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.

Russian Opponents Of Putin See Dangers In Unproven Claims Regarding 2016 Election

The attacks on American democracy from the Clinton camp are also being seen as a threat from liberal opponents of Putin in Russia. As I have written repeatedly since the start of investigations regarding Trump and Russia, there is probably a very significant story regarding money laundering and possibly other illegal business dealings between Trump and Russians. There is strong evidence of attempts at a cover-up on the part of Trump and others in his administration. While there has  been some meddling in the election, just as Russians have meddled in our elections for decades, and the United States has meddled in the elections in other countries, there has been no evidence of the claims made by Clinton supporters and partisan Democrats that the Russians had any significant impact on the 2016 election results. An article in The New York Times indicates that opponents of Putin in Russia also object to the false claims being spread of the Russians altering the election results.

From an article entitled Why Putin’s Foes Deplore U.S. Fixation on Election Meddling:

For months, President Vladimir V. Putin has predictably denied accusations of Russian interference in last year’s American election, denouncing them as fake news fueled by Russophobic hysteria.

More surprising, some of Mr. Putin’s biggest foes in Russia, notably pro-Western liberals who look to the United States as an exemplar of democratic values and journalistic excellence, are now joining a chorus of protest over America’s fixation with Moscow’s meddling in its political affairs.

“Enough already!” Leonid M. Volkov, chief of staff for the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, wrote in a recent anguished post on Facebook. “What is happening with ‘the investigation into Russian interference,’ is not just a disgrace but a collective eclipse of the mind.”

What most disturbs Mr. Putin’s critics about what they see as America’s Russia fever is that it reinforces a narrative put forth tirelessly by the state-controlled Russian news media. On television, in newspapers and on websites, Mr. Putin is portrayed as an ever-victorious master strategist who has led Russia — an economic, military and demographic weakling compared with the United States — from triumph to triumph on the world stage.

Mr. Volkov and others say they have no doubt that Russia did interfere, at least on the margins, in last year’s presidential election campaign. But they complain that the United States consistently inflates Mr. Putin’s impact and portrays his government as far more unified and effective than it really is, cementing his legacy and making him harder to challenge at home.

Ultimately, they say, Americans are using Russia as a scapegoat to explain the deep political discord in the United States. That has left many westward-leaning Russians, who have long looked to America for their ideals, in bitter disappointment that the United States seems to be mimicking some of their own country’s least appealing traits.

The hunt for a hidden Russian hand behind President Trump’s election victory has caused particular disquiet among liberal-minded Russian journalists.

“The image of Putin’s Russia constructed by Western and, above all, American media outlets over the past 18 months shocks even the most anti-Putin reader in Russia,” Oleg V. Kashin, a journalist critical of the Kremlin, wrote last week in Republic, a Russian news site. He complained that the American media has consistently misconstrued the way Russia works, presenting marginal opportunists and self-interested businessmen with no real link to the Kremlin as state-controlled agents working on orders from Mr. Putin.

For Ivan I. Kurilla, a professor of history and an America specialist at the European University at St. Petersburg, a bastion of liberal thinking, Russia’s prominent and almost entirely negative role on America’s political stage since the November election reprises a phenomenon first seen in the late 1800s.

Americans use Russia each time they feel their own identity in crisis,” said Mr. Kurilla, the author of a new book on the history of Russian-American relations, “Frenemies.”

Unlike China and India, which are far more distant culturally and geographically from the United States, he added, Russia is a country on to which alarm over America’s own internal problems can be easily projected.

“American liberals are so upset about Trump that they cannot believe he is a real product of American life,” Mr. Kurilla said. “They try to portray him as something created by Russia. This whole thing is about America, not Russia.”

…Both Mr. Volkov and Mr. Kurilla worry that American intelligence agencies have made it too easy for the Kremlin to deny its interference in the American elections — and, at the same time, also take credit for it — by keeping concrete evidence secret, which has only allowed sometimes wild conspiracy theories to take flight.

“This helps the Kremlin a lot. It promotes Putin’s image as a geopolitical mastermind, the smartest and strongest man in the world,” Mr. Volkov said. “It hurts us a lot that no evidence has been released. And it helps Russian propaganda because the Kremlin can say it is all just a conspiracy against Russia.”

The state-run Russian news media, while echoing the official Kremlin line that Russia has not interfered in any way, often takes barely disguised delight in American accusations that Mr. Putin masterminded a stealthy campaign to undermine the United States.

Michael Idov, a Russian-American screenwriter, author and former magazine editor, said the idea that Mr. Putin, through hacking, fake news and other tools, could outfox and disorient the world’s most powerful democratic nation makes the Russian president look invincible. But this image of a “globally victorious Putin is hard to accept when you can’t even find decent cheese in Moscow” because of Western sanctions and Russian countersanctions, Mr. Idov said…

A few independent Russian media outlets have investigated the Russian meddling story, including RBC, a newspaper that recently produced an in-depth report on how a so-called troll factory of paid online agitators based in St. Petersburg had tried to incite street protests in the United States through postings on the internet by a phony group claiming to represent disenfranchised black Americans.

But reporting in the independent Russian news media has often focused on how little real impact such disruptive efforts have had, leaving readers with the impression that the main victims are not so much American voters but Russian taxpayers, whose money has gone to support an array of well-funded but largely ineffective operations.

“The difference between suspicion and evidence has become blurred when it comes to the American election. This makes myself and others very disappointed,” said Maria Lipman, a veteran Russian journalist.

The highly exaggerated claims about the impact of Russia on the 2016 election is partially motivated by denial of Trump’s victory as Ivan I. Kurilla stated, but is also fueled by Hillary Clinton’s attempts to divert the blame for her loss. As was revealed by in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. We recently learned that Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability. More recently we learned that Christopher Steele is saying he believes the report is 70% to 90% accurate. In other words, he admits that thirty percent could be inaccurate.

Similarly, other claims that Russia altered the election result have fallen apart when viewed objectively. For example, 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.  We have seen sensational media reports of attempted Russian hacks, only to see Homeland Security later retract the claims (with far less publicity).

(more…)

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.”

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

Yesterday’s revelations that Clinton and the DNC were behind the Trump Russia dossier has resulted in objective observers agreeing that this should create considerable skepticism as to the validity of the report, much of which could not be verified despite efforts of many in the media (and presumably now Robert Muller). Some Clinton partisans have tried to ignore the significance. It is amazing how they will ignore well documented evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty while saying we should believe a report about Donald Trump which was commissioned by the Clinton campaign and which could not be verified by independent sources. Besides, there is enough evidence as to how rotten Donald Trump is in his own Twitter feed, leaving no reason to make up more.

Aaron Blake has discussed some of the ramifications. Here is a  portion:

Yes, the dossier was funded by Democrats

Some of the pushback on the left has focused on the fact that a still-unidentified Republican client retained Fusion GPS to do research on Trump before the Clinton campaign and the DNC did. Thus, they argue, it’s wrong to say the dossier was just funded by Democrats.

But The Post is reporting that the dossier’s author, Steele, wasn’t brought into the mix until after Democrats retained Fusion GPS. So while both sides paid Fusion GPS, Steele was only funded by Democrats.

Trump’s allegation of FBI payments is still dubious

After the story posted, some on the right seized upon The Post noting the FBI had agreed to pay Steele for information after the campaign. The argument seemed to be that the FBI was engaged in a witch hunt against Trump using Democrats’ sources.

But The Post originally reported on the FBI’s agreement back in February. At the time, it also reported it never actually paid for the work after the agent was identified in news reports:

The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.

Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
>Despite there being no proof the FBI actually paid Steele, Trump suggested it might have in a tweet last week — along with “Russia . . . or the Dems (or all).” Of those three groups, only Democrats have been reported to have actually paid Steele. And again, that was already kind-of known.

The appearance problems for Democrats

There is, presumably, a reason Democrats haven’t copped to funding the dossier — something they still haven’t publicly confirmed. Fusion GPS threatening to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination raised eyebrows last week, for instance.

First among those reasons is paying a foreigner for opposition research for an American political campaign. Given Democrats’ argument that Russia’s interference on Trump’s behalf was beyond the pale, the Clinton camp and the DNC paying a Brit for information would seem somewhat problematic.

(The Clinton campaign has also, notably, denied working with the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Trump. Republicans have pushed dubious comparisons between the Ukraine allegation and Russia’s alleged Trump advocacy.)

It is also notable that this revelation of a second episode of the Clinton campaign working with foreigners to affect the election results also came shortly after a new report on the Clintons accepting bribes from Russia.

Yesterday I updated the post with this opinion from Vox, a normally pro-Democratic Party source:

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.

While biased pro-Trump, Michael Goodwin could very well could be correct in arguing at The New York Post that The Trump dossier was Clinton’s dirtiest political trick:

Now it’s Democrats’ turn in the barrel.

The explosive report in the Washington Post goes a long way to explaining how the dossier was so widely spread among political reporters during the election. The Clinton camp must have passed it out like Halloween candy to its media handmaidens.

News organizations tried for months to confirm the salacious details, but couldn’t. The document became public when BuzzFeed, a loud Clinton booster, published it 10 days before the inauguration, while acknowledging it couldn’t verify the contents.

The Post report provides possible answers to other questions, too. Because Clinton’s team paid for the dossier, it’s likely that she gave it to the FBI, where James Comey planned to hire the former British agent who had compiled it to keep digging dirt on Trump.

The finding also raises the possibility that the dossier is what led the Obama White House to snoop on members of Trump’s team, and leak the “unmasked” names to the anti-Trump media in a bid to help Clinton.

In short, we now have compelling evidence that the dossier was the largest and dirtiest dirty trick of the 2016 campaign. And Clinton, who has played the victim card ever since her loss, was behind it the whole time.

This all basically provides further evidence of what I argued throughout the election that the race was between two of the worst people in America. It also casts further doubt on the validity of Clinton’s claims regarding Trump and Russia.

Update: The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint with the FEC arguing that the Clinton campaign’s failure to disclose their funding of this report is a violation of campaign finance laws.

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.

Even Former Clinton Strategist Mark Penn Says That Russia Did Not Win The Election For Donald Trump With Facebook Ads

Clinton and many of her supporters claim that a trivial expenditure by Russia on Facebook ads caused her to lose to Donald Trump. Even her former strategist Mark Penn realizes this is nonsense. Earlier this week Penn wrote an op-ed entitled You Can’t Buy the Presidency for $100,000–Russia didn’t win Trump the White House any more than China re-elected Bill Clinton in 1996. Here is an excerpt:

The fake news about fake news is practically endless. Americans worried about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election have seized on a handful of Facebook ads—as though there weren’t also three 90-minute debates, two televised party conventions, and $2.4 billion spent on last year’s campaign. The danger is that bending facts to fit the Russia story line may nudge Washington into needlessly and recklessly regulating the internet and curtailing basic freedoms.

After an extensive review, Facebook has identified $100,000 of ads that came from accounts associated with Russia. Assume for the sake of argument that Vladimir Putin personally authorized this expenditure. Given its divisive nature, the campaign could be dubbed “From Russia, With Hate”—except it would make for a disappointing James Bond movie.

Analyzing the pattern of expenditures, and doing some back-of-the-envelope math, it’s clear this was no devilishly effective plot. Facebook says 56% of the ads ran after the election, reducing the tally that could have influenced the result to about $44,000. It also turns out the ads were not confined to swing states but also shown in places like New York, California and Texas. Supposing half the ads went to swing states brings the total down to $22,000.

Facebook also counted ads as early as June 2015. Assuming they were evenly spread and we want only those that ran the year of the election, that knocks it down to $13,000. Most of the ads did not solicit support for a candidate and carried messages on issues like racism, immigration and guns. The actual electioneering then amounts to about $6,500.
Now look at the bigger picture. Every day, Americans see hundreds of ads on TV and radio, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and smartphones. North Americans post to Facebook something like a billion times a day, and during the election many of those messages were about politics. Facebook typically runs about $40 million worth of advertising a day in North America.

Then consider the scale of American presidential elections. Hillary Clinton’s total campaign budget, including associated committees, was $1.4 billion. Mr. Trump and his allies had about $1 billion. Even a full $100,000 of Russian ads would have erased just 0.025% of Hillary’s financial advantage. In the last week of the campaign alone, Mrs. Clinton’s super PAC dumped $6 million in ads into Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

I have 40 years of experience in politics, and this Russian ad buy, mostly after the election anyway, simply does not add up to a carefully targeted campaign to move voters. It takes tens of millions of dollars to deliver meaningful messages to the contested portion of the electorate. Converting someone who voted for the other party last time is an enormously difficult task. Swing voters in states like Ohio or Florida are typically barraged with 50% or more of a campaign’s budget. Try watching TV in those states the week before an election and you will see how jammed the airwaves are.

Considering how absurd the claims are, it is not surprising that, as BuzzFeed News reports, many employees at Facebook feel like they are the victim. Much of the article also plays into the hysteria being spread, but it also points out that:

those with knowledge of Facebook’s ad system say that there’s a solid case to be made that the disclosed Russian ad spend — and even the reported millions of impressions those ads received — pales in comparison to the billions spent by political groups in the run-up to 2016 on Facebook’s ad platform and the hundreds of millions of impressions that the platform delivers daily on all types of paid and unpaid content. Basically: Facebook’s unprecedented scale, when applied to the Russian ads, renders the scandal’s impact far less consequential than news reports would suggest.

The article also notes the problem mentioned by Penn of curtailing basic freedoms on the internet.  I also discussed recently that concern over spreading “fake news” can result in suppression of legitimate discussion. Buzzfeed wrote:

Sources familiar with recent discussions inside Facebook told BuzzFeed News there’s some concern that the strong reaction to 2016 election meddling and the desire for fast reform could push the company to assume a greater role in determining what is or isn’t legitimate news…

Facebook, too, has long been concerned about assuming any sort of media watchdog role and the company’s objection usually takes the form — as it did last week in an interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — of its well-worn argument that Facebook is a technology company, not a media company. “We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist. We don’t cover the news,” Sandberg told Axios’s Mike Allen.

Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook employee who helped lead the company’s early ad platform, worries that the momentum to correct for what happened during the 2016 election will push Facebook a step too far. “Everyone fears Facebook’s power, and as a result, they’re asking them to assume more power in form of human curation and editorial decision-making,” he said. “I worry that two or three years from now we’re all going to deeply regret we asked for this.”

Freedom can be messy, including people spreading fake news, and even people from Russia posting on the internet. The alternative to freedom is far worse, including the restrictions on expression by Americans on Facebook which we are already experiencing.

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.

Now The Threat Is That Russia Used Pokémon Go

The claims of Russian meddling in the election have been becoming increasingly absurd. With many of the prior claims being shown to be false, there has been a steady progression of new claims and exclusive news report. We learned that Russia spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, which sounds rather trivial to anyone who understands how much larger Clinton’s war chest of over a billion dollars was compared to Russia’s $100,000. Supposedly Russia was treacherous enough to use web sites with puppies. Earlier in the week The Daily Beast exposed a couple of unknown rappers as working for Russia. Now CNN is running an exclusive as to how Russia allegedly used Pokémon Go. Mashable summarized the report:

In one of the most absurd twists yet in the investigation into Russia-aligned election meddling, CNN reports that Kremlin-linked actors may have tried to use the hype around the augmented-reality app to inflame racial divisions.

If you’re having trouble imagining how whimsical Japanese fantasy creatures might connect to deep-seated societal tensions, you’re in good company. The answer isn’t exactly intuitive. Apparently, the Internet Research Agency — the same notorious troll farm behind the election ads Facebook recently disclosed — ran a contest on Tumblr directing players to find Pokémon near sites of alleged police brutality against African Americans, and name them after the victims. Users were then supposed to email the organization proof of having done so for the chance to win Amazon gift cards.

CNN was not able to find evidence of anyone actually following through with these instructions.

Meanwhile, there were reports last year that Putin was going to ban Pokémon Go because of alleged links to the CIA.

Of course to those who are spreading the bogus claim that Clinton lost to Donald Trump because of Russia, evidence is not actually needed. Peter Daou, who is sort of Hillary Clinton’s Steve Bannon, has set a very low bar: “If one mind was changed, if one voter was turned against Clinton, Russian interference altered the outcome.”

Is the country packed with Russian propagandists? To Daou, opposing Clinton just might make you a Russian propagandists as he recently tweeted, “If you spread the idea that Hillary Clinton is a horrible monster, you were a de facto Russian propagandist.” Yes, if you consider Clinton a monster for all the unnecessary wars she has supported, or for her corruption, you are a de facto Russian propagandists. No disagreement with her views is possible other than being a Russian propagandist.

Talk Of Impeachment From The Brookings Institution, A Democratic Congressman, And A Major Democratic Donor

There has been talk of possible impeachment of Donald Trump starting even before he took office, but the topic seems to be coming up more this week, along with reports of a dysfunctional White House. Yesterday the Brookings Institution released a report on the obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Following is from the Executive Summary, raising the question of impeachment but leaving it as premature pending the outcome of Robert Mueller’s investigation:

There are significant questions as to whether President Trump obstructed justice. We do not yet know all the relevant facts, and any final determination must await further investigation, including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But the public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey. There is also a question as to whether President Trump conspired to obstruct justice with senior members of his administration although the public facts regarding conspiracy are less well developed.

Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions, as we detail. In addition, to the extent conduct could be characterized as threatening, intimidating, or corruptly persuading witnesses, that too may provide additional grounds for obstruction charges.

…Special Counsel Mueller will have several options when his investigation is complete. He could refer the case to Congress, most likely by asking the grand jury and the court supervising it to transmit a report to the House Judiciary Committee. That is how the Watergate Special Prosecutor coordinated with Congress after the grand jury returned an indictment against President Nixon’s co-conspirators. Special Counsel Mueller could also obtain an indictment of President Trump and proceed with a prosecution. While the matter is not free from doubt, it is our view that neither the Constitution nor any other federal law grants the president immunity from prosecution. The structure of the Constitution, the fundamental democratic principle that no person is above the law, and past Supreme Court precedent holding that the president is amenable to other forms of legal process all weigh heavily in favor of that conclusion. While there can be debate as to whether a sitting president can be indicted, there is no doubt that a president can face indictment once he is no longer in office. Reserving prosecution for that time, using a sealed indictment or otherwise, is another option for the special counsel.

Congress also has actions that it can take, including continuing or expanding its own investigations, issuing public reports, and referring matters for criminal or other proceedings to the Department of Justice or other executive branch agencies. In addition, there is the matter of impeachment. We describe the articles of impeachment drafted against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, as well as those drafted against Judges Harry Claiborne and Samuel Kent to show that obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime have previously been considered by Congress to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office. Nevertheless, the subject of impeachment on obstruction grounds remains premature pending the outcome of the special counsel’s investigation.

While they are probably right that it is too early to begin impeachment proceedings, one Democrat did write an impeachment resolution. From The Hill:

Green’s articles of impeachment state that Trump “is fueling an alt-right hate machine” that’s “causing immediate injury to American society.”

The Texas lawmaker, who represents a district that covers part of Houston, read aloud his articles on the House floor and stressed that Trump should not have to be convicted of a crime in order to be impeached.In his articles of impeachment, Green cited Trump’s equivocating response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.; attacks on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality; and since-debunked accusations that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower as examples of how Trump has “undermined the integrity of his office” and “brought disrepute on the presidency.”

Another article of impeachment states that Trump engaged in “perfidy” by making the false claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. Trump won the Electoral College and therefore the presidency, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

Green stopped short of forcing the House from taking a vote on the measure, to the relief of Democrats who did not want to have to take a firm position at this time. The Washington Post reports:

A Democratic congressman stopped just short of forcing a House vote on President Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, pulling back under apparent pressure from his own party.

Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) read his impeachment resolution on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, bringing it up under rules that would force a rapid vote. But when, less than an hour later, the House’s presiding officer called the resolution up for action, Green did not appear on the floor to offer it.

Green said to reporters afterward that he had wanted to allow more time for his colleagues to review the resolution before it was voted on, and he suggested that the House floor staff had misled him about the timing of that vote.

While Democrats do not want to vote on impeachment at this time, Tom Steyer, one of the party’s largest donors, is demanding that Democratic candidates pledge to support impeaching Trump:

One of the Democratic Party’s most prominent financial backers is demanding that lawmakers and candidates on the left support removing President Trump from office, putting pressure on Democrats to make Mr. Trump’s ouster a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire California investor who spent more than $91 million supporting Democrats in the 2016 elections, issued the demand to his party in a letter on Wednesday. In his message, Mr. Steyer described Mr. Trump as a “clear and present danger to the republic” and called on Democrats to pledge that they would seek to remove him from office if they take control of Congress next year.

Mr. Steyer — who is considering a run for Senate, perhaps against Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat — cited a range of acts by Mr. Trump to justify impeachment, including the president’s “relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia,” allegations that Mr. Trump has used the presidency to “promote his own business interests” and his “seeming determination to go to war.”

While such a desire to impeach Donald Trump is understandable, I would prefer that donors from the left do more to get Democrats to take a firm stand against neoconserative interventionism and the surveillance state after the Democratic Party nominated a candidate who was firmly behind the Bush/Cheney agenda in 2016.

How Could Hillary Clinton Possibly Win With Twitter And Facebook Both Infiltrated By Putin?

We all know that most people base their votes upon what they see on Twitter along with Facebook ads. As Twitter goes, so goes America.

Of course I am being sarcastic in response to the latest anti-Russia scare to hit the media and be investigated by Congress. Reportedly Twitter was packed with fake news the week before the election, allegedly even including fake news from Russia to attempt to sway the course of the election.

So far we have seen many sensationalist reports of Russian attempts to influence the election, with many quickly falling apart. At this point we really do not know if the release of email from the DNC was from a Russian hack or an inside leak–although nobody questions the accuracy of the information from Wikilieaks which shows how the DNC violated their own rules to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Russians might have attempted to hack voting machines, but even if these reports are accurate, they all indicate that none of the attempts were successful.

Similarly reports of Russia using Twitter may or may not turn out to be true, but even if they are my true view is the same as the reports of Russia spending a rather trivial 100,000 on Facebook ads. What is posted on Facebook and Twitter is not what determines election results. It is questionable how any persuadable voters there are period. Those who are persuadable are faced with far more campaign ads and other efforts from the campaigns themselves (including paid trolls used by a pro-Clinton SuperPAC known to have coordinated with her campaign using legal loopholes), and these actions on Facebook and Twitter are rather trivial in comparison.

Is Clinton really trying to claim that Russian trolls on Twitter were more effective in campaigning for her in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania than her own campaign was?

The real fake news is Hillary Clinton’s attempts to shift the blame for her loss to others. Shattered revealed that Clinton decided within twenty-four hours of losing to blame others such as Russia, as opposed to taking responsibility for her own mistakes. Did Russia send Hillary Clinton a tweet telling her to set up the private server–and then spend the next couple of years lying about it? Did Russia send Hillary Clinton a tweet telling her not to campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan?

Update: Best response to the post on Facebook–“Lord knows it’s hard enough to know what to think when my husband doesn’t tell me. So glad I have Twitter and Facebook to help me when he’s not around and I don’t know what to do!!”