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More Questionable Behavior from Trump, T Admin, DOJ, and R's vs Dems, Press, Justice

Arizona Focus Group Sees Trump’s Crime Attack On Biden As ‘Far From Reality’

The ad is stark.

An elderly white woman is watching the news. An anchor reports that cities want to “defund” the police, as she hears a noise coming from elsewhere in the house.

She calls 911 — as Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity says that Joe Biden is “absolutely on board with defunding the police” — only to be told that there is no one there to answer her call and she should leave a message.

The ad ends with the words “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” on the screen and the woman’s phone dropping to the floor.

“If we start talking about that ad being reality, we’ve got a lot of problems,” said Shyla, a self-described President Trump supporter from Arizona, after being shown the campaign spot. She described the ad as “very far from reality.”

Shyla was one of eight people from the Phoenix area who recently participated in a 90-minute virtual NPR/Marist focus group. The group included Trump supporters, Biden backers and undecided presidential voters. Only participants’ first names were used.

“[Biden] didn’t say he wanted to defund. He didn’t mean it,” said Allen, another Trump supporter. (That’s true: Biden opposes defunding the police.)

“Every time I see it, I laugh,” said Troy, a Biden backer, who then used an expletive to describe the ad.

Stephanie, also a Biden supporter, said it was just Trump being a “fearmonger.”

Courtney, an undecided voter who hadn’t yet seen the ad, called it “typical political campaigning” and “extremist,” not a “middle of the road thing.”

During the focus group and in a follow-up interview days later, Courtney, a white woman who’s 47, seemed vulnerable to a political message about crime. She told a story about a dangerous neighbor and mentioned other specific crime-related anecdotes.

But she said her concern about a potential increase in crime was not because of Biden, but because of the downturn in the economy and those suffering from a decline in mental health as a result of being in quarantine from the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, in the follow-up interview, she said if she had to make a decision today about which candidate to vote for, it would be Biden.

“The only thing that would keep me from voting for Biden in November is if it were to hinder progress that we’re making in the country,” she said. “In other words, if there was some type of potential vaccine and big improvements on the economy.”

And she still gives Trump credit on the economy: “People don’t like him. But I think he’s a good businessman.”

Courtney, who is originally from Texas, said she voted twice for former President Barack Obama but did not vote in 2016. “Honestly, I was not a huge fan of Hillary,” she said, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But she feels differently about Biden. “I like Biden clearly,” she said. “I think Biden is a more reasonable person [than Trump]. I think he’s a more nonreactive person, like, Trump is so reactive, it’s scary, right? He just reacts rather than thinking about it.”

Still, she said she has concerns about Biden’s age (he’s 77, Trump is 74) and is still potentially open to voting for Trump if voting for Biden would be too “disruptive.”

“If it’s somehow going to be disruptive, so disruptive to our country that it’s going to stall the progress of a vaccine or it’s going to stall the progress of the economy,” she said, “then I don’t think it’s a good thing.”

"Pull your pants up"

Geovanny, a college student who would be voting in his first presidential election, said he’s not sold on either candidate.

He works as a cashier and noted that his place of work had only taken recent action to install protective gear, which he said was too late.

His father was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and he’s angry about how the state has handled the pandemic. That may be a motivating factor for him this fall, he said.

“The leadership in our state,” he said, “they’re having to play catch-up a lot.” He added that this all “could have been prevented, if we’d just taken action sooner.”

A poll last month found almost two-thirds of Arizonans disapprove of the job Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is doing on the pandemic — up sharply over the prior two months, as coronavirus cases in the state surged. And he did not get good reviews for his handling of the virus during this focus group.

“I think our governor is a joke,” said Stephanie, a Biden supporter. “Pull your pants up, and do what you gotta do.”

Courtney was more charitable. She said she likes Ducey and said he was looking out for businesses and that she originally agreed with Ducey and Trump that states and businesses should open up sooner rather than later.

But now, she thinks Arizona opened up too soon and that there should have been more of a unified, national response with guidelines that were adhered to.

“I think that now,” she said. “But, of course, hindsight is 20/20.”

Everyone in the group took the coronavirus seriously, even if grudgingly for those who leaned right.

“I think they’re just testing more,” Allen said. “I don’t think we’re that bad at all.”

Yet he said that he now wears a mask when he goes out to a restaurant.

Courtney, who has been physically going in to work, said she wears a mask now, but didn’t wear one early on when going to the grocery store, for example.

"I think he’s out of touch"

Overall, the group was not impressed with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic or race relations, for that matter.

They all saw the Black Lives Matters protests as legitimate, except for looting that happened in some places. But even Allen said he believed the protests were hijacked by “guys with backpacks” who were “just there to riot.”

There was consensus that the protests had forced them to reconsider what they thought they knew about structural racism, and several talked about a “switch” in their views.

Stephanie, one of the Biden supporters, said that when she first saw former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the sidelines before a game during the national anthem, she thought he was “disrespecting the flag for his own needs.”

But she sees it differently now. “I still love this country,” she said, “but I finally understand what he did, why he did it. He didn’t do it for him.”

Courtney, who said she’s concerned about a potential uptick in crime, was biting about Trump’s views on race.

“I think he’s out of touch,” she said. “I think he’s insensitive to minorities. He’s insensitive to anyone who has not had the opportunities that he’s had. He just … has not had a realistic life, his kids have not had a realistic life. He’s out of touch. I don’t listen to what he has to say about Black Lives Matter, any of that, because I think he doesn’t have a good perspective on it.”

It’s tough to effectively deliver a message when people don’t believe the messenger.

Trump’s voters in the focus group were not waving the flag high. Shyla, for example, said this election, like 2016, was “picking the lesser of two evils, times 100 this time.”

But given some of her conservative views, especially on the role of government (“The government is way too involved in all of this in general”), she’s still voting for Trump.

Biden voters, on the other hand, and as polls have also shown, were less enthused about voting for Biden than against Trump.

Troy, for example, described his vote as “primarily against Trump.” But he is highly motivated to vote this fall.

It shows, once again, that this election is all about Trump. And for as much as he tries to make it a choice between him and Biden, for this group, it’s a referendum.

And unless Americans view improvement in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy or race relations, it’s going to be difficult for him to win reelection.

That’s especially true if his attacks against Biden continue not to stick.

The day after this focus group was conducted, it was reported the Trump campaign pulled the 911 ad out of rotation.


A nyt’s 50 minutes on combatting Russian disinformation…stay alert to it.


Important to get to what specifically the Russians are doing…Dems are sending out alarms.

The Washington Post: A damning new article reveals how Trump enables Russian election interference

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has been briefed on the intelligence findings, suggests that the intelligence community is still concealing the full extent of Russian interference. He wrote in a Post opinion column that “the sophisticated tactics and techniques described in [a State Department] report make Moscow’s past interference and nefarious actions look like child’s play,” and “there is much more” information — "much of it even more chilling” — that has yet to be released.

Even getting this much information out has been a major struggle for the intelligence community. The New York Times Magazine reports that pressure from the White House forced a change in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) issued last year to remove a finding that Russia wanted to reelect Trump. Instead the NIE was rewritten to read: “Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.” Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director, tweeted that if this account is accurate, “it is the first example the public knows of the IC tailoring a written product to avoid angering POTUS. That would be the IC politicizing its own work.”

The Times article suggests that Dan Coats was fired as director of national intelligence because he wouldn’t make the changes in the NIE that Trump wanted. His successor, Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire, did so, but his tenure as acting DNI was cut short after one of his subordinates told the House Intelligence Community on Feb. 13 that Russia wanted Trump to win. Maguire has been replaced by one Trump sycophant after another — first acting DNI Richard Grenell and now former Republican representative John Ratcliffe of Texas.

In explaining why he chose the unqualified Ratcliffe, Trump said, “I think we need somebody like that that’s strong and can really rein it in. As you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok.” Unfortunately, Trump has succeeded in browbeating and intimidating the intelligence community. As one source told Draper: “The problem is that when you’ve been treated the way the intelligence community has, they become afraid of their own shadow.”

We are all suffering from scandal fatigue, but this scandal cannot be ignored: Trump does not want the intelligence community to expose Russian attacks because he is their beneficiary. This is yet another example of how Trump undermines our democracy and subordinates our national security to his personal interests. It is hard to imagine a greater or more dangerous dereliction of duty. If Trump is not held accountable in November, the damage to our institutions may become irreversible.


Catching this a bit late…but here’s the ‘en banc’ review of the Flynn case in the US Court of Appeals…audio only

Take a listen.


Ongoing reviews of ‘En banc’ review…some lawyers are explaining what is going on…

George Conway III -@gtconway3d - Lawyer and KellyAnne’s other half
Neal Kaytal - @Neal_kaytal - Prosecutor/MSNBC
Jennifer Taub @jentaub - Law Professor

Adding - Trial now over




Trump appointee deepens purge of U.S. global media agency

The taxpayer-funded media group’s new CEO, Michael Pack, has fired a number of top officials.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media has removed a number of senior executives as the new CEO Michael Pack continues to dramatically reshape the government-run media group. Two of them say their ouster amounts to “retaliation” for standing up to Pack.

Among the changes on Wednesday, USAGM’s front office removed the agency’s chief financial officer and former interim CEO, Grant Turner, and its general counsel David Kligerman, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Prior to Kligerman’s removal, the front office was trying to go around his legal advice on mission critical agency issues, one of the people said. In a number of instances, staff for the general counsel were instructed to not share things with Kligerman.

Both men’s security clearances were suspended prior to an investigation on alleged agency security issues related to the hiring of foreign workers. They were also placed on administrative leave while the agency turns the wheels of actually firing both people.

Turner joined USAGM in February 2016 after a five-year stint as budget director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. He also worked for six years at the Office of Management and Budget under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Turner also served as interim CEO of USAGM from October 2019 to June of this year, prior to Pack’s arrival.

The media agency is in turmoil over the recent arrival of Pack, a Steve Bannon ally who pushed out the heads of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other outlets as he started as CEO.

In a statement, a USAGM spokesperson said: “We took action today to restore integrity to and respect for the rule of law in our work at USAGM. We will take additional steps to help return this agency to its glory days.”

Turner said in a statement to POLITICO: “The reasons for my removal are without merit and simply retaliation for calling the CEO and his team to account for gross mismanagement of the agency.”

Kligerman also said in a statement to POLITICO: “There is no other conclusion to draw, except that it is in retaliation for attempting to do my job in an apolitical manner and to speak truth to power.”

He added: “I am a career civil servant who has faithfully supported the mission of the U.S. Agency for Global Media over these past seven years, supporting Republican and Democratic leadership through two presidential administrations. As general counsel and consistent with my oath of office, my job has been to interpret and advise on the regulations, laws and Constitution of the United States. I have done just that. My contributions have been repeatedly recognized and credited.”

John Lansing, who served as USAGM’s CEO from 2015 to 2019, defended Turner and Kligerman, calling them “highly professional” and “people who have served their country at the highest level for a number of years.”

“The hiring of foreign nationals was something that we took seriously and used a higher standard than what the Office of Personnel Management required because of national security,” he said. “Michael Pack is using this as a smokescreen to cover up his efforts to deconstruct the legitimate and important journalism of Voice of America.”

Other USAGM executives who were removed on Wednesday include chief strategy officer Shawn Powers, deputy director for operations Matt Walsh, executive director Oanh Tran and director of management services Marie Lennon. None could be reached immediately for comment.

In reaction to the personnel shakeup on Wednesday, Amanda Bennett, who was the head of Voice of America until she resigned shortly after Pack’s arrival, said: "The American people are going to be very very sorry when they wake up one day and find that by these individual actions — one at a time that nobody stopped — they’ve lost the functioning government they once had.

"What is happening at USAGM is a microcosm of what’s happening all across the U.S. government — driving out honest, skilled, talented long serving professional public servants on trumped up charges and replacing them with people of no qualifications whose only attribute is loyalty. McCarthy couldn’t have done it better.”


Trump Finally Admits He’s Blocking Post Office Aid to Sabotage Mail-In Voting for Election

President Donald Trump has come out and admitted what many have already accused him of—that he’s blocking federal aid for the U.S. Postal Service in an attempt to sabotage mass mail-in voting during November’s presidential election. Congressional Democrats have demanded that a coronavirus relief bill include money to help post-office officials prepare for a presidential contest during the raging pandemic that has killed more than 165,000 Americans. In an interview with Fox Business Network on Thursday morning, Trump proudly admitted he was blocking the aid. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting,” he said. “It just can’t happen.” Trump has repeatedly raged against the idea of mail-in voting, claiming with no evidence that it would make the election open to fraud. Joe Biden has previously said it’s obvious Trump is trying to “indirectly steal the election by arguing that mail-in ballots don’t work.”


While everyone’s distracted by coronavirus, Trump’s quietly taking personal control of an agency he shouldn’t be going anywhere near

‘They’re making our lives a living nightmare because they want to shift everything — they want total control’

" On May 1, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring this week to be this year’s “Public Service Recognition Week,” and calling upon “Americans and all federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies to recognize the dedication of our nation’s public servants and to observe this week through appropriate programs and activities.”

He declared that Americans are “especially grateful to our devoted public servants,” whose “experience, expertise, and commitment to service will lift our nation up during these difficult times and help ensure a swift recovery,” and to whom Americans “will forever be indebted… for their hard work, dedication, and courage.”

Any president will sign countless documents of a similar nature over the course of a four-year term, designating various days, weeks, and months in honor of different groups, historical events, people, and other entities deemed worthy of recognition by the leader of the free world.

And for anyone who watched Trump’s performances during the daily briefings which were until recently delivered in the name of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, such flowery language bears a strong resemblance to the prepared remarks he’d read at the outset of each appearance.

But much like the way Trump would read his prepared platitudes in a passionless monotone then reveal his more familiar pugilistic, press-bashing form during the question-and-answer portion of those daily briefings, his administration’s attitude towards the public servants who keep the government running can best be identified not in prepared remarks or proclamations, but through the actions it takes.

On the same day Trump signed an official document thanking civil servants nationwide, his own appointees at the federal government’s human resources policy agency were making moves to consolidate their power and undermine the career officials who he has so often derides as the “deep state” and part of the “opposition.”

That agency — the Office of Personnel Management — is, among other things, responsible for making sure federal agencies follow civil service laws, some of which date back to 1883.

Most anti-corruption experts will wax eloquent about how a merit-based, nonpartisan civil service is necessary to ensure that government functions smoothly and unencumbered by corruption. But for the loyalty-obsessed Trump administration, having to hire the (actual) best people and protect them from being fired for political reasons has been a bridge too far since Day One.

As if to underscore this point, both of the people Trump nominated to run the agency were ousted after less than a year on the job. The first, a respected human resources expert named Jeff Pon, was asked to resign just seven months after the Senate confirmed him to the position because he resisted efforts to eliminate the agency and give the White House Office of Management and Budget control over all federal personnel policy — how civil servants get hired, and when, why and how they can be promoted, given raises, or fired.

It’s a plan that experts say runs contrary to nearly a century and a half of efforts to keep personnel policy out of the president’s direct control, and — luckily for federal workers — one Congress rejected by including language in the National Defense Authorization Act making it illegal to move OPM’s functions under OMB’s roof.

But sources close to OPM leadership and personnel policy experts say that Trumpworld is still on a mission to give the president control of all federal hiring, and is instead simply trying to destroy the agency from within.

This latest effort began with the March 17 ousting of Trump’s second Senate-confirmed OPM Director, Dale Cabaniss, who resigned after less than six months. According to sources, resignation came on the heels of bullying and demands by White House Presidential Personnel Director John McEntee and a White House-installed “liason,” Paul Dans.

According to OPM sources, Cabaniss quit rather than heed Dans’ and McEntee’s wish for her to fire her hand-picked chief of staff, an agency veteran and Navy reservist named John Blyth, who’d been running OPM’s Congressional Liason and Intergovernmental Affairs office.

Blyth, who is also a Commander in the US Navy Reserve, returned to his previous position but was fired without warning late last week, and Cabaniss’ role is now filled on acting basis by Michael Rigas, the agency’s deputy director, who was also appointed to a position as Acting Deputy Director for Management at OMB, the agency forbidden by law from carrying out any of OPM’s functions.

“They’re operating as if the abolition of OPM has already occurred,” said one federal personnel insider, an expert with three decades of experience dealing with personnel policy. “OPM has been made a kind of vassal of OMB… and I think [the White House] just made that too clear to Cabaniss, who hadn’t quite figured out that she was only window-dressing and that OMB was still running the organization.”

Assisting him are Dans — a Trump loyalist who was installed there by McEntee to ensure the independent agency bends to the president’s will — and Trump’s original pick to run the agency, George Nesterczuk.

Nesterczuk, a Reagan and George W Bush-era OPM veteran who helped establish a pay-for-performance system for federal workers in national security-related jobs, was nominated for the top OPM job in June 2017, but withdrew in August of that year because of what he called “partisan attacks.”

“Nesterczuk is the Antichrist,” said one person who has dealt with federal labor relations matters for years.

“He has spent his entire career trying to do the kind of things that Trump has been pretty successful in, which is undermining the civil service, getting rid of their pay and classification systems, paid benefits, and union rights,” they continued, adding that Nesterczuk is “as right-wing a human being as exists.”

But since last month, Rigas, Nesterczuk, and other recently installed Trump political appointees have moved swiftly to consolidate their power and remove career officials from many decision-making processes.

“They’re making our lives a living nightmare because they want to shift everything — they want total control,” said one senior civil servant.

One of the things Trump’s appointees are taking control of is the power to grant so-called “direct hiring authority,” which allows agencies to bypass the normal civil service hiring process and bring in new employees without the protections available to most career employees.

“The dangerous thing is for OPM to exercise its authority to delegate direct hiring authority throughout government,” another expert explained, because “direct hire authority itself is the corrupting mechanism” for two reasons: It allows political appointees to hire unqualified cronies, and because anyone hired that way will never have the due process rights afforded to civil servants, and in particular whistleblowers.

“It’s not just political corruption. That’s part of the story, but it’s also creating this growing segment of the federal workforce who are at-will because they were hired directly, and then they can’t protest an unfair firing or any kind of adverse action. They have nothing to hold anyone accountable.”

This article is from May. It is the first time I’ve seen it.


GAO telling us that DHS after Kristen Nielsen was let go the succession other Acting DHS members do not fulfill the Vacancies Reform Act.

It’s a sticking point. Will it stick?

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (Vacancies Reform Act) provides for temporarily filling vacant executive agency positions that require presidential appointment with Senate confirmation. 5 U.S.C. § 3345. GAO’s role under the Vacancies Reform Act is to collect information agencies are required to report to GAO, and GAO uses this information to report to Congress any violations of the time limitations on acting service imposed by the Vacancies Reform Act. 5 U.S.C. § 3349. As part of this role, we issue decisions on agency compliance with the Vacancies Reform Act when requested by Congress. The Vacancies Reform Act is generally the exclusive means for filling a vacancy in a presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed position unless another statute provides an exception. 5 U.S.C. § 3347. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 provides an order of succession outside of the Vacancies Reform Act when a vacancy arises in the position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 6 U.S.C. § 113(g).

Upon Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation on April 10, 2019, the official who assumed the title of Acting Secretary had not been designated in the order of succession to serve upon the Secretary’s resignation. Because the incorrect official assumed the title of Acting Secretary at that time, subsequent amendments to the order of succession made by that official were invalid and officials who assumed their positions under such amendments, including Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, were named by reference to an invalid order of succession. We have not reviewed the legality of other actions taken by these officials; we are referring the matter to the Inspector General of DHS for review.


Matter of: Department of Homeland SecurityLegality of Service of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Service of Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security


@dragonfly9 More from WaPo

Top DHS officials Wolf and Cuccinelli are not legally eligible to serve in their current roles, GAO finds

The appointments of the top two officials at the Department of Homeland Security violated federal law, the Government Accountability Office said on Friday.

GAO, which is an independent watchdog agency that reports to Congress, said that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and his deputy Kenneth Cuccinelli are serving under an invalid order of successionunder the Vacancies Reform Act.

The Vacancies Reform Act governs how temporary appointments can be made to positions that require Senate confirmation. President Trump has repeatedly circumvented the Senate confirmation process by placing people in acting positions — including Wolf and Cuccinelli, whose official title is Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.

Those two appointments violated the act, GAO said, because of the sequence of events following the resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April of last year. The official who assumed the title of acting secretary at that time, Kevin McAleenan, had not been designated in the order of succession, GAO said.

Subsequent personnel moves also were invalid, and Wolf and Cuccinelli “are serving under an invalid order of succession," the agency said.

GAO said it was referring the matter to the DHS inspector general for reviews, and that any further actions would be up to Congress and the IG.

This needs congressional oversight :unamused:


I just wanted to post this because some folks protesting up in Portland asked me to make it. Oh happy day. Toss them out.


U.S. post office warns 46 states some mailed ballots may not be counted in election: Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service recently sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning that some mailed ballots may not arrive in time to be counted for the Nov. 3 election, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

The ballot warnings were issued by the Postal Service at the end of July and obtained through a records request by the Post, the newspaper said.

Is this DeJoy gaslighting? We’re only finding this out NOW.


QAnon is the new Tea Party aka Freedom Party…
Deeply is ‘sort of centralized hub for conspiracy and alternative health communities.’

How QAnon rode the pandemic to new heights — and fueled the viral anti-mask phenomenon

While QAnon bubbled on the fringes of the internet for years, researchers and experts say it has emerged in recent months as a sort of centralized hub for conspiracy and alternative health communities. According to an internal document reported by NBC News this week, Facebook now has more than 1,000 of these QAnon groups, totaling millions of members.

Users like Rein Lively who started off in wellness communities, religious groups and new-age groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the pandemic were then introduced to extremist groups like QAnon, aided by shared beliefs about energy, healing or God — and often by recommendation algorithms.

And while anti-mask sentiment has surfaced in a variety of ways for a number of reasons, viral videos of anti-mask confrontations have become causes for celebration in conspiracy circles, embraced as examples of people taking the fight against their shadowy enemy into the real world.

Rein Lively followed a similar path as a growing community of conspiracy theorists, radicalization experts told NBC News.

(Replaced previous posting here…it was a duplicate to @Pet_Proletariat)


No no I liked the cross-post I would have kept it.

It’s so crazy that shitposts from an anonymous person on the racist forum 4chan/4chun have become a mainstream form of Republicanism. It’s so bananas.

Personal story: One of my cousins told me that they believed that Tom Hanks is a pedophile because his home in Greece has a basement. And that’s why they believe Democrats are bad. It’s very concerning.


Ex-F.B.I. Lawyer Expected to Plead Guilty in Review of Russia Inquiry

In a report made public last year, Mr. Horowitz revealed that the applications were riddled with serious errors and omissions. Among other things, he had learned of a troubling series of events in which Mr. Page’s association with the C.I.A. was not accurately conveyed to the Justice Department and ultimately kept from the judges who approved the surveillance warrants.

Mr. Page had for years provided information to the C.I.A. about his contacts with Russian officials. In C.I.A. jargon, he was known as an operational contact — someone who agrees to be debriefed by agency personnel but cannot be assigned to collect information.

That relationship might have given law enforcement officials reason to be less suspicious of him. And the F.B.I. was told about it: A C.I.A. lawyer provided a list of documents in the August 2016 email at the heart of the case against Mr. Clinesmith that explained Mr. Page’s relationship with the agency.

But an F.B.I. case agent who learned about Mr. Page’s ties to the C.I.A. played them down while preparing the first wiretap application, according to the inspector general’s report. At the time, Mr. Clinesmith was not involved in determining whether Mr. Page was a C.I.A. source, people familiar with the case said.

But later in 2017, a supervisory F.B.I. agent handling the third and final renewal application asked Mr. Clinesmith for a definitive answer on whether Mr. Page had been an agency source, according to Mr. Horowitz’s report.

Mr. Clinesmith incorrectly said that Mr. Page was “never a source” and sent the C.I.A.’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say that Mr. Page had not been a source — a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.

The agent relied on the altered email to submit the application seeking further court permission to wiretap Mr. Page, the inspector general wrote. By changing the email and then forwarding it, Mr. Clinesmith misrepresented the original content of the document, which prosecutors said was a crime.

Yup that’s a crime. But so is helping the GRU disseminate information stolen from the emails of your political rivals and then covering it up. :unamused:


With so many pressing issues facing this nation right now starting with the out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic, use of USPS for voting ballots, mail-in ballots, BLM protests, and preserving federal buildings/statues, Relief talks stalled through Labor Day, Acting HHS Chad Wolf’s illegal standing, and now election security and the prospect of Congressional ‘watch dogs’ aka Wisc Sen Ron Johnson with all his suggestions that there is inappropriate actions by VP Biden and son Hunter in the (pro-Russian) Ukrainian region which will be discussed at length by the R’s during these last few months before the election. Oh, and let’s not forget about AG Bill Barr’s dropping of the Durham report of the Mueller investigation to add another layer.

Just make the waters muddier, and muddier…

As convoluted as it all gets, it is worth noting what kinds of misinformation will be coming through about election interference AND any number of October surprises which maybe looming - aka Biden/Ukraine, or Durham Report.

Here’s one piece of what the Intel committee and subsequent rogue actions from Sen Johnson coming into play.

A Counter-Disinformation Playbook for Both Parties

By now, the record of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. political processes is a matter of record.

The Mueller investigation, for instance, led directly to the criminal indictment of over a dozen Russian nationals and multiple organizations connected to the Internet Research Agency, which has ties to Russian intelligence and the network of oligarchs surrounding Vladimir Putin. The indictment detailed Russian personnel, tactics, and even budget line items for everything from payroll to content creation. Numerous digital open-source investigations – including by the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) (our own organization) – continued to identify traces of Russian operations throughout 2019 and early 2020, which were flagged for swift removal by social media platforms.

What should have been a tide turning moment in efforts to curb foreign influence came in April 2020, with the release of the third volume of the SSCI’s thorough, multiyear investigation. This volume evaluated U.S. government failures in 2016 and offered recommendations to mitigate the threat of foreign interference. These recommendations were endorsed by Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), and all but one member of the committee (Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) who, while supporting many of the report’s findings, filed a minority view in protest of the opacity of the investigation). The committee concluded:

  • That the executive branch should “be prepared to face an attack in a highly politicized environment, either from Russia or elsewhere.”
  • That “executive and legislative officials, regardless of party affiliation,” should jointly endorse the findings of the Director of National Intelligence as it relates to alleged foreign interference.
  • That “sitting officials and candidates should use the absolute greatest restraint and caution … [in] calling the validity of an upcoming election into question.” They should avoid “exacerbating the already damaging messaging efforts of foreign intelligence services.”
  • Finally, that when a foreign information operation is detected, “the public should be informed as soon as possible, with a clear and succinct statement of the threat” to avoid “allow[ing] inaccurate narratives to spread.”

The SSCI report represented a thoroughly considered, bipartisan consensus around a complex, politically contentious subject. It comprehended the clandestine methods by which Russian and other actors turn deep-rooted divisions toward their own ends. It recognized the differences and care that must accompany any allegation of “foreign interference” or “disinformation,” particularly during elections. The recommendations were based on well-documented evidence and spoke to the collective nature of the challenge of foreign influence across society, most notably institutions responsible for or active in elections: the whole of government, political campaigns and advocacy groups, independent media, social media, and most of all, citizens. It especially understood the need for U.S. officials to speak in a unified voice on such issues to prevent further misinformation from taking root.

Unfortunately, by the time the SSCI report offered this roadmap, some U.S. officials had already begun to undermine its core recommendations.

2020 Warnings: Heeded and Unheeded

The “highly politicized environment” that the SSCI report warned of has come to pass – and it’s even more dire than we expected. Those in government with the solemn duty to ensure and protect our elections are grappling with an unprecedented process of coordinating an election in the midst of a public health crisis that prevents large gatherings and an onslaught of disinformation about voting eligibility and electoral processes (much of which comes from the Oval Office).

And this is before one considers the specter of foreign election interference. So far in 2020, DFRLab has counted ten distinct, credible allegations of foreign influence operations made by U.S. agencies (including foreign influence activities targeting the Democratic primary or spreading COVID-19-related disinformation). An additional twenty attributions have been made by technology companies and civil society organizations. The majority of these attributions have focused on Russia.

Well before the public assessment released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week, senior officials continuously warned of foreign election interference. In a February USA Today op-ed, senior administration officials charged with protecting elections – including Attorney General Bill Barr, FBI Director Chris Wray, acting-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, and Director of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency Chris Krebs – wrote, “As long as the threat remains, there is work to be done … we remain watchful of any malicious activities from cybercriminals and from foreign actors like Russia, China and Iran.”

However, when asked under oath during July 29 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee whether it would be acceptable for the president or a presidential candidate to accept foreign help, Barr struck a very different tone, trying to qualify the nature and extent of the aid. Only when pressed did he agree that it would, indeed, be inappropriate.

Similarly, in a July 26 primetime ABC interview, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to dismiss concerns about foreign disinformation by drawing a line between “interference” and “influence.” “There’s a big difference between foreign interference and foreign influence,” he said. “They continue to try to influence, as everyone does across the globe, but in terms of actually affecting the vote totals and interacting, I think we’re in a good place.” While there are indeed important differences between the two phenomena, virtually all of Russia’s malign activities in 2016 would be deemed permissible under Meadows’ dichotomy.

While an enormous amount of work has been done by national security professionals and civil servants to build more resilience against foreign interference, these carefully constructed warnings of the threat have been weakened by more off-the-cuff responses from senior officials that seemingly provide space for the primary activities associated with the threat.

Not Recommended: Foreign Influence About Foreign Influence

In the Senate – and set against the recommendations of his SSCI colleagues – is the probe of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Johnson. This investigation seeks to examine Joe Biden’s interactions with Ukrainian officials, as well as those of his son, Hunter, who served for five years as a board member of a Ukrainian energy company.

While Johnson promised an interim report of findings by September 15 of this year, thus far, the inquiry has produced insinuations and half-truths instead of new findings. The inquiry has also seized the news cycle at critical moments of the ongoing presidential election, producing tantalizing headlines with little to back them up.

Most important with regard to national security, the inquiry has also become an irresistible target for pro-Russian Ukrainians, who appear to be using Johnson’s probe to brand outlandish – and debunked – conspiracy theories with the imprimatur of the United States Senate. As a current national security official told Politico , it should be “out of the question to consider [the Johnson-chaired probe’s] information legitimate investigative material.” The fact remains that using foreign influence efforts in the name of curbing foreign influence makes matters worse.

The probe’s inspiration can most directly be traced to a November 2019 investigation by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) into communications between the elder Biden and Ukrainian officials. This earlier investigation was launched at the behest of President Trump as he sought to deflect attention away from congressional impeachment hearings that focused on his own alleged abuse of power in pressuring Ukrainian officials to produce statements that would hurt Biden politically, for which Trump was ultimately impeached. The effort faded by mid-February, as Biden faced setbacks in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Johnson’s own public investigation began on March 1, one day after Biden’s commanding victory in the February 29 South Carolina primary. Johnson’s probe issued its first (and only) subpoena on May 20, as a Fox News poll found that Biden had an 8-point national lead over Trump. The investigation’s public profile has continued to rise through the summer, although it has yet to officially gather more information or release any evidence of wrongdoing.

Politically motivated probes are nothing new in the history of the U.S. Congress. What distinguishes the Johnson inquiry from previous efforts, however, is the sort of “evidence” that it has attracted. The first intended witness for Johnson’s inquiry was Andrii Telizhenko (whom Johnson had first met in July 2019), a confidante of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who had previously fomented a disproven conspiracy theory that Ukraine – not Russia – hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Telizhenko had also previously lobbied Republican officials on behalf of Ukrainian television channels controlled by Russian interests. Johnson’s committee dropped him as a witness in late March, after other senators expressed concern that he was essentially being used to launder a Russian disinformation campaign.

More recent and alarming have been the actions of Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach, another Giuliani associate and prospective Johnson witness. Derkach’s father was a Russian KGB operative, and he himself attended a Moscow graduate program with close ties to Russian intelligence services. In May, Derkach released years-old edited recordings of private phone calls between Biden and former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, which he claimed to have been leaked by “investigative journalists.” The tapes were played at a press conference hosted by Ukraine-Interfax, which is owned by the Russian Interfax news agency.

Although the tapes contained no new revelations, their release was clearly intended to reinvigorate conspiracy theories around Biden and Ukraine. A third Giuliani associate and former Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksandr Onyshchenko (currently on the run from Ukrainian authorities on charges of embezzlement) told BuzzFeed on July 24 that more such releases would come “closer to the election.” He also expressed his desire, along with Derkach, to provide direct testimony to the Johnson investigation. When Johnson was pressed on July 23 about whether his investigation had received or intended to publicize such evidence, he was initially noncommittal.

Call and Response

In response to concerns raised by Democrats as well as public reporting citing the fears of anonymous intelligence officials, Senator Johnson defended his inquiry in an August 6 letter to Democratic colleagues. Ironically, he alleged that it was Democrats who had amplified disinformation by drawing attention to the Ukrainians’ claims and vulnerability of his own investigation; arguing they had been “more successful than any Russian troll-farm” in spreading falsehoods.

On August 7, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a public update on election threats by state actors. The only specific example provided of a “range of measures” being employed by Russia was the mention of one of Johnson’s prospective witnesses, Andriy Derkach, and his efforts spread claims of corruption by publicizing doctored and leaked phone call recordings.

As media reporting of ODNI’s public disclosure and concerns of Johnson’s inquiry intensified, the Senator published another scathing, 11-page letter on August 10. Johnson re-litigated, among other things, the FBI’s investigation into foreign interference in 2016 elections, presenting a winding narrative that sought to tie past and present investigations together. He also made clear that the blame for any ongoing foreign interference lay with the “relentless” left. However, compared to SSCI’s exhaustively documented, multi-volume report, Johnson’s letter was long on allegations but short on supporting facts, as Goodman and Rangappa’s article demonstrates.

Both of Johnson’s letters flatly denied his inquiry directly received any information from Ukrainians; a counterpoint that doesn’t account for the fact that the inquiry’s origins are rooted in information surfaced by pro-Russian Ukrainians regardless of whether they provide direct testimony or not. It is true that each of these prospective anti-Biden witnesses has loudly denied any ties to the Kremlin. Their efforts have been so transparent and buffoonish that this may well be the case. But it remains clear that it is Johnson’s probe itself – ostensibly an investigation of foreign interference – which is directly and indirectly elevating these (clearly unreliable) foreign sources of information.

Sources whose narrative has now been laundered into multiple news cycles and amplified by an enduring Senate inquiry.

Not Again

There are clear parallels between the hack-and-release component of Russia’s efforts ahead of the 2016 election and potential exploitation of the current Johnson inquiry. Then, as now, Russia-adjacent actors used dumps of “secret” but fairly innocuous material to provide fodder for far-right content creators and conspiracy theorists. No matter how fact-checked the content was, the sheer act of repetition made it seem true as it gradually captured the popular imagination and polluted the information ecosystem. In 2016, these materials were released in a steady drip that intensified in the lead-up to election day, which is what Onyshchenko has promised to do in 2020.

And then, as now, these Russia-adjacent actors used or benefited from a sympathetic third party with incentives to amplify disinformation across the American political system, ensuring their releases were shared as widely as possible. In 2016, that Russian target was Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Today, it may well be the United States Senate.

The great irony is that a number of U.S. officials – including Johnson’s Republican Senate colleagues – have already warned against exactly this sort of threat and proposed steps to mitigate it. The function of a Congressional inquiry is to conduct oversight, not to replace the information gathering, analysis, and assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is more rigid, systemized, and divorced from politics. There is good reason why intelligence analysts do not have to campaign for re-election.

Senator Johnson’s inquiry has fallen short of the bipartisan recommendations to guard against foreign influence and disinformation made by his colleagues at SSCI. It should be the duty of Johnson’s probe and all similar investigations to work with appropriate elements across the United States government charged with national security, to show restraint and caution when insinuating foreign interference, and to rapidly and publicly disclose evidence of such interference.

A common trope used to build support for bipartisan national security efforts is that our politics should end at our borders, but foreign influence using disinformation has weaponized the base incentives of our politics against us. Disinformation about disinformation is in itself, of course, a form of disinformation, and makes our ability to identify, expose, and explain it much more difficult. Likewise, foreign influence affecting how we assess previous foreign influence, without transparency or evidence, makes us more vulnerable to malicious efforts by foreign adversaries. Both are at play in the 2020 elections, posing a major challenge to the strength of American democracy.


This has been such a hard fought battle to preserve the wilderness of Alaska. Let’s hope it gets stalled and overturned if the Dems win this fall.

Overturning five decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States, the Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development.

The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of this vast, remote Alaska habitat. The Interior Department said it had completed its required reviews and would start preparing to auction off leases to companies interested in drilling inside the refuge’s coastal plain, which is believed to sit atop enough oil to fill billions of barrels but is prized by environmentalists for its landscapes and wildlife.

While the agency has not yet set a date for the first auction, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said on Monday, “I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year.”

Companies that bought leases could begin the process of exploring for oil and gas, although actual production would still require additional permitting and is unlikely to occur for at least a decade, if at all.

Drilling opponents are expected to file lawsuits to try to delay or block the leasing plan. Environmental groups, which have been fighting to block drilling in the refuge since the Reagan administration, have already been arguing that the Interior Department failed to adequately consider the effects that oil and gas development in the region could have on climate change and local wildlife such as caribou and polar bears.


There are some doubts about the veracity of this story, with people noting that locking mailboxes to prevent theft is not uncommon and some of the boxes shown are still accessible from the other side.

Pictures of Locked Mailboxes Circulate on Twitter Amid USPS Crisis

Social media posts of locked mailboxes in Burbank go viral

The USPS said it’s common practice for mailboxes outside post offices to be locked on days they are closed to prevent vandalism.



T has a change of tune (for PR reasons) - people like and rely on the USPS