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It’s the best true-crime thriller in decades, I’m surprised more people aren’t into this work. :woman_shrugging:t2:

Ms. Jurecic is the managing editor of Lawfare.

The first half of the report — on efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election — is a spy thriller, a high-stakes caper with greed, dirty deals and intrigue straight out of a Cold War potboiler. The second half — on President Trump’s efforts to obstruct Mr. Mueller’s investigation — is a Shakespearean drama about deception and power. But at its core, the 448-page volume is a detective story.

Like most good detective stories, the report actually tells two stories at once. First, there is the tale of what happened: The Russian government worked to reach out to Mr. Trump’s circle and, once he began running for president, his campaign; then, when the F.B.I. and later Mr. Mueller began investigating, Mr. Trump repeatedly sought to undercut the probe.

But nestled in the citations and prosecution or declination decisions for each section, there is the second story, which is closer to what most people think of when they think of a detective novel — the drama of how Mr. Mueller and his team came to uncover that first narrative and what they made of it. Examining footnotes, the reader can trace which information came from which witness — and discover, for example, that Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, provided Mr. Mueller’s office with hours of interviews about the conduct of the president.

Detective stories are usually about order and the collapse of order: The world is shattered by an act of violence, and the detective sets about making things right by turning the crime into something that can be explained. As Ms. Kakutani writes, “At the end of detective stories, order is usually restored with the solving of a crime, and with the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

The Mueller report does provide a framework for understanding just what has happened to America in 2016 and the years since.

More than a tale about the restoration of order, though, the Mueller investigation is also about the limits of what can be known…


If you’ve seen The Great Hack on Netflix about the work that Cambridge Analytica did and their role in the 2016 election, figured prominently is Brittany Kaiser who was someone who helped configure the data which helped to persuade the undecided, yet maleable voters. As described here, is Kaiser looking to recast her role in her vital position.

She’d like to be remembered as a whistleblower and a human rights advocate. You decide.

For Kaiser — at the time a 30-year-old Democrat from Texas who’d become business development director for Cambridge Analytica, a firm created to elect Republicans — the massive wave of critical news reports about the company threatened to deliver catastrophic damage to her reputation and even made her fear possible arrest.

So she did something drastic: Kaiser fled to Thailand, and she let a crew of filmmakers tag along.

What followed was a highly public — and still unfinished — quest for moral redemption that has played out across the globe and, now, in a Netflix documentary called “The Great Hack,” released July 24. It includes images of Kaiser up to her shoulders in a giant pool under an impossibly blue sky in Thailand, uncertain what to do. And it later depicts Kaiser, in a far more determined frame of mind, testifying before the British Parliament about the many unsavory deeds of her former employer and warning of the ongoing privacy threats posed by Facebook, whose dealings with Cambridge Analytica resulted in July in more than $5 billion in U.S. fines.

But two important elements are missing from the film. The first is Kaiser’s private meetings with British and U.S. prosecutors, including those from then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office, which she recently detailed in interviews with The Washington Post. In these she also explained her visit with Assange in 2017 and how close she came during the hottest days of the Cambridge Analytica scandal to turning over the entirety of her hard drive to WikiLeaks for publication online.

The second missing element is a decisive moment of reckoning for Kaiser, during which she fully acknowledges her role in matters she now regards as wrong and possibly illegal. She repeatedly calls herself a “whistleblower” but viewers of the film may wonder: Why didn’t she blow the whistle a little soonerideally before Cambridge Analytica’s misdeeds had become front-page news worldwide?

She knew before the story blew up that the rights of Americans had been violated,” said David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at the New School in New York and a hero in the film for his dogged legal battle to gain access to the data Cambridge Analytica had collected on him. He is among those who would think better of Kaiser had she spoken up about her qualms with Cambridge Analytica before the scandal erupted.

> “Once that’s out, it’s hard to be a whistleblower,” Carroll said. “You’ve missed your chance.”

(David Bythewood) #423

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” Rest in peace, Toni Morrison.

(David Bythewood) #424

The Uncanny Power of Incompetent Men

Inspired by the legendary ineptitude of the U.K.’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, you too can use your incompetence to succeed beyond your wildest imaginings


White Supremacists Own Domestic Terrorism

as conclusively shown in this infographic by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. This is a real eye-opener. Once you are on the page (via the link below), click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Of the 25 “race-based extremists” who perpetrated domestic terrorist incidents in 2018 all 25 were “white supremacists.” See the first 25 boxes in the infographic.

This article by Yahoo News lead me to the infographic. You may be interested in that article as well, but basically it describes this chart so if you want to cut to the chase, just view the chart. The article also makes the point that our Department of Justice appears reluctant to make this information available. However, the state of New Jersey has stepped up and published the facts.

And here’s an excellent companion editorial from the Washington Post with more statistics documenting the surge in domestic terrorism by white nationalists.

Day 939

From a FB feed

Powerful, President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, has a message for people who are excusing President Trump’s racism:

“I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against an African American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.
But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner. Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.’
God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.
When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020. It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.
Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.
What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.
Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.” — Michael Gerson

And another piece of his writing…

(David Bythewood) #427

The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project (named for the year the first slave ship arrived in America) is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.

In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.

We asked 16 writers to bring consequential moments in African-American history to life. Here are their poems and stories.

Myths about physical racial differences were used to justify slavery — and are still believed by doctors today.

America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some people deserve more power than others.

For centuries, black music, forged in bondage, has been the sound of complete artistic freedom. No wonder everybody is always stealing it.

What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot.

Why doesn’t the United States have universal health care? The answer has everything to do with race.

Slavery gave America a fear of black people and a taste for violent punishment. Both still define our criminal-justice system.

The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the ‘white gold’ that fueled slavery.

A vast wealth gap, driven by segregation, redlining, evictions and exclusion, separates black and white America.

Their ancestors were enslaved by law. Today, they are graduates of the nation’s preeminent historically black law school.


All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s “Westworld.”

Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach. But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.

“You think, ‘Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States,’ ” he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. “I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.”

Fisher is not alone. Mary Ingham, 52, described a similarly disrupted television viewing routine, spurred on by the negative impact she fears the president is having on her 7-year-old niece. “I used to go home at the end of the day and watch ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ” Ingham said. “Now I go home and watch MSNBC. Then when I wake up, well, my TV is already tuned to it.”

Interviews with more than a dozen voters, at the Iowa State Fair here and elsewhere, reveal a Democratic electorate wearied by Trump’s near-constant stream of incendiary behavior and racially tinged — and at times overtly racist — invective.

Democratic hopefuls are making a pitch seemingly geared directly at these voters, promising to offset their anxieties and concerns with a return to normalcy via a president who is everything they believe Trump is not — measured, predictable, responsible. Or, at its most reductive, they’re offering an unofficial pledge to Make America Boring Again.

Former vice president Joe Biden casts Trump as a historical anomaly — “an aberrant moment in time” — and argues for taking the country back to when politics was a little less combustible and government a bit more basic.

Another Democratic candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, more overtly captured the sentiment in a tweet that went viral, racking up more than 37,000 retweets as he spoke to those voters’ most primal desire.

“If you elect me president, I promise you won’t have to think about me for 2 weeks at a time,” Bennet wrote earlier this month. “I’ll do my job watching out for North Korea and ending this trade war. So you can go raise your kids and live your lives.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) speaks to Iowa voters on the Soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11, 2019, in Des Moines. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

In an interview, Bennet said his tweet reflected a sentiment he has been hearing from voters, but rejected the notion that he’s lobbying to be the nation’s next mundane commander-in-chief. “No! No! No!” he said. “I don’t want a boring president either, but I’d like to have a president who is competent again to do the job.”

I totally agree with Bennet on this point and hope that whoever wins the Democratic primary will make it a key talking point in their campaign. Drop the daily drama!

And here’s an excellent companion editorial about how destructive it is for the U.S. to have a DQP (Drama Queen President):

President Donald Trump is showing what happens when the United States abandons its decades-long role as a guarantor of stability and instead chooses to act as an agent of global disruption.

A series of economic and political shocks are fomenting disorder across the planet and straining an international political system that Trump deliberately set out to undermine.

  • Stock markets are tumbling as warning signs flash of a global recession exacerbated by fears deepened by the US-China trade war.
  • Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are locked in a dangerous new standoff.
  • The post-Cold War arms control regime is breaking down.
  • South Korea and Japan – the foundation of US influence in Asia – are reviving age-old animosity.
  • Concern about a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown by Beijing in Hong Kong is growing as Trump looks the other way.
  • Iran and the US just narrowly avoided spiraling into a disastrous war partly precipitated by the President’s maximum pressure campaign.
  • And the European Union – for years a crucial co-sponsor with the US of world stability – is seeing one of its three most influential members, Britain, heading for the exits, with enthusiastic encouragement from the White House.

Trump did not cause all these crises. But his actions or unwillingness to temper them did deepen the discord in many cases. And his refusal to play the kind of stabilizing leadership role expected of a US president is fomenting power vacuums and may convince key protagonists in each drama that they may not face the kinds of consequences they might normally expect from Washington.

"Someone needs to remind the Potus … that diplomacy is a tool of national security - and that ignoring it will bring about a world of diminished US influence, greater conflict, less freedom and prosperity, and increased demands on the US military," [Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations] tweeted.

Right on, Richard!


More destructive behavior from our President of Chaos. This time directed at our national intelligence agencies. His BFF Putin must love this.

The accompanying video commentary is excellent. The infographic says it all:


When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy Sue Gordon leave their offices for the last time on Thursday, it will mark a turning point for an administration that has already endured the highest level of senior staff turnover in history.

Both Coats, who took on the role of intelligence chief in 2017, and Gordon, who started as his deputy a few months later, have outlasted a slew of their national security colleagues who left the Trump administration at various points over the last two years.

This “is a defining day in the Trump administration’s national security structure – they have finally cleared out all the national security positions in terms of senior officials,” said David Priess, a former CIA official who delivered the president’s daily briefing in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“With all the twists and turns in the Trump administration and the national security establishment and intelligence community over the past two years, at least there has been stability in one way – the DNI and his principal deputy have quietly remained an island of steadiness,” Priess said. “As of August 15, that changes.”

[George Beebe, director of the Intelligence Project Center] told CNN that it is difficult to understand the importance of Coats, Gordon and whoever the new leaders of the ODNI turn out to be, without getting into that domestic political story.

"The intelligence community is not supposed to be playing a political role in our tradition," he added. “We’re not supposed to have a secret police … normally the impulse Americans have and Congress has and the media has is to want to place constraints on the intelligence community, to make sure they’re staying within the lines.”

"That dynamic has flipped now. People are seeing the intelligence community not as something that should be constrained, but something that should constrain the President," Beebe said.


:boom: Wow. Let’s just take that in for a second.

(David Bythewood) #431

The Right-Wing American Love Affair With One of the Most Disturbing Serial Killers

A monster who boasted of how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl—had Ayn Rand’s ear, as well as her heart. What happened next was the modern Republican Party.


By all means, Mr. President, go ahead and shoot yourself in the foot once again. Alienate your “Fox News Base” and what have you got left?

Before he boarded Air Force One to fly back to Washington on Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump was asked about a recent Fox News poll that showed him in serious trouble vis a vis the 2020 election. Trump, as he is wont to do, went off at length on his once-favorite network.

The poll showed Trump’s approval rating in the low 40s and had him losing by six or more points to Democratic 2020 rivals Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Unsurprisingly, Trump didn’t like that. Here’s the key bit:

“Well, Fox has always given me – I’ll tell you, Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that. … Fox has changed. And my worst polls have always been from Fox. There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it.”

“There’s something going on at Fox.”

Now, let’s be clear here: What Trump doesn’t like is that Fox News conducts a credible national poll – like every other network including CNN – that shows Trump’s approval rating dipping to 43%. (That’s broadly consistent with where other national polls have shown Trump’s job approval.)

In Trump’s mind, Fox’s polling should be favorable to him. As should all of its hosts and the tone of its coverage. He has no idea what an independent media organization should look like. He views the world through a very simple lens: Are you for Trump or against Trump? That’s it. There are only two sides – and for a long time Trump has assumed that Fox is in the “for Trump” camp, largely due to its fawning morning show and Sean Hannity’s open advocacy for Trump during primetime.

But there remain elements of serious news within Fox – most notably in people like Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith and Bret Baier. And Fox’s political unit conducts a serious, nonpartisan poll because, well, duh, it’s a major media company.

Trump’s worldview doesn’t understand that nuances like this can exist. Again, you are either for him or against him. No gray area. Simply put: Trump wants Fox to be state-sponsored TV of the sort they have in authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea.

So the Fox poll does not compute for Trump. And the way he handles things that don’t compute is to assume some dark conspiracy that is out to get him.

Trump’s use of “something” – vague but loaded with suspicion – is the President’s default way of pushing pet conspiracy theories to his followers. He never actually says there is a conspiracy within Fox to get him, but he knows that his backers pick up on any thread of “deep state” conspiracy and run with it.

That he sees conspiracy where this is none should not be surprising given his long history of embracing debunked conspiracy theories – from the idea that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States to the idea that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. What is somewhat surprising is that Trump is killing one of his darlings. But as close Trump-watchers know, he turns on everyone at some point. Everyone.

And a related development…

IMHO, if Trump jumps ship from Fox News to the even more right-wing OANN, it can only have the effect of further shrinking his base. Only his furthest right followers would make the jump with him, leaving the rest confused and feeling abandoned. Many of those “left behind” may stick with Trump, but many may also finally realize what Trump is all about and may simply stay home on election day.

Last month after Donald Trump watched Fox News lob what he called “softball questions” at a Democratic lawmaker, the US president delivered a crisp smackdown of his favourite network: “Fox sure ain’t what it used to be”.

After years of often fawning coverage by Fox, particularly from its pro-Trump anchors like Sean Hannity, the commander-in-chief appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a younger, more right-wing rival, cable outfit One America News Network (OANN).

The small upstart broadcaster was launched only recently, in 2013, by technology millionaire Robert Herring, who sought a more conservative alternative to mainstream media behemoths like CNN.

Today it seeks to outfox Fox by drawing extra attention from Trump, who has been voicing his displeasure with the ratings leader over everything from presidential polling to its hosting of Democratic candidate town halls.

Last week in a tweet to his 63 million followers, the president managed to disparage Fox and his mainstream news foil CNN, while heaping praise on the new object of his media affection.

“Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN! Trump posted.

Since March he has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times.

The relationship has been years in the making. In 2015 Trump was interviewed by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008, when she guest-hosted OANN’s show On Point .

At his first press conference as president-elect, in January 2017, Trump took a question from an OANN reporter.

OANN was then called on dozens of times at the daily briefings in Trump’s first 100 days in office.

During his June 2018 press conference in Singapore, following the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jon-un, Trump took a question from OANN White House correspondent Emerald Robinson, but not before gushing about her network.

“Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it,” he said.

“Really, it’s very good. It’s really beautiful what you do.”

The San Diego-based operation describes itself as “straight news, no opinion”.

But the pro-Trump agenda is crystal clear, more than a dozen current and former employees told The Washington Post in 2017.

OANN has faced accusations of promoting conspiracy theories and peddling Kremlin propaganda.

“Yeah, we like Russia here,” a staffer assigned to brief new OANN producer Ernest Champell told him, according to The Daily Beast.

Champell left, disillusioned, four months later.

“The network has a history of race-baiting and presenting anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion reporting,” according to Media Matters, a progressive non-profit group that says its mission is “analysing and correcting conservative misinformation”.

Day 942
(David Bythewood) #433

The next time some smirking gundamentalist claims there’s no such thing as an assault rifle, THIS is the thread to hit him with: