Category Archives: U.S. Elections

Oliver Stone Interviews Putin on U.S.-Russia Relations, 2016 Election, Snowden and NATO

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with award winning filmmaker Oliver Stone about his new Showtime TV special, The Putin Interviews. The series is based on more than 20 hours of interviews Stone conducted with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past two years. (Democracy Now!)

Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak

Peter Van Buren writes:

An NSA document purporting to show Russian military hacker attempts to access a Florida company which makes voter registration software is sent anonymously to The Intercept. A low-level NSA contractor, Reality Winner, above, is arrested almost immediately. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

Who Benefits?

Start with the question of who benefits — cui bono— same as detectives do when assessing a crime.

— Trump looks bad as another trickle of information comes out connecting something Russian to something 2016 election. Intelligence community (IC) looks like they are onto something, a day or so before ousted FBI Director James Comey testifies before Congress on related matters.

— The Intercept looks like it contributed to burning a source. Which potential leaker is going to them in the future? If potential leakers are made to think twice, another win for the IC.

— The FBI made an arrest right away, nearly simultaneous to the publication, with the formal charges coming barely an hour after The Intercept published. The bust is sure thing according to the very publicly released information. No Ed Snowden hiding out in Russia this time. IC looks good here.

— More evidence is now in the public domain that the Russians are after our election process. Seems as if the IC has been right all along.

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NSA Contractor Charged for Leak After Intercept Exposé on Alleged Russian Hacking of 2016 Election

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with security technologists Bruce Schneier and Jake Williams, who is a former member of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking team, after a military intelligence contractor was arrested and charged with leaking a top-secret NSA report to the media. (Democracy Now!) 

Putin Denies Russian State Role, But Says Individual ‘Patriotic’ Hackers May Have Mounted Attacks

Sabra Ayres reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Image result for Putin Denies Russian State RoleAfter months of categorically denying Russian involvement in cyberattacks during last year’s U.S. presidential elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that while the Kremlin has never used state-sponsored cyberattacks to meddle in other countries’ elections, some “patriotically minded” volunteer hackers may have acted on their own to defend Russian interests.

“Hackers can be anywhere, and pop out from anywhere in the world,” Putin said in an address to Russian and foreign media during the opening day of an annual economic forum held in St. Petersburg.

The Russian president compared hackers to artists, who can act creatively, particularly when they are motivated by international relations and in the defense of Russia’s interests.

“If they woke up today, read that there is something happening in interstate relations,” he said. “If they are patriotic, they start contributing, as they see it, in the fight against those who do not speak well about Russia.”

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Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

On the Internet today you will find thousands, perhaps even millions, of people gloating about the death of elephantine Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The happy face emojis are getting a workout on Twitter, which is also bursting with biting one-liners.

When I mentioned to one of my relatives that I was writing about the death of Ailes, the response was, “Say that you hope he’s reborn as a woman in Saudi Arabia.”

Ailes has no one but his fast-stiffening self to blame for this treatment. He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

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Democrats Are Falling For Fake News About Russia

Zack Beauchamp writes for Vox:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sandersand Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

[…] The unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was forced to apologize for spreading a false claim that a New York grand jury was investigating Trump and Russia. His sources, according to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine, were Mensch and Palmer.

Members of the Russiasphere see themselves as an essential counter to a media that’s been too cautious to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russian ties.

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Trump Picks the Al Capone of Vote-Rigging to Investigate Federal Voter Fraud

Greg Palast reports:

Kris Kobach was spooning down vanilla ice cream when I showed him the thick pages of evidence documenting his detailed plan to rig the presidential election of 2016. The Kansas secretary of state, sucking up carbs at a Republican Party fundraiser, recognized the documents and ran for it while still trying to wolf down the last spoonful.

That was 2015 (yes, the ballot heist started way back). Today this same man, Kris Kobach, is Donald Trump’s choice to head the new “Voter Integrity Commission.”

It’s like appointing Al Capone to investigate the mob.

How did Kobach mess with the 2016 vote? Let me count the ways—as I have over the past three years of hunting down Kobach’s ballot-box gaming. Just two of Kobach’s vote-bending tricks undoubtedly won Michigan for Trump and contributed to his “wins” in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.

First, Interstate Crosscheck.

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Trump Orders ‘Election Integrity’ Commission Headed by Architects of Voter Suppression

Amy Goodman speaks with Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. (Democracy Now!)

As Clinton Blames Comey and Russia, Authors of ‘Shattered’ Expose Aimless Campaign

A conversation with Jonathan Allen, co-author of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, who reveals Hillary Clinton’s campaign struggling to hone a core message about why she was running for President. (The Real News)

Obama: ‘You Get the Politicians You Deserve’

Madeline Conway reports for Politico:

Image result for Obama: 'You Get the Politicians You Deserve'Former President Barack Obama, speaking to an audience in Italy on Tuesday, urged citizens to participate in democracy and warned that “you get the politicians you deserve.”

“People have a tendency to blame politicians when things don’t work, but as I always tell people, you get the politicians you deserve,” Obama said, to loud applause. “And if you don’t vote and you don’t pay attention, you’ll get policies that don’t reflect your interest.”

Obama was speaking in Milan at a summit on food innovation. He has spoken broadly about the democratic process in a handful of public appearances since the end of his tenure, and he devoted his good-bye address in Chicago to democracy and urging Americans to engage in politics.

The former president has largely refrained from commenting on President Donald Trump at his post-White House engagements so far, but it is no secret that Obama’s worldview contrasts with Trump’s sharply, and during the campaign, Obama repeatedly argued that Trump was uniquely unqualified for the presidency.

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Running to be Dogcatcher? Try Campaigning on Trump

Alex Roarty reports for McClatchy:

Image result for Running to be town dogcatcher? Try campaigning on TrumpThe first TV ad of Bill Peduto’s campaign was a 30-second address made directly to President Donald Trump, criticizing the Republican leader’s rhetoric and proposed budget cuts.

But Peduto isn’t running for a seat in the House of Representatives or the Senate. In fact, he’s not seeking federal office of any kind. He’s a mayor, running for re-election in Pittsburgh, and his office has very little to do with the White House.

No matter.

“Mr. President, if you keep trying to cut health care and after-school programs, even a Patriots fan like you should know that won’t play in Pittsburgh,” the Democratic candidate said. (The NFL’s New England Patriots are rivals to Pittsburgh’s football team, the Steelers.)

A local candidate running ads about the Leader of the Free World might seem odd. But even in the smallest races, Democratic strategists predict, it’s about to become commonplace.

The new president has such a grip on the Democratic Party’s psyche that candidates can’t ignore him – even if they’re running for positions such as mayor that are ostensibly more about local issues. That makes ads about the New York billionaire inevitable, as Democratic candidates try to prove to their base that they’ll do whatever they can to fight this president.

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FBI Refuses to Disclose Documents on Trump’s Call to Russia to Hack Clinton

Ed Pilkington reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump’s Call to Russia to Hack ClintonThe US justice department is refusing to disclose FBI documents relating to Donald Trump’s highly contentious election year call on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Senior DoJ officials have declined to release the documents on grounds that such disclosure could “interfere with enforcement proceedings”. In a filing to a federal court in Washington DC, the DoJ states that “because of the existence of an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI anticipates that it will … withhold all records”.

The statement suggests that Trump’s provocative comment last July is being seen by the FBI as relevant to its own ongoing investigation.

[…] The then Republican presidential candidate ignited an instant uproar when he made his controversial comment at a press conference in Florida on 27 July. By that time Russia had already been accused by US officials of hacking Democratic National Committee emails in a bid to sway the election.

“I will tell you this, Russia: if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said, referring to a stash of emails that Clinton had deleted from her personal server dating from her time as US secretary of state.

Later that day, the Republican candidate posted a similarly incendiary remark on Twitter: “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

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Glenn Greenwald on Trump’s ‘Shocking’ Firing of FBI Chief James Comey Amid Russian Probe

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, about Donald Trump firing FBI Director James Comey after Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating whether Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election. (Democracy Now!)

The Great British Brexit Robbery: How Our Democracy Was Hijacked

Carole Cadwalladr reports for The Guardian:

Infographic on how the Brexit campaigns were linked

In June 2013, a young American postgraduate called Sophie was passing through London when she called up the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns. But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

Why would anyone want to intern with a psychological warfare firm, I ask him. And he looks at me like I am mad. “It was like working for MI6. Only it’s MI6 for hire. It was very posh, very English, run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things. Fly all over the world. You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever. It’s not like election campaigns in the west. You got to do all sorts of crazy shit.”

On that day in June 2013, Sophie met up with SCL’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, and gave him the germ of an idea. “She said, ‘You really need to get into data.’ She really drummed it home to Alexander. And she suggested he meet this firm that belonged to someone she knew about through her father.”

Who’s her father?

“Eric Schmidt.”

Eric Schmidt – the chairman of Google?

“Yes. And she suggested Alexander should meet this company called Palantir.”

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The Hidden Purging of Millions of Voters

With all the discussion of the contentious 2016 election, the most shocking fact is often ignored: that millions of people had their votes stolen through malicious, means. The Republican Party is currently working to purge millions more voters leading up to the 2018 election. To explain this major attack on our supposed democratic process, Abby Martin interviews investigative reporter Greg Palast, who has done the most extensive work uncovering this massive disenfranchisement campaign. (The Empire Files)

How the Left Learned to Hate Like the Right

Michelle Goldberg writes for The New York Times:

Shortly before President Trump’s swearing-in, I spoke to Steve Cohen, a liberal congressman from Tennessee, about his decision to skip the ceremony. Mr. Cohen said his horror of Mr. Trump almost made him understand how Tea Partyers might have felt under President Barack Obama. “I want my country back!” he said, echoing the right’s rallying cry.

One hundred days into his administration, President Trump has few legislative achievements to his name. But he has forced liberals to experience the near-apocalyptic revulsion that conservatives have often felt toward Democratic presidents. In doing so, he has unwittingly created a new movement in American politics, as Democrats channel the sort of all-encompassing outrage that has long fueled grass-roots conservatism.

For decades, Democrats have envied the Republicans’ passionate, locally attuned base. It turns out that what Democrats were missing was a sense of existential emergency. Mr. Trump has provided it.

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Barack Obama Is Using His Presidency to Cash In, But Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter Refused

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

Image result for truman carterDefenders of Barack Obama’s decision to do things like accept a $400,000 check for a speech to a Wall Street brokerage house argue that the former president might as well cash in — everyone else does.

That was Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s defense of Obama. “People are like why doesn’t he not accept the money? No, f*** that,” Noah said. “So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards? No no no my friend. He can’t be the first of everything! F*** that, and f*** you. Make that money, Obama!”

This argument, while common, is based on historical ignorance. It assumes that presidents have always found a way to leverage their political connections post-presidency to make money from interest groups and wealthy political actors.

But that isn’t the case.

It used to be the norm for presidents to retire to ordinary life after their stint in the White House — just ask Harry Truman.

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New Laura Poitras Documentary Reveals WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Misogyny, Distaste for Clinton and Trump

Alex Thompson reports for VICE News:

Image result for New Laura Poitras Documentary Reveals WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Misogyny, Distaste for Clinton and TrumpJulian Assange had given filmmaker Laura Poitras unprecedented access for over five years, and she had hundreds of hours of footage in her possession. But last summer, the WikiLeaks co-founder started to have second thoughts. “Presently, the film is a severe threat to my freedom and I’m forced to treat it accordingly,” he texted her.

Now we know why.

Poitras’ new documentary, “Risk” — following up on her Oscar-winning “CitizenFour,” on Edward Snowden — provides perhaps the most unvarnished, intimate look into the persistence, smarts, self-righteousness, and misogyny of the man who, despite being holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly five years, has earned the ire of the most powerful governments on Earth.

It’s actually the second version of the film, the first having screened at Cannes in May of 2016. Reviews of the original described it as a sympathetic portrayal of Assange and WikiLeaks work in general, but then came the reports of sexual misconduct by an Assange confidante and a rock star in the hacker space, Jacob Applebaum, whom Poitras had been romantically involved with after the shooting of the film. Poitras then felt obligated to further probe the culture of misogyny that’s infiltrated the hacker community and that Assange has perpetuated.

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The Media Bubble is Real — And Worse Than You Think

Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty report for Politico Magazine:

Lede-Shafer-ByDataPoint.jpg[…] The answer to the press’ myopia lies elsewhere, and nobody has produced a better argument for how the national media missed the Trump story than FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who pointed out that the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink. “As of 2013, only 7 percent of [journalists] identified as Republicans,” Silver wrote in March, chiding the press for its political homogeneity. Just after the election, presidential strategist Steve Bannon savaged the press on the same point but with a heartier vocabulary. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” Bannon said. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no fucking idea what’s going on.”

But journalistic groupthink is a symptom, not a cause. And when it comes to the cause, there’s another, blunter way to think about the question than screaming “bias” and “conspiracy,” or counting D’s and R’s. That’s to ask a simple question about the map. Where do journalists work, and how much has that changed in recent years? To determine this, my colleague Tucker Doherty excavated labor statistics and cross-referenced them against voting patterns and Census data to figure out just what the American media landscape looks like, and how much it has changed.

The results read like a revelation. The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme. Concentrated heavily along the coasts, the bubble is both geographic and political. If you’re a working journalist, odds aren’t just that you work in a pro-Clinton county—odds are that you reside in one of the nation’s most pro-Clinton counties. And you’ve got company: If you’re a typical reader of Politico, chances are you’re a citizen of bubbleville, too.

The “media bubble” trope might feel overused by critics of journalism who want to sneer at reporters who live in Brooklyn or California and don’t get the “real America” of southern Ohio or rural Kansas. But these numbers suggest it’s no exaggeration: Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends.

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Shattered: New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton Campaign

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Hillary Clinton[…] Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

If you’re wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.

What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters’ need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how “Because it’s her turn” might fly as a public rallying cry.

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Clinton 2016: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Christian Parenti wrote for Jacobin in November 2016:

It is now becoming clear that Clinton’s ground game — the watchword for defenders of her alleged competence — was actually under-resourced and poorly executed. Like so much else in this election, her field strategy was hostage to the colossal arrogance and consequent incompetence of the liberal establishment.

At the heart of the failure was the notion of the “new emerging majority.” According to this argument — pushed by, among others, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira — women, Latinos, blacks, and skilled professionals who support the Democrats were becoming the demographic majority. Thus the traditional white working-class base of the Democratic Party could be sidelined.

Back in July Chuck Schumer summed it up: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

From this theory and strategy flowed a deeply flawed set of tactics, and a badly fumbled get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort.

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This Isn’t the Foreign Policy Trump Campaigned On

Robert W. Merry writes for The American Conservative:

It may be too early to tell for sure, but Donald Trump is looking more and more like a phony. He’s also looking like a weakling. And a political ingrate. All this is coming into stark relief with accelerating events involving Syria. The United States launched dozens of missiles against Syrian military installations to retaliate for the chemical attack on rebel-held territory. Thus did Trump demonstrate that, to the extent that his foreign policy differs from that of his predecessor, it is more aggressive and adventuresome than Obama’s. That’s the opposite of how he campaigned.

So let’s start with the crucial civic adhesive of political gratitude. This is the virtue that impels politicians to give special consideration to the people who put them in office. That can generate anger and frustration on the part of people on the other side of the major issues in play, but those people have to accept that they were on the losing side. The winning side sets the agenda, based on the political conversation of the last campaign. That’s how democratic politics works.

Thinking back to the political conversation of the last campaign, we recall that Trump attacked the Iraq War as a mindless foreign adventure with bitter and ongoing consequences, including ongoing Mideast chaos. He said he certainly wouldn’t make the same mistake in Syria and that joining the struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would put the United States on the side of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the region. He said that, if Assad were deposed, the country likely would fall to unsavory elements that hate the West—in other words, some of our worst enemies. He touted his oft-expressed desire to develop better relations with Russia, an Assad ally, and said he would work with Russia toward an end to the horrendous Syrian bloodshed.

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Noam Chomsky: With U.S. History of Overthrowing Govts, Outrage over Russian Hacking Claims is Laughable

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with world-renowned linguist, author and political dissident Noam Chomsky about the outrage over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (Democracy Now!)

Robert David English: Moscow Sees Hypocrisy in Allegations After U.S. Interfered in Russian Elections in 1990s

Amy Goodman speaks with Robert David English, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, about allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections to help Trump win. English recently wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs titled ‘Russia, Trump, and a New Détente‘, and is the author of Russia and the Idea of the West. English says: “If we want to understand Russia’s point of view, President Putin and those around him—and of course we do—whether or not we agree with it, we need to understand how our adversaries see us, how all other nations see us, through their eyes. If we do that, we realize very quickly that their frame of reference has a lot to do with the mistakes and, yes, the U.S. interference in Russian politics in the ’90s, when we directly intervened in a presidential election to boost a losing candidate into a winning position—that was Boris Yeltsin.” (Democracy Now!)

The Hottest Story About Trump and Russia You Never Heard

David Talbot, author of The Devil’s Chessboard, writes for the San Francisco Chronicle:

In this March 31, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with the National Association of Manufacturers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Slim majorities of Americans favor independent investigations into Trump’s relationship with the Russian government and possible attempts by Russia to influence last year’s election according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press[…] The media has a short attention span. In November, Newsweek called for Comey to be not just fired, but run out of Washington on a rail as “unfit for public service.” But last week, the magazine ran an article praising his honesty and “transparency” and claiming that he had tried to blow the whistle on Russia’s interference in the U.S. election back in July — only to be blocked by the timid Obama administration. Comey’s PR offensive is clearly producing impressive results — from Washington scoundrel to hero in just months!

But not all the media has jumped on the Comey bandwagon. If you want to read the most fascinating new angle about the Trump-Russia-FBI drama, you should check out WhoWhatWhy.org. Last week, the spunky investigative publication broke a major story about the Russia shadow play, reporting that Comey chose not to tell all about the Trump-Moscow connection during the U.S. presidential race “because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.”

But if the FBI can’t reveal the sordid details, WhoWhatWhy does, with a reporting team that included publication founder Russ Baker, a respected investigative journalist, and former Village Voice Executive Editor Jonathan Z. Larsen. The article reveals a fascinating world where mobsters and financial hustlers conducted business out of Trump Tower suites, brokering deals that often led back to Semion Mogilevich, a Russian crime kingpin closely connected to Putin whom one FBI official described as “the boss of bosses.” Some of these deals, reports the WhoWhatWhy team, clearly benefited Trump, whose shaky empire was rescued by a pipeline of Russian credit and investment in the early 2000s.

The shady activity at Trump Tower was closely monitored by the FBI’s New York office, according to Baker and Larsen. But the bureau doesn’t emerge as exactly heroic in the reporters’ article. Two of the FBI agents who investigated the corrupt business operations centered in Trump Tower later went to work as private security contractors for the Trump presidential campaign.

And then there’s the million-dollar question of why Comey chose to sit on this explosive investigation into Trump’s financial dependence on Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Once again, the FBI director — an official who is supposed to be scrupulously above partisan politics — chose to play his shadowy Washington game rather than informing the American people.

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Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

From MSNBC politics shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

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Dermokratiya, USA

Sean Guillory writes for Jacobin:

Image result for yeltsin time cover yanks to the rescueIn January, the CIA, FBI, and NSA released their much-anticipated report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It states that Putin had a “clear preference” for Trump and personally ordered operations designed to get him elected. Russia’s intervention, the report goes on, was the “boldest” in its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.”

The outcry over Russian machinations comes with a heavy dose of irony considering that, twenty years ago, the United States launched an even bolder interference campaign to ensure Boris Yeltsin’s reelection.

The 1990s were one of the most tumultuous and tragic periods in modern Russian history. In 1996, a chaotic mix of Russian schemes — from fraud and profiteering to old-fashioned conspiracy — worked to keep Yeltsin in the driver’s seat. Throughout, American players silently watched, facilitated, and at times, actively helped construct the Faustian bargain between Yeltsin and his oligarch supporters. This pact would have ruinous effects on Russia’s democracy and economy in the decades to come.

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Trump Never Needed a Trump TV — He’s Got the Fox Business Network

Andrew Kirell writes for The Daily Beast:

It turns out Donald Trump never would have needed to launch his own cable-news outlet if he’d lost the election. He already has one: It’s called the Fox Business Network.

Fox News’s sister channel, founded in 2007 as a direct competitor to CNBC, struggled for nearly a decade to gain any steam with viewers. It was only a few years ago that much of FBN was experiencing abysmal ratings, often in the single-digit thousands for its key demographic. The schedule routinely shuffled, programs were slashed wholesale, and the network constantly seemed to be grappling with an identity crisis.

That was until Trump ran for president.

Over the past two years, FBN—which employed this writer from 2009 to 2012—has experienced explosive ratings growth tracking with the ascent of the president to whom it has devoted hours and hours of unabashedly positive coverage. In 2015, it was the fastest-growing network on all of cable, raking in double- and triple-digit growth in almost all relevant ratings factors. And last year, it continued that impressive, record-shattering surge, this time claiming to have beaten CNBC in business-day ratings for an entire quarter—a trend that has continued into 2017.

Of course, a former reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate throwing punches on a daily basis for 17 months was an obvious boon to all of television news, as executives of all stripes have freely admitted. But Trump’s rise was especially integral in shaping Fox Business Network’s identity.

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Are Trump’s Ties to Russia a Dangerous Security Issue or Critics’ Fodder for New Red Scare?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez host a debate between attorney Scott Horton, lecturer at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, and Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of the website Consortium News. (Democracy Now!)

Democrats Elect Thomas Perez, Establishment Favorite, as Party Chairman

Jonathan Martin reports for The New York Times:

Image result for Democrats Elect Thomas Perez, Establishment Favorite, as Party ChairmanFormer Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota to take the helm of a still-divided party stunned by President Trump’s victory but hopeful that it can ride the backlash against his presidency to revival.

The balloting, which carried a measure of suspense not seen in the party in decades, revealed that Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from last year’s presidential primary campaign. Mr. Perez, buoyed by activists most loyal to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, won with 235 votes out of 435 cast on the second ballot.

Mr. Ellison, who was lifted primarily by the liberal enthusiasts of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, captured the remaining 200 votes. But that was only after he had pushed the voting to a second round after Mr. Perez fell a single vote short of winning on the first ballot.

After Mr. Perez’s victory was announced, Mr. Ellison’s supporters exploded in anger and drowned out the interim chairwoman, Donna Brazile, with a chant of “Party for the people, not big money!” When Mr. Perez was able to speak, he immediately called for Mr. Ellison to be named deputy chairman, delighting Mr. Ellison’s supporters.

Taking the microphone from Mr. Perez, Mr. Ellison pleaded with his fervent backers: “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.”

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