Monthly Archives: October 2017

Breaking: Terrorist Attack In Lower Manhattan?

Unclear. There is one report saying a box truck plowed into some pedestrians and bicyclists in Tribeca area.

Then there’s this…

That would place it near the World Trade Center memorial

UPDATE 3:43 pm —

NYPD Twitter says one person in custody.

UPDATE 3:56 pm —

Mainstream media starting to pick up the story. Still vague. Some reports suggest driver of truck may have been ramming AND shooting.

UPDATE 4:02 pm — New York Post:

At least two people were fatally shot in Lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon by a gunman firing from his truck, police sources said.

The gunman, who is in police custody, shot at least six people at West Street and Chambers Street, which is near Stuyvesant High School, at 3:15 p.m.

“What happened was there was a car crash… he came out of one of the cars. He had two guns. He was running around Chambers and somebody started to chase him,” said a 14-year-old Stuyvesant student. “I heard four to six gunshots – everybody starts running.”

Video of the scene shows at least two people lying limp in the street. Photos show a smashed up Home Depot rental truck.

That is the Home Depot rental. AP is reporting that it drove down the bike path, hitting riders and pedestrians, then crashed.

Other reports:

UPDATE — 4:20 pm —

Some reports say six dead. However, only two are confirmed dead.

Another report suggests this might have been a road rage incident, rather than terrorism.

UPDATE: 4:30 pm —

Being Fox News, I take that with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: 4:43 pm —

Official death toll at 6 now.

FBI is taking over the case, so that would suggest this is being treated as a terrorist incident for now.

UPDATE: 5:35pm —

Driver entered bike path at 3:10 PM.

Suspect is 29 years old. This is being treated as a terrorist attack. At least eight are confirmed dead. The suspect had a paintball gun and a pellet gun.

Incredibly, the New York Halloween Parade, which is only blocks away from the incident, and starting at 7:30pm, is going to go forward on what many will see as an act of defiance. There will, of course, be heavily police presence and sand trucks.

Suspect is Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, from Tampa Florida, who came to the US in 2010 from Uzbeckistan. It is thought he had the fake guns because he wanted the police to shoot him and kill him (this getting martyrdom).

LATE UPDATE —

Final toll is 8 dead, 11 injured. Five of the dead were tourists from Argentina celebrating a 30th high school reunion.

Another of the dead was a mother of two children from Belgium. She was on a city trip with her two sisters and her mother, who were unharmed.

Saipov appears to be an “ISIS-inspired” lone wolf.

Trump, ever the coward, politicizes it the following morning, by blaming prominent Democrat:

Trump, of course, didn’t know what he was talking about in asking for getting rid of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. Republican Jeff Flake responded:

Seven Points Which Make The Beginnings Of A Trump-Russia Collusion Case

1) Russia stole Democratic emails. US intelligence agencies have confirmed that emails from the Democratic National Committee and from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta were stolen by Russian hackers. The emails were ultimately released in a smartly sequenced way to maximize damage to Hillary Clinton.

2) At least one Trump adviser knew of the theft in advance, and lied about it. Shortly after the emails were hacked, George Papadopoulos, one of Trump’s five listed foreign policy advisers, was told of their existence by a Russian professor whom he knew to have deep contacts in the Russian government. Papadopoulos subsequently lied to investigators about the timing of the revelation. This is from the indictment (emphasis mine):

Papadopoulos acknowledged that the Professor had told him about the Russians possessing dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails but stated multiple times that he learned that information prior to joining the campaign. In truth and in fact, however, defendant Papadopoulos learned he would be an advisor to the campaign in early March and met the Professor on or about March 14, 2016; the professor only took interest in defendant Papadopoulos because of his status with the Campaign, and the Professor told defendant Papadopoulos about the thousands of emails on or about April 26, 2016.

We don’t know if Papadopoulos shared this knowledge with others in Trump’s orbit, or if others in Trump’s orbit were also approached by Russian intermediaries with this information. But it’s worth noting that Trump advisor Roger Stone sent a series of tweetssuggesting he knew the stolen Podesta emails were coming weeks in advance.

3) Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was a paid operative of a Russia-linked political party in Ukraine. According to Mueller’s indictment, Paul Manafort, who would go on to lead Trump’s campaign, was a longtime paid operative of a Ukrainian political party with deep ties to the Kremlin. Manafort hid both the extent of his payments and the extent of his work on behalf of this party; ultimately, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts related to the work, and at least $18 million was laundered by Manafort.

Among other things, this placed Manafort — and his deputy, Richard Gates — in a highly compromised position, as they had both taken huge amounts of illegal money from a foreign government and lied about it to the US government. Manafort would go on to run Trump’s campaign and bring Gates into the operation too.

The Trump administration has subsequently tried to distance itself from Manafort — in March, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” — but the reality is Manafort joined Trump’s campaign in March 2016 and ran it from June to August (he was ultimately fired when news of his Ukraine payments began leaking out) and was widely understood to be a linchpin of the operation. In August, Newt Gingrich, a close Trump adviser, told Fox News, “Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this [Trump] campaign to where it is right now.”

4) In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian operative who promised them dirt on Clinton. The email Trump Jr. received was crystal clear. It came from Rob Goldstone and alleged that a Russian prosecutor had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful.” Trump Jr. wrote back, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Trump Jr. then set up a meeting, and on an email thread titled “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” he invited Kushner and Manafort. The meeting took place on June 9. As Andrew Prokop wrote, “it’s hard to read these emails and not conclude that the top echelons of the Trump campaign were well aware of the Russian government’s support for Trump and willing to collaborate in the effort.”

At it happens, “later in the summer” is exactly when the hacked emails would ultimately be released.

5) In July 2016, Trump publicly asked the Russian government to find and release other emails Clinton deleted. Separately from the hacked emails of the DNC and Podesta, another Clinton email scandal related to 33,000 messages her team had judged unrelated to her work as secretary of state and deleted. In late July, Trump said during a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” He said this after Papadopoulos was informed by the Russians that they possessed Clinton-related emails.

6) Russians released emails to help Trump, planted fake news and social media bots to help Trump, and tried to hack election systems in 21 states. What’s most striking about the Russian operations on Trump’s behalf is how sophisticated they were about American politics. As the Democratic National Convention began, for instance, Russia released hacked DNC emails meant to stoke conflict among Bernie Sanders’s supporters. The Podesta emails were dribbled out in the campaign’s final weeks and were laundered through WikiLeaks, which made them irresistible to the media. The social media efforts were far-reaching and surprisingly savvy for a foreign government. Both the timing of the operations and the specific points of attack chosen reflected the Trump campaign’s needs and obsessions.

7) After being elected president, Donald Trump fired the director of the FBI to end his investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. President Trump has certainly acted like someone with much to fear from the various investigations into Russia’s role in the election. After taking office, he lashed out at the CIA, which had concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf — “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump administration said.

Trump subsequently fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating Russia’s role in 2016. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he did it because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” It later emerged that Kushner and Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom can usually be counted on to push Trump toward more normal behavior, supported firing Comey.

A list like this can get much longer — I haven’t mentioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s habit of forgetting meetings with Russian officials, for instance, or the notably pro-Russian policy positions Trump adopted during the campaign — but the bottom line is: We do not yet have hard evidence of actual collusion between the Trump operation and Russia. But given what we do know, it would truly be remarkable if all this happened and yet the two sides never explicitly worked together.

Mueller’s investigation, meanwhile, is far from over. The question now is what Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos know, and whether Mueller’s indictments are enough to get them to talk.

Papadopoulos, for one, is believed to be cooperating with Mueller.

The Pushback On Mueller Began A Week Before The Indictments

Fox News really is now the Trump network. It is not even the GOP network.  Just Trump.  They have been questioning Mueller’s credibility. Vox explains the evolution:

To put it bluntly: As Mueller brings charges against top Trump officials, Fox News is trying to plant doubt in its viewers’ minds.

We analyzed the past week of Fox News transcripts, measuring them against those of Fox’s cable news rivals CNN and MSNBC.

What we found was striking:

  • Fox News was unable to talk about the Mueller investigation without bringing up Hillary Clinton, even as federal indictments were being brought against top Trump campaign officials.
  • Fox also talked significantly less about George Papadopoulos — the Trump campaign adviser whose plea deal with Mueller provides the most explicit evidence thus far that the campaign knew of the Russian government’s efforts to help Trump — than its competitors.
  • Fox News repeatedly called Mueller’s credibility into question, while shying away from talking about the possibility that Trump might fire Mueller.

Fox News started early in questioning Mueller’s credibility.

As early as last Tuesday, days before we learned Mueller would bring indictments later in the week, Fox News’s Hannity called for Mueller’s resignation.

“Back in 2009, he was the FBI director. This was when the bureau, the FBI, so clearly had this information [about Uranium One.] He had conflicts of interest. There’s no way the American people can trust Robert Mueller to investigate anything Russian-related,” he said.

Hannity was, of course, referring to a report in the Hill questioning why the Obama administration approved the sale of a Canadian uranium company to Russia, despite the FBI previously uncovering misconduct by the Russian nuclear industry. The story also asserts that Russian nuclear officials gave millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, perhaps to sway then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who served in the group that approved the deal. The story stems from an anti-Hillary Clinton book published during the election called Clinton Cash, and many experts say it has been presented in a misleading manner.

Let’s talk about that the Uranium One deal.  We need to because Fox News in particular has taken up the conspiracy theory with gusto, with Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Martha MacCallum all running lengthy segments devoted to the story. Conservative radio darling Laura Ingraham tweeted out a link to an article about the supposed uranium scheme in the conservative National Review. The conservative Daily Caller website has run several articles on the subject, as has Breitbart, the right-wing outlet run by former Trump senior strategist Steve Bannon.

Trump himself has added new fuel by taking the highly unusual step of encouraging the Justice Department to allow a former FBI informant to testify about the case before Congress — a rare and nearly unprecedented act. The informant’s lawyer claimed, per the Post, that he would tell lawmakers about his work “uncovering the Russian nuclear bribery case and the efforts he witnessed by Moscow to gain influence with [former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration.”

There’s just one problem: The GOP claim that Clinton gave 20 percent of America’s uranium to Russia is incorrect and clearly misleading now, just as it was when Trump raised it in the past.

The key event that the myth is based on is Russia’s nuclear power agency purchasing a majority stake in a Toronto-based energy company between 2009 and 2013. The company had mines and land in a number of US states with huge uranium production capacity — a move the US State Department signed off on. But PolitiFact did a thorough fact-check of the claim last year when Trump first made it on the campaign trail, and found the following faults with it:

  1. The mines, mills, and land the company holds in the US account for 20 percent of the US’s uranium production capacity, not actual produced uranium.
  2. The State Department was one of nine federal agencies and a number of additional independent federal and state regulators that signed off on the deal.
  3. President Barack Obama, not Clinton, was the only person who could’ve vetoed the deal.
  4. Since Russia doesn’t have the legal right to export uranium from the US, its main goal was likely to gain access to the company’s uranium assets in Kazakhstan.
  5. Crucially, the main national security concern was not about nuclear weapons proliferation, as Trump has suggested, but actually ensuring the US doesn’t have to depend too much on uranium sources from abroad, as the US only makes about 20 percent of the uranium it needs. An advantage in making nuclear weapons wasn’t the main issue because, as PolitiFact notes, “the United States and Russia had for years cooperated on that front, with Russia sending enriched fuel from decommissioned warheads to be used in American nuclear power plants in return for raw uranium.”

Trump’s misleading comments are in service of a broader goal: to push back against the growing investigations into his administration’s possible collusion with Moscow, which have hit a new fever pitch with news of Monday’s guilty plea from campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who told the FBI that he’d met with a Russian-linked professor who said Russia had “dirt” on Clinton, including thousands of her stolen emails. Special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed the guilty plea yesterday alongside wide-ranging indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign aide Rick Gates.

BUT… could Fox News talk about firing Mueller?

Nope.  They seemed to understand that it was the third rail.  It would be Trump’s undoing. So they focused on Mueller’s credibility.

Fox News is the main source of news for 19 percent of 2016 voters, including 40 percent of Trump voters. There’s academic evidence that Fox News is more powerful than we ever imagined. It is quite possibly the main news source for President Trump. There is evidence that the hosts see their jobs as advising Trump — talking directly to him.  And what they seem to be saying is — attack Mueller’s credibility.

Will it work? I can’t say for sure, but I see a number of obvious problems.  Mueller is a Republican for one.  It’s hard to say say he is in the tank for Hillary.  Moreover, he’s got an inestimably high reputation — so much so that the Trump Administration considered him for head of the DOJ.  But mostly, I don’t think it will work because, well, because it is so OBVIOUS.  Indictments get handed down, and suddenly Mueller isn’t credible?  Really?

RELATED:  Many are unhappy at Fox News

Some employees at Fox News were left embarrassed and humiliated by their network’s coverage of the latest revelations in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, according to conversations CNN had with several individuals placed throughout the network.

“I’m watching now and screaming,” one Fox News personality said in a text message to CNN as the person watched their network’s coverage. “I want to quit.”

“It is another blow to journalists at Fox who come in every day wanting to cover the news in a fair and objective way,” one senior Fox News employee told CNN of their outlet’s coverage, adding that there were “many eye rolls” in the newsroom over how the news was covered.

The person said, “Fox feels like an extension of the Trump White House.”

The employees spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment.

***

Additionally, Fox News aired segments that questioned Mueller’s credibility and many were framed around how Trump and his allies were responding to the news. On Fox News’ homepage, the lead story at one point was focused on Trump slamming the indictment. Another lead story cited Manafort’s lawyer, and asked, “Mueller’s ‘ridiculous’ claims?”

“This kind of coverage does the viewer a huge disservice and further divides the country,” one Fox News personality told CNN.

Fox News journalists took significant issue with their network’s opinion hosts, who deflected from the news and, in Sean Hannity’s case, characterized Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” a term Trump used on Sunday in a angry tweet to describe the probe.

“That segment on Outbumbered [questioning Mueller’s integrity] was absurd and deserves all the scorn it can get,” a Fox News employee told CNN, referring to the network’s noontime talk show.

The person added that it was “laughable seeing Hannity and [Laura] Ingraham,” two Fox News opinion hosts who are openly supportive of Trump, “tripping over themselves saying [Mueller’s team has] found nothing thus far.”

“It’s an embarrassment,” another Fox News employee echoed to CNN. “Frankly, there are shows on our network that are backing the President at all costs, and it’s that short term strategy that undermines the good work being done by others.”

Nice to know there is SOME integrity at Fox, but… you dance with the devil… this is what happens.

Mueller Time

Well, life has been busy. I wasn’t able to blog about yesterday’s big news: the indictments of Paul Manafort and his assistant Richard Gates — as well as the indictment and guilty plea of George Papadopolous.  The talking heads are correct — it is the Papadopolous news that should scare the White House since it goes to collusion. On the other hand, the Manafort indictment, which deals mostly with pre-campaign shenanigans, shows that Mueller is willing to look into financial dealings from a long time ago that have nothing to do with the 2016 election. That might worry Trump as well.

Anyway, the document dump —

The biggest reveal from the PapaD business is this:

The guilty plea of a 30-year-old campaign aide — so green that he listed Model United Nations in his qualifications — shifted the narrative on Monday of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia: Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online.

So did the Trump campaign team run to the FBI and say “we have knowledge of international hacking and espionage”?  Of course not!

In fact, at least five members of the Trump campaign thought that the Russian government was interfering in the 2016 election on the mogul’s behalf at some point last year. That’s not counting Michael Flynn, who is under investigation for allegedly participating in an effort to secure stolen Clinton emails from Russian hackers.

Are we supposed to believe that none of them ever mentioned any of this to Trump — that, when the president was castigating the CIA for the absurd suggestion that Russia wanted him to be elected, his son and son-in-law never raised a peep?

The only plausible, “innocent” explanation for Trump’s incessant denials is this: The idea of having his electoral triumph tarnished by Russian meddling was painful to his ego; so, even though he had independent verification of the CIA’s core claim, he chose to ridicule the agency to protect his public image and self-esteem.

Yesterday was Mueller’s opening salvo, and it was a doozy.  Better than I expected.

https://twitter.com/KenAshford/status/924842899015159814