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  1. Putin’s Strategy of Chaos Peter B. Doran & Donald N. Jensen Russia’s drive to compete as a great power is dangerous for the West—and the Kremlin. We must do better at recognizing the strategy behind the trolling. Late last year, Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sochi. On the agenda was a political settlement to end the war in Syria. Russian observers framed this summit a “new Yalta without Americans,” as it revived memories of the 1945 meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin to establish the postwar order in Europe. Leaders in Moscow relish memories of Yalta, recalling a bygone era when great powers cut sweeping deals at the expense of little ones. Putin even praised the Yalta Conference before the UN General Assembly in 2015, claiming that it laid a “solid foundation for the postwar world order.” That same year, State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin specifically cited the 1945 meeting of the “Big Three” as an ideal solution to international problems. In their respective speeches, both Putin and Naryshkin indicated that they still saw Washington as a useful partner. However, the implication of Sochi was clear: The United States was no longer wanted. Pro-Kremlin commentators even described the Sochi meet-up as the “axis of order.” It was undoubtedly a dig at George W. Bush’s “axis of evil”—and the sacrifices the West has made to uphold the principles of international law and state sovereignty. Putin was sending a message. Kremlin leaders still regard themselves as players in a great-power competition with the United States and Europe. And they harbor a grudge: They believe that the international system treats them unjustly, even though Russians have benefited from the international order that both sides—East and West—helped to establish after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. They see the pillars of the post-1991 order—universal human rights, democratic norms, and the rule of law—as a pretext for foreign meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. And they fear that such ideas could undermine the legitimacy of Putinism and threaten its survival. The Putin regime already appears to be in long-term internal decline, and the Kremlin is increasingly willing to take risks—sometimes recklessly—to prove that it deserves a seat at the great-power table. Risk-taking is a dangerous business for any state, declining or otherwise. But what if the Kremlin is indeed stacking the odds of survival in its favor? Chaos for Strategic Effect For all of Russia’s weaknesses as a great power, the Kremlin thinks it possesses one key advantage in long-term competition with America and the democratic West: Russia is more cohesive internally and will thus be able to outlast its technologically superior but culturally and politically pluralistic opponents. In recent years, Putin, his chief military strategist Valery Gerasimov, and other Russian leaders have employed disinformation to spread chaos for strategic effect. The Kremlin’s goal is to create an environment in which the side that copes best with chaos (that is, which is less susceptible to societal disruption) wins. The premise is Huntingtonian: that Russia can endure in a clash of civilizations by splintering its opponents’ alliances with each other, dividing them internally, and undermining their political systems while consolidating its own population, resources, and cultural base. Such a strategy avoids competition in those areas where the Kremlin is weak in hopes of ensuring that, when confrontation does come, it will enjoy a more level playing field. Strategies of chaos are not new; other great powers in history have sought to sow instability in neighboring states to enhance their own security. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Haushofer all advocated the use of what we would now call information warfare to confuse and weaken a foe before attacking him militarily. In Russian strategic history in particular, there is a tradition of stoking chaos on the far frontier to keep rivals divided and feuding internally—and thus unable to combine forces against Russia. But there are disadvantages. Chaos strategies tend to backfire: Efforts to sow instability in a neighbor’s lands can ricochet, eventually affecting the initiator. In the lead-up to World War I, for example, the Russian Empire employed an aggressive information warfare campaign aimed at splintering Austria-Hungary. The effort increased the instability of Russia’s own western regions and contributed to a surge of Bolshevism that forced the Russians out of the war. Indeed, in today’s war against Ukraine, Russia has sealed its borders against returning fighters lest they cause trouble at home. Another problem with chaos strategies is that they involve a tactic—the purposeful use of disinformation—that tends to become more extreme with time. Methods of spreading disinformation that are initially surreptitious become more recognizable with use, so new and more drastic ones must be invented. In addition, since they are ultimately acts of war, it is hard to know when disinformation campaigns are preludes to kinetic operations. And by provoking counter-moves by their targets, they can trigger tests of strength, which these tactics were designed to avoid in the first place. Despite these potential pitfalls, the Kremlin is gambling that the West won’t recognize its strategy of sowing chaos or organize a sufficient response. It may be right. Prometheanism During the first half of the 20th century, Poland’s famed statesman Józef Piłsudski executed one of the more innovative nonlinear chaos strategies in the history of statecraft. He dubbed it “Prometheanism” in homage to the mythological Greek hero who rejected the authority of the more powerful Zeus. Prometheanism was Piłsudski’s answer to the enduring question: How can a relatively weak power successfully compete against a much stronger one? In Piłsudski’s case, the solution was to exploit the vulnerabilities of neighboring Russia by creating divisions and distractions across his rival’s territory. Compared to Russia, Piłsudski’s Poland was relatively weak. However, he could level the playing field by stoking that troublesome legacy of the former czarist empire: Russia’s nationalities problem. By supporting potentially disruptive independence movements across Russia, Piłsudski intended to keep his rival off balance. Chaos was his strategy. Fostering disorder inside Russia was his goal. But Piłsudski’s Prometheanism may have had unintended, adverse consequences: It probably informed the USSR’s own subsequent strategy of exploiting its opponents’ vulnerabilities. During the interwar period of the 20th century, Soviet policy in the Baltics represented a form of Prometheanism in action, especially the Kremlin’s use of disinformation and political subversion. By this point, Russian leaders had learned much from grappling with Piłsudski’s original Promethean gambit against the fledgling Soviet Union. Russia’s Promethean campaign against the Baltics underscored an important aspect of the strategy: It need not be an end in itself, but can also be preparation for more kinetic forms of warfare. Upon the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, which divided the territory between Germany and the USSR into respective “spheres of influence,” the Soviet Ambassador to Tallinn reported with satisfaction that Estonians were left “bewildered” and “disoriented.” The Kremlin’s subterfuge was complete. The use of disinformation disguised Moscow’s true hostile intentions in the run-up to war, leaving its neighbors strategically off balance. Prometheanism had worked. In the early phases of the Cold War, the Soviet Union again used Prometheanism against West European states—creating fifth columns and intentionally pitting discrete factions against one another. Weakening the West had a number of purposes: to prevent rearmament in Germany; to discredit pro-British and American leaders in Italy; to engender beneficial political chaos for local communist parties; and to win de facto recognition for Moscow’s consolidation of power in the eastern half of the Continent. The postwar era likewise revealed an inherent danger of Prometheanism: blowback. Soviet policy in Europe eventually backfired dramatically, by becoming a major stimulus for the Marshall Plan. Prometheanism carries a cost. In the 21st century, Russian leaders are now employing a modern variant of the Promethean strategy as a power balancer against the West. Just as Piłsudski once attempted to balance Poland’s weakness by exploiting Russia’s vulnerabilities, today’s Kremlin-backed efforts to manipulate the information space use the openness of Western systems against them. Unlike during the Cold War, today’s Russian propaganda does not crudely promote the Kremlin’s foreign policy agenda. Instead, it is designed to confuse, distract, and disrupt Western states. Russia enjoys some superficial advantages in creating chaos. First, the Kremlin does not need to beat its Western competitors outright—only to keep them confused, uncoordinated, and off balance. Second, Russia’s leaders believe that their authoritarian system grants them a natural competitive advantage in managing the politics of disorder. A third advantage is technology. Russia’s disinformation (and associated cyber) operations—prime vehicles for seeding division and distraction—leverage the anonymity, immediacy, and ubiquity of the digital age. Finally, there is surprise. As seen in recent Western elections, Russia regularly catches the West off guard. Examples of Russia’s strategy in action are many. In the Baltic States, modern Russian disinformation campaigns try to exploit fears of U.S. abandonment, while simultaneously stoking feelings of alienation among local populations. In Romania, Russian-backed media foment animosity toward Western “meddling” and eat away at public faith in NATO. In Ukraine, Moscow has exploited ethnic and linguistic divisions to create opportunities for land-grabs. It is Russian disinformation that has inflamed anti-Ukrainian sentiments among the Polish population, and widened divisions in Lithuania over energy diversification policies. Facts have become distorted. Policy debates have been hijacked. NATO has become the enemy in some quarters, and Euro-Atlantic solidarity is eroding. Ordinary citizens are left dismayed, suspicious, or disillusioned. This is what a successful 21st century disinformation strategy looks like—and chaos is its aim. A great deal of recent Western attention has been dedicated to granular considerations of the “who” and “how” of Russia’s techniques for creating disorder and distraction. We now know, for example, how Moscow makes use of Russian-language and foreign-language media outlets and social media networks to sow doubt about Western security structures like NATO. We also understand now how Russia’s military doctrine has incorporated “information confrontation” into its methods of warfare. And thanks to multiple analyses of Russian General Valery Gerasimov’s writings on the use of “indirect and asymmetric methods” for defeating an enemy, our awareness of Moscow’s “nonlinear” methods for manipulating information and political systems is expanding. Meanwhile, comparatively little work has been devoted to fitting these necessary pieces into a holistic framework that includes the “what for” and “what’s next” of Russia’s efforts. Consequently, Western leaders are perpetually playing defense against Russia’s latest toxic narrative or remarkable cyber operation. All too often, they are surprised by the Kremlin’s next moves. Part of the problem is our misunderstanding of Russia’s strategic behavior. Prior to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia was generally viewed as a weak actor with declining power in the global arena. Mired in economic crises, social problems, and plummeting population growth, Moscow’s ambition of achieving regional hegemony and global influence seemed to be things of the past. As far as Western leaders were concerned, Russia did not have the wherewithal to support a military or geostrategic rivalry. Western relations with Russia were subsequently premised on assumptions of a “win-win” situation rather than on zero-sum calculations of “us-versus-them.” These assumptions have now been shattered. From its incursions into Georgia and Ukraine to its bending or breaking of treaties (among them the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the Helsinki Final Act) to its militarization of the Black Sea and Kaliningrad enclaves, Russia has ramped up its hostility to the existing Transatlantic security order. In the process, it has also demonstrated that even a weakened competitor can be highly disruptive. Combatting Chaos To counteract Russia’s behavior, the West must understand the Kremlin’s use of information warfare as an example of a chaos strategy in action, and detach itself from its current focus on social media and IT-heavy analysis. In particular, Western analysts must consider how the concept of a bloodless “disordering of the far frontier” has figured in past Russian political-military strategy. Using both historical and contemporary assessments of Russian thinking, they can improve the West’s own competitive strategies. Indeed, the Kremlin’s chaos-seeding strategy shows us what its leaders fear: Western power. Yet to date the West has not fully considered how its power can be brought to bear against the Kremlin’s vulnerabilities. Every strategy has a weakness. For example, there are disadvantages as well as advantages to our instantaneous modern communications: The interconnected nature of the modern information space makes it harder to achieve effects in a geographically targeted way, heightening Russia’s own susceptibility to a “boomerang effect.” What unintended consequences are beginning to occur as a result of its chaos strategy? How aware are Russian leaders of these problems and how willing to address them? How vulnerable are they to blowback? These are questions that Western policymakers must ask. The stakes are high: Russia’s chaos strategy has a potentially far-reaching impact on bilateral relations and on the efficacy of our treaties and agreements with Russia (old and new). It may increase the risk of unwanted military escalation and threaten the future stability of frontline states in Central and Eastern Europe. It should also prompt caution about the prospects for agreements on Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea. In light of these risks, U.S. policy must remove the predictable and permissive conditions that enable a chaos strategy in the first place. Second, it must conceive of and work toward a sustainable end state in which Russia returns to “normal” strategic behavior patterns. Here are four key actions that policymakers must take if they are to accomplish both goals: Realize that Russia sees the international system very differently than we do, even though our interests on specific issues may coincide (for example, counter-terrorism). Approach our dealings with Moscow with the understanding that its use of terms like “international law” and “state sovereignty” are quite different than ours, and that Kremlin leaders evoke these concepts for ad hoc advantage—not as ends in themselves. Understand that Russia’s use of information warfare has a purpose: reflexive control. (Such control is achieved by subtly convincing Russia’s opponents that they are acting in their own interests, when in fact they are following Moscow’s playbook.) Prioritize the sequencing of the “carrots and sticks” offered to the Kremlin. Sticks first. This means initially increasing the penalties imposed on Russia for continued revisionist behavior and sowing of chaos (for example: tougher sanctions, wider travel bans, greater restrictions on access to the global financial system, financial snap exercises). Unfortunately, we in the West—particularly in the United States—have been too predictable, too linear. We would do well to consider ourselves the underdog in this contest and push back in nonlinear ways. The only thing that Kremlin leaders perhaps fear more than Western power is the rejection of their rule by Russia’s own people. While our final goal should be to ensure that Moscow becomes a constructive member of the Transatlantic security community, our responses for now should serve the shorter-term goal of forcing Russia to play more defense and less offense against the West. For this purpose, we should dispense with concerns about “provoking” the Kremlin. It is hardly a basis of sound policy to prioritize Putin’s peace of mind. The Russian government will work with the West if that path suits its goals. Otherwise, it will not. We should do the same. Appeared in: Volume 13, Number 6 | Published on: March 1, 2018 Peter B. Doran is president of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Donald N. Jensen is a senior fellow at CEPA, where he is editor of the Stratcom Program.
  2. No, no you are behind. The Corona virus outbreak is a hoax meant to attack Trump! Limbaugh claims coronavirus is being 'weaponized' to 'bring down' Trump Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday suggested on his show that an outbreak of coronavirus in China was being "weaponized" by the news media against President Trump. During a segment of his show highlighted by the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters, Limbaugh likened the disease to the common cold despite its symptoms including a deadly form of pneumonia that has killed more than 2,000 people in China alone. "Folks, this coronavirus thing, I want to try to put this in perspective for you. It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump," Limbaugh said. "You think I’m wrong about this? You think I’m missing it by saying that’s ... Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks," he continued. Limbaugh then pointed to large drops in the stock market in recent days thought to be caused by fears of the coronavirus outbreak, and repeated a debunked conspiracy theory that the disease was a released bioweapon. "Ninety-eight percent of people who get the coronavirus survive," he said. "It’s a respiratory system virus. It probably is a ChiCom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized. All superpower nations weaponize bioweapons." U.S. officials previously told AFP that conspiracy theories about the coronavirus including its alleged origin as a bioweapon were being spread by Russian disinformation sites and troll accounts on social media. Other conservative figures including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have also repeated the conspiracy theory in recent days. The coronavirus has spread to 29 countries outside of China and there have been more than 30 cases reported in the U.S.
  3. In our legal culture, it is you that has the burden of proof. Otherwise, it's simply a xenophobic political lie (aka "propaganda").
  4. Some have dismissed the public dance between Barr and Trump as Kabuki theater — but the attorney general’s allies insist Barr’s patience is not infinite. By JOSH GERSTEIN and DARREN SAMUELSOHN What is William Barr's red line? It's the question flying around the Justice Department and the legal world as the attorney general is locked in a tense standoff with Donald Trump, who is defying Barr’s public plea last week that the president stop his high-profile punditry about pending criminal cases. Trump has refused to cease his incessant commentary about the ongoing prosecutions of his former aide Michael Flynn and longtime adviser Roger Stone. After discussing both on Tuesday, Trump indulged his hardcore Twitter habit again Wednesday with a series of retweets painting him and his supporters as beleaguered by the so-called deep state. Trump then retweeted video clips directly criticizing Barr for admonishing him to pipe down. In response, Barr has said ... well ... nothing — at least in public. But rumblings of the attorney general’s unease have grown over the past couple of days, with news reports saying Barr has mentioned to associates that he might resign if Trump keeps up the drumbeat of commentary on DOJ business. Such a threat was implicit in Barr’s televised ABC interview last week in which he said it was “impossible” for him to do his job amid a constant flurry of Trump’s tweets. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said. So what might actually drive Barr to quit? People close to Barr said the attorney general has been frustrated with Trump’s statements for months, telling the president to rein them in and enlisting White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others to reinforce the message. Barr’s patience is not infinite, the attorney’s general’s associates emphasized, without specifying just what he would do in response. Still, they insisted the DOJ chief is not on the verge of quitting — yet. The only official answer to the reports Barr might resign came from his spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, on Twitter — ironically enough. “Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign,” Kupec wrote. Her terse statement, lodged firmly in the present tense, did not deny that Barr had considered quitting or that he suggested to others he might step down. Some have dismissed the public dance between Barr and Trump as a sort of Kabuki theater, designed to demonstrate irritation where none really exists. Few see Barr’s rejection of Trump’s statements as reflecting moral or ethical qualms. Trump began attacking federal judges five years ago during the 2016 campaign, when he mounted a racist attack on a Latino federal judge in San Diego handling a fraud lawsuit over Trump University. Last October, Trump decried his GOP critics as “human scum.” Earlier this month at the White House, with Barr in the audience, the president referred to the former leadership of the FBI as “top scum.” Barr may even have fueled the president’s airing of grievances by declaring publicly at the close of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that Trump had good reason to be angry, given his personal belief that the allegations of collusion with the Russians were bunk. However, even some Justice Department veterans who are highly critical of Barr said they believe the attorney general’s asserted discomfort is genuine because Trump’s litany of statements and their timing has undermined Barr’s credibility with the career prosecutors and investigators who do the department’s day-to-day law enforcement work. Department veterans said Barr bought himself some time with his public rebuke of the president. If he hadn’t spoken out, these veterans said, other prosecutors might have shed their ties to politically sensitive cases, following in the footsteps of the four career officials who ditched the Stone case after Barr intervened to overrule their recommended 7- to 9-year prison term for the longtime GOP operative. Now, Barr faces another credibility challenge, driven by his own public dressing down of Trump and the president’s unsurprising snub of it. “He’s really getting into boy-who-cried-wolf territory with this round of stories, saying he’s considering resigning, especially because the president is just not going to change his behavior,” said Matt Miller, a former aide to Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder. “If you don’t resign, you look both feckless and insincere.” Barr’s allies on Wednesday sought to play down the Trump-Barr tension, predicting that it would soon pass — or at least hoping that it would. “I think this will blow over,” said Mike Davis, who previously served as the Senate Judiciary Committee's nominations counsel under Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “It would be a huge loss if Barr left. I think he’s been a fantastic attorney general." People close to Barr and Trump said Barr’s concerns were genuine but did not signal an imminent blowup. “There is some tension. The tension has been public. Bill hasn’t hidden what his concern is,” said one person familiar with their interactions. “They’ve both been public about it. I think they still a have a very good relationship.” The source also dismissed the notion that the attorney general is on the verge of quitting. “I can imagine a circumstance where he said, ‘I’m not dealing with this. I may resign.’ That may be a general conversation that was misinterpreted,” said the Barr ally. “Barr is not hiding the fact it’s difficult for him. But it doesn’t mean he’s leaving.” One former senior administration official said the media reports about Barr’s resignation threat looks more like it was done “to try to create a rift” between his attorney general and the president. “I just can’t think a guy in my mind as savvy as Barr, that he’d actually tell people that,” said the former official. “I have a hard time believing that’s what happening. That’s tempting fate. Now you’re going to get the president pissed off and he’s going to say, ‘You know what? Fire him.’” Still, one sign that Barr is genuinely distressed is the joint statement of support GOP congressional leaders suddenly issued for the attorney general Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham all saluted Barr as “a man of the highest character and unquestionable integrity.” The statement came as a petition by former Justice Department officials calling on Barr to resign surpassed 2,000 signatures. At Barr’s only public event Wednesday, he got a vote of confidence from FBI Director Christopher Wray, even through the two men offered notably different takes on the recent inspector general report on surveillance abuses — with Barr striking a more Trump-friendly stance. “He is no stranger to tackling challenges,” Wray said of Barr, calling him “my friend” and noting his long history at DOJ, including his prior stint as attorney general three decades ago. “We need that type of strong leadership.” Barr continued to build common cause with the U.S. national security establishment by joining in an op-ed released Wednesday warning about the threat of foreign interference in the 2020 election. The topic is known to be one whose mere mention irritates the president, but the piece soft-pedaled the part most galling to Trump, making just one passing reference to Russia.
  5. "the Biden crime syndicate"?? You sound like a Russian bot.
  6. The facts reported speak for themselves. (I noticed you didn't actually dispute any of them.)
  7. GOP doesn't want to hear about Russian interference, and is busy wrecking American elections at ground level Sophia Tesfaye February 24, 2020 10:00AM (UTC) Ever since the 2016 election, the U.S. intelligence community has consistently claimed that Russia and its agents continue to work to undermine American elections. When intel officials returned to Congress on Feb. 13 to warn — as required by law — that Russians are already interfering in the 2020 election to aid President Trump, several Republican lawmakers pushed back against the assessment before rushing to the White House to complain. "I'd challenge anyone to give me a real-world argument where [Vladimir] Putin would rather have President Trump and not Bernie Sanders," Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told The New York Times after the briefing before the House Intelligence Committee. According to reports, the intelligence community's top election security official told committee members that multiple agencies have concluded that Russia wants President Trump re-elected to serve the Kremlin's interests. Days later, Trump booted the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and replaced him with Richard Grenell, a political lackey who lacks any relevant experience. This rinse and repeat of Republican corruption and cover-up at the expense of our elections is nothing new. Recall that Robert Mueller's investigation concluded the Russians had hacked both the Democratic and Republican national committees. The DNC's information was released ahead of the 2016 election, while the RNC's information was withheld — presumably to control the GOP. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republican leader in the Senate, then threatened President Obama that if his administration went public with information about Russian interference, he would tell the voters that it was Obama who was interfering with the election. At least a dozen Republican congressional campaigns went on to use materials stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. The GOP coverup continued within hours after Mueller's testimony about foreign election interference before the House Intelligence Committee in 2019, when the Republican-controlled Senate moved to block four separate bills to defend the U.S. democratic process. In a clear demonstration of the principle that rampant corruption always begins at the top, the RNC announced plans this week to support the downriver ripples of Republicans' long-term war against democracy. Republican lawmakers across the country, faced with losing the popular vote by greater margins election after election, have responded by restricting access to the ballot before elections — and hen crippling the power of winning Democratic opponents after an election. In Kentucky, a GOP supermajority in the state legislature just voted to strip some executive powers from newly-elected Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Beshear won a closely contested election in which Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, who initially refused to concede. It's a move replicated by Republicans in North Carolina after losing the governorship in 2016, in Wisconsin after the 2018 defeat of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and in Michigan, where Democrats swept every statewide office in 2018's midterm elections. Now the RNC, along with Trump's campaign, plans to spend millions to defend the GOP's nationwide efforts to thwart democracy ahead of the 2020 election. As Politico first reported, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel has committed to spend $10 million in legal fees this cycle to defeat what she called "the Democrats' voter suppression myth" and to defend Republican legislation that imposes draconian restrictions on voter behavior, like Michigan's potential 90-day prison sentence for anyone found guilty of providing transportation to the polls for a person who is able to walk — even a legally blind voter who cannot drive. "These actions are dangerous, and we will not stand idly by while Democrats try to sue their way to victory in 2020," McDaniel said of lawsuits challenging Michigan voting laws. McDaniel pledged to use the RNC's resources to "aggressively defend the integrity of the democratic process and support the right of all eligible voters to cast an effective ballot." Republicans in battleground states like Florida are already gearing up for Election Day voter challenges on citizenship and residency grounds, as evidenced by a new GOP bill that allows the political parties to assign poll watchers from outside a given district. In 24 states, any citizen can challenge a voter without documentation to prove his or her eligibility. In Indiana, Republicans are again advancing a bill that would allow county election officials to kick voters off the rolls immediately without notice, even after two federal courts found such a practice violates voters' rights. Republicans in several states have introduced a new crop of voter ID bills ahead of the 2020 elections. So while Republicans in Congress openly act to support Russian interference in our elections, Republicans in state legislatures across the country are determined to limit the number of Americans who can actually vote. Without these twin assaults on democracy, they know they can't win.
  8. Seriously? Couldn't find a site for Rush Limbaugh University? PragerU relies on a veneer of respectability to obscure its propagandist mission Despite the name, Prager University is not, to quote from the disclaimer pasted on the bottom of its homepage, “an accredited academic institution” -- nor does it “offer certifications or diplomas.” Despite its claim that its videos are being “censored” by social media platforms, the site boasts that those same videos have racked up more than 2.45 billion views across YouTube and Facebook. Despite -- once again, quoting from its homepage -- being “a place where you are free to learn,” it’s liable to leave you misinformed. And despite being built upon this absurd collection of contradictions, PragerU is arguably one of the most influential right-wing propaganda networks put into motion since Fox News. A 2018 BuzzFeed report told the story of one high school student whose political views did an about-face over the span of just a couple of months of watching PragerU videos. A PragerU brochure makes bold-yet-believable claims about its viewing demographics and its ability to sway their political leanings, noting that more than 60% of its YouTube viewers are under the age of 35 and 70% of surveyed viewers said a video had changed their minds. A March 2018 Mother Jones article called PragerU a “Right-Wing YouTube Empire That’s Quietly Turning Millennials Into Conservatives,” and the Los Angeles Times recently said PragerU was “having more success rallying young people to Trump’s side than many campaign committees aligned with the president.” One could also argue that unlike websites like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, or The Daily Wire, which have well-earned reputations as hyperpartisan cesspools of misinformation, PragerU has been able to mostly avoid such stigma -- even though it shares a number of key associations with those sites. PragerU cloaks its extremism in a veneer of respectability, and that’s crucial to its success. The site, founded in 2011, is known for its polished and persuasive five-minute videos. Some videos focus on history, like the legacy of Christopher Columbus (apparently he’s gotten a bad rap) or the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt (the “New Deal” actually made things worse). Others tackle ongoing issues dividing the world such as religion (the West can thank “Judeo-Christian values” for its success) or the push for a $15 minimum wage (a bad idea!). If you didn’t know much about the specific presenters, their bios give the impression that many of them are relatively mainstream right-leaning media figures. For instance, PragerU has videos hosted by multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, popular TV hosts, sports journalists, current and former Washington Post columnists, a Canadian former prime minister, a five-time Emmy Award winner, a nominee to head the Labor Department, a two-time presidential candidate, a former White House press secretary, as well as current and former faculty at respected institutions such as West Point, Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, and Princeton, among others. Some of the site’s videos are … well, they’re fine. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff hosts a clip about the importance of laughter in healthy relationships. Col. Ty Seidule delivers a straightforward answer to the question of whether or not the Civil War was really about slavery (he says it was). Other clips, such as Adam Carolla’s ode to personal change, Jordan Peterson’s call to “fix yourself,” or Michele Tafoya’s “secret to success,” are just boilerplate self-help speeches we’ve all probably heard dozens of variations on in our lives. It’s the combination of respectable-sounding presenters with a handful of harmless clips that cover for the site’s hard-right ideology. Peterson’s “Fix Yourself” video is a perfect example of PragerU’s ability to use gateway videos to pivot to something much darker. Peterson posted “Fix Yourself” -- a standard clip about self-reflection and improvement -- in January 2018. But a few months later, he came up with a video titled “Dangerous People Are Teaching Your Kids,” in which he rails against professors who are “indoctrinating young minds throughout the West with their resentment-ridden ideology.” These people “have made it their life's mission to undermine Western civilization itself, which they regard as corrupt, oppressive, and patriarchal.” This “gang of nihilists,” as Peterson puts it, is made up of “post-modern neo-Marxists” whose ideas “should be consigned to the dustbin of history.” Peterson’s views make him an extremist, and he’s far from the only one with a PragerU platform. YouTuber Steven Crowder’s video about Columbus Day engages in wild historical revisionism and claims that criticizing Columbus is “an exercise in hating Western civilization, which is really just an exercise in hating yourself.” The site posted (and later deleted) a video by slur-slinging right-wing conspiracy theorist Owen Benjamin demonizing leftists. Author Douglas Murray appeared in a video claiming that the decision of European countries to take in refugees from the Middle East and North Africa was a form of “suicide, the self-annihilation of a culture.” Ben Shapiro’s treatise on Western superiority was built upon bad facts and bad arguments. Shapiro’s Daily Wire colleagues Andrew Klavan, Michael Knowles, and Matt Walsh railed against feminism, political correctness, and the very concept of self-esteem, respectively. It’s no huge surprise that PragerU’s content often mirrors the views long championed by its namesake, Dennis Prager, a radio-host-turned-digital media mogul. No one article can truly encapsulate Prager’s decades of political commentary, but he did a pretty decent job summarizing his own worldview in a March column in the National Review. In the piece, he explained why he didn’t believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to disrupt the 2016 election: There’s a big difference between critical thinking and reflexive contrarianism. A 2011 blog post shines further light on how Prager sees the world: To Prager, if evidence doesn’t support his existing beliefs, the evidence must be wrong. This is instructive when it comes to understanding what kind of education one might get from a diet of PragerU videos. Like many of his PragerU presenters, Prager himself is a far-right extremist on a number of issues. He’s claimed that the Green New Deal “will lead to bloodshed, loss of liberty, loss of human rights.” He has a long history of making false claims about HIV and AIDS -- specifically that it’s not something straight people need to concern themselves with. He’s compared a wife’s “obligation” to have sex with her husband whether she wants to or not to a man’s obligation to go to work even if he’s not in the mood. He’s argued that legalizing same-sex marriage would open the door to legalized incest and polygamy, compared the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 ruling to a coup, and said that banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would lead to “fascism.” He’s also one of several conservative commentators who were adamant that the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard wasn’t motivated by anti-gay hate. He’s stated a belief that people saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” is a sign that “Americans today are less free than at any time since the abolition of slavery (with the obvious exception of blacks under Jim Crow).” Prager also argues that discussion of campus rape culture is “a gargantuan lie” pushed by feminists “to get votes.” In 2012, Prager equated the NCAA’s punishment of Penn State University for its role in covering for assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s serial sexual abuse of young boys with the act itself, writing, “The lesson the NCAA is teaching young people — that history and truth don’t matter if enough powerful people don’t want them to matter — can be as injurious to society as the cover-up was to the victims of Sandusky.” In 2006, he wrote a column arguing that Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, should not be allowed to be sworn into Congress unless he did so with his hand on the Bible, not the Quran as he planned on doing. In that column, Prager compared the Quran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. PragerU's funding largely comes from extremely religious GOP mega-donors with ties to the fossil fuel industry. Thanks in large part to the backing of fracking billionaires and Daily Wire funders Dan and Farris Wilks, Prager was able to fund PragerU, creating an outsized platform for his extremist views. An April 2015 report in Rewire put a spotlight on the organization and its plan to get its videos incorporated into public school lessons. At that time, according to Rewire, the Wilks family had given more than $6.5 million to PragerU. A brief look at some of their beliefs shows why they made for such a perfect fit for Prager: A Reuters report about the brothers’ support of Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign helped further illustrate their extreme positions on things like LGBTQ rights and climate change: With large chunks of money coming in from these extremely religious GOP mega-donors with ties to the fossil fuel industry, it’s not exactly shocking that the site would have videos with titles like “Climate Change: What’s So Alarming?” “Do 97% of Climate Scientists Really Agree?” “The Paris Climate Agreement Won’t Change the Climate,” “Fossil Fuels: The Greenest Energy,” and “The Truth about CO2.” PragerU also has an entire series about the Ten Commandments, which Dennis Prager describes as “all that is necessary to make a good world.” And George Will, Kimberley Strassel, and David French all have videos explaining why campaign finance reform and/or public disclosure laws are actually tyrannical, anti-democratic, and/or a way for progressives to ruin the lives of people they disagree with. PragerU’s extremist, factually inaccurate propaganda has even drawn criticism from some on the right. Whether it’s gaslighting viewers about President Donald Trump’s “very fine people” comments after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally or engaging in some truly bizarre Vietnam War revisionism, PragerU has no apparent problem with blatant misinformation in its videos. Some of these distortions are too much for allies (and occasional allies) to handle. Writing in The American Conservative, Paul Gottfried slammed a PragerU video by Dinesh D’Souza for labeling fascism a leftist worldview based on a factually bereft understanding of Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile’s belief system: In a blog post for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, Alex Nowrasteh picked apart a PragerU video narrated by Michelle Malkin titled “A Nation of Immigration,” saying it is “poorly framed, rife with errors and half-truths, leaves out a lot of relevant information, and comes to an anti-legal immigration conclusion that is unsupported by the evidence presented in the rest of the video.” While it’s unsurprising that the pro-immigration Cato Institute would disagree with Malkin’s conclusions on ideological grounds, Nowrasteh’s dissection of Malkin’s factual errors is illustrative of PragerU’s reliance on omission to advance its narrative. Reason’s Billy Binion has obliterated PragerU’s claims of censorship on multiple occasions. In one article, he rebutted Prager’s argument that “YouTube's decision to restrict approximately 20 percent of his online 5-minute video shorts on the grounds that they contain mature content -- thus hiding those videos from the approximately 1.5 percent of users who elect for restricted control” was evidence that PragerU was being punished for hosting “a conservative perspective”: In a separate piece, Binion debunked Prager’s claims that Google search’s autofill suggestions were evidence of bias against PragerU. It’s not enough to just say that PragerU isn’t an actual university. It’s outright propaganda, and those appearing on the channel are propagandists. As an institution, PragerU has proved to be toxic, and it should be best understood as -- as its “About Us” page notes -- a “digital marketing campaign.” If one of Prager University’s goals really is to “[make] the world a better place, five minutes at a time,” it deserves a failing grade for its current output.
  9. Trump names right-wing troll Richard Grenell to run national intelligence: What could go wrong? Angered by more Russia revelations, Trump appoints unqualified hack to lead purge of intelligence agencies Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has had a long career in politics, and I'm sure she has many accomplishments that she's proud of. But I'm afraid she's going to be remembered for one thing and one thing only: Her declaration that President Trump had "learned his lesson" after his impeachment trial in the Senate. That would have been a ridiculous rationale for voting to acquit any president on the evidence in that case, but saying it about Trump was downright laughable. He has proved that every single day since the trial ended. Right out of the box he vowed revenge. He attacked Sen. Mitt Romney, the one Republican who voted to convict him in the Senate trial, and then immediately set about firing witnesses who had testified against him, including the twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, for no apparent reason. Trump has pushed the Senate Republican majority and the Department of Justice to help him exact his vengeance by investigating professionals who were involved in the Russia and Ukraine investigation. His apparent collusion with Attorney General Bill Barr to interfere in criminal cases has caused a near-insurrection within the Department of Justice. This week Trump went on a pardon spree, freeing a list of people who had been convicted of corruption, sending yet another obvious message to those inside and outside the justice system that he is unencumbered by the rule of law. It remains to be seen if he will pardon his old pal Roger Stone, now that he's been sentenced to 40 months in prison. But if he has any fear that Stone has information to trade, you can be sure he'll do it. That's just a partial list of "lessons" Trump has learned since the Senate failed to do its duty, and I'm sure I'm leaving some out. But the announcement on Thursday that Trump will name his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as the new acting director of national security may be the most shocking action of recent weeks. Grenell is one of the most odious Trump toadies in the administration, and that's really saying something. Like so many others, he came to Trump's attention as a sharp-tongued Fox News personality. It's likely that Trump didn't know much about him other than the fact he was a big fan. That's all it takes. Truthfully, if he'd known Grenell's whole story he would like him even more. Grenell held a few PR flak jobs in the government, working for the likes of John Bolton at the UN, where he was universally reviled. But he is best known as a Twitter troll, just like the president. He quit Romney's presidential campaign in 2012, where he'd been hired as a foreign policy spokesman, after his Twitter feed was revealed to be full of nasty comments. During the 2016 campaign, he got back in the game and really made a name for himself as a crude and vicious Trump supporter. Needless to say, Trump loved it and gave him the plum job of U.S. ambassador to Berlin, where he immediately alienated everyone in sight. On his very first day on the job, referencing the fact that Trump had withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, Grenell tweeted that "Germans doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately." Obviously he had no authority to dictate any such thing, and people in Germany were not amused, to say the least. Leaders of two German political parties have called him a "brat" and a "failure" and requested that he be withdrawn. No such luck. Grenell has gone on to cultivate the far right in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, particularly Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the "boyish face" of his country's far-right government. Grenell told Breitbart that he wanted to "empower" Kurz and others like him in Europe, which exceeds the job description of ambassador just a wee bit. Most recently, he was implicated in the baroque Ukraine scandal, and particularly in the side plot involving Lev Parnas and Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was reportedly instructed (perhaps by Rudy Giuliani) to ask Grenell for a heads-up if the Department of Justice decided to seek Firtash's extradition to the U.S. Grenell apparently agreed to do it, which was probably illegal. Grenell's name has been floating all over the Trump administration for a while, mentioned as a possible national security adviser after Bolton's departure or a potential secretary of state if Mike Pompeo quits. He has no qualifications for any such posts, other than his personal fealty to Donald Trump. The professionals in the intelligence community are reportedly very alarmed by Grenell's appointment, as they should be. The DNI oversees all the U.S. intelligence services and has access to all the most important capabilities and secrets. It is unclear whether Grenell even has a top-level security clearance or could qualify for one. This appointment was announced as yet another "acting" assignment, which seems odd since an acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, was already in place. (He has filled the job since last August, when Dan Coats departed.) Administration sources have said that Grenell will only serve until Trump nominates someone for the permanent position, which would require Senate confirmation, and won't resign his position in Germany. So why put in another placeholder? Late on Thursday, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported the answer: Trump wanted Maguire out immediately because his department had briefed the House Intelligence Committee last week and told members that the Russian government is once again interfering in the presidential campaign on Trump's behalf. As usual, Trump is livid that members of his administration actually performed their legal and constitutional duties, and is determined to punish those who did. He was especially angry that Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a major villain in Trump World, was given this information. Aside from Maguire, the second-ranking official in the DNI's office, longtime intelligence professional Andrew Hallman, also announced his departure, leaving the top echelon without experienced leadership. But never fear, another Trumpian hack is on the way. According to Politico, hyper-partisan henchman Kash Patel, the former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who played an important role in House Republicans' attempts to discredit the Russia investigation, will come on board as "senior adviser" to Grenell. It's clear that Trump has moved his most dedicated disciples into the DNI's office in order to prevent any more briefings on Russian interference on his behalf and to ensure that the intelligence community is brought to heel. Between this and Bill Barr's unlimited mandate to investigate the intelligence on election interference from 2016, one can assume that the purge of anyone Trump considers a threat within the intelligence agencies or the Justice Department is now in full effect. So in a sense Susan Collins was right. Trump has learned his lesson: Only proven Trump loyalists will run national security and federal law enforcement from now on. What could possibly go wrong?
  10. William McRaven: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid By William H. McRaven Feb. 21, 2020 at 8:04 p.m. EST William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence. I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen. But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors. In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job. But the president chose Maguire. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment. But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs. As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.
  11. Got any evidence for the claim that illegals are voting? Have you personally ever voted?
  12. It is going to be fascinating to watch the Republican party try to excuse/explain/reform itself post Trump.
  13. “Let the Voters Decide” Doesn’t Work if Trump Fires His National Security Staff So Russia Can Help Him Again Last week, the word on Capitol Hill was that Democrats were dialing back oversight of Donald Trump’s administration because they felt they needed to emphasize other issues in order to win important elections, especially the presidential election, in November. A week before that, some of the Republicans who helped acquit Trump at his impeachment trial endorsed his defense team’s argument that voters, not their representatives, should be the ones to decide whether the president remains in office. This week, Trump fired acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire after reportedly becoming angry that one of Maguire’s deputies told members of Congress that Russia’s intelligence operation is working to support Trump’s reelection. According to the New York Times, the briefing in question conveyed that “rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation” and that they are “working from servers in the United States, rather than abroad, knowing that American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating inside the country.” Per the Washington Post, meanwhile, Trump became angry at the deputy who gave the briefing because he “erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee” and because “the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly.” The individual who will be taking over for Maguire as acting DNI, Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, is a frequent Fox News guest who has no experience in intelligence and who has previously only worked in government as a spokesman. Well, that really puts a button on it, doesn’t it? The voters are going to get their chance to decide who the president is, but only after they’re subject to a Russian-authored propaganda campaign being covered up by the incumbent administration. (On Thursday, Trump referred to reports of renewed Russian support for his campaign as a “hoax” that is “being launched by Democrats in Congress.”) Will the cover-up be successful? In 2016, the Obama administration decided not to share what it knew about Russian “interference” because Mitch McConnell privately objected to the possibility of doing so and Obama thought overruling him would come across as too partisan. On the other hand, a group of otherwise cautious first-term House Democrats with military and intelligence backgrounds provided crucial support for impeachment, despite similar ambient concerns about partisanship, on the grounds that corruption that threatens national security is a more urgent problem than other kinds. But then, thanks to the discipline of every Senate Republican but Mitt Romney, the argument about national security and election integrity got dismissed on the purported grounds that it was … yes, too partisan. Which is what led to the current freeze on oversight. And now the president is denouncing an intelligence briefing delivered by his own administration as a Democratic hoax. If the Democrats don’t ultimately get boxed in by this tactic, it’ll be the first time they’ve avoided doing so. So yes, the cover-up will probably work.
  14. President Trump promised in an all-caps tweet Friday to provide additional bailout funding to U.S. farmers if necessary, as questions arise over whether China’s purchases of agricultural products will fall short of what it pledged in the recently signed trade deal. Trump said he may expand the nearly $30 billion bailout program until the administration’s recently struck trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico “kick in.” On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief economist, Robert Johansson, projected that agricultural exports to China would reach roughly $14 billion in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, far short of what White House officials said would take place based on the “phase one” trade deal with Chinese leaders. White House officials have said agricultural exports to China would be between $40 billion and $50 billion in each of the next two years. Trump also said in the tweet that the federal bailout funding will be “PAID FOR OUT OF THE MASSIVE TARIFF MONEY COMING INTO THE USA!” Tariffs are paid by U.S. importers on goods brought into the United States. Trump often says the tariffs are paid by foreign countries, but this is not the case. And critics have noted that U.S. companies often pass these higher costs onto U.S. consumers. The president’s promise to extend the bailout program if necessary is a sharp reversal from what Trump administration officials have been saying for months. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in January that there would be no need for additional bailout funding because of the trade deal with China. But since a partial trade deal with China last month, the coronavirus outbreak has severely hampered the country’s economy, with normal operations at numerous Chinese firms delayed amid the spread of the disease. This has raised questions about whether Chinese officials planned to follow through on huge purchases of U.S. farm products when many of their businesses are operating at low capacity. Speculation about another round of bailouts has been growing among U.S. farm groups, but the timing of the president’s announcement was a surprise. Some farmers were skeptical of Perdue’s recent promises that the bailout program would be ending, given the questions surrounding China’s commitment to making the agricultural purchases. “Farmers are no dummies. They’ve seen this get rolled out the past two years, programs invented out of whole cloth,” said Robert Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “The president is going to do whatever he can to appease the farmers because it’s an election year. The only surprise here is the timing.” The bailout was created by the Trump administration as a way to try to calm outrage from farmers who complained they were caught in the middle of the White House’s trade war with China. In an attempt to pacify farmers, the Agriculture Department created an expansive new program without precedent that makes direct payments to farmers. Unlike many other government bailout programs, farmers are not required to pay any of the money back. The United States has already pledged or spent $28 billion in bailout payments to U.S. farmers, an amount that is twice the size of the Obama-era bailout of the auto industry. Many Republicans assailed President Barack Obama’s actions, but they have largely been supportive of Trump’s assistance to farmers. In some cases, that assistance has gone to foreign-owned firms with plants operating in the United States. Senior administration officials previously expressed alarm about the administration’s legal justification for the maneuver, which they have based on a New Deal-era program. Congressional Democrats backed off an opportunity to force Trump to scale back the program amid pressure from Democratic lawmakers representing farm states.
  15. Don’t mince words. Trump is abetting an attack on our country. When the Senate acquitted President Trump of the high crimes he committed against our country, Republicans and Democrats alike fell back on a convenient fiction: No, Trump has not really placed himself beyond the law and accountability entirely — for he can always be held accountable in the next election. Republicans adopted this fiction to obscure Trump’s crimes — that his Ukraine shakedown was all about corrupting that same election. Democrats adopted it to diffuse pressure to sustain the investigative war footing that protecting the country demands. The news that intelligence officials warned House lawmakers that Russia is again trying to sabotage our election for Trump, and that this disclosure angered him, shatters that fiction entirely. These revelations are already getting shrouded in euphemism. One CNN analysis insists “America” is “blundering” into another crisis of electoral legitimacy, and that the “partisan divide” is hampering the U.S. response to it. This notion that the country writ large is stumbling helplessly into this crisis, when in fact one party is inviting it in a manner the other simply is not, and its companion idea that “partisanship” will paralyze our response to it, will be ubiquitous. So let’s not mince words: Trump and his GOP defenders appear to be actively abetting an attack on our country. By contrast, Democrats can be accused only of passivity — a serious abdication, but not remotely comparable to what Trump and his defenders are orchestrating. The details of this story — outlined by The Post and the New York Times — again suggest that Trump will stop at nothing to escape accountability at the hands of voters in a free and fair election, regardless of the damage done to our country along the way. Trump is angry because our intelligence officials followed the law and informed members of both parties about what the intel indicated about new Russian efforts. Trump “berated” his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, for allowing this heresy. Trump was particularly angered by the presence at the briefing of Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif), who led the impeachment. Trump says Schiff and Democrats will “weaponize” these revelations. In short: Our intelligence officials have concluded that another effort to subvert our election is underway. And Trump’s leading worry is that this could be used against him, not that our election is in grave danger of being compromised. Reject euphemisms In the haze of euphemism that will inevitably enshroud this story, this ugly fact will be blurred with suggestions that maybe Trump doesn’t really believe this is happening, since he just can’t accept that Russia attacked our election in 2016, because he feels it delegitimizes his victory. It’s pathological! But we must reject this interpretation. Because this conclusion was reached by intelligence officials in Trump’s own administration, by multiple agencies. It’s theoretically possible that Trump defenders have a legitimate difference of opinion about what the intelligence shows. House Republicans, we’re told, objected by arguing that there’s no evidence Russia wants to help Trump. Some reporting indicates possible internal dissent on this point. This strains credulity, since intelligence services concluded precisely this intention last time. But even if this is reasonably possible, it is still not exonerating in the least, and the media should not be permitted to euphemize what’s happening here. Here’s why: Because whatever Russia’s real intentions toward Trump, this is still an attack on our democracy. The Times reports that intelligence discerns numerous concrete threats: new efforts to spread disinformation to divide the country; and possibly efforts to interfere in state voting systems. That’s not far-fetched. A bipartisan Senate investigation concluded that such efforts got much further in 2016 than we thought. And the Times reports: There is zero doubt that Trump sees sowing such doubts as being good for him. He has already spent literally years trying to undermine public faith in our elections, and is likely laying the groundwork for declaring a tight loss illegitimate, a scenario election scholars such as Richard L. Hasen take seriously. Let’s also note that there are potential practical consequences to Trump denying Congress (especially Democrats) information about outside electoral sabotage. It could mean less oversight on administration failures to protect the country, and less discussion with the public about these failures. Trump and the ‘regime party’ The larger context here, spelled out by Adam Serwer, is the entrenchment of Trump’s GOP as a “regime party” committed to holding power through maximal manipulation of government. Trump’s Ukraine shakedown and his subsequent coverup are the most recent conspicuous examples — and his acquittal is hastening this process. Then there’s Trump’s success at getting the Justice Department to dial back the sentencing recommendation for confidant Roger Stone. The judge noted that Stone was prosecuted for “covering up" for Trump, i.e., for covering up Trump’s efforts to benefit from outside corruption of our election last time. If and when Trump pardons Stone, this will be why: He does not view that as a bad thing, but as a positive for him. In a sense, Trump appears to want his intelligence agencies to function as Stone did: Not to alert Congress about outside interference that might benefit him, but instead to keep it under wraps. So now the media scrutiny must fall heavily on what the administration is doing to mitigate the threat that its own intelligence has identified. Is Trump facilitating or hindering those efforts? And if House Democrats thought there was an opening to “stand down,” as Brian Beutler puts it, this news shatters that illusion. There is no longer any excuse for failing to ramp up the oversight immediately. Protecting the country demands it.
  16. A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. It was not clear what specific steps, if any, U.S. intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Trump, according to the individuals. In Moscow, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, dismissed the U.S. intelligence analysis. “These are new paranoid reports, which, to our deep regret, will continue to grow in number as the election day approaches,” Peskov said Friday. “Naturally, they have nothing to do with the truth.” Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists. Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks. The official, Shelby Pierson, said several times during the briefing that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump, according to a U.S. official familiar with her comments. That conclusion was part of a broader discussion of election security that also touched on when the U.S. government should warn Democratic candidates if they are being targeted by foreign governments. Trump meets Russia’s top diplomat amid scrap over election interference The New York Times first reported on the intelligence conclusion that Russia wants to help the president in 2020. Trump erroneously believed that Pierson had given the assessment exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, people familiar with the matter said. Trump also believed that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people said. Schiff was the lead impeachment manager, or prosecutor, during Trump’s Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump learned about Pierson’s remarks from Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Republican and a staunch Trump ally, said one person familiar with the matter. Trump’s suspicions of the intelligence community have often been fueled by Nunes, who was with the president in California on Wednesday when he announced on Twitter that Grenell would become the acting director, officials said. A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to requests for comment. “Members on both sides participated, including ranking member Nunes, and heard the exact same briefing from experts across the intelligence community,” a committee official said. “No special or separate briefing was provided to one side or to any single member, including the chairman.” The briefing, which was offered to all members of the committee, covered “election security and foreign interference in the run-up to the 2020 election,” the committee official said. Other people familiar with the briefing described it as a contentious re-litigating of a previous intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in 2016 to help Trump. Republican members asked why the Russians would want to help Trump when he has levied punishing sanctions on their country, and they challenged Pierson to back up her claim with evidence. It is unclear how she responded. Republicans on the committee also accused some of the briefers from other agencies of being part of an effort to sabotage Trump’s reelection, these people said. Schiff, for his part, said in a tweet Thursday evening: “We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections. If reports are true, and the president is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling.” Trump became angry with Maguire and blamed him for Pierson’s remarks when the two met the next day during a special briefing for Trump on election security attended by officials from other agencies, but not Pierson. At that briefing, Trump angrily asked Maguire why he had to learn of what Pierson had said from Nunes and not from his own aides, according to administration officials with knowledge of the meeting. He said that Maguire should not have let the Capitol Hill briefing happen — particularly before he received the briefing — and that he should not have learned about it from a congressman, said one administration official. Trump told Maguire and other aides in the Oval Office that he did not believe Russia was interfering to help him or planning to do so, and that the intelligence community was getting “played,” according to an administration official with knowledge of the meeting. He said that the information would be used against him unfairly and that he could not believe that people were believing such a story again, reflecting his opinion that Russian interference in 2016 was a “hoax” made up by officials with a political agenda. Maguire struck an apologetic tone and said he was looking into it, this official said. Trump gave Maguire “a dressing-down,” said another individual, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “That was the catalyst” that led to the sidelining of Maguire in favor of Grenell, the person said. Maguire came away “despondent,” said another individual. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. The White House did not comment on Trump’s Oval Office comments to Maguire. Trump’s removal of Maguire exacerbated long-standing tensions between intelligence officials and the president. Intelligence leaders have long been some of Trump’s favorite targets on Twitter and at campaign rallies, where he portrays them as members of a “deep state” bent on sabotaging his reelection. But officials at the agencies insist they have carried on the tradition of providing the president and his top aides with unvarnished information not infected by politics or policy agendas. Grenell has no lengthy intelligence experience. His history of pro-Trump tweets and his personal relationships with Trump’s children have caused current and former officials to doubt whether he could credibly serve as the country’s top intelligence official, which they said Maguire did, despite having spent his career in the military. White House officials said Trump’s decision to make Grenell the acting director rather than nominate him for the permanent position reflected concerns that he might not win confirmation in the Senate, given his polarizing reputation. “The president likes acting [officials] better,” one White House official said. On Thursday, Grenell said in a tweet that the president would nominate a permanent DNI “soon” and that it would not be him. A senior White House official said a nominee would be announced before March 11. Late Thursday, Trump thanked Grenell “for stepping in to serve as acting DNI” in a message on Twitter. “I will be nominating a terrific candidate for the job very soon. Stay tuned!” The president told reporters aboard Air Force One that Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a staunch Trump supporter who also is running for U.S. Senate, is under consideration for the permanent post. The president has been focused lately on officials who are allegedly disloyal to him, particularly at the Justice Department, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department, aides said, and has heard from outside advisers that “real MAGA people can’t get jobs in the administration,” in the words of an administration official, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Trump has centralized his efforts to purge the ranks of his perceived opponents. In recent weeks he pushed out Sean Doo­cey, the head of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, over the fierce objections of some White House aides, replacing him with Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant. Trump has instructed McEntee, who lost his job in 2018 over concerns about his online gambling, to install more loyalists in government positions. Some of those removed from their jobs testified about the president’s actions toward Ukraine during his impeachment hearings. Trump removed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as well as Vindman’s twin brother, who did not testify, from their positions at the National Security Council. Alexander Vindman witnessed a phone call Trump had with Ukraine’s president in which Trump pressured the leader to conduct investigations of Trump’s Democratic rivals. Trump asked for the resignation of Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who told House lawmakers the president had engineered a quid pro quo with Ukraine, conditioning a White House meeting with the country’s president on investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This week, Trump also asked for the resignation of John C. Rood, the official in charge of Defense Department policy, who had certified that Ukraine had met anti-corruption obligations required by law to receive U.S. aid that Trump froze. The deputy national security adviser, Victoria Coates, has also been removed from her post after some colleagues, including trade adviser Peter Navarro, accused her of being the author of “Anonymous,” a scathing account of dysfunction in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. Coates has strenuously denied the accusation. She was moved to an advisory position in the Energy Department. By contrast, Grenell appears to be an ideal Trump appointee. The president appreciates that he publicly bashes Germany over policy disagreements. Grenell also defends the president on Fox News and on Twitter, and when he visits the White House for meetings, Trump usually wants to see him, current and former administration officials say. As acting DNI, Grenell will oversee the intelligence community’s efforts to combat election interference and disinformation, but he has been skeptical of Russia’s role in 2016. “Russian or Russian-approved tactics like cyber warfare and campaigns of misinformation have been happening for decades,” he wrote in a 2016 opinion article for Fox News, playing down the severity of the threat. That view is at odds with the conclusions of senior U.S. intelligence officials, who have said Russia’s operation in 2016 was sweeping and systematic, and unlike previous Russian or Soviet efforts.
  17. Try "PBS News Hour" for information and commentary. "Washington Week" is also good for commentary.
  18. This sexual harassment stuff reminded me a little of "Mad Men". Bloomberg is 78 years old and times have certainly changed rapidly. He lived most of his life before that change. Bloomberg is worth over 64 billion dollars and has said he will contribute it all to society. Whereas Trump is worth ?????, and you can bet your ass that little of that - if any - will go to charitable purposes or anything he doesn't otherwise profit from. (And the Trump "library" doesn't count.)
  19. Do you mean representatives? But to address (what I think) is your point, Pelosi, certainly wasn't bullied by freshman representatives. It's not in her make-up or history. (In fact, she is frequently compared to Sam Rayburn in terms of wielding her power. And Rayburn was speaker at a time when the house was not nearly as polarized as now.) Also - and I may be wrong about this - but her strong resistance to initiating an impeachment investigation was before the revelations about the attempted coercion of Ukraine. (I remember her saying as much - that she had changed her mind because of new information, but I haven't been able to locate that specific quote.) I think the same reaction to Ukraine may have changed the minds of a few other powerful Democrats, including Jerry Nadler: Nadler said Trump’s phone call seeking a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wasn’t the first time he had sought foreign help to influence an American election, noting Russian interference in 2016. He warned against inaction with a new campaign underway. “We cannot wait for the election,” he said. “ If we do not act to hold him in check, now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain.” In other words, it was the Ukrainian revelations that triggered an impeachment investigation. Pelosi may have made a (rare) mistake (in terms of partisan politics), but she wasn't bullied into taking a losing position. It's far more likely she changed her mind out of principle, IMO. In fact, her speech announcing the impeachment investigation supports that:
  20. America, the banana republic I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth. I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present. There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain. That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before. I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling. Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case. That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised. There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools. Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies. In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows. This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously. When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention. Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.