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Bannon directed Cambridge Analytica to research discouraging voter turnout, whistleblower says

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The GOP is increasingly coming out into the open with its authoritarian and anti-democratic, anti-American views and practices. One example is Mick Mulvaney, who is working to remove any consumer protections in financial matters by destroying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He said that he would not even talk to a lobbyist until and unless the lobbyist donated money to him.

And the GOP’s long campaign to prevent Democratic-leaning voters from having a vote is also coming into the open. Ali Breland reports in The Hill:

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie told House Democrats on Tuesday that former Trump campaign strategist Stephen Bannon asked Cambridge Analytica to research voter suppression techniques.

Wylie told House Judiciary Democrats and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a private briefing that Bannon directed the British research firm to explore methods for “discouraging particular types of voters who are more prone to voting for Democratic or liberal candidates.”

The whistleblower also told House Democrats that Bannon directed the firm to test messaging regarding Russia, Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in Eastern Europe.

“It was the only foreign issue or foreign leader, I should say, being tested at the time I was there,” Wylie told lawmakers.

Bannon was a founder of Cambridge Analytica and held a position on its board before joining the Trump campaign.

Wylie also shed light on Michael Flynn’s advisory role at the research firm, saying that his function was to “open doors and look at potential contracts” for the company as a consultant.

The research firm, which Wylie described on Tuesday as a “full-service propaganda machine,” has been embroiled in controversy since Facebook disclosed that it would cut ties with Cambridge Analytica over its improperly harvesting the data of 87 million Facebook users.

While Facebook has been under scrutiny in the matter, it has tried to shift at least some of the blame to Cambridge Analytica, characterizing it as a rogue actor that violated its data policies.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee held a separate closed-door meeting with Wylie on Wednesday.

That committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said in a statement after the meeting that Wylie outlined connections between Cambridge Analytica, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but did not provide specifics on those ties.

According to Schiff, Wylie provided new details on . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:32 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Technology

Paul Ryan’s magic asterisks come home to roost

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Paul Ryan has long been notorious for offering fake budgets based on ideological aspirations that simply are totally unrealistic and rely heavily on figures with asterisked footnotes that say essentially “Source to be determined.” The heavy weight given to fictional numbers that have such asterisks leads to their being termed “magic asterisks” by analysts such as Kevin Drum and Paul Krugman, one of whom is a Nobel prize winner.

Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

Republicans keep talking up the tax cut. Maybe they should stick to other accomplishments (are there some?) because the tax cuts aren’t doing what Republicans said they would. And that criticism is not coming from the left.
Consider the Wall Street Journal’s report:

The U.S. economy slowed down in the first quarter. That isn’t a surprise, but considering the stimulus hitting the economy it counts as disappointment.
Economists had thought that 2018 was off to a solid start. In early February, forecasters polled by Macroeconomic Advisers expected gross domestic product would grow at a 2.7% annual rate in the first quarter. But a series of disappointing reports on consumer spending pushed estimates lower. Economists in the Macroeconomic Advisers poll now estimate Friday’s first-quarter GDP report from the Commerce Department will show the economy expanded at a 1.7% rate after growing 2.9% in the fourth quarter last year.

Wasn’t the tax cut going to usher in 3, no 4, no make it 5 percent growth? Remember that “the first quarter was when the tax cut took effect, raising the take-home pay of many Americans in addition to sharply reducing corporate taxes. That ought to have boosted consumer spending, but apparently it wasn’t enough to offset the temporary factors weighing on the economy in the first quarter.”
Well, at least the tax cuts went to the middle class. What’s that? Oh, it didn’t, as The Hill reports:

Much of the tax benefit from the new tax law’s deduction for pass-through businesses will go to wealthy individuals, according to a Joint Committee on Taxation [JCT] report released Monday.
About 44 percent of the tax benefit from the deduction will go to those with income of $1 million or more in 2018, and 52.4 percent of the benefit will go to those with income in that range in 2024, the congressional tax scorekeeper estimated.

Democrats during the tax debate complained about the bill for exactly this reason. Now, the conservative Washington Examiner  acknowledges: “The idea behind the deduction was that it would allow mom-and-pop shops — sole proprietorships and partnerships, for instance — to continue competing against corporations that would enjoy the new 21 percent corporate tax rate.” However, as we knew at the time, “the vast majority of small businesses are pass-throughs, not all pass-throughs are small businesses. Some, including law firms, hedge funds, and other big partnerships, are major businesses. Some outside analysts criticized the GOP tax bill on the grounds that the new pass-through break would mean big tax cuts for high earners and big companies.” Some outside analysts (evidently not the ones Republicans consulted) had it right.
Jared Bernstein, former chief economist for VP Joe Biden tells me, “The JCT findings are totally expected, as we knew that more than half of pass-through income accrues to the richest 1 percent of tax filers. My concern is that this estimate represents a lower bound because this change opens up a huge new tax-avoidance incentive to redefine regular earnings as pass-through income.” He added, “Yes, there are guardrails against this, but they’re very weak.”
But at least the tax cuts paid for themselves, just as Republicans promised? Oh, no. Not by a long shot the Congressional Budget Office told us. CBO told us that with the tax cuts: “Deficits would be larger by an average of a full percentage point of GDP, rising by a total of $2.6 trillion to yield a cumulative deficit of nearly $15 trillion over that period. And debt held by the public would reach about 105 percent of GDP by the end of 2028, an amount that has been exceeded only once in the nation’s history. Moreover, the pressures contributing to that rise would accelerate and push debt up even more sharply in subsequent decades.”
To sum up,  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2018 at 8:54 am

Can America’s Two Tribes Learn to Live Together?

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Park MacDougald has an interesting book review in New York. I’ve added some emphases below. He writes:

Nearly everyone writing about politics today seems anxious about tribalism. Although trends toward greater political polarization have been in place for decades, the chaos of the Trump era has made the country’s divisions seem starker and more dangerous than at any time since at least the 1960s. And no wonder: Geographical mobility, racial and ideological sorting along party lines, and the segmentation of media mean that for many Americans, their political opponents are no longer friends and neighbors but a nation of hostile foreigners with whom they happen to share a country — they look and speak differently, live in different places, and cling to strange and potentially malevolent beliefs with all the irrational fervor of a doomsday cult. More literal forms of tribalism are on full display as well: Trump ran and won as, among other things, a white racial demagogue who mocked and insulted minorities on his way to the White House; while the left, as it has grown more diverse, has become accustomed to periodic spasms of hostility and mutual recrimination among its various minority groups and their white allies. Perhaps the most bitter of all contemporary political battles — and a Trump favorite — is immigration, which behind the ideological posturing is a referendum on whose tribe will control the country’s demographic future.

Making sense of this mess is the task set by Amy Chua in her new book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, published in February. Chua, a law professor at Yale, is most famous for her 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — a paean to authoritarian Asian parenting — but she has a long history of publishing unorthodox books on race, ethnicity, and nationalism. Her 2003 book, World on Fire, argued that the combination of free markets and democracy in diverse societies often leads to ethnic conflict, as certain “market-dominant minorities” become disproportionately wealthy and provoke majoritarian backlash. And her 2014 book, The Triple Package, co-authored with husband Jed Rubenfeld, argued that three cultural traits — insecurity, impulse control, and a feeling of superiority — are the secret to success in America (though a subsequent study suggests otherwise). Moreover, Chua herself knows something about just how bad ethnic relations can get. Her family are ethnic Chinese from the Philippines, members of a market-dominant minority that accounts for a little under 2 percent of the population but controls perhaps 70 percent of the economy. Such stark inequality tends to undermine ethnic harmony. In 1994, Chua’s 58-year-old aunt, still living in Manila, was stabbed to death with a butcher’s knife by her ethnic Filipino chauffeur, an episode Chua recounts in the opening of World on Fire. The belief that diversity inevitably leads to universal brotherhood is not an illusion to which she is likely to be inclined.

The central conceit of Political Tribes is that Americans, and especially American elites, are afflicted by a blindness to the importance of tribalism and group identity, of which ethnic and racial identity are but two particularly stubborn examples. The United States is what Chua calls a “super-group,” which means that unlike the ethnic nations of Europe, it provides its citizens with an overarching national identity without asking them to abandon their more particular and specific identities — one can still be a Southerner or a Korean-American without being any less of an American. Because the United States has proved successful in absorbing people from so many different backgrounds, the American political elite has, since the mid-20th century at least, tended to look on group identity as a kind of irrational atavism. Given the opportunity, they believe that most people, whether they live in Baghdad or Kansas City, will jump at the opportunity to shed their restrictive, premodern identities and become citizens of liberal-democratic states, with political preferences defined by individual interests and ideology. If it works in New Haven, why wouldn’t it work around the world?

For Chua, this idealism is both inspiring and completely false. People care very much about their group identity, tribalism is a part of our evolved psychology that cannot be educated away, and history is full of evidence that groups — whether ethnic, racial, religious, or political — are more than happy to dehumanize, exploit, and murder one another at the drop of a hat; indeed, we may take positive pleasure in watching members of our out-group suffer. Conflict becomes especially likely in conditions of extreme between-group inequality and in political systems that foreground group difference rather than providing a basis for common identity and solidarity — conditions that apply to the United States today, and which help to explain the country’s worsening partisan and racial divides. Conflict is not inevitable, and Chua is optimistic that America can find a way out of the downward spiral into tribalism. But doing so requires taking group feeling seriously, lest we blindly march down the road to Yugoslavia.

Much of the first half of Political Tribes is dedicated to showing how the American elite’s group blindness has crippled U.S. foreign policy in far-flung parts of the world. In Vietnam, for instance, American policymakers interpreted the war as a Cold War ideological conflict between communism and capitalism. Yet there was a hidden ethnic dimension that undermined U.S. efforts to prop up the South. South Vietnam, like the Philippines and many other Southeast Asian countries, had a private economy dominated by a tiny Chinese minority called the Hoa. This was a source of great resentment for ethnic Vietnamese, whose own national identity had been defined by centuries of resistance to Chinese imperialism. To many Vietnamese, “capitalism” was code for exploitation at the hands of the Hoa, and “communism” a dog-whistle for Vietnamese ethnic nationalism; predictably, the latter proved more popular. Subsequent chapters focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. ignorance of sectarian and tribal divisions spelled disaster for postwar reconstruction efforts. Washington needed local allies who opposed the regime, and these often came from formerly subordinated groups eager to take revenge on their old masters. Meanwhile, American troops were inevitably seen by formerly dominant groups — the Pahstun in Afghanistan and the Sunni Arabs in Iraq — as foreign patrons of their ethnic rivals, pushing them into extremist sectarian movements such as the Taliban and ISIS. Referring to Pashtun intransigence, Chua lays out what she calls a “cardinal rule of tribal politics: once in power, groups do not give up their dominance easily.” It’s a rule that applies to the United States as well.

While the bulk of Political Tribes’ page count is taken up by examples drawn from around the world, the real focus of Chua’s book is contemporary American tribalism. The short version of the problem is, as she writes, that “race has split America’s poor, and class has split America’s whites.”

Whites, that is, have begun to separate more and more cleanly into two tribes defined largely along class, educational, and increasingly, partisan lines. (There are also, though Chua doesn’t mention them, subterranean ethnic divisions: Germans, Italians, and “Americans” — usually a proxy for Scots-Irish — were more likely than other whites to vote for Trump.) Better-educated whites, who dominate the country’s political and cultural institutions and are the main beneficiaries of the globalized economy, have adopted as their “tribal” identity a sort of post-national cosmopolitanism, defined against what they regard as the provincial culture of poor whites. Meanwhile, less-educated whites have defined their tribal identity in opposition to the Establishment, which they perceive as a distant, occupying foreign power, indifferent to their interests and intent on elevating minorities and foreigners to pride of place within “their” country. Donald Trump was their tribune, and his election has led to an omnidirectional escalation of hostility and mistrust. Progressive whites see him as a monstrous goon elected through appeals to America’s worst impulses; poor whites identify with his vulgarity and open contempt for elite mores; and minorities see in him the face of a terrifying white revanchism that has long bubbled under the surface of post-civil-rights America. Every group feels it is under attack, causing them all to “close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

This analysis is not exactly new — we know, for instance, that poor whites feel alienated from the “coastal elite” and that minorities fear the backlash of poor whites. Much of the post-2016 debate on the left, for instance, has concerned the extent to which the Democratic Party should tone down its focus on identity politics in order to make inroads with working-class whites. Where Chua innovates is in applying her ethnic- and tribal-based lens specifically to the transformations of white America over the past few decades, a difficult task made easier by considering the country’s racial neuroses as a specific case of a global problem. People everywhere are attached to their own group cultures, and dominant groups don’t like to give up their dominance. This is as true of America’s whites, Chua argues, as it is of Pahstuns in Afghanistan. And thanks to the combined effects of immigration and fertility, it seems inevitable that American whites will lose their majority status sometime around the middle of the current century. More cosmopolitan whites tend to view this prospect with indifference or even excitement, but for many others it is a source of deep anxiety, made worse by the sense that they and their culture — which they view as identical with American culture writ large — are increasingly objects of scorn and vilification in the eyes of the progressive coalition. (Fifty-two percent of Trump supporters, Chua notes, feel like “strangers in their own land.”) The sense that they are rapidly losing both demographic weight and cultural influence to people who despise them is leading these whites to adopt what Chua calls “ethnonationalism lite” — a form of white identity politics that, while officially colorblind, would like to return to an era of implicit white cultural hegemony. It is not that these whites would like for minorities to be expelled or oppressed, but they would like them to quit complaining so much.

Something like this narrative has been repeated countless times in analyses of the 2016 election, but any recognition that cultural anxiety drove white Trump support is typically taken as proof that these voters were motivated by racism, or “racial resentment,” to use the social-science term of art. From Chua’s perspective, however, they are simply doing what you would expect most groups in most places to do most of the time: hold on to whatever power they have, an impulse that becomes all the more desperate the more tenuous that hold on power becomes. Chua does not intend this as an excuse for white racism, and she is emphatic that ethnonationalism lite is not a viable way forward for an increasingly diverse country — minorities are not going back in the closet, so to speak. But she is critical of those on the left who regard even a limited empathy with this perspective as tantamount to compromising with evil, and suggests that the more aggressive forms of left-wing identity politics, which move from demands for equality to the blanket demonization of American society, tend to exacerbate tribal sentiment on both sides of the country’s racial divide. A less tribal future will likely require talking whites off the identitarian cliff by addressing at least some of their cultural anxieties — without, however, indulging their uglier impulses.

Ultimately, Chua believes that   . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:34 pm

Trump Fundraiser Offered Russian Gas Company Plan to Get Sanctions Lifted for $26 Million

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Pay to play, and a reason for (and example of) collusion and corrupt intent. Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons report in the Intercept:

SHORTLY AFTER PRESIDENT Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

In March, Bloomberg News reported that Broidy “offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer” — Baev — “get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.” The news outlet did not identify the Russian firms or provide details of that proposal.

“At the time when I was a partner of Chadbourne & Parke LLP I had very preliminary discussions with Elliott Broidy with regard to possible engagement of him as a strategic consultant with regard to a possible instruction by one of my corporate clients. This instruction has never materialized,” Baev told The Intercept in an email. “Nor did I or Chadbourne provide any services to any other individual or entity in connection with any attempt to remove any Russian company or an individual from the US sanctions list.”

Broidy told The Intercept through a spokesperson that Baev had approached him about the proposal, but that Broidy had decided not to go through with it for political reasons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:16 pm

Interesting: White House Admits James Comey Swung the Election to Trump

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We all knew it, but I’m surprised the White House would admit it. Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

The Trump administration has been throwing every possible charge it can think of at James Comey, in order to scuff up the image of the fired FBI director. This morning, Kellyanne Conway made an accusation that she and her boss might not have thought through: “This guy swung an election,” Conway told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “He thought the wrong person would win.” That is probably true, but also probably not something Conway should admit.

Remember, the administration’s original justification for firing Comey was that he treated Hillary Clinton unfairly. Trump immediately blew up that line by confessing to Lester Holt that he fired Comey in order to stop the Russia investigation. But the administration’s messaging has returned to the original line anyway, acting as if Trump’s admission-against-interest never occurred. The official Republican site attacking Comey has heavily emphasized Democratic complaints that he publicly announced Hillary Clinton was under investigation in the campaign’s waning days.

The key to this message, though, is to ignore the context of the complaints. Trump wants people to hear that everybody is mad at Comey, but not what they are mad about — his decision to publicize the investigation into one candidate but not the other. That was Conway’s mistake.

In her eagerness to press the attack against Comey, she took the additional step of spelling out the consequences of his action. Not only did he treat Clinton unfairly, but his action was likely decisive in a razor-tight election. Comey believed Clinton had a safe lead and he could protect himself, and her, against postelection complaints that the FBI had protected her without risking her defeat. As Conway said, he actually swung the election to Trump.

And there is no way to read Conway’s comment other than as admitting Comey made the difference. You can’t “swing” an election to the candidate who lost. You can only swing it to the candidate who won.

Update: Conway now says she was being sarcastic. “I rolled my eyes and said ‘Really, this guy swung an election?’ It was sarcastic,” she tells the Daily Beast.

In the comments surrounding her “sarcastic comment, Conway made a series of non-sarcastic remarks supporting the charge that Comey swung the election. She cited a letter calling for Comey to resign over his treatment of Clinton, his confession of leaking details of a meeting with Trump, then mentioned that he swung the election – “This guy swung an election,” without saying “Really.” Immediately after, she noted that Comey “thought the wrong person would win,” which is also supporting evidence for the charge that Comey mistakenly swung the election to Trump because he believed Clinton had it in the bag.

Of course,  . . .

Continue reading.

I notice the Trump White House relies heavily on the “just joking” defense when trying to disavow statements—perfectly clear statements—made by Trump, Sanders, Conway, and other swamp denizens, generally ignoring the fact that the “jokes” are humorless and spoken absolutely seriously.

What a contemptible group of people.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2018 at 1:52 pm

Why the question of whether Michael Cohen visited Prague is massively important for Donald Trump

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Andrew Prokop explains in Voxi:

Did Trump lawyer Michael Cohen secretly visit Prague to meet with Russians in 2016? The future of Donald Trump’s presidency could hinge on whether the answer to that question is yes.

That’s because the claim that such a meeting happened is one of the most specific claims in Christopher Steele’s dossier alleging collusion between the Trump team and Russia to influence the 2016 election — and because, since the very first day that dossier was publicly released, Cohen has adamantly denied taking any such trip, and Trump’s team has relied on that denial to dispute the dossier’s accuracy. “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews,” Cohen tweeted on January 10, 2017, hours after the dossier was posted.

Yet a new report from McClatchy’s Peter Stone and Greg Gordon claims that special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen did, in fact, enter Prague through Germany at the height of the 2016 campaign, in “August or early September.”

The McClatchy report is based on anonymous sources, and we don’t yet know what the purported evidence is. It could still prove to be mistaken. (Cohen himself didn’t comment.)

But if it is in fact accurate, the report would utterly devastate one of the Trump team’s leading arguments that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. That’s because, to be blunt, there is no reason for Cohen to try to debunk the Steele dossier by lying and saying that he didn’t visit Prague at all if he actually did, unless he was trying to cover up extremely serious wrongdoing that happened during that visit.

If Cohen did in fact visit Prague in 2016, but for innocuous reasons that Steele’s sources twisted, he could have just said that at the time. Instead, he vociferously denied that he went to Prague at all. If that was false, there would be no reason for him to take that tack — unless he was trying to cover up something very serious and hoping to get away with it.

What the Steele dossier alleged about Michael Cohen visiting Prague

The Steele dossier, you will remember, was a months-long research project in which former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele dug into Donald Trump’s connections to Russia. Steele was paid by the firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by a lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The dossier, as publicly released, is a series of 17 reports written over six months, based on a plethora of sources, that allege deep and corrupt ties between Trump and Russian officials.

Cohen emerges as a major character in the final set of reports. In one dated October 19, 2016, Steele wrote (emphasis added):

Speaking in confidence to a longstanding compatriot friend in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s lawyer, Michael COHEN, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. COHEN’s role had grown following the departure of Paul MANNAFORT [sic] as TRUMP’s campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that MANNAFORT had led for the Trump side.

According to the Kremlin insider, COHEN now was heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of TRUMP’s relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, COHEN had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016. The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving MANNAFORT’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former TRUMP foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven.”

Then in a report dated the next day, October 20, Steele gave more specifics. He said Cohen’s “clandestine meeting” with Russian officials was in Prague, and mentioned a Russian NGO, Rossotrudnichestvo, as a potential host for the meeting.

The final report in the published Steele dossier, dated December 13 (after Trump was elected president), reiterated the claim of a Cohen/Prague meeting — now saying it happened in August or September 2016 — and gave many more supposed specifics (emphasis added):

COHEN had been accompanied to Prague by 3 colleagues and the timing of the visit was either in the last week of August or the first week of September. One of their main Russian interlocutors was Oleg SOLODUKHIN operating under Rossotrudnichestvo cover. According to [redacted], the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally.

The report claims that Cohen discussed how to destroy evidence of this purported hacking operation in the event of a Clinton victory.

These are, of course, highly inflammatory claims that a Trump Organization executive and lawyer was collaborating closely with Russian government officials regarding paying hackers who had worked against the Clinton campaign in some way. But for 15 months after the dossier’s publication, no evidence emerged that this had actually taken place.

Cohen immediately tried to use the “Prague visit” claim to debunk the dossier

On January 10, 2017 — 10 days before Donald Trump’s inauguration — CNN reported that Trump had been briefed on the claims of the Steele dossier, and BuzzFeed News subsequently published the dossier itself.

Some time went by without any comment from Trump’s teams on the shocking allegations. And then Michael Cohen spoke up: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2018 at 8:33 pm

The Most Important News out of Jim Comey’s Explosive New Book

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David Corn writes in Mother Jones:

On Thursday evening—like a thunderclap—the new book by James Comey, the Trump-fired former FBI chief, slammed into the political-media world. Comey’s A Higher Loyalty is due out on Tuesday, but stories about what’s in the book, as was inevitable, began detonating several days ahead of the publication date.

The New York Times posted its review of the work— “It’s Very Persuasive”—leading with Comey’s comparison of Donald Trump to the dishonest mob bosses the former FBI chief used to pursue, those wise-guys who demanded blind loyalty from their minions. The New York Post pushed that angle too, with a headline blaring, “Comey Says Trump Reminded Him of Gambino Mob Boss.” And the Washington Postfocused on Trump’s fixation on the infamous Steele dossier—not its allegations of covert Trump-Russia ties, but specifically its unproven “golden showers” allegation. As Comey tells it, Trump repeatedly insisted to the G-man that this tale was untrue. (In our new book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald TrumpMichael Isikoff and I report that Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled that document, now believes the odds the pee party actually transpired are about “fifty-fifty.”)

Comey’s observations of Trump are valuable—comments on the size of Trump’s hands aside—and the recounting of his interactions with the president, which offer a few more details than Comey provided when he testified before Congress last year, ought to disturb anyone who cares about having a reasonable and stable commander in chief. Comey clearly knows how to sell this significant and troubling story. But of the material that has become available, one portion of the book stands out as far more worrisome than Trump’s obsession with the allegations of urinating prostitutes or his Soprano-like behavior.

This is the passage from the Washington Post relating what happened when Comey, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, then-CIA chief John Brennan, and NSA head Mike Rogers briefed Trump in early January 2017 on the intelligence community’s report that concluded the Russians had mounted an information warfare attack on the 2016 election to help Trump become president. Midway through its article on the Comey book, the Post describes his account:

Trump was accompanied at the Trump Tower session by his national security team, as well as by political aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, who were slated to become White House chief of staff and press secretary respectively. Trump asked only one question, Comey writes: “You found there was no impact on the result, right?”

James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, replied that the intelligence community did no such analysis.

Comey recalls being struck that neither Trump nor his advisers asked about the future Russian threat, nor how the United States might prepare to meet it. Rather, he writes, they focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them.”

With Clapper and then-CIA Director John O. Brennan—both Obama appointees—still in the room, Priebus and other Trump aides strategized for political advantage, Comey writes. The Trump team decided they would emphasize that Russian interference had no impact on the vote—which, Clapper reminded them, the intelligence community had not determined.

Trump was two weeks away from being sworn in as president. He was just informed that the US national security establishment had confirmed its assessment that Vladimir Putin had covertly attacked American democracy and that this assault was designed to affect the results of the election. And Trump responded with no interest in any aspect of this unprecedented intervention other than its political implications—for him. In front of the leaders of the intelligence community—two of whom would continue to work for himTrump did not even bother to feign concern. He went straight to what mattered most: What does this mean for me?

The president-to-be was engaging in a profound dereliction of duty. His No. 1 job is to defend the United States from foreign attack. And he didn’t give a damn. He was kicking off his presidency with an action—or inaction—that could be seen as a betrayal of the nation he was supposed to serve.

As Isikoff and I point out, after this meeting, Trump tweeted, “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results.” This was not true. The report did not say that. And Clapper, according to Comey, had explicitly spelled this out for Trump. Still, Trump lied—and Priebus and Spicer went along.

This anecdote from Comey’s book certainly raises a question of Trump’s fitness for office. It also presents what might be an uncomfortable question for Comey, Brennan, Clapper, and Rogers. They saw . . .

Continue reading.

I did pre-order the book…

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2018 at 1:31 pm

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