This Is Where Obama Choked.

The American people had damn near an absolute right to know this information.

It so happens that Friday is an official Ratfcking Holiday, and a very important one. It’s June 23 or, as we who celebrate it like to call it, Smoking Gun Day. It was 45 years ago to the day that H.R. Haldeman stopped by the Oval Office and, with a tape recorder whirring merrily away in a drawer, he and Richard Nixon discussed how to get the CIA to turn off the FBI’s investigation of Watergate because that investigation was moving into “some productive areas.” They talked about ripping scabs open, and “that whole Bay of Pigs thing,” and having Walters tell Gray not to go into this thing any further, period. “All I can conclude,” Patrick Buchanan reportedly said when this tape finally came to light, “is that the old man has been shitting us.”

So, in honor of the day, The Washington Post comes up with an amazing tale of the way ratfcking is done in the modern era. It begins with a top-secret communique delivered to President Barack Obama last August.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The dynamite, she go boom.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

I seem to remember this remarkable coincidence.

The piece is too long, too well reported, and too detailed to summarize in block quotes, but what it makes sadly clear is that the culture of secrecy within the intelligence community worked invariably to empower the ratfcking, rather than to hinder it.

Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy.

All well and good. Go get ’em, tiger.

However, like so many things about the Obama administration, the response to what the Russians did was measured and allegedly proportional. (“I feel like we choked,” one official told the Post.) But, you may ask, what about the election that was going on at the same time the Obama administration was retaliating for Russian interference in its process?

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day. They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.

Before departing for an August vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, Obama instructed aides to pursue ways to deter Moscow and proceed along three main paths: Get a high-confidence assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia’s role and intent; shore up any vulnerabilities in state-run election systems; and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.

Ah, yes. “Bipartisan support.” The brilliant snow-white unicorn pursued by that administration for nearly eight years. How did that work out? How did it ever work out?

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance. The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday. Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Really, now. How did it ever work out?

The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting. Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

So they choked a second time, scared out of what they should have done by Mitch McConnell, ace conniver. (What the hell did they expect? Patriotism?) I repeat: the American people needed to know this before they voted, spin and fauxtrage and punditry be damned. They had a right to factor the question, “Why does Putin want this guy to be president?” into their thinking in the voting booth.

When U.S. spy agencies reached unanimous agreement in late September that the interference was a Russian operation directed by Putin, Obama directed spy chiefs to prepare a public statement summarizing the intelligence in broad strokes. With Obama still determined to avoid any appearance of politics, the statement would not carry his signature.

It’s at moments like this that I wish he’d never given that speech in Boston in 2004. It froze him into a public persona and a political stance that made even justifiable partisan politics look like base hypocrisy. It is entirely possible that, at what we must now believe was a critical moment (if not the critical moment) of his presidency, the better angels of a president’s nature were the voices he should have avoided at all cost.

Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s a fascinating window into presidential decision-making on the fly, as well as a look at how intelligence is gathered and managed. The 2016 presidential election was corrupted at its heart, and we do not know yet how fully it was corrupted, and that’s the most lasting scandal of all.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a55836/obama-russian-interference/

If the Russians’ objective was to undermine Americans’ faith in democracy, they succeeded — with Trump’s help

Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton and the true cause of Donald Trump’s legitimacy crisis — his own actions

Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton and the true cause of Donald Trump's legitimacy crisis — his own actions
Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton (Credit: AP/Reuters/Rainier Ehrhardt/Photo montage by Salon)

On Wednesday Vox’s Ezra Klein published a long piece about the current crisis in our government. He wrote that “our president lacks legitimacy, our government is paralyzed, our problems are going unsolved.” I would say that legitimacy, the first of those issues, is the source of all the others.

Donald Trump’s legitimacy problem is not just a matter of losing the popular vote. Other presidents have assumed office after such an outcome. In 1824 John Quincy Adams became president after the election decision was thrown to the House of Representatives. In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes became president after losing the popular vote to Samuel Tilden by more than 250,000 votes — although corruption was so rife in that election it’s fair to say no one will ever know for sure who got the highest tally. In 1888 Benjamin Harrison won 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, but lost the national count by about 90,000 votes. It didn’t happen again for 112 years when George W. Bush was installed by the Supreme Court after a virtual tie in Florida and a dubious vote count. And then just 16 years later, it happened again.

Throughout that last 16 years questions have been raised about our democracy, including the workings of the anachronistic Electoral College, the fact that every locality and state seems to have a different system, and the way Republicans have systematically disenfranchised voters whom they believe would be likely to vote for their opponents. There has been underlying doubt about the integrity of America’s electoral system simmering for a long time. This year it has come to a boil.

For at least a year we’ve been aware of social-media propaganda and foreign actors hacking the systems of various arms of the Democratic Party in order to influence the presidential campaign. The experts tell us that the Russian government has directed a number of similar cyber operations around the world and that this one was their most sophisticated. Evidently, the idea was to sow chaos and undermine Americans’ already sorely tested faith in our electoral system.

According to a highly detailed investigative report by Massimo Calabresi of Time, the evidence suggests that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had a particular ax to grind against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he termed a “signal” she sent in 2011, which he claimed sparked protests against him. The extent to which Putin truly favored Donald Trump is still unknown, and the question of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is now the focus of various investigations of Congress and a Justice Department special counsel. The odd behavior of Trump’s close associates as well as his obsession with shutting down the investigation certainly raise suspicions. But at this point it is pure speculation to think about what kind of “deal” might have been made.

This week’s story by The Intercept, reporting on an National Security Agency document that showed evidence the Russian military had made serious attempts to infiltrate voter information rolls around the country, suggests, however, yet another way the goals of Donald Trump and the Russian government were the same. Former FBI counterterrorism officer and cybersecurity expert Clinton Watts (best known for his quip “follow the bodies of dead Russians” in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee) raised some additional questions in a piece for the Daily Beast this week. He believes that the main objective of this operation was not to alter the vote count but rather to instill more doubt about the process.

Watts wrote, “I noticed a shift in Kremlin messaging last October, when its overt news outlets, conspiratorial partner websites, and covert social-media personas pushed theories of widespread voter fraud and hacking.” He cited a Reuters article indicating that a Kremlin-backed think tank report “drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election.” The think tank also advised it would be “better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency.”

It’s interesting to note that at the same moment the operation shifted in that direction, Trump himself was relentlessly flogging exactly the same accusation, saying in every rally from October on that Clinton and her campaign had “rigged the system” in her favor. Over and over again he would suggest that the outcome was predetermined:

When the outcome is fixed, when the system is rigged, people lose hope — they stop dreaming, they stop trying

He routinely told his followers stories like this:

One of the reasons I’ve been saying that the system is so corrupt and is so rigged, is not only what happens at the voters’ booth — and you know things happen, folks.

He passed along tweets like this:

@THEREALMOGUL: 41% of American voters believe the election could be “stolen” from DonaldTrump due to widespread voter fraud. – Politico”

Trump even made bizarre accusations that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman “John Podesta rigged the polls by oversampling” and notoriously refused to say whether he would abide by the results if Clinton won. It was obvious that Donald Trump was planning to challenge her legitimacy.

In fact, Trump did more to create mistrust and doubt in the U.S. electoral system than the Russian government’s highly developed hacking and misinformation campaign. Whether they were working together is still unknown but they were definitely rowing in the same direction. As much as the president likes to whine and complain about the Democrats being sore losers, the irony is that Trump himself played the greatest role in undermining the legitimacy of his win.

Noam Chomsky on Trump: The worst is yet to come

This administration’s legislative agenda is uniquely cruel, even for the far right

Noam Chomsky on Trump: The worst is yet to come
(Credit: AP/Nader Daoud)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

Renowned linguist and author Noam Chomsky believes today’s Republican Party is “more dangerous than ISIS,” whether or not Trump voters will ever be willing to admit it. According to one May 31 poll, 68 percent think America is on the right track.

Chomsky, on the other hand, believes the country has been on the wrong track since it adopted a neoliberal economic model several decades ago — and things are about to get a whole lot worse.

During the opening of the first zero net energy building at UMass Amherst on April 13, Chomsky began his lecture by explaining why the despair that has ravaged Trump country is a phenomenon unique to America.

“[There’s been] a dramatic increase in mortality among middle-aged white Americans without college degrees, beginning in 1999, recently documented by [Princeton professors] Anne Case and Angus Deaton,” he said.

Case and Deaton found the pattern has spread nationwide in the past two decades, with no end in sight.

“It’s a phenomenon unknown apart from war and pestilence,” Chomsky said. “They have an updated current analysis where they attribute the increase in mortality to despair and loss of status of working people under the neoliberal miracle, which is concomitant [with] heightened worker insecurity.

Thus, during the 2016 presidential election, “the same sectors of the population that are suffering increased mortality turned for rescue to their bitter class enemy, out of understandable, but self-destructive desperation.”

Trump’s 2018 budget, introduced in late May, would prove especially damaging to his working-class voters, due to its deep cuts to social programs. In its most recent analysis, the Congressional Budget Office found that the GOP’s American Health Care Act would strip 23 million Americans of their health insurance over the next decade.

“The consequences for working people are now being exhibited behind the facade of Trump/Bannon/Spicer bluster before the cameras,” said Chomsky. “This is the systematic enactment of the [Paul] Ryan legislative programs, which are unusually savage even for the ultra-right.”

On June 1, Neil Gorsuch joined his Supreme Court colleagues for their first group photo.

“There’s probably worse to come, as further blows to working people are authorized by the Trump/Roberts Court,” noted Chomsky. “Now with Gorsuch on board, who will probably decide to destroy public sector unions on fraudulent libertarian grounds.”

THE CASE FOR IMPEACHMENT

Allan Lichtman predicted Donald Trump’s victory — now he calls for his impeachment

Professor who has correctly called every election since 1984 tells why the current president must be ousted

It is debatable whether President Donald Trump should actually be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. But at this point it is no longer debatable that there should be an impeachment investigation.

As Allan J. Lichtman of American University pointed out in an interview with Salon on Tuesday, “Impeachment should only proceed when it threatens the society.” There are three ways, Lichtman argued in our conversation — and contended in his new book “The Case for Impeachment” — in which Trump’s presidency poses a clear threat to the lawfulness of our government:

1. The numerous conflicts of interest that Trump has refused to address (his dozens of trademarks in China being among many examples).

2. The overwhelming circumstantial evidence suggesting collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russian intelligence.

3. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which would constitute obstruction of justice if it happened — as Trump himself has suggested — because Comey was leading the investigation into the alleged collusion with Russia.

Calling for an impeachment investigation does not require us to prove these charges rise to the level of criminality. It only compels us to prove that there is sound reason to believe they could be true — and unless you are a mindless partisan, that is clearly the case now.

Lichtman himself is something of a celebrity due to his vaunted predictive powers. In 1981 he developed a set of 13 true-or-false questions that assess political, economic, geopolitical and social conditions to determine whether the incumbent party will win the presidential election or not. He has used that model to accurately forecast the outcome of every presidential contest since 1984, albeit somewhat complicated in the years when there was a popular/electoral college split.

As Lichtman pointed out in our interview, the advantage of an impeachment investigation is that it would place the future of an inquiry completely out of Trump’s hands. A special prosecutor or special counsel like Robert Mueller, after all, could be fired at whim by the president. (Consider the case of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor fired by Richard Nixon in the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973.)

The House Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, is part of the legislative branch, which puts it beyond Trump’s reach. If the committee decides by a majority vote to recommend articles of impeachment for the entire House of Representatives to consider, it would then be up to America’s elected representatives to decide whether Trump should join Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton on the ignominious list of American presidents who have been impeached.

Should the House vote to do so, the president’s fate would then be in the hands of the Senate.

Realistically speaking, it is extremely unlikely that a House of Representatives controlled by a Republican majority would ever vote to impeach Trump, or that a Republican-controlled Senate would then vote to remove him from office (barring an unforeseen smoking gun worse than anything we have seen so far, of course).

For a president to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict him or her on the impeachment charges brought by the House. So in the current Senate, even if every single Democrat (and both independents) voted to remove Trump from office, 19 Republicans would have to join them. Yet even with all of the untoward revelations that have come out about Trump to date, only five Republican senators have gone so far as to support the appointment of a special prosecutor.

To be fair, it’s not clear that that the Democrats can be entirely trusted on this issue either. Let’s say that Democrats manage to retake control of the Senate and House in the 2018 midterm elections — a long shot, but not outside the realm of possibility. That opens the door to impeachment in 2019, right? Well, yeah, but if Trump were to be forcibly removed from office before the 2020 presidential election, the Democratic candidate that fall would presumably face off against President Mike Pence, who could very well be free of Trump’s political baggage.

Pence could still lose such a hypothetical election, of course, but he could also wind up benefiting from the public goodwill that often props up new presidents when they take office under emergency conditions, as was the case for Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald Ford. So Democrats may have a political incentive to keep on harping on Trump’s scandals, but they may have less incentive to drive him from office, even if it becomes clear he has broken the law.

It’s lamentable that partisanship has reached a point in this country where the needs of justice can be ignored due to petty self-interest. And yet, even under this dark cloud, there is a silver lining. It is difficult to conceive of a situation whereby the Republicans would move against one of their own in such a historic fashion. But if they did so, the mere fact that leading Republicans had finally decided that Trump’s behavior was unacceptable would demonstrate the necessity of removing him from office.

Similarly, if Democrats were willing to risk the possibility that Pence could serve as much as 10 years in the White House after Trump’s forced removal (under this scenario, the 22nd Amendment would allow Pence to seek two terms of his own), that would be powerful evidence that they had sacrificed their own political self-interests so as to protect the integrity of the greater political system.

Let us not forget that a recent poll found 48 percent of Americans would support an impeachment of President Trump. If appeals to patriotism aren’t enough to sway Republicans and Democrats in Congress, there is a practical political case that could do so as well. As Lichtman noted, public opinion was crucial in turning the Republican Party against Richard Nixon in 1974.

“Impeachment,” he said, “will only really happen if the people want it.”

There is one final and absolutely critical point to be made here: The case for impeaching Donald Trump exists independent of any criticisms of his policies. As I noted during the interview with Lichtman, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson was clearly motivated by partisan and policy disagreements rather than any serious criminal offenses on his part, a fact that makes that event a permanent blot on the legacies of the politicians responsible for it rather than a mark of merit.

“I make it clear that Trump should not be impeached because he’s unconventional, because you don’t like his style or because you disagree with his policies,” Lichtman explained. “I disagree with a lot of policies of presidents, but I haven’t written a book before on the case for impeachment. I quote the great expositor of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton in ‘The Case for Impeachment.’ It points out, impeachment should only proceed when there is such a severe abuse of power by the president that it threatens the society itself.”

This is the situation in which we find ourselves. One can only hope that the Republican and Democratic parties will rise to the historical moment, lest they be proved unworthy of it.

 

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and his work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

What white liberals so often get wrong about racism and Donald Trump

Bernie is wrong and Malcolm was right:

White progressives have a tough time confronting racism — as Bernie Sanders, a hero in many ways, has made clear

Bernie is wrong and Malcolm was right: What white liberals so often get wrong about racism and Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders; Malcolm X (Credit: AP/Craig Ruttle)

In the United States, white liberals and progressives have historically shown a serious inability to grapple with the realities of the color line and the enduring power of white supremacy. Many of them are either unable or unwilling to understand that fighting against class inequality does not necessarily remedy the specific harms done to African-Americans and other people of color by white racism.

For example, last Friday Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke in Boston at the Our Revolution Rally, where he said this:

Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks. I don’t agree, because I’ve been there.

Given Sanders’ long history of fighting for human rights, his comments are profoundly disappointing. They also demonstrate the blind spot and willful myopia that too many white liberals and progressives have toward white racism in America.

Sanders’ defense of Donald Trump’s “white working class” voters can be evaluated on empirical grounds. This is not a case of “unknown unknowns.”  What do public opinion and other data actually tell us about the 2016 presidential election?

Donald Trump’s voters — like Republicans and conservatives on average — are much more likely to hold negative attitudes toward African-Americans and other people of color. Social scientists have consistently demonstrated that a mix of “old-fashioned” white racism, white racial resentment (what is known as “modern racism”), xenophobia, ethnocentrism, sexism and nativism heavily influenced white conservatives and right-leaning independents to vote for Donald Trump.

Trump voters are also more authoritarian than Republicans as a whole. Trump voters possess a fantastical belief that white Americans are “oppressed” and thus somehow victims of racism.

Polling experts such as Cornell Belcher have placed Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton within the broader context of a racist backlash against Barack Obama’s presidency among white voters.

And one must also not overlook how Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and victory inspired a wave of hate crimes across the United States against Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, First Nations people, gays and lesbians and those of other marginalized communities. Donald Trump used a megaphone of racism and bigotry to win the 2016 presidential election. His supporters heard those signals loud and clear.

Sanders is also committing another error in reasoning and inference, one that is common among white Americans in the post-civil rights era. Racism and white supremacy are not a function of what is in peoples’ hearts, what they tell you about their beliefs or the intentions behind their words or deeds. In reality, racism and white supremacy are a function of outcomes and structures. Moreover, the “nice people” that Sanders is talking about benefit from white privilege and the other unearned advantages that come from being white in America.

Sanders’ statement is also a reminder of the incorrect lessons that the Democratic Party is in danger of learning from its 2016 defeat.

Chasing the largely mythical “white working-class voters whose loyalties went from “Obama to Trump” will not win future elections. The white working-class voters they covet are solidly Republican.

Alienating people of color and women by embracing Trump’s base of human deplorables will not strengthen the Democratic Party. It will only drive away those voters who are the Democratic Party’s most reliable supporters.

Sanders has unintentionally exemplified the way that both white liberals and white conservatives are heavily influenced by the white racial frame. As such, both sides of the ideological divide are desperate to see the best in their fellow white Americans, despite the latter’s racist behavior.

This is why “white allies” are often viewed with great suspicion by people of color. Malcolm X discussed this point in 1963:

In this deceitful American game of power politics, the Negroes (i.e., the race problem, the integration and civil rights issues) are nothing but tools, used by one group of whites called Liberals against another group of whites called Conservatives, either to get into power or to remain in power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

Bernie Sanders’ comments on Friday serve as an unintentional reminder of Malcolm X’s wisdom.

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Donald Trump has successfully buried the story that worries him most  

According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives.

That this story is constantly forgotten behind a barrage of daily nonsense is both maddening and astounding. At the very least, we know that …

• Trump’s campaign manager worked directly for Russia to subvert the government of the Ukraine, and was paid millions of dollars to generate “spontaneous demonstrations” in which US Marines were attacked in order to give Putin an excuse to seize Crimea.

• The Russian assistant ambassador is on record saying that, despite numerous denials, Russia was in contact with the Trump campaign on a regular basis.

• The only item where the Trump campaign forced a change in the Republican platform—the only item—was in modifying a plank to weaken the party’s stance on opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And Trump representatives said that concern came from Trump personally.

And yes, out there is a supposed folio of kompromat containing items that Russia feels it can use to put pressure on Trump and his team. But even if every disgusting item in that secret file is just a fantasy, how is it possible that this story has completely disappeared?

We honestly don’t know if there’s even any investigation into the Trump-Russia connection.

At Spicer’s first briefing, Anita Kumar of McClatchy did ask, “Has the president spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections? And will he allow that to go on?” Spicer replied, “I don’t believe he has spoken to anyone specifically about that and I don’t know that. He has not made any indication that he would stop an investigation of any sort.” This was an important question that warranted a response that was less equivocal—and reporters could have pointed that out.

At the next day’s briefing, on January 24, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg asked Spicer about reports that Comey was remaining in his post and whether Comey and Trump had discussed “the Russia investigation and the parameters of that.” Spicer responded, “I don’t have anything on that.”

That’s what we have. Is Trump stopping the investigation? “I don’t know that.” Has he talked to Comey about it? “I don’t have anything on that.” That’s it.

In the two weeks before the election, it looked as if the Russian story was about to blow up. Reports on October 31 promised that there was an ongoing investigation, that a server inside Trump’s organization was in contact with a Russian bank, and that there was considerable information of Trump’s dealings with Russia which had not been made public. The next day, that story was utterly quashed in a New York Times story citing unnamed “law enforcement officials.”

Those same “officials” completely mischaracterized the Russian email hacking and the intent as it had been determined by the intelligence community.

And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

Despite this, the New York Times has never revisited the story, or resurrected any discussion of the issues it killed—just three days after it had devoted the entire front page to the story of Comey’s letter on Clinton’s emails.

We’ve also learned that, no speculation required, Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin that would vastly increase Putin’s ability to exert Russia’s military and economic influence in Europe and the Middle East. Kremlin commentators called Tillerson “a Christmas gift from the American people to the Russian people.” Notice that this gift exchange was strictly a one-way affair.

We know that Russians didn’t just “make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” as Donald Trump Jr. stated proudly, but that Russian oligarchs bailed out a failing Trump and secured both real estate and connections for their investment. Several Trump projects were Russian projects with a Trump brand.

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

And that doesn’t even touch on Trump’s involvement with the emails stolen from the DNC and private individuals to assist Trump. In fact, that’s not even close to everything.

Let’s review:

  1. Donald Trump has frequently expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, viewing him as a “strong” leader who Trump “admires.” Trump has also given wildly differing statements on his personal relationship with Putin.
  2. Trump has, on multiple occasions, suggested a weakening of the NATO alliance.
  3. Despite this, Trump previously expressed support for Ukraine.
  4. After Trump hired Paul Manafort, a man who had worked for—and may still be working for—pro-Russian forces seeking to destroy the democratic government of Ukraine, Trump’s position on Ukraine changed to one that is far more friendly to Russia.
  5. Trump campaign staff, including former Rumsfeld assistant J. D. Gordon, halted the implementation of pro-Ukraine language in the GOP platform, and insisted on language that was much more supportive of Russia after saying they had to speak directly to Trump about the policy.
  6. One week after the change was written into the GOP platform, emails hacked from the DNC were released through Wikileaks. Both government and independent investigators have identified the hackers as being associated with the Russian government.
  7. Donald Trump suggested that Russia might also hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and recover 30,000 emails (which are not “missing,” but were personal emails deleted by a team of lawyers who reviewed the server).
  8. Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic, but within a week of his request, further hacks took place at the DCCC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. These hacks have also been identified as coming from Russian sources.
  9. Both Manafort and Trump issued denials that they had anything to do with the changes to the Republican platform, despite the many witnesses and despite having made no objection to the news as it was reported at the time.
  10. Trump, in an interview, seemed not only confused about the two-year-old invasion of the Ukraine, but gave apparently contradictory indications that, were he elected, he would cede the occupied Crimea to Russia, and that the Russians would withdraw from the Ukraine.

None of that is speculation. Not one word of it is theory.

So why isn’t this story getting any attention?

There has been no loud demand from the DC media (or most of the GOP) for answers and explanations. This quietude is good news for Putin—and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/9/1631858/-Donald-Trump-has-successfully-buried-the-story-that-worries-him-most?detail=email&link_id=1&can_id=83f30841d6d752350b062a4ce92a0935&source=email-donald-trump-has-successfully-buried-the-story-that-worries-him-most&email_referrer=donald-trump-has-successfully-buried-the-story-that-worries-him-most&email_subject=donald-trump-has-successfully-buried-the-story-that-worries-him-most

Is Hillary Clinton more dangerous than Donald Trump?

Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, gestures with Libyan soldiers while visiting Tripoli, during the US-led intervention that overthrew long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi, 18 October 2011.

Kevin LamarqueReuters

Actor Susan Sarandon recently caused a panic when she revealed her potential unwillingness to vote for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup with likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Sarandon was echoing an attitude shared by many supporters of Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, who say they will not vote for Clinton even if it means Trump becoming president of the United States.

In response, the establishment lost its collective mind.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow blasted “Bernie or Bust” voters for engaging in “scorched-earth electoral portentousness” mired in “petulance and privilege” and “filled with lust for doom.”

The Forward’s JJ Goldberg, in an article headlined “ ‘Bernie or Bust’ is Self-indulgent, Stubborn – and Dangerous,” warned that “[w]hining about [Clinton’s] weaknesses can only depress November turnout and hand Washington to the GOP, lock, stock and barrel.”

And Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast lamented that these anti-Clinton refuseniks are mostly privileged white people with no skin in the game.

Even Hillary Clinton chimed in, tweeting: “Some folks may have the luxury to hold out for ‘the perfect.’ But a lot of Americans are hurting right now and they can’t wait for that.”

It has become accepted orthodoxy in establishment circles to view Trump as an authoritarian race-baiter who would present a major threat to the world if elected in November.

While this characterization is certainly well founded, it ignores the fact that Clinton is also dangerous to world stability. And unlike Trump, she has the blood on her hands to prove it.

If lesser evilism is the goal, as establishment pundits insist, it remains unclear who the lesser evil is – if the choice is limited to Trump or Clinton.

Warrior queen

On many issues, particularly trade and foreign policy, Clinton is to the right of Trump, with an inclination toward militaristic belligerence that more closely resembles a neoconservative war hawk than the progressive she claims to be.

For evidence, look no further than the neoconservatives themselves, who are so petrified of Trump’snoninterventionist approach to foreign policy, they are ready to line up behind Clinton.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has won the adoration of the war hawks.

Back in 2008, neoconservatives breathed a sigh of relief when President Barack Obama nominated Clinton as his secretary of state.

Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board under President George W. Bush and a leading architect of the Iraq war, said of Clinton’s appointment, “I’m quite pleased … There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe.”

The neoconservative Weekly Standard also celebrated Clinton’s nomination, applauding her evolution from “First Feminist” to “Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”

Clinton went on to exceed neoconservative expectations.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he was impressed with Clinton’s work at the State Department, which amounts to a neoconservative seal of approval.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2014, Dan Senor, a leading neoconservative operative and former foreign policy advisor to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, declared, “Hillary is more hawkish than any of us!”

“Hillary is the neocon’s neocon,” added host Joe Scarborough. “It’s going to be fascinating if she decides to run and gets the nomination. She will be more of a saber-rattler, more of a neocon, than probably the Republican nominee. I mean, there’s hardly been a military engagement that Hillary hasn’t been for in the past twenty years.”

The love for Clinton isn’t at all surprising. After all, Clinton routinely accuses Palestinians of teaching their children to hate while closely aligning herself with Israel’s right-wing, Holocaust-revising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a card-carrying neoconservative whose demagoguery rivals Trump’s.

She has expressed pride in making an enemy of “the Iranians” whose country she once threatened to “obliterate” and continues to threaten with sanctions.

And she likened Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Ukraine to Hitler’s population transfers before World War II.

Despite her 2014 mea culpa over backing the calamitous 2003 Iraq invasion, and her current effort to rebrand herself as a progressive, the war hawk label is one Clinton is still proud to wear – as when she jubilantly touted this week’s New York Daily News endorsement of her as a “superprepared warrior realist.”

Trail of blood

Clinton’s hawkishness goes far beyond inflammatory rhetoric.

While serving as secretary of state, she greenlighted enormous weapons deals to US-backed tyrants, dramatically strengthening the military prowess of despots who happened to be some of the Clinton Foundation’s most generous donors.

In a stunning demonstration of her failure to absorb even the most basic lessons of the Iraq war, Clinton spearheaded the Obama administration’s overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi based on faulty intelligence.

After Gaddafi’s especially gruesome public lynching by US-backed Libyan rebels in 2011, Clinton could barely contain her excitement, gleefully telling CBS News, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Libya predictably descended into a lawless haven for extremist groups from across the region, including the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

Obama this week called the failure to prepare for the aftermath of Gaddafi’s overthrow the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

As secretary of state and the leading champion of the intervention, that planning would surely have been Clinton’s primary responsibility.

Libya wasn’t the only country Clinton meddled in.

Following in the footsteps of her mentor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Clinton supported and legitimized the right-wing Honduran military coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging Honduras into record-setting violence that sent thousands of children fleeing for their lives.

Clinton later advocated for the deportation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American refugee children who sought asylum in the US in 2014 to “send a message” to their parents that “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

Nearly a third of those children had fled post-coup violence in Honduras.

Clinton reiterated her support for deporting them as recently as August.

Indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres criticized Clinton’s role in the coup prior to her murder by a Honduran death squad on 3 March.

The Clinton campaign denied that its candidate bore any responsibility for the violence, casting her role in Honduras as “active diplomacy.” This week, Clinton again defended the overthrow of Zelaya.

Despite the trail of blood she left behind, Clinton remains confident in the righteousness of US-backed regime change.

Asked last month what she thought about America’s history of overthrowing democratically elected leaders around the world, Clinton invoked the specter of Nazi Germany, arguing, “Somebody could have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that have been a good thing or not?”

Even Trump recognizes Clinton’s hawkishness to some degree, telling a March rally in Detroit that “the Middle East is burning to a large thought because of Hillary Clinton’s failed policies and her concepts.”

The great neocon panic

In almost surreal contrast to Clinton, Trump has called for reducing America’s military presence abroad and has repeatedly stated his opposition to foreign intervention, calling the Iraq war that Clinton backed “a big fat mistake” that “destabilized the Middle East.”

He even suggested a policy of neutrality in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a proposal he eventually walked back after incurring the wrath of pro-Israel hardliners, including Clinton, who declared, “America can’t ever be neutral … anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being America’s president.”

The neoconservative establishment reacted by launching an all-out assault on Trump.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative think tank, released an ad conflating Trump’s opposition to US regime change in Libya and Iraq with support for anti-American dictators.

Soon after, a group calling themselves the “Republican national security community” published a letter condemning Trump’s blasphemy against the core tenets of their hegemonic principles.

Signed by a cadre of neoconservative intellectuals, former government officials and operatives, the letter criticized Trump’s flirtation with isolationism and opposition to corporate trade deals.

It went on to denounce Trump’s bigotry and torture advocacy, though these complaints can hardly be taken seriously given that the people behind them have for decades advocated torture, bigotry and worse.

Eliot Cohen, who organized the anti-Trump letter, went on to assert, “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin.”

Meanwhile, on the advice of South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Netanyahu is now rushing to sign a bloated US military aid deal, which he previously rejected as insufficient, before Obama leaves office out of fear that a President Trump might not be as generous.

Building walls

If foreign policy separates Clinton and Trump, there are a number of domestic issues that unite them.

Clinton’s newfound enthusiasm for “tearing down barriers,” a direct reference to Trump’s anti-immigrant proposal to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, completely contradicts her own support for the border wall that already exists, much of it constructed on Obama’s watch.

Just five months ago, Clinton was bragging about her support for that wall.

“I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” Clinton boasted at a New Hampshire town hall in November.

Asked at a debate last month to distinguish her wall from Trump’s, Clinton pointed to size.

“As I understand him, [Trump’s] talking about a very tall wall,” she said.

Clinton is a huge fan of Israel’s separation wall that effectively annexes Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and has suggested using it as a model for the US border with Mexico.

And she continues to cite her support for Israel’s wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, as a selling point on her campaign website.

Her hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who tweeted back in January, “Hillary Clinton said that it is OK to ban Muslims from Israel by building a WALL, but not OK to do so in the US. We must be vigilant!”

Race to the bottom

In recent months, Clinton has reinvented herself as an anti-racist social justice warrior, using the language of intersectionality and privilege discourse to deride Sanders’ economic populism, distract from her well-publicized ties to Wall Street and distinguish herself from Trump’s hateful rhetoric.

But behind her social justice veneer are principles more in line with Republicans than the Democratic base.

While Trump has called Mexicans “rapists” and mocked people with disabilities, Clinton notoriously called Black children “super-predators” and referred to welfare recipients as “deadbeats.”

Trump wants to ban Muslims. But Clinton has a solid record of advocating for bombing Muslims, not to mention her ongoing pattern of trashing Arabs and Muslims to win over pro-Israel voters and donors.

Trump is riling up fascist sentiments. But he’s doing so by tapping into legitimate anger at the negative consequences of trickle-down neoliberal economics driven by establishment politicians like Clinton.

She played an active role in dismantling the welfare safety net and selling out American workers to disastrous corporate trade deals.

Another four or even eight years of Clintonian economics and military adventurism could well lay fertile ground for the rise of a demagogue even more bellicose than Trump.

A general election between Clinton and Trump would be a dreadful race to the bottom. It’s no wonder so many people would refuse to cast a ballot for either candidate.

Rania Khalek is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.

 

https://electronicintifada.net/content/hillary-clinton-more-dangerous-donald-trump/16316