Historian Analyzes The Many Problems With The Russiagate Narrative And Democratic Support For Interventionism

Many partisan Democrats have believed Clinton’s claims that she lost as a consequence of Russian interference in the election, as opposed to her own mistakes, despite the lack of evidence for such claims. Many of those viewing the matter more seriously have expressed skepticism, seeing the current hysteria as reminiscent of claims of WMD in Iraq. Jackson Lears, Professor of History at Rutgers University, has an essay on this at the London Review of Books. He looked at subjects including the lack of evidence that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack, along with how this narrative distracts from the evidence of corruption in the DNC which was revealed in their email. He noted, as I also provided examples of recently, that many of the claims in the media have been quickly shown to be incorrect. He also discussed how the Democratic Party’s fixation on Russiagate has led to them ignoring other issues, including the need to take a stand against the military interventionism advocated by Clinton. While I would recommend reading his full article, here are some excerpts:

American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington…

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical…

Meanwhile, there has been a blizzard of ancillary accusations, including much broader and vaguer charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It remains possible that Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed to investigate these allegations, may turn up some compelling evidence of contacts between Trump’s people and various Russians. It would be surprising if an experienced prosecutor empowered to cast a dragnet came up empty-handed, and the arrests have already begun. But what is striking about them is that the charges have nothing to do with Russian interference in the election. There has been much talk about the possibility that the accused may provide damaging evidence against Trump in exchange for lighter sentences, but this is merely speculation. Paul Manafort, at one point Trump’s campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register his public relations firm as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government and concealing his millions of dollars in fees. But all this occurred before the 2016 campaign. George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his bungling efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump’s people and the Russian government – an opportunity the Trump campaign declined. Mueller’s most recent arrestee, Michael Flynn, the unhinged Islamophobe who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about meeting the Russian ambassador in December – weeks after the election. This is the sort of backchannel diplomacy that routinely occurs during the interim between one administration and the next. It is not a sign of collusion.

So far, after months of ‘bombshells’ that turn out to be duds, there is still no actual evidence for the claim that the Kremlin ordered interference in the American election. Meanwhile serious doubts have surfaced about the technical basis for the hacking claims. Independent observers have argued it is more likely that the emails were leaked from inside, not hacked from outside. On this front, the most persuasive case was made by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former employees of the US intelligence agencies who distinguished themselves in 2003 by debunking Colin Powell’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, hours after Powell had presented his pseudo-evidence at the UN. (There are members of VIPS who dissent from the VIPS report’s conclusions, but their arguments are in turn contested by the authors of the report.) The VIPS findings received no attention in major media outlets, except Fox News – which from the centre-left perspective is worse than no attention at all. Mainstream media have dismissed the VIPS report as a conspiracy theory (apparently the Russian hacking story does not count as one). The crucial issue here and elsewhere is the exclusion from public discussion of any critical perspectives on the orthodox narrative, even the perspectives of people with professional credentials and a solid track record.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment…

Sceptical voices, such as those of the VIPS, have been drowned out by a din of disinformation. Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes – like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections – they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the US was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations. Brazile describes discovering an agreement dated 26 August 2015, which specified (she writes)

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.

Before the primaries had even begun, the supposedly neutral DNC – which had been close to insolvency – had been bought by the Clinton campaign…

Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to have it both ways, playing to jingoist resentment while posing as an opponent of protracted and pointless war. Kriner and Shen conclude that Democrats may want to ‘re-examine their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump’s electoral gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by 15 years of war’. If the insurgent movements within the Democratic Party begin to formulate an intelligent foreign policy critique, a re-examination may finally occur. And the world may come into sharper focus as a place where American power, like American virtue, is limited. For this Democrat, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished. It’s a long shot, but there is something happening out there.

Wikileaks Declared To Be A Media Organization By British Tribunal, Possibly Helping In Defense Against US Government

A U.K. legal tribunal declared last week that Wikileaks is a media organization. From The Guardian:

A British tribunal has recognised Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks as a “media organisation”, a point of contention with the United States, which is seeking to prosecute him and disputes his journalistic credentials.

The issue of whether Assange is a journalist and publisher would almost certainly be one of the main battlegrounds in the event of the US seeking his extradition from the UK.

The definition of WikiLeaks by the information tribunal, which is roughly equivalent to a court, could help Assange’s defence against extradition on press freedom grounds.

The US has been considering prosecution of Assange since 2010 when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of confidential US defence and diplomatic documents. US attorney general Jeff Sessions said in April this year that the arrest of Assange is a priority for the US.

The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, after leaks of emails from the US Democratic party and from Hillary Clinton, described WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”. He added Assange is not covered by the US constitution, which protects journalists.

But the UK’s information tribunal, headed by judge Andrew Bartlett QC, in a summary and ruling published on Thursday on a freedom of information case, says explicitly: “WikiLeaks is a media organisation which publishes and comments upon censored or restricted official materials involving war, surveillance or corruption, which are leaked to it in a variety of different circumstances.”

The comment is made under a heading that says simply: “Facts”.

The 2016 presidential candidates have had mixed views about Wikileaks. While his administration has threatened legal action against Julian Assange, Donald Trump stated that he loved Wikileaks when they were releasing information about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, never a fan of government transparency or accountability, has taken a hard line against Wikileaks and engaged in a typical Clinton smear campaign of misinformation against them.

Establishment Democrats Again Trying To Smear Jill Stein

I have my doubts as to whether the request for material from former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein by the Senate Intelligence Committee will amount to anything, but establishment Democrats cannot contain their glee. Here is the response from one former Clinton aide who was just one of many Clinton supporters to demonstrate their McCarthyism with chants claiming their unproven (and unlikely) assertion that Jill Stein is a Russian agent:

Others responded by pointing out how weak the logic is that being placed at the table as Putin at an event makes one a Russian agent:

Pictures with the tweet show both Hillary and Bill Clinton sitting with Putin.

When it is a political opponent, Clinton supporters typically consider any form of an investigation being evidence of guilt. However, when it comes to Clinton, they conveniently forget the recent investigations which showed that Clinton was guilty of highly unethical behavior.  The State Department Inspector General’s report showed that Hillary Clinton violated rules designed to promote transparency as Secretary of State by exclusively using a private server and failing to turn this email over for archiving as required by law until forced to after she left office. The FBI report revealed that Clinton repeatedly lied to the public and press on multiple points regarding the email scandal, and that that Clinton and her colleagues were  “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Clinton supporters have been trying to smear Stein since the election under the mistaken belief that if Stein wasn’t running they would have picked up her votes. In reality, few who voted for Stein would have voted for a corrupt war monger like Clinton. Even if, which I think is unlikely, it turns out that Stein was a Russian agent, and this was revealed during the campaign, I might have voted differently, but still would not have voted for Clinton.

A spokesperson for Stein provided the following statement:

Responding to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence request for documents pertaining to interference in the 2016 election, former Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein said she is cooperating by sharing all communications relevant to the committee’s mission. “We take seriously the issue of potential interference in our elections, as demonstrated by our continuing efforts to investigate the integrity of the 2016 election and examine our voting machines that are widely known to be vulnerable, but which still have not been examined for evidence of interference. To restore trust in our elections and democracy itself, we must safeguard our elections from all potential sources of interference, whether by foreign state actors or domestic political partisans, criminal networks, lone wolves, or private corporations – including those who control voting software.

Our campaign has observed the highest standards of transparency and integrity in our interactions with foreign nationals as well as Americans. Our communications with Russian individuals regarding an invitation to speak on international relations at the RT 10th anniversary media conference will confirm what we stated publicly at that time and since: that we did not accept any payment or even reimbursement for the trip, and that we made the trip with the goal of reaching an international audience and Russian officials with a message of Middle East peace, diplomacy, and cooperation against the urgent threat of climate change, consistent with long-standing Green principles and policies.

We strongly support legitimate inquiry into any illegal activity in our elections – including quid pro quo deals, money laundering, corruption and violation of campaign finance laws. At the same time, we caution against the politicization, sensationalism and collapse of journalistic standards that has plagued media coverage of the investigation. In the current climate of attacks on our civil liberties, with the emergence of censorship in social media and the press, criminalization of protest, militarization of police and massive expansion of the surveillance state, we must guard against the potential for these investigations to be used to intimidate and silence principled opposition to the political establishment.

Stein said that she would release a more comprehensive statement about the investigation in the near future.

Jill Stein was also interviewed by The Intercept:

Stein clearly resents the Senate’s attention vis-à-vis  electoral interference and foreign meddling: “This smacks of the dangerous underbelly of these investigations. The extent to which they exercise overreach, politicizing, and sensationalism is a danger to democracy, especially in the current climate of all-out war on our First Amendment rights. This is not a time to be attacking the rights of political speech and political association.”

…It’s safe to assume the Intelligence Committee is interested in anything pertaining to Stein’s now-infamous attendance of an RT gala in Moscow, at which she was seated and photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Stein told The Intercept that as she has routinely appeared on RT and expects to hand over communications related to booking those TV segments and other “administrative” messages between her campaign and the Russian network, as well as “logistical” messages about the Moscow event. Stein also noted that before her Moscow visit, she had “requested to speak with either Putin or [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, or someone in the Russian government, to be able to discuss our policies, because I was there to advance our agenda for peace and climate action and diplomacy and nuclear weapon abolition.”

Stein says this request was not granted. Stein also maintains that she declined to let RT pay for any portion of her trip to Moscow and further denies requesting or receiving any other assistance, monetary or otherwise, from RT, the Russian government, WikiLeaks, or the Trump campaign, adding that any dialogue or cooperation with Trump “would have been quite contrary to our values.”

When asked why she had attended the gala and sought an audience with Putin, she told The Intercept that “we sought contact with every powerful world leader we had access to,” and that the Russian government was of particular interest because of its involvement in the Syrian civil war. “We don’t have any reason to suspect that there was any backdoor communication,” Stein said. “We were very much focused on the substantive issues of the elections, and we avoid like the plague manipulations and machinations in order to make things happen behind the scenes.”

 Stein also described the dinner, along with how minimal her contact was, in this interview with Jeremy Scahill.

Retraction Of False Russiagate Bombshell From CNN Yesterday Was Just One In A Long List Of Retracted Claims By Media

Yesterday we had yet another example of a story being promoted as a bombshell revelation about Trump and Russiagate, only to be retracted soon afterwards. CNN ran a story claiming that Donald Trump received a web address leading to Wikileaks documents on September 4, 2016 and later corrected the date to September 14. This is quite significant as the information was made public by Wikileaks by the time of this email on the fourteenth. Instead of showing collusion with the Trump campaign receiving secret information from Wikileaks as CNN’s story suggested, all they received was a web address to information which had already been released to the public. CBS and MSNBC were making the same claims of this being evidence of collusion until the story was retracted.

What is remarkable about this is that this is just one in a long string of similar events which have fueled this story. Three CNN reporters had already resigned in June over an incorrect Russiagate story.  Last week I noted that ABC News had retracted a story claiming that Michael Flynn had made contact with Russia during the campaign when it actually occurred after Trump had elected. (This, along Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to achieve a secret backdoor channel to Russia in December, also contradict claims of collusion during the election as there would be no need for such backdoor communications by either Flynn or Kushner if they had been colluding during the campaign.)

In November there was the bombshell that Russia had sent money to its embassies marked, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather than evidence of rigging the US election, it turned out that this money was to fund voting in the Russian election by Russian citizens living abroad.

The claim that seventeen intelligence agreed that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC continues to be cited by Democratic partisans long after it was withdrawn, and despite the lack of any evidence being presented by those in the intelligence community who believe this. Pro-Clinton conspiracy theories are increasingly basing their arguments on claims of secret intelligence which nobody can verify.

Other questionable stories include the Russian web site which, instead of trying to influence the election, contained pictures of puppies. The Congressional testimony showed how ridiculous the entire argument was that Russia influenced the election by using Facebook and Twitter.  It was revealed 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. 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. The impact on Twitter was not any more significant. The largest of the alleged Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer.

There have been many other false claims which have been retracted, including the hacking of the US electrical grid and even of our election systems. The Intercept has provided just a small sample:

  • Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
  • An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
  • WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
  • A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
  • RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
  • Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
  • Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
  • Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

Many of the Russiagate claims are are looking no more valid than the claims of WMD in Iraq which precipitated that war, or the lies which the United States has used to become in wars elsewhere. This is very risky when applied to a nuclear power–where neoconservatives have also desire to seek regime change.

While Donald Trump very likely has had illegal financial dealings with Russia, and the campaign did seek to obtain information on Clinton from Russia, there is no evidence either of actions by Russia which altered the election result, or of active collusion during the campaign. Even if such evidence should arise in the future, it is clear that Democrats were making such claims without evidence at the time. As was revealed 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. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

I suspect that Clinton’s claims that Russia was responsible for her loss continue to receive credibility from much of the media because many are unwilling to believe that Donald Trump could have beaten Hillary Clinton, despite all the evidence that Clinton was an extraordinarily weak and unpopular candidate long before the election. Their personal biases might have led to these repeated examples of journalistic carelessness in which they ran with stories which seemed to confirm their suspicions without doing sufficient fact checking. Retracted stories with false information continue to be cited by Democratic partisans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intelligence Community Inspector General Under Obama Discussed Blowback From Clinton For His Investigation Of Classified Information Sent Over Her Private Email Server

Former Intelligence Community Inspector General under Barack Obama, General Charles McCullough III, discussed the retaliation from the Clinton campaign for investigating the presence of classified information in email sent with Hillary Clinton’s private email server. As I posted in January 2016, General McCullough sent a letter to leaders on congressional intelligence committees indicating that the email on Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified information, leading to further investigation.

The State Department Inspector General position was left vacant while Clinton was Secretary of State. After the post was filled, the State Department Inspector General report did indicate that Clinton had acted in violation of the law.

McCullough was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. While I hate to use Fox as a source, they are the network which carried the interview and therefore have the report. From their report of the interview:

A government watchdog who played a central role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the Obama administration told Fox News that he, his family and his staffers faced an intense backlash at the time from Clinton allies – and that the campaign even put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” former Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III said.

The Obama appointee discussed his role in the Clinton email probe for the first time on television, during an exclusive interview with Fox News aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” McCullough – who came to the inspector general position with more than two decades of experience at the FBI, Treasury and intelligence community – shed light on how quickly the probe was politicized and his office was marginalized by Democrats.

In January 2016, after McCullough told the Republican leadership on the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that emails beyond the “Top Secret” level passed through the former secretary of state’s unsecured personal server, the backlash intensified.

“All of a sudden I became a shill of the right,” McCullough recalled. “And I was told by members of Congress, ‘Be careful. You’re losing your credibility. You need to be careful. There are people out to get you.’”

But the former inspector general, with responsibility for the 17 intelligence agencies, said the executive who recommended him to the Obama administration for the job – then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper – was also disturbed by the independent Clinton email findings.

“[Clapper] said, ‘This is extremely reckless.’ And he mentioned something about — the campaign … will have heartburn about that,” McCullough said…

As one of the few people who viewed the 22 top secret Clinton emails deemed too classified to release under any circumstances, the former IG said, “There was a very good reason to withhold those emails … there would have been harm to national security.” McCullough went further, telling Fox News that “sources and methods, lives and operations” could be put at risk.

Some of those email exchanges contained Special Access Program (SAP) information characterized by intel experts as “above top secret.”

WikiLeaks documents show the campaign was formulating talking points as the review of 30,000 Clinton emails was ongoing.

The campaign team wrote in August 2015 that “Clinton only used her account for unclassified email. When information is reviewed for public release, it is common for information previously unclassified to be upgraded to classified.”

McCullough was critical of the campaign’s response, as the classified review had barely begun. “There was an effort … certainly on the part of the campaign, to mislead people into thinking that there was nothing to see here,” McCullough said.

McCullough discussed opposition from the Clinton campaign, Congressional Democrats, and some at the State Department for his desire to investigate Clinton’s actions. This included threats that he would be fired:

“It was told in no uncertain terms, by a source directly from the campaign, that we would be the first two to be fired — with [Clinton’s] administration. That that was definitely going to happen,” he said.

McCullough said he was just trying to do his job, which requires independence. “I was, in this context, a whistleblower. I was explaining to Congress — I was doing exactly what they had expected me to do. Exactly what I promised them I would do during my confirmation hearing,” he said. “… This was a political matter, and all of a sudden I was the enemy.”

…Asked what would have happened to him if he had done such a thing, McCullough said: “I’d be sitting in Leavenworth right now.”

James Comey’s report showed that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” While he declined to recommend prosecution, his report also demonstrated that many of Clinton’s public statements regarding the email scandal were false. Comey’s letter to Congress late in the campaign is on the long list of Clinton’s excuses for losing to Donald Trump. McCullough noted in the interview that the FBI’s involvement might have been avoided if Clinton had been more cooperative in the investigation:

Speaking about the case more than a year after the FBI probe concluded, McCullough in his interview also addressed the possibility that a more cooperative State Department and Clinton campaign might have precluded the FBI’s involvement from the start.

“Had they come in with the server willingly, without having us to refer this to the bureau … maybe we could have worked with the State Department,” he said.

Of course there would also have not been an FBI investigation if Clinton had not violated the law with her use of the private server. In addition, the scandal might not have repeatedly made news if Clinton had been more honest, as opposed to being constantly exposed for lying.

Democratic Insiders See Bernie Sanders As Top Contender For 2020 Nomination

It is rather ridiculous to try to predict the 2020 nominee this far in advance, but encouraging to see the rankings from The Hill. In an article entitled How Dem insiders rank the 2020 contenders, Bernie Sanders is listed first:

1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Advisers to the senator are telegraphing that Sanders is eyeing a 2020 run — and his network is already ready to go, with supporters convinced that he was the candidate who would have beaten President Trump in 2016.

“His people have never gone away,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And he has a loyal core following out there that will be with him come hell or high water.”

Also working in Sanders’s favor, Bannon said, is the leftward shift of the Democratic Party.

“The Sanders wing is becoming the dominant wing of the party,” he said.

Still, strategists note that Sanders would be 79 in 2020, which could work against him at a time when Democrats are hungry for change.

Following Sanders are: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, and Deval Patrick. As is typical in such horse race coverage from the media, there is virtually nothing said about the comparative views or records of the candidates.

It is hopeful that the Sanders wing is referred to the dominant wing of the party. This is also not an isolated view. For example, last July I had a post noting that Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner. Of course all available evidence does suggest that Sanders would have won in the general election. He did ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Trump, he had far more support among independents and even Republican voters than Clinton had, he was stronger in the rust belt than Clinton, he had no email scandal, and had nothing to fear from leaks of DNC email by Wikileaks. If Clinton supporters claim that Clinton lost due to Comey’s letter or Wikileaks, they should admit that the candidate who would not have been affected by either would have had a better chance to win.

Of course Clinton supporters are not that rational–and some are still not giving up. One of the more ridiculous articles posted recently is from Salon entitled  Here’s your leftover turkey: The case for Hillary Clinton 2020. Needless to say, the case is not very strong, unless you consider being a war monger who came close to Donald Trump, but still lost, to be  points in her favor.

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.

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.

Trump Pollster Says Bernie Would Have Won

The Hill reports, Trump pollster: Sanders would have won general election:

The pollster for President Trump’s campaign says that he believes Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would have defeated Trump in the general election had he secured the Democratic nomination.

Tony Fabrizio said at a Harvard University Institute of Politics event Monday that Sanders could have prevailed where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not.

“There’s no question that if it had been anybody other than Clinton or anybody other than Trump, that race would not have been as close as it was either way,” Fabrizio said. “It would not have been.”

When asked what would happen during a Sanders-Trump match-up, Fabrizio replied, “I think Sanders beats Trump.”

“I think Sanders would have had the ability to reach a lot of the less than college-educated, low-income white voters,” he added.

The polls were quite clear that Sanders had the support of many people who do not normally vote Democratic. When Sanders was denied the nomination, they voted for Trump over Clinton. Sanders often ran around ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Trump before the nomination. As we saw in the primaries, Sanders had greater support in key states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Sanders would have a far stronger candidate in a change election, in which Clinton was the absolute worst candidate to run.

Sanders was not involved in a major scandal and would not have been hurt by either a letter from James Comey or a leak of email by Wikileaks. After all, If Clinton supporters say that the Comey letter and Wikileaks were responsible for Clinton losing, that also suggests that a candidate not vulnerable to such actions would stand have stood a much better chance of winning.