going to do something at 2 o’clock. And that happened at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Gimenez told CNN.
Ferro said Gimenez meant to say that the activity in question occurred in the lobby of the hotel, not his room. It was Ferro who initially picked up on the disturbing comments.
According to Ferro, the man who made the remark about storming the FBI did so “with passion in his voice.”
“It didn’t sit well with me,” Ferro added.
“I could have sworn I heard ‘we’re gonna storm the FBI building,'” Ferro continued.
Gimenez voted with Democrats in a support of a January 6 Commission.
Trump cultists are still “recounting” 2020 presidential votes in Arizona, and now the insanity is spreading to other states.
The company that is conducting a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots conducted an election audit in rural Pennsylvania county at the request of a state senator who has been a prominent advocate of the “Stop the Steal” movement that has spread baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against Donald Trump.
According to records and news coverage from Fulton County, Penn., state senators Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward asked county officials to allow Wake Technology Services Inc. to conduct an audit of the election. Ward, who represents the rural county in southern central Pennsylvania, told the Arizona Mirror that she passed the request on to county officials at Mastriano’s behalf.
Mastriano has been a prominent supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement and Trump ally. He helped organize a Nov. 25 hearing in Gettysburg where Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuiani and others aired baseless conspiracy theories that Trump lost Pennsylvania through “irregularities and fraud.” He said on Wednesday Trump recently urged him to run for governor.
Wake TSI, an information technology company that has predominantly worked with clients in the health care sector, is now conducting a hand recount of all ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2020 presidential election as part of an audit ordered by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott. The company is part of an audit team led by Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity company located in Florida. Fann and Cyber Ninjas cited Wake TSI’s experience in Fulton County as a qualification to participate in the Maricopa County audit.
One more from The Washington Post: In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall.