“Never before has a U.S. president so clearly ignored such a grave and growing threat to U.S. national security.”

Following up on yesterday’s release of the Fusion GPS testimony by “sneaky” Diane Feinstein, the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Ben Cardin, today issued a minority report titled, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.” While, as you might imagine, the report gets into quite a bit of depth on the threat posed by Putin, it also doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to assigning blame for the inaction we’ve seen on the part of the current administration when it comes to addressing this threat. “Never before has a U.S. president so clearly ignored such a grave and growing threat to U.S. national security,” the report warns. Here, to give you a sense of the report, which I’ve just started reading, are two very short excerpts. [The entire report can be downloaded here.]

The report includes over 30 recommendations for the United States and its allies. They include the following:

First, Mr. Trump must demonstrate presidential leadership by declaring it is U.S. policy to deter all forms of Russian hybrid threats and begin to mobilize our government in defense. He should establish a high-level inter-agency fusion cell, modeled on the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), to coordinate all elements of U.S. policy and programming in response to the Kremlin’s malign influence operations.

Second, the U.S. government should provide assistance, in concert with allies in Europe, to build democratic institutions within those European and Eurasian states most vulnerable to Russian government interference. As part of this effort, the President should convene an annual global summit on hybrid threats, modeled on the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL or the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) summits. To reinforce these efforts, members in the U.S. Congress have a clear responsibility to show U.S. leadership on values by making democracy and human rights a central part of their agendas. They should conduct committee hearings and use other platforms and opportunities to publicly advance these issues.

Third, the United States and our allies should expose and freeze Kremlin-linked dirty money. The U.S. Treasury Department should make public any intelligence related to Mr. Putin’s personal corruption and wealth stored abroad, and take steps with our European allies to cut off Mr. Putin and his inner circle from the international financial system.

Fourth, the U.S. government should designate countries that employ malign influence operations to assault democracies as State Hybrid Threat Actors and subject them to a preemptive, escalatory sanctions regime that would be applied whenever the state uses asymmetric weapons like cyberattacks to interfere with a democratic election or disrupt a country’s critical infrastructure. The U.S. government should also produce yearly public reports that detail the Russian government’s malign influence operations in the U.S. and around the world.

Fifth, the U.S. government and NATO should lead a coalition of countries committed to mutual defense against cyberattacks, to include the establishment of rapid reaction teams to defend allies under attack. The U.S. government should also call a special meeting of the NATO heads of state to review the extent of Russian government-sponsored cyberattacks among member states and develop formal guidelines on how the Alliance will consider such attacks in the context of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision.

Finally, U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years, and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments, and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.

Putting myself in Trump’s shoes, I can see how it might be difficult for him to accept the clear and present danger we’re facing, as doing so could be seen as an admission that he only ascended to the presidency with the help of Vladimir Putin. Trump is, if nothing else, a very insecure man, and it’s this insecurity that motivates almost every action he takes. We saw that when, after his inauguration, he said that he’d drawn a larger crowd than Obama, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. And we saw it when he suggested that, had it not been for the ballots cast by Mexicans crossing the border to illegally vote for Clinton, he would have also won the popular vote. Any other person would have contented himself with the fact that he’d won the presidency, and shut up about crowd sizes and the popular vote, but Trump, as a pathological narcissist with an acute inferiority complex, couldn’t help himself. And, because of this, I can’t see him lending any credibility to idea that Putin interfered in our election, even if what Trump says is true, and there was absolutely no collusion. It’s just not in his nature to do anything that might, even for a second, call his magnificence into question, even if the future of the free world were at stake. And that’s why, with every intelligence agency in the United States in agreement as to what Putin did in 2016, Trump has still not called a single cabinet meeting to discuss the ongoing threat and how we respond. [Of course, it may also be true that Trump is bingeing blackmailed by the Russians, but, for the purposes of this conversation, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.] Hopefully, though, if we can just make it to 2018, and win in spite of both Trump and Putin, we can start to put some of these safeguards, like the ones outlined above, in place, restoring faith once again in our electoral system and democratic institutions. The important thing now, I think, is that people like Cardin are beginning to lay the groundwork for a legislative agenda in 2018. It’s not enough to just hate Trump, we have to also be for something, and reforms noted above, especially when coupled with the decriminalization of marijuana, the broadening of health care access, and a ‘real’ middle class tax cut, are a great start.

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The Fusion GPS testimony, made public this afternoon by the totally badass Diane Feinstein, makes it clear that there’s Republican cover-up of the highest order

OK, remember a few days ago, when we were discussing the coordinated Republican campaign to kill the Mueller investigation, and how I mentioned that the President of Fusion GPS, the research firm responsible for having commissioned the so-called Steele Dossier back in 2016, was demanding that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee release the transcript of his August 22, 2017 testimony before their committee? Well, this afternoon, things took an unprecedented turn. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein decided to release the transcript herself, disregarding the objections of her Republican colleagues. [“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein said today in a statement.] And, now, like many folks around the country, I’m slowly making my way though the ten hours of back and forth between Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS and investigators working on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As I’m sure you can get better coverage elsewhere on the finer points, I’ll just share my first half dozen observations. And, by the way, I may get some of this wrong, so please feel free to challenge my interpretation of this stuff.

1. THERE GOES THE REPUBLICAN NARRATIVE

The Republicans, I think it’s pretty clear, felt their best chance of stopping the Mueller investigation was to make it look as though the whole thing was a politically motivated attack. And they created a narrative to accomplish that. The story, as they told it, started with Hillary Clinton paying to have a fake dossier written about Trump, which was then handed over to members of Department of Justice who were loyal to Obama, who, in turn, brought Mueller on board to open a sham investigation, or “witch hunt”. But, as we now know for a certainty, absolutely none of that was true. While the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee did begin paying Fusion GPS in April of 2016 to continue their work, the company’s research into Trump, and his ties to Russian organized crime, started during the Republican primary, when the services of the DC-based research firm were retained by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website. Furthermore, as we now know, it was not the Steele Dossier that caused for the investigation to be initiated, but a tip from an Australian diplomat by the name of Alexander Downer in London, who had heard about the Russian hacking campaign against Clinton from Trump advisor George Papadopoulos over drinks. And, of course, there’s also the fact that, according to Simpson, the idea to turn the dossier over to the FBI didn’t come from the Clinton campaign, but from from former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who had authored the report, and was concerned that Putin might have kompromat (“compromising material”) that could be used as leverage against candidate Trump. Here are two clips from the Simpson testimony.

2. BUT THE FBI ALREADY KNEW EVERYTHING

According to Simpson, though, when Steele took his findings to the FBI, they didn’t seem surprised. In fact, according to Simpson’s recollection, the FBI believed much of what Steele told them, as it corroborated what they’d already heard from a source inside the Trump campaign. [Some seem to think this source wasn’t actually someone inside the Trump campaign as Simpson suggests, but the Australian ambassador noted above, who sought out the FBI to share what he’d learned from George Papadopoulos. Regardless, however, they’d already heard the same story from someone close to the campaign.]

3. BUT, GUESS WHAT, THE FBI DIDN’T ACT ON THE INTELLIGENCE

Steele, according to Simpson, would brief the FBI twice about his findings, first in an early July 2016 meeting that the former British agent had requested, and again in September 2016. This second meeting, according to Simpson, took place in Rome, and was called by the FBI. In spite of this, however, Steele didn’t see much action on the part of the FBI, and stopped working with them on October 31, 2016, after reading a New York Times article titled “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” It was that point, according to Simpson, that Steele became “concern about what was going on at the FBI.” The following comes from Politico.

…“There was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Simpson testified, calling the Oct. 31 article “a real Halloween special.”

The Times story reported at a critical moment in the 2016 election campign that the FBI had found no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government” during a months-long inquiry. The story has come under fire in light of subsequent reporting, much of it by the Times’ own reporters, detailing contacts between the two.

Simpson testified that the article contradicted Steele and Fusion’s own research into Trump’s connections with Russia.

“Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn’t think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn’t understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down,” Simpson said…

And here it is from the transcript directly… And, again, it’s probably worth noting that Steele, who had started his career working under diplomatic cover as an MI6 agent in Moscow, ultimately became the head of the Russia Desk at MI6… He, in other words, isn’t the kind of person to be taken lightly by the intelligence community. And Steele, one of the world’s most prominent experts on Russian organized crime, certainly isn’t the kind of person to be used by the DNC to prop up a phony story about Donald Trump. No, he well understood Trump’s ties to the Russian mob, and the threat they posed to U.S. security, and he did the right thing by bringing these concerns to the proper authorities. [Eventually, when the FBI didn’t act, Steele would set up a meeting and hand-delver his dossier to Senator John McCain, who brought the documents back to Jim Comey.]

4. FUSION GPS ISN’T A LEFT WING ENTITY

One of the things that I find most interesting about all of this is the fact that Fusion GPS, prior to working on this project, which, of course, they outsourced to Steele’s company (Orbis Business Intelligence), was working on behalf of the Russians to overturn the Magnitsky Act sanctions. Here’s a tweet from earlier today by Magnitsky friend Bill Browder, the Head of Global Magnitsky Justice campaign, and Author of the book Red Notice. [If you’re not familiar with the story of Sergei Magnitsky, I’d suggest you do some reading, as it’s really central to this whole story.] So, again, this really isn’t a situation where a left leaning entity was working to politically undermine Trump. Simpson, for Chrissake, was a journalist for the conservative Wall Street Journal before launching his own company, and doing work for the baddies.

5. THE REPUBLICANS KNEW THIS WAS SERIOUS, BUT THEY FOUGHT IT

‏A few days ago, in an attempt to slow down the investigation, Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham referred Christopher Steele to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. The implication, of course, was that Steele had someone broken the law in the way in which he handled this report. Having now read the transcript, though, it’s difficult to see how anyone could come to that conclusion, which I’m sure it why Feinstein released them. The Steele allegations of money laundering and conspiracy were credible, and yet the Republican members of Congress fought to keep this investigation from going forward, going so far as to suggest ulterior motives on the part of Steele, who, as far as I can tell, cares more about the security and stability of our country than any Republican on Capitol Hill… As Congressman Ted Lieu said today, “the Fusion GPS transcript shows that what Senators Grassley & Graham did last week in publicly referring Christopher Steele for criminal investigation was, at best, a partisan publicity stunt and, at worst, intentionally designed to mislead the American people.” To put a finer point on it, on August 22, 2017, members of Congress knew for a certainty that the Department of Justice investigation into Trump did not have it’s origins with the Steele Dossier. They know from Simpson’s testimony, if they didn’t already know, that the investigation began with a source inside the Trump campaign. In spite of this, though, they repeatedly told the public that this whole investigation was nothing more than a Democratic witch hunt intended to damage the Trump administration politically. It’s absolutely shameful, if not illegal, and every Republican current serving in Congress should be immediately driven from office. They put tax cuts for their wealthy donors before the security of their country, and they should be made to pay dearly for that decision.

6. YES, YOU HEARD RIGHT, IT’S BEING SAID THAT SOMEONE DIED AS A RESULT OF THE DOSSIER

Josh Levy, the attorney for Fusion GPS, who accompanied Simpson to his August 22nd appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, mentioned during the course of the 10 hour session that “somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier.” I, for one, would be interested in knowing to whom he’s referring.

I could go on forever with this stuff, but I really need to sleep… Good night, my invisible friends.

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According to Mitch McConnell, many Kentuckians are getting “permanent pay raises” because of the Republican tax bill… Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a one

Earlier today, I got sent a tweet from Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He wanted to let me know that, because of the big corporate tax-giveaways that he and his fellow Republicans passed at the end of the year, a lot of folks, including “many” in my home state of Kentucky, had gotten “significant bonuses” and “permanent pay raises”. Well, as you can imagine, I was excited to know that a lot of my fellow Kentuckians were sharing in the corporate windfall, and I asked for the Senator’s constituents to share their stories, so that I could congratulate them on their good fortune. Surprisingly, though, in the hours since I posted my query, not a single person has come forward to share his or her story of getting either a huge bonus or permanent raise. And, for what it’s worth, Senator McConnell hasn’t answered my question about how he knows that over one million Americans got “significant bonuses” and “permanent pay raises” thanks to the Republican tax plan, which kind of makes me think it might all be a lie.

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It looks as though Trump really did ghostwrite Don Jr.’s laughably pathetic letter attempting to explain his Trump Tower meeting with Russians as having been about international adoption policy

By now we’ve all read at least a significant portion of the Michael Wolff book, right? If not, please turn away from your computer for a minute, as what I’m about to say might be considered something of a spoiler… The biggest takeaway from Fire and the Fury, as least as I see it, isn’t that we elected a man to lead our country who is manifestly unfit, in both intelligence and temperament, to do so, but that this opinion is apparently universally shared by every single person to have ever come into contact with the man, even his closest associates and family members. I wasn’t at all shocked to hear that Trump didn’t know who John Boehner was, when the former Speaker of the House was suggested as a potential Chief of Staff, or that Trump didn’t have the attention span to make it past the 4th amendment when a well-meaning advisor attempted to explain the Constitution to him. All that, while completely horrifying, was stuff that I completely expected when I heard that Michael Wolff had been given unregulated access to the White House. [Functioning, disciplined White Houses, for what it’s worth, don’t allow guys like Wolff to just hang around, having casual conversations with people, collecting dirt.] What I didn’t expect, however, was the fact that almost everyone Wolff spoke with inside the White House seemed to be in agreement not only that the administration was a colossal shitshow, but that this uninquisitive, selfish and cruel baby-man who they served, was, far from being “a very stable genius,” actually a danger to our nation. But I don’t want to talk about any of that right now. No, I just want to focus on one specific story from the Wolff book – the story of how it was decided that, when it became known that the New York Times was about to release their story about Kushner, Trump Jr. and Manafort taking a meeting with Russian agents at Trump Tower during the election, the President himself decided that they should try to play it all off like the three people running the campaign just decided to take some time away from the race to discuss the plight of Russian orphans.

Before we get to that, though, I just want to say that obstruction of justice is something we’ve already seen from Donald Trump multiple times. Trump himself told Lester Holt on network television that he fired FBI Director Jim Comey because he wouldn’t stop the Russia investigation. And, the day after firing Comey, in a secret meeting that the press wasn’t made aware of, Trump pretty much said the same thing to the Russian ambassador at the White House. Then, of course, there was the time when he pretty much admitted to not coming forward and telling the Department of Justice when he knew that his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, had been lying to investigators about his communications with the Russians. And, thanks to the reporting of the New York Times this past week, we know that Trump also tried to interfere and stop Sessions from recusing himself from all things Russia-related, as he wanted an Attorney General who could stop the investigation. [Trump, accounting to multiple New York Times sources, sent White House counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself.] So the story I’m about to share shouldn’t shock you. We know that Trump is guilty of obstruction already. This is just one more example, although, perhaps, a more interesting one, as it involves Ivanka drugging herself to avoid participation… Here, from the Fire and Fury, is the story of how it came to be that Donald Trump Jr. issued his statement telling everyone that, while it was true that he, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner – the three top members of the Trump 2016 campaign – had taken a meeting with Russians at Trump Tower prior to the election, they only did so out of concern for Russian orphans.




So, if we’re to believe Wolff, as I do in this instance, everyone on Air Force One fought to get as far as possible away from the President, as he, Hope Hicks, and possibly Jared Kushner, came up with a plan to lie about the purpose of the July 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, in spite of the fact that they knew damn well that the Times already had the email chain which proceeded the meeting, in which the Russians promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Ivanka, knowing what was going down, made it a point to tell everyone that she was taking a sleeping pill and leaving. And the President’s other most trusted advisors went off to watch the movie Fargo, which, ironically, is about a poorly-conceived-of crime perpetrated by stupid people who are eventually caught.

And, as Wolf says later in the book, not only does the President’s former advisor, Steve Bannon, think the Trump Tower meeting was in itself “treasonous,” but, for what it’s worth, he thinks Trump Jr. probably brought the lawyer from the Russian mob and her associates upstairs to meet with Donald Trump himself. “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office of the 26th floor is zero,” Bannon apparently told Wolff.

Will this be enough to make a difference? Almost surely not. The Republicans know that Trump is guilty of obstruction, and yet they’ve chosen to do nothing. As long as he’s not attacking them with degrading nicknames, and signing the legislation they put in front of him, Republicans in Congress just don’t care. Even the ones, like Lindsey Graham, who were once fairly outspoken about Trump, have now come back to the fold. Bob Corker, in fact, who just referred to the White House as an adult daycare facility a few weeks ago, travelled with Trump to Tennessee today, where they appeared to be the best of friends.

Just imagine for a moment if Obama had done any one of these things. Just close you eyes and imagine him allowing one of his daughters to take his seat at a conference of international leaders while he ran off to Air Force One to dictate a fake explanation for why his other daughter had met with a foreign agent who had promised the hacked emails of his chief political adversary… But, because all of this is pretty much happening in broad daylight, we somehow accept it as acceptable in post-Trump America. And it’s not. None of this is…

OK, I’d like to say more, but I’m going to take a sleeping pill and watch Fargo now. Wake me when the treason is over.

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I was going to post something completely different tonight, but here’s Oprah’s Golden Globes speech

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