Thoughts On Last Night’s Special Elections

Ken AshfordElection 2018Leave a Comment

Last night parts of America went to vote on various candidates for primaries and special elections.  The most-watched and silliest race was the 12th District of Ohio.

It was most-watched because it is regarded as a bellwether of the upcoming November elections (more on that later).

It was the silliest because it was a special election to fill a vacant seat — a seat that is only available for three months, and then the “incumbent” has to face another election.

Ohio’s 12th Congressional District in the northern Columbus suburbs wasn’t supposed to be competitive for Democrats. Trump won it by 11 points.  He campaigned for the Republican candidate.  AND the district was gerrymandered to give the Republican candidate an advantage.  And yet the Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, still has Republicans biting their nails in this special election. With thousands of provisional ballots left to be counted, Balderson — the Republican — is ahead, but O’Connor has not conceded.

Voter fraud hunter and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is in a dead heat with incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Kansas Republican primary for governor. The Washington Post reports that with 94.8 percent of the precincts reporting, at 6 a.m. Colyer has 120,662 votes to Kobach’s 121,203.

All this bodes badly for Republicans in November.  But to understand the change, we need to look at Ohio 12th.  What changed?  Turnout. 

Specifically, there was a turnout gap between the most and least heavily populated parts of a district that absorbs the close-in suburbs of Columbus and rural stretches of central Ohio.

In both Franklin County, which includes Columbus, and Delaware County, the fast-growing suburb just north of Ohio’s capital, 42 percent of voters turned out. But in the five more lightly populated counties that round out the district, turnout ranged from 27 to 32 percent.

This is an ominous sign for Republicans: The highest-income and best-educated elements of the electorate — those deeply uneasy with President Trump — are showing the most interest in voting. Defending a few dozen districts that are either more heavily urban or feature a similar demographic mix as Ohio’s 12th District, Republicans will need to find a way to win back suburbanites or better galvanize rural voters. If they do not, their House majority will slip away.

So we can add Ohio 12th to the list of “special elections” held since November 2016, most of which show a significant trend to the left, as this Washington Post graphic demonstrates:

On the other hand, the far left did not do well last night. In Michigan’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Senate Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer defeated Detroit health official Abdul El-Sayed. The support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congressional candidate, was not enough for El-Sayed to overpower the establishment Democrat. 

Maybe it is all too much.  Baby steps.  Let’s just hope they don’t act as spoilers.

And now…. the mandated Trump whine —

Swamp Drained A Little

Ken AshfordCongress, General corruption, Political Scandals, RepublicansLeave a Comment

Congressman Chris Collins (R – NY) was arrested this morning by the FBI shortly after he was indicted for securities related fraud related to insider trading allegations. From NBC:

Chris Collins, a Republican congressman from upstate New York, surrendered to the FBI on Wednesday morning on securities fraud-related charges, prosecutors said.

Collins, 68, faces insider trading charges along with his son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

The case is related to Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company, on which the elder Collins served on the board.

Congressman Collins was the first member of the House of Representatives to endorse the President’s campaign and was a member of the transition team. But there is no indication in the reporting that Congressman Collins’ very overt and very suspect financial dealings and their interaction with his legislative work is in any way connected to the Special Counsel’s investigation.

This hopefully puts a little fear of God into members of Congress.  Far too many members of Congress in both chambers enter Congress well off and, after a career making between $140 to $175K a year (rank and file versus leadership), leave Congress very, very wealthy. The reasonable suspicion is that much of this wealth is the result of trading on what they learn in the course of their congressional duties. This is clearly unacceptable and must be stopped. Unfortunately the people who would have to take action to stop it are also the people who are engaged in it.

Wonder if Trump will take credit for this.

Trump And Rosenstein Are Best Buds

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

From the Wall Street Journal:

Before President Trump headed to meet Vladimir Putin last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requested a meeting in the Oval Office. He was ready to indict Russian officials for election hacking and wanted to know if the president wanted the Justice Department to announce the charges before or after the trip.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Rosenstein to issue the statement as soon as possible, adding that it would strengthen his position in talks with Moscow, according to people familiar with the exchange.

The moment was the latest indication of a significant change in the rapport between the two men. As the Russia investigation unfolds and some House Republicans mount an effort to impeach him, Mr. Rosenstein has steadily developed a stable relationship with the president that suggests he has more staying power than either his supporters or detractors suspect.

Mr. Rosenstein in the past has been a frequent target of the president’s ire as part of his disdain for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, which Mr. Rosenstein oversees. Mr. Trump in April had to be warned by aides against firing him. Mr. Rosenstein also personally approved raids on the home, office and hotel room of Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.

But in recent months, their relationship has improved. The two men talk once or twice a week, and Mr. Trump calls Mr. Rosenstein on his cellphone to discuss such issues as immigration, according to one person familiar with the matter. Mr. Rosenstein consistently prepares the president’s team ahead of major news, officials said. And he visits the White House as often as three times a week, meeting with the president or White House chief of staff John Kelly. He also has a regular lunch with White House general counsel Don McGahn.

“It’s fantastic,” Mr. Trump said about his rapport with Mr. Rosenstein when a spokesman told him The Wall Street Journal was seeking a comment. “We have great relationship. Make sure you tell them that.”
Mr. Rosenstein declined to comment for this article. In a statement, a Justice Department spokeswoman said he has a “productive working relationship” with Mr. Trump.

As the Mueller investigation proceeds, their relationship may sour. Mr. Trump has consistently called it a “witch hunt,” and Mr. Rosenstein has said protecting the probe is a priority. But the rapprochement may signal that, despite the president’s public statements, the investigation isn’t in immediate danger of being halted.

Senior White House officials privately praise Mr. Rosenstein’s handling of demands by congressional Republicans to share internal documents on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email server and any Trump campaign contacts with Russia. Some Trump allies—such as Reps. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio)—accuse Mr. Rosenstein of stonewalling,  but White House officials say they view their effort to impeach Mr. Rosenstein as a sideshow.

Indeed, the president has recently come to rely on Mr. Rosenstein, the No. 2 at the Justice Department whom the White House increasingly views as the No. 1, given the president’s disenchantment with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he served on the Trump campaign.

I certainly hope Rosenstein is keeping his relationship cordial but, you know, not cozy.  He’s walking a very fine line of trying keep Trump placated, but also doing his job.  When all is said and done, he may deserve as much accolade as Mueller.

Or he could be just fucking it up.

It’s Not About Crime. Or Jobs. Attacking Immigration Is About Racism.

Ken AshfordImmigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

According to NBC News, Trump adviser and living ghoul Stephen Miller will shortly roll out phase two of the plan to extend white hegemony in America in perpetuity:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need Congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

There’s no financial crisis linked to legal (or undocumented) immigrants overrunning the paltry public assistance available in this country. The opposite, in fact, is true; the looming financial crisis was caused by shoveling a trillion borrowed dollars to people like Betsy DeVos, the Mercers, the Kochs, the Walton family, etc., in the form of an unneeded massive tax cut.

Sponsors for legal immigrants who want to obtain a green card and move toward citizenship have to commit to being on the hook for any public benefits for which their legal immigrant might qualify for a decade. The Miller plan is transparently about blocking legal immigrants from gaining voting rights.

Reportedly, more than 20 million immigrants could be blocked by the measure. It would most seriously affect immigrants working jobs that do not pay enough to support their families.

There will be an outpouring of support from this plan from Trumpinistas.  And once again, we will see that “Make America Great Again” really means “Make America White Again”.

Trump Tweets Over 30 Times From Friday To Monday, But One Tweet Gets Him Into Big Legal Trouble

Ken AshfordDisasters, Economy & Jobs & Deficit, Immigration and Xenophobia, L'Affaire Russe, Race, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

No, that’s not the one.  I mean, yes it is clearly racist, but that won’t plunge Trump into legal trouble.  Besides, Keith Boykin had the perfect response:

Ummm… water being diverted to the Pacific Ocean?  Actually, that’s how water works. It falls from the sky, into brooks, then into streams, then into rivers, which leads to the ocean. It’s true that water is diverted to the coastal cities for a constant water supply but all such water is used by the coastal communities

By the way, the California wildfires, the worst in recorded history, are caused by climate change, pure and simple. 

Combined, they form the biggest blaze that California firefighters are currently battling. Altogether, the Mendocino Complex Fire has burned 283,800 acres — growing about 80% since Friday night. As of Monday evening, it was 30% contained and had destroyed 75 residences. The Mendocino Complex Fire has now surpassed last year’s Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, as the largest fire in Cal Fire history.

Um…. not so much:

Again, calling the news the “enemy of the people”.  Very dangerous and it is only a matter of time before a newsroom gets shot up. 

But until that happens, this is not the tweet that puts Trump in legal jeopardy.


The problematic language is “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics…”

This is the first time that Trump admitted the true purpose of the meeting, and it contradicts the press release THAT TRUMP DRAFTED which said the meeting was about adoptions.  This not only goes to collusion, but also obstruction (the mens rea).  

And of course it begs the question, if it was “perfectly legal”, why lie about it?

Apple, Facebook and YouTube Remove Content From Alex Jones and Infowars

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/Idiocy, Social NetworkingLeave a Comment

New York Times:

Top technology companies erased most of the posts and videos on their services from Alex Jones, the internet’s notorious conspiracy theorist, thrusting themselves into a fraught debate over their role in regulating what can be said online. 

Apple, Google, Facebook and Spotify severely restricted the reach of Mr. Jones and Infowars, his right-wing site that has been a leading peddler of false information online. Mr. Jones and Infowars have used social media for years to spread dark and bizarre theories, such as that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that Democrats run a global child-sex ring. Apple made its move on Sunday and the others followed on Monday. 

The actions, one of the tech companies’ most aggressive efforts against misinformation, highlighted a difficult dilemma for their businesses. They have long desired to combat misinformation online, but they have also been reluctant to be arbiters of truth.

And cue the loud moaning of the conservatives about this being a violation of free speech.  It’s not of course, as this is simply tech giants enforcing (belatedly) their own terms of service.

Alex is taking it badly….

But the hysteria is hype.

Weekly List 90

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

As the first trial for Paul Manafort got underway, Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller probe. Even as his top national security officials took the unusual step of appearing together and briefing the press on the ongoing Russia cyber threat, and as social media companies and experts revealed ongoing attacks, Trump continued to label the Russian investigation as a hoax, and took no leadership steps to address the threat and protect our country.

As the Senate held hearings on Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, stories continued to surface about the inhumane treatment of migrants. The Trump regime took the position that the reunification was complete — even as hundreds of families remain separated. Kleptocracy, incompetence, and corruption continued to plague the regime, but in the daily chaos, got little attention or coverage.

  1. WAPO reported Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in his first 558 days. His lies are escalating: now averaging 7.6 false or misleading claims per day, up from 4.9 claims per day in his first 100 days.
  2. On July 5, Trump reached a new high of 79 false or misleading claims in a single day. June and July 2018 ranked first and second overall, with 532 and 446 claims — roughly 16 false or misleading claims per day.
  3. By topic, Trump has told the most lies about: economic issues, trade deals or jobs (1,293), followed by immigration (538), trade (432), the Russia probe (378), and taxes (336).
  4. On Sunday, Trump tweeted about a meeting with NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger, saying they discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’”
  5. On Sunday, in a statement, Sulzberger said he accepted Trump’s invitation for a July 20 meeting to raise his concerns about Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” saying, “the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful.”
  6. Sulzberger said he told Trump “his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” warning, “inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”
  7. Sulzberger said overseas, governments are using Trump’s words as justification to crack down on journalists, and warned that Trump’s attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining” our democratic ideals.
  8. On Sunday, in a series of tweets, Trump said, “I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the dying newspaper industry,” including the “failing” New York Times and Washington Post.
  9. Trump added, “the media-driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome..truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk!” and called the media “very unpatriotic!
  10. On Tuesday, Trump continued his battle with the media, tweeting, “The Fake News Media is going CRAZY,” accusing the media of being “unhinged,” and of ruining the lives of “innocent and decent people.”
  11. Trump also tweeted that in 7 years, when he is out of office, media “ratings will dry up and they will be gone!” Trump continues to target CNN, NBC News, WAPO, and NYT as “fake news” for coverage he deems unfair.
  12. On Tuesday, Trump renewed his government shutdown threat, tweeting, “I don’t care what the political ramifications are,” adding, “Border Security is National Security,” and saying a shutdown “is a very small price to pay.”
  13. On Tuesday, Trump held a rally in Tampa, Florida. Ahead of the rally, Trump supporters crowded around CNN’s Jim Acosta, threateningly, giving him the middle finger, and leading chants of “CNN sucks.”
  14. Trump repeated his anti-immigrant rhetoric, promising “tremendous border security that’s going to include the wall,” and claiming, without evidence, that Democrats were encouraging undocumented immigrants to vote.
  15. Trump made a case for the need for voter IDs to prevent voter fraud, falsely claiming, “You know if you go out and you want to buy groceries you need a picture on a card. You need ID.”
  16. After the rally, Acosta tweeted a video of Trump supporters attacking him, saying, “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt.”
  17. After the rally, Trump retweeted a video tweeted by Eric Trump, with the caption, “WATCH: Supporters of President Trump Chant ‘CNN Sucks’ During Jim Acosta’s Live Spot at Florida Rally.”
  18. At the rally, there were sighting of “QAnon” related signs and t-shirts. QAnon is an internet conspiracy cult claiming to have access to top security clearance information about an alleged deep state plot against Trump.
  19. On Thursday, at an event hosted by Axios, Ivanka said she has had “my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate,” but she said, she does “not consider the media the enemy of the people.”
  20. Ivanka said she considered the low point of her tenure at the White House to be Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, saying, “That was a low point for me…I am very vehemently against family separation.”
  21. At the daily press briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta, who had been harassed at a Trump rally, asked press secretary Sarah Sanders if she agreed with Ivanka that the press is not the enemy of the people. Sanders refused to answer.
  22. Sanders also defended the mob scene in Tampa as “freedom of speech,” and said the media “continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against” Trump and the regime. After her non-answer, Acosta left the room.
  23. On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights office issued a statement condemning Trump’s attacks on the media, saying they violate basic norms of press freedom and human rights.
  24. The statement cited Trump’s labeling of the media as the “enemy of the American people,” “very dishonest,” or “fake news,” and accusing the media of “distorting democracy” or spreading “conspiracy theories.”
  25. On Sunday, in a series of tweets, Trump lashed out at Mueller, claiming without evidence or explanation that Mueller has conflicts of interest, tweeting, “Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest.”
  26. Trump tweeted of Mueller, “we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI.” Rod Rosenstein has testified that he knows of no disqualifying conflict of interest with Mueller.
  27. Trump also tweeted, “There is No Collusion,” falsely claiming the “Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt…was started by a fraudulent Dossier,” paid for by Hillary and the DNC, and, “Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!”
  28. Trump also falsely claimed the Mueller probe is a “Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17…Angry Democrats,” and again falsely claimed the probe “was started by a fraudulent Dossier.”
  29. On Sunday, Trump tweeted he is “willing to ‘shut down’ government” if the Democrats do not give him votes for his wall, adding, “Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
  30. On Monday, Attorney General Sessions announced the formation of a “religious liberty task force” within the Justice Department which he claimed will help protect religious communities from discrimination.
  31. Sessions warned of a “dangerous movement” that he said was eroding protections for religious Americans, and falsely claimed “nuns were being forced to buy contraceptives” — a reference to Obama’s health care policy.
  32. Civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates condemned Sessions’ task force, saying it is not consistent with religious freedoms, and that the guidance would encourage private groups to discriminate with government funds.
  33. A synagogue in Carmel, Indiana was vandalized with spray-painted Nazi images, including a swastika. The synagogue has not been attacked before.
  34. The Boston Globe reported that someone called the police to report a black woman eating lunch in a campus common room “seemed out of place.” The woman is a rising sophomore at Smith College working on campus.
  35. NYT reported Peter Wright, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA’s Superfund program, was a lawyer at Dow Chemical when the company submitted disputed data, misrepresented scientific evidence, and delayed cleanup.
  36. On Monday, NYT reported the Trump regime is considering granting a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy, through the Treasury Department changing the definition of “cost” for calculating capital gains.
  37. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview at the Group of 20 summit that his department was studying such a move, bypassing Congress, if it can’t get done through the legislative process.
  38. On Wednesday, the Trump regime took another step to hobble the Affordable Care Act, widening the availability of skimpy health plans designed for short-term use that do not cover pre-existing conditions.
  39. The health insurance industry, hospitals, doctors, and patient advocacy groups warned that consumers with these plans would be stranded when they need care, and defections would drive up costs in the ACA marketplaces.
  40. On Thursday, the Trump regime said it would freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks, which were meant to improve public health and combat climate change, through the year 2026.
  41. Trump’s plan would also revoke California’s legal waiver to set its own tailpipe restrictions, which the state has used to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, and restrict other states from following California’s lead.
  42. Automakers had a mixed reaction to the move, but oil and gas interests cheered it. The plan is part of the Department of Transportation’s deregulatory efforts, arguing for affordability and safety.
  43. On Sunday, Charles Koch expressed “regret” over his network’s past support for some Republican candidates who are not standing up to Trump’s policies, and threatened to hold them to account.
  44. On Monday, the Kochs announced they would not support the Trump-backed Republican candidate to take on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, warning that siding with Trump will carry a political cost with their network.
  45. On Tuesday, Trump dismissed criticism by the Koch networks of his trade and immigration policies,tweeting they have “become a total joke in real Republican circles,” and “I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”
  46. On Thursday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel warned GOP donors in a memo to steer clear of the Koch political network, escalating a fight between Trump’s allies and the Kochs.
  47. On Monday, the Treasury Department predicted the U.S. government’s borrowing needs in the second half of this year will jump to $769 billion, the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis.
  48. On Wednesday, Trump escalated his trade war with China, instructing U.S. trade representative to look into increasing tariffs on many Chinese imports from 10% to 25%.
  49. On Friday, China announced it would retaliate by imposing $60 billion of tariffs on U.S. products if Trump follows through on his threats.
  50. On Monday, two University of Virginia history professors, William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler, resigned in protest over the school’s decision to offer a paid senior fellowship to former Trump official Mark Short.
  51. They claim Short attacked the free media and truth, backed rhetoric and policies that have empowered white supremacists, undermined the FBI and our intelligence agencies, and disenfranchised millions of voters.
  52. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Wow, highest Poll Numbers in the history of the Republican Party. That includes Honest Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.” Politifact rated his claim as “false” using several measures.
  53. On Monday, WAPO reported U.S. spy agencies see signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the U.S.
  54. The satellite images indicate work is underway at the Sanumdong factory, which produced two of North Korea’s ICBMs, including the first with a proven range that could allow it to strike the U.S. East Coast.
  55. Although Trump tweeted North Korea was “no longer a Nuclear Threat” following his summit with Kim Jong Un, North Korea has made few tangible moves signaling an intention to disarm.
  56. On Thursday, Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for returning the remains of 55 soldiers, tweeting, “I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter — l look forward to seeing you soon!”
  57. Remains of 55 were returned, while about 5,300 American war remains are still in North Korea. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cautioned the remains could be non-U.S. soldiers: “We don’t know who’s in these boxes.”
  58. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the city will end a major data-sharing contract with ICE, citing misuse of information, and ICE detaining undocumented immigrants who are not accused of any crime.
  59. Guardian reported the Trump regime plans to rescind Obama-era work permits for spouses of holders of H-1B visas, effectively confining spouses, mostly women, to home and stripping their families of a second income.
  60. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ordered the Trump regime to stop administering psychotropic medications to migrant children without first obtaining consent or a court order.
  61. Judge Gee said the regime has been medicating children at a Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Texas without consent. She ordered the children be moved from the facility, except those posing a “risk to harm” to themselves or others.
  62. On Tuesday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, senior officials from Border Patrol, ICE, HHS, and the DOJ said they learned about Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy in April when Sessions publicly announced it.
  63. Officials said because they did not get advance warning, they did not put protocols in place to eventually reunify families. They also did not challenge lawmakers’ assertions that the initiative was a failure.
  64. Matthew Albence, the number two official at ICE, described family detention centers as “more like a summer camp,” saying migrants have food, water, and educational and recreational opportunities.
  65. Cmdr. Jonathan White from the department of Health and Human Services said he warned his superiors that separating children from parents carried a “significant risk of harm” and could inflict “psychological injury.” He was assured the regime would not implement separation.
  66. The acting head of Border Patrol, Carla Provost said, “The initiative was a prosecution initiative, and our focus was on the prosecution element only.” Several senators called for Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign.
  67. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “A highly respected Federal judge” said ““Trump Administration gets great credit” for reuniting illegal families.” About one-third of families separated under Trump’s policy remain apart.
  68. On Wednesday, NYT reported the Trump regime is considering a second sharp reduction in the number of refugees admitted to the U.S., a program meant to offer protection to the world’s most vulnerable people.
  69. Last year the regime set the cap at 45,000 — a historic low. This year, as Stephen Miller has installed allies in key positions, in one plan being discussed, no more than 25,000 refugees could be resettled.
  70. HuffPost reported at a federal prison complex in Victorville, California, which staffers warned was not equipped to handle the influx from ICE, there have been infectious disease outbreaks and an attempted suicide.
  71. The ACLU filed a lawsuit Tuesday over the “inhumane conditions” at Victorville, saying they violated the constitutional rights of immigrants detained there. There is one doctor for 4,300 inmates and detainees.
  72. On Thursday, in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. appeals court struck down a key part of Trump’s contentious effort to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” saying an executive order threatening to cut funding was unconstitutional.
  73. In a letter addressed to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a group of U.S. historians demanded that the regulatory body stop ICE from erasing records of the agency’s treatment of immigrants.
  74. Historians sent the letter July 25, after learning ICE had sought permission from NARA to begin destroying years’ worth of data, including information on sexual abuse, solitary confinement, and in-custody deaths.
  75. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 14 senators sent a letter to Sessions, Nielsen, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar demanding information on the status of separated families, including those where the parents have been deported.
  76. On Thursday, in a court filing, the DOJ said the ACLU, which represents plaintiffs in lawsuit over family separations, should “use their considerable resources and their network” to take the lead on finding deported parents.
  77. The Trump regime also suggested that the ACLU should find out whether the deported parents want to be reconnected with their children, or whether they waive that option.
  78. Politico reported that per a Trump regime official, an estimated three-quarters of deported parents who left the country alone left no record behind that they ever consented to leave their children in the U.S.
  79. On Friday, Judge Dana Sabraw rejected the Trump regime’s request to make the ACLU primarily responsible for locating migrant parents who were deported, saying the government bears “100 percent” of the burden.
  80. The judge also scolded the regime for moving so slowly to track down the deported parents, calling it “just unacceptable” that an estimate of only about 12 of close to 500 parents have been located.
  81. Sabraw suggested the regime appoint a person to lead the reunification process, saying, “for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child.” He will hold another hearing next week.
  82. On Friday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be fully restored, and gave the Trump regime a 20-day deadline to do so.
  83. Judge John Bates said the regime has failed to justify its proposal to end DACA. The Justice Department is expected to appeal. A case being tried in Texas is expected to be decided next week in agreement with the Trump regime.
  84. California and New York courts have ruled the regime cannot end DACA, but only ordered the regime to continue renewing existing applications. Bates’ ruling goes further, ordering the program reopened in its entirety.
  85. On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked public availability of blueprints that provide instructions for making guns using 3-D printers, hours before the documents were expected to be published online.
  86. Hours before, Trump had tweeted about the 3-D plastic guns, “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted, “Your administration approved this…And to check with the NRA?”
  87. The Trump regime had suddenly settled a 2013 case with Cody Wilson on June 29, allowing public availability of the instructions. Twenty-one attorneys general asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sessions to withdraw from the settlement.
  88. A CBS poll asking strong Trump supporters who they trust for accurate information found: 91% trust Trump, 63% trust friends and family, and just 11% trust the mainstream media.
  89. The poll also found 70% of Republicans call the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” while 77% of Democrats call it a “critical” matter of national security.
  90. A billboard in a heavily Republican Grand Junction, Colorado replaced the “O” in the word “GOP” with a Soviet-era communism symbol. The resident behind it is upset with Trump’s actions on Russia, immigration, and tariffs.
  91. On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told “Face the Nation” her office has been the subject of at least one phishing attack by Russians targeting email accounts and social media profiles.
  92. Activist Emma Best published 11,000 WikiLeaks Twitter direct messages. The messages reveal WikiLeaks wanted the GOP to defeat Hillary Clinton, who was described in a message as a “well-connected, sadistic sociopath.”
  93. On Tuesday, Facebook announced it had uncovered and removed “sophisticated” efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to manipulate U.S. politics by sowing discord, ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
  94. Facebook did not directly name Russia, but said 32 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram were involved in “coordinated” and “inauthentic” political behavior. One page alone had close to 300,000 followers.
  95. One page promoted “No Unite the Right 2” march, a planned counter demonstration, and another to amplify “Abolish ICE.” Facebook noted the efforts mirror Internet Research Agency moves before the 2016 election.
  96. On Tuesday, at a cybersecurity summit in New York, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen issued her strongest warning to Russia, saying, “Mark my words: America will not tolerate this meddling.”
  97. She warned that there is an “urgent, evolving crisis,” warning of “online” attacks, like a small bank in Blacksburg, Virginia which was a target of Russian hackers who stole $2.4 million over the course of two weekends.
  98. On Wednesday, social media and technology experts testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying Russia and other foreign actors have not slowed their efforts to spread misinformation and propaganda.
  99. Central to this third hearing was Russia’s exploited tech companies’ hesitation to regulate what is posted on their platforms. Experts and senators said companies no longer have an excuse for not taking action.
  100. Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the committee, said of Russian interference efforts: “Some feel that we as a society are sitting in a burning room, calmly drinking a cup of coffee, telling ourselves ‘this is fine.’ That’s not fine.”
  101. On Wednesday, the Senate rejected a Democratic proposal to provide states with more election security funding ahead of the midterms, by a 50-47 vote. Sen. Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in support.
  102. BuzzFeed reported on a cash trail left by Maria Butina and Paul Erickson, the Republican consultant, at Wells Fargo Bank, whose anti-money laundering team started tracking their bank activity in early 2017 after an FBI referral.
  103. Suspicious transactions include $89,000 passed between Erickson’s US accounts and Butina’s account at Russia’s Alfa Bank, a $45,000 payment to an undisclosed law firm, and various cash withdrawals.
  104. WAPO reported in the weeks before the 2016 election, Butina socialized with Trump aide J.D. Gordon, who served as the campaign’s director of national security until August 2016, then joined Trump’s transition effort.
  105. According to documents and testimony provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the two exchanged emails in September and October 2016, and Gordon invited Butina to a concert and his birthday party.
  106. A Yahoo Finance/Survey Monkey poll found 11% of Republicans say it would be appropriate for Russia to intervene in U.S. midterms on behalf of Trump and Republicans, and 29% say it wouldn’t be a big deal.
  107. Starting Sunday, Rudy Giuliani made a series of erratic TV appearance to push back on Michael Cohen’s assertion that Trump knew about the June 9 Trump Tower meeting. Giuliani said Cohen has “lied all his life.”
  108. On Monday, appearing on “Fox & Friends,” Giuliani said he had been “looking in the federal code,” and “my client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime,” adding, “collusion is not a crime.”
  109. On Monday, Giuliani told CNN there was a “planning meeting” to prep Donald Jr. for June 9, which was attended by Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates, who is cooperating, and others. Giuliani later reversed himself.
  110. On Tuesday, Trump sided with Giuliani, tweeting, “collusion is not a crime,” and reasserting, “but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!”
  111. On Tuesday, Vanity Fair reported Trump thinks Giuliani is “saying too much.” Chief of Staff John Kelly wants to get rid of him, and reportedly White House counsel Don McGahn “hates Rudy with intensity of 1,000 burning suns.”
  112. On Tuesday, the trial in federal court for Manafort in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges began. A jury of 6 women and 6 men were selected. Manafort’s attorneys are seeking to place blame with Gates.
  113. On Wednesday, Trump called on Sessions to end the Mueller investigation, tweeting Sessions “should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further.”
  114. Trump called the Mueller investigation a “terrible situation, and repeated his false claim, tweeting, “Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”
  115. When asked about Trump’s tweets to end the Mueller investigation in Wednesday’s press briefing, Sanders said, “It’s not an order, it’s the president’s opinion…[Trump] wants to see it come to an end.”
  116. Trump’s attorneys also tried to downplay his tweets, with Giuliani saying Trump “carefully used the word, ‘should,’” and Jay Sekulow saying Trump “has issued no order or direction to the Department of Justice on this.”
  117. Trump also tweeted that Manafort “worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation,” adding “These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion — a Hoax!”
  118. Trump also compared Manafort’s treatment to that of Al Capone, tweeting, “who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer…or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling.”
  119. On Wednesday, WAPO reported in a letter sent Monday, Mueller renewed negotiations with Trump’s legal team about terms for an in-person interview with Trump, following an extended standoff since March.
  120. Mueller reportedly said he is willing to accept some answers in written form, reducing the number of questions his investigators would ask Trump in an interview.
  121. NYT reported Trump is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing. Reportedly Trump believes he can convince Mueller’s team that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt” and end the inquiry.
  122. Trump’s legal team were preparing to tell Mueller there would be no interview and risk a court fight over a subpoena that could drag through midterms, but Trump pushed them to continue negotiating.
  123. According to NYT, the scope of the questioning includes whether Trump associates and Russia coordinated in election interference and whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.
  124. On Thursday, Manafort’s bookkeeper, Heather Washkuhn, said his lavish lifestyle continued until 2015 when he ran out of cash, then he and Gates began trying to fudge numbers to secure loans.
  125. Washkuhn testified she did not have access to all of Manafort’s transactions. She also did not have any records of the foreign accounts Manafort used to pay for clothes, cars, real estate and home remodeling.
  126. Washkhun undercut Manafort’s defense that Gates was to blame, characterizing Manafort as a “very knowledgeable” client, and saying, “He was very detail-oriented. He approved every penny of everything we paid.”
  127. On Friday, Cindy Laporta, one of Manafort’s accountants who was granted immunity, testified that in 2015 she went along with falsifying his tax records, not wanting to confront a longtime client.
  128. Laporta said Gates told her Manafort could not afford to pay his taxes, and instructed her to misrepresent $900,000 in income as a business loan. She estimated she saved Manafort at least $400,000 in taxes.
  129. Laporta testified she helped Manafort obtain millions of dollars of loans fraudulently, including listing a rental property as a second home, sending a forged loan-forgiveness letter, and lying about a large future payment.
  130. On Thursday, a federal judge in Washington ruled Andrew Miller, a former assistant to Roger Stone, must testify before the special counsel’s grand jury on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  131. Miller worked for Stone during the 2016 presidential campaign, and is one of at least six of Stone’s associates to be called to testify in the Mueller probe. Stone has accused Mueller’s team of harassing his associates.
  132. On Thursday, Reuters reported that according to Russian agencies citing senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachov, Sen. Rand Paul will lead a U.S. delegation to Moscow and will meet Russian members of parliament on August 6.
  133. On Thursday, top national security officials made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room to warn that Russia continues to target the U.S. election system, and vowed to combat interference.
  134. No new details about attacks or policies were announced, but there was a show of unity of top officials, for the first time appearing together, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and NSA Director Paul Nakasone.
  135. Although each security official acknowledged attacks by Russia and said their agency would take steps to counter, there is no leadership from the White House, and Bolton eliminated the top cybersecurity job in Week 79.
  136. Also at the conference, Coats acknowledged two weeks after Helsinki, he still is “not in a position” to “fully understand” what occurred during that meeting, raising questions about why Trump is keeping him in the dark.
  137. The joint appearance follows the first meeting of the National Security Council led by Trump on election security, last week. The meeting lasted less than an hour and resulted in no new orders.
  138. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced what Sen. Lindsey Graham called the “bill from hell” to punish Russia for election interference, and activities in Syria and Ukraine, by imposing new restrictions and sanctions.
  139. The measure also expresses strong support for NATO, and would require two-thirds of the Senate to vote in order to leave the alliance. The measure would need to pass the House and Senate, and be signed by Trump.
  140. On Thursday, NYT reported at his campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump made 15 inaccurate claims on things like highway spending, immigration, crowd size, and legislative accomplishments.
  141. Trump also lied that U.S. Steel Corporation “is opening up seven plants” — they are not opening any. He again repeated false claims about NATO members being “delinquent” and that “funding was going down.”
  142. Despite his press conference by his top security officials earlier in the day, Trump falsely claimed “Russia is very unhappy that Trump won,” and that diplomatic efforts with Putin “are being hindered by the Russian hoax.”
  143. On Thursday, at a screening for Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, Donald Jr. compared the Nazi platform in the early 1930s to the DNC platform today, adding, “It’s the exact opposite of what you’ve been told.”
  144. On Thursday, Jerry Falwell Jr. grouped Hitler as a “progressive elite,” tweeting, “the future will be progressive elites (… ⁦@HillaryClinton⁩, Hitler, Soros) v freedom loving average Americans!”
  145. On Thursday, WSJ reported a major Trump donor, Franklin Haney, gave a $10 million contract to Cohen in early April, shortly before the April 9 raid, to help his efforts to complete a pair of nuclear reactors in Alabama.
  146. Cohen was paid a monthly retainer in addition to the $10 million success fee. Authorities are investigating whether Cohen engaged in unregistered lobbying in his work for corporate clients, including AT&T and Novartis.
  147. WAPO reported that room revenue at Trump International Hotel in Manhattan rose 13% in the first quarter of 2018, due to providing rooms for accompanying travelers of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
  148. Four Democratic senators called for an investigation into tours on Air Force One, after BuzzFeed obtained an invitation revealing members of Trump’s Florida clubs were invited for tours last year.
  149. On Friday, WSJ reported the Kushner family closed a deal to unload 666 Fifth Avenue, an investment made by Kushner at the top of the market in 2007, and which has been not been financeable for years.
  150. Kushner Cos. will lease the property to Brookfield Asset Management for 99 years, paid upfront, in an amount that will allow the Kushner family to pay off the $1.1 billion of debt on the building and buy out its partner.
  151. In Week 87 it was noted that a unit of Brookfield is awaiting approval from the Trump’s Committee on Foreign Investment for its acquisition of the nuclear-power company Westinghouse Electric.
  152. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat who served on Trump’s voter fraud commission, in a lawsuit won access to and then published a trove of documents on Friday revealing no signs of voter fraud.
  153. Dunlap said Trump’s repeated claims that millions of people voted illegally were false. In a letter Dunlap wrote, “these documents show that there was…a pre-ordained outcome…without any evidence to back it up.”
  154. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not delay hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to wait for records from Kavanaugh’s time as as staff secretary in the Bush White House from 2003–2006.
  155. On Thursday, the National Archives warned that it would not be able to fulfill the GOP’s request for documents on Kavanaugh until late October. McConnell’s unwillingness to wait on documents breaks longtime norms.
  156. Poynter Institute reported the Newseum is selling Trump “Make America Great Again” hats and t-shirts that say “You are very fake news,” on their website.
  157. On Friday, just before midnight, Trump tweeted, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” Lemon’s show is on CNN.
  158. Journalist Dan Rather blasted Trump for his “racist” criticism of James, calling it a “disgrace.” Trump has continually attacked black athletes, and made disparaging comments about the intelligence of black Americans.
  159. The Guardian reported U.S. counter-intelligence investigators discovered a suspected Russian spy had been working in the U.S. embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, undetected.
  160. In her role, the Russian national had access to the agency’s intranet and email systems, which gave her a window into highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president.
  161. The U.S. Department of State’s Regional Security Office sounded the alarm in January 2017, but Secret Service let her continue in her post for months, possibly to avoid potential embarrassment.
  162. WAPO reported she worked as a local investigator in the U.S. Secret Service office at the embassy since 2001.She was fired in August 2017 after investigators surveilled her meetings and communications with FSB agents.
  163. Protesters remained outside the White House for a third straight week, since Trump’s Helsinki summit with Putin. One night, protesters held giant letters spelling “TREASON” and other signs calling Trump a traitor.
  164. The day-to-day rallies have been dubbed, “Kremlin Annex,”and have morphed into a mix of demonstrations, roasts and dance parties. Organizers plan to keep protesting until Trump is out of office.

The Drunk Spy

Ken AshfordGun Control, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina talked openly about her contacts with Russian intelligence officials when she got drunk, CNN reported yesterday.

According to people who knew her at American University where she attended graduate school, on at least two occasions Butina bragged about her Russian government connections after she had imbibed and even said the Russian government was connected to her Moscow gun rights group. According to CNN, classmates were unnerved by her comments and reported her to law enforcement twice.

Other classmates told CNN that in classes she was a constant defender of Vladimir Putin and claimed that she was a middleman between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

Butina’s drunken admissions parallel those of George Papadopolous, a former Trump campaign official who spilled secrets to Australia’s top diplomat about Russia having dirt on Hillary Clinton while inebriated at a wine bar in Britain. That drunk conversation was what launched the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Butina was arrested in July after the FBI raided her apartment and was charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of Russia. She allegedly spent years attempting to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and fostering relationships with high-level conservatives.

She’s pled not guilty to the charges, which her lawyer says are completely unfounded.

Sarah Sander’s Scripted Rants Must Stop

Ken AshfordFake News, News, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Yesterday, after various Cabinet members assured America they were ready to combat Russian meddling, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders took questions on her own, and outright refused to disavow the Trump statement that “the press is the enemy of the people.”

She knew the question was coming, and she read from a scripted answer.  I noticed that she does this.  She does this a lot.  She is, objectively, a terrible press secretary, regardless of her political persuasion. I mean, sure. Other press secretaries have referred to notes in front of them, but to read an answer?  That’s just bad form.

And even worse, she reads rants.  She never misses an opportunity to bash the press, and has written rants against the press in case she gets asked predictable questions.  And when she gets unpredicatable questions or follow-ups, she often gives an evasive answer or says “I don’t know” or says “I believe I have answered the question” (when she clearly hasn’t).

Which raises the question: whose interests are served by these farcical “press conferences” ? Surely not those of the American people; the information gained is paltry. Obviously, it is the Administration that benefits. Why afford them the platform?

The way this White House is using the forum makes it a new game. From a strictly career advancement perspective, my guess is there are far better ways for a White House correspondent to spend time than sitting in that room. 

It seems to me that the thing to do is: (a) pass the job of to interns or lower-level people and (b) don’t televise the damn thing unless there is actual news.

But nothing is useful about scripted rants.

Document Dump: The Rich Family Loses Its Lawsuit Against Fox News

Ken AshfordClinton Email Faux Scandal, Right Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

The basic issue here is that the most natural claims against Fox et al would be defamation claims on Seth’s behalf; however, only a living person can bring a defamation suit. An estate can’t. So they tried to shoehorn Intentional Inflection of Emotional Distress claims by relatives and the judge wouldn’t go for it, mainly because Fox ceased and desisted when told to.

Breaking: Trump Bigwigs Make Show Of Combating Russian Election Meddling (But The Press Is The Enemy Of The People)

Ken AshfordCybersecurity, Election 2018, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

About time too.


While this is a good development, it does run counter to the President’s messaging….

UPDATE:   After the security show, Sarah Huckabee Sanders took some questions, and notably, refused to disavow Trump’s statement that the media is the “enemy of the people.”  Why did she refuse to say that? Because she had her fee-fees hurt at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Seven Theories Of L’Affaire Russe Whittled Down To Five

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Ben Wittes has updated his seminal post from last summer…. I repost it here in its entirety:

More than a year ago, writing with Jane Chong in May 2017, we laid out what we called, “Seven Theories of the Case: What Do We Really Know about L’Affaire Russe and What Could it All Mean?” The lengthy post was an attempt, as we described it at the time, to give:

an overview of the facts known today, and . . . then put forth seven different theories of the Russia Connection case that might account for those facts. We present these in ascending order of potential menace, from the most innocent to the most alarming. In doing so, we attempt to narrow the field of discussion—or at least provide a disciplined framework for assessing the possibilities—and give readers guidance as to what to watch for as investigations on both the legislative and executive sides move forward.

We wrote this post before the Comey firing, before the Trump Tower meeting became public, before Bob Mueller was appointed as special counsel, and before Mueller’s numerous prosecutions and dozens of news stories about his investigation and the underlying facts deepened the public record on the subject of L’Affaire Russe. Yet the piece, notwithstanding the blizzard of new information, has stood up rather well. The goal was to give something of a structured framework for thinking about the fact patterns at issue. And while the facts have certainly evolved, the framework remains useful.

To refresh your memory—or if you never read the original post—the seven theories of the case were the following:

  • Theory of the Case #1: It’s All a Giant Set of Coincidences and Disconnected Events
  • Theory of the Case #2: Trump Attracted Russophiles
  • Theory of the Case #3: The Russian Operation Wasn’t Really About Trump at All
  • Theory of the Case #4: Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—But Trump Didn’t Know
  • Theory of the Case #5: Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known
  • Theory of the Case #6: Kompromat
  • Theory of the Case #7: The President of the United States is a Russian Agent

The other day, the folks at the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast did an entire episode of the podcast in which they debated Trump-Russia collusion, using the “Seven Theories” post as their model. It’s an excellent discussion, structured as a debate in which Jody Avirgan, Clare Malone, Micah Cohen, and Nate Silver each stake out a position on the Seven Theories spectrum—they reduce the seven theories to four for simplicity’s sake—and argue for it. Avirgan took the most benign position, that “this is all just a bunch of coincidences, Russia didn’t directly help the Trump camp and there was nothing for them to collude on.” Malone argued that “Russian intelligence actively penetrated the Trump campaign, but Trump didn’t know.” Cohen took the view that “Trump knew” about ongoing Russian intelligence efforts. And Silver summed up his position with the succinct phrase: “Pee tape.”

We had been planning an update to the Seven Theories framework for a while, but the FiveThirtyEight discussion seems like an excellent catalyst. Which of these theories are still plausible readings of the facts? Which have subsequent disclosures and events rendered non-viable? Which seem more likely today than they did in May 2017?

Our purpose in this post is to narrow the Seven Theories framework and bring it up to date. Two of the theories, as we shall explain, seem plainly inconsistent with major fact patterns that have emerged in the 15 months since we wrote the original posts. Two others have gained substantial strength, in our view. And that said, the spectrum of possibility remains vast. Here’s our evaluation of each of the Seven Theories and the state of the spectrum they describe.

Let’s start by removing two theories from the table:

  • Theory of the Case #1: It’s All a Giant Set of Coincidences and Disconnected Events and
  • Theory of the Case #3: The Russian Operation Wasn’t Really About Trump at All

Theory #1 posited that

the only grand unifying element of L’Affaire Russe is that birds of a feather—in this case Trumpist Russophiles—tend to flock together. Maybe there’s nothing much more to the Russia Connection matter than that. Trump was enthusiastic about Putin and Russia, so maybe it’s no surprise that a group of people who have no problem with that, who share the enthusiasm, and who have done business with Russian interests get on board. Some of those people may have crossed legal or ethical lines, but that has little to do with Trump—and importantly, each element has nothing to do with each other element.

In this theory, which we viewed as unlikely even at the time we wrote the original piece, “the Trump-Russia relationship is ultimately no more than symbiotic: Russia and Trump had common interests and both pursued those interests, maintaining something of an unspoken non-aggression pact while they each pursued a common enemy.”

Theory #3, by contrast, posited that “the true explanation of the Trump-Russia connection is that the Russian operation wasn’t really about Trump at all—but was really about Hillary Clinton.” The Russians, like everyone else, believed that Clinton was going to win the 2016 election, the theory went. So the goal of the Russian operations with respect to the campaign “may well have been to injure her legitimacy and popularity as much as possible, weaken her domestic legitimacy, and retaliate against her perceived interference in Russian internal affairs when she, as Secretary of State, supported anti-Putin protesters. In this scenario, Russian support for Trump was largely ancillary to this effort to hurt Clinton.”

Neither of these theories survives the revelations of last summer or the facts alleged—and in some cases admitted—in the various Mueller prosecutions. For one thing, we have learned unambiguously that whatever was animating the figures associated with the Trump campaign, there was nothing coincidental about Russian approaches to Trump world. These were systematic and broad-based. Consider:

  • In June 2016, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with a group of Russian visitors in Trump Tower, including attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. In the now-infamous email exchange that preceded the meeting, Trump, Jr. wrote, “I love it, especially later in the summer” when informed that the meeting would provide him with documents that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Trump, Jr. and other representatives of the Trump campaign were reportedly disappointed when Veselnitskaya failed to provide the promised “dirt” on Clinton and discussed the issue of Russian adoptions under the Magnitsky Act instead.
  • In March 2016, George Papadopoulos—who had just been named a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign—was approached by Joseph Mifsud, a professor with suspected links to Russian intelligence. According to the statement of offensefiled by the special counsel’s office, Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a woman he identified as a relative of Vladimir Putin, and Papadopoulos went on to use his connection with Mifsud to try to organize a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, which he proposed multiple times to the campaign as a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin himself. In April 2016—more than a month before the contents of the DNC hack were made public—Mifsud informed Papadopoulos that “the Russians” had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
  • Carter Page was announced as a foreign policy advisor to the campaign alongside Papadopoulos. He stepped down from that position in September 2016, after news reports surfaced that U.S. intelligence was looking into whether he had opened a line of communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during a July 2016 trip to Moscow. Thanks to the controversy around FBI surveillance of Page ginned up by Republicans on the House intelligence committee—and the resulting release of the Bureau’s FISA applications against Page—it’s now clear both that Russian agents attempted to recruit Page in 2013, and that from October 2016 through June 2017, four separate judges on the FISA Court found there to be probable cause that Page was an agent of a foreign power (namely, Russia). The court made those determinations after Page departed the campaign, but it’s still striking that Trump identified as a foreign policy advisor a person who would soon become the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. And more importantly, a significant proportion of the activity that forms the basis for the warrant application involves Page’s activity during the campaign.
  • While the presidential campaign was ongoing in the summer of 2016, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen and his business partner Felix Sater pursued negotiations to build Trump Tower Moscow, as Buzzfeed’s Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold have reported. The negotiations involved contacts between Sater and a former GRU official—though Sater later told the Senate intelligence committee that “there is no such thing as a former Russian spy.” Sater’s work ended only on July 26, 2016, after Trump had been formally nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidency, when Trump tweeted that he had “ZERO investments in Russia.”
  • In August and September 2016, Trump campaign aide Roger Stone communicated by Twitter direct message with Guccifer 2.0, who was then posing as a lone Romanian hacker but who, as the special counsel’s office has now alleged, was in fact a GRU persona. At one point, Guccifer 2.0 wrote to Stone, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasure to me.”
  • Then there’s Maria Butina (sometimes spelled Mariia), the Russian national and firearms enthusiast arrested in July 2018 for her efforts to move American conservative politics in a pro-Russian direction. It’s not clear to what extent Butin’s “meddling” was connected to the efforts at outreach to the Trump campaign and Trump organization. But the government does describe her activity as taking place during the 2016 campaign and she did make efforts to connect with Trump himself after his inauguration. That said, Butina’s story is yet more evidence that the Russian government invested significant time and energy in efforts to influence American conservative politics in 2016 and going forwards.

In other words, while it remains possible that L’Affaire Russe involved principally recklessness and coincidence on the U.S. side of the relationship, it’s quite clear at this stage that it involved something decidedly not coincidental on the Russian side.

Moreover, it has also become unambiguously clear that the Russian efforts were not simply about hurting Clinton and destabilizing her prospective presidency. They were affirmatively about helping Trump too. The intelligence community has taken this view since its assessment in January 2017, when it wrote that, “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

But the public case for this position has become overwhelming over the last several months. For one thing, in the runup to the Trump Tower meeting, the intermediary arranging the meeting (music producer Rob Goldstone) wrote to Trump, Jr. that Veselnitskaya’s offer was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Moreover, allegations in the statement of offense in the Papadopoulos case and the indictments handed down over Russia’s social media influence operation and the hacking and leaking of the DNC and Podesta emails do not describe Russia’s intervention merely as an effort to damage Clinton but as an affirmative effort to help Trump. Russia systematically hacked the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign and reached out to someone known to be connected with Trump and hinted about the existence of “dirt” on Clinton. Meanwhile, Mueller’s detailed chronicle of the social media posts seeded by Russian trolls shows that, “[f]rom at least April 2016 through November 2016,” the trolls began publishing posts “expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton.”

By contrast, Theory of the Case #2, which posits that the only notable action on the Trump campaign’s side was that the campaign affirmatively attracted Russophiles, remains viable. In this theory, “Trump’s Putinista tendencies—along with his many other eccentric and unappealing features—had made him so unacceptable to traditional foreign policy conservatives that the only people willing and eager to work for him were people of fringe views similar to his own, shady business ties, or both.” In this version of reality,

There was a Russian hacking operation, and there was a largely unconnected incentive for people with untoward Russian business connections to attach themselves to Trump. The latter incentive may have resulted in individuals doing unsavory or even illegal things or acting on behalf of Russian interests, but it did not involve any Russian infiltration of the Trump campaign as such, much less Russian corruption of Trump himself.

With the caveat that there was pretty clearly Russian attempts to infiltrate the Trump campaign, and a certain receptivity on the part of Trump campaign and Trump Organization figures to approaches from Moscow, this theory still can explain a lot. Remember that there is still no evidence that any Russian infiltration efforts saw success—at least not if success is defined by what we have colloquially come to call “collusion.” While there is evidence—most notably with respect to the Trump Tower meeting—of Trump campaign willingness to work with the Russians, there’s not a lot of evidence that any kind of deal was ever struck. So it’s still possible that L’Affaire Russe boils down to a systematic Russian effort to reach out to and help and engage with the Trump campaign combined with, on the U.S. side, a group of people who came together because of—among other things—a solicitude for Russia and, as a result, adopted a cheerful open door policy towards Russian agents who might come knocking. This was true at the top: Trump himself was praising Putin and calling on him to find Clinton’s emails. And it was true at a bunch of other levels too. But that doesn’t mean there was any kind of organized collusive arrangement.

But Theory #2 also asks us to overlook a number of things. Most importantly, it asks us to se aside the enthusiasm with which aspects of Trump world actively engaged with figures that seem preponderantly likely to have been cutouts for Russian intelligence—at a time the Russians were known to have hacked the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

This brings us to “Theory of the Case #4: Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—But Trump Didn’t Know.” There is, it is important to stress, a continuum between Theory #2 and this theory, and that continuum extends into “Theory of the Case #5: Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known.” If we accept that Russia clearly tried to penetrate the campaign, and if we accept that—at a minimum—there was receptivity on the part of Trump world figures to outreach from the Russians, the question of whether the U.S. side of the ledger was one of recruitment or exploitation or merely one of acting as passive beneficiary is really a question of degree. So, too, is the question of Trump’s personal knowledge of what was happening. It’s possible, of course, that Trump—even as he was publicly calling for the Russians to release Clinton’s emails—was completely ignorant of the engagements his campaign and family were having with Russian cutouts at precisely the same time. It’s also possible he had detailed knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting. But between those two poles are a lot of gradations. There are many ways to know without knowing, after all. And this is especially true in the case of Donald Trump, of whose state of mind one can never be quite sure.

The public case that Russians targeted the Trump campaign for penetration and influence, as we noted above, is now quite strong. The case that they did so successfully is less so. That said, even the attempt is not by any means trivial. What exactly they achieved with their outreach to Trump world remains entirely unclear.

One possibility is that they were attempting recruitment. The Carter Page FISA application shows that the Justice Department and FBI believed at a minimum that Page had been “the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” Papadopoulos appears to have had some kind of advance information about Russian access to Democratic emails. Manafort and Flynn both had significant financial relationships with Russian or pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. But the evidence that the Russians successfully recruited agents, at least beyond the government’s allegations about Page, remains quite thin.

Another possibility is that the Russians were attempting to get access and influence. And with the Trump Tower meeting, they did manage to get an audience with the top echelons of the campaign. What’s more, everyone seemed to be meeting with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And from this point of view, the Russians may well perceive the outreach as a success. The candidate, after all, did make numerous positive statements about Russian relations and Vladimir Putin himself—though how much of this has anything to do with these meetings is unclear. At a minimum, it is no small thing for the Russian state to have gotten a Republican nominee for president willing to reverse decades of Republican Russia-skepticism and commitment to NATO.

To the extent Russian engagement with the campaign aimed merely to assist a friendly figure achieve his own electoral ambitions, the engagement itself may have been collateral to what Russia decided on its own to do on Trump’s behalf.

The evidence that Trump knew about any of the goings on in his camp with respect to Russia also remains opaque. Trump has denied knowing anything about the Trump Tower meeting, but Michael Cohen has reportedly claimed that the candidate was aware of the meeting and approved it ahead of time. While Cohen is not exactly a reliable source, it is true that Donald Trump, Jr.’s phone records show that the candidate’s son was in contact with a blocked phone number in the midst of arranging the meeting—and Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has testified that Trump’s private residence at Trump Tower has a blocked line. What’s more, two days before the meeting, Trump promised a crowd that he would soon be giving a “major speech” on “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons”—but after the meeting turned out to be a dud, the speech did not take place. And notably, the hacking indictment shows that the GRU made its first effort to break into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server and the email accounts of Clinton campaign staff on the same day—July 27, 2016—that Trump declared at a campaign stop, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s email account. This is far from dispositive, but it’s also quite a series of coincidences.

At a minimum, the evidence that Trump at least should have known about some of the engagement has significantly strengthened.

On the other hand, the hard evidence to support “Theory of the Case #6: Kompromat” has not materially changed in the last 15 months, though no evidence has emerged that undermines the theory either. No direct evidence has emerged that there exists a Russian kompromat file—let alone a pee tape—involving Trump, despite a huge amount of speculation on the subject. What has changed is that Trump’s behavior at the Helsinki summit suddenly moved the possibility of kompromat into the realm of respectable discourse. Democratic political leaders, who had previously shied away from the notion that the Kremlin might have something on the president, openly suggested it after Helsinki. Nancy Pelosi, for example, said that the Helsinki performance “proves that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically.” Added Chuck Schumer, “Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”

Trump’s conduct in Helsinki is not evidence except in the loosest behavioral sense—the sense in which someone acting particularly nervous in an airport might attract the attention of security personnel. Then again, it’s a little hard to imagine what other forms of new evidence of kompromat might emerge even if the file were real. It’s not like the Russians are likely to blow their leverage by releasing it, after all. And Trump is hardly going to come forward and announce that the Russians have been blackmailing him—or that he’s been pulling punches with respect to Putin preemptively out of fear of what they might have or release. So if you imagine that Theory #6 were, in fact, the reality, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see more than the President of the United States, say, behaving in a servile fashion toward the Russian dictator and not pushing core American interests in his presence even when the entire world is watching aghast.

This is also consistent with what we described in our original post as the “soft kompromat” scenario: that is, it’s possible that Trump himself doesn’t know whether the Kremlin has anything on him, but is treading carefully on the chance that it does. (New Yorker writer Adam Davidson recently laid out a version of this theory in great detail.) So the absence of any evidence of kompromat could, in this theory, also speak to the shadowy power of that theoretical kompromat in the first place.

Last but not least, there’s “Theory of the Case #7: The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.” As we wrote last year, “we consider this scenario highly unlikely. It simply strains credulity to imagine that a president would be in service of an adversary nation.” And while nothing has emerged that rules this theory out, no new evidence has appeared that makes it more likely, either.

One additional constellation of facts has emerged since we wrote “Seven Theories” that inflects this entire discussion: Trump’s bizarre behavior toward the investigation of L’Affaire Russe. This includes everything from the firing of Comey to the public belittling of Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions and Chris Wray and Andrew McCabe to the threats to Mueller and the serial Twitter tantrums on the subject of the “WITCH HUNT.” Indeed, as we were writing this, the president launched into a tirade demanding that “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.”

It is possible to look at this behavior, in general, as evidence that suggests that the underlying facts of L’Affaire Russe must be very bad—that is, that we must be at the more menacing end of the spectrum (perhaps Theory #6 or #7), not the more innocent end. Who, after all, triggers a major probe into obstruction of justice in order to impede an investigation that’s going nowhere anyway? On the other hand, it’s also possible to look at the obstruction investigation as simply a matter that Trump blundered into and to see his interactions with law enforcement more as a feature of his personality than his actual vulnerability from L’Affaire Russe. Perhaps Trump fired Comey in a fit of rage and insecurity over the legitimacy of his election, and then was unable to restrain himself from attempting to meddle with each subsequent development as Mueller developed his investigation into the initial firing of Comey—resulting in a cascade of obstruction attempts not necessarily connected to any underlying crime.

The bottom line is that the spectrum of possibility has narrowed but remains broad. It’s still very possible that the investigation will end with something short of “NO COLLUSION”—which is to say, something like “no collusion despite collusion efforts” or “no successful collusion by anyone all that close to the center of Trump world, but a bit of collusion around the edges.” But it’s also possible that when all is said and done, there are major shoes left to drop.

Where do I stand on this?

Well, I fall into camp #4, 5, or 6 as well.  While I doubt the existence of a “pee tape”, I believe the Russians could have information about Trump’s pre-election financial dealings, perhaps even something involving money laundering for Russian oligarchs.  I think the most likely outcomes, in order, are:

(1) Trump was aware of, or in on, attempted Russia influence attempts
(2) Russia has kompromat
(3) There was Russian meddling (or attempted meddling) with campaign, but Trump was unaware

QAnon Conspiracy Theorists Visible At Trump Rally Last Night

Ken AshfordQAnon, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A story today in the Washington Post does a great jump of summarizing the QAnon insanity and its growing influence.  I’ve been wanting to write about QAnon for a while, but it is difficult to get one’s hands around:

Believers in “QAnon,” as the conspiracy theory is known, were front and center at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, where Trump came to stump for Republican candidates. As the president spoke, a sign rose from the audience. “We are Q,” it read. Another poster displayed text arranged in a “Q” pattern: “Where we go one we go all.”

The symbol appeared on clothing, too. A man and a woman wore matching white T-shirts with the YouTube logo encircled in a blue “Q.” The video-sharing website came under criticism this week for unwittingly becoming a platform for baseless claims, first promoted on Twitter and Reddit by QAnon believers, that certain Hollywood celebrities are pedophiles. A search for the name of one of those celebrities on Monday returned videos purporting to show his victims sharing their stories.

The prominence of the “Q” symbol turned parts of the audience into a tableau of delusion and paranoia — and offered evidence that QAnon, an outgrowth of the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory that led a gunman to open fire in a D.C. restaurant last year, has leaped from Internet message boards to the president’s “Make America Great Again” tour through America.

“Pray Trump mentions Q!” one user wrote on 8chan. He didn’t need to. As hazy corners of the Internet buzzed about the president’s speech, his appearance became a real-life show of force for the community that has mostly operated behind the veil of anonymity on subreddits.

Trump himself has at times been a purveyor of conspiracy theories, most notably in refusing for years to back down from his false claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He also asserted without evidence that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, peddled the debunked idea that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote and associated the father of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with the assassin who shot John F. Kennedy.

But viewing their message boards, it’s clear that QAnon crosses a new frontier. In the black hole of conspiracy in which “Q” has plunged its followers, Trump only feigned collusion to create a pretense for the hiring of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is actually working as a “white hat,” or hero, to expose the Democrats. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros are planning a coup — and traffic children in their spare time. J.P. Morgan, the American financier, sank the Titanic.

In the world in which QAnon believers live, Trump’s detractors, such as Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, wear ankle monitors that track their whereabouts. Press reports are dismissed as “Operation Mockingbird,” the name given to the alleged midcentury infiltration of the American media by the CIA. The Illuminati looms large in QAnon, as do the Rothschilds, a wealthy Jewish family vilified by the conspiracy theorists as the leaders of a satanic cult. Among the world leaders wise to satanic influences, the theory holds, is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

QAnon flirts with eschatology, fascist philosophy and the filmmaking of Francis Ford Coppola. Adherents believe a “Great Awakening” will precede the final storm foretold by Trump. Once they make sense of the information drip-fed to them by “Q,” they will usher in a Christian revival presaging total victory.

The implication is that resolving the clues left by “Q” would not just explain Trump’s planned countercoup. It would also explain the whole universe.

When “Q” is absent for long stretches of time, followers take note.

“Please tell me where to go,” one wrote last month. “I feel lost without Q.”

Some big names have bought into the fantasy. Roseanne Barr, the disgraced star of the canceled ABC revival that bore her name, has posted messages on Twitter that appear to endorse the QAnon worldview, fixating on child sex abuse. She has sought to make contact with “Q” on social media and has retweeted messages summarizing the philosophy built around the online persona. Among QAnon’s promoters are also Curt Schilling, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher, and Cheryl Sullenger, the antiabortion activist.

There is a component of QAnon that can be interpreted as a direct call to action, which has already had real-life consequences.

The Newport Beach Police Department said recently it was looking into the presence of a man outside Michael Avenatti’s law office after a link to the lawyer’s website and images of his office building appeared in QAnon threads. This spring, armed members of Veterans on Patrol stumbled on a homeless camp and demanded that authorities investigate it as a site of child sex-trafficking, NBC reported. They later thanked QAnon followers for taking up their cause.

Beyond the QAnon people, the rabid crowd last night was whipped into a frenzy, attacking anyone that criticizes Donald Trump. It was bizarre.

UPDATE: More QAnon info — an interview by CNN’s Chris Cillizza with Daily Beast’s Will Sommer:

Cillizza: Let’s start simple: Where the heck did QAnon come from? And do we have any sense how many “members” it has or whether it is growing?
Sommer: QAnon started last October, when an anonymous person or group of people called Q started posting cryptic clues on 4Chan. Trump supporters eventually found these clues, which they call “breadcrumbs,” and spun them into a whole counter-narrative that’s contrary to just about everything that’s actually happening in the world.
So, for example, Robert Mueller isn’t investigating the Trump campaign — QAnon believers think he’s actually working with Trump to get Hillary Clinton.
It’s hard to gauge the extent of QAnon believers, but I’d say that it’s pretty wide-reaching among really hardcore Trump supporters. In April, QAnon believers marched in DC and they numbered something like 200 people, and it’s only grown since then.

The other thing is that a lot of tenets of QAnon, especially the part about a “deep state” plot, aren’t that different from what’s on Fox [News Channel] or talk radio every day. So when a person already prone to support Trump hears about QAnon, they’ve been primed to believe this stuff by the rest of conservative media.

Cillizza: Is this just another garden-variety conspiracy along the lines of, say, Obama wasn’t born in the US? Why has this become such a, well, thing?
Sommer: Unlike something like birtherism or Pizzagate, QAnon is a kind of mega-conspiracy theory that sucks in just about every conspiracy theory you can think of. Pizzagate is part of it, birtherism is part of it — but so is the JFK assassination conspiracy theory, the idea that all these mass shootings have been deep-state false flags, and much more. The vague nature of the Q clues also means that you can sort of imprint whatever your personal issue is onto it.
The other strange thing about QAnon is that it’s fundamentally a story being told by the side that’s already in power. Normally, conspiracy theories, like the idea that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election or that Barack Obama was an illegitimate president because he was born in Kenya, are coming from a group that’s trying to explain why they’re out of power.
Instead, QAnon believers got the guy they wanted elected in the White House, but they didn’t get everything they wanted or were promised. For example: they chanted “lock her up,” but Hillary Clinton was never locked up. So they retreat to a fantasy world where Hillary Clinton will soon be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Cillizza: “Q” him or herself seems to be a major source of interest. Is there ANY sense of who this person is? Whether it’s a person or persons? Whether they have any ties to Trump?
Sommer: There are a lot of theories about who Q is. QAnon people believe in fanciful ideas like, maybe it’s Trump or Dan Scavino or Michael Flynn. They’re always on the hunt for clues or acknowledgments from the administration. For example, Trump said “17” a lot in his speech Tuesday night, which they took to be an acknowledgment of Q — the 17th letter of the alphabet!
That’s also why they’ve been bugging White House reporters to ask Sarah Sanders about Q. [Editor’s note: White House press secretary Sanders was asked about QAnon in Wednesday’s briefing: “The President condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against any individual,” she said.]
QAnon critics, on the other hand, tend to focus on various hucksters promoting QAnon. Lots of conspiracy theorists on the right have become alienated from QAnon after Q accused them of trying to profit from the movement, so it’s become kind of a circling firing squad of people accusing each other of being Q.
I think Q is just some random person or group of people who started a troll that has gotten way out of hand. Or maybe, as with so many things these days, it’s a Russian psy-op!
Cillizza: Why, suddenly, were there so many Q signs/supporters at the Trump rally last night? Coordinated effort? Coordinated how?
Sommer: There’s actually been increasing Q believer activity all over this year — billboards popping up, more attention from conservative celebrities[Editor’s note: Like Roseanne and Curt Schilling], people appearing at Trump rallies. I think the stuff last night was big for a couple reasons: 1) pictures of the ralliers in Q gear started circulating before the event and 2) because people with QAnon gear and signs were in advantageous positions to get in front of the cameras during the rally. So suddenly all these political and media people are watching Trump give his speech, and this QAnon sign withSeth Rich references gets in front of the camera.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “QAnon’s impact on politics — and Trumpworld — is _________________.” Now, explain.
Sommer: “QAnon’s impact on politics — and Trumpworld — is dangerous.”
I think what we’ve learned from the Pizzagate gunman is that people actually believe this stuff, and some percentage of these people are going to be willing to take action. The idea of global pedophile conspiracies, for example, is a huge part of QAnon, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that appears to motivate people to commit these bizarre violent incidents.
We’ve already seen at least one QAnon incident, when a QAnon believer in an improvised armored truck and some guns shut down a road near the Hoover Dam in June. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that case.
In the broader perspective, I think it’s just really bad for American politics to have a segment of the population becoming increasingly unmoored from reality. For example, a big tenet of QAnon is that the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One with a missile. That’s nuts! But if you’re a QAnon believer, you think that actually happened.
I’d also say QAnon probably benefits Trump, because it helps the base ignore actual bad news about his administration. It also dramatizes the campaign to elect Republicans — it’s one thing if you’re voting for the GOP or Trump because you want boring legislative stuff like lower capital gains taxes. But if you believe in QAnon, you think Trump and the Republicans are literally fighting a worldwide battle against a nefarious cabal. That makes politics more engaging.

Another Trump Tweetstorm This Morning

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

There was a time when Trump wouldn’t refer to Mueller by name, tweeting only about the  “Special Council” from time to time.  Maybe it is because he got continually mocked for misspelling “counsel”, but Trump now refers to Mueller by name in his tweets, as he did in a large tweetstorm (7 tweets) this morning.

An unhinged Trump tweet isn’t unusual, but so many in such a short amount of time (he went on a binge on Sunday as well) is disconcerting, even in the world of Trump we live in.  Is there something big coming?

This tweet stood out:

Was this Trump calling upon Sessions to shut down the probe?  If so, that’s another piece of evidence of obstruction, and the first time Trump has done that. It wasn’t altogether surprising, given that his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has called for the investigation to be closed. But it was notable because it came directly from Trump this time, and his call focused on Sessions.

In defending the tweet, Trump’s lawyers told The Post that it wasn’t an explicit command. “He carefully used the word, ‘should,'” Giuliani noted. Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow added: “The president has issued no order or direction to the Department of Justice on this.”

But that cleanup effort betrays the problematic nature of the tweet. And this is hardly the first time that Trump has broadcast a desire to change the course of the investigation. Whether any of those tweets rise to the level of obstruction of justice or may be used to build such a case, we don’t know. But Trump has clearly played with fire — and is continuing to do so.