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FTR #937 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 11: Settling In (The Underground Reich Comes into Plain View, Part 4)

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Waffen SS-clad World War II reenactors, in original photo used by Trump

Waffen SS-clad World War II re-enactors, in original photo used by Trump

Introduction: This program sets forth some of the incoming Trump administration’s implementation of what Mr. Emory has long referred to as “The Underground Reich.” Now, the Underground Reich is coming into plain view, transformed into a triumphant mass political movement.

This broadcast is, obviously, the eleventh in the series about what we have termed “The Trumpenkampfverbande.”

As the movement takes power we take note of:

  • Rank and File at the National Policy Institute Conference

    Rank and File at Spencer’s event

    “Alt-Right” luminary Richard B. Spencer’s greeting to his followers at a meeting held a few blocks from the White House a couple of weeks after Trump’s victory: ” . . . ‘Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!’ That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as ‘an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.’ . . .”

  • Spencer’s referencing of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, racial theory and attacks on the media in that same address: “. . . . He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the ‘children of the sun,’ a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were ‘awakening to their own identity.’ . . .  Mr. Spencer’s after-dinner speech began with a polemic against the ‘mainstream media,’ before he briefly paused. ‘Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?’ he said. The audience immediately screamed back, ‘Lügenpresse,’ reviving a Nazi-era word that means ‘lying press.’ Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests. . . .  ‘One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,’ he said, referring to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews. . . . Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Spencer said, was ‘the victory of will,’ a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era propaganda film. [Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.”–D.E.] . . . .”
  • Trump’s chief White House advisor, “Alt-Right” publishing kingpin Stephen P. Bannon describing himself as an “economic nationalist” and discussing how exciting the coming period will be: ” . . . I’m an economic nationalist,’ Bannon told the news outlet earlier this week. [The term “Nazi” is a contraction of “National Socialist”–D.E.] . . . ‘It will be as exciting as the 1930s . . . conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.’ . . .”
  • "Heil Trump!"

    “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

    Bannon also referenced elements he thought were good exemplars of “darkness.” . . . .  Bannon, in the [Hollywood Reporter] interview, also gave some insight into how he viewed his political foes (presumably, liberals and the media) — and the ‘darkness’ he touts in fighting against them. ‘Darkness is good,’ Bannon said. ‘Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they…get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.’ . . . “

  • The fact that New York Times columnist Charles Blow voiced what we feel is an accurate sentiment: ” . . . This may well be the beginning of the end: the early moments of a historical pivot point, when the slide of the republic into something untoward and unrecognizable still feels like a small collection of poor judgments and reversible decisions, rather than the forward edge of an enormous menace inching its way forward and grinding up that which we held dear and foolishly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure. . . .”
  • Blow’s underscoring of Trump National Security Advisor General (ret.) Michael Flynn’s affinity for “Alt-Right”/white supremacist Mike Cernovich: “. . . . In October, Flynn tweeted: ‘Follow Mike @Cernovich He has a terrific book, Gorilla Mindset. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!’ The New Yorker dubbed Mike Cernovich ‘the meme mastermind of the alt-right’ in a lengthy profile. The magazine pointed out: ‘On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.’ . . . . “
  • Blow’s discussion of the links between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Federation for Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant/eugenics organization very close to the Pioneer Fund. We spoke about the Pioneer Fund in FTR #254 noting that the organization supported the eugenics programs of the Third Reich. ” . . . . In response to the attorney general announcement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement that read in part: ‘But we cannot support his nomination to be the country’s next attorney general. Senator Sessions not only has been a leading opponent of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, he has associated with anti-immigrant groups we consider to be deeply racist, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Security Policy. ‘ . . . The S.P.L.C. has written about FAIR, saying: ‘FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country.’ . . . .”

Much of the program focuses on the media and communication and the corruption of the very concept of truth and the profession of journalism. The growing, dominant phenomenon of fake news was a major factor in the campaign. The growth of social media, the role of WikiLeaks and the proclivity of Donald Trump and those around him for tweeting disinformation are heralding the transformation of journalism into propaganda.

Among the adherents to unsubstantiated “fake news” (terrifyingly) is Trump’s selection for CIA director, Mike Pompeo: ” . . . . Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Trump’s pick for CIA director, was described by The Washington Post editorial board as “one of the more fanatical purveyors of conspiracy theories about the 2011 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” At a hearing last year, Pompeo insinuated that Clinton had used the Benghazi consulate for a gun-running operation. . . .”

Contributing editor Pterrafractyl posted a comment on FTR #931 about Trump’s pick to be National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn and his son and advisor Michael Flynn, Jr. Flynn is a big fan of fake news and, like Trump, uses Twitter to disseminate it. His son is a chip off the old block, in this sense.

Key features of the posted comment and the discussion of it include:

  • Michael Flynn, Sr. (Trump’s selection for National Security Advisor) and his endorsement of a fake news story involving the Clintons.
  • Michael Flynn, Jr.’s support for his father’s views.
  • Flynn, Jr.’s contention that fake news stories should be seen as true until proven false.
  • An incident in which an adherent to the fake news memes shot up a pizza parlor in Washington D.C. that was supposedly the geographic epicenter of a Clinton sex-trafficking operation.
  • Flynn, Sr.’s endorsement of a fake news story circulated by Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater.
  • The fact that Prince’s sister is Betsy DeVos, nominated by Trump to be Education Secretary. The implications of the Trump appointment of DeVos should be seen against the background of ominous signs of the intimidation and possible future elimination of “troublesome” academicians.
  • Mr. Emory’s observation that Erik Prince’s successor as head of Blackwater was Joseph E. Schmitz, another key Trump advisor, discussed in FTR #’s 918, 919 and 920.
  • Mr. Emory’s observation that, with the formidable military capabilities of organizations like Blackwater potentially marshaled in support of Trump’s policies and against his enemies, the silencing of any journalistic and/or educational critic of Trump and/or his policies would be greatly facilitated.

Trump’s assault on the press featured a blistering attack on broadcast journalists called by Trump to meet with him.

Donald Trump is among a number of billionaires who are working to muzzle a free press. Trump says he wants to loosen the libel laws. Coming at a time when the growth of the internet and social media have placed the working press in dire economic straits and with Trump set to appoint federal judges, including supreme court judges, we may well see the very concept of a free press nullified altogether.

The program closes with ruminations about coming assaults on intellectual and academic freedom and the meaning of “free speech.”

Program Highlights Include:

  • The creation of a “Professors Watchlist” by a right-wing youth group.
  • Rumination about how “open-carry laws” (such as one in Texas permitting college students to take handguns to class) might affect the well being of professors on the watch list mentioned above.
  • The suspension of Frank Navarro, a Mountain View (California) high school teacher and Holocaust expert, for comparing (rightly) Trump’s rise to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
  • The U.S. vote against U.N. resolution condemning the celebration of Nazism and neo-Nazism on the grounds that it would restrict free speech (tell that to Frank Navarro!)

1a. We begin with “alt-right” luminary Richard B. Spencer’s greeting to his followers at a meeting held a few blocks from the White House a couple of weeks after Trump’s victory:

” ‘Hail Trump’ White Nationalists Salute the President Elect” by Daniel Lambroso and Yoni Applebaum; The Atlantic; 11/21/2016.

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” . . .

1b. Spencer referenced Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, racial theory and attacks on the media in that same address:

“Alt-Right Exults in Trump’s Election with a Salute: ‘Heil Victory’ ” by Joseph Goldstein; The New York Times; 11/20/2016. 

By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless. . . .

. . . . He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.” . . .

. . . Mr. Spencer’s after-dinner speech began with a polemic against the “mainstream media,” before he briefly paused. “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” he said.

The audience immediately screamed back, “Lügenpresse,” reviving a Nazi-era word that means “lying press.”

Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests…

. . . “One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said, referring to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews. . . .

. . . .Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Spencer said, was “the victory of will,” a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era propaganda film. . . .

1c.Trump’s chief White House advisor, “Alt-Right” publishing kingpin Stephen P. Bannon described himself as an “economic nationalist” and discussed how exciting the coming period will be. He also referenced elements he thought were good exemplars of “darkness.”

“Steve Bannon Speaks out on White Nationalism, Donald Trump Agenda” by Reena Flores; CBS News; 11/19/2016.

. . . . . “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist,” Bannon told the news outlet earlier this week. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over.”

It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.” . . . .

. . . .  Bannon, in the Reporter interview, also gave some insight into how he viewed his political foes (presumably, liberals and the media) — and the “darkness” he touts in fighting against them.

“Darkness is good,” Bannon said. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they…get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

1d. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Charles Blow heralded what is coming:

“Making America White Again” by Charles Blow; The New York Times; 11/21/2016.

This may well be the beginning of the end: the early moments of a historical pivot point, when the slide of the republic into something untoward and unrecognizable still feels like a small collection of poor judgments and reversible decisions, rather than the forward edge of an enormous menace inching its way forward and grinding up that which we held dear and foolishly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure. . . .

. . . . In October, Flynn tweeted:

“Follow Mike @Cernovich He has a terrific book, Gorilla Mindset. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!”

The New Yorker dubbed Mike Cernovich “the meme mastermind of the alt-right” in a lengthy profile.

The magazine pointed out:

“On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.” . . . .

. . . . But not all of Sessions’s issues regarding minorities have a 30-year vintage.

In response to the attorney general announcement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement that read in part:

“But we cannot support his nomination to be the country’s next attorney general. Senator Sessions not only has been a leading opponent of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, he has associated with anti-immigrant groups we consider to be deeply racist, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Security Policy.”

Indeed, FAIR was quick to congratulate Sessions on his nomination Friday, saying in a statement: “It’s hard to imagine a better pick for the attorney general position than Senator Jeff Sessions”; the group called on Sessions to rid the country of sanctuary cities.

The S.P.L.C. has written about FAIR, saying:

“FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country.” . . . .

3. Trump and many of his key appointees are big fans of “fake news.”

“Conspiracy Peddlers Continue Pushing Debunked ‘Pizzagate’ Tale” by Hannah Allum; McClatchy DC; 12/5/2016.

One might think that police calling the motive a “fictitious conspiracy theory” would put an end to the claim that inspired a gunman from North Carolina to attack a family pizzeria in Washington over the weekend.

Nope.

On Monday, those who share the assailant’s alleged suspicions that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager operated a child sex ring in the basement of the Washington restaurant took it up a notch.

The gunman, they said in Reddit and other online forums where the original fake news story originated, had a brief film career in a horror movie, so the next logical leap was that he was hired by the Clinton camp to stage a false-flag operation to discredit President-elect Donald Trump. Further “proof”, they claimed, was that a security camera that might’ve captured the incident had been removed just before it happened.

Such claims once were confined to the netherworld of staged moon landings and 9/11 deniers, but now they’re seeping into the mainstream – with dangerous real-world consequences, as Sunday’s incident shows.

Trump has yet to condemn the torrent of fake news that’s accompanied his rise to power, a chilling prospect for civil rights advocates, who fear that the so-called “pizzagate” debacle portends more violence from vigilantes inspired by baseless claims.

“It’s deeply troubling that some of those false reports could lead to violence,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing Monday. Earnest said the proliferation of false reports had a “corrosive effect” on the political climate.

Trump hasn’t addressed the fake news and conspiracy theories that bounce around online communities of his supporters until they’re accepted as fact. Perhaps that’s because several of his advisers and Cabinet picks – soon to be among the most powerful people in the country – regularly traffic in the same hokum. More than half the people Trump has picked so far for top administration posts have long histories of spewing conspiracy theories and making racist or bigoted assertions with no evidence.

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence was in Congress, according to the Los Angeles Times, he asserted without any scientific backup that material in the 2001 anthrax scare had been genetically modified to make it more lethal – possibly by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Trump’s national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has used Twitter to praise white supremacists, malign Muslims and spread baseless claims linking the Clintons to a sex cult.

His son, Michael Flynn Jr., who served as his dad’s chief of staff, has given credence to the so-called “pizzagate” tale and has smeared top Clinton aide Huma Abedin as a Muslim extremist and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as a closeted gay cocaine addict. CNN reported that the younger Flynn has an email address affiliated with Trump’s transition team.

Follow
Michael G Flynn?? @mflynnJR
Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many “coincidences” tied to it. https://twitter.com/jackposobiec/status/805559273426141184 …
7:13 PM – 4 Dec 2016
2,557 2,557 Retweets   3,456 3,456 likes
Trump’s pick for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the neurosurgeon and failed presidential candidate Ben Carson, has a particularly long track record of espousing questionable beliefs. He’s called Planned Parenthood a conspiracy to control the black population and cited prison rape as evidence that homosexuality is a choice, positions Salon summed up in a piece headlined “Ben Carson is plain nuts.”

Carson’s also suggested that President Barack Obama is involved in a communist plot to bring down the country and he’s said that a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to serve as president – a stance that violates the U.S. Constitution.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s pick for senior White House strategist, is the former executive of Breitbart, which he’s described as a platform for the so-called “alt-right” white nationalist movement. The publication has a history of luridly sexist, racist and homophobic headlines. Bannon also has disparaged feminists as “a bunch of dykes.” His selection was opposed by Democrats, some Republicans and virtually every civil rights watchdog in the country.

Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Trump’s pick for CIA director, was described by The Washington Post editorial board as “one of the more fanatical purveyors of conspiracy theories about the 2011 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” At a hearing last year, Pompeo insinuated that Clinton had used the Benghazi consulate for a gun-running operation. . . .

4. Contributing editor Pterrafractyl gives us analysis in a comment of the fake news phenomenon, Michael Flynn Sr. and his son and advisor Michael Flynn, jr.

“Here’s another sign of the times: It looks like “Pizzagate” – a hoax conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and John Podesta running a child sex ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria that was cooked up days before the 2016 election and aggressive spread on social media – is still going strong. At least some minds. Like the mind of the man who walked into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria yesterday to “self-investigate” the hoax claims with a rifle and ended up threatening the staff and firing off a round.

And now, in wake if this incident, Michael G. Flynn, Jr., son and chief of staff of Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn, is taking to Twitter to defend his father over accusations that Michael Flynn Sr. was promoting the Pizzgate hoax with potentially deadly consequences. Specifically, Flynn Jr. is defending his father by defending the Pizzagate hoax itself, asserting that the hoax should be considered a valid story until proven false.

But as the article below points out that despite the fact that Flynn Jr. jumped to the defense of father by defending Pizzagate, Flynn Sr. had never actually promoted Pizzagate. No, instead what Flynn Sr was promoting right before the election was the “Spirit Cooking” hoax, a different hoax that also purports to tie Hillary Clinton to Satanic rituals involving children.

So, to summarize:
1. A man just walked into a pizzeria that was the target of a “Hillary Clinton is part of a child sex ring” hoax and fired shots.
2. Folks pointed out that Michael Flynn Sr., Trump’s selected National Security Advisor, was pushing similar theories days before the election and therefore validating them in the minds of many.
3. Michael G. Flynn, Jr. replied with a tweet defending his dad by suggesting the Pizzagate hoax should be considered a real story until proven false.
4. And now we have to point out that Flynn Sr. wasn’t promoting Pizzagate. No, he was promoting “Spirit Cooking”, a different “Hillary Clinton is part of a child sex ring” hoax.

So that’s where we are. In a place where there’s such an aggressive promotion of far-right Fake News that we now have to take the pains to parse each of the separate hoaxes in order to accurately assess the public damage they’re doing. In other words, we now have to understand all the far-right conspiracy theories just to understand how much misunderstanding is taking root in our collective psyche and shaping reality:

“The whole matter is a near-perfect microcosm of just how much fake news stories have penetrated our political process — so much so that we can’t even keep them straight. And it’s likely to lead to those who embrace conspiracy theories or simply distrust the mainstream media to believe Flynn was unfairly maligned for his tweet.”

Well, that exactly doesn’t well. Unless having the next National Security Advisor, and his advisor and son, peddle garbage happens to bode well:


But it’s also worth noting here the Flynns have trafficked in these kinds of bogus stories many times before. And even as Flynn Sr. can’t be specifically tied to fomenting the Comet Ping Pong rumors beforehand, his decision to pass along a baseless article about the Clintons and sex crimes makes conspiracy theories like Comet Ping Pong more believable. This stuff is becoming a scourge.

In addition, Flynn’s son isn’t someone who just happens to be related to an appointee to a major post in the Trump Cabinet. He’s someone who has advised his father at the highest level — making his embrace of baseless conspiracy theories a very legitimate issue. (In other words, this isn’t akin to a president’s black-sheep brother with no real role in an administration doing something objectionable.)

Update: CNN reports that Flynn Jr. now has a .gov email address, which suggests he’ll play a role in the Trump administration.

It’s probably worth noting that the story Flynn Sr. was promoting right before the election about the “Spirit Cooking” meme was about a Breitbart interview of Black Water founder Erik Prince and his assertion that arrests were going to happening soon (arrests that never happened…big shocker!)

It’s probably also worth noting that Prince is the brother of Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

So, yes, Donald Trump’s Education Secretary is the sister of the head mercenary who was pushing a fake story about a Satanic sex abduction ring that was tweeted about by Trump’s National Security Advisor. And when questions were raised about the role this promotion may have played in legitimizing a parallel hoax story about Hillary Clinton and a child sex ring, Trump’s National Security Advisor’s chief advisor, who also happens to be his son, defended his dad/boss by tweeting a defense of the parallel hoax story.

“Michael Flynn’s Tweet Wasn’t Actually about #PizzaGate, but His Son Is now Defending the Baseless Conspiracy Theory” by Aaron Blake; The Washington Post; 12/5/2016

There are so many fake tales floating around about the 2016 election that they appear to be getting confused for one another.

After a gunman who cited a Hillary Clinton-related conspiracy theory entered the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington on Sunday and fired one or more shots, reports and tweets pointed to Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, having fomented the rumors that apparently spurred the man.

Here’s Flynn’s tweet:

U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ! https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 3, 2016

And here’s a sampling of the reactions:

1. Gen Flynn tweets about Fake HRC Comet Pizza conspiracy. 2. Comet gets threats. 3. Gunman enters Comet today. https://t.co/vS3cv2F6ui— John Aravosis (@aravosis) December 4, 2016

That near-shooting in Washington DC was inspired by a conspiracy theory advanced by …. Mike Flynn https://t.co/cCuxaXYDrxpic.twitter.com/3DudzOFiNX— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) December 4, 2016

Except Flynn doesn’t actually appear to have tweeted something about Comet Ping Pong — not specifically.

Flynn did tweet a link involving dubious claims about the Clintons and sex crimes, and his social media presence is replete with fake news and controversial comments about Muslims, which made it an easy conclusion to draw.

What’s more, his son Michael G. Flynn on Sunday did suggest there could be something to the PizzaGate rumors, basically defending his father as if he had tweeted about Comet Ping Pong and challenging the media to disprove the baseless claims. The younger Flynn served as his father’s chief of staff — his top aide — making his tweets about this bogus theory particularly significant.

Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many “coincidences” tied to it. https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp— Michael G Flynn???? (@mflynnJR) December 5, 2016

Michael Flynn Jr. also tangled with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who sent him direct messages imploring him to stop breathing life into the rumors that apparently led to violence on Sunday at Comet Ping Pong. Flynn Jr. gleefully tweeted and retweeted the missives.

Jake.Tapper..still…..DMing me….a shame he doesn’t argue this hard on his network. @Cernovich@bakedalaska@PrisonPlanet@JackPosobiechttps://t.co/EQ8KmRYEBF— Michael G Flynn???? (@mflynnJR) December 5, 2016

Want evidence??? I must’ve really hit a nerve @Cernovich@bakedalaska@JackPosobiec@PrisonPlanet@Rambobiggs@RealAlexJonespic.twitter.com/wRlPX8lrPy— Michael G Flynn???? (@mflynnJR) December 5, 2016

As for Michael Flynn Sr.’s original tweet, the confusion stemmed from fact that there are actually multiple dubious claims involving the Clintons, human trafficking and sex crimes. One involves Comet Ping Pong — a theory which involves “dozens of made-up articles about Mrs. Clinton kidnapping, molesting and trafficking children” — and another involves billionaire donor and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to the Clintons.

At least the latter connection isn’t entirely based in fantasy. Here’s our Fact Checker’s summary:

After leaving office, Bill Clinton was occasionally a passenger on aircraft owned by convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. (Epstein was also a regular visitor to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and Trump was a dinner guest at Epstein’s home.) Gawker reported that flight logs show that Clinton, among others, traveled through Africa in 2002 on a jet with “an actress in soft-core porn movies whose name appears in Epstein’s address book under an entry for ‘massages.’” Chauntae Davies, the actress, declined to discuss why she was on the flight. Clinton has not commented.

The Epstein case isn’t a full-fledged conspiracy theory in and of itself, but it has resulted in all manner of allegations involving the Clintons. An example from the New York Post: “‘Sex slave’ claims Bill Clinton visited Epstein’s ‘orgy island.Here’s more, if you’re curious. And as the Fact Checker noted, Trump has his own very real ties to Epstein.

The link that Flynn tweeted appears to refer not to alleged Clinton-related sex crimes at Comet Ping Pong but rather makes explicit reference to Epstein. After citing anonymous New York Police Department sources linking Clinton to “child exploitation” and “sex crimes with minors,” among other crimes, the article from far-right website True Pundit points to the Epstein case:

The new emails contain travel documents and itineraries indicating Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Weiner and multiple members of Congress and other government officials accompanied convicted pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein on his Boeing 727 on multiple occasions to his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, sources said. Epstein’s island has also been dubbed Orgy Island or Sex Slave Island where Epstein allegedly pimps out underage girls and boys to international dignitaries.

Both NYPD and FBI sources confirm based on the new emails they now believe Hillary Clinton traveled as Epstein’s guest on at least six occasions, probably more when all the evidence is combed, sources said. Bill Clinton, it has been confirmed in media reports spanning recent years, that he too traveled with Epstein over 20 times to the island.

Comet Ping Pong is not referenced by True Pundit — either explicitly or implicitly. And in fact, the Reddit posting that spawned what’s come to be known as “PizzaGate” (the thread has now been taken down by Reddit) is from Nov. 4, according to Snopes — two days after the True Pundit article posted on Nov. 2.

The whole matter is a near-perfect microcosm of just how much fake news stories have penetrated our political process — so much so that we can’t even keep them straight. And it’s likely to lead to those who embrace conspiracy theories or simply distrust the mainstream media to believe Flynn was unfairly maligned for his tweet.

But it’s also worth noting here the Flynns have trafficked in these kinds of bogus stories many times before. And even as Flynn Sr. can’t be specifically tied to fomenting the Comet Ping Pong rumors beforehand, his decision to pass along a baseless article about the Clintons and sex crimes makes conspiracy theories like Comet Ping Pong more believable. This stuff is becoming a scourge.

In addition, Flynn’s son isn’t someone who just happens to be related to an appointee to a major post in the Trump Cabinet. He’s someone who has advised his father at the highest level — making his embrace of baseless conspiracy theories a very legitimate issue. (In other words, this isn’t akin to a president’s black-sheep brother with no real role in an administration doing something objectionable.)

Update: CNN reports that Flynn Jr. now has a .gov email address, which suggests he’ll play a role in the Trump administration.

But in this case, it is not fair to tie Flynn Sr. directly to what happened Sunday afternoon in Washington. Critics will argue this is a distinction without a difference — that Flynn fomented rumors that contributed to the perception that the Clintons were involved in all manner of unholy things. But when it comes to combating fake news, it’s worth being as specific and accurate as possible.

6. Donald Trump is among a number of billionaires who are working to muzzle a free press. Trump says he wants to loosen the libel laws. Coming at a time when the growth of the internet and social media have placed the working press in dire economic straits and with Trump set to appoint federal judges, including supreme court judges, we may well see the very concept of a free press nullified altogether.

“Stop the Presses” by Emily Bazelon; The New York Times Magazine; 11/27/2016. 

. . . . As a candidate, Trump blustered vaguely that he wanted to “open up our libel laws.” I asked his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, by email what he meant by that, but she didn’t answer the question (or others I posed). It’s not within the president’s direct powers to change the rules for libel suits. But our legal safeguards for writers and publishers aren’t foolproof. In the last few years, Trump has been joined by at least two billionaires who are determined to exploit cracks in the wall of defense around the press. The members of this club are innovators. They have sued or funded suits to defend reputations or protect privacy. But an underlying aim appears to be to punish critics like O’Brien or even destroy entire media outlets.

This kind of manipulation of the law is unfolding at a keen moment of weakness for the press, which has already been buffeted by falling revenue and mounting public disaffection. Only 40 percent of the public — the lowest rate since at least the 1990s — trusts the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly,” according to a Gallup survey conducted in September 2015. This mistrust has been growing for a long time, but it was stoked by Trump during the campaign. He called the reporters who covered him “scum” and whipped up yelling and booing crowds. There is no consensus among his supporters that the press should hold those in power accountable. A recent Pew survey found that only half of Trump backers agreed that it was important in a strong democracy that “news organizations are free to criticize political leaders.” . . .

7. Representative of Trump’s assault on the press was his “in your face” scalding of broadcast media figures.

“Trump Calls TV Figures to a Private Meeting, and Lets Them Have It” by Michael M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember; The New York Times; 11/22/2106.

. . . . Mr. Trump, whose antagonism toward the news media was unusual even for a modern presidential candidate, described the television networks as dishonest in their reporting and shortsighted in missing the signs of his upset victory. He criticized some in the room by name, including CNN’s president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, according to multiple people briefed on the meeting who were granted anonymity to describe confidential discussions.

It is not unusual for journalists to agree to off-the-record sessions with prominent politicians, including President Obama, as a way to gain insights and develop relationships.

But after details of Mr. Trump’s hectoring leaked on Monday in The New York Post, it seemed the meeting was being used as a political prop, especially after Trump-friendly news outlets trumpeted the session as a take-no-prisoners move by a brave president-elect.

“Trump Slams Media Elite, Face to Face,” blared the Drudge Report. “Trump Eats Press,” wrote Breitbart News. . . .

8. Trump’s rise is being accompanied by significant moves to restrict academic freedom. A “Dangerous Professors” list was generated and disseminated online by a right-wing student group. Consider this in light of the appointment of Blackwater founder and fake news adherent Erik Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Consider this, also, in light of places like Texas, where college students can bring a gun to class.

“I Am a Dangerous Professor” by George Yancy; The New York Times; 12/4/2016.

Those familiar with George Orwell’s “1984” will recall that “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought.” I recently felt the weight of this Orwellian ethos when many of my students sent emails to inform me, and perhaps warn me, that my name appears on the Professor Watchlist, a new website created by a conservative youth group known as Turning Point USA.

I could sense the gravity in those email messages, a sense of relaying what is to come. The Professor Watchlist’s mission, among other things, is to sound an alarm about those of us within academia who “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” It names and includes photographs of some 200 professors. . . .

9. In Mountain View, California, a history teacher with 40-years experience at Mountain View High School was suspended for comparing Trump’s rise to the ascent of Adolf Hitler.

“Teacher Who Compared Trump’s Rise to Hitler Is Suspended from High School to Keep Students ‘Emotionally Safe’ ” by Khaleda Raman; Daily Mail; 11/16/2016.

A California teacher has been suspended with pay from the school he has worked at for 40 years for comparing Donald Trump’s rise to power to Adolf Hitler’s.

Frank Navarro, a scholar of the Holocaust, who has worked for decades at Mountain View High School said he taught his world studies class the similarities between Hitler’s rise to power and Trump’s campaign.

But after concerned parents began contacting the school, principal Dave Grissom and superintendent Jeff Harding made the decision to suspend Navarro.

Navarro said the parent claims he called Trump and Hitler one and the same, but he says that’s not what happened.

‘This parent said that I had said Donald Trump was Hitler, but I would never say that. That’s sloppy historical thinking,’ Navarro told SF Gate.

He says he did make comparisons about how the two rose to prominence and lead their respective nations, including rhetoric about deporting foreigners and restoring greatness to the country.
‘I think it makes sense. It’s factual, it’s evidence-based. It reminds students that history is real,’ Navarro said.

But the school officials said given the climate following the election, the lesson was inappropriate.

‘Regardless of their political affiliation, many of our students show signs of emotional stress,’ Grissom told parents in a letter.

He said the school has an obligation to be an ’emotionally safe environment’ for students.

But, Grissom also said, the school must protect teachers and staff when unsubstantiated claims are made against them.

Grissom told SF Gate the suspension is a ‘time out’ for Navarro.

Navarro said it is his duty as a history teacher to ensure students are aware of bigotry and to point it out, according to a Change.org petition.’I feel strongly about this: to stand quiet in the face of bigotry and to turn your eyes away from it is to back up the bigotry, and that’s not what I, or any history teacher, should be doing in our work,’ Navarro said.

Officials said they would wrap up an investigation into the claims soon.

After The Oracle, the student newspaper, wrote about the suspension, outraged parents and students began saying Navarro should not have been suspended.

‘Emails started flowing in to the principal late that night,’ Navarro told the paper.

The Change.org petition, which seeks to have an apology made to Navarro and his suspension lifted, received more than 7,600 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.

Navarro’s daughter posted on the petition, furious about the situation her father had been placed in.

‘What Mountain View High School has done to my father is wrong. Discussing the connection between Trump and Hitler is important and relevant to history and the painful situation we are in now in this country,’ she wrote.

She added that her father was set to retire in June and that the school will be losing a beloved teacher.

10. For the U.S., apparently, the kind of restrictions on free speech applied to Frank Navarro do not apply to endorsements of Nazism.

For the second time in three years, the U.S. has voted against a U.N. resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism because it constitutes a restriction of “free speech!”

This is to be seen against our long-running and exhaustive series on the Ukraine crisis.

It also contrasts markedly with the treatment accorded Frank Navarro in Mountain View, California.

“US Says Anti-Nazi Resolution at U.N. Restricts Free Speech” by Michael Astor; The Seattle Times; 11/17/2016.

The United States was one of three countries to vote against a U.N. resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism on Thursday, citing freedom of speech issues and concerns Russia was using it to carry out political attacks against its neighbors.

The resolution entitled “Combating glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” was approved by the U.N.’s human rights committee on Friday with 131 in favor, 3 against with 48 abstentions. Ukraine and Palau were the other no votes. . . .

 

Discussion

8 comments for “FTR #937 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 11: Settling In (The Underground Reich Comes into Plain View, Part 4)”

  1. Part of what’s going to make the Trump legacy so grimly fascinating to watch unfold, whatever kind of nightmare that legacy ends up being, is the incredibly juxtaposition that exists between the near sweeping power that the Trump team is going to have given the Republican control of both houses of Congress and Supreme Court (soon) coupled with the incredible array of questions swirling around Trump and his team that raise questions about the legitimacy of the administration. After all, we have a president-elect who:
    1. Lost by millions of votes.

    2. Encouraged supporters to commit violence against his opponent.

    3. Suggested he wouldn’t recognize the results of the election and wasn’t simply suggesting he might call for a recount but actually suggesting that the whole system is rigged against him.

    4. Won due to a series of surprise victories in three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) with a number of voting anomalies, and has proceeded to block recount efforts…while declaring that millions of people voting illegally for his opponent in other states with no evidence at all.

    5. Has already made it clear that he’s not going to abide by even basic conflict of interest protocols.

    6. Received massive assistance throughout the campaign from Wikileaks and whoever hacked the Democratic Party.

    7. Had his old friend and dirty tricks operative, Roger Stone, publicly coordinate with Wikileaks and Infowars.

    8. Publicly asked Russia during a press conference to release hacked Hillary Clinton emails (which happened to be the last press conference he gave).

    9. Selected Michael Flynn, a peddler of far-right conspiracy theories and hoaxes like “Pizzagate”, as his National Security Advisor.

    10. Selected the “Alt-Right” Nazi media Godfather Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist.

    And that’s just a brief summary of some of the many reason for why this is quite possibly the most illegitimate president-elect ever. If “legitimacy” is defined as upholding those democratic principles of free and fair elections that the United States is supposed to treat as both hold as its first and last line of defense. Sure, there’s always been electoral shenanigans in the past and it’s not like the GOP hasn’t been trying to aggressively rig elections for years. But Trump did it out in the open. That’s the difference. Plus he openly embraces Nazis. That’s also a pretty big difference. Republicans are normally supposed to hide that stuff. The Underground Reich is supposed to stay underground. But not anymore!

    Given all that, whether or not the reported intelligence community conclusion that it has identified the individuals involved that did the hacking and connected them to Russian intelligence are accurate, they’re certainly not going to be hard to believe. Trump is so shady just about anything is believable about him…as long as it portrays him in a shady light. And the reports that Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the public release this revelation back in September won’t help Trump’s legitimacy or the GOP’s either. Again, whether or not the intelligence is accurate. That’s the consequence of being someone like Trump. Or nominating him:

    The Washington Post

    Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

    By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller
    December 9, 2016 at 10:45 PM

    The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

    Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

    “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

    The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.

    In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.

    The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’?” the statement read.

    Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.

    “I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

    The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

    The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

    For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

    Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said in a television interview that the “Russian government is not the source.”

    The White House and CIA officials declined to comment.

    On Friday, the White House said President Obama had ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to influence the electoral process.

    “We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned,” Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

    Obama wants the report before he leaves office Jan. 20, Monaco said. The review will be led by James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence, officials said.

    During her remarks, Monaco didn’t address the latest CIA assessment, which hasn’t been previously disclosed.

    Seven Democratic senators last week asked Obama to declassify details about the intrusions and why officials believe that the Kremlin was behind the operation. Officials said Friday that the senators specifically were asking the White House to release portions of the CIA’s presentation.

    This week, top Democratic lawmakers in the House also sent a letter to Obama, asking for briefings on Russian interference in the election.

    U.S. intelligence agencies have been cautious for months in characterizing Russia’s motivations, reflecting the United States’ long-standing struggle to collect reliable intelligence on President Vladimir Putin and those closest to him.

    In previous assessments, the CIA and other intelligence agencies told the White House and congressional leaders that they believed Moscow’s aim was to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. The assessments stopped short of saying the goal was to help elect Trump.

    On Oct. 7, the intelligence community officially accused Moscow of seeking to interfere in the election through the hacking of “political organizations.” Though the statement never specified which party, it was clear that officials were referring to cyber-intrusions into the computers of the DNC and other Democratic groups and individuals.

    Some key Republican lawmakers have continued to question the quality of evidence supporting Russian involvement.

    “I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”

    Though Russia has long conducted cyberspying on U.S. agencies, companies and organizations, this presidential campaign marks the first time Moscow has attempted through cyber-means to interfere in, if not actively influence, the outcome of an election, the officials said.

    The reluctance of the Obama White House to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions before Election Day upset Democrats on the Hill as well as members of the Clinton campaign.

    Within the administration, top officials from different agencies sparred over whether and how to respond. White House officials were concerned that covert retaliatory measures might risk an escalation in which Russia, with sophisticated cyber-capabilities, might have less to lose than the United States, with its vast and vulnerable digital infrastructure.

    The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left Washington weighing more-limited measures, including the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.

    By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.

    Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.

    Obama dispatched Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official.

    Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.

    Though U.S. intelligence agencies were skeptical that hackers would be able to manipulate the election results in a systematic way, the White House feared that Russia would attempt to do so, sowing doubt about the fundamental mechanisms of democracy and potentially forcing a more dangerous confrontation between Washington and Moscow.

    In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

    And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

    The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

    According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

    Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

    McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment. After the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary.

    “The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’?” the statement read.”

    And that’s the consequence of the CIA’s Bush Administration legacy: now someone as shady as Trump can undermine the agency’s intelligence assessment simply by pointing out the relatively recent massive agency lies. Still, it’s not like Trump isn’t one of the most incredulous presidential candidates we’ve ever seen and it’s not as if he hasn’t been the clear beneficiaries of an unprecedented hacking campaign in coordination with Wikileaks. Clearly someone hacked the DNC in order to help Trump. So when we read about caveats in the intelligence assessment like:

    The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

    For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

    if that’s the extent of the intelligence communities disagreements, it seems like it’s going to be difficult for the Trump team to successfully refute this.

    So we can add to the list of Trump’s legitimacy questions:
    11. The intelligence community is publicly saying its identified the hackers and connected them to the the Russian government. And also concluded that those hackers didn’t simply act to undermine faith in the US electoral system but actively worked to harm Clinton and help Trump.

    And whether or not these hackers really were directed by the Kremlin or hired by someone else, that’s how it’s going to be perceived. Also worth noting that the Senate Democrats are demanding that the intelligence community hand over the information that led the intelligence community to its conclusion. So it’s also very possible that whatever that evidence is will be iun the hands of Congress soon too and who knows where it’s going to go from there. And, again, don’t forget that Roger Stone was coordinating with Wikileaks and Trump publicly asked Russia to release hacked emails. All in all, It’s quite a crisis of legitimacy and it’s only going to get worse:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Senate Dem Leader: Intel Community Must Hand Over Info On Russian Hacking

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published December 10, 2016, 11:10 AM EDT

    The incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, and said it was “imperative” that the intelligence community handed over relevant information. His statement comes after the Washington Post reported Friday that a secret CIA assessment found that Russian actors had sought to boost President-elect Donald Trump over his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

    “Reports of the CIA’s conclusion that Russia actively sought to help elect Donald Trump are simultaneously stunning and not surprising, given Russia’s disdain for democracy and admiration for autocracy. The silence from Wikileaks and others since election day has been deafening,” Schumer said. “That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core. Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this. It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.”

    “Reports of the CIA’s conclusion that Russia actively sought to help elect Donald Trump are simultaneously stunning and not surprising, given Russia’s disdain for democracy and admiration for autocracy. The silence from Wikileaks and others since election day has been deafening…That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core. Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this. It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.”

    It sure sounds like Senate Democrats are going to trying to make whatever evidence exists public, with what happens next extremely unclear. But since the Democrats don’t control the Senate, it’s also unclear what ability they’ll have to actually conduct an investigation.

    At the same time, if there is no Congressional investigation at this point, that’s only going to add to the questions of not just Trump’s legitimacy, but the entire GOP’s. After all, part of the reason the CIA concluded that the hacking attempts were specifically to help Trump and not simply undermine faith in the electoral system is that CIA also concluded that the RNC was hacked too. But its information was never released. Republicans, though, refute that charge and say no hacking of the RNC ever took place. It’s quite a crisis of legitimacy:

    The New York Times

    Russian Hackers Acted to Aid Trump in Election, U.S. Says

    By DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE
    December 9, 2016

    WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

    They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

    In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.

    Republicans have a different explanation for why no documents from their networks were ever released. Over the past several months, officials from the Republican committee have consistently said that their networks were not compromised, asserting that only the accounts of individual Republicans were attacked. On Friday, a senior committee official said he had no comment.

    Mr. Trump’s transition office issued a statement Friday evening reflecting the deep divisions that emerged between his campaign and the intelligence agencies over Russian meddling in the election. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the statement said. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

    One senior government official, who had been briefed on an F.B.I. investigation into the matter, said that while there were attempts to penetrate the Republican committee’s systems, they were not successful.

    But the intelligence agencies’ conclusions that the hacking efforts were successful, which have been presented to President Obama and other senior officials, add a complex wrinkle to the question of what the Kremlin’s evolving objectives were in intervening in the American presidential election.

    “We now have high confidence that they hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and conspicuously released no documents” from the Republican organization, one senior administration official said, referring to the Russians.

    It is unclear how many files were stolen from the Republican committee; in some cases, investigators never get a clear picture. It is also far from clear that Russia’s original intent was to support Mr. Trump, and many intelligence officials — and former officials in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — believe that the primary motive of the Russians was to simply disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.

    The Russians were as surprised as everyone else at Mr. Trump’s victory, intelligence officials said. Had Mrs. Clinton won, they believe, emails stolen from the Democratic committee and from senior members of her campaign could have been used to undercut her legitimacy. The intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Mr. Trump was first reported by The Washington Post.

    In briefings to the White House and Congress, intelligence officials, including those from the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, have identified individual Russian officials they believe were responsible. But none have been publicly penalized.

    It is possible that in hacking into the Republican committee, Russian agents were simply hedging their bets. The attack took place in the spring, the senior officials said, about the same time that a group of hackers believed to be linked to the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, stole the emails of senior officials of the Democratic National Committee. Intelligence agencies believe that the Republican committee hack was carried out by the same Russians who penetrated the Democratic committee and other Democratic groups.

    The finding about the Republican committee is expected to be included in a detailed report of “lessons learned” that Mr. Obama has ordered intelligence agencies to assemble before he leaves office on Jan. 20. That report is intended, in part, to create a comprehensive history of the Russian effort to influence the election, and to solidify the intelligence findings before Mr. Trump is sworn in.

    Mr. Trump has repeatedly cast doubt about any intelligence suggesting a Russian effort to influence the election. “I don’t believe they interfered,” he told Time magazine in an interview published this week. He suggested that hackers could come from China, or that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

    Intelligence officials and private cybersecurity companies believe that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by two different Russian cyberunits. One, called “Cozy Bear” or “A.P.T. 29” by some Western security experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. computer network, as well as other government and political institutions, but never made public any of the documents it took. (A.P.T. stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat,” which usually describes a sophisticated state-sponsored cyberintruder.)

    The other, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fancy Bear,” or “A.P.T. 28,” is believed to have created two outlets on the internet, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Democratic documents public. Many of the documents were also provided to WikiLeaks, which released them over many weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

    Representative Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN in September that the R.N.C. had been hacked by Russia, but then quickly withdrew the claim.

    Mr. McCaul, who was considered by Mr. Trump for secretary of Homeland Security, initially told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It’s important to note, Wolf, that they have not only hacked into the D.N.C. but also into the R.N.C.” He added that “the Russians have basically hacked into both parties at the national level, and that gives us all concern about what their motivations are.”

    Minutes later, the R.N.C. issued a statement denying that it had been hacked. Mr. McCaul subsequently said that he had misspoken, but that it was true that “Republican political operatives” had been the target of Russian hacking. So were establishment Republicans with no ties to the campaign, including former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

    Mr. McCaul may have had in mind a collection of more than 200 emails of Republican officials and activists that appeared this year on the website DCLeaks.com. That website got far more attention for the many Democratic Party documents it posted.

    The messages stolen from Republicans have drawn little attention because most are routine business emails from local Republican Party officials in several states, congressional staff members and party activists.

    “They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.”

    Whether or not it was the Kremlin that did this, it’s hard to argue with te demonstrable reality that whoever did the hacking didn’t mind exclusively damaging the Democrats, whether they successfully hacked the RNC as the CIA asserts or not.
    And note that the FBI appears to disagree with the CIA’s assessment of the RNC hacking, saying it sees no evidence of such hacking. So this whole investigation could become a fight over the credibility of the FBI vs the CIA, which is going to be fascinating. The CIA is, after all, the CIA. It’s not like lying would be impossible. But the head of the FBI also engaged in what was probably an even bigger “assist” move for Trump than the entire hacking campaign by publicly reopening Hillary’s email server investigation a week and a half before the election.

    It also means that Trump could use this investigation as an excuse to wall himself off from the broader intelligence community even more than he reportedly already has, and instead rely almost exclusively on the intelligence worldview of people like Steven Bannon and Michael Flynn. As scary as the intelligence community’s CIA’s worldview and biases often are, having a president operate in “Pizzagate” world is even scarier. So that’s possibly going to happen to as a consequence of the fact that this incredible hacking attempt undeniably assisted the president-elect and the president-elect has no interest in investigating it. It’s quite a crisis of legitimacy:

    The New York Times

    Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with G.O.P.

    By DAVID E. SANGER
    December 10, 2016

    WASHINGTON — An extraordinary breach has emerged between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the national security establishment, with Mr. Trump mocking American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, and top Republicans vowing investigations into Kremlin activities.

    Mr. Trump, in a statement issued by his transition team on Friday evening, expressed complete disbelief in the intelligence agencies’ assessments.

    “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Trump’s team said, adding that the election was over and that it was time to “move on.”

    Though Mr. Trump has wasted no time in antagonizing the agencies, he will have to rely on them for the sort of espionage activities and analysis that they spend more than $70 billion a year to perform.

    At this point in a transition, a president-elect is usually delving into intelligence he has never before seen and learning about C.I.A. and National Security Agency abilities. But Mr. Trump, who has taken intelligence briefings only sporadically, is questioning not only analytic conclusions, but also their underlying facts.

    “To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions — wow,” said Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the N.S.A. and later the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush.

    With the partisan emotions on both sides — Mr. Trump’s supporters see a plot to undermine his presidency, and Hillary Clinton’s supporters see a conspiracy to keep her from the presidency — the result is an environment in which even those basic facts become the basis for dispute.

    Mr. Trump’s team lashed out at the agencies after The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. believed that Russia had intervened to undercut Mrs. Clinton and lift Mr. Trump, and The New York Times reported that Russia had broken into Republican National Committee computer networks just as they had broken into Democratic ones, but had released documents only on the Democrats.

    The president-elect finds himself in a bind after strenuously rejecting for months all assertions that Russia was working to help him, though he did at one point invite Russia to find thousands of Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

    While there is no evidence that the Russian meddling affected the outcome of the election or the legitimacy of the vote, Mr. Trump and his aides want to shut the door on any such notion, including the idea that President Vladimir V. Putin schemed to put him in office.

    Instead, Mr. Trump casts the issue as an unknowable mystery. “It could be Russia,” he recently told Time magazine. “And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

    The Republicans who lead the congressional committees overseeing intelligence, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security take the opposite view. They say that Russia was behind the election meddling, but that the scope and intent of the operation need deep investigation, hearings and public reports.

    One question they may want to explore is why the intelligence agencies believe that the Republican networks were compromised while the F.B.I., which leads domestic cyberinvestigations, has apparently told Republicans that it has not seen evidence of that breach. Senior officials say the intelligence agencies’ conclusions are not being widely shared, even with law enforcement.

    “We cannot allow foreign governments to interfere in our democracy,” Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and was considered by Mr. Trump for secretary of Homeland Security, said at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “When they do, we must respond forcefully, publicly and decisively.”

    He has promised hearings, saying the Russian activity was “a call to action,” as has Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of the few senators left from the Cold War era, when the Republican Party made opposition to the Soviet Union — and later deep suspicion of Russia — the centerpiece of its foreign policy.

    Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was little doubt that the Russian government was involved in hacking the D.N.C. “All of the intelligence analysts who looked at it came to the conclusion that the tradecraft was very similar to the Russians,” he said.

    Even one of Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said on Friday that he had no doubt about Russia’s culpability. His complaint was with the intelligence agencies, which he said had “repeatedly” failed “to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions,” and with the Obama administration’s lack of a punitive response.

    One person who attended a classified briefing on the intelligence said that the investigators had explained that the malware used in the cyberattack on the D.N.C. matched tools previously used by hackers with proven ties to the Russian government. That sort of “pattern analysis” is common in cyberinvestigations, though it is not conclusive.

    But the intelligence agencies had more: They had managed to identify the individuals from the G.R.U. who oversaw the hacking efforts. That may have come from intercepted conversations, spying efforts, or implants in computer systems that allow the tracking of emails and text messages.

    In briefings to Mr. Obama and on Capitol Hill, intelligence agencies have said they now believe that what began as an effort to undermine the credibility of American elections morphed over time into a much more targeted effort to harm Mrs. Clinton, whom Mr. Putin has long accused of interfering in Russian parliamentary elections in 2011.

    But to hedge their bets before the election, according to the briefings, the Russians also targeted the Republican National Committee, Republican operatives and prominent members of the Republican establishment, like former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

    But few of those emails have ever surfaced, save for Mr. Powell’s, which were critical of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for trying to draw him into a defense of her use of a private computer server.

    A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Sean Spicer, disputed the report in The Times that the intelligence community had concluded that the R.N.C. had been hacked.

    “The RNC was not ‘hacked,’ ” he said on Twitter. “The @nytimes was told and chose to ignore.” On Friday night, before The Times published its report, the committee had refused to comment.

    One question they may want to explore is why the intelligence agencies believe that the Republican networks were compromised while the F.B.I., which leads domestic cyberinvestigations, has apparently told Republicans that it has not seen evidence of that breach. Senior officials say the intelligence agencies’ conclusions are not being widely shared, even with law enforcement.”

    Keep in mind that the question of whether or not the RNC was actually hacked isn’t simply a question of clearing up the question of the motive of the hackers. It also means the hackers potentially have a bunch of blackmail material on the Republican Party. So this is potentially a very big deal which makes the FBI/CIA dispute on this matter something to watch going forward. Especially given the incredible damage the FBI did to its credibility this election.

    So that’s all part of why questions of legitimacy are going to be one of the major themes for an administration poised to impose one of the most sweeping far-right agendas in American history. And that’s also part of what makes the hacking so bizarre if the Kremlin really was behind those hackers and they weren’t hired by some other government, group, or the Trump team itself: While the damage that the GOP is about to unleash on American society really should be blamed almost entirely on the GOP, that’s not how the American public is going to remember it. When the GOP guts Medicare and Social Security and basically transforms the United States into a full-blown fascist enterprise over the next two years, and all those clueless Trump voters realize they’ve been completely conned, they aren’t going to blame themselves, Fox News, the GOP, or even Trump. They’re going to blame Putin and Russia.

    At least that’s where a big chunk of the blame will go. Instead of acknowledging that they were conned, which no one likes to do, Trump voters can claim they were fooled by Kremlin meddling instead after the consequences of electing Trump become clear. Are you poor and dying because Paul Ryan implemented his long-held agenda to gut the saftey-net? Blame Putin. Are you upset about the new wars Trump will inevitably start? Blame Putin. Did Trump’s tax cuts and mass privatizations bankrupt the US while selling off the family jewels? Blame Putin. That’s probably how it’s going to play out.

    The horrible public image karma that should be incurred by almost entirely by the GOP for its inhumane agenda is now going to be shared in the American public’s mind with Putin and Russia. Especially if the conclusion about Putin’s motives in the following article from back on September becomes widely accepted by the American public: that Putin did it for revenge and respect. If that assessment becomes the American public’s eventual assessment, we can tragically expect calls for American revenge to be the norm, which would be tragic. And the worse Trump is to the American public, and it’s almost a certainty that he and the rest of the GOP are going to be a monsters, the more the American public is going to want payback…against Russia. It’s sad and tragic but that’s probably going to happen. If the Kremlin really was behind these hacks you have to wonder what they were thinking. Of all the paths for changing US attitudes towards Russia, helping to install Orange Hitler probably wasn’t the best approach in the long-run. It’s not like the American public is going to engage in a period of self-reflection.

    So, given this incredible crisis of legitimacy in the US that threatens to spiral into a crisis of relations between the US and Russia after the Trumpian/GOP nightmare reveals itself, it’s probably a good time to start asking ourselves what would be a healthy way to channel that inevitable call for revenge that the American public is going to be calling for after their lives and economy are destroyed. We shouldn’t do this, but we will, so what’s the least destructive way to do this that doesn’t destroy US/Russian relations for another century.

    Fortunately, there’s a very compelling and positive form of “revenge” that would actually be to the benefit of everyone. At least in the long run: get the US off fossil fuels! ASAP. And do everything the US can to get the rest of the world off fossil fuels. After all, the Russian economy is extremely reliant on fossil fuel exports, so if the US public really wants revenge, a massive long-term campaign to get the world off its suicidal fossil fuel addiction is quite possibly the most devastating act of revenge the US could do.

    Ok, actually, it would be second most devastating act of revenge. The most devastating act of revenge would be to do absolutely nothing about the world’s fossil fuel addiction, as we’re set to do under the Trump administration, and just let climate change and environmental collapse send the world into a crisis of war and destabilization that never ends and inevitably engulfs the US, Russia, and everywhere else into an endless series of brutal conflicts that no one wins. That’s the worst thing the US could do to Russia. And itself. Let’s not do that.

    So how about we put out the idea now that if the US public concludes Russia helped install Cheeto Hitler in the White House and foolishly comes to the conclusion that some sort of revenge act is in order, getting the US and the world off of fossil fuels is the best act of revenge available. Sure, the US economy would take a hit too, but nearly as big as what would happen to Russia. And Russia would be forced to accelerate its transition to a post-fossil fuel economy, something it needs to do anyway. This is obviously the most brutal act of non-self-destructive revenge the US could possibly do. Also, it would be one of the kindest acts the US could do to itself, Russia, and everyone else, because it would possibly help avert a century or more of complete despair as the biosphere collapses. If revenge on Russia is what the public calls for, rightly or wrongly, how about we get “revenge” by helping avert a global catastrophe? It seems like the obvious choice. No?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 10, 2016, 5:36 pm
  2. Here’s a lawsuit worth keeping an eye on: Vice News is suing the FBI for a wide range of records related to the FBI’s investigations and actions related to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 election. It follows on a Freedom of Information Act request for the same documents earlier this month. And if it pans out it could prove to be quite a treasure trove in terms of understanding the nature of the politicization at the FBI and the dangers that could hold for the nation going forward. So it’s a pretty topical lawsuit…for at least the next four to eight years:

    Politico

    FBI sued for files on election-era probes

    By Josh Gerstein
    12/13/16 01:24 PM EST

    A journalist and a university researcher are suing the FBI for a slew of records relating to the law enforcement agency’s activities in the months leading up to the presidential election.

    The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, demands a wide range of FBI files and emails pertaining to the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and its inquiries into the Clinton Foundation. The lawsuit also demands information on a variety of people, entities and topics associated with the presidential campaign such as Breitbart News, Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon (who has been picked to serve as a top White House adviser to President-elect Donald Trump) and the “alt-right.”

    The suit also seeks all FBI emails mentioning Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former Clinton campaign vice chair Huma Abedin, Abedin’s estranged husband Anthony Weiner, Trump, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump advisers Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone and Kellyanne Conway, CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord, Fox News host Sean Hannity, or Fox News anchor Bret Baier, among others.

    Vice News reporter Jason Leopold and Harvard/MIT researcher Ryan Shapiro submitted the request on December 2. Normally, agencies are entitled to at least 20 business days to respond to a FOIA request before a suit is filed. However, the case filed Tuesday claims the FBI failed to respond to a demand for expedited processing of their request, apparently on grounds of the public and media interest in the FBI’s pre-election actions.

    Some in both the Clinton and Trump camps have claimed that FBI Director James Comey’s late October disclosure that his agency was reviewing new emails relevant to the Clinton probe and a follow-up letter attempting to put the matter to rest swung the election to Trump by generating more rounds of media coverage about the email probe, one of Clinton’s major liabilities in the campaign.

    “Current FBI Director James Comey also insists, notwithstanding the FBI’s previous transgressions, today’s Bureau truly is outside and above politics. However, numerous leading political and news media figures from across the political spectrum explicitly assert the FBI repeatedly and with significant impact affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election,” Leopold and Shapiro’s attorney, Jeffrey Light, wrote in the complaint.

    “The suit also seeks all FBI emails mentioning Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former Clinton campaign vice chair Huma Abedin, Abedin’s estranged husband Anthony Weiner, Trump, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump advisers Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone and Kellyanne Conway, CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord, Fox News host Sean Hannity, or Fox News anchor Bret Baier, among others”

    That’s going to be one helluva lawsuit if it pans out. And note that perhaps the most explosive documents weren’t mentioned in that article. That would be the documents relating to alleged FBI investigations into Trump that also took place last year. It would be especially explosive if true since these investigations were allgedly taking place at the same time James Comey wrote his infamous letter about newsly discovered Clinton emails 11 days before the election that Comey felt compelled to tell the world about for some reason:

    Vice News

    VICE News sues FBI

    Our FOIA suit demands info on Trump, the Clintons, and Breitbart News

    By Jason Leopold on Dec 13, 2016

    VICE News is suing the FBI, demanding the bureau release records related to its curious disclosures, behind-the-scenes actions, and apparent leaks in the days leading up to the U.S. presidential election.

    The wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in conjunction with Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at MIT and research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Earlier this month, VICE News and Shapiro filed more than 50 FOIA requests with the FBI seeking documents about the bureau’s discussions regarding Donald Trump, along with other documents that would shed light on the FBI’s decision a week before the election to tweet newly posted records from a long-dormant Twitter account about Bill Clinton’s 2000 pardon of financier Marc Rich.

    The pardon, a controversial decision by the former president, was investigated at the time by current FBI director James Comey while he was U.S. attorney.

    According to an Oct. 30 report in the Wall Street Journal, “Even as the probe of Mrs. Clinton’s email use wound down in July, internal disagreements within the bureau and the Justice Department surrounding the Clintons’ family philanthropy heated up.”

    Our lawsuit “seeks public disclosure of specified government records to make sense of the pivotal role of the FBI, as well as of other agencies, in perhaps the most controversial presidential election in modern U.S. history,” says our complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by FOIA attorney Jeffrey Light.

    “Despite subsequent disclosures of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, since its inception, the FBI staunchly maintained it was a purely apolitical entity,” the complaint notes. “However, numerous leading political and news media figures from across the political spectrum explicitly assert the FBI repeatedly and with significant impact affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”

    This is the fourth Trump-related FOIA lawsuit VICE News and Shapiro have filed since September. We sued the FBI, Secret Service, and IRS for information concerning a pair of incendiary comments Trump made on the campaign trail last summer — including one in which he called on Russia to track down 30,000 “missing” Clinton emails — as well as audits of Trump’s tax returns spanning more than a decade.

    In November, we sued the FBI for documents about various Trump business entities, including Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.; the Trump Organization; Trump University; and the Trump Foundation, and any documents about their role in potential violations of federal law.

    Two weeks ago, the FBI, in a letter disclosed to us 10 days after the election, revealed that the bureau may very well have been investigating Trump when Comey disclosed to Congress prior to the election that the agency had found additional emails that “appear to be pertinent” to its investigation of Clinton’s private email server.

    “The nature of your request implicates investigative records the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its broad criminal and national security investigative missions and functions,” the FBI letter said. “Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any such records about your subject as the mere acknowledgment of such records existence or nonexistence would in and of itself trigger foreseeable harm to agency interests.”

    “Two weeks ago, the FBI, in a letter disclosed to us 10 days after the election, revealed that the bureau may very well have been investigating Trump when Comey disclosed to Congress prior to the election that the agency had found additional emails that “appear to be pertinent” to its investigation of Clinton’s private email server.

    Oh what a shocker. If true, of course. And that’s why it’s going to be very interesting to see how forthcoming the FBI is about this alleged pair of investigations. Especially since one of the alleged FBI investigations into Trump was about Trump public call during a press conference for “Russia” to release hacked Clinton Hillary’s emails. That’s rather topical! And the other investigation was reportedly about Trump dog-whistling to his supporters to assassinate Hillary. Always topical!

    So who knows what the chances are of this lawsuit succeeding, but let’s keep our fingers crossed. After all, the politicization of the FBI in order to get blatant fascist elected president is one of the topical topics you could possibly have, day in and day out, once that fascist is actually elected:

    Vice News

    FBI may have also been investigating Trump

    By Jason Leopold on Nov 30, 2016

    Just 11 days before the U.S. presidential election, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to Congress letting them know that the agency had found additional emails that “appear to be pertinent” to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

    It was extremely unusual for the bureau to be so forthcoming about an investigation, and the move drew harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans who accused Comey of deliberately trying to turn the election in Trump’s favor.

    Ten days after the election, the FBI responded to a longstanding VICE News Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealing that the bureau may very well have been investigating Donald Trump, too.

    In September, VICE News and Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at MIT and research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, filed the FOIA lawsuit against the FBI demanding documents connected to a pair of incendiary comments Trump made on the campaign trail over the summer. In July, he called upon Russia to track down “30,000 emails [from Hillary Clinton’s private email server] that are missing.” And at an August campaign rally in North Carolina, he made a statement that was widely interpreted as calling for the assassination of Clinton.

    We sought this information from the FBI after receiving a tip that the bureau, in addition to the Secret Service, was probing the incidents. We asked the FBI to grant us expedited processing because there was an urgent need to inform the public before they went to the polls on November 8.

    But the FBI refused to respond to our request before the election, instead dating it Nov. 18; we received it in the mail Nov. 28.

    “The nature of your request implicates investigative records the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its broad criminal and national security investigative missions and functions,” said the bureau’s response, which is embedded at the end of this story. “Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any such records about your subject as the mere acknowledgment of such records existence or nonexistence would in and of itself trigger foreseeable harm to agency interests.”

    This is what’s known as a Glomar response, a term that came into use after the CIA denied a reporter’s request in the 1970s for information about a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, designed to recover a sunken Russian submarine. The agency refused to either confirm or deny the ship’s existence.

    The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be withheld because disclosure would interfere with enforcement proceedings and disclose information vital for effective investigations. This response is highly suspicious.

    For one, it is extremely rare for the FBI to issue a Glomar. I’ve filed thousands of requests with the bureau and I cannot recall ever receiving a Glomar. Typically, when a FOIA requester seeks information from the FBI on anything the bureau might be investigating, the FBI has explicit authority to deny the request, citing a pending investigation. However, because using that exemption would itself confirm to a requester that there’s an ongoing probe, the FBI has the authority under the FOIA to essentially lie and say it doesn’t have any documents — even when it does.

    But the bureau did neither of those things. Instead, it said it could not confirm or deny that it has any documents concerning an investigation into Trump and/or his comments about Clinton.

    Had the FBI released this letter to us prior to the election, our subsequent story would have noted that Trump may be under investigation over his comments — and that no doubt would have attracted widespread media attention. The FBI may have been aware of this and chosen to delay disclosure until after Election Day.

    The fact that Comey revealed to the heads of eight congressional committees that FBI investigators located emails potentially pertinent to its probe of Clinton before Election Day is a potential double standard not lost on Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

    “It is extremely difficult to understand the FBI’s position,” he told VICE News. “On one hand, they are refusing to provide any information whatsoever in response to these FOIA requests relating to Donald Trump, yet at the height of the presidential campaign, the FBI director personally disclosed details about the investigative steps the FBI was taking with respect to Secretary Clinton — even though there was no finding of criminal activity. I have said repeatedly that if the FBI is going to break from longstanding precedent, it cannot do so for only one presidential candidate and not the other. I believe this approach has done great harm to the public’s trust in the FBI.”

    It’s unlikely the FBI launched a full-blown investigation into Trump’s comments. Instead, an agent likely raised it as an issue and opened a file that probably contains a few sheets of paper. But that itself would be newsworthy.

    Nate Jones, the director of the FOIA project at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, told VICE News the FBI’s response to our requests is troubling on a number of other fronts as well.

    “It appears clear that the FBI is placing its interest on not performing a FOIA review of the documents — or even stating if they exist — above the very large public interest in this case,” he said. “It’s another important example as to why agencies should not be given the ability to issue blanket ‘non-denial’ denials in response to FOIA requests…. Hopefully, in this case a judge will compel the FBI to do just this.”

    Jeffrey Light, the FOIA attorney handling our case, said VICE News will challenge the FBI’s response in court. But before we proceed, we need the Secret Service to respond to an identical FOIA request. The Secret Service had already stated publicly that it was looking into Trump’s comments about “Second Amendment people” and Clinton. But they’re now in an awkward position: It is their job to protect President-elect Trump.

    We sought this information from the FBI after receiving a tip that the bureau, in addition to the Secret Service, was probing the incidents. We asked the FBI to grant us expedited processing because there was an urgent need to inform the public before they went to the polls on November 8.”

    Yep, and in response to the FOIA requests after receiving that tip, Vice News got “the Glomar Response”, which, as the article notes, is rather odd for a FOIA request:

    The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be withheld because disclosure would interfere with enforcement proceedings and disclose information vital for effective investigations. This response is highly suspicious.

    For one, it is extremely rare for the FBI to issue a Glomar. I’ve filed thousands of requests with the bureau and I cannot recall ever receiving a Glomar. Typically, when a FOIA requester seeks information from the FBI on anything the bureau might be investigating, the FBI has explicit authority to deny the request, citing a pending investigation. However, because using that exemption would itself confirm to a requester that there’s an ongoing probe, the FBI has the authority under the FOIA to essentially lie and say it doesn’t have any documents — even when it does.

    But the bureau did neither of those things. Instead, it said it could not confirm or deny that it has any documents concerning an investigation into Trump and/or his comments about Clinton.

    Had the FBI released this letter to us prior to the election, our subsequent story would have noted that Trump may be under investigation over his comments — and that no doubt would have attracted widespread media attention. The FBI may have been aware of this and chosen to delay disclosure until after Election Day.

    So the FBI didn’t confirm or deny the existence of such documents, but since it could have legally denied it if there was an ongoing probe, the fact that it issued a Glomar response just adds to the intrigue. In part because it suggests that there was an investigation, it’s over, and now the FBI would prefer to not admit it:


    It’s unlikely the FBI launched a full-blown investigation into Trump’s comments. Instead, an agent likely raised it as an issue and opened a file that probably contains a few sheets of paper. But that itself would be newsworthy.

    So, if that’s the case and there really was just a minor investigation opened into a possible relationship between the Trump team and whoever was hacking the Democratic Party, that would mean that in the middle of a campaign where hacking an unknown party was clearly playing a major role in favor of Donald Trump, and then Trump publicly calls for Russia to released hacked documents, the FBI just did some sort of half-assed internal investigation into whether or not the Trump team could be involved with those hacks. And don’t forget that Trump surrogate and close ally Roger Stone was publicly admitting to being in touch with Wikileaks.

    So, yeah, this all seems like a rather topical FOIA request/lawsuit. And the less the FBI cooperates with it, the more topical it becomes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 13, 2016, 4:12 pm
  3. Here’s a sign of the times. And also a sign of the growing mass peril of our times: Should the American public basically pay a giant bribe to Donald Trump up front in the form of massively overpaying him for his entire global business empire in order to reduce his incentives to govern like the corrupt money-grubber? It’s not an unreasonable question:

    The Week

    Let’s just give Donald Trump $15 billion

    Ryan Cooper
    December 12, 2016

    It’s looking more and more clear that corruption is going to be a serious issue with a Donald Trump administration. From his probably-illegal ownership of a hotel in D.C. to his involvement with companies in Saudi Arabia, his potential conflicts of interests are wildly unprecedented, and he has shrugged off any suggestion that he needs to divest himself of financial conflicts to govern responsibly.

    For longtime students of Trump history, this is not remotely surprising. There are two constants in the Trump universe: self-promotion, and structuring contracts so as to maximally enrich himself.

    What is to be done? It would be best, of course, if our elected representatives could be trusted to behave honorably and ethically. But we’re well past that point in this country. If Trump is to be stopped from bending the entire federal government to serve his personal business interests, we all might just have to pay him billions of dollars.

    Here’s the plan. The government will simply purchase all the various Trump properties, in return for an ironclad law that the president will not be allowed to have financial conflicts of interest. For reasons I will explain below, it will pay a big markup from the market price, let’s say 300 percent. Trump says he is worth $10 billion, but on the open market it’s likely somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-5 billion, so for the low, low price of $9-15 billion, we can go some distance towards protecting the American state from being Trump-ized.

    There are various reasons to pay more than the sticker price.

    First is that the bigger the payoff, the more likely Trump will be to accept it. It’s certainly highly unfair for taxpayers to collectively pay billions to make an already-rich man much richer, but the reasonably clean and efficient government we have now is worth far, far more than the few billion we’d have to shell out to buy all of Trump’s stuff. A few bucks per citizen is a small price to pay for preventing the whole regulatory apparatus from being warped into a mechanism for forcing people to stay at Trump hotels and eat Trump steaks. As Duncan Black writes, “It’s better for us to pay the corruption tax up front.”

    Second is a genuine point in Trump’s favor: How much of his net worth is tied up in his personal brand. As was made abundantly clear in the investigations into his business history, Trump is a pretty terrible manager of real estate development, casinos, or other such projects. But he is an absolutely peerless self-promoter and showman. Since so much of his current business is tied up with licensing his image and name, or is otherwise permeated with Trumpy essence, his properties would not be worth nearly so much to someone else. The federal government can thus offer a big premium to account for this fact, and give him a reasonably fair value he might actually accept.

    It’s an interesting question whether Trump would actually support something like this. He seems to set great store in being a businessman who owns things and makes deals. Actually having to stop being the owner of Trump Tower and all the rest would probably be a significant psychological blow.

    However, he’s perhaps even more invested in being fantastically rich — and doesn’t actually have tons and tons of money rolling in. What glimpses we have of his tax returns show a balance sheet that is probably clogged with gigantic losses from years ago; he’s been skating on big tax breaks and fairly small side hustles for quite some time. This generally fits with the sort of penny-ante corruption that Trump seems to be leaning towards — forcing foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotels and such. If someone were to present him with a windfall of billions in cash money, straight up, he might just take it.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. This is about the least bad of two terrible options. The idea that we’d have to essentially bribe the president to not turn the government into part of the Trump Organization is horrifying and indicative of a country that is rotting from the inside out. It would certainly be a queasy step to take. And there’s no guarantee that Trump wouldn’t cook up some different hustles afterwards.

    “Here’s the plan. The government will simply purchase all the various Trump properties, in return for an ironclad law that the president will not be allowed to have financial conflicts of interest. For reasons I will explain below, it will pay a big markup from the market price, let’s say 300 percent. Trump says he is worth $10 billion, but on the open market it’s likely somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-5 billion, so for the low, low price of $9-15 billion, we can go some distance towards protecting the American state from being Trump-ized.”

    It turns out there really are some deals that you can’t afford to pass up! Although his kids would probably formally join his administration if they didn’t have a ‘blind trust’ to run, so there would be a few downsides. Still, it seems like a pretty sweet deal: bribe Trump upfront in a manner that makes him less prone to bribery and blackmail from the rest of the world.

    But if this doesn’t seem like a sweet enough deal yet, here’s a sweetener:

    Newsweek

    How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interests

    By Kurt Eichenwald On 12/13/16 at 6:50 AM

    Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire. Because of this, the next president of the United States is already vulnerable to undue influence by other nations, including through bribery and even blackmail.

    Given the vast scope of the clashes between the Trumps’ extensive business dealings and the interests of America, the president-elect vowed during the campaign to eliminate potential conflicts by severing ties to his company—yet, with only weeks to go until he takes the oath of office, he hasn’t laid out a credible plan. Trump’s sole suggestion to date—a “blind trust” run by his children—would not eliminate the conflicts, given that the money generated would still go to his family. Moreover, such a trust would be anything but blind: If Trump Tower Moscow goes under construction, Trump will see it while in Russia and know that his kids are making millions of dollars from it. That is why foreign leaders hoping to curry favor will do everything they can to help Trump’s family erect more buildings, sell more jewelry and make money through any means possible. Even if the family steps away from its company while Trump is president, every nation on Earth will know that doing business with the Trump Organization will one day benefit the family. The only way to eliminate the conflicts—sell the company, divvy up the proceeds—has been rejected by Trump, whose transition team refused to respond to any questions from Newsweek for this article.

    Some of the most egregious conflicts that have emerged involve countries in Asia and its subregions, particularly the Philippines. Global policy on the Philippines has been fraught with tension since the election in May of Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s president. Duterte, who boasted to voters during the campaign that he had shot a fellow law school student for teasing him, has championed the killing of suspected criminals and street children by vigilante death squads. In 2015, he said that if he became president, up to 100,000 people suspected of links to illegal drugs could be killed. Just months after his election, Duterte said he was eager to lead a genocide of up to 3 million drug addicts. “I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said. “At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me].” And in September, an admitted hit man testified to a Senate committee in the Philippines that Duterte presided over a killing campaign when he was mayor of Davao City.

    As president, Duterte rapidly showed he was little concerned with the legal protections afforded to Filipinos suspected of crimes. During his first three months in office, 850 Filipinos were killed by death squads, apparently on little more than the suspicion that they were drug users and dealers. Since then, the estimated death toll has climbed to 4,500. The carnage has been condemned throughout the Western world; the Parliament of the European Union and two United Nations human rights experts have urged Duterte to end the massacre. One of the experts even appeared to suggest that Duterte and his government could be held legally accountable for committing mass murder in violation of international law. “Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield state actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” said Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions. In response to the denunciations, Duterte lashed out at the United States, threatening to align his country more with China.

    Despite universal condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Filipinos, Trump signaled his approval of Duterte’s policies during a phone call on December 2. According to Duterte—an account that has gone uncontested by Trump—the president-elect endorsed his tactics as “the right way.” Duterte added: “[Trump] was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.” (He also said Trump invited him to the White House, a courtesy not yet extended to Theresa May, the prime minister of Britain, America’s most important strategic ally.)

    The Trump transition team did not respond to Newsweek when asked if the president-elect had intended to signal his approval of the carnage in the Philippines; did not believe the conclusions of the U.N. and Western nations that Duterte ordered the killings; or simply did not understand the magnitude of his comments. One thing, however, is clear: The Trump family has an enormous financial interest in keeping Duterte happy. Trump Tower at Century City in Makati, Philippines, is on the verge of completion, with potential buyers having placed deposits on at least 94 percent of the condominiums, according to Century Properties, the Trump Organization’s business partner there. During the U.S. presidential campaign, Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric traveled to Makati to shovel some dirt in a ceremony to celebrate the structural completion of the building; a photograph of the two men shoveling alongside top Century Properties executives was posted on the building’s website. (On that same website, a line of jewelry by Trump’s daughter Ivanka is offered for sale, and it is expected to be available for purchase at the $150 million property.) As with almost every property with Trump’s name on it built over the past decade, his company is not the developer; it merely sold its name to Century Properties to use on the building. Although details of the transaction are not public, contracts for other Trump branding deals reviewed by Newsweek show that they require a multimillion-dollar up-front payment as well as up to 25 percent of the developer’s revenue, year after year. So, under the deal, Trump’s children will be paid millions of dollars throughout their father’s presidency by Jose E.B. Antonio, the head of Century Properties.

    Duterte recently named Antonio the special government envoy to the United States. The conflicts here could not be more troubling or more blatant: President Trump will be discussing U.S. policy in Southeast Asia with one of his (or his children’s) business partners, a man who is the official representative of a foreign leader who likens himself to Hitler. Also note that the Trump family has an enormous financial interest in Duterte’s deadly campaign: Rooting out crime in the Philippines is good for the real estate values.

    The Trump family’s dealings in the Philippines will set off a constitutional crisis on the first day of Trump’s presidency, if anyone in the federal government decides to abide by the law. There is serious debate as to whether Trump will be violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause—which prohibits office holders from accepting gifts from foreign states—since the majority of his company’s business is with other corporations and developers. That is not the case in the Philippines. The man writing millions of dollars’ worth of checks to the Trump family is the Duterte government’s special representative to the United States. To argue that these payments will be constitutional if they are paid to the Trump children, and not to Trump personally, is absurd. This conflict demands congressional hearings, and could be an impeachable offense.

    This unyielding principle that foreign powers cannot be allowed to hold sway over a president dates back to the Founding Fathers. In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote of the dangers of such a scenario. “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption,” he wrote in reference to the powers bestowed in the Constitution. “These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

    Trump’s conflicts of interest in the Philippines cannot be resolved so long as anyone in his family has an interest in the building there. Even if his business partner, Antonio, is removed as Duterte’s special envoy, Trump won’t simply forget that the Makati building exists, that the authoritarian Philippine president has the power to damage the Trump family’s financial interests there and that the protection of what is now a high-profile target for attacks is in Duterte’s hands. (In the past three years, there have been nine strikes in the Philippines. The most recent, in September, was a bombing that killed 15 people and injured 70; in response, Duterte declared that the country was in a “state of lawlessness” and ordered police and the military to search all cars and citizens at checkpoints.)

    The result of all this is that Duterte has extraordinary leverage against Trump, and no one will know what impact that might have on the future president’s decision-making. For example, will Trump ignore the promises he made during the campaign on immigration when it comes to the Philippines, given the devastating impact it could have on the economy there?

    A report by the research division of Nomura Securities concluded that, under Trump’s declared policies, “the Philippines’ economy stands to lose the most” of all countries in Southeast Asia. And because many Filipino guest laborers in the United States are undocumented, the report said that a tightening of immigration policies could lead to fewer migrant workers from that country. “This could impact remittances inflows back to the Philippines,” the report says. “The U.S. is host to 34.5 percent of the total overseas Filipino population, and we estimate accounts for about 31 percent of total worker remittances.” According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, remittances from the United States totaled almost $6 billion in the first seven months of 2016. Translation: Under Trump’s immigration policies, huge supports for the Filipino economy could collapse. On November 15, Moody’s announced that Trump’s policies would negatively affect the Philippines’s credit rating, which could thwart Duterte from keeping his campaign promises of tax cuts and greater spending on infrastructure. Duterte could easily punish Trump for undermining his domestic agenda in the Philippines by taking actions against the family’s business interests. And Trump knows that anything he does to alienate Duterte or harm the Philippine economy could threaten his family’s wealth.

    Follow the Falling Dominoes

    Trump also has serious conflicts of interest regarding China. Part of this, once again, traces from the Philippines. Trump has vowed to label China a “currency manipulator” that artificially drives down the value of the renminbi, which would make Chinese goods cheaper to import. That would allow the United States to impose duties on Chinese imports to offset any currency manipulation.

    .=China is one of the top two export destinations for the Philippines, with about 55 percent of that trade coming from the electronics business, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority. China then uses a large portion of those Philippines imports for the manufacture of products sold to the United States. Like an international trade version of toppling dominoes, American rules that decrease imports into the United States will, in turn, slam the largest Philippines export business, roiling that country’s economy. The last domino hits Trump Tower at Century City: The global property consultancy services company CB Richard Ellis has attributed increased demand for luxury condominiums in the Philippines to the country’s growing economy. Impose duties on Chinese imports to America today and Trump Tower in the Philippines could fall into bankruptcy soon after, costing the president’s children millions of dollars.

    So if Trump reverses his promise to have China declared a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency, would it be because someone explained to him that the renminbi has been going up in value over the past 12 months or because he now sees the possibly dire implications to the American economy from a trade war with China? Or would it be because he wants his kids’ business in the Philippines to prosper? No one but Donald Trump will ever know the truth.

    There’s a similarly disturbing conundrum in Taiwan. On December 2, Trump—with no consultation with State Department specialists on the delicate relations between American and China—upended almost 40 years of U.S. policy by taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan, which broke away from the mainland in 1949. The question of whether Taiwan is an independent country or part of China proved to be a major diplomatic challenge after U.S. President Richard Nixon normalized relations with China. To avoid conflict, the United States adopted what is called the “One China” policy, under which the U.S. maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan but does not consider it to be its own country. Because America does not recognize Taiwan as its own political entity, all American leaders since Ronald Reagan have refused to speak to its president. This month, Trump pushed his position even further, saying he saw no reason to be bound by the One China policy that has smoothed Sino-American relations and instead advocating using it as a bargaining chip in trade and other negotiations.

    If Trump wanted to reverse decades of policy followed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, he should have waited until after his inauguration; presidents-elect are not supposed to interfere in foreign policy.

    Why did he not wait? Only Trump knows, but allegations have already emerged that the decision may have been influenced by his family’s financial interests. Cheng Wen-tsan, mayor of Taoyuan, Taiwan, told The China Times that a representative from Trump’s company named Chen Siting, who is also known as Charlyne Chen, had visited to express the family’s interest in building a hotel near the city’s airport. According to the mayor, Chen also said that Eric Trump would be visiting the island by the end of the year. Since that report, the Trump Organization has stated that no trips to Taiwan were authorized for the hotels division and that no conversations were underway about such a project. However, on November 24, Chen told Formosa Television that she had assisted the Trump Organization in the past to sell some of its properties in Las Vegas to buyers in Taiwan and Shanghai. As first reported in The New York Times, Anne-Marie Donoghue, who identifies herself on her Facebook page as a Trump Hotels Asia sales director, posted a photo from a visit to Taiwan in October, which she described as a “work trip”; this was one month after the mayor of Taoyuan said he met with Chen.

    Finally, there is the question of whether the Trump Organization will attempt any deals in China during the next four years. In 2011, Eric Trump publicly stated that the family company planned to expand its brand into China after the completion of the Manila project. That building is almost finished, meaning the Chinese could well be expecting contacts from the Trump family soon. What Trump and his transition team don’t seem to understand is that it does not matter whether Siting’s trip was authorized, whether Donoghue was in attendance, whether there are discussions going on now or whether contracts are about to be signed. Just the suspicion that Trump might re-establish formal relations with Taiwan for the financial benefit of his children—or might use it as a bargaining chip for landing the kind of development deals on the mainland that Eric Trump discussed—will now be part of the foreign policy calculations in Beijing, as officials there attempt to deal with the new U.S. president.

    Extradition Swap?

    The conflicts between the commercial interests of the Trump family and U.S. foreign policy extend beyond the many financial benefits for the next president and his children. Already, there is a situation in which the president of the United States could be blackmailed by a foreign power through pressure related to his family’s business entanglements.

    In 2008, the Trump Organization struck a multimillion-dollar branding deal with the Dogan Group, a large corporation named after its influential family, for a two-tower complex in Istanbul. In 2012, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over the opening ceremonies and met with Trump. But in June of this year, Erdogan called for the Trump name to be removed from the complex because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric; the Turkish president also said presiding over the dedication had been a terrible mistake. Erdogan later told associates he intended to impede America’s use of a critical Air Force base in Turkey should Trump win the presidency, a Middle Eastern financier with contacts inside the Turkish government told Newsweek. The financier spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing relations with his official contacts.

    In July, members of the Turkish military attempted a coup. Erdogan crushed the plotters, and his government has arrested more than 36,000 suspected participants and shut down 17 media outlets. The primary culprit, Erdogan declared almost immediately, was Fethullah Gülen, a 77-year-old Muslim spiritual leader who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for many years. Erdogan demanded that the Obama administration extradite Gülen to face charges related to the coup.

    Gülen and Erdogan were allies until 2013, the year a series of corruption investigations erupted regarding government officials accused of engaging in a “gas for gold” scheme with Iran; Erdogan claimed the man with whom he once shared common goals was the driving force behind the inquiries, which he called an attempted “civilian coup.” Erdogan has placed Gülen on country’s list of most-wanted terrorists, but the Obama administration has not acted on the extradition request, and it has told the Turks they would have to produce proof of Gülen’s involvement in the coup attempt before he could be sent to Ankara, the Turkish capital.

    Enter Donald Trump. The day of the U.S. election, the news site The Hill published an article by Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, who has since been named as Trump’s national security adviser. “The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam,” Flynn wrote. “We should not provide him safe haven…. It is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.” (Flynn, who runs a consulting firm hired by a company with links to the Turkish government, seems unaware that radical Islamic groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS, are more likely to decapitate someone like Gülen.)

    That article, according to the financier with contacts in the Turkish government, led Erdogan and his associates to believe a Trump administration would not demand more evidence to justify deporting Gülen. So, almost immediately, Erdogan stopped condemning Trump and instead voiced support for him. The day after the U.S. election, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued a statement directly linking his country’s good wishes for Trump with its desire to get Gülen back. “We congratulate Mr. Trump. I am openly calling on the new president from here about the urgent extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the mastermind, executor and perpetrator of the heinous July 15 coup attempt, who lives on U.S. soil.”

    In a telephone call that same day with Erdogan, Trump passed on compliments to the Turkish president from a senior official with his company’s business partner on the Istanbul project, whom the president-elect was reported to have called “a close friend.” The official, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, is the son-in-law of Dogan Holding owner Aydin Dogan and was instrumental in the development of the Trump complex in Turkey. That Trump delivered messages from his business partner to Erdogan has been reported in numerous media outlets in Turkey, including some closely tied to the government, and has not been denied by Turkish officials or the Trump transition team.

    According to the Middle Eastern financier with contacts in the Erdogan administration, Trump’s casual praise of a member of the Dogan family prompted Erdogan to believe this relationship might give him leverage over the president-elect. In the past, Erdogan has placed enormous pressure on the Dogan Group, which owns media operations that have been critical of him, by imposing a $2.5 billion tax fine and calling for supporters to boycott its newspapers and television stations. Then, just weeks after hearing Trump’s kind words about his Dogan business partner, Erdogan lashed out at the Turkish company again.

    On December 1, authorities detained Barbaros Muratogl, a 28-year veteran of Dogan who was the company’s representative to Ankara. His alleged crime? Maintaining links to the movement led by Gülen, thus connecting the Dogan executive to the attempted coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 percent. (The purported evidence against Muratogl: public accusations from an editor at a newspaper owned by a company that competes with Dogan.)

    Once again, follow the dominoes as they tip over. Erdogan is frustrated in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump praises a Turkish executive who works with his business partner there, Dogan. A few weeks later, a senior Dogan executive is detained on threadbare allegations. If Erdogan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gülen extradited. The financier with contacts in the Turkish government explained the dynamic to Newsweek: “Erdogan has something he believes Trump wants, and Trump has someone Erdogan desperately wants.”

    Who Dares Say No to Ivanka?

    With U.S. security and foreign policy already jeopardized by the president-elect’s conflicts, a few horrifying instances of potential corruption and abuse of power seem quaint by comparison. For example, in a stunning breach of protocol, Ivanka Trump—who supposedly will be on the other side of the dividing line between the Trump businesses and the Trump presidency—sat in on her father’s first meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shortly after the election. At the same time, officials with her clothing company were working on a licensing agreement with Sanei International. The largest shareholder of Sanei’s parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government headed by Abe.

    Given the extraordinary power Donald Trump now wields, it’s obvious that foreign governments and corporations can easily curry favor, bribe or even blackmail him, which is why the Founding Fathers so feared outside influences on the Executive Branch. Once he’s president, Trump does not need to ask for cash to be delivered to his pockets or to those of his children to cross the line into illicit activities—and possibly impeachable offenses. Macri of Argentina cannot know if his country will be punished by the Trump White House if the remaining permits for that Buenos Aires project are denied. Abe of Japan does not know if a government holdup of Ivanka Trump’s deal with Sanei International will lead her impulsive father to call for an American military withdrawal from his country. Erdogan of Turkey has told associates he believes he must keep pressure on Trump’s business partner there to essentially blackmail the president into extraditing a political enemy. Duterte of the Philippines believes he has received approval from the president-elect to, at best, abide by or, at worst, continue to authorize the frenzied slaughter of drug users and dealers, and knows he can harm the Trump family if the president ever angers him.

    America is on the precipice of an unprecedented threat, as allies and enemies alike calculate whether they are dealing with a president they can please merely by enriching his children. President-elect Trump has a monumental choice before him: He can, as he promised during the campaign, protect the sanctity of the presidency—which he can do only by selling his company. Or he can remain corrupted by the conflicts between his country’s future and his family’s fortune.

    Duterte recently named Antonio the special government envoy to the United States. The conflicts here could not be more troubling or more blatant: President Trump will be discussing U.S. policy in Southeast Asia with one of his (or his children’s) business partners, a man who is the official representative of a foreign leader who likens himself to Hitler. Also note that the Trump family has an enormous financial interest in Duterte’s deadly campaign: Rooting out crime in the Philippines is good for the real estate values.”

    Yep, the developer of the Trump Tower of the Philippines just happened to get appointed as the special government envoy to the United States. And that’s just the Philippines. As we just saw, Trump has business deal, or potential deals, all over the world. Already. So even if he pledges that his business empire ‘blind trust’ (run by his kids) won’t be doing any new deals during his time in office (a pledge he tweeted last night) that still leaves a lot of existing deals that need to be maintained. And existing business partners to potentially protect:

    On December 1, authorities detained Barbaros Muratogl, a 28-year veteran of Dogan who was the company’s representative to Ankara. His alleged crime? Maintaining links to the movement led by Gülen, thus connecting the Dogan executive to the attempted coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 percent. (The purported evidence against Muratogl: public accusations from an editor at a newspaper owned by a company that competes with Dogan.)

    Once again, follow the dominoes as they tip over. Erdogan is frustrated in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump praises a Turkish executive who works with his business partner there, Dogan. A few weeks later, a senior Dogan executive is detained on threadbare allegations. If Erdogan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gülen extradited. The financier with contacts in the Turkish government explained the dynamic to Newsweek: “Erdogan has something he believes Trump wants, and Trump has someone Erdogan desperately wants.”

    As we can see, it’s not just the new deals and bribery we have to worry about. It’s the existing deals and all the bribery and blackmail that can come with maintaining those deals that are potentially a much bigger problem.

    So, given all that, a $15 billion up front Trump bribe doesn’t seem to pricey, does it? Somebody is going to be doing the bribing. Shouldn’t it be the American public? All of a sudden Donald Trump’s incentives to embrace the mass murder campaigns of disgusting wannabe Hitlers would no longer include financial incentives. Wouldn’t that be great! Or, well, at least better. Maybe then we could focus all the other possible reasons Trump might want to embrace a mass murdering wannabe Hitler.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 13, 2016, 8:29 pm
  4. One of the parts that comes with being a head of state is that you’re going to live in a somewhat isolating security “bubble”. It’s inevitable. It’s also one of the few aspects of the life of a president that Donald Trump should excel at. That said, if there’s one thing about presidential bubble-land that shouldn’t be seen as inevitable, but instead deeply perilous, is when the presidential bubble includes living in an intellectual/information bubble too.

    So, with that in mind, it’s worth noting that the worldview Donald Trump is inevitably going to develop once he gains access to the full breadth of the intelligence community’s information appears to be operating in a bubble. And that bubble has a name: Michael Flynn:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Flynn, Who Improperly Shared Classified Info, Giving Trump Daily ‘Intel Updates’

    By Esme Cribb
    Published December 14, 2016, 12:11 PM EDT

    RNC communications director Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that while President-elect Donald Trump, who has eschewed regular intelligence briefings, is meeting once or twice daily with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for an “intel update.”

    Spicer told reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning that Trump “is getting the TBD [sic] three times a week right now,” but suggested that his regular meetings with Flynn hold the same cachet.

    “He is meeting with General Flynn on a daily basis to get an intel update so in some cases he is getting an intel briefing every single day, in some cases twice,” Spicer said. “So I think that it would be false to say that he is not getting an intel briefing every day. Every single day he is getting a briefing. Three times a week it’s the actual TBD [sic].”

    Spicer argued in a subsequent interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan that a briefing from Flynn is equivalent to an in-person meeting with official presidential intelligence briefers.

    “Why wouldn’t he want to get it from the source?” Bolduan asked.

    “He does get it from the source,” Spicer said. “He’s his national security advisor.”

    “Michael Flynn gets the presidential daily briefing from the briefers and then Michael Flynn relays it to Donald Trump,” Bolduan pressed. “Why wouldn’t Donald Trump want to get it from the source?”

    “I think that this is sort of a semantics thing,” Spicer replied.

    Trump has faced criticism for refusing to receive regular intelligence briefings. U.S. officials previously told Reuters that the President-elect received only one intelligence brief each week on average. CBS News reported that Trump had actively declined several intelligence briefings since the election, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence reportedly receives around six such briefings per week.

    Flynn is also facing renewed scrutiny of his own handling of classified intelligence. According to U.S. Army documents obtained by the Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request and published Wednesday, a 2010 Army investigation had determined that Flynn “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign officials in Afghanistan.

    The Army did not take further action against Flynn, as the investigation concluded that he had not acted “knowingly” and “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result.”

    The investigation itself still is classified, but the Washington Post cited former U.S. officials familiar with the matter who said Flynn was accused of sharing information about operations by the CIA and other agencies in Afghanistan.

    “”Michael Flynn gets the presidential daily briefing from the briefers and then Michael Flynn relays it to Donald Trump,” Bolduan pressed. “Why wouldn’t Donald Trump want to get it from the source?””

    So Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, a guy with a propensity to just make stuff up (“Flynn Facts”, as they called it) and a history of the “Alt-Right”, isn’t just Trump’s advisor on these matters. He’s Trump’s filter too.

    In other words, all those “Flynn facts” are poised to become the unchallenged intelligence community facts as far as Trump is going to be concerned unless Flynn decides to share the parts of those daily intelligence briefing with Trump that contradict his “Flynn facts”. Oh goodie.

    And in other news, Michael Flynn quietly deleted the tweet he made days before the election promoting a “Hillary is part of a child sex ring” hoax this week.

    And in other other news, Michael G. Flynn – Michael Flynn’s son and former chief of staff who was forced to leave the Trump transition team after people noticed that he was continuing to promote “Pizzagate”, a different “Hillary is part of a child sex ring” hoax – questioned whether the Washington Post should be shut down today. Why? Because of that Post story about prior investigations into Michael Flynn Sr’s sharing of classified information without permission, which Flynn Jr. decried as “fake news”.

    So, all in all, it’s looking like the Trump presidential bubble is going to include a classified information filter operated by a guy with a history of making things up and very recent history of publicly promoting hoaxes. And if you point this out, his son/former chief of staff will cry out for retaliation. It raises the question of how long it’s going to be before some sort of “Pizzagate”-league debacle forces Flynn Sr. out of the administration. Which, in turn, raises the unpleasant question of who comes next.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 14, 2016, 4:07 pm
  5. TBD may refer to “Technical Background Document” or they may just possibly be stupid.

    Posted by Uncle Grody | December 15, 2016, 10:17 am
  6. It looks like Steve Bannon will have some Alt-Right company in the White House advisory staff: Stephen Miller, former chief aide to Trump’s pick for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is set to be Trumps senior advisor for policy. He’s also reportedly quite close to Alt-Right ring-leader Richard Spencer going back to their time at Duke University’s Duke Conservative Union, although Miller now denies that association and claims to completely repudiate Spencer’s views. So it would appear that if Steve Bannon has a new fellow Alt-Right adviser on Trump’s team of advisors, it’s in the form of a crypto-Alt-Right fellow advisor…a not-very-crypto-Alt-Right fellow advisor:

    Mother Jones

    Trump’s Newest Senior Adviser Seen as a White Nationalist Ally
    Stephen Miller drew praise from a top white nationalist, who hopes he’ll “do good things for white America.”

    Josh Harkinson
    Dec. 14, 2016 5:04 PM

    President-elect Donald Trump’s newest pick to be a senior adviser in the White House has long ties to a prominent white nationalist, who sees him as an ally of the movement.

    Stephen Miller, a top aide to Trump’s presidential campaign, will serve as a senior White House adviser for policy, Trump’s transition team announced Tuesday. Miller is a former staffer for the nativist Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), now Trump’s nominee for attorney general. The announcement of Miller’s new role drew praise from white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. “Stephen is a highly competent and tough individual,” Spencer, who famously coined the term “alt-right” to describe the insurgent right-wing movement that has attracted white nationalists and supremacists, told Mother Jones on Wednesday. “So I have no doubt that he will do a great job.”

    Spencer and Miller first came to know each other in the late 2000s as students at Duke University, where they both belonged to the Duke Conservative Union. Miller earned notice for standing up for white lacrosse players falsely accused in 2006 of gang raping a black woman. Spencer also defended the Duke lacrosse players, writing about the case for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative, which later hired him as an editor.

    Spencer told me that at Duke, Miller helped him with fundraising and promotion for an on-campus debate on immigration policy that Spencer organized in 2007, featuring influential white nationalist Peter Brimelow. Another former member of the Duke Conservative Union confirms that Miller and Spencer worked together on the event. At DCU meetings, according to a past president of the group, Miller denounced multiculturalism and expressed concerns that immigrants from non-European countries were not assimilating.

    “I knew [Miller] very well when I was at Duke,” Spencer told me when I visited him at his home in Whitefish, Montana, a few weeks before the election. “But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this, because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

    Miller wrote about two dozen columns for the Duke Chronicle, and his articles assailed multiculturalism (which he called “segregation”) and paid family leave (which he said results in men getting laid off). He also denied there was systematic racism (which he dubbed “racial paranoia”).

    When contacted by Mother Jones in October, Miller did not respond on the record to specific questions about his activities with the DCU or his views on race and immigration, but he denied ever being close to Spencer. “I have absolutely no relationship with Mr. Spencer,” he said in an email that month. “I completely repudiate his views, and his claims are 100 percent false.”

    Before joining the Trump campaign last year, Miller, who is 30, served as Sessions’ chief of communications. “Those who worked with them say that Sessions and Miller had a ‘mind meld,'” Julia Ioffe wrote in a June Politico profile of Miller. Sessions and Miller worked closely in opposing the Supreme Court confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, who Sessions implied might not be impartial due to her Hispanic heritage. In 2014, after the Senate had passed a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration reform, Sessions helped kill it in the House by distributing anti-immigration figures and talking points that were written by Miller.

    During the campaign, Miller, as a senior adviser to Trump, warmed up crowds at Trump rallies with fiery, populist speeches drawing from a nativist playbook. “We’re going to build that wall high and we’re going to build it tall,” he proclaimed at a Trump event in Dallas in June. “We’re going to build that wall, and we’re going to build it out of love. We’re going to build it out of love for every family who wants to raise their kids in safety and peace…We’re building it out of love for America and Americans of all backgrounds.”

    “”I knew [Miller] very well when I was at Duke,” Spencer told me when I visited him at his home in Whitefish, Montana, a few weeks before the election. “But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this, because I don’t want to harm Trump.””

    Yeah, while the many documented associations between the Trump team and open Nazis don’t actually seem to harm Trump in any discernible way, you can understand why Richard Spencer wasn’t particularly inclined to tout his past close association with someone who was then working on Trump’s campaign team back in October. The far-right wasn’t ready to openly Seig Heil Trump back before the election. They had be to all subtle about it.

    And in other Richard Spencer-related news, look who’s considering running for Congress:

    The Huffington Post

    White Nationalist Who Yelled ‘Hail Trump!’ Thinking About Congressional Run
    It’s just an idea at this point, but Richard Spencer is “taking it very seriously.”

    12/16/2016 11:19 am ET | Updated

    Dana Liebelson Staff Reporter,

    WASHINGTON – White nationalist Richard Spencer, riding a post-Trump wave of media fame, is entertaining the idea of running for U.S. Congress. He is considering campaigning for Montana’s at-large congressional seat that would be vacated by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) if he is confirmed as secretary of interior.

    To be clear: Spencer is only thinking about it. He thinks “about lots of things,” he told The Huffington Post on Thursday.

    But he noted that “a lot of people were calling me and saying, ‘Oh, you should do it, just do it, this is the moment.’ I’m obviously flattered.”

    “I’m taking it very seriously,” he added. “It’s an exciting prospect.”

    Zinke is a former Navy SEAL who previously served in the Montana Senate. If he leaves Congress for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet, a special election would likely be held sometime in 2017.

    Spencer has never held public office. His experience includes heading the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist “research and educational” foundation. He is also credited with coining the term “alt-right” – an effort to rebrand white nationalism. Last month, he hosted a conference in Washington, D.C., where he yelled, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” to enthusiastic Nazi salutes from the crowd.

    Spencer, who grew up in Dallas, spends some of his time in Whitefish, Montana – where Zinke is from – and “a lot of time” in Arlington, Virginia. He claims he is a Montana resident. (The Whitefish City Council, prompted by Spencer’s presence, passed a resolution in support of diversity in 2014.) Although he has some local issues he cares about – “particularly involving state land” – he said that if he does run, he would see it as a way to reach a national audience, capitalizing on the attention that Trump’s election has afforded his movement.

    “If I did this, it would not be some eccentric campaign that no one talks about and is a footnote to history,” he said. “It would become a major conversation around the country… just because of my profile in the alt-right. Again, I would only do it to win it.”

    Montana only has one congressional seat, and in truth, the state isn’t even a sure bet for garden-variety Republicans. (Montana voters just re-elected a Democratic governor.) White nationalists also don’t tend to win statewide political campaigns. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, for example, ran for U.S. Senate in Louisiana in November and received a dismal 3 percent of the vote.

    But the idea that Spencer might court some disgruntled white voters isn’t totally far-fetched. Taylor Rose, the former vice president of the Youth for Western Civilization – called a racist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – ran for a Montana House district seat this year. (Spencer was invited to speak by the Vanderbilt chapter of the Youth for Western Civilization in 2010.) Rose lost, but earned 47 percent of the district vote. He also received support from mainstream Montana Republicans. Greg Gianforte, who was running as the GOP candidate for governor, and his wife, Susan, each gave Rose $170, the maximum donation.

    Montana Republican Chairman Jeff Essmann told HuffPost that he hadn’t heard Spencer was considering running. But, he added, “I’m guessing most quarters of the Republican Party in Montana would look skeptically at Mr. Spencer.”

    When asked whether he would personally be skeptical of such a run, Essmann replied, “I don’t get a vote in the process, I just chair the meeting.”

    A Montana Democratic strategist told HuffPost, “I think that it’s incumbent upon the Montana Republican Party to denounce this immediately, and not entertain the notion of his candidacy at all.”

    Spencer acknowledged that prior to the ascent of Trump, who has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, he would have not considered a political campaign on this level. He didn’t predict a “breakthrough” so soon, he said, or that “we would have been slingshotted into the mainstream by Donald Trump.”

    “I just never would have imagined that,” he said.

    Spencer acknowledged that prior to the ascent of Trump, who has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, he would have not considered a political campaign on this level. He didn’t predict a “breakthrough” so soon, he said, or that “we would have been slingshotted into the mainstream by Donald Trump.””

    Trumpian inspiration in action. #MAGA.

    And in other other Richard Spencer-related news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 19, 2016, 4:12 pm
  7. Here’s a reminder that if we do see a “Brownshirts” phenomena arise under a Trump administration it might involve brown military vehicles too. Or perhaps tan-ish, as in the case of the following mystery military convoy of what appear to be pro-Trump surplus military vehicles:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Mystery Convoy Of ‘Military’ Vehicles Flying ‘Trump’ Flag Spotted In Kentucky

    By Esme Cribb
    Published January 30, 2017, 6:30 PM EDT

    A convoy of military vehicles flying a “Trump” flag was caught on video driving through Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday.

    In the recording, four vehicles—the first flying a blue flag with “TRUMP” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” emblazoned in white—drive down Interstate 65, according to a report by the Courier-Journal.

    IndivisibleKY, a self-described activist organization formed after President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, posted video of the convoy on its website on Monday.

    Chris Rowzee, a spokeswoman for IndivisibleKY, said she was “disturbed” to see the flag on a military vehicle.

    “To show a partisan political leaning on a military vehicle is very reminiscent of Nazi Germany,” she said, as quoted by the Courier-Journal.

    Defense Department spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said that it would violate regulations to fly that flag on a military vehicle.

    “That is not standard procedure,” he said as quoted in the report.

    Davis said it would also violate regulations to run a military convoy with no unit markings on the vehicles, and said he did not think the vehicles belonged to any service branch. Per the report, he suggested that they were military surplus.

    Tracey Metcalf, administrator for the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, said the color of the convoy suggests the vehicles did or do belong to the Army.

    Patrick Hodges, a spokesman for Ft. Knox, told the Courier-Journal that the convoy was not theirs, as did Maj. Stephen Martin, director of public affairs for the Kentucky National Guard.

    Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson said that photos of the vehicles were “too blurry to say if they belonged to Army units,” according to the report.

    “Davis said it would also violate regulations to run a military convoy with no unit markings on the vehicles, and said he did not think the vehicles belonged to any service branch. Per the report, he suggested that they were military surplus.”

    Well, let’s hope that wasn’t an actual military convoy, although the prospect that some Trumpian fan club has its own mini-mobile battalion isn’t exactly reassuring. And who knows if we’ll ever get any resolution on the nature of the mystery convoy. But it’s the kind of disturbing story that’s as good an excuse as any to remind ourselves that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and brother of the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss, has good reason to fly a Trump flag on his military convoys

    TRT World

    The notorious Erik Prince set to make a comeback under Trump
    The former head of private security firm Blackwater is reportedly advising US President Donald Trump from behind the scenes. We look at Prince’s controversies, past and present.

    Baba Umar
    Jan 23, 2017
    Updated Jan 24, 2017

    Erik Prince, the former Blackwater CEO and notorious US Navy SEAL veteran, may seem like a relic of the past. His name, like the private security agency he headed, was tied to some of the most egregious abuses of the Bush era.

    But he may be making a comeback, this time as a backchannel advisor on intelligence and security matters to US President Donald Trump, The Intercept reported on Tuesday..

    It’s unclear when Prince made his way into Trump’s inner circle, but he has made sizable contributions to the pro-Trump Political Action Committee (PAC). The Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the PAC shows he made a contribution of $100,000 in September 2016 to their efforts. His mother Elisa Prince also gave $50,000 to the committee.

    Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is Trump’s Secretary of Education choice. DeVos courted controversy during her hearing on January 17, when the progressive Democrat Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren grilled her over her commitment to protecting students from cheating by for-profit colleges and later wrote on her Facebook post that “I don’t see how she (DeVos) can be the secretary of education.”

    The proximity of Prince — who gained notoriety after his military contracting firm killed over a dozen Iraqi civilians — to Trump is sure to ruffle some feathers.

    Here’s a look back at Prince’s chequered past and why the world may have reason to worry about his closeness to the 45th president of the United States:

    Blackwater’s Iraq killings

    In 2007, Prince’s private mercenary forces were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, including children, in a mass shooting that provoked global outrage and caused further strain to the relationship between Washington and Baghdad.

    I put myself and my company at the CIA’s disposal for some very risky missions. But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus. – Erik Prince, January 2010

    In 2014, four Blackwater employees were tried and convicted for manslaughter and murder.

    Now, nearly a decade later, the killings remain one of the darkest chapters of the US occupation of Iraq. It also led to important questions about the US Army’s reliance on private contractors, and whether outsourcing was a way to avoid oversight. Blackwater was accused of acting outside either US or Iraqi law, and even of threatening US State Department officials.

    Prince sold the company in 2009. Under its new ownership, the company was twice renamed, first as XE, and later as Academi.

    In his 2014 memoir, Prince claimed to divulge the entire story of Blackwater, writing in the introduction:

    There is much the government doesn’t want told about the work we did: the truth about our State Department–sanctioned opera­tional tactics in Iraq, for instance, including our rules of engage­ment; or Blackwater’s crucial involvement with President Obama’s ever expanding terrorist-hunting tactics in Pakistan and beyond; or even the depth of government reliance on contractors today and the outsourcing of its war machine. Government agencies don’t want that spotlight being shone on our work, nor to applaud the greatest advantage Blackwater offered them: increased capability. They want increased deniability.

    Fighting Daesh and revival of CIA “assassination ring”

    In an interview with the right-wing Breitbart Newsowned by key Trump ally, Steve BannonBannon — in July 2016, Prince suggested that one way for US to destroy Daesh was to revive a controversial Vietnam War-era CIA torture and assassination campaign.

    Under the Phoenix Program (between 1965 and 1972), CIA officers and the US Special Operations troops conducted torture and assassinations to target the Vietcong’s guerrilla networks in South Vietnam. The programme became one of the most notorious chapters in the agency’s history, and was officially shut down in 1972.

    But Prince wants to revive it, arguing that it would help capture or kill the “funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

    It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organisation, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of US active duty going back in there – Erik Prince, November 2013

    Part of the controversy around Prince’s previous work was that private contractors were not subjected to the same kind of legal oversight and obligations as the US military.

    Prince doesn’t think US troops are required on the ground to fight Daesh, but supports using “local forces” with US backing — a strategy that could potentially open the door to further lucrative contracts.

    Refugees entering Europe from Libya

    Earlier this month, Erik Prince wrote a dispatch in The Financial Times arguing that he has a solution to prevent refugees from entering Europe.

    Prince proposed “base camps” for Libyan militias, who would receive ten weeks training and be armed with surveillance drones and armed vehicles. He also wants to be involved in building a new border fence in Libya.

    The border police, as he sees it, would work with Western private contractors from “a European law enforcement background.” The air operations would likewise be outsourced to private contractors, as would the medical evacuation services.

    “There would be nowhere for migrant smugglers to hide: they can be detected, detained and handled using a mixture of air and ground operations,” he wrote.

    The border police I established in Afghanistan used a similar private-public partnership. Border security, coupled with a wide-ranging redevelopment plan, is the only solution for Libya. – Erik Prince, January 2017

    Critics, including author Belen Fernandez, argue the plan is aimed at making financial gains from people’s miseries. Many Libyan militias already have a poor track record in their treatment of refugees.

    “One thing is for certain, though: that Prince’s ‘solutions’ aren’t aimed at any sort of resolution but rather at the perpetuation of strife in the interest of financial gain,” she argued.

    UAE’s mercenary fighters

    In 2011, Erik Prince reportedly created a secret desert force of Colombian mercenaries for the UAE. The New York Times reported that the Colombians had entered the oil-rich country posing as construction workers. According to the paper, the soldiers were part of a secret US-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince with $529 million from the Gulf emirate.

    Quoting documents, the paper reported that, “the force intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts.”

    Quelling pro-democracy protests or the unrest in the UAE labour camps was part of the 800-strong battalion’s job. In 2015, the New York Times reported that the UAE dispatched the same mercenary force to Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels.

    Behind-the-scenes support to Trump

    Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is Trump’s Secretary of Education choice.

    According to an investigation by The Intercept, Prince has been advising Trump on security issues behind the scenes for some time now.

    The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball in December, hosted by Rebekah Mercer. She is the daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, who is one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.

    Dowd wrote that Peter Thiel, a staunch supporter of Trump showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ‘NSFI’ (Not Safe for the Internet).”

    With the mantra of “countering Islamic extremism” as his battle cry, Prince supported the rise of Trump as the US president who would battle “terrorists” and “fascists.”

    “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight. Our President doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the facists, are winning,” Prince said in an interview last year.

    Behind the discourse lies a clear economic interest —Prince literally backs theft of Iraqi oil. He believes Trump’s idea to take Iraq’s oil as repayment for deposing Saddam Hussein “is not a bad one”:

    You could easily double that, or triple that, so for Mr. Trump to say, ‘We’re going to take their oil’ – certainly we’re not going to lift it out of there and take it somewhere else, but putting it into production, and putting a tolling arrangement into place, to repay the American taxpayers for their efforts to remove Saddam and to stabilize the area, is doable, and very plausible. – Erik Prince, September 2016

    And should the Trump administration attempt to enforce such a policy in Iraq, it seems likely Prince would want to have in on that too.

    “In an interview with the right-wing Breitbart Newsowned by key Trump ally, Steve BannonBannon — in July 2016, Prince suggested that one way for US to destroy Daesh was to revive a controversial Vietnam War-era CIA torture and assassination campaign.”

    And not only does Prince want to see the CIA’s Phoenix Program revived, he wants it privatized…and also wants the targets of this new assassination program to include wealthy Islamist billionaires funding ISIS:


    Under the Phoenix Program (between 1965 and 1972), CIA officers and the US Special Operations troops conducted torture and assassinations to target the Vietcong’s guerrilla networks in South Vietnam. The programme became one of the most notorious chapters in the agency’s history, and was officially shut down in 1972.

    But Prince wants to revive it, arguing that it would help capture or kill the “funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

    It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organisation, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of US active duty going back in there – Erik Prince, November 2013

    Part of the controversy around Prince’s previous work was that private contractors were not subjected to the same kind of legal oversight and obligations as the US military.

    Prince doesn’t think US troops are required on the ground to fight Daesh, but supports using “local forces” with US backing — a strategy that could potentially open the door to further lucrative contracts.

    “But Prince wants to revive it, arguing that it would help capture or kill the “funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.””

    So we’ll see if Prince manages to convince Trump to unleash a privatized assassination program targeting wealthy Middle Eastern billionaires financing terror groups. But if a number of Persian Gulf royalty suddenly succumb to a bout of ‘lead poisoning’, that’s a pretty strong sign that Erik Prince got his wish. It’ll also be a strong sign that US relations in the Middle East are about to get extra complicated.

    And who knows who else might end up on the assassination-for-hire list. All we know at this point is that Prince has big plans to take on ISIS…for hire…by reviving and privatizing the Phoenix Program. For Trump. And perhaps Erik Prince himself.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 30, 2017, 8:07 pm
  8. It’s looks like we got an answer regarding who was driving the mystery convoy of military vehicles with no identification and led by a vehicle with big “Trump” flag: it belonged to a Navy SEAL unit:

    ABC News

    Military Convoy Flying Trump Flag Belonged to SEAL Unit

    By Luis Martinez

    Feb 1, 2017, 8:39 PM ET

    The military convoy spotted on Sunday flying a Donald Trump flag near Louisville belonged to an East Coast-based SEAL unit, a Navy spokesperson told ABC News.

    Military officials have launched an inquiry to determine if any misconduct can be linked to the incident. Regulations do not permit an unauthorized flag on a military vehicle.

    The video shot on Sunday on a highway near Louisville showed the lead vehicle of a convoy flying a large blue Donald Trump flag from an antenna.

    The vehicles did not have any identifiable markings and the mystery deepened when local military bases in Kentucky said that the vehicles did not belong to their units.

    “The convoy were service members assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit driving vehicles while transiting between two training locations,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, told ABC News. Naval Special Warfare Units is the official Navy term for its elite SEAL special operations teams.

    Maxwell said that Fort Knox, near Louisville, is used by Naval Special Warfare units for routine training.

    The spokesperson said that a command inquiry has been initiated to determine what flag was being flown by the vehicle in the convoy.

    “Defense Department and Navy regulations prescribe flags and pennants that may be displayed as well as the manner of display,” said Maxwell. “The flag shown in the video was unauthorized.”

    Though known as SEAL units, Navy Special Warfare Units consist of many support staff, Maxwell said, so the occupants of the vehicle flying the flag may not have been SEALs.

    If the inquiry determines there was misconduct involved in the incident, Maxwell said the unit commander will “make a disposition decision as to the appropriate administrative or disciplinary action”.

    “”The convoy were service members assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit driving vehicles while transiting between two training locations,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, told ABC News. Naval Special Warfare Units is the official Navy term for its elite SEAL special operations teams.”

    Well, that’s rather odd. And a bit icky. Although keep in mind that this public display of Trump-affection took place on Sunday. And that wasn’t a totally random day in terms of Donald Trump’s relationship with the Navy SEALs. Quite the opposite:

    The New York Times

    Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Costly in the End

    By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER
    FEB. 1, 2017

    WASHINGTON — Just five days after taking office, over dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions: whether to approve a commando raid that risked the lives of American Special Operations forces and foreign civilians alike.

    President Barack Obama’s national security aides had reviewed the plans for a risky attack on a small, heavily guarded brick home of a senior Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in a remote part of central Yemen. But Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.

    With two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, joining the dinner at the White House along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Mr. Trump approved sending in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hoping the raid early last Sunday would scoop up cellphones and laptop computers that could yield valuable clues about one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.

    As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did. And on Wednesday, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the American commando killed in the raid was returned home, the first military death on the new commander in chief’s watch.

    The death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on Wednesday night are most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.

    Mr. Trump on Sunday hailed his first counterterrorism operation as a success, claiming the commandos captured “important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.” A statement by the military’s Central Command on Wednesday night that acknowledged the likelihood of civilian casualties also said that the recovered materials had provided some initial information helpful to counterterrorism analysts. The statement did not provide details.

    But the mission’s casualties raise doubts about the months of detailed planning that went into the operation during the Obama administration and whether the right questions were raised before its approval. Typically, the president’s advisers lay out the risks, but Pentagon officials declined to characterize any discussions with Mr. Trump.

    A senior administration official said on Wednesday night that the Defense Department had conducted a legal review of the operation that Mr. Trump approved and that a Pentagon lawyer had signed off on it.

    Mr. Trump’s new national security team, led by Mr. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a retired general with experience in counterterrorism raids, has said that it wants to speed the decision-making when it comes to such strikes, delegating more power to lower-level officials so that the military may respond more quickly. Indeed, the Pentagon is drafting such plans to accelerate activities against the Qaeda branch in Yemen.

    But doing that also raises the possibility of error. “You can mitigate risk in missions like this, but you can’t mitigate risk down to zero,” said William Wechsler, a former top counterterrorism official at the Pentagon.

    In this case, the assault force of several dozen commandos, which also included elite soldiers from the United Arab Emirates, was jinxed from the start. Qaeda fighters were somehow tipped off to the stealthy advance toward the village — perhaps by the whine of American drones that local tribal leaders said were flying lower and louder than usual.

    Through a communications intercept, the commandos knew that the mission had been somehow compromised, but pressed on toward their target roughly five miles from where they had been flown into the area. “They kind of knew they were screwed from the beginning,” one former SEAL Team 6 official said.

    With the crucial element of surprise lost, the Americans and Emiratis found themselves in a gun battle with Qaeda fighters who took up positions in other houses, a clinic, a school and a mosque, often using women and children as cover, American military officials said in interviews this week.

    The commandos were taken aback when some of the women grabbed weapons and started firing, multiplying the militant firepower beyond what they had expected. The Americans called in airstrikes from helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft that helped kill some 14 Qaeda fighters, but not before an MV-22 Osprey aircraft involved in the operation experienced a “hard landing,” injuring three more American personnel on board. The Osprey, which the Marine Corps said cost $75 million, was badly damaged and had to be destroyed by an airstrike.

    The raid, some details of which were first reported by The Washington Post, also destroyed much of the village of Yakla, and left senior Yemeni government officials seething. Yemen’s foreign minister, Abdul Malik Al Mekhlafi, condemned the raid on Monday in a post on his official Twitter account as “extrajudicial killings.”

    Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni fellow for Reprieve, a London-based human rights group, said he spoke by phone to a tribal sheikh in the village, Jabbr Abu Soraima, who told him: “People were afraid to leave their houses because the sound of choppers and drones were all over the sky. Everyone feared of being hit by the drones or shot by the soldiers on the ground.”

    After initially denying there were any civilian casualties, Pentagon officials backtracked somewhat on Sunday after reports from the Yemeni authorities begin trickling in and grisly photographs of bloody children purportedly killed in the attack appeared on social media sites affiliated with Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

    Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday that some of the women were combatants.

    The operation was the first known American-led ground mission in Yemen since December 2014, when members of SEAL Team 6 stormed a village in southern Yemen in an effort to free an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda. But the raid ended with the kidnappers killing the journalist and a South African held with him.

    The death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on Wednesday night are most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.”

    So the Navy SEAL convoy led by a Trump flag was spotted not too long after the very first military operation signed off by Trump goes awry and ends up with the death of a Navy SEAL. You have to wonder if that’s a coincidence.

    You also have to wonder how widely that love for Trump is shared among the military personnel directly involved with the raid given the reports from the Pentagon that appear to be blaming Trump, in part, for the disastrous outcome:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Pentagon Points Finger of Blame at Trump

    By Josh Marshall
    Published February 1, 2017, 11:59 PM EDT

    It now seems clear the special ops raid in Yemen did not go according to plan and it went badly. This Times account relates a “a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed.” Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in the operation. There also appear to have been a large number of civilian casualties.

    Obviously, not every military operation is successful. But there is an extraordinary passage in this article just out from Reuters. What Reuters identifies as “U.S. military officials” says that “[President] Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

    As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

    The Pentagon directed queries about the officials’ characterization of the raid to U.S. Central Command. The latter pointed only to its statement on Wednesday.

    This is an extraordinary and yet also ambiguous statement. It suggests that Trump somehow jumped the gun, approving the mission without adequate intelligence or support. But of course missions come to the President through a chain of command. If there’s not enough operational intelligence, he should be told that by his military advisors. It’s not like the President can dial into troops in the region directly and order a strike. Available reports suggest that the decision was made at a dinner the President had with Secretary Mattis, the Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford, Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner and Vice President Pence. Dunford is the President’s chief military advisor and Mattis is the immediate link in the chain of command. So the highest level people were there to give the President whatever information he needed.

    Did Trump press for a more aggressive policy than his advisors counseled? Are they blaming the President for operational shortcomings in the military planning? Whatever the reality of the situation, what seems most germane is that military officials (at least on a fair reading of this Reuters report) seem to be throwing the Commander-in-Chief under the bus. That is a big deal whether they’re pointing out his poor decision making or covering up for their own.

    Some indication may come from this passage in the article from the Times

    Mr. Trump’s new national security team, led by Mr. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a retired general with experience in counterterrorism raids, has said that it wants to speed the decision-making when it comes to such strikes, delegating more power to lower-level officials so that the military may respond more quickly. Indeed, the Pentagon is drafting such plans to accelerate activities against the Qaeda branch in Yemen.

    But doing that also raises the possibility of error. “You can mitigate risk in missions like this, but you can’t mitigate risk down to zero,” said William Wechsler, a former top counterterrorism official at the Pentagon.

    Some missions just go wrong. On its own I’m not sure we could draw more conclusions than that. But the comments in the Reuters article make clear that some military officials are willing to point the finger of blame at the President. Again, that is a big deal whether it is a fair characterization or not.

    “Did Trump press for a more aggressive policy than his advisors counseled? Are they blaming the President for operational shortcomings in the military planning? Whatever the reality of the situation, what seems most germane is that military officials (at least on a fair reading of this Reuters report) seem to be throwing the Commander-in-Chief under the bus. That is a big deal whether they’re pointing out his poor decision making or covering up for their own.”

    While it may be ambiguous as far as what role Trump may have personally played in the outcome of the raid, it’s pretty clear that there are at least a few military officials involved who won’t be sporting a Trump flag on their vehicles any times soon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 2, 2017, 3:11 pm

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