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Democrats still cannot level with voters about the American empire

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Jon Schwartz writes at the Intercept:

IN THE PAST few years, the Democratic Party has started dealing with reality on domestic policy. Largely thanks to leadership from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, actual solutions to actual problems are now on the agenda: Medicare for All, a big minimum wage hike, a Green New Deal, and the most radical, important idea — changes in who runs corporations.

Unfortunately, the presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday night showed that Democrats are still a million miles away from reality on foreign policy.

Thanks to President Donald Trump’s recent green light to Turkey to invade northern Syria and assault the Kurds there, the debate contained an unusual amount of discussion about foreign policy.

That was the upside. The downside was that almost all of the discussion was totally specious, because no one on stage wanted to tell Americans the awful truth. That truth is, first, that the grim reality in Syria available for viewing via Twitter videos is the climax of decades of bipartisan foreign policy. And second, by this point the only choices available are either wretched or horrible or both.

The worst offenders were South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Vice President Joe Biden. But even Sanders and Warren came nowhere near the honesty of their domestic policies.

Buttigieg delivered an ode to an imaginary America, proclaiming that “when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it.” In reality, of course, the U.S. has — like all powerful countries throughout history — continually betrayed allies whenever necessary. We’ve previously betrayed the Kurds alone seven times. This particular betrayal was inevitable, although a more competent president could have kept it smaller and quieter.

Meanwhile, Booker declared that Trump is “turning the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire.” As the Kurds or the Cherokee, Filipinos, Vietnamese, or many others would be happy to tell you, this glorious moral leadership is something that exists mostly on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and Washington Post.

For his part, Biden said that Trump throwing the Kurds to the wolves is “the most shameful thing any president has done in modern history.” Of course, as bad as it is, it’s far less shameful than many other U.S. actions — including the Iraq War, for which Biden voted. In terms of the Kurds specifically, it is at least to date less shameful than the Clinton administration’s fervent support in the 1990s for Turkey’s slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds. One of the key defenders of that policy was then-State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns, who is now a top adviser to Biden’s campaign.

Sanders said little about Syria, mostly just echoing Buttigieg’s concern about the rest of the world losing trust in America. By contrast, Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard dipped their toes into the complicated truth before scurrying away.

Warren said, “I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East. But we have to do it the right way, the smart way.” This sounds great, but what is this right, smart way? When even Noam Chomsky wants U.S. troops to stay in Syria, it’s a little tricky.

Gabbard did aggressively challenge standard U.S. foreign policy blather. She decried “this regime change war” in Syria and mentioned the unfortunate facts about “the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others.”

What Gabbard didn’t say is that, by this point, any plausible exit by the U.S. will be extraordinarily ugly, with the Assad regime brutally reestablishing control over Syria. The U.S. certainly bears some of the blame for that, as Gabbard said. But she did not mention that Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are also responsible for the past, present, and future carnage. Most importantly, she did not mention the much larger context for what’s happening.

And it’s that context that Democrats must get comfortable talking about, if they ever want to deal with the reality of U.S. foreign policy. Any politician brave enough to do that Tuesday night would have had to say something like this:

Look, the U.S. is the center of the most powerful empire that’s ever existed. We’re not . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2019 at 11:12 am

The banana-republicizing of the United States: This Governor Still Guides His Billion-Dollar Business Empire, Even Though He Said He Wouldn’t

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A banana republic is a country—prototypically a Latin-American country—whose politics and government are dominated and controlled by business interests—prototypically United Fruit Company. The problem with corporations, which are legal persons and also memeplexes with their own goals and immune systems and the like, is that as persons they are sociopaths and as memeplexes their only goal is growth and protecting themselves. Thus the ideal goal of government—the welfare of the commonwealth and the citizens—is beside the point.

Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette-Mail has a report in ProPublica:

Last fall, Gov. Jim Justice called reporters to his office in the West Virginia Capitol for a hastily arranged news conference.

Sitting behind a table and flanked by GOP lawmakers, the governor touted the latest budget surplus and announced a proposed pay raise for teachers and a plan to fix the state’s underfunded public employee health care plan.

But within minutes, he ended the event and dismissed the lawmakers, saying they had pressing state business. The governor took just one question.

“Nobody else? Great,” he said, banging his palms on the desk. “Let’s go.”

Justice had somewhere else to be. Across town, one of his energy companies, Bluestone Coal Corp., was due in federal court. The firm had sued a competitor for $80 million after a drilling accident had flooded a mine. And as Bluestone’s owner, Justice was playing a key role in the settlement talks. The parties spent two days negotiating a deal, and he was there when they gathered in a courtroom to present their agreement to the judge.

“May I say something?” the governor asked at one point, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“Certainly,” U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston responded.

Surrounded by nearly two dozen lawyers, the governor proceeded to explain the finer points of the agreement.

Justice’s involvement in his company’s legal matters is a far cry from what he pledged more than two and a half years ago when he took office as West Virginia’s governor. Back then, the billionaire promised to put his business empire aside and focus on public service. In an arrangement that echoed that of President Donald Trump, Justice said his adult children, Jay and Jill, would run his family’s coal mines, resorts and farms.

“Being governor,” he wrote in a January 2017 note to state employees, “is a full-time responsibility.”

But as his courtroom appearance makes clear, Justice remains deeply enmeshed in his businesses. In fact, he has frequently used official public appearances, and the trappings of his office, to promote them.

Over the past year, he has hosted a news conference at the governor’s office to tout a settlement between his coal companies and his administration’s tax collectors. He has used an interview at the governor’s mansion to press his luxury resort’s $75 million lawsuit against its insurance companies. And he’s turned an appearance at a statewide business gathering — held at that same resort — into breaking news about his family’s plans to reopen a coal mine.

The governor’s dual roles are now fueling complaints and political headaches, just as Justice is seeking a second term as the state’s chief executive. Critics in both parties say that Justice is an absentee governor, often leaving the state without strong leadership at a time when West Virginia faces key challenges, from a painful economic transition as the coal industry declines to the struggle to emerge from the worst drug overdose crisis in the country.

“The governor is running his businesses, and the state of West Virginia gets neglected as a result of it,” said Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, a Democrat who brought a lawsuit against Justice, alleging the governor is violating the state Constitution because he does not “reside” in Charleston. Justice lives in Lewisburg, near his Greenbrier resort, about 110 miles from the capital, but he has opposed the lawsuit. His lawyers say the Constitution’s term — reside — is too “nebulous” a concept for a court to enforce.

On the campaign trail, Republican rival Woody Thrasher is questioning Justice’s commitment to public office. “I think he’s a worker,” Thrasher told a Wheeling newspaper this month. “I just don’t think he works on state government. I think he works on his personal businesses, which quite frankly probably need more help than the State of West Virginia does, if that’s possible.”

Justice declined to be interviewed for this report; however, he issued a statement through a spokesman for his companies.

In it, he acknowledged his ongoing involvement in his businesses but said his interactions are limited, with his adult children running day-to-day operations. “Because the businesses employ thousands of West Virginians, I continue to have an interest in their success and do check in on them from time to time,” he said. “There are also times where I have specific historical knowledge of a particular aspect of one of the businesses, and Jay and Jill will ask me about it.”

His primary interest, he added, is West Virginia.

“Above all,” Justice said, “as I travel from one end of the state to the other, my No. 1 focus is continuing to do everything I can as governor to make sure West Virginia will continue to improve, put people in good-paying jobs and attract industry and tourism to our wonderful state.”

Unlike his recent predecessors, Justice has refused to place most of his holdings into a blind trust, which would put them under the control of an independent manager and shield him from at least the appearance of a conflict. Instead, the governor has retained ownership in 130 corporate entities, and his assets are valued by Forbes magazine at $1.5 billion.

Many of Justice’s businesses, from coal mines to farms to a casino, are regulated by the state, and some of them do business with the administration.

An investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica in August found that, despite what the Justice administration called a “moratorium” on state spending at The Greenbrier, state agencies have paid for more than $106,000 in meals and lodging at the luxury resort since Justice became governor.

That report prompted lawmakers to call for an overhaul of the state’s ethics rules. One proposal would make West Virginia the first state to mandate that governors place all of their assets into a blind trust. Separately, federal investigators have issued subpoenas seeking information about the administration’s dealings with Justice’s businesses.

Justice has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly dismissed concerns about his business interests. He maintains that they present no conflicts of interest, because he has stepped away from day-to-day management while he’s serving as governor.

Justice’s own actions have undercut that argument.

In August 2018, the governor called reporters to the Capitol to talk about his business empire’s delinquent taxes. Millions of dollars in various state levies tied to Justice’s family coal operations had been overdue for years, providing frequent fodder for his political opponents and the media.

“Today’s a really neat day for me in that I think we can put to bed once and for all this tax issue that’s been looming around forevermore,” Justice said.

Speaking in the reception room just outside the governor’s office — historically used for official government press events — Justice took reporters on a rambling verbal tour of his mining holdings and the challenges of the coal industry. He spoke in detail about how he refused to file bankruptcy to avoid debts, and he outlined the back-and-forth over selling most of his coal operations to the Russian firm Mechel, before buying them back years later.

“It has stretched our companies beyond belief to overcome this situation right here,” the governor said. “It’s been a struggle.”

But when reporters asked for specifics on how much his companies had ultimately paid in taxes — and whether the governor cut a deal with his own tax collectors — Justice was short on details.

“I don’t know what the amount is,” he insisted. “I think that’s a question you would really have to ask my son.” (Justice’s son, Jay, who was not at the news conference, has refused to answer such questions.)

Pressed for more information, Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy cited taxpayer confidentiality, but Justice interrupted. “I think you can tell them that it was audited,” the governor told the tax official.

Two months later, Justice was focused on Bluestone Coal and its ongoing lawsuit against Pinnacle Mining Co., the operator that had flooded the mine. The negotiating session was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2018, in federal court. Justice’s official calendar informed his staff, “DO NOT SCHEDULE” on that day.

But with tensions rising over the state’s underfunded health care plan for teachers and other public employees, the governor scheduled a news conference to tout Republican accomplishments. . .

Continue reading.

I have to admit that I’m surprised at the forbearance of the citizens. Maybe they simply are ignorant, or if not ignorant, too intimidated to stand up for their rights even in the privacy of the polling booth. Or perhaps it’s something else. I don’t get it.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 October 2019 at 5:03 pm

The Republican political operatives who call the shots at Facebook

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It’s becoming clear now why Facebook refuses to remove false and deceptive political posts. From Popular Information:

In recent months, Facebook has repeatedly taken actions that benefit Republicans and the right-wing. For example:

  • Facebook altered the language of its advertising policy to allow political candidates to lie in Facebook ads. The decision benefits Trump, who is spending millions on ads featuring claims that have been debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers.
  • Facebook recruited the Daily Caller, a far-right site founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, to become an official fact-checker for Facebook. The decision was made even though the Daily Caller has a history of inaccurate reporting targeting Democrats. No liberal publication was added to Facebook’s fact-checking program.
  • Facebook hired former Republican Senator Jon Kyl to produce a report on whether Facebook is biased against conservatives. Facebook did not make any effort to study whether the platform had any bias against liberals.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited right-wing pundits to his home to discuss “partnerships” and “free speech.” Invitees included Tucker Carlson, who recently said that immigrants were making America “dirtier,” and Brent Bozell, who said President Obama looked like a “skinny ghetto crackhead.” Zuckerberg does not appear to have met with any liberal pundits.

Why is this happening? Popular Information spoke with three former Facebook employees to find out. All of them pointed to the leadership in Facebook’s powerful DC office.

“Everyone in power is a Republican,” one former Facebook employee based in the DC office told Popular Information. The person requested anonymity because they are still employed in the tech industry.

Indeed, the three top leaders of Facebook’s DC office all have extensive backgrounds in Republican politics: Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan; Vice President for U.S. Public Policy Kevin Martin; and Public Policy Director for Global Elections Katie Harbath.

“Decisions are made to benefit Republicans because they are paranoid about their reputation among conservative Republicans, particularly Trump,” the former Facebook employee said.  The other former Facebook employees did not agree to be quoted.

Facebook declined to respond to a detailed set of questions about the operation of Facebook’s DC office. “We’re not going to have a comment to share,” a Facebook spokesman told Popular Information.

The man behind Kavanaugh

The most powerful man in Facebook’s DC office is Joel Kaplan, who is in charge of the company’s public policy globally. Kaplan, who was hired by Facebook in 2011, was deputy White House chief of staff during the George W. Bush administration.

Kaplan landed in the spotlight after serious allegations of sexual harassment emerged against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In a show of support, Kaplan sat behind Kavanaugh during the Senate hearing about the allegations, angering many Facebook employees.

“Our leadership team recognizes that they’ve made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we’re grateful for all the feedback from our employees,” Facebook said in response to the controversy, seemingly acknowledging it was a mistake for Kaplan to attend the hearing. But after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kaplan threw him a party.

Today, Kaplan serves as an advocate for right-wing sites on Facebook. “Any time there was an issue with Breitbart or Daily Caller, Joel made the decision, and he always acted to protect them,” the former Facebook employee told Popular Information.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kaplan “pushed to partner with right-wing news site The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division” after conservatives complained that other fact-checkers, like the Associated Press, had a liberal bias. Kaplan overruled other executives in the DC office who noted that the Daily Caller frequently published misinformation. Kaplan also pushed to maintain Breitbart’s “whitelist” status on Facebook, which allowed the publication to evade Facebook’s rules on hate speech.

A GOP delegate and also Facebook’s Director for Global Elections 

Katie Harbath, who is in charge of Facebook’s election policy, broke the news to the Biden campaign that it would allow the Trump campaign ad to run an ad featuring a claim that had been debunked by Facebook’s own fact-checkers. “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Harbath wrote in a letter.

Harbath was defending Facebook’s policy to allow politicians to lie in ads, which was first reported in Popular Information. The decision benefits the Trump campaign, which is spending millions on Facebook ads that include obvious falsehoods.

She is also a longtime Republican political operative. Before joining Facebook in 2011, Harbath was the chief digital strategist for the Republican National Committee. She was also the digital director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Her work in Republican politics dates back until at least 2003.

Harbath didn’t give up her involvement in Republican Party politics after joining Facebook. In 2014, she was an official delegate to the Virginia Republican Convention, where she supported the nomination of her former boss, Ed Gillespie, for Senate. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s disturbing, to say the least. It certainly is revealing with respect to Mark Zuckerberg’s political outlook and loyalities.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2019 at 10:33 am

Kamala Harris’s Prosecutors Sent This Innocent Man to Prison for Murder. Now He’s Talking

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I lived in California when Kamala Harris was Attorney General and I thought she was entirely too punitive and eager to convict. I’m not surprised her prosecutorial zeal resulted in sending some innocents to prison. She seems to be of the mindset “Better to send 10 innocent persons to prison than to fail to convict one guilty one.”

Chris Roberts reports in Vice:

Jamal Trulove almost saw it coming.

He figured he might be arrested, or at least spend some quality time with police, after his friend Seu Kuka was shot and killed one warm night in July 2007.

“When somebody dies in the hood, everybody feels like they’re involved,” he explained recently, during a sit-down with VICE at the clubhouse of United Playaz, a violence-prevention nonprofit based in his hometown of San Francisco. “When someone gets killed, you can plan on getting jacked up by the police regularly.”

Trulove had made it out of the city’s Sunnydale housing projects, his childhood home, where he had learned to record music and spent years selling CDs out of the trunk of his car. He’d won an internet vote to appear on I Love New York 2, a reality show on VH1. Though he was kicked off on the first episode, he had done enough right to relocate to New York City, where he was trying to develop another reality TV project and advance his music career.

But then he visited the mother of two of his children back in Seaside, California, in October 2008, and his wrongful conviction nightmare began.

He got into an argument with the kids’ grandmother, and police were called, Trulove said. The officers went from almost bored to wide-eyed and agitated after running his ID, reaching for their weapons and shouting at him to get on the ground, he recalled. “I’m like, ‘Oh, man, whatever this is, I’ll be out within 72 hours,'” the maximum length of time police can hold someone without charging them with a crime.

But rather than investigate, as an appellate court later found, San Francisco cops tasked with solving Kuka’s murder worked to frame Trulove as the killer within hours of the shooting. Though two dozen or more people saw Kuka die, only a single eyewitness agreed to talk to police. And though she failed to pick Trulove out of a series of photos and identified someone else by name, police eventually coerced her into fingering him, including shortly after his VH1 show aired in late 2007.

An arrest warrant was issued the following year when a second person facing third-strike felony charges told police Trulove was the shooter. It was bad luck that he happened to have a run-in with law enforcement soon afterward.

Trulove was transferred to jail in San Francisco, charged with first-degree murder, and brought to trial in early 2010. Despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime—and the fact that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable—he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life. For her testimony, the alleged eyewitness also received more than $60,000 in housing and relocation benefits from the office of a rising political star: San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Trulove’s story of wrongful conviction and eventual exoneration has been told before; he even won a $13.1 million payout from the city of San Francisco. But now one of the key players is making a serious run for the White House, and Trulove is anxious to tell his story again—this time including the role Harris played in it, he told VICE in his first-ever interview about Harris and his wrongful prosecution.

As a marijuana legalization-supporting, Trump-trolling 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Harris portrays her career in law-enforcement as that of a “progressive prosecutor,” an empathetic and thoughtful purveyor of help who addressed the root causes of crime rather than merely punishing wrongdoers. But Trulove’s case is perhaps the most glaring contradiction in Harris’ record, one critics like him say is littered with carceral overkill she declines to acknowledge.

Back in 2007, when Harris was San Francisco’s D.A., the city’s homicide rate hit a 14-year-high. Seventy-five percent of the time, no suspect was ever arrested. Though she faced no serious opposition and was easily reelected that year, Harris arguably wasn’t making enough cases to win over the more conservative voters she might need to make a play for statewide or national office in 2010.

That may have served to make winning murder cases like the one against Trulove all the more urgent.

According to Trulove, Harris was present at the hearings announcing both the verdict and the sentencing in his case. She even briefly locked eyes with him at one of the proceedings, offering what seemed like a “smirk,” he said.

“She wanted to be present for a celebration of a conviction,” Trulove said. “That’s what it felt like—a celebration.”

Harris’ victories with voters followed the win in the courtroom. Months after Trulove’s 2010 conviction, buoyed by an endorsement from President Barack Obama and touting an increase in her office’s felony conviction rate, Harris upset Steve Cooley, the Republican D.A. of Los Angeles County, by a razor-thin margin to become California attorney general. She has not lost an election since, and was elected to the U.S. Senate the same night Donald Trump was elected president.

Meanwhile, following more than a year in San Francisco County Jail, Trulove spent almost five years in state prison. On his very first day, he said, he witnessed a fellow inmate’s murder. Later, he survived being shanked in the stomach in San Quentin, one of the most notorious prisons in California’s overcrowded penal archipelago, according to his successful civil suit against his city. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2019 at 10:12 am

Russia picked Donald Trump for US president and worked to get him elected, according to a former Israeli intelligence official

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Cristina Maza reports in Newsweek:

Russia chose Donald Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, and used online tactics to win him the presidency, according to a former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.

“Officials in Moscow looked at the 2016 U.S. presidential race and asked, ‘Which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals?’ And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president,” former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker’s digital conference in Israel on Monday, where experts gathered to discuss online disinformation campaigns and bots.

“What we’ve seen so far with respect to bots and the distortion of information is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the greatest threat of recent years, and it threatens the basic values that we share—democracy and the world order created since World War Two,” Pardo noted, according to Haaretz.

Earlier this month, two Senate-commissioned reports determined that Russia had used every social media tool available to influence the U.S. 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump. One of the reports, completed by the company New Knowledge, detailed the wide reach of the Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

“Run like a sophisticated marketing agency in a centralized office environment, the IRA employed and trained over a thousand people to engage in round-the-clock influence operations, first targeting Ukrainian and Russian citizens, and then, well before the 2016 US election, Americans. The scale of their operation was unprecedented—they reached 126 million people on Facebook, at least 20 million users on Instagram, 1.4 million users on Twitter, and uploaded over 1,000 videos to YouTube,” the New Knowledge report stated.

Indictments from the Department of Justice recently revealed that the Internet Research Agency had a budget of over $25 million and continued to operate well into 2018.

The second report, authored by Oxford University and the company Graphika, noted that Russian influence operations attempted to sow divisions in U.S. society and promote Trump’s candidacy.

“On Facebook, the five most shared and the five most liked posts focused on . . .

Continue reading.

And Facebook still refuses to remove posts that are false and deceptive. Facebook should face a reckoning.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2019 at 9:16 am

House Democrats Are So Focused on Ukraine That They’re Overlooking Another Impeachable Offense

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David Corn writes in Mother Jones:

This is the way things work now: Donald Trump is credibly reported to have given aid and comfort to an enemy that attacked the United States—and this allegation, several days later, is not part of the news cycle or the scandal that is fueling the impeachment drive on Capitol Hill. The story of the most profound betrayal a president can commit has vanished from the national discourse. And that is partly because of the Democrats.

Last Friday night, the Washington Post published a stunning article reporting that during an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then–Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Trump was unconcerned about Moscow’s attack on the 2016 presidential election. Trump noted the Russians that their assault on the United States was no big deal because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials. It was at this meeting that Trump, as had been previously reported, revealed highly classified information to his Russian visitors and said that his firing of FBI chief James Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him. Yet Trump’s comments dismissing the importance of the Russian attack—which, according to the US intelligence community, was mounted in part to help Trump win the White House—now stands as the most significant moment of that gathering, where Trump and the two Russians were photographed smiling.

The Post noted that after this discussion, White House officials took steps to keep Trump’s comments from becoming public, and limited distribution of a memo summarizing the conversation to only a few officials with the highest security clearances. The memo was kept from officials who normally would have access to this sort of report. (The newspaper also reported it was unclear whether the memo was hidden in the supersecret White House server, as were documents related to those Trump interactions with Ukraine that are now the subject of the impeachment inquiry.)

It has long been assumed that Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was in keeping with Trump’s stated desire to get past the 2016 election and Russia’s interference. But Trump telling the Russians he did not care about the attack goes much further. That would mark a dereliction of his primary duty as president: to protect the nation. The US intelligence community, the report of special counsel Robert Mueller, and two congressional investigations (led by Republicans) have each declared that Moscow covertly waged extensive information warfare against the United States to subvert American democracy. Yet here was Trump sending a message to the foreign adversary that staged this attack that he was indifferent about it—that Russia could get away with it and perhaps do so again. Certainly, Moscow could have read Trump’s I-don’t-care comment as an invitation for future underhanded intervention.

Numerous national security officials in Trump’s own administration, including current FBI chief Chris Wray and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have said Russia poses a serious threat to the 2020 elections. On Wednesday, when asked if Moscow would target the coming US election, Russian leader Vladimir Putin joked, “I’ll tell you a secret: Yes, we’ll definitely do it.” And he added in a stage whisper, “Just don’t tell anyone.” But Trump, who has denied or discounted the Russian attack ever since the campaign, has never echoed concerns about a Russian assault in 2020, and he has not signaled that thwarting another Moscow attack (or an attack on US elections from any other source) is a priority for him.

At that Oval Office meeting with the Russians, Trump was abandoning his primary responsibility as commander in chief. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2019 at 4:00 pm

The Hunter Biden Timeline

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Kevin Drum has a nice summary:

. . . the consensus view of everyone who’s not a Trump water carrier. Here we go:

  • First off, Ukraine is a very corrupt country. This is the one thing that all sides agree on.
  • In particular, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General in 2016 was Viktor Shokin, a man so corrupt that both the IMF and pretty much every European country insisted he be removed if Ukraine wanted any assistance from the outside world.
  • At this time, Shokin was not investigating Burisma, the energy company on which Hunter Biden held a board seat. This is one of the (many) reasons he was considered corrupt.
  • Joe Biden later told the story of Shokin’s firing like this: “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” Now, this might be a bit of Biden exaggeration, but it accurately describes the general attitude toward Shokin at the time.
  • A new Prosecutor General was appointed and immediately reopened the investigation into Burisma. In other words, by switching prosecutors Biden probably made things harder on his son, not easier.
  • The new prosecutor eventually reached a deal with Burisma. As with everything in Ukraine, it’s unclear if this was on the up-and-up, but in any case it happened after Trump had won election and Joe Biden no longer had any power or influence.
  • There has never been even a hint of evidence that Hunter Biden did anything wrong. He’s a Washington lobbyist who sits on various boards and had done a few small jobs for Burisma during the Obama administration. The head of Burisma at the time was trying to assemble an “all-star” board of directors and approached Hunter Biden. Was this an attempt to curry favor with the White House? I wouldn’t be surprised. But that has nothing to do with Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma, which he says was mostly about corporate governance.
  • The new prosecutor has stated many times that his investigation came up with absolutely nothing on Hunter Biden.
  • Likewise, there’s not a hint of evidence that Joe Biden ever did anything wrong. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2019 at 10:10 am

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