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‚Äôt Buy the Presidency for $100,000–Russia didn‚Äôt 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‚Äôs influence in the 2016 election have seized on a handful of¬†Facebook¬†ads‚ÄĒas though there weren‚Äôt also three 90-minute debates, two televised party conventions, and¬†$2.4 billion¬†spent on last year‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúFrom Russia, With Hate‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒexcept 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‚Äôs ad system say that there‚Äôs a solid case to be made that the disclosed Russian ad spend ‚ÄĒ and even the reported millions of impressions those ads received ‚ÄĒ pales in comparison to the¬†billions spent by political groups¬†in the run-up to 2016 on Facebook‚Äôs ad platform and the hundreds of millions of impressions that the platform delivers daily on all types of paid and unpaid content. Basically: Facebook‚Äôs unprecedented scale, when applied to the Russian ads, renders the scandal‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt legitimate news…

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

Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook employee who helped lead the company‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ backed by documents ‚ÄĒ indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President¬†Bill Clinton‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúwith the consent of higher level officials‚ÄĚ in Russia who ‚Äúshared the proceeds‚ÄĚ 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¬†Pok√©mon 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 ‚ÄĒ¬†the same notorious troll farm behind the election ads Facebook recently disclosed ‚ÄĒ¬†ran a contest on Tumblr directing players to find Pok√©mon 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.‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúperfidy‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúclear and present danger to the republic‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄĒ who is considering a run for Senate, perhaps against Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat ‚ÄĒ cited a range of acts by Mr. Trump to justify impeachment, including the president‚Äôs ‚Äúrelationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia,‚ÄĚ allegations that Mr. Trump has used the presidency to ‚Äúpromote his own business interests‚ÄĚ and his ‚Äúseeming determination to go to war.‚ÄĚ

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!!”

The Anti-Russia Hysteria Continues To Defy All Logic

Clinton apologists and other pro-war Democrats are excited today by the report from the Daily Beast that Russians used Facebook to promote pro-Trump rallies in seventeen cities. Do they really believe that these rallies tipped the election results? These were trivial compared to the crowds turning out for official pro-Trump rallies. What hurt Clinton was not these allegedly Russian-organized rallies, but the fact that so few people had any interest to turn out to see her.

It is certainly possible that Russia did violate US elections laws, but it is probably impossible in the internet age to enforce laws intended to prevent foreigners to spend money to promote a candidate in our elections. It does make sense that Russia would want to affect the election. They had a lot at stake. One candidate was a neocon who associated with people who desired regime change in Russia, and who has a long history of supporting a return to a Cold War atmosphere at least. The other candidate appeared far more willing to normalize relations between the United States and Russia. (Unfortunately, while not a neocon, Trump shows his own lack of respect for peace and international law, such as with his speech to the United Nations on North Korea, although it did include mixed messages.)

The $100,000 which Russia is believed to have spent on influencing the election is trivial, especially when compared to the amounts spent by other groups. This is also trivial compared to the actions by the United States to influence the elections in other countries.

It is rather hypocritical Hillary Clinton to deny the legitimacy of the general election, where there is far less evidence of any rigging compared to the Democratic primary system. The Democrats have used rules since 1972 to limit the possible choices in their primaries, and greatly increased their interference with the process to guarantee their desired outcome in 2016. The nomination of a candidate who required such a degree of unfair help to win the nomination is a far more important reason for Clinton’s loss than any meddling by Russia. Clinton’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election also contradicts her¬†attacks on Donald Trump, calling any refusal on his part to accept the election results “a direct threat to our democracy.”

The concentration by Clinton apologists on Russian spending on Facebook ads and trolls also raises the question as to why they were so much more effective than the ads and trolls (both paid and volunteer) used by the Clinton campaign. Facebook tends to create a number of echo chambers, but it is questionable how much impact it has on changing people’s minds.

As¬†Shattered¬†revealed,¬†Hillary Clinton¬†latched onto the argument that others such as Russia were responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to shift the blame elsewhere. With the claims that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack¬†coming under increased question, they apparently see this as their strongest remaining case, regardless of how irrational this argument is. As I discussed yesterday, Peter Daou tried to lend credence to the argument with the absurd claim that, “If one mind was changed, if one voter was turned against Clinton, Russian interference altered the outcome.‚ÄĚ

While the extent of Russian interference in the election remains under investigation, at this point there is zero evidence that Russia had any effect on the outcome. Peter Daou’s standard of one vote being affected is obviously absurd. Regardless of whether the evidence ultimately shows that Russia had an effect, there is no question that Clinton and her allies started making this claim with zero evidence in order to shift the blame for her loss. Unfortunately this has significance far beyond the fate of a failed presidential candidate. The greatest fear in seeing Clinton elected was that her election would lead to increased warfare, including a major deterioration in US-Russian relations. The Queen of Chaos threatens to bring this about even after losing.

Gift Shop At Trump Towers Has KKK White Hoods And Russian Flags For Sale

Many people visiting Trump Tower would be interested in buying souvenirs related to the 45th (and all time worst) president. Of course the official merchandise might not be what they are looking for, so some pranksters slipped in additional products which will give tourists a better idea of what Trump is about. Gothamist reports:

On Monday afternoon, two NYC-based artists secretly slipped some items inside the merchandising outpost of the Trump Tower’s lower lobby. Among them: A Trump-emblazoned KKK hood “for fine people,” sealed packages of pee-proof rubber sheets, and a Russian flag. In the front of the store, a postcard display featured the 45th President of the United States, Vladimir Putin, along with cards paying tribute to First Lady Ivanka Trump, and the flap of flesh near the president’s throat area, known as a¬†Wattle.

“We thought the tourists coming in to buy some stuff, especially people from other countries, should get the whole story of who the president is, because the items in the Trump store don’t accurately reflect the person,” one of the two artists, who asked that we not reveal his name, told Gothamist…

Asked if he was concerned that the current administration might be too absurd to satirize, our underground source admitted that was a possibility. “My partner was in the back putting in some of the items and he said to someone, ‘Oh did you see this?’ and they didn’t even bat an eye.”

Neither did the people who work in the store, at least for a little while. As of Tuesday morning, the Putin/Ivanka/Wattle postcards were still on display‚ÄĒthough the shopkeeper did notice when we attempted to buy one of the cards, and quickly ordered us out of the store while calling security. Upon returning an hour later, all of the items appeared to be gone.

Pictures of additional items can be seen at the link above.

In related but disappointing news, Reuters reports that sales of Confederate flags have surged since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

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.

T.A. Frank Wants Hillary Clinton To Go Quietly Into The Night

There is considerable political polarization in this country, but there is one thing which many on the left and right can agree on–it is time for the Clinton’s to go away. Since running one of the most mismanaged political campaigns in history, burdened by an extraordinarily terrible candidate (herself), and losing to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has been spending her time an an excuse tour to blame everyone except herself for her loss.

Clinton’s apology tour is harmful for at least three reasons. It leaves Democratic partisans in denial as to why they really lost, preventing necessary reforms in the party, has Democrats defending many of Clinton’s disastrous policies out of party loyalty, and inflames anti-Russian hysteria.

T.A. Frank asks the key question: Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Some excerpts:

There‚Äôs a fine line‚ÄĒor maybe not even so fine a line‚ÄĒbetween boosting morale and monopolizing the spotlight. One reason¬†Bill Clinton¬†was able to make a name for himself decades ago was that previous candidates had the grace to get out of the way.¬†Jimmy Carter¬†and¬†Walter Mondale¬†and¬†Michael Dukakis¬†weren‚Äôt trying to place themselves at center stage during the campaign of 1992. The Clintons, by contrast, kept sticking around. When it comes to power, and a few other things, they can‚Äôt control their urges. As a friend of mine recently wrote to me in an e-mail, ‚ÄúThey¬†both¬†had to be president?‚ÄĚ

Even the name of Clinton‚Äôs PAC has a presumptuous ring to it. When someone has driven a bus off the road and hurled passengers out of their seats, it‚Äôs a bad time for the driver to stagger back to the wheel and call out ‚ÄúOnward together!‚ÄĚ Onward, fine. Together, maybe not.

All of this would be easier to take if Hillary were on a crusade for a distinctive cause, in the manner of¬†Bernie Sanders¬†or¬†Pat Buchanan¬†or¬†Jesse Jackson¬†or¬†Ross Perot.¬†But when she offers her take on the world, she speaks in clich√©s and vague generalities like ‚Äúprogress‚ÄĚ versus ‚Äúturning back the clock.‚ÄĚ Such teleological smugness (to which¬†Barack Obama¬†was likewise prone) doesn‚Äôt just attract the ire of conservatives; liberals can get miffed, too. Is ‚Äúprogress‚ÄĚ on the side of expanding NATO or the opposite? Is it on the side of greater National Security Agency surveillance or of less? Is it in favor of immigration amnesty or high-tech border security? We all want to move¬†forward,¬†but maybe we‚Äôre not all facing Hillary‚Äôs way.

Even without a clear cause to illuminate them, Hillary‚Äôs beliefs could have been sharpened a lot just by explaining what, in hindsight, she felt Bill got right or wrong in his presidency. But she never offered up such a critique, nor, oddly, did anyone really press her to do so. Throwing open our markets to China as much as we did‚ÄĒthat looked wiser back then. So did deregulating the financial industry. So did pushing for three-strikes laws. So did the bailout of Mexico. So did focusing on deficit reduction. So did high levels of immigration. So did humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia. So did welfare reform. Bill‚Äôs calls, like all big calls, were controversial, but they were far more justifiable in light of the data we had at the time. But what about with the data we have now?

Negotiating a different landscape requires the Democratic Party to return to some basic questions. Times have changed. America is no longer a lone hyperpower triumphing amid squabbles about same-sex marriage. We’re an overstretched empire fighting about fundamental questions of economy and national identity. The Clintons see that, sort of, but they’re stuck in time. Worse, their network, which is vast and powerful and heavily dependent on them, is stuck in time, too. Precisely when those on the left ought to be negotiating today’s fault lines and creating new coalitions, Democrats are getting dragged back into last year’s fights and letting personal loyalties drown out thoughts about core principles. The indefatigability of the Clintons isn’t just a nuisance but a hindrance.

We can‚Äôt expect them to accept this, of course. Psychologist¬†Martin Seligman,¬†author of¬†Learned Optimism,¬†has famously observed that optimists tend to do better in life but exhibit more delusion. They tend to attribute failure to changing external factors rather than enduring internal qualities, blaming outside causes, not themselves. Hillary‚ÄĒwho has been pinning her defeat on Comey and¬†Vladimir Putin¬†and the Democratic National Committee and Wikileaks and¬†‚Äúa thousand Russian agents‚Ä̬†and high expectations and the press and sexism and voter suppression and, for all I know, static cling‚ÄĒis a major optimist. That‚Äôs great for persistence and mental well-being. She‚Äôs ready to keep driving the bus. But it‚Äôs not so great for knowing when to quit. That‚Äôs where the passengers come in.

The Clintons were already too conservative for the era in which Bill was elected. By 2016, with the Republican Party being taken over by Trumpism, Hillary Clinton had become ideologically the conventional Republican candidate, supporting the neoconservative views of the Bush era. Hillary Clinton is totally out of place in the 21st century–too conservative for liberals who back principle over party but, having the Clinton name, will never be accepted by Republicans either.

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‚Äôs¬†understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying ‚Äúraw‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúto undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.‚ÄĚ

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

The NSA has now learned, however, that Russian government hackers, part of a team with a ‚Äúcyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄėResists‚Äô 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.