By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/26/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Congratulations and thank you to the Parkland students and March For Our Lives. Millions across the nation marched FOR something, for positive change, and they inspired many more millions.
Meanwhile, in between television appearances of former Playmate Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels the New York Times reports After Another Week of Chaos, Trump Repairs to Palm Beach. No One Knows What Comes Next.
The overall atmosphere of those around Trump is described as:
“Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.
“Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.”
As reported in The Daily Beast, in the last few days there were two important events amongst the chaos specific to Trump-Russia: Congress Snuck New Russia Sanctions Into Spending Bill.
The article’s subhead notes: Congress wants to be sure that the United States keeps the pressure on Russia, with or without the president’s help.
Buried in the $1.3 trillion spending bill that Trump threatened early Friday to not sign before signing four hours later:
There is a mystery on how the sanctions became part of the bill:
“Their origin, though, remains a mystery. While lawmakers were unsure who exactly inserted those measures into the 2,232-page spending bill, they said it represented a broad point of agreement among Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill in a policy area where Trump himself has, in their view, struggled.”
Also in response to Russian intrusion in the U.S. election is another provision:
“It also allocates $380 million to the Election Assistance Commission to help states and localities improve their election infrastructure to guard it against cyberattacks. The Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia investigation.”
Trump railed against the bill, stating, “nobody read it”. When Trump finally learned that amongst the 2,232-page bill that nobody read was added sanctions, serious sanctions, against Russia, inserted quietly with bipartisan support, how did he react? Does he yet know? Is it possible Fox has yet to report this? Would he have followed through on his blustery threat to not sign the bill if he had known about the Russian provisions?
As noted above, Congress did take steps to combat future Russian election influence in spite of no direction from the White House or Trump’s moribund Department of Justice: Senate Intel Reaches Bipartisan Consensus on Russian Hacking—Unlike House Counterpart.
The story’s subhead explains: Senate Intel’s report has recommendations for strengthening election infrastructure, including a voluntary grant program that would give states funds to improve cyber security.
As stated in the article, “both sides of the aisle have taken issue with Trump’s dismissive statements about Russian election-meddling and his apparent unwillingness to treat the issue with urgency”.
“The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday revealed their for improving the country’s election infrastructure and guarding it against foreign cyberattacks—a critical component of that panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“In a veiled swipe at President Donald Trump, the bipartisan report includes a direct plea to federal officials to “clearly communicate to adversaries that an attack on our election infrastructure is a hostile act, and we will respond accordingly.””
“It was a notable difference in tone from the House’s intelligence panel, which has been locked in partisan squabbling for months over its Russia investigation. The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation , with Republicans and Democrats set to issue their own partisan final reports rather than a non-partisan one on the findings of the investigation.”
As reported by CNN, the day after this report was released the Senate Intelligence Committee held a public hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former department head Jeh Johnson.
While Nielsen acknowledged the 2018 mid-term elections are “clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts“, there were these concerns with the lack of effective planning for how to help states take steps to protect elections.
…States can now have three election officials with security clearances to receive classified information, and DHS provides “one day read-ins” about threats for senior officials.
“We know whom to contact in every state to share threat information,” Nielsen said. “That capability did not exist in 2016.”
But Collins argued that wasn’t fast enough. She said she was “dismayed” that no officials had received a security clearance eight months after the 2016 elections, and she pressed Nielsen on how many election officials had actually received them to this point.
Nielsen said 20 state officials — out of a possible 150 — had received clearances to date, saying they were working with other agencies to speed up the process.
Feeling safer now?
Team of TeeVee conspiracy lawyers
It’s fair to say that there is no effective plan to protect us from intrusion in future elections. But, as reported in The Washington Post, chaos and Trump-Russia had blew up on another front: In Another Blow To Trump’s Efforts To Combat Russia Probe, diGenova Will No Longer Join Legal Team.
The announcement that lawyer Joseph diGenova was not joining Trump’s legal team followed an announcement last week that he would. diGenova had been interviewing for the position by way of his appearances on Fox, here’s an example from his appearance on Tucker Carlson from December 2017:
“Right now, Tucker, what you have now unfolding inside the FBI in the Department of Justice under [President Barack] Obama is a brazen plot to do two things, to exonerate Hillary Clinton because of an animus toward Donald Trump and then, if she lost, to frame the incoming president for either a criminal act or impeachment.”
That’s right, it was diGenova that was the originator of the “secret society” conspiracy at the FBI which was amplified with the complicity of our own state embarrassment, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). diGenova has a rich history of aiding and abetting Trump, he was very active with Trump adviser Rudi Giuliani in getting the FBI to reopen an investigation of Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 election.
Trump’s Trump-Russia legal chaos has GOP lawyer Theodore Olson declining an offer to join the team, a day after news reports of an offer to Olson. Chaos also included the resignation of Trump’s top personal lawyer John Dowd.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow refers to Trump’s legal team as “TV conspiracy lawyers”, and poses a question of whether “Trump is preparing a legal defense or a cable news PR campaign”. Going further, Maddow says this looks like Trump will end special counsel Mueller’s investigation in some non-legal way, and “this is the team that explains it on Fox News”. The video covers quite a few of the unsupported anti-Clinton conspiracies offered by diGenova as well (5-minute mark).
Heading to the barrel
As usual, there is more news about Cambridge Analytica, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, billionaire GOP/Trump donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer and Facebook: Authorities Raid Cambridge Analytica’s London Offices.
As predicted, Cambridge Analytica (CA) will remain in the news. But the focus is shifting on to Facebook.
This is a short video with Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro presenting concerns with Facebook and their use of personal data: Facebook Gave Cambridge Analytica ‘keys’ To break In.
This is in parallel to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his mea culpa in advance of his summons to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But more importantly, even after former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix acknowledged the republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee GOP members “asked three questions” and were done in five minutes, the committee has no interest in hearing from Zuckerberg. Ranking committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) pushed for additional hearings but was voted down by GOP committee members even after “revelations that Trump-linked Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained information on some 50 million Facebook users”.
“Spokespeople for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and the panel’s top Russia investigator Mike Conaway didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”
While Nunes and Conaway can’t be bothered, Mueller is interested in the Cambridge Analytica links to the Trump campaign.
“The Trump campaign has distanced itself from the data mining firm, which had been financed by major Republican donors and, for a time, employed Steve Bannon, the conservative provocateur who later became Trump’s campaign chief executive.”
It was once a celebrated accomplishment, the Trump data team headed by Trump senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Bannon and the Trump campaign digital Director Brad Parscale. Bannon now blames Facebook. Parscale, who now heads Trump’s 2020 election campaign, takes credit for the success while dismissing Cambridge Analytica as nothing more than “an overblown sales pitch.” He may come to regret that claim.
Collectively they’ve all earned time in the barrel (from Senate Intelligence Committee co-chair Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA):
““Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” Warner tweeted.”
Jared in the Prince’s back pocket
While Kushner has avoided scrutiny over Trump-Russia campaign data operations, he did make headlines based on more news about his self-serving diplomatic efforts in the Middle East on behalf of his deeply troubled family business: Saudi Crown prince Boasted That Jared Kushner Was “In His Pocket”.
“In June, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report. Like many others interviewed for this story, they declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about sensitive matters to the press.
“In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching . “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius at the time.
“What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.”
“KUSHNER’S SUPPORT FOR Saudi Arabia and the UAE over Qatar in the Gulf crisis has raised questions about a possible conflict of interest. Kushner backed the blockade by Kushner’s real estate firm, Kushner Companies, to extract financing for the firm’s troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue.”
We’ll wrap up with an acknowledgement that Trump chaos could well be cover for an outcome as predicted by Rachel Maddow above. Trump’s TV legal team is designed to defend Trump – on TV … after he ends the Mueller investigation.
If that happens we may never know what happened with Trump-Russia and the 2016 election. It’s clear we don’t understand the nexus of Facebook and their embedded teams directly supporting Cambridge Analytica and Parscale’s digital media efforts. Maybe the answer to who stole Facebook profiles is simple and right in front of us – they all did – like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express: they all had a hand in the crime. If they could succeed, who could stop them? Trump, Facebook, Bannon, Cambridge Analytica, the Mercers, Parscale, Kushner and the Russpublicans – all had hands in the crime. Don’t forget, Cambridge Analytica also communicated with WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks is linked to a Russian Intelligence officer who just happens to be the hacker Guccifer 2.0 as well as Trump adviser Roger Stone.
There are two excellent, more in-depth analyses of the Trump data campaign to be found here:
- From Mother Jones we have Cloak and Data: The Real Story Behind Cambridge Analytica’s Rise and Fall: The secretive data firm said it could move the minds of American voters. That wasn’t its real victory.
- And from Politico we a reminded to not forget the roles of Twitter and Google: How Facebook, Google and Twitter ’embeds’ helped Trump in 2016.
We’re out of space to do anything more than acknowledge the irony of attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions’ III violation of his own recusal by firing then acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe who had initiated a criminal investigation of Sessions for his (mis) statements about his contacts with Russians.
And one last item, forwarded by a Commoner Call reader: an excellent BBC profile of Russian president Vladimir Putin and the history and risk he represents to the U.S. Link to 42-minute video here.