Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

We have significant new information regarding Jared Kushner’s use of private email. As I discussed earlier in the week, if his attorney has been telling the complete truth (which is a big if), then Kushner does not appear to have violated the rules regarding the use of personal emails as Hillary Clinton did. The differences were that Clinton exclusively used a private server, destroyed over half the email with claims later shown to be false that she only destroyed private email, discussed classified information in her private email, and failed to turn the email over to be archived as required. Kusher’s lawyer had claimed that he primarily used government email and that he has turned over copies of private email discussing government business to be archived.

CNN reports a new aspect which of the case with Kushner being accused of failing to disclose the private email account when testifying before the Senate:

In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned.

CNN has also learned that the chair and vice chair of the committee were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of his personal email account via news reports that they wrote him a letter via his attorney Thursday instructing him to double-check that he has turned over every relevant document to the committee including those from his “‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.”

The emphasis in the letter on “all other” personal accounts not known by the committee would seem to be a reflection of the frustration the committee leaders feel with that fact that Kushner was not up-front about the existence of his personal email account and their desire for him to cover the bases of all his possible communications avenues when responding to their letter. This issue could become more serious if there emerge any emails or communications related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that Kushner has not turned over, and whether he did so with the express purpose of concealing information from the committee.

If this is true, it would not be the first time Kushner failed to disclose relevant information:

Kushner has been criticized in the past for initially not disclosing more than 100 contacts with foreign leaders including those from Russia, as well as ownership of a multimillion dollar tech company with links to Goldman Sachs and businessmen Peter Thiel and George Soros. Kushner was also one of three top campaign officials or surrogates who failed to disclose a June 2016 meeting with a woman billed as being with the Russian government and having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

Of course Hillary Clinton was also far from honest in her testimony before Congress. Her testimony to the FBI, when she faced a more serious risk of perjury and was therefore more likely to be honest, differed significantly from what she had been saying before Congress and to the American people.

Comparing Kushner and Clinton’s Use Of Private Email

Following the news reports that  Jared Kushner used a private email account for government business, Congressional Democrats have announced plans to launch an investigation. There are additional reports of Ivanka Trump and other White House advisers using personal email. The comparisons to Hillary Clinton are obvious, but based upon the reports from Politico it is not clear that Jared Kushner actually did violate the law as Hillary Clinton did.

During the email scandal I found that many supported or opposed Clinton based upon partisan affiliation with no real understanding of the issue. It is worth looking at the specific violations committed by Hillary Clinton and to compare this with what we do know so far about Kushner’s use of private email. The problem is not simply that Hillary Clinton used private email, but that she used private email exclusively and through a personal server. The law does allow the use of some communication by private email, but requires that this be turned over to the government for archiving.

Hillary Clinton not only failed to turn over her email until forced to long after leaving her position as Secretary of State, but she destroyed over half of the email. Clinton claimed that this was personal email, but some of the destroyed email was uncovered showing that she was lying. Email she destroyed did directly involve government business. Clinton had also denied that any classified information was sent over her private server, but this was also later found to be untrue.

Politico reports the following about Jared Kushner:

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday.

“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

If this is all true, then Kushner very well could have been acting within the law. Politico also reports that, “There is no indication that Kushner has shared any sensitive or classified material on his private account, or that he relies on his private email account more than his official White House account to conduct government business.”

Of course Kushner’s innocence is dependent upon statements from his attorney being true, and obviously his attorney would not be making statements to incriminate him. A key factor in Clinton’s case was that she repeatedly lied about the matter, despite being repeatedly corrected by media fact checkers, as well as the report of the State Department’s Inspector General. Clinton even lied about the Inspector General’s report in her book What Happened.

In other words, matters would be far worse for Kushner if it turns out that he failed to turn the email over, had destroyed email, was using private email exclusively, or had sent any classified information over private email–all things which Clinton had done in violations of the law.

Another question would be whether there was any attempt to cover up illegal activities. Kushner has been suspected of both financial crimes and possibly colluding with Russia to affect the election results (with the evidence for the former being far more significant than the later). Uncovering evidence of discussing such matters by private email would be of greater significance. Hillary Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State and there have been questions as to whether there is evidence of influence peddling in the email she destroyed. We will probably never have an answer regarding this.

From a political perspective, it would be quite hypocritical for anyone in the Trump administration to violate the law as Clinton did after all their cries to “lock her up.” It would also be quite foolish considering the political price paid by Clinton. However, politicians do tend to be quite hypocritical. Hillary Clinton had accused those in the Bush administration who used private email of shredding the Constitution, despite more lax rules being in place under Bush than in 2009.

Update:

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Shepard Smith Speaks Out About All The Lies From The Trump Administration

So many lies have come from the Trump administration that even an anchor at Fox is starting to complain about all the lies. Shepard Smith had this to say about the various stories being told about the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russians when speaking with Chris Wallace:

Fox News can now confirm new, more — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eighth person in that meeting. We don’t know, there may have been more, but there was an eighth. Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F-86, saying who he’d met with and what he had done.

Very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up, you know, intentionally. He went back and added 100 names and places. None of these people made it. It’s still not — we’re still not clean on this, Chris.

It’s — if there’s nothing there and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothing burger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it, with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower.

If all of that, why all of these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you’re clean, come out clean. You know, my grandmother used to say “When first we practice to — oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

The deception, Chris, is mind boggling. And there are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re going to realize we’re not, and look around and go, “Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?”

Shepard Smith has varied from the hard line pro-Republican viewpoint at Fox at times, but it is also rare to see such outright acknowledgement about government lying including using the L-word. The Fix is calling this a “Cronkite moment” referring to when Walter Cronkite spoke out about the lies being told about the United States involvement in Vietnam.

This is a bit of an exaggeration. Walter Cronkite speaking out against the war is often seen as precipitating a turning point in public perception of the war. The majority of people in the nation is already opposed to Donald Trump and realizes he is a liar. However it would be more comparable if this leads to a change in perception of Donald Trump among Fox viewers.

Democratic Congressman Files Article Of Impeachment Against Donald Trump

It was only a matter of when. A California Congressman has introduced an article of impeachment against Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday that accuses the president of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

This is the first time a lawmaker has offered an impeachment article against Trump, and it comes as Democrats have debated whether it is politically wise to press the case for impeachment at this time…

In filing his impeachment article, Sherman argues that Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May amounts to obstructing justice and “high crimes and misdemeanors” amid the probes of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the election…

He cites Comey’s allegations that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into ousted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s shifting story on why he fired Comey.

“In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the article of impeachment states.

So far only one other member of Congress, Al Green of Texas, is supporting the action.

Of course it is rather early and the number of members supporting impeachment could increase after the current investigations, which are still in an early stage, are concluded. The firing of James Comey does certainly appear to have been done in order obstruct his investigation. At present there is far further evidence of a cover-up on the part of Trump and members of  his administration than of the actual crime. While it is possible that evidence of collusion with Russia to swing the election will be uncovered during the course of the investigation, there is not yet clear evidence that Donald Trump did collude with Russia.

I have suspected that, at least, Trump was acting to protect members of his administration, and that any crimes very likely involved their financial dealings. The recent revelation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with an attorney close to the Russian government, based upon an offer of information about Hillary Clinton, along with actions of Jared Kusnher, suggest that Donald Trump might have engaged in obstruction of justice to protect members of his family, along with members of his campaign staff and administration.

In order for impeachment to succeed it would require a simple majority vote in the House, but also require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president. Therefore it would require bipartisan support to remove Trump regardless of how well the Democrats do in the 2018 election. So far only two presidents have ever been impeached, including Bill Clinton, and technically no presidents have ever been removed from office by this route. Richard Nixon was forced to resign when his impeachment and conviction appeared inevitable.

An alternative mechanism under the 25th Amendment could also be used to remove Trump if he could be declared unfit to perform the duties of the presidency. While a quicker mechanism, this would be even more difficult to achieve as it would have to be initiated by the vice president and requires the support of two-thirds of each House should the president contest the action.

Investigate Trump, But Hold Off On Claims Of Treason

The information recently released about the meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and others in the Trump campaign, along with the emails which have been released, show signs of violation of election laws. This is yet another in a long string of meetings which members of the Trump campaign have failed to disclose. This also gives justification for investigations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but the actual significance of this remains unclear considering that the meeting was with a lawyer who now says she never had any information on Clinton.

This opens additional avenues for investigation for both Robert Mueller and Congress. Although Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that Donald Trump was aware of the meeting at today’s press briefing, I would bet that Mueller will be looking into this.

A huge problem with the 24/7 stream of news and constant discussion on social media is the temptation to come to conclusions immediately. We certainly need to wait and see what comes out of the investigations. That said, I have suspected from the start of this affair that Donald Trump has been trying to obstruct the Russia investigation to protect members of his campaign (along with possibly covering up financial improprieties). With Donald, Jr involved (along with Jared Jushner), this certainly raises the stakes.

As Shattered revealed, Hillary Clinton latched onto the Russia story within twenty-four hours of losing the election to place blame for her loss on others. Tim Kaine and other are now raising questions of whether Trump committed treason. Whatever crimes might have been committed by Donald, Jr. and others, treason does not appear to apply. This is discussed further at Axios and Vox. From Vox:

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and that Junior enthusiastically accepted and pursued the offer, is shocking. What Trump Jr. did could very well be a crime under federal campaign finance law.

But some politicians and commentators are raising the possibility that he committed an even graver offense: treason. “We’re now beyond obstruction of justice,” US Sen. and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said. “This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason.” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s White House ethics lawyer, declared on MSNBC that Trump Jr.’s behavior “borders on treason” even before the worst revelations about the incidents came out. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) commented, “If this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is.” According to Merriam-Webster, searches for the definition of “treason” are on the upswing.

This is nonsense. Whatever Trump Jr. did, it’s definitely not treason. Treason is a very specific crime with a definition set forth in the Constitution that Trump Jr’s conduct doesn’t come close to meeting, for one simple reason: The US is not at war with Russia…

What Trump Jr. did was outrageous. But that doesn’t make it treason, and it’s irresponsible to keep throwing the term around willy-nilly.

Of course many Republicans have been guilty in throwing around the term, often with even less justification, when attacking Democrats.

Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski Respond To Donald Trump’s Mental State

Over the last couple of days Donald Trump has both advocated repealing Obamacare without a replacement, which would lead to 26 million people losing insurance, and has insulted Mika Brzezinski. Based upon the media response, the later appears to be the more important story. Therefore, rather than another post on the Republican plans to destroy health care (such as here and here), I’ll look at the more important story of the day.

In a pair of tweets, Donald Trump claimed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came……to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Subsequently Joe Scarborough accused Trump of blackmailing them, demanding an apology for their negative coverage, or else a negative story about Scarborough and Brzezinski would be published in the Enquirer. Trump mistakenly thought people would actually give a damn over what the Enquirer had to say about their relationship.

New York Magazine summaries what occurred:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of@JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

The most interesting thing in all of this is that the Enquirer is owned by a guy named Pecker who is a friend of Donald Trump.

While Trump’s ability to express himself is generally often limited to short forms like Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski are capable of more detailed expression of their views. They did this in an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, Donald Trump is not well. Here are some excerpts:

The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”

…It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

Fox cites anonymous sources to say that Scarborough’s claims are not true (which I point out only to demonstrate how low Fox can get).

Melania Trump defended her husband:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Stephen Colbert had this rebuttal to Melania’s defense: “Yes, as the first lady says, ‘When they go low, we go 10 times lower.'”

The Intercept On NSA Report Of Russian Hacking Attempt Prior To The Election

Previously claims of Russians “rigging” the election were primarily based upon the belief that Russia was responsible for release of the Wikileaks emails. This was also extended to still unsubstantiated claims of collusion with the Trump campaign. The Intercept now reports that there is evidence that Russia also attempted to hack computers connected to voter registration. From their report:

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive…

The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results.

The NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were both contacted for this article. Officials requested that we not publish or report on the top secret document and declined to comment on it. When informed that we intended to go ahead with this story, the NSA requested a number of redactions. The Intercept agreed to some of the redaction requests after determining that the disclosure of that material was not clearly in the public interest.

The report adds significant new detail to the picture that emerged from the unclassified intelligence assessment about Russian election meddling released by the Obama administration in January. The January assessment presented the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions but omitted many specifics, citing concerns about disclosing sensitive sources and methods. The assessment concluded with high confidence that the Kremlin ordered an extensive, multi-pronged propaganda effort “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

That review did not attempt to assess what effect the Russian efforts had on the election, despite the fact that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, the assessment reported reassuringly, “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.”

The NSA has now learned, however, that Russian government hackers, part of a team with a “cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections,” focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions…

The full report has far more information on how the hacking was allegedly attempted. Of course note the tremendous number of qualifiers in this report, casting doubt as to whether we can believe a single report.

Shortly after the report was posted, the FBI arrested a contractor who allegedly released the report to The Intercept. The Daily Caller portrays the leaker as “A Bernie Supporter Who ‘Resists’ Trump.” I’m sure we will continue to see many attempts to politicize the news, but what is needed is the facts as to what Russia actually did, and whether there was any collusion from the Trump campaign, without using this to promote any political agendas.

It is premature to come to any conclusions, but so far there is a lot of suggestion of a cover-up from the Trump administration, including the firing of James Comey, but far less conclusive evidence of any initial crimes which they might be covering up. I have suspected that in the end this very well might come down to financial dealings on the part of Trump and his associates. Along these lines, NBC News is reporting that Congressional committees are looking into whether Jared Kushner was seeking a back channel with Russia in order to obtain a bailout for a Manhattan building he owns.

Such a reason makes more sense than the theories that this was tied into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to rig the election. If there was really such collusion, there would have presumably been some sort of back channels already present prior to the election.

Update: The original post has been revised, primarily to clarify that the alleged hacking attempt was directed towards computers involved with voter registration, not voting machines themselves.

Insight Into Two Top Trump Advisers: Jared Kushner & Steve Bannon

jared-kushner-forbes

While we approach Donald Trump’s presidency with some dread, at least this stage is more interesting than it would be if Clinton had been elected. Rather than what would be a fairly predictable list of old Clinton cronies, Wall Street insiders, and the interventionist foreign policy establishment, we are seeing people new to politics. While Donald Trump is new to politics, he has a long public record. Perhaps the key member of the next administration that we know the least about is his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner out-smarted the old Clinton political experts, and pulled off a victory in the electoral college with both less money and no political experience. Forbes has interviewed Kushner. The full article is worth reading, but here is an excerpt to show how Kushner changed how political campaigns are run to take advantage of social media and ideas from Silicon Valley:

“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff,” Kushner says. “They gave me their subcontractors.”

At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

I wonder who will get the movie rights to this story.

While Kushner’s political views are not clear, he does not appear to be a doctrinaire conservative. The anti-nepotism laws written after JFK made Bobby Kennedy his Attorney General might prevent Kushner from having a formal role in the Trump administration. I think we are better off with Trump continuing to listen to Kushner and hope this can be circumvented. Even if he cannot have an actual position, Trump will probably continue to receive advice from him.

During the interview Kushner defended Steve Bannon from accusations of being anti-Semitic based upon the hate speech often found at Breitbart. While this is hardly enough to make Bannon look acceptable, there was another sign today that Bannon might be more complex than he is portrayed. IndieWire reports that previously Bannon had been involved in the distribution of independent films which differ from the world view he is now involved with:

Ten years ago, Bannon oversaw the distribution of independent films released by Wellspring Media, a company that supported a wide range of international cinema as well as gay-themed and other “transgressive” titles. Movies acquired and released under his tenure include the experimental LGBT documentary “Tarnation” and “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry,” a pro-Kerry documentary that opened during the 2004 election. According to one insider who dealt with Bannon at this time, he directly approved and often supported several of these films with great enthusiasm.

It’s a history that raises fascinating questions about the newly minted White House staffer’s motives: Did Bannon, whose alt-right allegiances have turned him into a leading proponent of nationalism, shelve his personal beliefs for the sake of perceived business opportunities? Did those beliefs — and a tolerance for the hate groups drawn to the alt-right movement — come later? Or does he, as so many have theorized about the president-elect, only believe in himself?P

Hopefully we will see a new version of Bannon in the White House, but this will not negate all of the hate speech he has spread in more recent years. The same can be said of President Trump as compared to candidate Trump.