Quote of The Day: Jimmy Fallon On Donald Trump’s Call For An Investigation Into Hillary Clinton

Trump keeps tweeting that the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton, instead of his ties to Russia. When asked if he knows who runs the Justice Department, he said, “Of course I do — Superman, Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck.” –Jimmy Fallon

Shocking: Russia Caught “Meddling” It Its Own Parliamentary Elections

Hysteria about Russia, fueled by Hillary Clinton’s drive to divert blame for her loss to Donald Trump, continues to spread. The scare about Russian Facebook ads and Twitter accounts looks ridiculous when the facts are seriously analyzed. We are repeatedly seeing hysterical headlines, sometimes claiming to contain the smoking gun, only to quickly find that the initial report was incorrect. A column at Bloomberg News looked at some recent examples, starting with the report that money was sent by Russia to embassies with the indication, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” To some that was seen as proof that Russia rigged the 2016 election. The more plausible response:

The Trump-Russia story is becoming surreal. It’s worth pausing for a minute and applying a tool that’s getting rusty from disuse — Occam’s razor, and specifically Isaac Newton’s take on it: “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.”

Here’s a simple example. BuzzFeed on Tuesday came out with a story about the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation checking into 60 transfers sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to embassies around the world with a note that the money was meant “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Russia says that meant the Russian parliamentary election that took place in September 2016, not the U.S. presidential election. The voting for that election was organized in 147 countries; some 1.9 million Russian expatriates could come to hundreds of diplomatic missions to cast their votes, though only some 216,000 ended up doing so.

This is an obvious, simple explanation for the transfers. If U.S. election interference was intended with the funds, would a Russian government agency openly transfer money to “finance” it and label it as such? Why would the Foreign Ministry transfer money for a U.S. election meddling effort to dozens of diplomatic missions far from U.S. shores? The transfers arrived in early August, just in time to organize the polling stations for the Sept. 18 Russian election. But BuzzFeed pumped up the drama: “Just as the U.S. presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington.” After the story ran, the Russian Foreign Ministry provided the obvious explanation; BuzzFeed added it to the piece without altering its ominous tone.

So the latest smoking gun re Russia showed that Russia was “meddling” in the Russian parliamentary elections.

The same column looked at the exchange of email between Donald Trump, Jr. and Wikileaks, which fueled attacks on Wikileaks after one of the messages was  edited in a way that seems to play into the Clinton attacks that Wikileaks aligned with Russia. Their bogus claims tying Wikileaks to Russia leads to the false claims that Donald Trump, Jr. communicating with Wikileaks is an act of collusion with Russia.

The actual text of the exchange looks more like Wikileaks was trying to entice Donald Trump, Jr. into releasing his father’s tax returns by acting as if Wikileaks was trying to help Trump. It certainly would have made no sense for Wikileaks to have acted neutral or pro-Clinton in such negotiations. This is also consistent with Assange’s statements that he regretted that his releases of information on the 2016 presidential candidates were limited to Clinton, but Trump did not have a government record to expose. Releasing Trump’s tax returns would have certainly provided such desired balance. Unfortunately Donald Trump, Jr., who has shown a willingness to collude with not only Wikileaks but with Russia, did not fall for this. Hopefully Trump’s tax returns will be released instead as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Of course Assange very likely did have a strong objection to Clinton considering how her record of both extreme hawkishness and extreme hostility towards government transparency conflicted with two of Assange’s priorities. He might have also been influence by the widely reported, but never verified, claims that Clinton had advocated killing Assange in a drone strike.

The Matrix made this offer which is relevant to current politics, even if the context is different: “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The number of people attacking backers of transparency such as Wikileaks and Edward Snowden again this week (including many faux-liberal Democrats) shows that far too many Americans (again including many faux-liberal Democrats) will take the blue pill over the red pill every chance they have.

Porn Star Running For Democratic Nomination & Other Political Briefs

Are we now Italy? The Hill reports that a porn star has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination:

A porn star and a rapper say they have what it takes to win the White House in 2020.

Cherie DeVille, who’s starred in such videos as “Ass Planet” and “Hot Tub Hottie,” says she was inspired to run for office out of her “personal frustration for the current political climate.”

When Donald Trump won the election last year, DeVille — who’s running alongside rapper Coolio — says she sobbed. “I didn’t cry because I hated [Trump] specifically, I cried because of what I felt that meant for the direction our country was going in.”

“We’re voting for people as if we’re on a reality television show, and my concern is if we continue to purely vote for celebrities, or political figures, or the most entertaining, they’re not always going to be quality politicians,” DeVille told ITK on Tuesday.

So the 39-year-old adult film performer decided to toss her hat in the political ring, saying she’s planning on running as a Democrat.

“If our criteria now for becoming a political official is minor celebrity, I have that,” says DeVille, who boasts 190,000 Twitter followers. “I feel like I can be potentially what I’m feeling the American people — for better or for worse — want, which is interesting news, scandalous news, you know, not ‘boring’ political news.”

“But at the same time [I can] do what the American people really need,” she continues, which is “having a person with integrity, and having someone listen to the people, and actually care about America in public office.”

A former physical therapist, DeVille — whose campaign slogan is “Make America F—— Awesome Again” — says a lot of people “giggle” when they learn that “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper Coolio is running as her VP.

The Guardian has a story under the headline Christopher Steele believes his dossier on Trump-Russia is 70-90% accurate. So, in other words, he admits that his dossier, which fueled much of the Russia-gate hysteria (and which Clinton and the DNC hid the fact that they paid for) could be 30% false.

Portions of the left and libertarian right do often share some views in common. For example, CounterPunch today has a post on The Logic of Drug Legalization:

The Drug Lords of today exist because of the extraordinary profits resulting from criminalization. Estimates run in the half a trillion range globally per year. By way of comparison there are only twenty or so countries with a national economy of that size. The situation is exactly analogous to the prohibition era. When gunfights, beatings, murders and firebombs were the business strategy of choice for the pushers of alcohol. Once booze was legalized the bootleggers were immediately driven out of business. Alcohol is heavily taxed today there are however no Bootlegging Lords on the playground pushing cheaper booze on our children.

Nor would such pushers exist for any other drug that we might choose to legalize. Sure the criminals could evade the cost of taxes on their product but there are enormous costs incurred by criminal enterprises that don’t apply to legal ones. This is why marijuana today is sold for hundreds of times what it costs to grow. Our legal producers will not be faced with those costs and so can sell to us below current prices on the street. With profit margins cut to the bone the ‘dread lords and masters’ that control the illegal drug market today will simply melt away like the last snow before the advancing spring…

Matthew Yglesias writes at Vox, Bill Clinton should have resigned: What he did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price. What is amazing about this is that it comes from a usually very pro-Democratic Party source. Now that they aren’t concerned about white washing the past for Hillary, some Democrats might be able to face the truth about at least some aspects of their party.

Also at Vox, yet another reason to oppose the Republican tax bill: Republicans’ tax bill could trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare.

Periodically I see articles from people who have good intentions but don’t understand how health care really works argue that we should end private practice and have all doctors become employees to save costs. The reality is that this trend has increased costs rather than save money, as discussed in this article at Modern Healthcare entitled Hospital-employed physicians drain Medicare:

“When hospitals grow their physician network, with a subsidy of $150,000 to $200,000 per physician, they have to cover those costs by driving ancillary services and (getting more people) in hospital beds,” said Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, CEO of Summit Health Management, an integrated, physician-led independent physician group that includes some 800 doctors. One of the main drivers of physician acquisitions is to increase referral networks, he said.

Russian Facebook Ads And Tweets Turning Out To Represent A Minuscule Percent Of Their Traffic

It increasingly looks like a journalist can simply put out a headline with Russia and either Facebook or Twitter in it and create hysteria. Despite all the hype, we learned during the recent Congressional testimony that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton.

It also looks like the biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election.

Today’s hysterical headline is about Twitter, but looks far less scary when looking at the details. Apparently there were trolls on Twitter supporting Donald Trump. There is an enormous number of tweets going out every minute on Twitter, and a tweet does nothing if someone is not following the person tweeting. According to this article, the largest of these Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer. These are far from widely viewed tweets. It also seems a safe bet that if these accounts were tweeting pro-Trump material, they were primarily followed by pro-Trump individuals and it is questionable whether they could actually change votes, especially considering the far larger number of people tweeting in favor of both Trump and Clinton.

The likelihood of them impacting the election appears even less after noting that of the tweets attributed to troll accounts Russia’s Internet Research Agency, only  “9 percent of the tweets were election-related .”

Most likely we are seeing a combination of things going on. There were probably Tweets and Facebook ads designed to disrupt American politics in general without supporting a particular candidate. There were many which had nothing to do with the election, very likely posts from Russian troll farms designed to obtain page hits, sometimes by making controversial comments. There very well could have also been some intentionally posted to try to help Donald Trump–but considering how small a percentage of overall Facebook and Twitter traffic they represented, it is absurd to say they were more important than Hillary Clinton’s war chest of over one billion dollars, and many others helping her (including paid trolls for Clinton). Even former Clinton adviser Mark Penn has written that this is not what cost Clinton the election.

Russia very likely has been misbehaving–as they have for decades, and as the United States government has. According to a paper of election meddling reviewed by Slate:

Using declassified documents, statements by officials, and journalistic accounts, Levin has found evidence of interference by either the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia in 117 elections around the world between 1946 and 2000, or 11.3 percent of the 937 competitive national-level elections held during this period. Eighty-one of those interventions were by the U.S. while 36 were by the USSR/Russia. They happened in every region of the world, though most commonly in Europe and Latin America. The two powers tended to focus on different countries, though Italy was a favorite of both, receiving eight interventions by the U.S. and four by the Soviets.

We should certainly work towards making Facebook and Twitter more transparent so people know when they are reading ads purchased by Russians. We should not be so naive as to think that we can control what appears on line in the internet age. We should also not take this to mean that there was some sort of unique conspiracy to push Clinton over Trump on social media in 2016. As was revealed in Shattered, Clinton came up with the excuse that Russia cost her the election within twenty-four hours of losing to distract from her own mistakes which cost her the election.

While there are legitimate responses to this issue, this should not be used as an excuse to restrict freedom of speech. The dangers from restricting free communication on Facebook and Twitter are far greater than the actual risk of Russia using social media to alter election results. The consequence of this hysteria has been to censor Americans on social media as I and others have been pointing out. This is what we must concentrate on avoiding. We also must be cautious about playing into neocon propaganda, with many of those now making the same noise attacking Russia are the same people who got this country into a war based upon false claims about Iraq and WMD.

Biden Writes In Memoir That He Did Not Run For President Fearing Dirty Campaign From Clinton Supporters

One year ago the Democrats lost an election to a candidate as awful as Donald Trump. They lost not because of Russia, and not because of James Comey. They lost because of giving the nomination to a candidate as awful as Hillary Clinton. In a normal year Joe Biden would have probably have been the establishment candidate and, while he would not personally be my first choice, he probably could have beaten Donald Trump easily. In his upcoming memoir,  Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, Joe Biden wrote that he did not run because of being threatened with a dirty campaign by Hillary Clinton supporters.

The Telegraph is one of the newspapers which quoted portions of Biden’s memoir:

Joe Biden knew he could beat Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but decided not to run because he feared a “stop at nothing” smear campaign by her supporters, he reveals in a new memoir.

The man who served as Barack Obama’s vice-president remains a favourite among party faithful, many of whom believe he would have fared better in the states that delivered the White House to Donald Trump.

His words are certain to deepen splits among Democrats following their defeat and reignite speculation the 74-year-old is preparing for one last run.

In Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, due to be published next week, Mr Biden discusses his decision not to stand in the wake of his son Beau’s death.

He describes meeting Mrs Clinton in February 2015 when she was preparing her campaign and probing his plans.

“But if I ran, I told her, I would not run a negative campaign. She said the same,” he writes, in excerpts published by Mail Online, but then she added: “Although some of our supporters can get out of hand sometimes, it would not be me.”

After his son’s death, the Biden family had to deal with more upheaval when his other son, Hunter, left his wife for Beau’s widow.

That summer he received messages urging him to stand but had an ominous feeling that “the opposition research had already started on me”.

He does not say who the opposition was, but describes how negative stories began appearing in the media about past political positions.

“And Clinton backers sent the signal that they would not stop at voting records and policies if I did get in the race,” he writes.

Biden is being overly kind to Clinton in blaming her supporters and not Clinton herself. It has been typical of Clinton to claim innocence of some of the dirtiest acts of her supporters, such as launching the Birther campaign against Barack Obama during the 2008 nomination battle. I think that Biden is smart enough to see through this. Regardless, we certainly know how dirty and dishonest many of Clinton’s supporters are and can understand Biden’s concerns.

Donna Brazile Says Clinton Campaign Was A Cult

During an interview on Morning Joe, Donna Brazile made another statement which will upset establishment Democrats, calling the Clinton campaign a cult:

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said during Brazile’s appearance on the MSNBC show on Wednesday that he thinks President Trump won the 2016 election because of mistakes the Clinton campaign made, former FBI director James Comey and the influence of Russia.

“I’ll put it all in there, but it should have never been a close race,” he said.

He then asked: “Why did they lose? Was it at the end of the day arrogance?”

“It was a cult,” Brazile said. “I felt like it was a cult. You could not penetrate them.”

Brazile has also been trying to walk back her previous description of the nomination battle  between Clinton and Sanders as rigged, despite the evidence from Wikileaks, the class action suit against the DNC, the multiple rules used by the DNC to tilt the results, a previous confession from Tom Perez that it was rigged, and the evidence presented in her own book. Most likely by later this week Brazile will try to walk back her statement that the Clinton campaign was a cult, perhaps saying it was a religion instead.

In other news coming out about her book, The Washington Examiner reports that Brazile felt betrayed by Jake Tapper for criticism of her for providing debate questions to Hillary Clinton. While I remain grateful to Brazile for the information she did divulge which added to the massive amount of evidence that the nomination was rigged, she is certainly not presenting herself as a person of principle.

Update:

Excerpts From Hacks Contradict Claims From Clinton Apologists

Democratic Lead In Generic Poll Disappears When Adjusted For Likely Voters

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that, “Voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade.” My first reaction was that I’ve seen similar claims going into previous elections, only to see the Democrats under-perform. A follow up story from ABC News suggests we could see the same again, warning Democratic advantage for ’18 might not be what it seems as likely voters have a more favorable view of Republicans:

For one thing, despite President Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity, almost as many Americans say they’ll vote in 2018 to show support for Trump as to show opposition to him, 22 versus 26 percent, with half saying he won’t be a factor. Indeed 57 percent of Republicans say they’ll vote to show support for Trump, while fewer Democrats, 46 percent, intend to send a message against him.

Further, among the results of this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates:

Just 27 percent of Americans express confidence in the Democrats in Congress “to make the right decisions for the country’s future,” matching the low set when the question last was asked January 2014, and a wide 16 points below its peak in 2009. The Democrats’ confidence rating is almost as poor as the Republicans’ in Congress (21 percent trust) and worse than Trump’s (34 percent)…

The main change for congressional Democrats from their peak in 2009, moreover, is diminished trust in some of their key support groups — under 30s (down 27 points in trust), Democrats themselves (down 26 points) and liberals (down 21 points).

The Democratic Party leads the GOP among all Americans as being “more concerned with the needs of people like you” (49-36 percent) and as “better representing your own personal values” (46-37 percent). But the Democrats had advantages that big on these same questions in October 2014, and still got hammered a few weeks later.

Indeed today, the Democratic lead on concern with “the needs of people like you” shrinks from 13 points among all adults to a mere 3 points among those most likely to vote in 2018. And the 9-point Democratic advantage on personal values among all Americans goes to a non-significant 3-point Republican advantage among the likeliest 2018 voters.

Similarly, the Democrats enjoy an 11-point advantage among all adults in the sense that the country would be better off if they took control of Congress in a year’s time, 37-26 percent. Among the likeliest voters, though, this shrinks to essentially nothing, 2 points.

It is possible that 2018 will be a better year for Democrats in light of how terrible a job both Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have done. However, Democrats better not use this as an excuse to avoid fixing their own rather serious problems. Relying on early polls for victory in 2018 could be as perilous as relying on the mythical blue wall in the electoral college in 2016.

While Donald Trump is likely to do serious harm to the Republican brand, having nominated Hillary Clinton in 2016 was already a serious black mark against the Democratic Party. This damage is exacerbated by Clinton’s post-election activities including her excuses tour and spreading hysteria about Russia, as well as other revelations still coming out regarding unethical activity during the 2016 campaign.

Andrew Sullivan: Democrats In A Political Coma, Failing The Resistance

If you only look at the headlines, one would think that the Democrats should be having some success. The Trump administration is engaged in rampant kleptocracy. Republicans are pushing a tax plan which many are calling political suicide. Republicans appear to be terrified by Mueller’s investigation, especially following the recent indictments.

Despite all of these apparent advantages, Andrew Sullivan points out that the Democrats are “failing the resistance.” He concentrated on how close the Virginia Governor’s race is, noting that the Republicans have a real shot of winning. Sullivan wrote, “That it could win in the state where actual white supremacists marched this past summer and when the president is 20 points underwater is a sobering reminder of the actual state of play in our politics.” He continued:

I can only hope it’s a wake-up call to the Dems. In 2017, they are either useless or actively counterproductive in the struggle to resist right-authoritarianism. They have learned nothing from 2016. Their intelligentsia seems determined to ensure that no midwestern whites ever vote for the party again. Their public faces are still Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. They still believe that something other than electoral politics — the courts, the press, the special counsel — will propel them back to power. They can’t seem to grasp the nettle of left-populism. And they remain obsessed with a Russia scandal that most swing voters don’t give a damn about.They think they are “woke.”

They are, in fact, in a political coma.

What Sullivan left out is that the Democrats’ “political coma” includes failure to realize that they cannot be a meaningful resistance when their last presidential candidate represents what we are resisting, including her support for perpetual warfare, the surveillance state, and influence peddling. They cannot beat right-authoritarianism when the Democrats are embracing right-authoritarianism themselves, including rigging their nomination for one.

Donna Brazile Admits The Nomination Was Rigged For Hillary Clinton In 2015

As time goes on we get increasing evidence that the DNC rigged the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton while the evidence also increasingly casts doubt about her claims that Russia rigged the general election for Trump. Donna Brazile finally admitted to the unethical conduct at the DNC and rigging the nomination for Hillary Clinton in her new book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. I had hoped to have a post up on this earlier but did not have time until now. There was a lively discussion on Facebook after I posted a comment on this earlier today. As I said then, I would have a higher opinion of her if she hadn’t leaked the debate questions to Clinton, and if she wasn’t pushing the bogus line that Russia cost Clinton the election.

Excerpts from her book were posted today at Politico. Brazile began by admitting that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had allowed the Clinton campaign to control the party writing, “Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.”

Brazile described how the party was broke, with Hillary’s campaign “grabbing money.” On further investigation she uncovered unethical actions giving Clinton control of the party by 2015:

Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. A Politico story published on May 2, 2016, described the big fund-raising vehicle she had launched through the states the summer before, quoting a vow she had made to rebuild “the party from the ground up … when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but I had made this pledge to Bernie and did not want to disappoint him. I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.

When the party chooses the nominee, the custom is that the candidate’s team starts to exercise more control over the party. If the party has an incumbent candidate, as was the case with Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012, this kind of arrangement is seamless because the party already is under the control of the president. When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none. Then I found this agreement.

The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.

Donna Brazile’s confession that the nomination was rigged is hardly the first evidence of this. Their actions were actually quite obvious considering how the rules were used to help Clinton, including both long standing rules to allow the DNC to influence the process, along with changes initiated in 2016 specifically to help Clinton. DNC email released by Wikileaks provided further confirmation. Tom Perez previously admitted this before trying to walk this back. Elizabeth Warren agreed today that the nomination was rigged for Clinton.

If the Democratic Party is going to have a chance to restore its integrity and bring back those who are now reluctant or unwilling to vote for a Democrat again, major reforms will be necessary. This includes eliminating Superdelegates, eliminating front loading of primaries in the south, eliminating restrictions on debates, making primaries open, and ideally removing those from DNC leadership positions who were involved in either giving Hillary Clinton the 2016 nomination or the recent purge of progressives. Tulsi Gabbard has also recommended many of these reforms.

I would also hope that the party move away from Clinton’s right wing views, including curtailing perpetual warfare and the surveillance state, along with the influence of corporations and lobbyists on public policy. (I also suggested on Facebook that putting Peter Daou in front of a firing squad is not a nonnegotiable demand but would be a sign of good faith on their part.)

Update: Donna Brazile Considered Removing Clinton From Ticket And Replacing Her With Joe Biden. Links also in post debunking false claims from Clinton supporters about the excerpt discussed here.

First Indictments Involve Money Laundering But Plea Bargain By Papadopoulos Could Be More Important

The indictments expected all weekend turned out to the least interesting outcome considering that Manafort’s indictment had been expected for quite a while. The indictments of Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates are based upon financial crimes as I predicted. This action fails to help the cases made by partisans on either side. This is unrelated to the charges that Trump colluded with Russia to affect the election results as Hillary Clinton and Democratic partisans claim. It also contradicts pro-Trump partisans who have called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. It is also rather embarrassing to Donald Trump that, as Lawfare put it:

The president of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.

The more important development today might turn out to be that George Papadopoulos is entering into a plea bargain, which probably would have only been offered if he has information on people higher up in the campaign. This is the second incident we know about in which people in the Trump campaign spoke to Russians about getting information on Hillary Clinton. From The Washington Post:

Papadopoulos has agreed to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. Specifically, he falsely claimed that they had occurred before he joined the campaign in March 2016. He had communication with a professor who had contacts in the Russian government; this professor told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” The professor introduced him to a Russian national who was supposedly Vladimir Putin’s niece (it turned out she wasn’t), and to someone who supposedly had connections in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Based on those conversations, Papadopoulos pressed the campaign to set up meetings with the Russians, a suggestion that never came to fruition.

As with the meeting attended by Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner, there was an interest in obtaining information from Russia but no evidence than they were provided any information which helped the Trump campaign or altered the election result. While it is widely assumed that Donald Trump was probably aware of the meeting attended by his son and son-in-law, there is no evidence of this. Perhaps Papadopoulos has information regarding which people in the campaign were encouraging such meetings with Russia, and whether this includes Donald Trump.

The Clinton campaign has said it is beyond the pale to be working with foreigners, but we also know of at least two occasions when Clinton also worked with foreigners to affect the election results, including the recent revelations about the Clinton campaign and the DNC funding the Trump Russia dossier despite their earlier denials. The optics of the Trump campaign working with Russia to obtain information may appear worse than the Clinton campaign working with other foreigners, but any legal issues arising from this are likely be the same.

This is the the first action from Robert Muller. It remains to be seen if further indictments regarding money laundering get closer to Donald Trump and his family. It also remains to be seen whether Mueller has uncovered any direct evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, or of other actions allegedly performed by Russia to affect the election result.

In related news, Politco reports that Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, is stepping down from the Podesta Group following reports that he is under investigation by Robert Mueller. From Politico’s report:

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department in April stating that it had done work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine that also benefited the same Ukrainian political party that Manafort once advised. Podesta Group said at the time it believed its client was a European think tank untethered to a political party.

The Hill reports that the Maryland Attorney General is investigating Jared Kushner “over alleged questionable debt collection practices and poor maintenance at several of its properties in that state.”