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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Worse than Russian propaganda

by digby

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there isn't much difference:
CNN’s top executive on Thursday tore into Fox News, accusing the network of harming America and comparing it to Russian propaganda. 
Asked at Financial Times’ “Future of News” conference about how CNN’s ratings stack up against Fox’s, CNN president Jeff Zucker offered some of his sharpest criticism of the rival cable-news network to date. 
The CNN chief specifically cited former Fox News analyst Ret. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, who quit the network this week and sent a note to colleagues lamenting Fox’s transformation into a “propaganda machine.” 
Zucker concurred, adding that Fox’s pro-Trump turn has “shocked” him. Russia’s state-run television outlets, he remarked, “has nothing” on Fox News. 
"It is really state-run TV, it is a pure propaganda machine, and does an incredible disservice to this country,” Zucker said of Fox News. 
He added: “There are a handful of good journalists there, but I think they are lost in a complete propaganda machine, and the idea that they’re a news channel is not the case at all.”
He is obviously being self-serving but he isn't wrong. Fox has gone completely nuts and that's saying a lot considering where they started. But really, if you don't watch the channel regularly as I am forced to do, you probably don't fully understand just how batshit crazy they are.

They reflect the general lunacy of their audience and shine it back on them. They've always done that. But they no longer see the utility in maintaining a pretense of being a legitimate news They've decided that they are just going to be Trump TV and entertain the king with flattery and praise. And it's having a real world impact with Trump hiring the sycophantic, brown-nosers he sees on the "shows" to come into the White House. (Both his hires this week, DiGenova and Bolton are regulars.)

The network has changed a lot since Roger Ailes passed on. And by that I mean it's gotten even worse. It's destroying our country at a faster rate than ever.

Stormy, Summer and Karen are the GOP's worst nightmares

by digby

Greg Sargent had a good piece this morning about how the Stormy Daniels hurricane might trip Trump up more than he realizes. It's a thought I've had as well:

In addition to legal efforts from McDougal and Daniels that might enable them to speak out about their relations with Trump, he is being sued for defamation by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who claims Trump kissed and groped her without her consent, and a judge ruled this week that this suit can proceed. As CNN’s Collinson points out, this means Trump may be facing a period of pretrial discovery and possibly a deposition, which “could put Trump in a perilous position.”

That, plus the prospect of Daniels and McDougal speaking out about Trump, means more public attention to Trump’s treatment of women. Noted Collinson: “Judging by vigorous attempts his lawyers have made to squelch the cases against him, there is considerable concern in Trump’s camp that the thickening legal jungle ensnaring him could come with a high political or legal cost.”

The evidence is mounting on many fronts that the energy, organizing and engagement among female voters — manifested in everything from the initial Women’s March through the #MeToo movement through recent Democratic electoral wins — constitute the cardinal factor in our politics right now. And it seems clear that female alienation from Trump is at the center of it.

Just consider this week’s Quinnipiac University poll, which had relatively good news for Trump. It also found that a staggering 62 percent of women disapprove of his performance, 55 percent strongly. And 55 percent of white women (a majority of whom backed Trump) disapprove, 48 percent strongly. Women want a Democratic House by 56-36. Even white women — a GOP-leaning constituency — favor a Democratic House by 48-44. Separately, new Pew Research Center data shows that among women, identification with the Democratic Party is rising.

Anecdotal evidence and fieldwork have shown that the anti-Trump backlash is heavily driven by mothers and grandmothers who are channeling their anger at Trump into organizing designed to reinvigorate our politics from the grass roots up in communities across the country. And a great deal has been written about how the Democratic victories in places such as Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania are being fueled by suburban and college-educated white voters, mostly women.

But Trump’s struggles among female voters may also be chipping away at the foundations of his blue-collar white coalition. As Ron Brownstein recently showed, Trump may even be losing substantial ground among non-college-educated white women, who originally backed Trump in big numbers. This is even happening in the Rust Belt, which could help put some House seats in play outside of the more educated and suburban districts that constitute the low-hanging fruit for Democrats.

In short, Trump’s travails among women may be deepening the gender divide in our politics while eroding the ways in which the class divide — among white voters, at least — had been providing the bedrock of his support.

It's impossible to know for sure whether women as a group will rise to the occasion. The special elections around the country last year and so far this year indicate that there is a lot of energy among African American women as always (they form the backbone of the party) but as Greg points out, among those suburban college educated white women as well. Polling is showing significant slippage among the white working class women and especially among millennial women who are flocking to the Democratic party and 70% (while millennial men, unfortunately, are lagging behind.)

Let's just say that a lot of women find Donald Trump and his behavior to be deplorable and leave it at that. Every day that we hear about his treatment of women whether assaulting them or paying them off to keep them silent, is a bad day for Trump's relationship with half the population. And that's going to spell trouble for all his enablers and sycophants running for re-election in the fall.

Targeted retaliation for dummies

by digby

They weren't born yesterday

Trump went on and on today about using the word "reciprocity" by which he means that if one country is selling America cars, that country has to take an equal number of American cars. It's a typically childlike approach, in keeping with his puerile understanding of how the world works.  The word he should have been emphasizing was "retaliation" which is what's going to happen.

The DOW closed down 724 points today after Trump announced that he was slapping tariffs on China. He and his apologists on television (even Club for Growth's hypocrite of the year, Stephen Moore) all say they believe China will have to capitulate to Trump's macho provocation.  Yeah, I'm going to guess it may not go the way they think:
China is preparing to hit back at trade offensives from Washington with tariffs aimed at President Donald Trump’s support base, including levies targeting U.S. agricultural exports from Farm Belt states, according to people familiar with the matter.
Europe is also targeting GOP states like Wisconsin cheese and Kentucky bourbon.  They weren't born yesterday either.

But sure, a crude trade war is just what the doctor ordered. All those Trump voters will be millionaire steel workers and everyone will be happy.

*this is not to say that there are no problems with America's trade policy. But Trump is a fool and an asshole and will make things worse. Let's not kid ourselves.


QOTD: Trumpie

by digby

When he's right, he's right. They're saying he employed a criminal political consulting firm that stole millions of people's personal data to lie and cheat his way into the presidency using dirty tricks and underhanded tactics.

And he's bragging about it. Of course.

Becoming dead wood

by digby

There is a lot of hostility toward older people these days and for some good reasons. But this isn't right no matter what and it will happen to young people too when they age out.
For nearly a half century, IBM came as close as any company to bearing the torch for the American Dream.
As the world’s dominant technology firm, payrolls at International Business Machines Corp. swelled to nearly a quarter-million US white-collar workers in the 1980s. Its profits helped underwrite a broad agenda of racial equality, equal pay for women and an unbeatable offer of great wages and something close to lifetime employment, all in return for unswerving loyalty. 
But when high tech suddenly started shifting and companies went global, IBM faced the changing landscape with a distinction most of its fiercest competitors didn’t have: a large number of experienced and aging US employees. 
The company reacted with a strategy that, in the words of one confidential planning document, would “correct seniority mix.” It slashed IBM’s US workforce by as much as three-quarters from its 1980s peak, replacing a substantial share with younger, less-experienced and lower-paid workers and sending many positions overseas. ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its total US job cuts during those years. (Read more about how ProPublica got the story here.) 
In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked US laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees. 
Among ProPublica‘s findings, IBM:
  • Denied older workers information the law says they need in order to decide whether they’ve been victims of age bias, and required them to sign away the right to go to court or join with others to seek redress.
  • Targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted against older workers, even when the company rated them high performers. In some instances, the money saved from the departures went toward hiring young replacements.
  • Converted job cuts into retirements and took steps to boost resignations and firings. The moves reduced the number of employees counted as layoffs, where high numbers can trigger public disclosure requirements.
  • Encouraged employees targeted for layoff to apply for other IBM positions, while quietly advising managers not to hire them and requiring many of the workers to train their replacements.
  • Told some older employees being laid off that their skills were out of date, but then brought them back as contract workers, often for the same work at lower pay and fewer benefits.

I worked in an industry where except for the top executives, you rarely ever see anyone over 50. And women over 40 had better look a lot younger. So I know this phenomenon well. It's scary to lose your career at that age but it happens all the time and nobody gives a shit. For a lot of people it's devastating because they are still carrying debt and putting their kids through college.

Of course, eventually the victims just retire or die so their voices disappear. But then another generation comes along. If they're lucky.


The character assassination of Robert Mueller begins in earnest

by digby

I wrote about the next phase for Salon this morning:

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation last spring and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named Robert Mueller as special counsel, the most common reaction across the political establishment was relief. This tweet from former House speaker and staunch Trump ally Newt Gingrich perfectly represents the bipartisan consensus at the time:

It wasn't long however, before Republicans changed their tune. When it was reported that Mueller and his team were looking into obstruction of justice, the right wing did a U-turn and Gingrich was on the radio agitating for the special counsel's office to be shut down because James Comey "makes so clear that it's the poison fruit of a deliberate manipulation by the FBI director leaking to The New York Times, deliberately set up this particular situation. It's very sick."

Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham suggested that Trump's legal team should question the constitutionality of Mueller's probe, calling it "an abomination." The White House even issued talking points instructing its surrogates to insist that if Mueller's office was looking at obstruction it meant he had "struck out on collusion," and then to whine about how long the investigation was taking:

We know now that the president actually tried to fire Mueller during this period, but withdrew the order when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.

I wrote a Salon column at the time suggesting that the right was using a well-worn playbook to discredit the prosecutor, and I assumed that was the beginning of an energetic strategy to degrade Mueller's reputation and provide an argument for Trump to fire him. But it didn't happen, at least not then.

When Trump hired new attorneys John Dowd and Ty Cobb last June and July, the White House attacks on Mueller stopped and the president's defenders redirected their ire toward the FBI and Department of Justice. You may recall a report from Foreign Policy magazine last January revealing that after Dowd told Trump that "the potential corroborative testimony of the senior FBI officials in Comey’s account would likely play a central role in the special counsel’s final conclusion," the president instructed his senior aides to devise a campaign to discredit those officials.

Those officials included former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Comey's former Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki and former FBI General Counsel James Baker. As we all know, McCabe was recently fired, just before he would have qualified for full retirement. Rybicki has left the bureau for a job in the private sector. Baker has been moved to another department by new FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Trump himself famously led the charge against McCabe, repeatedly taunting him on Twitter and making it clear that he wanted him fired before he could retire. He was backed up by all the shouters in the right-wing fever swamps, to the point where it became an article of faith among the Trump true believers that McCabe was an enemy of the state. Trump himself delivered the official talking points after McCabe was fired:

Trump hadn't tweeted anything about Mueller by name since last June, but he let fly this past weekend. He wrote that the "Mueller probe should never have been started" and wondered "why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?" (Mueller himself is a Republican, as is his boss Rod Rosenstein.)

It was also announced that Trump had hired a longtime right-wing legal hitman, Joe diGenova, which was widely assumed to be for the purpose of taking the fight to television. As I wrote on Monday, diGenova has been flogging a kooky conspiracy theory that the FBI covered up Hillary Clinton's crimes and then framed Trump when she failed to win the presidency. So it's unlikely he will be restrained when it comes to criticizing the Mueller investigation in the media.

Now the anti-Mueller crusade has officially begun. On Tuesday night, Fox News host and Trump confidant Sean Hannity threw down the gauntlet with a scorching rant:
Everybody says, ‘He’s the greatest guy in the whole wide world. Just trust us!' Well, members of Congress, the mainstream media, they’ve been trying to convince you the special counsel — he is beyond reproach. Sort of like climate change. "Oh, nobody disagrees with us. No scientist does." That’s not true either! Well, we’ve been doing some digging and we found some things you need to know about.
Hannity went on to mention the Whitey Bulger case in Boston, in which the FBI was found to have covered up for the organized-crime leader who was also serving as an informant. Four men were wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1960s as part of this conspiracy. From 1982 to 1988, Mueller was an assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, under fellow Republican and future Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and served as acting U.S. attorney for about a year after Weld departed. Hannity and other Trump allies are claiming that means Mueller must have been in on the Bulger cover-up, which extended into that period. “They’ve never investigated him! They’re actually just lying! It’s their talking point!” he shrieked.

None of this is news. Mueller has served as acting deputy attorney general, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the Department of Justice and FBI director, all of which require Senate confirmation. The fact that the Trump defenders are just now throwing this out there indicates they've been saving it for the right moment.

On the heels of Hannity's broadside, Trump's favorite O.J. Simpson lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, wrote an op-ed saying that the special counsel should never have been appointed in the first place. Trump eagerly paraphrased it and tweeted out his own version on Wednesday morning.

Then Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a noted right-wing gadfly, went on a wild tirade about how "people have not done their homework on who Robert Mueller really is." He claimed that Mueller "is covering his own rear and his own problems that he created in allowing U.S. uranium to be sold" and had damaged the FBI with "the thousands of years of experience he ran off that might could have helped guide some of these wayward FBI agents away from the path they took." No, I'm not sure what that means either. Gohmert is a fringe character, but the fact that he too is spouting the line that Mueller hasn't been adequately vetted suggests that it's been rehearsed and tested.

Republicans have demonstrated in living color that they have lost the ability to choose competent leaders and govern effectively, but let's give them credit: They've always had a talent for dirty tricks and character assassination. Robert Mueller was undoubtedly aware that he would eventually find himself in their crosshairs and, if anything, is probably surprised it took so long. It looks as though his time in the barrel has arrived and he's about to find out if that old GOP black magic still works.

Family values

by digby

Clinton may have been a bad role model but he didn't go on TV and call athletes and TV broadcasters sons-a-bitches ---  among a thousand other crude, cretinous comments. He didn't write the sort of disgusting, ignorant stuff Trump writes on twitter. He didn't brag endlessly about how great he is and degrade everyone else in the world (except Vladimir Putin.)  He never boasted about assaulting women.

Nonetheless, more people think Clinton was a bad role model than Trump.

If you are wondering why, it's largely because Republicans are lying hypocrites. Of course.

The polls point to another factor — Republicans are far more loyal to Trump on this question than Democrats were to Clinton two decades ago. In 1998, Democrats were about half as likely to say their party's president was a good role model (31 percent) than Republicans are to say the same about Trump today (61 percent). Roughly similar shares of independents both then (22 percent) and now (28 percent) said Clinton and Trump are a good role model, respectively. Among the opposite party of the president, fewer than 10 percent said each was a positive role model in either year.

And keep in mind that this is the "family values" crowd, the people who insist that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because of liberals' libertine ways.

Sadly, there's also this:

And there are notable differences when it comes to gender, too. When Clinton was president, 17 percent of men said he was a positive role model. About twice as many say the same about Trump today, 35 percent. Women's opinions of both presidents are very similar — 24 percent of women said Clinton was a positive role model; 23 percent say Trump is a good role model today.
A whole lot of men think this grotesque phony who brags about grabbing women by the pussy is a role model. It's sickening.



Smile and grin at the change all around

by Tom Sullivan

It's dizzying. Maybe more so than than when Pete Townsend wrote "Won't Get Fooled Again." The struggle to come to grips with change drove millions to embrace a cult of personality and the economic populism of Donald Trump.

Damon Linker writes at The Week that technological change brought about the death Sunday of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. Herzberg is the first known pedestrian fatality caused by driverless car technology. Even so, the idea that this genie (or any other) can be put back in the bottle cuts against our reflexive sense that technological change is inevitable and ultimately beneficial.

The rush to embrace drones as hobbyist toys, tools of war, or for government surveillance won't be seriously questioned, I've argued, until a small one takes down an airliner (first drone-linked crash here) or a large, military drone crashes into an American school.

Shrugging at the inevitability of technological advance, Linker argues, leaves us rudderless and adrift as the currents of change carry us we know not where:

Technological innovation benefits us in innumerable ways, but its downsides receive too little attention. Twitter facilitates the communication of information, but it also provided Trump with a megaphone to help build political support for his presidential campaign, just as it powerfully amplifies the voices of extremists of all political stripes. Facebook allows us to easily share personal and political news, but it also sells information about our habits and opinions to the highest bidder, spreads populist poison around the globe, and may have played a significant role in helping the Trump campaign across the finish line in 2016.

In a subtler but no less significant way, the advent of advanced automation (including driverless cars) may benefit many of us while also destabilizing the lives of millions and contributing to the further radicalization of our politics.

The proper response to this threat is not to dismiss the danger or deny anything can be done about it. It's to recognize the hazard and act to minimize it.
That is, to be agents of change, not its victims.

But minimizing hazard is easier said than done. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica may have been the hidden midwives of the Trump administration. Twitter enables an emotionally and ethically stunted president to proselytize for a culture of systemic deceit and grift. Together with his political party, he is dismantling what once was a beacon of hope in the world.

Brian Beutler writes of the party that once claimed exclusive rights to family values, "They are teaching millions of Americans just how far you can get in life on the strength of what should be the most disreputable kind of behavior, perhaps dooming us to a crisis of public ethics that will plague American society for a generation."

And the grossest of data-driven psychological manipulation put them in the position to do it. Technology used for amping up fear and a hunger for revanchism rather than engendering hope further divided the nation rather than creating community.

Elections have consequences. So do technological "advancements." Unintended ones made worse by taking our hand from the tiller.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Look at all the women

by digby

... especially the young women,  moving to the Democratic party:
As noted in our recent report on generations and politics, Millennial voters are more likely than older generations to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic. Nearly six-in-ten Millennials (59%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, compared with about half of Gen Xers and Boomers (48% each) and 43% of voters in the Silent Generation. A growing majority of Millennial women (70%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic; four years ago, 56% of Millennial women did so. About half of Millennial men (49%) align with the Democratic Party, little changed in recent years. The gender gap in leaned party identification among Millennials is wider than among older generations.

I suspect that this younger generation of women are more independent than women who came before them and are not afraid to assert their political views even if it conflicts with the men in their lives. They aren't as afraid of being "unlikable." Good for them.

People tend to stick with the political identities they take on in their early adulthood. If that holds true, the Republicans are doomed.

As they should be.

QOTD: Bob Corker

by digby

Corker explains why the congressional GOP is refusing to do their duty:
The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature. People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.
Ok. So GOP officials are just responding to their constituents as they should do in a democracy. Of course they do take an oath to  defend the constitution but they aren't going to be sticklers about that as long as these millions and millions of conservative Americans are supportive of this traitorous, cretinous moron.

Tell me, is this really about Trump at all? Or does the problem really lie with those millions and millions of Americans?

And yes, whatever you do don't call them deplorable. That's very hurtful.
The Austin Bomber

by tristero

Question: If a white conservative terrorizes a city, does that make him a white conservative terrorist?

Answer: You bet it does.

Meet Mark Conditt.

• Mr. Conditt is believed to be linked to six bombs that killed two people and injured five others. Four explosions hit locations in Austin where bombs were left. An additional device detonated at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Tex., near San Antonio, while the sixth was found undetonated in a facility near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. 
• Mr. Conditt created a blog about his political views as a requirement for a political-science class he took at Austin Community College, according to McKenna McIntosh, a classmate of Mr. Conditt’s. In an author description, he described himself as a conservative. His posts include arguments against same-sex marriage and sex offender registries and a defense of the death penalty. 
• Mr. Conditt, the oldest of four children, was home-schooled by his mother...
 A little more about his views:
"Living criminals harm and murder, again — executed ones do not," he wrote in a piece in support of the death penalty. 
In a commentary on a deal the government made to release an Al Qaeda terrorist, Conditt was dead-set against it. "I think it is just plain dumb to release a terrorist, much less a senior one — no matter what he can provide," he wrote. 
On the issue of gay marriage, he wrote, "homosexuality is just not natural." Commenting on free abortions, he wrote: "If a woman does not want a baby, or is incapable of taking care of one, she should not participate in activities that were made for that reason." 
But in another post, he suggested eliminating sex offender registries, saying they punished people who had already served their time or were convicted of minor offenses.
"You have to really hate the guy to make him suffer for the rest of his life," he wrote.
In short, a white conservative. And a terrorist. A white conservative terrorist.

Stable genius at work

by digby

Make him stop:

He's a robot, saying exactly the same things, in exactly the same words as he said them during the campaign. Nothing that has happened since he became president has been able to penetrate. He cannot learn facts because he is a fucking moron. All he learns is some kind of feral, instinctive survival tactics to get him through the moment.

The list of things Trump believes Russia can "help" with is laughable. They are the cause of some of these crises and where they aren't, he is. He's an utter fool and everyone on the planet knows it, not least of whom is Vladimir Putin.

I don't see Putin as an evil Bond villain, but he does have an expansionist agenda and he is a kleptocratic, authoritarian thug. Let's just say that he doesn't have my personal well-being at heart. Or any average person who isn't on his team. I don't think it's being paranoid to worry about Trump being the most moronic useful idiot in world history and doing something that could destabilize the world in terrible, dangerous ways.  He already is doing that in dozens of different ways.

Make America White Again

by digby

Sign posted in response to proposed Sojourner Truth Housing Project, Detroit February 1942

Fox News is now openly leading the charge for blatant xenophobia and white supremacy:
On his top-rated Fox News show Tuesday night, conservative pundit Tucker Carlson opined on demographic change and immigration in America, saying that though “most immigrants are nice ... this is more change than human beings are designed to digest,” and asking viewers, “How would you feel if that happened in your neighborhood?

The segment was focused on a National Geographic article featured in the magazine’s April issue. Though the article, centered on the Pennsylvania town of Hazleton, was titled “As America Changes, Some Anxious Whites Feel Left Behind,” Carlson focused his remarks on the growth of Hazleton’s Hispanic population, which has increased exponentially since 2000 — a change that Carlson said “makes societies volatile.”

But he saved his strongest words for “our leaders ... who caused all this,” who, in his words, live in neighborhoods that “are basically unchanged — they look like it’s 1960. No demographic change in their zip code.” He concludes, “Our leaders are for diversity, just not where they live.”

Carlson has faced accusations of catering to white nationalism on his show before, particularly on the issue of immigration — and white nationalists like Richard Spencer are among his biggest fans.

It’s worth noting that Carlson lives in the Kent neighborhood of Washington, DC, a neighborhood with house prices averaging $1.7 million. He told the American Conservative in February, “We have wonderful neighbors, and we love it. And what’s not to love? Our neighborhood looks exactly like it did in 1955.”

Tucker Carlson is a terrible, terrible person. He knows what he's doing.


They are fine with Nazis

by digby

I'd imagine that many of these people didn't know or didn't really take seriously that the man they were voting for is a Nazi. But some did and more than we might be comfortable with:

The former head of the American Nazi Party ran for the Republican nomination of Congress in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. No Republican stepped up to oppose him.

On Tuesday, despite his vocal Holocaust denial, his anti-Semitic rhetoric, and his white supremacist views, 20,339 Illinois Republicans, according to preliminary totals, cast their ballots for Arthur Jones.

Jones’ Nazi-sympathies were not a secret going into election day. His campaign website features a slideshow of pictures of him speaking at white nationalist events. He is a perennial candidate who has previously run for U.S. House, Chicago alderman, and mayor of Chicago, and even mayor of Milwaukee. Chicago media extensively covered the race. The Anti-Defamation League warned voters of his record. The chairman of Illinois Republican Party even disavowed him, saying “The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones. We strongly oppose his racist views and his candidacy for any public office, including the 3rd Congressional District.”

Still, a stunning portion of the GOP primary electorate opted to cast their ballot for Jones rather than nobody. This includes, according to unofficial totals as of Wednesday morning, 13,158 voters in suburban Cook County (more than 70 percent of 18,595 GOP primary ballots cast), 4,093 voters in Will County, 3,023 voters in the City of Chicago, and 65 voters in DuPage County.

I think we need to accept and understand that there are quite a few Americans who are fine with open Nazis, authoritarians and blatant white racists. And they are not all old white guys in the rural south.

Trump's congrats

by digby

I wrote about Trump getting on the horn with Putin yesterday for Salon this morning:

Whenever an autocrat or a dictator "wins" an election, it's always a diplomatic challenge for more democratic countries to figure out how to respond. In order for nations to have open channels of communication, there has to be some basic acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the nations' leaders. It's not a simple issue.

Recall that in 2012 there was a tremendous amount of hand-wringing over whether President Barack Obama should congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election "victory," especially after a campaign in which Putin had been especially belligerent toward the U.S. The New York Times reported that "the Obama administration fiercely debated how to respond to the Russian election, with some officials favoring a strong condemnation of the results." In the end, "the White House ultimately settled on a tempered statement, not directly congratulating Mr. Putin but saying 'the United States looks forward to working with the president-elect.'" The statement didn't mention Putin by name and the president waited five days before making the call.

Considering what has happened since Putin's last campaign, his election to a fourth term has had everyone wondering what President Trump would do. After all, since 2012 there has been the annexation of Crimea and that little matter of election interference in Europe and the U.S., so the stakes appear quite a bit higher now. There is also that recent unpleasantness in the U.K. where people were poisoned with Russian nerve gas and the likely perpetrators aren't even really trying to hide it.

There can be little doubt that this Russian election was, to use Trump's term, rigged. Putin "won" with 77 percent of the vote, which is simply not believable, especially given video evidence of ballot box stuffing. Most importantly, Putin banned his most popular opponent from the race, a tactic Trump almost certainly wishes he could impose. Remember, Trump told the whole country in the final debate of the 2016 campaign:
She shouldn't be allowed to run. It's crooked -- she's -- she's guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run. And just in that respect, I say it's rigged, Chris, she should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails and so many other things.
Since Trump simply cannot utter a negative word about Putin, most observers were anxious to hear what kind of verbal gymnastics the Trump administration would come up with to finesse this issue. It seemed unlikely that Trump would straight-up offer congratulations, since that would inevitably raise suspicions of his motives at a time when Robert Mueller's investigation is exploding in different directions.

So of course he did. Trump congratulated Putin and didn't even broach any of those issues. Not that the White House informed Americans of this. Just as the Kremlin had released those laughing pictures of Trump with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the day after Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, it was the Kremlin that released a read-out of the Putin call, with the White House only belatedly acknowledging that it had happened.

In a photo-op with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia later on Tuesday, Trump was asked about it:

You have to love the idea that he wants to talk about the "arms race" getting out of control and then says, "but we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have." Of course this is the same man who wanted to go back to the huge number of nuclear weapons we had during the Cold War (prompting former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call him a "fucking moron"), so he's not exactly rational or informed on this subject.

At the Tuesday afternoon press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if Trump might have mentioned something about the Russian election being well, rigged. She replied, "We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country and that's not something that we can dictate to them, how they operate. We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections." She didn't even crack a smile.

This isn't the first time she has proclaimed that the United States has no right to comment on the inner workings of other countries when asked about Russia. That's curious, since the administration has not withheld judgment when it comes to Iran.

Neither has it held back in criticizing Cambodia or Venezuela, which evoked this scalding statement in the wake of the latter nation's recent elections:
This outrageous seizure of absolute power through a sham election represents a serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere.
The White House wouldn't even take the call from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and at the time Sanders issued this statement by way of explanation:
Since the start of this Administration, President Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela’s constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela’s great people.The Maduro regime has refused to heed this call, which has been echoed around the region and the world. Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship.
It was unclear whether Maduro had tried to reach Trump by phone before or after Trump, standing between his UN ambassador and his secretary of state, said on camera that he was considering military intervention in Venezuela.

So one can be forgiven for thinking the Trump administration's new policy of saying nothing about undemocratic results in other countries seems to be strangely limited to countries run by autocrats Trump admires, particularly his friend Vladimir Putin.

As it turns out, Trump's national security team had actually gamed out a more nuanced approach to dealing with the Russian election, but Trump just ignored it. The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening that Trump had been given briefing note cards that said "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" and reminded him that he was to condemn the nerve-agent poisoning in London. Apparently he either didn't read them or simply ignored the advice because he didn't feel comfortable burdening his good friend with any disagreeable discussions about assassination attempts on the streets of America's closest ally.

As always, the question when it comes to Trump's stubborn unwillingness to speak to or about Putin in anything but obsequious, sycophantic terms is: Why? This bizarre and uncharacteristic behavior remains the most compelling and convincing piece of evidence that Putin must be holding something over his head. Not even the narcissistic Trump would take on this much blatant risk or be willing to look this bad simply because a man once flattered him.


"Ashamed" of the Fox "propaganda machine"

by Tom Sullivan

Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a longtime Fox News analyst announced his departure in a letter calling out the network for harming democracy. Buzzfeed acquired the email Peters sent to colleagues. Peters signed off in Russian, accusing Fox of “wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

Peters condemned the network for "assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers."

Otherwise known as the business model for the full spectrum of conservative media.

Peters continued, "Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed."

The Los Angeles Times adds:

Peters' missive is the second time in a week Fox News' top-rated conservative opinion hosts have been subjected to internal criticism. While not nearly as harsh, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said in an interview with Time magazine that some of the network's opinion programming "is there strictly to be entertaining," which led to some blowback from Hannity and Ingraham on social media. (Hannity called Smith "clueless" about the reporting done on his program).

But Peters' remarks are noteworthy because as a Fox News national security analyst for 10 years, he has been a foreign policy hawk who frequently criticized the Obama administration. He was once suspended from the network for a week in 2015 after an appearance on the Fox Business Network in which he used a vulgar term to describe former President Obama's fortitude in combating terrorism by Islamic extremists.
The full text of the Peters letter is below. He did not spare the rod on some of the network's anchors:
On March 1st, I informed Fox that I would not renew my contract. The purpose of this message to all of you is twofold:

First, I must thank each of you for the cooperation and support you've shown me over the years. Those working off-camera, the bookers and producers, don't often get the recognition you deserve, but I want you to know that I have always appreciated the challenges you face and the skill with which you master them.

Second, I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to "support and defend the Constitution," and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts--who have never served our country in any capacity--dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller--all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of "deep-state" machinations-- I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin's agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the "nothing-burger" has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true--that's how the Russians do things.. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity (nor is every host at Fox News a propaganda mouthpiece--some have shown courage). I have enjoyed and valued my relationship with Fox Business, and I will miss a number of hosts and staff members. You're the grown-ups.

Also, I deeply respect the hard-news reporters at Fox, who continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment. These are some of the best men and women in the business..

So, to all of you: Thanks, and, as our president's favorite world leader would say, "Das vidanya."
Peters' resignation follows on the heels of Shepard Smith's aforementioned interview with Daniel D'Addario of Time in which he too took a shot at his network's infotainment programming:
Smith says he’s unbothered by the divergence between his reporting and Fox’s opinion slate. “We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. If it’s their opinion. I don’t really watch a lot of opinion programming. I’m busy.” He laughs, enigmatic punctuation that may indicate he’d been trying for a bon mot, or might just be a Mississippi-nice way of indicating he’s said what he’s going to say, bless my heart.
It is too soon to predict that Fox News may see an exodus resembling the West Wing's. The pay at Fox is too good and the capacity for shame too vestigial. But it couldn't happen to a more unworthy organization.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

They just cheat

by digby

Here is the final segment of the Cambridge Analytic expose:

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News has revealed how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran key parts of the presidential campaign for Donald Trump.

The British data company was secretly filmed discussing coordination between Trump’s campaign and outside groups – an activity which is potentially illegal.

Executives claimed they “ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy” for President Trump.

In the third part of a Channel 4 News investigation into Cambridge Analytica, bosses also talked about:

The full scale of their pivotal work in Trump’s election win
How they avoid Congressional investigations into their foreign clients
Setting up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages onto social media
Using a secret email system where messages self-destruct and leave no trace
Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads
In a series of meetings filmed at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018 an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

I'll just let Michelle Goldberg put this whole thing in perspective:

After days of revelations, there’s still a lot we don’t know about Cambridge Analytica. But we’ve learned that an operation at the heart of Trump’s campaign was ethically nihilistic and quite possibly criminal in ways that even its harshest critics hadn’t suspected. That’s useful information. In weighing the credibility of various accusations made against the president, it’s good to know the depths to which the people around him are willing to sink.

Created in 2013, Cambridge Analytica is an offshoot of the SCL Group, a British company that specialized in disinformation campaigns in the developing world. It’s mostly owned by the Mercer family, billionaire right-wing donors and strong Trump supporters. Before becoming the Trump campaign’s chief executive, Steve Bannon was Cambridge Analytica’s vice president. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., also served as an adviser to the company.

Cambridge Analytica shared office space with Trump’s San Antonio-based digital operation, and took substantial credit for its success. “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communications played such an integral part in President-elect Donald Trump’s extraordinary win,” Nix said in a Nov. 9, 2016, news release.

It’s long been hard to judge how well psychographic profiling actually works. Many consider Cambridge Analytica overrated. Last year, BuzzFeed News reported that former employees said “that despite its sales pitch and public statements, it never provided any proof that the technique was effective or that the company had the ability to execute it on a large scale.” Those who feared that Cambridge Analytica was conducting information warfare on the American people may have been giving the company’s self-serving propaganda too much credence.

But whether or not Cambridge Analytica’s methodology works, the fact that the Trump campaign had a crew of high-tech dirty tricksters on its payroll is significant. We already know that Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange about finding and disseminating Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. We know that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has asked the company to turn over documents related to the Trump campaign. Channel Four News plans to air additional undercover footage about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the Trump campaign on Tuesday.

At a minimum, we’ve learned that the Trump campaign’s vaunted social media program was built on deception. Shortly after the 2016 election, Forbes ran an article crediting Jared Kushner for his father-in-law’s shocking triumph. Thanks to digital tools, it said, the traditional presidential campaign was dead, “and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it.”

For those who knew something of Kushner’s pre-election career, this portrait of him as some sort of analytics genius was befuddling. The small, gossipy New York newspaper he’d owned, The New York Observer, didn’t even have a particularly good website. “He wasn’t tech-savvy at all,” Elizabeth Spiers, the paper’s former editor in chief, told me.

Cambridge Analytica’s corruption helps provide the missing piece in this story. If the Trump campaign had a social media advantage, one reason is that it hired a company that mined vast amounts of illicitly obtained data.

There’s a lesson here for our understanding of the Trump presidency. Trump and his lackeys have been waging their own sort of psychological warfare on the American majority that abhors them. On the one hand, they act like idiots. On the other, they won, which makes it seem as if they must possess some sort of occult genius. With each day, however, it’s clearer that the secret of Trump’s success is cheating. He, and those around him, don’t have to be better than their opponents because they’re willing to be so much worse.

Why not Tiffany?

by digby

If Trump was known to drink I'd assume he was on a bender. As it is, it's clear that he's still just an f-ing moron:

Cohn, who resigned in early March amid a fight over tariffs, told associates at the time that he would consider rejoining the administration if Trump called and offered him “the right big job,” but he did not elaborate on what that job would be. In fact, according to three people close to the president, Cohn had already talked with Trump about taking the helm of the CIA, a job that suddenly opened up last week when Trump nominated his spy chief, Mike Pompeo, to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Trump, these people said, informally offered Cohn the position, telling him he thought he’d be a good fit for the job, and Cohn had agreed to take it. Trump long ago decided that Pompeo would replace Tillerson as secretary of state, and the president in recent weeks had bounced off his closest external advisers the idea of sending Cohn to the CIA. It is unclear why Trump decided to change course at the last minute, but last week he named Pompeo’s deputy Gina Haspel to the CIA role instead. 
Two senior administration officials acknowledged that Trump discussed other positions with Cohn. But they did not specify any other position, and they said the president didn’t extend a formal offer.

The episode offers a window into Trump’s decision-making a little more than a year into his tenure. While he is growing more comfortable in the job, willing to follow his instincts and make unorthodox personnel choices, his decisions remain entirely unpredictable, leaving even his most senior advisers in a state of perpetual uncertainty.

Cohn has no background in intelligence but told associates he was interested in running the CIA or, potentially, serving as secretary of state. He was at one point the leading candidate to be chair of the Federal Reserve, but his standing cooled after he criticized the president’s equivocal response to a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

What on earth qualifies Gary Cohn to head the CIA? Why would he even want that job? What the hell?

But hey, Mike Pompeo's wife is there everyday managing his schedule and using CIA personnel so why not put Tiffany Trump in the job?


15 years ago today

by digby

Following up Tristero's post below, from my perch here on this old blog, this was where were were on that day:

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Memo To The Democratic Presidential Candidates:

Do not fall for this bullshit:

While Democrats and Republicans closed ranks last night behind the troops, leaders of both parties have shown a willingness to seize on war issues to score political points. Many Republicans hope to chill criticism of Bush and his Iraq policy by sending a clear and early message that they will come down hard on vocal Democratic dissenters, especially those in positions of national prominence, GOP lawmakers said. These Republicans worry that France, Russia and other critics will seize on comments from high-profile Democrats to buttress their case internationally that a preemptive war is unwise and unwarranted.


Some Republicans see a longer-term political advantage in such applause. They believe Daschle and other Democrats will suffer in the 2004 elections, which may be dominated by themes of national security and terrorism, if voters view them as unpatriotic or soft on defense.

Most national polls show that about two-thirds of Americans back the war against Iraq. "When you are constantly criticizing the president, you are also criticizing the 70 percent of people supporting him," DeLay said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said Democrats will likely "pay a political price" for feeding the perception they opposed disarming and deposing Hussein. That is why most of the Democrats running for president have backed Bush in the conflict, Reynolds said.

Reynolds warned that politicians, such as Daschle, who hail from states Bush won in 2000 are particularly at risk in 2004 if they criticize the president's Iraq policy. This proves that attacks on Daschle are "so brazenly political and over the top and politically motivated," said Daschle's spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.

It should be obvious by now that there is no margin in playing Neville Chamberlain to Tom DeLay. Max Cleland proved that nothing will stop them from lying about your record and assassinating your character, no matter what you do. It will gain you nothing to worry about quelling Republican attacks on your patriotism.

If a Democrat wins, he will win despitebeing smeared as an unpatriotic coward by the Republican Party. Whether he supports the President or doesn't he will be portrayed as having tried to foil him at every turn. It is pointless to pretend otherwise. Put your head down and barrel along on your own terms.

Remember also, that the entire strategy is designed for only two reasons. The first and foremost is to get Bush legitimately elected, if possible (illegitimately, if not.) The second is to use his wartime popularity to pass their radical domestic agenda under threat of retaliation to moderates who stray. I doubt seriously that they have ever really understood that their bullying and hectoring is what drove Jeffords from the party, but they will likely not be quite as obvious about it as they were with him. It is in the Democratic Party's interest for Daschle and Pelosi to take some heat right now to give the GOP moderates some cover. This administration may very well overplay their hand (they're not good at sausage making and Frist is a virgin) so it is worth the Party's while to hang tough, really tough, on this budget. The presidential candidates can help by giving Daschle and Pelosi some cover as well. It's going to get bumpy and it would be nice if the Democrats could show a little bit of solidarity here. It would certainly be good for the country.

The Republicans have the strange habit of getting manic and agitated just after they win a battle. They become enraged when they find that winning didn't result in unconditional surrender by the political opposition. On the day the Washington Post revealed that the president had rallied 71% of the American public, George Will wrote:
Speaking of indiscriminate chaos, many elements of the Democratic Party, including most of its base and many of its most conspicuous leaders, seem deranged, unhinged by the toxic fumes of hatred and contempt they emit for the president. From what does this arise? It cannot just be Florida, the grievance that Democrats, assiduous cultivators of victimhood, love to nurse. No, many Democrats' problem, which threatens to disqualify their party from presidential responsibilities for a generation, is their incontinent love of snobbery and nostalgia -- condescension toward a president they consider ignorant, and a longing for the fun of antiwar days of yore.
I don’t know why Republicans have such an overwhelming need for their opponents to cry Uncle and completely capitulate. I suspect it may be from frustration at fighting for an aggressive policy against Soviet communism but never being allowed a final, mano-a-mano battle from which they could derive the masculine satisfaction of dominance and victory. I don’t know. But, it is never enough that they win, they want the Democrats to grovel.

It is more and more clear that those who hated it the most developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in which they came to admire many facets of Soviet totalitarianism, one of the most obvious being the efficiency and power offered by the one party state. These people do not believe there is such a thing as the loyal opposition. Opposition is, by definition, disloyal.

Rush has been known to say, “I’d like to keep one liberal around in a museum so every body could see what they look like.” Republicans believe we are the enemy. We cannot win unless we understand this.

I don't think "we" ever really understood this.  And sadly, I suspect that even the extreme example of Donald Trump won't be enough to make "us" get that.

Note that George Will is now a Never-Trumper.  He obviously didn't see the writing on the wall either.

One Million Dead 

by tristero

As awful a president as Donald Trump already is, he hasn't yet done anything remotely as terrible as George W. Bush:
No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. 
To those who will tell you that hindsight is 20/20, I am here to tell you that not only I but nearly everyone on Planet Earth knew back in 2003 that the Bush/Iraq war was a catastrophically insane decision. While many Americans drank the Bush administrations Kool Aid,  millions of people marched all over the world and even in the US itself, begging the US government not to invade. We knew, people, we knew. And we knew then. No one in a position of power listened.

And the war came. Over one million dead. With many more casualties to come from Bush's senseless, malevolent stupidity.

There is something seriously wrong with a country that would forget the crimes of a man so soaked in the blood of innocents as George Bush. There is something truly twisted in a society that would rehabilitate Bush into some grotesque kind of avuncular presence (wowie zowie, he paints!).

To be sure, Donald Trump is the direct consequence of our moral and cultural derangement.

What in the hell is the CIA director's wife doing?

by digby

I guess it's a nepotistic free-for-all in the Trump administration:

Susan Pompeo, wife of Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo, has taken on an unusually active role for a CIA spouse in agency affairs since he started the job in January 2017, regularly spending her days at the agency, traveling with her husband, and attending agency social events -- seven sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

The Washington Post was first to publish a story detailing concerns over Pompeo's role, CNN has been reporting on the story for a number of weeks.
Susan Pompeo is the "Honorary Chair" of the Family Advisory Board, according Ryan Trapani, a CIA spokesman. The board serves as a liaison between the agencies and families, whose members serve a two-year term and provide families with access to educational resources. She often attends or hosts events "in support of the agency," Trapani said.

While Pompeo does not technically have her own office, she frequents the seventh floor director's suite at CIA's campus in Langley, Virginia, where CIA employees often "assist Mrs. Pompeo in various ways," said Trapani. This includes preparing "materials, briefings, meeting agendas and so forth for our programs assisting spouses traveling overseas." She also works on projects for the Family Advisory Board, as well as providing support services to relocate CIA officers around the world.

White House gearing up for bruising fight to confirm Trump's CIA pick
The CIA says none of these officers are officially assigned to work for Pompeo, and do not spend all their time with her, her work has led sources familiar with the matter to believe that they were her employees, and that she'd adopted a permanent residence upstairs in Langley.
It is not clear whether Susan Pompeo has been officially hired in a special role in the agency, but Trapani says she is not paid and does not control any agency funds.

"Mrs. Pompeo's work on behalf of CIA officers and their families has been broadly praised and welcomed, particularly by officers stationed in the field. She has graciously volunteered her time, much like former director's spouses, to drive initiatives that specifically make the lives of CIA officers and their families better for nothing more than the proud satisfaction of helping the Agency achieve its mission," Trapani said.

A congressional source told CNN that Pompeo's role has "definitely raised eyebrows ... particularly the use of the office space. CIA explained that away by saying there's an empty space she uses which is exactly what I'd say if she had an office."

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University in St. Louis, called Susan Pompeo's role at the CIA a "red flag," questioning her use of CIA office space and the assistance she has received from CIA officials.

"If staff are helping her, it sounds like she can direct staff. It's odd that someone who is not a government official or an employee is allowed to direct actual government employees," Clark said.

This isn't the Department of Housing and Urban Development, not that that's any more acceptable. It's the fucking CIA. Why in the hell is it ok for the director to bring his wife to work???

These people are just ... oy.

Trump's character assassination squad convenes at the White House

by digby

I wrote about Trump's new hit man for Salon this morning:

Twenty years ago last month, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz, then of the Washington Post, published a flattering profile called "The Power Couple at Scandal's Vortex" about a couple of DC lawyers who suddenly seemed to be everywhere, making the case against Bill Clinton. The two former prosecutors and conservative activists were Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing and they were not only ubiquitous on television, they had their hands in every scandal and investigation in DC, making them, as Kurtz put it, "players, which gives them access to juicy information, which gets them on television, which generates legal business."

Then, as now, there were dozens of lawyers on cable news acting as pundits and analysts arguing over the details of the latest scandal news.  But DiGenova and Toensing were unique in that they weren't just giving opinions, they were often representing clients and even worked on retainer for the one of the House investigations. And from time to time they became personally involved in the scandal themselves as when Toensing claimed that she was contacted by a Secret Service agent with a story to tell about Clinton and Lewinsky and DiGenova going on TV and insisting that the White House was "digging up dirt" on him and his wife. All of these cross connections between media, clients and various investigations often gave the two of them information which they used to promote their legal business and advance their cause which was to help Republicans take down Bill Clinton by any means necessary. They are both very savvy television performers and ruthless political operatives.

I hadn't heard much about them in the ensuing 20 years beyond some tepid defenses of convicted former Bush official Scooter Libby, but it stands to reason that they would be back in business now that Washington is engulfed in scandal again. And it makes perfect sense that Donald Trump would hire a lawyer with a conspiratorial bent and a strong media presence to defend him for when he decided to go to the mattresses against the Mueller investigation.
Toensing has been all over the scandal from the beginning representing former Trump adviser Sam Clovis, former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo (I wrote about him for Salon, here) and a shadowy alleged whistleblower and former FBI informant  named William Campbell who claimed he had information that Clinton had sold uranium to Russia as Secretary of State in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Uranium One story played big on Fox News for a while but it didn't catch on since Campbell didn't have any proof and the FBI said he had been an unreliable informant.

Of course that could just have been part of the Big FBI Conspiracy DiGenova has been pushing for several months now and which seems to gotten legs on Fox News. Before the election, DiGenova went on Laura Ingraham's radio show and claimed that James Comey threw the case against Clinton:
“Comey’s a dirty cop. And if there’s one thing a prosecutor hates worse than a criminal, it’s a dirty cop … He threw this case. He did it for political reasons. He lied publicly about the quality of the case. He lied publicly about the law. He lied publicly about the ability to get documents when he could have used the grand jury and he didn’t.”
This was a huge deal in the right wing fever swamps during the election and DiGenova undoubtedly knew the Clinton scandal machine was oiled up and he was just testing the gears in anticipation of four years of steady work. Long before Comey and Trump had their confrontation, the right was readying the attack on Comey and the FBI. DiGenova laid out the Bizarro World case:
[Comey] has destroyed his credibility. He has done horrific damage to the FBI as an institution...If this were a Republican, the press would be going crazy about obstruction of injustice...[Clinton] will preside over the most corrupt administration since the Teapot Dome scandal. This is about the future of the country.
DiGenova  promised legal representation to any FBI agent who wanted to come forward and testify against James Comey.  As far as we know there were no takers.

All that was before the election. Since then the conspiracy, out of necessity, has gotten more sensational and convoluted. He now claims that  "a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime...they were going to exonerate Hillary and they were going to frame Donald Trump."

So, the original sin in all this was letting Crooked Hillary off the hook for her heinous email crimes. Then apparently, the leaders of the global intelligence community joined with the nefarious Hillary lovers at the FBI to wreak their vengeance on the man who took down their chosen leader.  As DiGenova put it, "Comey sold his soul to the devil."

According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, DiGenova is expected to do what he does best: appear on television and give colorful quotes to the press. But he is also a clever lawyer and former prosecutor with right wing contacts throughout the government. His wife and law partner Toensing has access to information about the investigation as the attorney for Clovis and Corallo. He will be a valuable addition to the team as they go about the ongoing smear campaign against their own government.

According to press reports this week, Mueller's team is particularly interested in Trump's behavior around the Comey and Flynn firings which indicates he's definitely looking at obstruction of justice by the president in the White House. If DiGenova is telling his new client that the president can't be indicted while in office he's undoubtedly glad that Trump doesn't use a computer or he might come across DiGenova's legal opinion on the matter from 20 years ago:
Nobody should underestimate the upheaval that a prosecution of the president would cause. But we went through it once before, in Watergate, and survived. The nation, in fact, could conceivably benefit from the indictment of a president. It would teach the valuable civics lesson that no one is above the law. As an appeals court told Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones case, the Founders created a presidency, not a monarchy.
When he's right he's right. 

Oy vey: There's more. Ted Olson is possibly being added to the team. Those of you who have been around a while remember that Oldson was in the middle of the Arkansas Project that went after Clinton in the 1990s.

They're putting the band back together to protect Trump. These guys were ultimately unsuccessful back in the day and they' are 20 years older now. If the president of the United States is reduced to calling on these guys he's in big trouble.

Update II: Oh sorry Trumpie. Looks like the band will be missing a lead guitar player...