Art by Seth L. Taylor, 2017.
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/22/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
As expected, the news of the Trump campaign illegal voter data initiative has even elbowed adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal out of the way for top billing. Let’s start by acknowledging the main players in this web of data theft and federal election law violations. Keep in mind, once something blows up around Trump, anyone or anything connected becomes explained away, like former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos who pleaded guilty, now a “low-level volunteer” , a “coffee boy” . This only months after Papadopoulos was touted by Trump as “an excellent guy” .
It’s important to note that record because one of the Trump campaign data leaders was Trump senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner. We offer this image as a reference point as Kushner was touted, feted as the “vote machine” guru. In Kushner’s words, “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting.“ Trump associates lined up to offer their own superlatives, “It’s hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared’s role in the campaign,” says Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.
Kushner didn’t act alone. A partial list includes former Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon, billionaire supporters Robert and Rebekah Mercer, British data firm Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. It’s a much longer list but since this will stay in the news — a risky prediction given Trump’s chaos management style — we’ll have plenty of new information to fuel this thread of the Trumputin saga. Before we start with Bannon, here’s the first three of a five-part Channel 4 stories based on former Cambridge Analytica data strategist and now whistleblower Chris Wylie and now former CEO Alexander Nix on the Cambridge Analytica Trump campaign role and history of political dirty tricks: Data, Democracy And Dirty Tricks: Cambridge Analytica Uncovered.
Part One describes the data grab (theft) of 50 million Facebook profiles for voter micro-targeting. Remember the initial dismissals by Trumpsters of the paltry ad spend by Russians trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. The support offered by Facebook was never only about the few ads sold.
More importantly, by Part Three we see this from former Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix, claiming “we ran it all”:
“The undercover investigation reveals how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran ‘all’ of President Trump’s digital campaign – and may have broken election law. Executives were secretly filmed saying they leave ‘no paper trail’. And, as the report went on air, the firm announced it has suspended chief executive Alexander Nix, pending a full investigation.”
Trump now finds it convenient to tout his campaign start date as 2015 after various intelligence reports of Russian interference starting as early as 2014. But here is Bannon, Cambridge Analytica and the Mercers engaged as early as 2013: Offshore Cash Helped Fund Steve Bannon’s Attacks On Hillary Clinton.
The main takeaway is the length of the Mercer-Bannon relationship and the work done to benefit Trump. We will focus on the scope of Mercer money channeled to Bannon and conservative causes using offshore tax avoidance schemes while in dispute with the IRS over a $6.8 billion tax bill.
But even more incriminating with Trump-Russia corruption is whistleblower Chris Wylie’s acknowledgement that by 2014 Cambridge Analytica was already testing for Bannon slogans such as “drain the swamp” and “build the wall”.
Wylie clarified Bannon’s role, noting he “approved the data-collection scheme”: We tested Trump slogans in 2014.
“Wylie said that both Bannon and Rebekah Mercer, whose father, Robert Mercer, financed the company, participated in conference calls in 2014 in which plans to collect Facebook data were discussed, although Wylie acknowledged that it was not clear they knew the details of how the collection took place.
“Bannon “approved the data-collection scheme we were proposing,” Wylie said.”
Guardian coverage in the lead
The best series of articles summarizing the breaking news over the last few days come from The Guardian: Cambridge Analytica Boasts Of Dirty Tricks To Swing Elections.
All of this has the same ring of truth as listening to the stories from Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
“Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them.
“In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.””
The best news – this is NOT about to end any time soon.
“The company, and Nix, are under pressure from politicians in the US and the UK to explain how it handled the data and what role the information played in its campaigns, if any.”
There is a certain ironic embarrassment for the GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) given their sudden wrap-up and conclusion that Russia did not attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Here is how Nix described his treatment before the GOP members of the House committee.
“”I went to speak to them and the Republicans asked three questions. Five minutes, done. The Democrats asked two hours of questions,” Nix told ITN Channel 4 News.”
The Republican committee members could not have cared less.
The Mercers use offshore tax havens to fund political initiatives including Bannon’s efforts to benefit Trump as early as 2014 while contesting a $6.8 billion federal tax bill. Whistleblower Wylie and ex-CEO Nix offer various perspectives on the “ran it all” role of Cambridge Analytica on behalf of the Trump campaign, also as early as 2014 and based on the theft of Facebook data comprising personal information of 50 million users. The entire initiative was ignored by Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee in their rush to exonerate Trump – and don’t forget wing-man House Speaker Paul Ryan. Meanwhile we imagine Kushner has taken the December 2016 Forbes cover down from his personal wall of fame.
Kushner is like his father-in-law with his regard for Forbes magazine as it last showed up in this column based on the Stormy Daniels’ disclosure that, “another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.” Entertaining, but outside the scope of Trump-Russia.
The deceptions & cruelties of the crooked Kushner clan
There is some more news on Kushner’s problems and transgressions, adding to an ever growing, sprawling list with a partial summary and family history here:
Jared Kushner’s many, many scandals, are itemized by Vox: From the Russia investigation to the security clearance troubles to loans to his family business.
Kushner seems to come by his problems honestly, his father, Charles Kushner, went to jail in 2005 for “tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering”. There is a rich history of family dispute with this maybe being the low point:
“… Around the same time, a Kushner Companies bookkeeper filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging illegal political contributions by Charles and other improper financial practices from the company. As a result, the ambitious new US attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie, started investigating the Kushners.
“Believing his relatives were behind all this, Charles did a truly remarkable thing in response: He arranged to pay a prostitute to seduce his sister Esther’s husband, had the ensuing sexual encounter taped and photographed, and sent the tape and photos to Esther. (He arranged for a second prostitute to try to seduce the whistleblowing bookkeeper too, but the guy turned her down.)”
A real class act, this clan.
Jared is under scrutiny for his role in Trump-Russia, questionable loans and recently had his security clearance downgraded after unresolved conflicts with his reporting and resolution of prior activities in his history. As far as his view of his father’s problems…
“His siblings stole every piece of paper from his office, and they took it to the government,” Jared maintained. “Siblings that he literally made wealthy for doing nothing. He gave them interests in the business for nothing. All he did was put the tape together and send it. Was it the right thing to do? At the end of the day, it was a function of saying ‘You’re trying to make my life miserable? Well, I’m doing the same.’ ”
But it is Kushner’s questionable business loans that warrant attention: Kushner Companies Confirms Meeting With Qatar On Financing
The all too familiar pattern – substitute Charles Kushner for Trump’s son and Trump Organization executive officer Donnie Jr. and see if this isn’t a repeat explanation of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians over Hillary dirt, “if it’s what you say, I love it”.
“I was invited to a meeting,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it.”
Why then take the meeting at all? Charles says, “as a courtesy”. Do Charles and Jared strike you as courteous people? Charles sounds more like a Cambridge Analytica client ex-CEO Nix was thinking about when he bragged about how the “company would send girls in to seduce them (political opponents)”. Just like Charles Kushner did with his brother.
Trump for the prosecution
Trump manages to continually look guilty. Rep. Trey ‘Benghazi’ Gowdy (R-SC) offered good advice to Trump’s lawyer John Dowd, “if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it”. The advice applies to Trump and his constant demonstration of consciousness of guilt.
The latest demonstration of this came as Trump called Russian President Putin to congratulate him on his “election” victory. There are at least three problems with this:
1) He made the call immediately after being chastised on Russian state TV by Kremlin spokesperson Peskov, being warned to “better sleep on it”.
2) He congratulated Putin for winning an election where his opponents had been arrested in advance.
3) ignored the briefings by his own advisors: What ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE’ Says About Trump — And The Peril Of Meeting Kim Jong Un.
As usual, Trump blew off the advice of his staff:
“The Washington Post is reporting that Trump was given key talking points for his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and that he disregarded just about all of them. He was not supposed to congratulate Putin on his allegedly unfair and undemocratic reelection win — his notes even had “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all caps — and yet he did. And he was supposed to condemn Russia’s alleged role in the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, and yet he did not.”
The article goes on to comment on how his disregard for any expert guidance doesn’t bode well for a possible meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But let’s not rush past his complete disregard for Putin’s impudent behavior in sanctions murders on British soil.
In true Trump fashion, his irritation about any of this is not with Putin or Russia, it’s that someone leaked his disregard for U.S. values: Trump Furious Over Leak Of Warning To Not Congratulate Putin.
“President Donald Trump was infuriated after it quickly leaked that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory during their call Tuesday morning, a source familiar with the President’s thinking said.”
Mirroring Trump’s anger was White House chief of staff John Kelly.
But the point is, someone with access to this information leaked it to the press – we’ll take this as a sign of frustration with Trump’s unwillingness to do what is best for the U.S.
“The leak, which one source said contributes to the ongoing atmosphere of paranoia in the West Wing, irked White House aides as well. Though the reaction has been described as “rattled,” a White House official said it is more like anger and disappointment.”
Maybe it’s more than Gowdy’s suggestion of the appearance of guilt: Former CIA Director Says Russia Could Have Something On Trump.
“Former CIA Director John Brennan says it is possible the Russians ‘have something’ on the president, and he also believes the country’s future is in jeopardy as Trump ‘continues his antics.'”
A final acknowledgement by way of closure goes to the release of a new book, Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. And another ballot in support of Trump-Putin guilt: Russian Roulette Review: As Joe Biden Said, ‘If this is true, it’s treason’.
The review by Charles Kaiser starts this way:
“Whenever I finish a book like Russian Roulette, I ask myself the same question: why is anyone still debating whether there was collusion between the Russians and Donald Trump?” The Guardian reviews “Russian Roulette”
“Like Collusion, a comprehensive volume by the Guardian’s Luke Harding, this narrative by investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn leaves the reader nearly overwhelmed by evidence that Trump and Vladimir Putin have been striving to collaborate for years.”
The picture increasingly becomes clear as more and more details validate the Trumputin-Russia corruption story.