Posted tagged ‘fbi’

Meddling, Hmmm, Only Russians?

February 18, 2018

The Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment this week charging 13 Russians with interfering in 2016 Presidential election. Mueller’s team detailed a broad effort by Russian sources to influence voters during the election campaign. Clear meddling by a foreign power in a domestic election.

Hmmm. Seems clear cut.

Forget, for a moment, that everything the Russians are accused of is everyday practice of the CIA. Incredulous is all I can think of when I hear the Washington “heavy breathers” taking exception to the Russian activities. Even more astonishing is that the media’s focus is mainly on Russian influence while overlooking social media’s inadequacies and already existing US sources of misinformation/propaganda.

To be clear, of course it is wrong for Russia to interfere with US democratic processes. And, it is reasonable that US agencies could label these Russian actions as unfriendly and maybe tantamount to making war. But in a “tit for tat” world, other than “I gotcha”, what more is there to say?

Well there is more. The Russian are accused of using money to influence social media which in turn was suppose to influence voters. Why is someone not asking the question, were the Russians the only ones who used social media to multiply the impact of their message?

Were the Russians the only ones who wished to see Hillary Clinton defeated?

The message Americans should be hearing is more like “social media, for example twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, by their very nature, should be suspected as publishing (knowingly or unknowingly) propaganda.

Social media outlets, as they are designed, are easily hijacked and used to hype positions favored by these commenters. Alert, alert, social media comments and news-looking content does not have to meet the level of a junior high school essay. There is no one checking the content for accuracy.

In other words, home grown, American through and through sources, like Arian Nation, Citizens Councils (for White America), or the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners, to name a few, can make statements, or “like” statements made by others, regardless of whether the subject matter is based upon opinion, hopes, or facts.

Those addicted to social media, or believe what they hear from robocalls, or see in negative TV political ads, and see these sources as offering helpful information are badly mistaken.

So, how is the alleged Russian election interference different from these examples?

In one case it is Americans spreading misinformation and in the other case, it is Russians spreading much of the same misinformation. Hmmm.

A difference without distinction?

IMO, Russian interference in the 2016 election, while totally inappropriate, could served a greater good by revealing how gullible voters can be. More to the point, the Russian interference used the same social media sources many other Americans influence peddling groups use.

Without further questioning, social media content is at best meaningless, if not hearsay, prejudicial and misleading. Hmmm.

Advertisements

Making Sense Of The Russian Investigation

February 1, 2018

On display in Washington DC, for everyone to see, is a political party unfit to govern. One can rightly question how much worse Republicans are than Democrats, but there is simply no defense for the President and those Republicans in Congress supporting him.

The most recent brouhaha is over a “secret” memo written by Representative Devin Nunes (or his staff) which allegedly contains accusation against the FBI and specifically against its investigation of President Trump in the FBI’s probing of Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

Pundits claim the White House, through its puppet “Nunes”, is attempting to discredit the legitimacy of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s efforts.  The strategy is to discredit the entire FBI, if necessary, to accomplish this.

Why would anyone do this?

  • Russian interference is a red herring. The US CIA routinely funds organizations to influence elections outcomes around the world. To think for a moment that Russia would not do the same defies common sense.
  • President Trump and many of his campaign staff are guilty of being overly zealous in conducting “opposition research” (getting dirt on Hillary), not trying to rig the election.   For reasons which are unclear today, Team Trump and a flock of Congressional Republicans have panicked at the appointment of a special prosecutor.
  • Consequently, Mueller will likely layout a wide ranging case involving obstruction of justice for many Trump campaign workers and the President himself.
  • The prospects of being charged with obstruction should not have panicked Trump or his staff. While obstruction of justice is a serious charge, the President would have faced impeachment which is at the end of the day a political process.
  • Republicans hold the majority in Congress. End of story. Why panic?
  • The most obvious reason is there must have been other Trump family motives in wanting expansive relations with Russian interests. Current financial arrangements seems probable.  In addition, the Trump family organization’s future need for money seems likely too. If the Special Prosecutor were to expose these money driven contacts too, then it would become much more difficult for Trump, Inc to conceal how it finances its many businesses.
  • This story gets messier.   President Trump’s investments and corporations around the world do business with the same despots which President Trump might be meeting with in his official capacity.  This would expose a smell that even President Trump’s bravado could not suppress.
  • But there’s more. The emoluments clause in the Constitution strictly forbids the President from accepting gifts and payments from foreign countries. Hmmm. The price of being President would have just gone way up.

The Special Prosecutor has also opened another Presidential scab. The Special Prosecutor appears “independent” of the White House and not one of “my guys” as President Trump puts it.

  • Step by step, Director Mueller’s investigation is drawing out a President who sees himself as the commander in chief of everything. Mueller is, without direct charges, showing that the President has no regard for the Constitution, past historical practices, or the rule of law.
  • President Trump appears to think that “his” Justice Department should answer to the President and disregard the Constitution or Federal laws if the President says so.

 

Ironically, from a meaningless conspiracy by Russian interests to use social media tools, available to the Koch Brothers or any one else, in a way to influence the election outcome, Mueller’s investigation is laying out Donald Trump’s natural proclivities…

Hail Trump or is it Heil Trump?

First Day Speculations

January 1, 2018

On the first day of 2017, rather than on April fool’s day, one might presume to speculate on current events and the year ahead. And nothing is more ripe for speculation than Special Investigator Robert Mueller and his investigation of Russian collusion in the 2016 general election. Did the Trump organization collude with Russian contacts in an attempt to swing the Presidential election in Trump’s favor?

It is important to remember that Mueller’s investigation which has lasted about one year is charged with prosecuting any relate crimes which it may uncover in its investigation. To date, no collusion charges have been made public. There have been indictments of Trump campaign members but nothing linking the President to collusion or to attempts  influence the actual vote. So, has this been a witch hunt as President Trump alleges and why is the President so apparently consumed with ending the investigation?

First one must make certain assumptions.

  • Donald Trump never expected to win, the race was about polishing and enriching his “brand”.
  • Trump’s business model requires frequent “deals” of which Trump receives a “cut”, and it is the money from the “cuts” that provides for his life style.
  • Trump’s deals require financing sources and Russians are sources eager to make money available.
  • Russian sources include money launderers and others with interest escaping the effects of banking sanctions.
  • A Presidential candidate, especially one who potentially could positively influence US relations with Russia would be a good investment.
  • The news media was convinced Trump would lose.   Donald Trump, however, saw the upside. Any help the Russians could throw his way meant improving his chances and probably more importantly, expand his list of Russian money sources.

Hmmm.

And more.

  • Russian interests probably  agreed with US news media but felt a weak President Hillary Clinton would be in Russia’s best interest.
  • The Clinton Foundation had sought foreign contributions on the thinly disguised premise of future access to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was likely.  (Like the Trumps, the Clintons lived off “a cut” from Clinton Foundation donations. What goes around, comes around.)
  • The infamous Russian dossier contained more truths than President Trump wishes to admit. The dossier discloses compromising liaisons with Russian hockers as well as contacts with Russian “mafia”  and associated financial links.
  • During 2016, Trump businesses and brands were searching for fresh cash.

Hmmm.

So, it all depends on what collusion refers to, collusion to tilt the electoral process in favor of Candidate Trump, or collusion aimed at attracting questionable sources of business investment money?

IMO, collusion is all about the Trump family and his organization attempting to strengthen its Russian funding sources through his appearance as a serious Presidential candidate. In short, Trump et al wanted a steady flow of dark money and felt that portraying Donald Trump as a serious US presidential candidate, this charade could make his Presidential race performance more credible and his future financial opportunities far better.

Consequently, Special Investigator Mueller’s investigation must go beyond direct Russian efforts to influence the Presidential vote and identify the real Trump motives for Russian contacts. This will be difficult and will require time.

If Mueller’s investigators follow the money,  Mueller will find true criminal intent (money laundering, tax evasion, to name two) involving Donald Trump, his sons, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

These charges are big time. These charges would warrant impeachment and a trial in the Senate. If Mueller is rushed and his case is not rock solid, other forces who see a Trump Presidency as beneficial will arise and support Mueller’s firing as well as a complete coverup of any charges.

Feel like taking a shower?

Russian Troubles

August 4, 2017

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s “special investigator” status has been questioned directly and and the subject of tweets.  Is the special prosecutor’s tenure in doubt?

The President, of course, sees the investigation as “witch hunt” and “totally a fabrication”. And, the President who gratuitously leads his campaign style audiences to chant “lock her up”, prefers to deflect any personal involvement, other than being a victim. So, what might be really happening?

Anyone who has been awake since January 20th when Donald Trump became the 45th US President must know one thing. The President is pathologically incapable of telling the truth on even the simplest of subjects. On that basis, one must assume there is substance to the “Russian Collusion” charges, what exactly the breadth and width of collusion remains to be shown.

Some suggest that the Mueller investigation will lead to “obstruction of justice” charges rather than actually collusion with the Russians. Again, anyone who has been watching or listening to the White House shenanigans knows there has been obstruction. What the lay person does not know is whether President Trump’s actions rise to the level of criminality.

Unlike the greedy bankers or ethically corrupt subcontractors with whom businessman Trump is used to dealing, Director Mueller is no fool when it comes to investigations, and can tell a bluff when he sees one. If there is a case, Mueller will find it.

But what happens if Mueller finds grounds for criminal charges?

Many might say “impeach the bum and good riddance”. Others might caution that a President Mike Pence will bring less dysfunction but his extreme views on religion and his ease with imposing them on others is as great a danger or even greater than President Trump.

The game is in motion and the “cards” will speak. If the charges are weak, Mueller’s report to Congress will go no where. If, on the other hand, Mueller’s charges are substantive, then impeachment becomes a real possibility.

Under these circumstances, America needs a modern day Solomon. Why, wouldn’t cards speak?

President Trump was narrowly elected by a surprisingly divided country. His supporters despite copious examples of mistruths, boorish behavior, and unprincipled threats, still are fully in the President’s corner. President Trump can do no wrong for these voters.

Therefore to impeach and remove the President could be seen by 30-40% of Americans as a coup and one more example of the unfairness of the Federal Government. It is unimaginable that President Trump would resign and urge his followers to support what ever followed. More likely would be a movement to change the Constitution and allow ex-President Trump to be reelected at the next general election. Not only would the country face a Constitutional crisis, it would face a schism so strong that armed militia reprisals are not out of the question.

And for what reason?

Trump supporters in one way or the other see the American pie as not fairly being divided. Political correctness makes no sense to them other than as an unjustified power grab. Taxes only take money from them (factually not true) and give it to the lazy, immigrants, and undeserving. Congress members (except theirs) are just stuffing their pockets with cash while ignoring working people’s problems. But not President Trump, he cares about them. Hmmm.

Well, cards do speak. The Mueller investigation will go where it will go. If the case is strong enough President Trump may be impeached.  The ex-President will not only have brought America the most unprepared and temperamentally unfit President, he may provoke a Constitutional crisis of unknown dimensions.

If the Trump “35%” learns from this Pied Piper and recognize Trumpism is not the answer for their dissatisfaction, all will not be for naught.

The Eastern Front?

May 22, 2017

Most historians cite Hitler’s decision to attacked Russia and opening a second front on the East as the crucial event which ultimately lead to Germany’s defeat in World War II. The argument goes that Germany spread its resources too thin and consequently could not win either in the west or the east. I wonder if history will repeat.

President Trump has a serious political and legal fight on his hands with regards to Russian Government involvement in the 2016 election. According to American security agencies, Russian entities did engage in hacking and dissemination of fake news during the campaign. After denying there was any Russian involvement, President Trump now asserts there was no “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians. The FBI and both the House and Senate have now investigations underway with the potential for serious political and criminal determinations. To make a matters worse and in true Roy Cohn style, the President fired FBI Director James Comey and told the Russian Foreign Minister that he had fired the “real nut job” (James Comes) and that would take pressure off this investigation. Hmmm.

Surprisingly this Russian investigation is not either the western or eastern front. Hmmm.

Instead, President Trump’s “western front” lays in his (and the Republican controlled House’s) tax cut proposals. The President is proposing “huge” cuts which will gift million and maybe billions to the wealthiest Americans. And, this Trump tax cut budget hole will need to be offset by budget cuts.

Therefore, the “eastern” (second) front will be Trump’s budget proposal itself.

Reports today say the President will propose sharp cuts to Medicaid in his budget proposal. Medicaid covers healthcare for the poorest of Americans and in many States covers millions of Obamacare newly covered Americans. While most Americans do not receive Medicaid benefits, these proposed Medicaid cuts signal the beginning of a wider attack, an all out attack upon healthcare coverage (America Health Care Act), followed by Medicare, and ultimately Social Security.

While tax cuts for the wealthy are shameful and unnecessary, offsetting these corporate and individual windfall tax gifts with cuts to programs used by the other 99% of Americans is mean spirited to the max.

Going for tax cuts is a mighty lift. Going for a huge reduction in government spending, particularly safety net and entitlement spending is an even bigger challenge. Going for both is likely to resemble a war with two fronts.

The Russian meddling investigation is a complication even Hitler did not have. While it is unlikely the President ever engaged directly with the Russians, it is not unlikely that several of his key staff and advisors did. The irony might turn out to be that any contacts with the Russians was really about potential future business deals (making money). not intent to sway the election.

The even larger irony might turn out to be that the President gets ensnared by coverup or obstruction activities (wanting the FBI investigation to simply go away) and not collusion with the Russians.  One would think the President would want, if only as an insurance policy, to boast high popularity ratings if the investigations were to turn political.  Offsetting tax cuts for the wealthy with entitlement cuts for everyone else may not appear popular as Americans think about things.  Hmmm.

It will certainly be hard fighting a war on two fronts.

Authority Versus Right

May 16, 2017

It is only Tuesday and President Trump has already opened another can of worms. In what is becoming a pattern of behavior, the Washington Post reported President Trump revealed to the Russian Foreign Minister, super secret US intelligence. The President’s aides (namely National Security Advisor H R McMaster) denied the Post article. “It” never happened, McMaster told a news conference. Twelve hours later, the President himself tweeted that he had in fact shown the Russian top secret classified material and as President, he had the authority and right to do so. Hmmm.

The Post report indicated that President Trump boasted about how much intelligence he receives daily and pointed to information pinpointing the where abouts of ISIS senior officials. The media speculated that the Russian could quickly figure out where the intelligence came from and most likely the methods used to obtain it. “Means and methods” have traditionally been completely “no-no” when reporting highly classified intelligence information. Hmmm.

President Trump has again conveniently conflated “authority” and “right”. Clearly the President has the authority to declassify any classified information regardless of whether declassifying is prudent or not. Once declassified, the intelligence is legally discoverable through freedom of information requests or through unauthorized “leaks”.

In other words, if the President opens Pandora’s box, what comes next will be what it will be.

In the President’s mind, apparently, authority gives him the right to act as he pleases. President Trump in essence is saying because I have the authority, I also have the right to act regardless of the consequences. IMO, Presidential actions must include reasonable diligence and consideration of consequences as well as gains to be made.

(For example, the President has the authority to use nuclear weapons.  Do you feel comfortable with the President making such a decision without a thorough discussion with senior military and intelligence officials?)

The President claims his purpose was to increase Russia’s engagement in pursuing ISIS. Sounds like a worthy objective especially if the other Country was an ally like Great Britain, France or Germany. One is left wondering when instead the Country is Russia who routinely supports interests opposed to those of the US.

President Trump has the right also to fire (remove from office) the FBI Director and under normal circumstances, the President is given wide latitude in justifying his decision. Obstruction of justice is not an accepted “right”.  Recklessly sharing secret intelligence could be a dereliction of duty.

It could also be brilliant negotiating tactic. Only subsequent events will determine.
Between dereliction and brilliance lies a sea of other possibilities. Ignorance, deceit, mistake, test, quid pro quo, gamble, and instinct to name a few.

As a one off, this release of classified information is unlikely to meet the test of impeachment, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Article II, Section 4).

President Trump had clear authority, but only with more information will Americans know whether the President had the right.

A TrumpComey-D

May 12, 2017

This week President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. One might well say “so what”. Pundits claim the optics are terrible, and others say the White House explanation simply does not pass the smell test. Now, many are asking, “does the firing pass the hearing test”?

At first, sources claimed Comey’s firing stemed from newly confirmed Justice Department second in command, Rod Rosenstein’s review and recommendation. Then the narrative progressed to President Trump’s dissatisfaction with Comey’s listening skills. President Trump is said to have been privately lobbying for Comey’s replacement for a few weeks because Director Comey seemed obtuse to hints to end the alleged Russian investigations. Now in an interview with NBC, President Trump said the decision to fire Director Comes was his alone because Comey was a “showboater”. Why would the President say that?

The White House was quick to remind everyone that the Constitution grants the President those powers. (Sound familiar to words used with the two stayed Muslim travel ban executive orders? No need to provide a credible justification, just claim anything and rely on Constitutional powers.) Apparently the argument goes, “I have the authority and that’s all I need to tell you”. Hmmm.

Several pundits say that Director Comey was fired because he was not loyal to the President (in Trump’s mind), and was prioritizing the Russian investigation too highly (this probably upset both Trump and Sessions). Both of these reasons should be troubling to thinking Americans. Et tu Brute, don’t you remember the system of checks and balances?

In the first 100+ days of the Trump White House, Americans (and especially Congress) are seeing a very worrisome demonstration of executive authority combined with arrogance. Being decisive is no vice. Being decisive in the sense of temperamental outbursts represents a dangerous character flaw, and one that time in the job is very unlikely to improve. Director Comey’s firing, because of its impulsive nature and the lack of “why now” explanation, does not bode well for future decisions.  The firing looks too much like a “sick comedy”.

While it is true that President Trump has the right to fire the FBI Director, he does not have the right, even as President, to interfere with an investigation (obstruction of justice). At this point we must assume that the President was impulsive and not trying intentionally to retard a Federal investigation. What happens next in terms of a new Director nomination, and what steps Congress takes, will give a jittery public a good indication on the real Donald Trump and the real meaning of the Trump Comey-D.