Democratic Commission Recommends Changing Rules Which Rigged Primary For Clinton And Cost Democrats The White House

The Democrats lost an election they should have won in 2016 due to rigging the nomination for a candidate too weak to win the nomination on her own, and who was unable to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump in 2016. Having been exposed for rigging the nomination has also alienated many potential voters, putting the party in danger of further losses. The party created a “unity commission” to make recommendations to change some of the party rules which led to the catastrophe in 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s strategy was to promote the view that her nomination was inevitable, and the party’s rules played into this. This included restricting debates so that opposing candidates would receive far less coverage and have less of an opportunity to build early momentum, along with superdelegates and front loading of southern states. While in 2008 the popular vote in Iowa was released, this was not done in 2016, harming Sanders who probably won the popular vote but did not receive a proportionate number of delegates due to having his voters more heavily concentrated in college towns. Failing to announce the popular vote also harms candidates who might receive a significant number of votes but fail to receive delegates.

These rules played into Clinton’s strategy of appearing inevitable by having the news media reporting a strong lead for Clinton in delegates after the votes in New Hampshire and Iowa, despite Sanders receiving more votes. Then there were the shenanigans by Harry Reid in Nevada, followed by favorable states for Clinton on Super Tuesday.

On the other hand, if Clinton had been faced with more debates prior to the primaries, had no lead due to  superdelegates, she didn’t receive assistance from the party in Iowa and Nevada, and didn’t have the southern states coming up next, it is doubtful she could have own. The party also helped in other ways including  changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, and giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign.

Although Bernie Sanders showed an ability to bring many new voters into the party, primary and caucus rules often prevented many of these potential Democratic voters from participating. This both helped Clinton in the primaries and hurt the Democrats in the general election

ABC News reports:

Sources close to the commission who have seen working drafts of its current report tell ABC News the panel plans to recommend dramatic cuts to the individual voting power of superdelegates and new rules around caucuses and primaries to improve access for voters and recordkeeping.

Sources close to the commission say the group’s likely recommendation on superdelegates will be for some select superdelegates such as Congress members, governors and former presidents to continue as unbound superdelegates, but to change the rest of the system so the votes of all other superdelegates are pooled or bound in another way to match up with to the popular vote totals from their respective states.

“One of the big problems you had in the 2016 election was that one candidate had 400 or more quote-unquote “delegates” before a single voter had cast a vote,” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told ABC News of the primary race between the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Sanders. Weaver now sits on the unity commission.

“So you had Iowa, which was basically a tie, and after New Hampshire the pledged delegates were close to even, but the reporting on TV was 400 for one [candidate] and 50 or 60 for the other candidate. It creates the perception of inevitability from the get-go,” Weaver said.

Sources tell ABC the group will also likely recommend that caucus states allow absentee voting, written votes to facilitate recounts, and record-keeping — all of which would enable voters who can’t participate in long caucus events to quickly write and submit a first-round vote and leave.

In addition, there will likely be recommendations that states report statewide vote totals. In the past, states had only been required to release final delegate totals and not popular vote totals, a practice that many say hurt underdog candidates in early states who may have won 6 or 8 percent of the vote statewide, but not enough to secure a delegate.

The panel is also expected to make recommendations for dramatic changes to how states run primaries.

Commission members appointed by Sanders largely lobbied for the party to mandate open primaries across the board. But that position, sources tell ABC News, was not the consensus of the majority of the commission.

Instead, as a compromise to open up the voting process to new party members, the group will likely suggest that the party penalize states that require residents to switch their party affiliation long before their scheduled primary. In the large, politically progressive state of New York, for example, independent voters who wanted to participate in the 2016 Democratic primary had to have changed their party status a full six months before the primary voting day.

The final document submitted from the group may also include language compelling states to allow same-day party registration.

These proposals from the “unity commission” still need to be approved by the party leadership–the same leadership which recently purged progressives and thought it was a good idea to allow lobbyists to be superdelegates. These are also the same people who thought it was a good idea to rig the 2016 nomination and ignore both the  graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton and  that her views which are far closer to the views of George Bush and Dick Cheney than much of the Democratic base. It remains to be seen how the party will respond to these recommendations.

Cleaning Up The Democratic Party Requires Removing More Than Franken and Conyers

Several female Democratic Senators have called on Al Franken to step down today. This comes shortly after John Conyers resigned from the House under pressure. Removing those who have engaged in sexual harassment makes sense. However, sexual harassment should not be the only sin which goes punished. After we clear out the perpetrators of sexual harassment I hope that this cleansing of the Democratic Party can continue:

Let’s get rid of those have been willing to put up with the graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Plus there should be a special circle of Hell for anyone who uses the “but her emails” line. To excuse Hillary Clinton over the email scandal means that you 1) support her total refusal to abide by rules put in place by Barack Obama to increase government transparency, 2) are willing to ignore repeated lies from her regarding the matter for months, ultimately being a major reason she lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, and 3) you don’t care that she destroyed potential evidence of her influence peddling at the State Department.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who have embraced neoconservative interventionism, including those who excuse Clinton’s views and policies on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with those backing the new Cold War type hysteria regarding Russia.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who are now engaging in McCarthyism, accusing those who question their unfounded claims about Russia of being pro-Putin. (Never mind that they are the ones who are really acting to undermine the liberal opposition to Putin in Russia).

Let’s get rid of Democrats who support a totally undemocratic nomination system for the presidency. This includes those who want to preserve measures in place since McGovern’s loss including superdelegates and front-loading of southern states. Even more so, get rid of those who backed the increased actions to rig the nomination in 2016 including restrictions on debates, changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign, changing how the results in Iowa were announced to help Clinton, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada to help Clinton. Plus get rid of those backing a purge of the left in the DNC and making lobbyists superdelegates.

Judicial Watch Releases Documents On Bill Clinton’s Tarmac Meeting With Loretta Lynch

Judicial Watch has released information “29 pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents related to the June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton.” The meeting took place shortly prior to when James Comey interviewed Hillary Clinton regarding classified information on their private server. Their press release concentrates on accusations that “FBI officials were more concerned about leaks than the actual meeting itself. ”

This could be seen as analogous to those who are more concerned with action against those who allegedly hacked the DNC email and released it to Wikileaks as opposed to what was revealed about the actions of the DNC in their email.

In reading through the docments they released, I thought that their greater concern was more a matter of concern over potential security threats from discussing security procedures used by the FBI and Secret Service.

I am surprised that Judicial Watch did not concentrate on what I found to be the most interesting section. See the final document per the link above, which was sent to Michael Kortan, assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs at the FBI, with the name of the sender from the FBI redacted. The document responds to media reports that the FBI ordered no cell phones, photos, or videos at the meeting:

First of all, it isn’t the FBI’s job to to tell journalists or private citizens they can’t take photographs of a former president and the Attorney General? What were the agents going to do, arrest people for taking a picture or video?

Also, if there was nothing wrong with the meeting and it was totally innocent, why were the federal agents instructed to demand no one take a picture?

From there the selection goes on to note that while it is bad that the meeting was held because Hillary Clinton was under investigation, but questioned whether concentrating on Hillary Clinton is “actually letting Lynch and Clinton off the hook a bit.” The document notes that “Clinton himself is under investigation as the Grand Poo-bah at the Clinton Foundation.” Further down on the page it questions: “If the State Department and Hillary Clinton acted improperly or illegally by commingling staff and by granting favors to Clinton Foundation donors, isn’t the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton equally guilty of wrongdoing?”

In the next paragraph: “This may explain why  a day after the surreptitious meeting in Phoneix. Lynch’s Justice Department informed a judge they were going to drag their feet on the release of emails connected with the former president’s foundation and the State Department.” It notes that the DOJ filed a motion seeking a 27-month delay in the release of some documents and that “the public would not be about to read the communications until October 2018, about 22 months into her prospective first term as President.”

The document concludes: “I guess when this all adds up, its clear why Lynch and her FBI agents were so intent on keeping this inappropriate meeting a secret.”

It is also clear why Bill Clinton would want to keep this all a secret. The Clintons have been found to have unethically received payments from multiple parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

Politico Reports That Bernie Sanders Is Making Moves Towards A 2020 Run

In a recent post I noted that The Hill found that Democratic Party insiders consider Bernie Sanders to be the front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Today Politico is running a story saying, Bernie makes moves pointing to 2020 run. From their report (with my comments following):

Bernie Sanders is taking steps to address longstanding political shortcomings that were exposed in 2016, ahead of another possible presidential bid in 2020.

From forging closer ties to the labor movement to shoring up his once-flimsy foreign policy credentials, the moves have provided the senator inroads into party power structures that largely shunned him in favor of Hillary Clinton last year. They’ve also empowered the progressive icon to harness his newfound political power and help Democrats fight President Donald Trump’s administration.

Sanders has been working closely with figures who are close to the party establishment he’s long railed against, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. And he’s been meeting with international affairs experts such as Bill Perry, a defense secretary in the administration of President Bill Clinton, around a series of speeches designed to define his international vision, one year after running a campaign heavy on domestic policy and light on the rest of the world.

The Vermont independent hasn’t decided whether to run for president again in 2020. To his closest allies, his efforts represent a natural next step in his role as “outreach chairman” for Senate Democrats, a new position created for him late last year by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Yet the maneuvers could form an important part of a Sanders 2020 effort, a dozen of those allies acknowledged to POLITICO — one that looks markedly different from his surprise 2016 bid, which often suffered from a lack of mainstream political support.

“He is now in a very different position than he’s ever been in before. He’s just stepping into the role,” said senior adviser Ari Rabin-Havt, insisting Sanders doesn’t see the changes as prep for 2020. “Let’s be clear: He’s in charge of outreach for the caucus. So when people say he’s doing a better job of reaching out? Well, yeah, he’s doing his job. This is a new phase of his career.”

…In contrast to the run-up to 2016, the group of counselors also now includes pollster Ben Tulchin, who joined that year’s campaign only after Sanders was convinced that hiring a pollster was worth it. A pair of senior advisers in Sanders’ Senate office have also joined. Rabin-Havt, a former Harry Reid aide, has been directing political outreach, and Matt Duss, former president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, is working on foreign policy.

Recognizing the senator’s post-campaign national platform and 99 percent name ID across the country — and aware that his status as a potential 2020 front-runner draws further eyeballs — his team has stopped sticking to just a few pet issues. Now it tries to inject him into as many productive national conversations as possible, sometimes with the support of his wife’s new Sanders Institute think tank…

After resisting advisers’ pleas to give more foreign policy-oriented speeches during his campaign, Sanders has also now been working with Duss to build a public record on international affairs. That work has entailed more than just his trio of major public speeches on the topic this year — a February address to J Street on Trump, Israel and anti-Semitism; a speech on authoritarianism, in June, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and a September talk at Missouri’s Westminster College to stress the importance of partnerships “not just between governments, but between peoples.”

While it certainly does not hurt for Bernie Sanders to shore up his foreign policy credentials, they are hardly flimsy compared to most other recent presidential candidates. He is far more experienced at pretty much anything in government than Barack Obama or Donald Trump was. While on paper Hillary Clinton appears to have stronger credentials, it is worth noting that Sanders has been right far more often than Clinton on the major foreign policy decisions of the past couple of decades. I do hope that he will spend much more time offering a change in our foreign policy than he did during the 2016 campaign.

Democrats Struggle With Putting Principle Over Party

The accusations of sexual harassment being made against Democrats such as Al Franken, as well as Republicans, is causing conflict in the minds of many Democrats. Some are even reexamining the legacy of Bill Clinton. The usual mode of thought of many partisan Democrats is that bad things are only bad if done by Republicans, as they find ways to rationalize comparable behavior by Democrats. We have finally found an issue where many Democrats are breaking from strict party loyalty.

As I discussed in a post earlier this month, most voters consider party over ideology. In 2016 most Republicans stuck with party and voted for Donald Trump despite his differences from conservative Republican orthodoxy. Similarly most Democrats stuck with party over principle and voted for Hillary Clinton, mostly oblivious to the fact that she backed essentially the same agenda which they protested when George W. Bush was implementing it.

It is good to see that some Democrats are now questioning party loyalty in response to reports of sexual harassment. I wish more Democrats had questioned party loyalty when it came to backing a war monger, accepting Clinton’s far right wing record on First Amendment issues (which now extends to her calls for censorship post-election), and in ignoring the influence peddling by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump probably would not be president today if more Democrats had stood for principle and refused to accept Hillary Clinton as their nominee.

Ideology Versus Party Identification: The Redefinition Of Liberalism By Clinton Democrats

Eric Levitz has an op-ed in The New York Times showing that it is not true that America is a center-right nation. His primary point is to dispute the idea among many Democratic leaders that the Democratic Party should continue to move to the right to gain votes. This a topic which has been addressed many times before, but the part I found most interesting was on the relationship between party and ideological labels.

“…the number of genuine “liberals” and “conservatives” is far smaller than meets the eye. Most voters who identify with those terms are partisans first, and ideologues second. Or as Mr. Kinder and Mr. Kalmoe conclude an analysis of four decades of voter survey data, “ideological identification seems more a reflection of political decisions than a cause.” In other words: The average conservative Republican isn’t a Republican because she’s a conservative — she self-identifies as a conservative because she’s a Republican.

“One crucial implication of this finding is that political elites have enormous power to dictate ideological terms to their rank-and-file supporters. For a healthy chunk of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, the “liberal” and “conservative” position on most issues is whatever their party leaders say it is. Donald Trump’s success at redefining conservative voters’ consensus views on free trade, American policy toward Russia and the relevance of personal morality to effective political leadership offers a particularly vivid illustration of this phenomenon.”

I would expand on this to point out how the Clintons and other DLC Democrats have redefined liberalism as used by Democrats to mean a rather conservative philosophy. This goes back to the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and was exacerbated by Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy views, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her far right views on civil liberties.

We saw in the 2016, along with Democratic loses when they ran as a Republican-lite party in 2010 and 2014, that this form of conservatism does not win elections. Conservative voters are more likely to identify with Republicans, while true liberals and progressives lack interest in turning out for Clinton-style Democrats. The fallacy of viewing politics on a simplistic left/right political scale was also seen with the nature in which Bernie Sanders was able to bring in more independent and Republican voters than Clinton could, and was far more likely to have won the general election if he was the Democratic nominee.

Washington Post Reveals That Trump-Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By Clinton Campaign And DNC

The Washington Post today revealed that the dossier complied with accusations including ties between Donald Trump and Russia (along with more salacious claims) was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. From their report:

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.

This may or may not have any bearing on the accuracy of the information released, but knowing that this was paid opposition research from the Clinton camp could cast doubts on its credibility. We will hopefully know more about the accuracy of the report after investigations by Robert Muller and the Congressional investigations are completed. At this time questions about money laundering and other financial crimes involving Donald Trump, his family, and associates appear to be more credible than claims of collusion between Trump and Russia to alter the election results (not that Trump’s family wasn’t interested if Russia had something to offer).

While some items have been found to be true, much of the information in the dossier has not been independently verified. Today’s revelation of Clinton’s involvement in funding the dossier must cast doubt as to whether its claims such as ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign are true, especially in light of how Shattered revealed that Clinton had latched onto the claim that Russia was responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to distract from the many mistakes made by her campaign which were the more likely cause of her loss. Even former Clinton strategist Mark Penn recently disputed the claims that Russia caused Clinton to lost the election.

The Russia hysteria being generated by Clinton’s claims has undermined the credibility of the US electoral process with Clinton and many of her supporters making unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen, been used as justification for restrictions on internet freedom, and has fueled Cold War style hostilities which feed into the goals of Clinton’s neocon allies for increased hostilities towards Russia.

As opposition research can be biased towards the desired conclusions of those paying for the report, the information in the dossier now must be considered to be based upon partisan bias until the claims are independently verified. On the other hand, the decisions announced today by the House to launch two investigations of Hillary Clinton will also be seen as based upon partisanship. This includes investigations regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation and the sale of uranium mines. The later comes after a recent report providing new accusations of Russian bribes to the Clintons while the matter was being reviewed at the State Department.

While there is undoubtedly plenty to investigate in the conduct of Hillary Clinton, especially her influence peddling at the State Department, it is questionable whether the Republican House can be trusted to conduct a meaningful hearing after how they handled Benghazi.

Update: Vox takes a similar line in recommending skepticism towards the dossier:

Now, however, we know that the dossier’s research during much of 2016 was funded by a top lawyer working for the Clinton campaign itself. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean the information in it is deliberately false — campaigns usually try to dig up opposition research that is true, if they can.

But it certainly presents the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia. After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try and deliver, even if what they turn up is dubious or thinly-sourced.

Overall, viewing this uncorroborated document very skeptically was always a good idea, and the fact that its funders were Trump’s biggest opponents only makes that more the case.

Update II: Further Reaction To Revelation That Trump Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By The Clinton Campaign

Jimmy Carter Again Says He Voted For Sanders; Does Not Think Russia Changed Any Votes

We already learned in May that Jimmy Carter voted for Bernie Sanders in the Georgia primary. As I noted then: In 1992, he declined to endorse Bill Clinton, saying “people are looking for somebody who is honest and tells the truth.” In an interview with The New York Times he repeated that he had voted for Sanders. Carter was also asked about whether he agreed with Clinton’s claim that Russia altered the election results. From the interview:

Carter is also not as bothered as some by Trump’s Putin bromance. “At the Carter Center,” he said, “we deal with Putin and the Russians quite frequently concerning Syria.”

Did the Russians purloin the election from Hillary?

“Rosie and I have a difference of opinion on that,” he said.

She looked over archly. “They obviously did,” she said.

He said: “I don’t think there’s any evidence that what the Russians did changed enough votes, or any votes.”

Rosalynn pressed, “The drip-drip-drip about Hillary.”

Carter noted that in the primary, “We voted for Sanders.”

I asked the famously ethical Carter what he made of Obama’s post-presidential string of $400,000 speeches.

Carter was also asked about the Clinton Foundation:

When I compared the Clinton Foundation with the Carter Center, Carter noted: “Rosie and I put money in the Carter Center. We never take any out.”

In other news on the Russia investigation today, NBC News reports that Robert Muller is now investigating Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta is the brother of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta:

Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller’s inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta’s company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine’s image in the West.

The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort’s role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.

New FBI Information Released On Russian Bribes In Uranium Deal

There’s another major news story today regarding a 2016 candidate colluding with Russia, except this time it is Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

While the American public was left in the dark about these specifics, there have been many reports (such as this one at The New York Times) regarding a Uranium deal and payments to the Clinton Foundation. While there is no documentary evidence of a quid pro quo between Clinton and the Russians (possibly due to to Clinton having destroyed half of her emails from when she was Secretary of State in violation of the laws in effect in 2009), there have been multiple such episodes in which the Clinton have been found to have unethically received payments from parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

Once again we see how little difference there really is between Donald Trump and the Clintons.

Latest Russian Hysteria Says That Russian Trolls Studied House Of Cards

There is yet another article spreading hysteria about Russia which is at least slightly less silly than the recent warnings about the Russians using unknown rappers, puppies, and Pokémon Go. The latest warning is that Russians were using lessons they learned from watching House of Cards.

A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.

“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.

“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”

But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Just how effective “comments” placed on the websites of American news organizations are in influencing public opinion, if they do anything at all, is far from clear. Still, the interview is potentially significant. Although other Russian language trolls who worked in the agency’s domestic departments have spoken out in the past, Maksim appears to be the first member of the highly selective English language section to describe the agency’s meticulous methods. This is the same department that Facebook has said covertly placed over 3,000 messages on its platform — one component in the Russian “influence campaign” during last year’s election that is getting increased attention from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

These scare stories almost always contain a disclaimer, such as this one saying that the effectiveness is “far from clear.” Realistically there is so much material out there from US sources alone on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that adding comments to websites is hardly likely to have any impact on public opinion.

Has anyone ever changed their opinion based upon comments on news organization web sites?

Clinton was hurt during 2016 both because she deserved to be hurt from her scandals, and as she kept these scandals alive by repeatedly lying about them. The Russians did not make Clinton use the private server and lie about it, or make her violate the ethics agreements she entered into before becoming confirmed as Secretary of State.

One sign that factors other than Russian actions affected approval of politicians is that while Clinton’s approval fell (and has continued to fall even after the election), Obama’s popularity increased.

As for using House of Cards, it is not necessary for the Russians to draw the comparison. Series creator Lord Dobbs said back in 2015 that Claire Underwood was based upon Hillary Clinton, and many people have seen the comparisons to the Clintons without needing  Russians to point it out. I also wonder what warped views anyone learning about American politics would have from watching House of Cards, making them more difficult to persuade others in web comments.