As usual these days, I don’t know where to begin. We are living through something so strange and unprecedented that I just find myself shaking my head at each new revelation. Once again, I’m going to illustrate this post with baby animal pics, just because.
One crazy-making thing for me is the fact that the Senate is currently grilling a candidate for the Supreme Court who has been nominated by a man who may have committed treason. Neil Gorsuch should not be approved until the investigation of Trump’s involvement with Russia’s interference in the election is complete. I’m actually having difficulty watching the Gorsuch hearing. The word I think of when I look at and listen to him is “oily.” I hope some of you are following the questioning and can share your impressions.
I did watch the entire “Comey hearing” yesterday, and I’m still processing the latest revelations. I expect the press will be on this now and news outlets will compete to give us new information on a daily basis. We may have to function during political chaos for months and years to come. I can only hope the Republicans begin to develop spines as the 2018 election gets closer.
While the House Intelligence Committee testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers was still going on, White House spokesman Sean Spicer bizarrely continued to defend Trump’s accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He also claimed that Michael Flynn was only “volunteer” for the Trump campaign and that Paul Manafort had only a “limited role.”
During the campaign, Flynn was a top adviser and, at one point, was vetted to become Trump’s running mate. He later accepted a job as national security adviser, one of the most important roles in the West Wing, before resigning 24 days into the new administration, after it was revealed that he had not been entirely forthcoming about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign,” Spicer said on Monday, brushing off concerns that Flynn had been a high-level Trump campaign adviser with any degree of influence while maintaining ties to Russia.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly diminished the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, remarks made at the same time as a House Intelligence Committee hearing investigated whether campaign aides colluded with Russia during last year’s presidential race.Spicer, pressed on a number of Trump associates’ connections to Russian operatives, claimed Manafort played a “limited role (in the campaign) for a very limited amount of time.”
Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in March 2016 to lead the delegate operation on the floor of the Republican National Committee in Cleveland.
Manafort was promoted in May to campaign chairman and chief strategist. And when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June, Manafort — who butted heads with Lewandowski — was widely seen as the campaign’s top official.
Manafort is largely credited with securing Trump the Republican nomination, through a mix of deep ties in the Republican establishment and tireless organizing to win the Republican delegate fight which almost derailed Trump one year ago.
I wonder why the White House is so desperate to disown Manafort, who is a close friend of Trump buddy Roger Stone and has lived in Trump Tower since for more than a decade? The Washington Post may have provided a partial answer this morning: New documents show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges.
KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.
The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.
The latest documents were released just hours after the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James B. Comey about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The hearing that also touched on Manafort’s work for Yanukovych’s party in Ukraine.
Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.
More details at the link.
Another Russia fan who is still in the Trump administration is good old Rex Tillerson. Have you hear about the recent changes to his travel schedule? This seems odd after what we heard at the Intel Committee hearing yesterday.
America’s smaller European allies have expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s mixed signals on whether he would protect them against Russia.
The uncertainty threatened to deepen late Monday when U.S. officials said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to skip what would have been his first official meeting with NATO in April.
However, Tillerson will travel later in the month to a series of unspecified meetings in Russia, a State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News.
Here’s an interesting opinion piece by Walter Shapiro at Roll Call: James Comey and the Art of the Shiv.
Before Comey returned to his offstage role, he dropped enough bombshells to solidify his reputation as the most significant FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. Joined by his crusty sidekick, Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency, Comey gave an artful lesson in how to stick a shiv into a sitting president without ever raising his voice or making a specific accusation.
Early in the hearing, Comey shredded Trump’s cockamamie Twitter claim that Barack Obama had wiretapped him before the election. As Comey solemnly stated, “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
Comey had arrived at the hearing with his own smoking gun that he brandished at the beginning of his opening statement — official confirmation that the FBI is investigating “any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”
Comey’s offensive against the White House even extended to refuting a presidential tweet about the ongoing hearing. Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes asked Comey to respond to a Trump tweet claiming, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.” Comey dismissed Trump’s fanciful version of the truth by saying, “It wasn’t certainly our intention to say that today.”
Shapiro thinks Comey’s “role in upending” Hillary Clinton gives him credibility against Trump. I’m not so sure. Still, the piece is worth a read.
This morning Trump went to Capitol Hill in person and tried to convince hostile House Republicans to vote for his disastrous health care bill. If this is how he negotiates deals, it’s surprised he didn’t have more than 6 bankruptcies.
The Washington Post: Trump to GOP critics of health care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you.’
Assuring Republicans they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice.
“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’” said the president, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”
But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured, and that conservative hold-outs would continue pressing for a tougher bill.
“I’m still a ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”
House Republicans made some changes to the bill yesterday, but according to Ezra Klein: The new Republican health care bill doesn’t fix the old bill’s problems.
There are three problems you could have imagined the manager’s amendment to the American Health Care Act trying to fix:
- The Congressional Budget Office estimates the AHCA will lead 24 million more Americans to go uninsured, push millions more into the kind of super-high-deductible care Republicans criticized in the Affordable Care Act, and all that will happen while the richest Americans get hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Voters — including the downscale rural whites who propelled Donald Trump into the presidency — aren’t going to like any of that.
- Virtually every health policy analyst from every side of the aisle thinks the AHCA is poorly constructed and will lead to consequences even its drafters didn’t intend. Avik Roy argues there are huge implicit tax increases for the poor who get jobs that lift them out of Medicaid’s ranks. Bob Laszewski thinks the plan will drive healthy people out of the insurance markets, creating even worse premium increases than we’re seeing under Obamacare. Implementing this bill, as drafted, would be a disaster.
- As written, the AHCA is unlikely to pass the House, and so GOP leadership needs to give House conservatives more reasons to vote for the bill, even if those reasons leave the legislation less likely to succeed in the Senate. For this bill to fail in the House would embarrass Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump.
Of the three problems in the AHCA, the third is by far the least serious — but it’s the only one the manager’s amendment even attempts to solve. These aren’t changes that address the core problems the GOP health care bill will create for voters, insurers, or states; instead, it’s legislation that tries to solve some of the problems the bill creates for conservative legislators. It might yet fall short on even that count.
This is a trap for Republicans. Both the process and the substance of the American Health Care Act have revealed a political party that has lost sight of the fact that the true test of legislation isn’t whether it passes, but whether it works.
One more from Mother Jones on the Trump kleptocracy:
The week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, as questions swirled about the ethics ramifications of his refusal to divest from his business holdings, the Trump Organization announced that it had created a system for vetting new deals that could benefit the president. The company said it had tapped George Sorial, a Trump Organization executive, to be chief compliance counsel and Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer, to serve as an outside ethics adviser who would scrutinize new Trump company transactions for potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s private lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had pledged in early January that Trump would “build in protections” to assure Americans that his actions as president “are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.” But two months into Trump’s presidency, there are serious questions about the rigor and transparency of the Trump Organization’s vetting process.
The first deal completed after Trump’s swearing-in suggested the vetting procedures are weak. This transaction, as Mother Jones reported, was the sale of a $15.8 million condo to a Chinese American businesswoman who peddles access to Chinese elites and who has ties to a front group established by China’s military intelligence apparatus. Angela Chen’s connections to Chinese officials and military intelligence evidently weren’t a cause for concern to the Trump Organization. The condo sale went through on February 21, with Chen apparently paying the $15.8 million in cash—roughly $2 million more than a unit one floor below. (Chen had lived in the same Trump-owned Park Avenue building in a smaller apartment for years. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump lived in the same building before their move to Washington.) Contacted by Mother Jones earlier this month, Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, declined to comment on the sale or how it was vetted.
Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. “Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,” he says. “It’s absolutely unclear if Burchfield or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don’t know what it is. But we should not presume it’s happening.”
On Thursday, Burchfield, a veteran corporate litigator who specializes in political law and largely represents Republican clients, declined to comment regarding the vetting process for new Trump deals. He would not talk about any transactions approved or denied since he began advising the Trump Organization. At Trump’s January 11 press conference, Dillon promised that the outside ethics adviser would provide “written approval” of any new deal, ostensibly explaining why a transaction does not pose a conflict for the president. Burchfield has not publicly disclosed details about the written approval process.
Read more details at Mother Jones.
What stories are you following today?
That vintage cartoon panel sure would have made me laugh a year ago…I would have used it in one of my cartoon mash-ups, depicting the populous fleeing a GOP debate. Now I can only think how prophetic that little drawn rectangle frame could be. If I had a way, I’d be gone. Wouldn’t you?
So, soon Comey is supposed to come out and speak.
Before I get to the political cartoons, let me put a couple more tweets here:
Below is the copy of that above link, via TwitLonger:
Now the cartoons.
The one thing I love about the cartoonist Pat Bagley, if you follow his twitter…he will post many comments and statements aside from his wonderful cartoons.
Here is a link to the past 10 cartoons by Pat Bagley:
That’s all, because it is 1pm…go time?
It looks like one thing we won’t have many of in the tRump era is slow news days. We are on the brink of something big–much bigger than Watergate, Iran-Contra, or any other scandal in my lifetime at least. We must brace ourselves to stand firm in the face of autocracy and the threat of actual tyranny. Watergate began slowly until the dam broke and it began escalating rapidly. This isn’t even starting that slowly.
Already we can see that tRump is planning some kind of real takeover–he’s already signaled a purge of the diplomatic corps, the state department, and the energy department. He has even ordered the commander of the DC National Guard to step down in the middle of the inauguration.
The Army general who heads the D.C. National Guard and has an integral part in overseeing the inauguration said Friday that he will be removed from command effective at 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20, just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the middle of the presidential ceremony — classified as a national special security event — and while thousands of his troops are deployed to help protect the nation’s capital during an inauguration he has spent months helping to plan.
“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz will command not only members of the D.C. Guard but also 5,000 unarmed troops dispatched from across the country to help. He also will oversee military air support protecting Washington during the inauguration….
A person close to the transition said transition officials wanted to keep Schwartz in the job for continuity, but the Army pushed to replace him.
Schwartz, who was appointed to head the Guard by President George W. Bush in 2008, maintained the position through President Obama’s two terms. He said his orders came from the Pentagon in the form of an email that names his interim successor, a brigadier general, who takes over at 12:01 p.m. next Friday.
I don’t know if the fact that Schwartz is African American had any role in this decision, but the question must be asked.
And then there is James Comey. Has this man been compromised by tRump, his fear of the New York FBI office, the Russians, or all three? As Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote yesterday, it’s way past time for Obama to fire Comey for cause.
James Comey, who threw the election to Donald Trump by repeatedly violating norms and regulations to falsely imply that Hillary Clinton was a crook, refuses to be candid about the FBI’s investigation Trump’s relationship with the Russians even in private:
Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing on Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Guardian has learned.
Comey’s lack of candor in a classified setting, intended to brief members on the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump, follows a public rebuff this week to senators seeking clarification.
In that earlier hearing, Comey said he would “never comment” on a potential FBI investigation “in an open forum like this”, raising expectations among some attendees of Friday’s briefing that Comey would put the issue to rest in a classified setting.
But according to sources attending the closed-door Friday morning meeting, that was not the case. As such, frustration with Comey was bipartisan and heated, adding to intense pressure on the director of the FBI, whose conduct in the 2016 election itself is now being investigated by an independent US justice department watchdog.
Even in post-parody America, this is astounding conduct.
After yesterday’s closed door hearing with intelligence officials, House Democrats stormed out, visibly enraged.
The Hill: Wasserman Schultz confronted Comey about Russian hacking.
The former head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) confronted FBI Director James Comey on Friday during a confidential briefing on Russian hacking that left many Democrats calling for Comey’s scalp, several lawmakers told The Hill.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was forced to resign last summer as head of the DNC amid the hacking scandal, told Comey that he should have come to her directly once the FBI was aware of the breach, just as he had done with other hacking victims….
“You let us down!” one Democrat yelled to Comey during the tense exchange, according to one attendee.
Another Democrat described the scene: “Essentially Debbie asked, how was it that the FBI knew that the DNC was being hacked and they didn’t tell her? He gave some bulls–t explanation, ‘That’s our standard, we called this one, we called that one’ — [she said] ‘Well, why didn’t you call me?’ ”
Recall that the only notification the FBI gave the DNC was a phone call from an agent to an IT guy who didn’t know whether the call was legitimate or a prank.
Yesterday, we also learned that top tRump aide Gen. Michael Flynn has been in in “frequent contact” with the Russian ambassador. The AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on the day the Obama administration hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
After initially denying that Michael Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak spoke Dec. 29, a Trump official said late Friday that the transition team was aware of one call on the day President Barack Obama imposed sanctions.
It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But repeated contacts just as Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed — or even helped shape — Russia’s response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the U.S. for the move, a decision Trump quickly praised.
More broadly, Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador suggests the incoming administration has already begun to lay the groundwork for its promised closer relationship with Moscow. That effort appears to be moving ahead, even as many in Washington, including Republicans, have expressed outrage over intelligence officials’ assessment that Putin launched a hacking operation aimed at meddling in the U.S. election to benefit Trump.
In an interview published Friday evening by The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama’s sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals.
“If Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions?” he asked.
In the same interview, tRump said he is not “committed to the One China policy,” according to NBC news this morning.
A couple of updates on the James Bond-like spy who gathered information on the likelihood that tRump has been compromised by the Russian government:
David Corn at Mother Jones: The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff.
Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.“Someone like me stays in the shadows,” the former spy said.
The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.
The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.
The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was “sufficiently serious” for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. “This was an extraordinary situation,” he remarked.
The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was “shock and horror.” After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, “My track record as a professional is second to no one.”
Read the rest at the link.
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who investigated Donald Trump’s alleged Kremlin links, was so worried by what he was discovering that at the end he was working without pay, The Independent has learned.
Mr Steele also decided to pass on information to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries.
However, say security sources, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
It is believed that a colleague of Mr Steele in Washington, Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and, at the end also continued with the Trump case without being paid.
WTF was Comey doing? Was he trying to hold off long enough to find another excuse to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances and get tRump elected? Comey has to go!
That’s all I have for you this morning, but there is plenty more going on. Please post your own links along with your comments in the thread below.
I’m getting a late start today. Yesterday was super-stressful, but I got through it and I’m feeling much better now. A lawyer and two real estate agents came to view the house yesterday. My brother came to support me and he filmed the whole thing. My sister-in-law was also here and she gave the lawyer an earful. I have the sense now that the powers-that-be may let me stay here for awhile to see if I can get senior housing. At least I’m safe until January 9 when I have to go to court again. My brother and sister-in-law will be there also as well as a friend who is an attorney.
Thank you Sky Dancers for the support you gave me on Tuesday and beyond. I love you all!
tRump was tweeting again this morning. The latest meltdown came after read (or had read to him?) a piece in Vanity Fair: Trump Grill Could Be The Worse Restaurant in America, and it reveals everything you need to know about our next president, by Tina Nguyen.
Donald Trump is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person,” Fran Lebowitz recently observed at The Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. “They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’” Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper.
On another level, Trump Grill falls somewhat short of that lofty goal. The restaurant features a stingy number of French-ish paintings that look as though they were bought from Home Goods. Wall-sized mirrors serve to make the place look much bigger than it actually is. The bathrooms transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store. And like all exclusive bastions of haute cuisine, there is a sandwich board in front advertising two great prix fixe deals.
The allure of Trump’s restaurant, like the candidate, is that it seems like a cheap version of rich. The inconsistent menus—literally, my menu was missing dishes that I found on my dining partners’—were chock-full of steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients. The dumplings, for instance, come with soy sauce topped with truffle oil, and the crostini is served with both hummus and ricotta, two exotic ingredients that should still never be combined. The menu itself would like to impress diners with how important it is, randomly capitalizing fancy words like “Prosciutto” and “Julienned” (and, strangely, ”House Salad”).
Hahahahahaha! Please go read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry.
tRump was not amused.
Of course Graydon Carter is the man who famously started the meme about tRump as “the short-fingered vulgarian.” I had a subscription to Spy Magazine in those days–if only that great publication were still with us.
Poor tRump, no matter how hard he tries he will never fit in with the “classy” rich folks he has always dreamed of fitting in with. Yesterday he called a meeting with a bunch of tech executives, and every single one of them should be embarrassed for participating in the meeting. The funny part is the major tech company that was left out.
Twitter was told it was “bounced” from Wednesday’s meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary, according to a source close to the situation.
Trump adviser Sean Spicer later denied the report, telling MSNBC that “the conference table was only so big.”
Oddly though, there was room for three of tRumps kids: Uday, Qusay, and future First Lady Ivanka.
But POLITICO’s source said the social media company’s exclusion from the much-publicized, feel-good confab in Trump Tower stemmed from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s role in rejecting the anti-Clinton emoji — a rejection that brought public complaints from the president-elect’s campaign.
Twitter was one of the few major U.S. tech companies not represented at Wednesday afternoon’s Trump Tower meeting attended by, among others, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Tesla’s Elon Musk — an omission all the more striking because of Trump’s heavy dependence on the Twitter platform. With some 17.3 million followers of his account, the president-elect has made Twitter into the de facto press channel of his transition operation.
Trump’s campaign also made a $5 million deal with Twitter before the election, in which the campaign committed “to spending a certain amount on advertising and in exchange receive discounts, perks, and custom solutions,” the campaign’s director of digital advertising and fund raising, Gary Coby, wrote in a Medium post last month. So the campaign objected when the company refused to allow the anti-Clinton emoji.
Hahahahaha! What a bratty loser tRump is.
On a more serious note, NBC News reported last night that Vladimir Putin was “personally involved” in the hacking and leaking of emails designed to hurt Clinton and help tRump in the 2016 election: U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack.
U.S. intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,” the official said.
More at the link.
Meanwhile, right win sources are reporting that James Comey personally told tRump that there is “no credible evidence” that Russia interfered with our election. I won’t link to this, but you can google it at The Blaze:
According to sources who were briefed on conversations that FBI Director James Comey had with President-elect Donald Trump, Comey told Trump that there was no credible evidence to suggest that the Russian government played any part in the outcome of the 2016 election.
Townhall reported late Wednesday that during the same phone conversation, Comey told Trump that National Intelligence Director James Clapper agreed with the FBI’s stance that there was no evidence to suggest Russian influence in the election.
Comey allegedly told Trump that there was only one U.S. intelligence official who was convinced the Russians were behind the hacked emails, and that was CIA Director John Brennan. Comey also added, “And Brennan takes his marching orders from President Obama.”
The sources also stated that Comey told Trump he saw the recent leaks to the Washington Post and New York Times as an attempt by the Democratic party to diminish Trump’s victory in the election by alleging he had outside help from the Russian government.
residential election, or the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
If this is true, it’s time to indict Comey for treason.
ABC News is independently reporting a similar story to the one from NBC News: Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking.
Ever the master spy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, was personally involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and efforts to interfere in the American elections, U.S. and foreign intelligence officials tell ABC News.
A spokesperson for Putin today called the reports “funny nonsense” but American intelligence agencies are failing to see any humor in the bold Russian cyber-attacks and the apparent role of the Russian president.
People in the intelligence community directly involved in uncovering and tracking the Russian hack say a new flow of information has directly connected Putin to what began as a lower-level effort by the Russian military to infiltrate the computers of both Republican and Democratic figures.
Once the hackers were successful in breaching the DNC’s systems, Putin became more directly involved with the effort, they say….
In October, the U.S. Intelligence Community said it “is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions.”
At the time, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said that “based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
And NPR reports that “Trump disciples” are suddenly showing up in Moscow.”
Donald Trump hasn’t been inaugurated yet, but members of his campaign entourage are already riding the president-elect’s coattails all the way to Moscow.
On Monday, Jack Kingston, a former Trump surrogate, briefed American businesspeople in Russia on what they might expect from the incoming administration.
Lifting Western sanctions that were imposed on Russia because of its armed intervention in Ukraine has become the top priority not only for the Kremlin but for foreign companies working in Moscow….
“Trump can look at sanctions. They’ve been in place long enough,” Kingston told NPR in Moscow. “Has the desired result been reached? He doesn’t have to abide by the Obama foreign policy. That gives him a fresh start.”
Wow. What about Russia’s genocide in Syria?
By chance, Kingston’s Moscow trip coincided with the visit of another Trump disciple, Carter Page, who once claimed to advise the Republican candidate on energy and Russia policy. The Trump campaign later distanced itself from Page after he came under scrutiny for his ties to Russia.
On Monday, Page held a news conference at the headquarters of Sputnik, a Russian state-run news agency, where he complained about the proliferation of fake news.
Page lamented the “Cold War mindset” in the U.S. and sang the praises of Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO who expanded his company’s footprint in Russia and whom Trump now wants to be his secretary of state.
Again, wow. Isn’t it about time that President Obama gave a major Oval Office speech on this situation?
I’ll end there, because it’s getting really late. See you in the comments below.
Comey clears Clinton yet again.
This post is illustrated with photos of women who were born before women’s suffrage and are voting for Hillary Clinton.
Just 5 more days until November 8. Then another day of waiting for the votes to be counted. After Hillary wins and we celebrate our first woman President and the ignominious defeat of the authoritarian fascist psychopath, there is going to have to be a major housecleaning at the FBI.
Before I get into the FBI news, some wisdom from 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
The Election Polls That Matter. You need to read the whole thing at the NYT, but here’s are some excerpts:
The best campaigns don’t bother with national polls — I’ve come to hate public polling, period. In the 2012 race we focused on a “golden report,” which included 62,000 simulations to determine Mr. Obama’s chances of winning battleground states. It included state tracking polls and nightly calls from volunteers, but no national tracking polls….
Today, campaigns can target voters so well that they can personalize conversations. That is the only way, when any candidate asks about the state of the race, to offer a true assessment.
Hillary Clinton can do that. To my knowledge, Donald J. Trump, who has bragged that he doesn’t care about data in campaigns, can’t….
in recent days, Mr. Trump has campaigned in New Mexico, a state he has no chance of winning. Candidates can get more money and adjust their message, but the one thing they can’t do is make more time; every wasted hour in a noncompetitive state is a grave error. Mrs. Clinton continues to go on the offensive in states like Arizona, where the race is close.
“Big data” is a buzzword, but that concept is outdated. Campaigns have entered the era of “little data.” Huge data sets are often less helpful in understanding an electorate than one or two key data points — for instance, what issue is most important to a particular undecided voter.
With “little data,” campaigns can have direct, highly personalized conversations with voters both on- and offline, like an ad on a voter’s Facebook page addressing an issue the voter is passionate about. In 2016, we see that online political engagement rates (especially for young voters) are at a historic high.
This is why campaigns no longer pay much attention to public polls, which often use conversations with just a few hundred people to make predictions about the entire electorate.
Now please go read the rest and have faith in Hillary’s sophisticated GOTV operation and the Obama coalition!
Positive news for Hillary from Latino Decisions: Latino Electorate On Track For Historic Turnout In 2016.
According to the latest data from our national tracking poll, Latino Decisions projects that between 13.1 million and 14.7 million Latinos will vote in 2016. This estimate represents a three percent to five percent increase over the 2012 Latino turnout rate which, coupled with the dramatic growth of the age-eligible Latino population, will yield between 1.9 million and 3.5 million additional Latinos voters in 2016 compared to the 11.2 million who voted four years ago.
Latino Decisions also projects that 79 percent of Latinos will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, 18 percent for Republican nominee Donald Trump, and the remaining three percent voting for other candidates. Clinton’s projected share is higher than both Latino Decisions’ estimated 75 percent Latino vote share and 71 percent exit poll share Democrat Barack Obama received during his 2012 re-election bid.
Over the past seven weeks, the Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll has demonstrated heightened enthusiasm for voting in 2016 and record-high levels of support for Hillary Clinton. Each week, the released poll has captured a rolling cross-section of 500 bilingual interviews conducted nationwide with Latino registered voters and has found little fluctuation either with respect to likely turnout or the proportion of the Latino electorate anticipated to vote for each presidential candidate. From a statistical modeling perspective, this stability is good and suggests more confidence in our model estimates for Election Day.
More details at the link.
Now for some reads about James Comey’s FBI and their efforts to elect Donald Trump.
Andrew Rosenthal at the NYT: James Comey’s Self-Righteous Meddling.
There are two possible explanations for James Comey’s decision to announce last week that he was examining emails that “appear to be pertinent” to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
One explanation, which I tend to believe, is that Comey, the director of the F.B.I., set out to interfere in the campaign on behalf of the Republican Party, a shocking act that would render him unfit for his powerful office.
(In that scenario, the aim may have not primarily been to help Donald Trump, but to preserve the Republican majorities in Congress, which suddenly seemed in danger this fall. Can you imagine how intense the pressure on Comey from the Hill must have been following his announcement this summer that the investigation was being closed?)
The other possible explanation is that he acted out of what you might charitably call a sense of moral rectitude. I think it’s better described as self-righteousness — a dangerous current in modern right-wing politics that has its roots in the rise of the Moral Majority, which aimed to make politics a choice between good values (the right’s) and bad values (the left’s) rather than a competition of ideas.
Certainly, Comey was not acting out of respect for protocol, ethics and procedure….
The idea that he wanted to help his political party is pretty terrifying. But the idea that he acted out of moral self-righteousness is not much more reassuring, given the immense powers of his office.
Read the rest at the NYT link.
Adele Stan at The National Memo: Is Reckless Comey Seeking Revenge On Critics Via FBI Twitter Account?
Something very dangerous is happening in the Federal Bureau of Investigation: The nation’s foremost law enforcement agency appears to be at war both within itself and with the Department of Justice, to which it belongs. The disagreements all involve our national politics and the FBI’s appropriate role in them, leaving the American people with yet another major institution on their do-not-trust list. The government is coming ever more undone, so much so that a recent Twitter post from an FBI account is raising questions about who’s behind it—the director of the FBI, or agents seemingly beyond his control….
Now comes word, via Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal, that agents who were investigating allegations of influence-peddling involving the Clinton Foundation were incensed when higher-ups at the Justice Department urged them to tread carefully so as to adhere to department guidelines against taking action that could influence an election, and that members of the Department’s anti-corruption unit didn’t think the FBI had a strong case.
No kidding. The “investigation” was based on right-wing news articles and the anti-Clinton propaganda tome “Clinton Cash.”
It seems as if whoever controls a Bureau Twitter account called @FBIRecordsVault has struck back against all those Clinton surrogates who are calling foul on Comey. The account, whose purpose is the posting of documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests, appears to have been dead for a year—no postings since Oct. 7, 2015. Suddenly, on Tuesday, it sprang to life with a handful of posts, one a nothing-burger on Fred Trump, father of the Republican standard-bearer; and another on an old investigation of the Clinton Foundation and President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, then a fugitive hedge-fund manager whose wife had donated to the DNC and the Clinton Foundation. It was Comey who brought the criminal case against Rich, Bloomberg News reports, and is said to have been “stunned” by Clinton’s pardon of the financier. The documents linked in the tweet don’t say much of anything (they’re heavily redacted), but the tweet itself does reinforce in the public mind the controversies advanced by Clinton’s enemies about the foundation. It’s not the fact of the tweet that’s at issue—the material was released via FOIA—but the timing of it from an account that was only reactivated Sunday.
Read many more details at the link.
Judd Legum at Think Progress: FBI launches internal investigation into its own Twitter account.
The account at issue, @FBIRecordsVault, had been dormant for more than a year. Then on October 30 at 4 a.m., the account released a flood of documents, including one describing Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump as a “philanthropist.” ….
But it wasn’t until two days later, when the account tweeted documents regarding President Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich that the account began to attract significant attention….
Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”
Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.
Will was responding to a complaint from Jonathan Hutson, a former investigative reporter who now works in communication in Washington, DC.
Read more, and see the tweets at Think Progress.
Eli Lake at Bloomberg: The FBI Wants to Make America Great Again.
As Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman and Trump supporter, told me Wednesday, “The Marc Rich tweet is evidence of open warfare between the Justice Department and the FBI.” Corallo said this is largely because frustrated field agents believe the Justice Department has stymied the bureau’s investigations into Clinton’s e-mails and the Clinton Foundation.Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told me it was true that records requested from multiple people are supposed to be added to the government agency’s electronic reading room. “What undermines that explanation is that they were not just added to the reading room, they were broadcast on this rarely used Twitter account,” he said. What’s more, Aftergood said government agencies have great discretion when they respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. “There is always a bottleneck, because the resources to review FOIA requests are inadequate to the demand,” he said.
The move certainly appeared political. After all, former Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the first former officials to criticizeComey’s decision to update Congress on the e-mail investigation. Perhaps the tweet was a shot across the bow to Holder, who recommended the Rich pardon in 2000 as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.
So what’s going on here? As the New York Times and the Washington Post are now reporting, and as my own sources confirm, many rank-and-file FBI officials are frustrated about the investigation into the Clinton Foundation and the way the e-mail probe was handled. Republicans too have wanted to see the FBI more robustly investigate the Clintons. So Comey has tried his best to split the baby.
Wayne Barrett at The Daily Beast: Meet Donald Trump’s Top FBI Fanboy.
Two days before FBI director James Comey rocked the world last week, Rudy Giuliani was on Fox, where he volunteered, un-prodded by any question: “I think he’s [Donald Trump] got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days. I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises.”
Pressed for specifics, he said: “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”
The man who now leads “lock-her-up” chants at Trump rallies spent decades of his life as a federal prosecutor and then mayor working closely with the FBI, and especially its New York office. One of Giuliani’s security firms employed a former head of the New York FBI office, and other alumni of it. It was agents of that office, probing Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexting of a minor, who pressed Comey to authorize the review of possible Hillary Clinton-related emails on a Weiner device that led to the explosive letter the director wrote Congress.
Hours after Comey’s letter about the renewed probe was leaked on Friday, Giuliani went on a radio show and attributed the director’s surprise action to “the pressure of a group of FBI agents who don’t look at it politically.”
“The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion [not to charge Clinton] being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity,” said Giuliani. “I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”
Along with Giuliani’s other connections to New York FBI agents, his former law firm, then called Bracewell Giuliani, has long been general counsel to the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents 13,000 former and current agents. The group, born in the New York office in the early ’80s, was headed until Monday by Rey Tariche, an agent still working in that office. Tariche’s resignation letter from the bureau mentioned the Clinton probe, noting that “we find our work—our integrity questioned” because of it, adding “we will not be used for political gains.”
Also check out this piece by Barrett at The New York Daily News: Peas in a pod: The long and twisted relationship between Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
As I wrote on Tuesday, Hillary is running against the Donald Trump, the GOP, the FBI, Wikileaks, and Vladimir Putin. And she’s still winning!
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below and have a terrific Thursday. Hillary will be our next POTUS!
FBI Director James Comey, in the words of Lawrence Tribe, has “throw[n] a huge bomb at the election.” Hillary will still win, but Comey, with pressure from House Republicans and Donald Trump, may have negatively affected downticket races for Democrats.
As we all know, yesterday Comey sent a letter to GOP chairmen in Congress announcing that FBI investigators had found emails that could be “pertinent” to the Clinton server investigation. Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear Messrs Chairmen:
In previous congressional testimony, l referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.
In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.
Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.
James B. Comey
Naturally, Rep. Jason Chaffetz immediately released the letter to the press, and hundreds of political reporters and cable talking heads went wild in a disgusting feeding frenzy, falsely reporting that the investigation into Clinton’s serve had been “reopened” even though Comey’s letter didn’t say any such thing.
Later in the day, Comey tried to cover his ass by sending a second letter to FBI employees. That letter was also obtained by The Washington Post. Here’s the text:
This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation. Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case. Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.
Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.
No kidding. The Justice Department, which is in charge of the FBI, has historically tried to avoid politicizing investigation, especially within at least 60 days of an election. But Comey already chose to politicize the Clinton investigation with his highly inappropriate press conference in July. Following that clusterfuck, former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller strongly criticized Comney’s actions.
“It’s not just unusual, it’s unprecedented,” said Matthew Miller, who was director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder and now works at strategic advisory firm Vianovo. “He’s put himself into the middle of a political campaign in a way that will call into question the legitimacy of the office.”
“You’ll now have people in the middle of a campaign able to say, ‘Well, the FBI director said Hillary Clinton was careless,'” Miller added. “That’s not the FBI director’s job to do, and the rules are set up to prohibit that kind of behavior.”
As we all know, Comey was then pressured by Republicans to testify before Congress about his decision not to charge Clinton. After that he took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing the FBI’s notes of Clinton’s private interview about the server. Comey is apparently hoping to become J. Edgar Hoover 2.0 with his blatant abuse of power.
We now know that the emails were found on a laptop that Huma Abedin shared with her estranged husband and social media pervert Anthony Weiner. They were not sent or received by Clinton and very likely are simply copies of emails that the FBI has already examined.
This morning, Jane Mayer revealed that in his letter yesterday Comey went against the recommendation of Attorney General Lorretta Lynich–his boss: James Comey Broke with Loretta Lynch and Justice Department Tradition.
Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.
Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.
“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.
Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees.
Not only that, but Comey’s announced resulted in a dramatic drop in the stock market. Once masssive FBI leaks clarified that Hillary Clinton likely didn’t send or receive any of the emails in question, the market began to rise again.
To top it all off, we have now learned that the FBI had the emails in question at least a month ago!
According to Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald, many in the FBI are angry at Comey.
And there’s this from Josh Marshall.
I don’t see how Comey recovers from this. He needs to resign, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. CNN legal analyst Paul Callan: Time for FBI director Comey to go.
Donald Trump’s oft-repeated claim that the FBI’s investigation of “Crooked Hillary” and the presidential election itself were and are “rigged,” seems to have thrown FBI Director James Comey into a state of panic. In foolishly making a public announcement that the bureau is reviewing newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, he has inserted himself yet again into the presidential campaign.
The old, sensible FBI rule book apparently has been thrown on the trash heap this year. While undoubtedly attempting to be open and “transparent,” to protect the reputation of the FBI, the FBI director has tossed a Molotov cocktail into the presidential race.
Voters must now be subjected to endless speculation in the press and explicit accusations from the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates that Hillary Clinton is a “criminal” aided and abetted by a rigged FBI and Justice Department. Comey’s “openness and transparency” will blow up in his face and further tarnish the FBI’s reputation. He has reinserted the Bureau into the political process.
More interesting reads on the Comey mess:
Politico: Comey’s disclosure shocks former prosecutors.
Benjamin Wittes at the Lawfare blog: Memo to the Press: What Comey’s Letter Does and Doesn’t Mean.
Jamie Bouie: Why the “October Surprise” Is Dead
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? What stories are you following today?