Daily Archives: February 16, 2018

The Trump Black(mail) House

By Michael Bryan

If Donald Trump is not someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia, he sure acts remarkably like someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia.

We know that Russia is a notoriously good blackmailer: their kompromat systems are finely tuned and effective. To successfully blackmail people two things are needed; a reason to blackmail someone (something you want them to do) and information with which to blackmail them (usually a financial or sexual impropriety).

Consider the case of Russia vis-a-vis Donald Trump — as President, Trump has many things Russia would want: control of the American foreign policy and national security apparatus chief among them. Russia is rumored to have information of a sexually compromising nature about Trump (see the Steele Dossier re the so-called “pee pee tape”), but much more damaging, I think, they are in a position to have a great deal of compromising financial information on Trump. The Trumps have admitted that they have gotten a great deal of funding for their projects from Russia over the past decade. Trump is notoriously lax about due diligence in his foreign deals and the Russians and others have likely used the Trump organization to launder money on a massive scale. They also are very likely to have access to financial statements and tax records that could be embarrassing to Trump by virtue of their influence over Trump partners in the former Soviet bloc.

So, Russia clearly has motive and means to blackmail Trump. Is there evidence in Trump’s behavior that he is actively being compromised by blackmail?

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First shoe to drop: Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm

Remember all the times that Donald Trump dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a “Democratic hoax,” Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline (June 1, 2017), a claim frequently repeated by our Trump trolls and Putin’s troll farm in comments at this blog? This premise has been repudiated today.

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced a “speaking” indictment of 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia for “Information warfare against the United States of America” in social media,
part of a larger interference operation known as “Project Lakhta” which began in 2013. Read the Internet Research Agency, LLC Indictment (.pdf).

This specific indictment does not address the Russian hacking of the DNC or John Podesta. This specific indictment also does not address any coordination or cooperation by the Trump Campaign with the Russian interference in the U.S. election, beyond unnamed local grassroots Trump campaign activists referenced in this indictment as “unwitting Americans.”

This specific indictment also does not call into question the role that America’s social media platforms, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, etc., may have played in the Russian attack.

Today’s indictment was just the first shoe of several more shoes to drop in the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

The Washington Post reports, Russian troll farm, 13 suspects indicted for interference in U.S. election:

The Justice Department’s special counsel announced the indictment Friday of a notorious Russian troll farm — charging 13 individuals with an audacious scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, was named in the indictment as the hub of an ambitious effort to trick Americans into following Russian-fed propaganda that pushed U.S. voters toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and away from Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The indictment charges that some of the Russian suspects interacted with Americans associated with the Trump campaign, but those associates did not realize they were being manipulated.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein called the charges “a reminder that people are not always who they appear on the Internet. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote social discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”

[T]he 37-page indictment provides the most detailed description from the U.S. government of Russian interference in the election.

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The most incompetent and unethical administraton in recent memory

While much of the media’s attention on the Rob Porter scandal has focused on his alleged wife-beating and how Donald Trump was slow to condemn abuse of women, the “big picture” scandal here is Rob Porter’s security clearance.

Rob Porter handled highly sensitive, classified materials as part of his day-to-day duties, despite the fact that he did not — and could not get — a permanent security clearance after an FBI review on his background. The White House has repeatedly lied about Rob Porter. Here’s a timeline: “The White House timeline for how the Rob Porter scandal unfolded — including what they knew and when they knew — has been thoroughly debunked by testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray and extensive CNN reporting.” Despite being a national security risk, Porter was up for promotion despite abuse allegations.

One of Donald Trump’s central arguments against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election was that Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information not only disqualified her for the presidency but was grounds for her imprisonment. “Lock her up!”

It turns out that Rob Porter is just the tip of the iceberg in this incompetent White House which permits the mishandling of classified information and jeopardizes our national security every day.  NBC News reports, Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances:

More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.

Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.

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Medicare is Not an “Entitlement.” It’s an “Earned Benefit.”

Social Security and Medicare

The GOP likes to portray Social Security and Medicare as undeserved handouts.

As I read about the current GOP attacks on Social Security and Medicare, they are referred to as “entitlements.” This clever word choice by Republicans suggests that the programs are welfare — a free handout to undeserving, lazy people.

What you call something makes a big difference. It’s a way to frame the discussion so that it leads to a pre-determined outcome.

Social Security and Medicare are “earned benefits.” I have paid into both programs every day of my working life. Anybody who has made it to age 65 has paid taxes to support both programs. I have worked for 50 years and resent the notion that these programs are freebies or giveaways.

Attack on Social Security

Social Security was enacted in 1935, when the lifetime savings of millions of people had been wiped out. It supports 59 million Americans over age 66. Social security is not going broke — it is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.

Well into the 1950s, Republicans tried to repeal Social Security. They continue to attack this earned benefit in Trump’s 2018 budget proposal by cutting Social Security by $72 billion. This includes explicit cuts to Supplemental Security Income programs and Social Security Disability Insurance programs, both managed by the Social Security Administration.
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Special Counsel interviews Stephen Bannon, working on a plea deal with Rick Gates

After being fired by the White House and losing his “wingnut welfare” from his enablers Robert and Rebekah Mercer, as well as his white nationalist propaganda platform at Breitbart News, it appears that Stephen Bannon may have decided to take his revenge on his boy Donald Trump.

Bannon reportedly is cooperating by fully answering all of the Special Counsel’s questions in more than 20 hours of interviews this past week, while he is stonewalling Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee so that Nunes cannot provide his testimony to the Trump White House.

Well played, sir. “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” likely in a tell-all book.

NBC News reports that Steve Bannon met with Mueller multiple times over the past week:

Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.

Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as other issues that have arisen around the probe.

Bannon left his job as a senior White House adviser in August and returned to a leadership role at Breitbart, the right-wing news site based out of Washington. But he fell out of favor with the site’s financial backers, the Mercer family, after criticizing the president and his family in “Fire and Fury,” a book about the Trump administration published earlier this year by author Michael Wolff.

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