The crime spree is ongoing
Greg Sargent's piece about Rudy Giuliani's bizarre behavior the last couple of days is the best one you'll read about the implications of what they are doing:
Rudolph W. Giuliani just confessed to the crime in broad daylight — or, more precisely, in broad cyber-daylight. Yet he did so defiantly, with a middle finger unfurled in our faces, without the slightest concern that it would harm him or his “client,” as he describes President Trump.
How is this possible? Because of the power of disinformation, which has the capacity to convert the most flagrantly corrupt misconduct into virtue.
We don’t talk enough about how central disinformation is to the Ukraine scandal. The extortion of Ukraine was at bottom an effort to enlist a foreign power’s help in waging disinformation warfare in the 2020 election, to Trump’s benefit. Disinformation was central to the 2016 Russian attack on our political system, which Trump eagerly embraced. Now disinformation is being employed to escape accountability for all of it.
Two new developments attest to this point: a remarkable pair of revelatory tweets from Giuliani, and a tour de force of reporting in The Post, which reveals that Trump routinely communicated throughout the whole saga with Giuliani on unsecured devices, which may have been vulnerable to monitoring by Russia.
Giuliani’s tweets are revealing, and not in a good way
“The conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden,” Giuliani tweeted, referring to Joe Biden, the intended target of “investigations” Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine to announce.
To empirically grounded observers, this will blow up a key Trump defense: that in conditioning official acts on getting Ukraine to announce the investigations he wanted, he was correctly concerned with cleaning up corruption there.
After all, Giuliani just confirmed that in pressuring Ukraine, “investigate corruption” actually meant, “smear Trump’s political rival.” We already knew this — Giuliani and Trump have said it publicly for months — but that’s an unusually stark way to admit it.
Yet Giuliani doesn’t view this as an admission at all. Why not? Because he also stated that Biden was, in fact, guilty of unstated “criminal conduct,” that Biden and other Democrats had conspired with Ukrainian corruption, and that Giuliani would produce proof.
The Biden corruption narrative Giuliani has worked to validate has been thoroughly debunked. But Giuliani can make it true by saying it, and by producing fake “evidence” backing it up.
This amounts to more than conventional political lying. You see this in Giuliani’s crucial next step: the creation of a disinformational narrative hermetically sealed off from outside facts can magically transform even a demand for investigations into Biden from a corrupt demand that a foreign power help rig our election by smearing a political opponent into a virtuous demand for investigations into “corruption.”
This scandal is all about disinformation.
I think this is an important point. This collusion between domestic political players and a foreign disinformation campaign continues. Indeed, one wonders if the Mueller report had been allowed to continue if it would have found an actual ongoing conspiracy between Giuliani and Trump and various pro-Russian Ukrainian actors. Certainly, the Manafort case provided certain clues in that regard with which the Mueller team was obviously familiar.
Making this narrative “true,” via the triumph of disinformation, is at the core of this entire scandal. It is why the White House meeting
and hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid
were conditioned on getting Ukraine to release statements validating that narrative with disinformation, along with another fictional narrative
that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016, in collusion with Democrats.
Meanwhile, Giuliani is literally producing
a fake “documentary” that will “prove” these theories. Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, is traveling the world to try to validate
parts of the Ukraine-2016 lie, and he’s even preparing to dispute
the Justice Department inspector general’s conclusion that it’s nonsense.
Sargent observes that the President and his men, House Republicans and their Fox news handlers like Hannity are all promoting these conspiracy theories as if they are fact, which shows how integrated the GOP and the Russian disinformation campaign has become. It's impossible to tell where one begins and the other one ends. The Ukraine lie is Exhibit One.
He notes the reporting from yesterday that shows Trump is still using his unsecured cell phone to speak to Giuliani and god-knows-who-else. The fact that the Russians and others are almost certainly listening to these calls gives them insight's into the president's thinking and plans that make it much easier to manipulate him (not that it's that hard anyway.)
Trump's team is using the "Trump is just a paranoid moron, so no harm no foul" excuse by explaining that he doesn't trust his own staff. And Sargent makes it very clear that he's not saying Trump is a Russian asset. I agree that it's likely that he is the worlds greatest useful idiot but this excuse gets harder and harder to swallow as time goes on.
But what we can say is that the disinformation employed by Giuliani, Trump and his GOP defenders in many ways overlaps with Russian disinformation. They share tropes and narratives, and some common goals.
And it’s evident that Trump may not care if we’re more vulnerable to Russian disinformation, since he benefited from it so extensively last time, and is now heavily trafficking in its offshoots himself. As Giuliani’s latest confession shows, their commitment to employing and benefiting from it is only escalating.
I would suggest that the Republican party is in exactly the same position. Remember, in 2016 Russian hacking and disinformation benefited members of congress as well, one of whom was a huge Trump supporter who staged a surprise win for Florida Governor in 2018 --- Ron DeSantis. The more these foreign actors have honed their methods the more likely they will be even more involved in those races in 2020.
Until now, as I've written on this subject, I've always wondered why they are so sure that the Russian cyber campaigns would always benefit them. Maybe I've been naive about that ...