Tag Archives: National Security

The conservative media entertainment complex spoils for a constitutional crisis

I have previously explained how the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump administration are amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians. The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda.

There has been a coordinated effort between our Twitter-troll-in-chief and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and GOPropaganda network FAUX News (aka Trump TV) in recent weeks to fabricate a fantastical alternate universe reality in which “President Hillary Clinton” colluded with the Russians and she and James Comey and Robert Mueller all must be prosecuted — for something. This is best exemplified by Trump’s Minister of GOPropganda at Trump TV, Sean Hannity, and Trump’s close friend “judge”Jeanine Pirro. See, The Fox News-Murdoch effect: Mueller must resign! Or be fired!, and The GOP strategy on the Russia scandal: ‘No puppet. You’re the puppet.’

While most observers argue this is an attempt to distract, divert and to mislead the public from the Russia investigation (it is), Greg Sargent explains that it is much more nefarious than this. Trump and his allies are laying the groundwork for a Saturday Night Massacre:

Let’s be clear on what’s happening in our politics right now. President Trump and his media allies are currently creating a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt — with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.

We often hear that Trump and his allies are trying to “distract” from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s intensifying investigation. That’s true, but this characterization inadequately casts this in terms ordinarily applied to conventional politics. Instead, Trump’s trafficking in this stuff should be seen as another sign of his fundamental unfitness to serve as president. Similar efforts by his media allies [e.g., Stepehen Bannon at Breitbart] should be labeled as a deliberate effort to goad Trump into sliding into full-blown authoritarianism, and to provide the air cover for him if he does do so.

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Manafort indictment leads to Tony Podesta stepping down from the Podesta Group

Hours after former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were indicted on several counts on Monday, Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta announced that he is stepping down from his firm, the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta is stepping down from his lobbying firm, after scrutiny from Mueller investigation:

That’s no coincidence. According to a report last week by Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley of NBC News, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Manafort’s foreign work before the campaign implicated Podesta’s own foreign work.

Specifically, both Podesta’s and Manafort’s firms represented a Ukrainian nonprofit group — the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine — between 2012 and 2014. This group was attempting to improve the image of the Ukrainian regime at the time, which was pro-Russian and under scrutiny for its treatment of their domestic opposition.

The indictment of Manafort and Gates does not mention the Podesta Group by name, but according to a new report by NBC News it is “Company B” here:

A report from CNN earlier this year described how the Podesta Group repeatedly contacted the State Department about Ukraine’s 2012 election, attempting to put a positive spin on the regime’s handling of the elections. However, and crucially, they didn’t disclose the full extent of their work in federal lobbying filings until earlier this year — and per NBC, that failure to disclose has caught Mueller’s attention. (A Podesta group spokesperson emailed me last week to insist that all appropriate legal disclosures were made.)

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Trump campaign adviser pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian dangles of Clinton emails

Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian to Discuss ‘Dirt’ on Clinton:

A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence that the Trump campaign was aware that the Russian government was trying to help Mr. Trump and that the campaign was eager to accept that help.

“They have dirt on her,” the professor told Mr. Papadopoulos, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”

Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested at Washington Dulles Airport on July 27 and has since been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, records show. Mr. Papadopoulos’s conversation in April raises more questions about a subsequent meeting in June at Trump Tower, where Mr. Trump’s eldest son and senior advisers met with Russians who were similarly promising damaging information on Mrs. Clinton.

The documents released on Monday said that several senior campaign officials knew about some of Mr. Papadopoulos’s interactions with the Russians. The documents do not say whether he mentioned the Clinton emails to anyone.

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Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are first indictments in Special Counsel probe (updated)

CNN posted a cryptic report on Friday that Robert Mueller’s grand jury had issued its first sealed indictment(s), and that an arrest could come as early as Monday, or not. Not much more than this to the reporting.

This touched off a weekend of wild media speculation trying to confirm the CNN report, who had been indicted, and what are the charges.

Monday has arrived, and the New York Times reports that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, and his former business associate Rick Gates, were told to surrender to the FBI on Monday. Manafort has reported to the FBI this morning. Paul Manafort, Who Once Ran Trump Campaign, Surrenders to F.B.I.:

Paul Manafort surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning, after a person close to the case said the first charges were filed in a special counsel investigation.

The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office. Also charged was Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said.

Mr. Manafort walked into the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington at about 8:15 a.m. with his lawyer.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

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First emoluments clause case gets a hearing in court

Our Twitter-troll-in-chief successfully manufactured a grand distraction of the media this past week by engaging in outrageus behavior with his “Gold Star family” scandal to stop them from reporting on subjects he does not want them to cover.

A subject the media failed to cover this past week while distracted by bright shiny objects was the first court hearing in one of the first emoluments clause cases filed against Donald Trump for his profiting off of his position as president.

Dahlia Lithwick reports, Would $1 Million in Hot Dogs Violate the Emoluments Clause?

In a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, lawyers for the Department of Justice tried to persuade Federal District Judge George B. Daniels to toss the civil lawsuit accusing the president of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign money while in office. Perhaps the high point of the morning came when a Trump lawyer conceded that if the president were to accept $1 million in hot dogs purchased from an imaginary Trump hot dog business as a gift to sign a foreign treaty, he would probably run afoul of the most obscure constitutional provision you’ve never heard of. Metaphor, meet the president of the United States.

You may recall that back in November everyone was casting about trying to find a name for the phenomenon wherein a presidential candidate who promises to release his tax returns if elected and declines to do so, then promises to divest himself of his foreign business interests from which he would profit as president and fails to do so, and then stands next to a tower of empty folders and tells us ethics rules don’t apply to the White House and he doesn’t care if you’re mad about that. You may also recall that this was around the time the word emoluments became something other than that stuff you use to keep your skin smooth and supple.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause can be found in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, and it bars anyone holding an “office” from accepting presents or emoluments from “any King, Prince or Foreign State” without “the consent of Congress.” (The Constitution actually has three separate emoluments clauses, but only the foreign and domestic clauses came up in oral arguments on Wednesday.) In the simplest possible terms, the Emoluments Clause prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. Here’s the sticky bit: We don’t have a lot of doctrine in this area because it’s never been litigated, chiefly because most presidents haven’t wanted to look like they were cashing in on the office with club fees, Chinese trademarks, and jacked-up hotel drink prices. But this president doesn’t care about any of that.

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The role of social media propaganda in the rise of the Oligarchy

Jonathan Taplin, Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, writes at the Political Animal blog, Why The 1 Percent Needs Google and Facebook:

When Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute in 1974, his mission (in words from Cato’s journal) was “protecting capitalism from government.” That meant the end of public education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as cutting taxes on the rich and government regulations on business. It was a tall order—but now, for the first time in 44 years, Koch and his billionaire libertarian friends [now rivals] Robert Mercer and Peter Thiel are within sight of their goal of building a true oligarchy (Aristotle’s “rule by the rich”). The current Trump tax cut will deliver billions of dollars into the pockets of the Kochs, the Mercers, the Trumps, and their heirs. Creating a political economy in which the wealthy minority rule over the middle and lower class majority is a hard task. It requires mechanisms that suppress voting and mechanisms for propaganda that convince middle class voters that cultural divisions are more important than economic equality. In both these tasks, Google and Facebook have been a key to the success of the 1 percent.

The role of the internet in propaganda and voter suppression is a two-pronged attack. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World foresaw our current dilemma—Huxley’s assertion was that technology would lead to passivity. The ease with which we could consume mind-numbing entertainment and distractions would ultimately rot our democracy [as bread and circuses did to the Roman Empire]. And this is exactly what may be happening. In the 2016 presidential election, 94 million citizens who were eligible to vote declined to exercise that privilege (compared to the 136 million who voted), according to the United States Election Project. And a much larger percentage of millennials are nonvoters. As Kevin Drum reported in Mother Jones, “In 1967 there was very little difference between the youngest and oldest voters. By 1987 a gap had opened up, and by 2014 that gap had become a chasm.” Beyond the extreme apathy, Republican legislatures in many states have instituted far more restrictive voter ID laws, which have also contributed to lower voting rates. But Steve Bannon wasn’t content to leave voter suppression to chance. One of his brilliant moves was to circulate memes on Facebook targeting only African American voters with the text: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” By all accounts it was a successful voter suppression strategy.

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