Democrats

Corporate Democrats Would Rather Lose Than Include Progressives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/08/2018 - 12:59am in

Image result for alexandria ocasio

When 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a ten-term incumbent congressman in Queens, New York in a set of Democratic primaries that saw self-proclaimed democratic socialists in the Bernie Sanders mold pick up seats across the country, The New York Times (which, true to its institutional establishmentarianism, didn’t bother to cover her campaign) predicted that her victory would “reverberate across the party and the country.”

That was June 26th.

Now the Times’ fellow elitist rag The Washington Post is reacting to another round of Democratic primaries. This time it Hillary Clinton-like centrist-corporatists did well. “Signs of a Tea-Party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading,” concluded David Weigel on August 8th.

Has the political world changed that much in six weeks? Of course not.

As Donald Trump said about something else entirely: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

What we’re reading and what is really happening is a big wet dollop of the freakouts we see from American pundits incapable of placing current events within a historical context. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the czar in Russia, many Americans experienced “a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent — a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life,” Murray Levin remembers in his book “Political Hysteria in America.” After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Francis Fukuyama made bank selling his book “The End of History,” arguing that neither communism nor any other alternative to capitalism would ever be viable again. He said we had arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Both were alarmist and wrong: both capitalism and the communist ideal remain and will survive into the foreseeable future.

Then there’s my editor at Time magazine who, following 9/11, informed me that no one in America would ever be interested in humor or satire in any form ever again.

It’s OK to be shocked by big events. But things usually get back to normal.

For decades the normal within the Democratic Party has been a schism between left progressives (George McGovern, Howard Dean when he ran for president, Bernie Sanders) and centrist-corporatists (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton). As I wrote in my essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Civil War in the Democratic Party”: “DNC-approved ‘mainstream’ presidential prospects have adopted left-leaning positions on a variety of issues. Yet the populist left doesn’t trust them, and for good reason. [Kamala] Harris was caught fundraising in the Hamptons; [Cory] Booker is too close to bankers; [Kirsten] Gillibrand may have vested too much in #MeToo; [Oprah] Winfrey is a billionaire arriviste. They’re all silent on the working class.”

The same dynamic is taking place in local races, where corporate Democratic candidates are adding some Bernie-like policy promises to their campaigns in order to attract the party’s leftist base. “The party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters,” Weigel wrote. He quoted Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically.”

I doubt it. The evil Trump can’t heal what ails the Democratic Party. Though I noted in a different Journal piece the possibility that outsider attacks against the left by Republicans like Trump and James Comey might prompt centrists to defend them, leading to Democratic détente, what Weigel is describing is not coming together under a big left-leaning tent but rather the old 1960s conceptual tactic of co-option.

What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic.

In fact, the natural state of a left voter — and of all American voters — is not voting. Most Americans do not vote. Most registered voters do not show up to most elections.

Voters go to the polls when they have an affirmative reason to do so: something to believe in. Someone to hate leaves them cold and they stay home. Centrist-corporatists liked what they saw in Hillary so they showed up in November 2016. Leftists and progressives did not so between three and four million Democrats who voted for Bernie in the primaries stayed home rather than vote for Hillary. Remember, primary voters are fanatics!

When they don’t vote, they mean it.

The cure for the Democratic civil war is simple: get behind and consistently push for, major progressive policies.

Jail the banksters. Restore Glass-Steagall. Bring home the troops. A $20/hour minimum wage. Free college tuition. Interest-free college loans. Medicare for all.

The DNC hires pollsters. They conduct focus groups. They analyze social media. They read exit polls. They must know why progressives aren’t that into them.

The fact that corporatist Democrats refuse to give progressives what they want leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion: they’d rather lose to the Republicans than govern as partners with progressives.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Choose Wisely!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


Goofball thinks we should live in a just society, but Galahad is worried about how that will poll.

Democrat’s Dilemma

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


Should they be moving right or left? Hard to say!

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Russia-Trump Conspiracy Theory is a Dead Letter. Here’s Why.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/07/2018 - 2:27am in

Image result for russian meddling

The Democrat-led anti-Trump “Resistance” and its numerous media mouthpieces have been promoting their “Russia hacked the election” narrative for two years. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fired the biggest recent salvo in this campaign after Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington.

“The notion that President Trump would invite a tyrant to Washington is beyond belief,” Pelosi said in a statement on Friday, calling Putin a “thug.” (The recurring use of “thug” to describe Russians has become so consistent as to have become a de facto ethnic slur.) “Putin’s ongoing attacks on our elections and on Western democracies and his illegal actions in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine deserve the fierce, unanimous condemnation of the international community, not a VIP ticket to our nation’s capital.”

Despite liberals’ uncharacteristically focused and sustained efforts — imagine if Obama and company had pushed as hard for a public option on healthcare! — their #RussophobiaMatters campaign is doing poorly. Fewer than one percent of voters think Russia is a major issue.

Democratic leaders are confused. They’ve got the newspapers and NPR and a passel of cable news stations all over their “Trump colluded with Russia” story. Why don’t people care? Christ, even Democratic voters don’t care!

Aside from famine and war few things are sadder than the sight of a hopelessly perplexed House and Senate Democratic leadership. So rather than let them spend a third year wondering why Russiagate keeps being greeted by a great national yawn, I’m here to explain it to them.

Everyone else can stop reading now.

Dear Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi:

First: even if the story were true, it wouldn’t make sense. You’re asking us to believe that Trump’s people met with Putin’s people, not to discuss Trump’s sleazy real estate developments in the former Soviet Union, but to encourage Russian hackers to break into the DNC, steal Hillary’s emails and funnel them to WikiLeaks with a view toward angering enough voters to change the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor.

Trump doesn’t even read one-page memos. Yet we’re being asked to believe that he supervised a ridiculously complex Machiavellian conspiracy?

WikiLeaks didn’t get the DNC documents from Russia or any other state actor. They got them from a disgruntled pro-Bernie Sanders staffer at the DNC.

Anyway, the intelligence community — you know, the friendly folks at the CIA, FBI and NSA whom Democrats worship the way Republicans revered firefighters after 9/11 — says whatever Russian hacking occurred did not affect the outcome of the election.

Then there’s this: Trump didn’t actually want to win. Why would he go to such lengths to steal something he didn’t want?

Second: everything you accuse Russia and/or Putin of doing is something the U.S. has done or is doing bigger and worse. Russia undermined Ukraine and forcibly annexed Crimea. By current international standards Russia committed a misdemeanor; as The Washington Post noted at the time: “Most people in Crimea wanted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.” Meanwhile, the U.S. was occupying both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are felonies: neither the Afghans nor the Iraqis want us around.

Third: I’m going to use small words here — where’s the evidence of Russian “meddling”?

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy went on TV to discuss the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Because he needed Americans to trust and believe that the threat he described was real, he displayed aerial surveillance photos of the missiles in his speech to the nation. This meant revealing the existence of spy technology the Soviets weren’t aware of, so it was a difficult decision for him. But providing credible evidence was more important.

At this writing, the Democrats’ Russia arguments boil down to:

  • Media outlet quotes anonymous congressional official or anonymous intelligence agency employee.
  • Said anonymous source says the intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the election.
  • Details of how Russia accomplished said meddling are absent.
  • Details of how effective said meddling was are absent.

If evidence of said meddling actually exists, Democrats should follow the JFK example and cough it up. In detail. And explain what it means ­— also in detail.

Until then, Russia as a political issue will continue to be a dead letter.

Kisses,

Ted

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s independent political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Political Future is Female

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


Record numbers of women are running for office...and now they’re winning primaries.

A Meeting of the Minds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


What will Trump and Putin talk about when they’re alone? How to disappear Mueller, maybe.

Socialist Surprise

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


The right has control of all three branches of government for the foreseeable future. Why are they flipping out about one little socialist winning a primary?

Democrats Set to Re-Nominate Sen. Bob Menendez After Preventing Challengers, Showing How Calcified the Party Is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/06/2018 - 11:55pm in

Fresh off escaping a federal bribery conviction thanks to a hung jury, two-term Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is almost sure to win his party’s nomination on Tuesday for re-election in New Jersey against only token opposition. That Menendez — who has been in Congress for 26 years and is seeking his third Senate term — is about to become the Democrats’ nominee without any real primary challenge says a great deal about the party and the U.S. political system.

In 2015, the Obama Justice Department’s public integrity unit, with the personal approval of Attorney General Eric Holder, prosecuted Menendez on a dozen federal corruption and bribery charges. The 12-count indictment alleged that the senator received a slew of expensive gifts — including multiple lavish vacations in Paris and in Caribbean villas via a private jet and more than $750,000 in campaign contributions — from Menendez’s friend and supporter Salomon Melgen. Melgen also wrote numerous large checks to the New Jersey state Democratic Party to aid Menendez’s various campaigns and legal defense funds.

These luxurious gifts, prosecutors said, were given in exchange for Menendez’s help with various disputes Melgen had with federal health agencies. Menendez also intervened to secure numerous government contracts for Melgen. The indictment also detailed how “Menendez helped three of Melgen’s foreign-born girlfriends obtain visas to visit the United States.”

At his criminal trial, Menendez was the beneficiary of decades’ worth of Supreme Court rulings that have diluted federal bribery statutes to the point of virtual impotence: Unless prosecutors can produce a “smoking gun” in which a lawmaker explicitly states that he’s doing favors in exchange for money or gifts, convictions are close to impossible to obtain. The jurors who refused to vote to convict Menendez cited the lack of a “smoking gun.” The Trump DOJ originally announced its intention to retry Menendez following the hung jury, but shortly thereafter changed its mind.

On April 26, the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” Menendez in a Public Letter of Admonition, which detailed that the committee “found that over a six-year period [Menendez] knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval” and “failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law.” It concluded that the senator’s “actions reflected discredit upon the Senate” and that his “failure to disclose numerous gifts while simultaneously using [his] Senate office in furtherance of Dr. Melgen’s interests created, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety.”

How, then, is this sleazy career politician — who just barely escaped a multi-count federal bribery conviction — running for re-election in a Democratic Party primary with essentially no opposition? The answer is clear: because Democratic Party leaders, both in New Jersey and in Washington, unified in support of Menendez from the start and never stopped supporting him.

Even after the Obama DOJ indicted Menendez and detailed all of the behavior cited by the Senate Ethics Committee, the Democrats’ senior lawmaker in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, made his solidarity with Menendez clear, heralding him as “one of the best legislators in the Senate and is always fighting hard for the people of his state,” adding: “I am confident he will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.”

Their united front, along with the massive war chest of money Menendez has compiled from corporate interests, has made it essentially impossible for any credible primary challenge to be mounted against him.

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Photo: Hopkins

For a very short time, it looked as if Menendez might face a credible challenger. In December, Michael Starr Hopkins (pictured, right), an African-American lawyer who worked on both the Hillary Clinton and Obama campaigns, signaled his intention to run, asking, quite reasonably, about Menendez’s sleazy behavior over years: “If what Menendez did doesn’t disqualify you from serving in the Senate, then what does?”

Touting his commitment to “fight for Medicare for all” and other progressive causes, Hopkins argued that re-nominating “a candidate whose name is synonymous with corruption only muddies the waters, making it easy for Republicans to cry hypocrisy and for voters across the country to say that ‘both parties’ are rotten.”

But a mere four months later, Hopkins announced he was dropping his bid. The reason? He could not raise anywhere near the money needed to mount a credible challenge because, as Politico put it, Menendez “has the support of virtually all of the top Democrats in the state.” In his letter announcing his withdrawal, Hopkins wrote: “In a campaign system such as we have that is stacked against the average guy seeking public office to challenge an incumbent, prodigious fundraising is practically the only way to get the traction needed to keep a campaign afloat.”

The speed and unanimity with which Democratic leaders rallied to endorse Menendez’s re-election was dizzying. As the New York Times reported in November:

When a mistrial was declared Thursday in the federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, it seemed that Mr. Menendez could face a tenuous political future. …

Hours later, the likelihood that Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, might face any real threat from within the party grew dim.

Every major Democratic power broker in the state quickly endorsed Mr. Menendez for re-election in 2018: Philip D. Murphy, the governor-elect; Senator Cory Booker; Stephen M. Sweeney, the senate president; Craig Coughlin, the incoming speaker of the State Assembly; George E. Norcross, an influential political leader in southern New Jersey; and the county chairs in northern Democratic strongholds such as Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex and Middlesex.

Mounting a campaign without the support of powerful Democratic leaders is almost a lost cause in a state where party machines remain deeply entrenched. Leaders can direct donors and can determine other essential political advantages, such as the line where a candidate’s name is listed on a ballot.

In April, an obscure publisher of a small community newspaper, Lisa McCormick, announced that she would run, but she has basically no money and zero chance of defeating Menendez. As New Jersey’s political website put it, Menendez has “the support of all 21 county committees” of the state’s Democratic Party.

In so many ways beyond the corruption and sleaze, Menendez is the classic representation of what the Democratic Party is at the national level. He first made it to the Senate when he was appointed by former Goldman Sachs CEO and then-Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Though he is a somewhat reliable Democratic vote on standard domestic debates, in the area where he has exerted the greatest influence as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he has been far to the right, especially recently, despite being from one of the country’s bluest states.

In 2006, he joined with the GOP and right-wing Democrats to enact the Bush-Cheney Military Commissions Act, which stripped war on terror detainees of the right to judicial review (it was later struck down as unconstitutional). He is one of the Senate’s most extreme Iran hawks, having opposed Obama’s Iran deal (as the party’s senior foreign policy senator) and serving as one of the most vocal loyalists for a pro-regime change Iranian cult that had been on the U.S. terrorist list (once it was removed from the list, money associated with the group began flowing aggressively to Mendenez).

Most of all, the New Jersey Democrat is one of the most fanatical loyalists to the Israeli government and AIPAC. He has been the honored guest of the American Friends of Likud, along with officials from the Netanyahu government. AIPAC supported him vocally during his corruption trial, and after his hung jury, he received what the JTA described as a “hero’s welcome” in March. Menendez was also one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would have made it a crime for companies to support a boycott of Israel, which the American Civil Liberties Union denounced as a severe threat to free speech.

Indeed, the list of groups, corporations, and figures that donated to Menendez’s legal defense fund in his corruption case is dominated by AIPAC supporters and officials, as this excellent reporting from NorthJersey.com, based on IRS records, shows. It includes Sheldon Adelson, as well as a real estate firm owned and controlled by part of the Kushner family.

This is how calcified the Democratic Party is: They even unite behind an incumbent who is drowning in sleaze and corruption, who was just “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee, whose legal defense was funded by far-right figures, and who has used his senior leadership role to repeatedly join with the Bush-Cheney and right-wing GOP factions against his own party’s supposed positions. Not only do they unite behind him, but they ensure that no primary challenge can even happen — they deny their own voters the right to decide if they want Menendez — by making it impossible for any such challengers to raise money from funders who rely on the largesse of Democratic officeholders and who thus, do not want to run afoul of their decreed preferences.

In the 2018 cycle, not a single Democratic incumbent has yet been defeated by a primary challenge. As The Intercept’s political reporting team has spent the year documenting, the entire party apparatus is designed to ensure that only rich, establishment candidates can win, while doing everything possible to block and destroy the chances of outsider, insurgent candidates (see the superb reporting from my colleague Aída Chávez on Sunday about the obstacles put in front of working-class Democratic primary challenges, often by their own party’s structures).

It’s a party that lacks any vibrancy or movement. It’s stilted, stifled, and ossified. They don’t even allow primary challenges to rotted incumbents who have oozed a suffocating stench of corruption during almost three decades of incumbency in Congress, even if that incumbent has repeatedly blocked the party’s own agenda. As was also demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s recent endorsement of the corruption-tainted Andrew Cuomo over his progressive primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, seeking to become New York state’s first female governor: All that matters to them is closing ranks around one another, clinging as tightly as they can to their own prerogatives, preventing anyone from disrupting their ability to greedily feed at the corporate-fueled trough which keeps them fat and satiated.

Those who think that this critical focus on Democrats will empower Trump and the Republicans, or that it serves the GOP’s interests, have it exactly backward. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias so deftly documented after Trump’s victory, “The Obama years have created a Democratic Party that’s essentially a smoking pile of rubble.”

A refusal to attempt to improve the party, to inject a new form of politics and new voices, to change what has caused its collapse as a national political force, will ensure more victories by more Trumps and more Republicans for years to come. And it’s hard to imagine anything that better exemplifies that sickness, that danger, than rank-closing around someone like Bob Menendez.

The post Democrats Set to Re-Nominate Sen. Bob Menendez After Preventing Challengers, Showing How Calcified the Party Is appeared first on The Intercept.

The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 12:27am in

An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.

Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”

In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.

To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.

It was not until several years after Reagan’s victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.

The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation “involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive.” The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its “sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.” Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.

When the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper’s handler for this operation was Reagan’s Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan’s Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on “conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker.”

Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.

In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said.

Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said “there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network.” It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he “recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush’s director of policy development and research.”

In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented:

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” George W. Bush’s CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin” and said Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.

And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation’s largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper’s work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known

Last night, both the Washington Post and New York Times – whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is – published articles that, while deferring to the FBI’s demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as “an American academic who teaches in Britain” and who “made contact late that summer with” George Papadopoulos and “also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page.” The Post similarly called him “a retired American professor” who met with Page “at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.”

In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: “the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years.”

Despite how “well known” he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it “is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.” The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT “has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety,” it said.

In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI’s grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).

In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller’s investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as “a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.”

Ross’ article, using public information, recounted at length Halper’s long-standing ties to the CIA, including the fact that his father-in-law, Ray Cline, was a top CIA official during the Cold War, and that Halper himself had long worked with both the CIA and its British counterpart, the MI6. As Ross wrote: “at Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative, a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists ‘UK and US government agencies’ among its clients.”

Both the NYT and Washington Post reporters boasted, with seeming pride, about the fact that they did not name the informant even as they published all the details which made it simple to identify him. But NBC News – citing Ross’ report and other public information – decided to name him, while stressing that it has not confirmed that he actually worked as an FBI informant:

The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, consulting on Russia and China issues, according to public records.

There is nothing inherently untoward, or even unusual, about the FBI using informants in an investigation. One would expect them to do so. But the use of Halper in this case, and the bizarre claims made to conceal his identity, do raise some questions that merit further inquiry.

To begin with, the New York Times reported in December of last year that the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began when George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was the disclosure of this episode by the Australians that “led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired,” the NYT claimed.

But it now seems clear that Halper’s attempts to gather information for the FBI began before that. “The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium,” the Post reported. While it’s not rare for the FBI to gather information before formally opening an investigation, Halper’s earlier snooping does call into question the accuracy of the NYT’s claim that it was the drunken Papadopoulos ramblings that first prompted the FBI’s interest in these possible connections. And it suggests that CIA operatives, apparently working with at least some factions within the FBI, were trying to gather information about the Trump campaign earlier than had been previously reported.

Then there are questions about what appear to be some fairly substantial government payments to Halper throughout 2016. Halper continues to be listed as a “vendor” by websites that track payments by the federal government to private contractors.

Earlier this week, records of payments were found that were made during 2016 to Halper by the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment, though it not possible from these records to know the exact work for which these payments were made. The Pentagon office that paid Halper in 2016, according to a 2015 Washington Post story on its new duties, “reports directly to Secretary of Defense and focuses heavily on future threats, has a $10 million budget.”

It is difficult to understand how identifying someone whose connections to the CIA is a matter of such public record, and who has a long and well-known history of working on spying programs involving presidential elections on behalf of the intelligence community, could possibly endanger lives or lead to grave national security harm. It isn’t as though Halper has been some sort of covert, stealth undercover asset for the CIA who just got exposed. Quite the contrary: that he’s a spy embedded in the U.S. intelligence community would be known to anyone with internet access.

Equally strange are the semantic games which journalists are playing in order to claim that this revelation disproves, rather than proves, Trump’s allegation that the FBI “spied” on his campaign. This bizarre exchange between CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and the New York Times’ Trip Gabriel vividly illustrates the strange machinations used by journalists to justify how all of this is being characterized:

Despite what Halper actually is, the FBI and its dutiful mouthpieces have spent weeks using the most desperate language to try to hide Halper’s identity and the work he performed as part of the 2016 election. Here was the deeply emotional reaction to last night’s story from Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes, who has become a social media star by parlaying his status as Jim Comey’s best friend and long-time loyalist to security state agencies into a leading role in pushing the Trump/Russia story:

Wittes’ claim that all of this resulted in the “outing” of some sort of sensitive “intelligence source” is preposterous given how publicly known Halper’s role as a CIA operative has been for decades. But this is the scam that the FBI and people like Mark Warner have been running for two weeks: deceiving people into believing that exposing Halper’s identity would create grave national security harm by revealing some previously unknown intelligence asset.

Wittes also implies that it was Trump and Devin Nunes who are responsible for Halper’s exposure but he almost certainly has no idea of who the sources are for the NYT or the Washington Post. And note that Wittes is too cowardly to blame the institutions that actually made it easy to identify Halper – the New York Times and Washington Post – preferring instead to exploit the opportunity to depict the enemies of his friend Jim Comey as traitors.

Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.

The post The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election appeared first on The Intercept.

Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 2:45am in

The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, will begin in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Haspel’s nomination has become controversial because of her supervision of a CIA black site in Thailand, where detainees were tortured (with heinous methods that extended far beyond “mere” waterboarding), as well as her central role in destroying videotapes of the interrogation sessions at which torture was employed.

Two GOP senators appear unlikely to vote for Haspel: John McCain, whose illness prevents him from attending, and Rand Paul, who has vowed to oppose Haspel (though few things have proven less reliable than Rand Paul’s promises to act on his supposed principles). That means that Democrats have the power to block a torturer and evidence-destroyer from becoming Trump’s CIA director — if they remain united in their opposition.

Will they do so? It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation” and described it this way:

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

If Haspel is confirmed, it will be because a certain number of Democratic senators join with the GOP caucus to support her, while allowing the Democratic Party to claim it tried to stop her by pointing to a majority of futile Democratic votes against her. That’s why the record of the Democratic Party over the last 17 years — providing whatever amount of support is needed for GOP war on terror policies — makes it difficult to believe that Democrats will unite to kill her nomination.

The prospect of united Democratic opposition to Trump’s CIA nominee is further complicated by the vocal support for Haspel coming not only from the CIA itself — which has been running what amounts to a domestic propaganda campaign on her behalf — but also from the most admired Democratic Party intelligence and military officials.

Despite her role in the CIA torture program — or perhaps because of it — Haspel has been showered with praise, and her confirmation urged, by a bipartisan cast of intelligence officials that includes Obama’s two CIA directors (John Brennan and Leon Panetta), Obama’s director of national intelligence (James Clapper), Panetta’s former chief of staff at the CIA and current MSNBC star Jeremy Bash, and a bevy of Bush-era CIA and military officials who have rehabilitated their reputations among liberals in the Trump era (led by Bush’s CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden).

It is not difficult to understand why these Democratic national security officials — despite effectively rebranding themselves as #Resistance icons — are so supportive of Trump’s choice of a torturer to lead the CIA. Part of it is ideological and group loyalty: unlike Trump, Haspel is one them, a member in good standing of the intelligence and military world in which they have spent so much of their lives. Part of what motivates their support is standard tribalistic rank-closing: Yes, she is a torturer, but she’s one of our torturers.

Part of the motive is undoubtedly financial. Many of Haspel’s most vocal supporters from the intelligence community make great profit from doing business with the CIA. Few things would be better for business than earning the gratitude of the agency by publicly agitating for their prized nominee and using their credentials as Good Democrats to creating space for, and applying pressure to, Democratic senators to support her.

Jeremy Bash, for instance, is a founder and managing director of Beacon Global Strategies LLC, a private consulting firm led by Obama’s former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell (who, needless to say, also supports Haspel). Beacon is filled with ex-CIA and intelligence officials from both parties — including Panetta and Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend.

Many of the Beacon executives are the same national security officials who last year worked with Bill Kristol and Mario Rubio’s neocon foreign policy guru, Jamie Fly, to create the Alliance for Securing Democracy and its Hamilton 68 dashboard to advocate for a new, more aggressive foreign policy (among those in both groups are Morell, Fly, Julianne Smith, and Adm. James Stavridis). It’s the living, breathing personification of the Revolving Door sleaze that everyone who doesn’t swim in it despises:

Beacon describes itself as “a strategic advisory firm specializing in International Policy, Defense, Cyber, Intelligence, and Homeland Security” and — to clients — touts its “deep experience informed by their years of service in the White House, State Department, Defense Department, CIA, Justice Department, on Capitol Hill.” In other words, it leverages its connections to the intelligence and military agencies for which they worked to generate profits from corporate clients who do business with those agencies or whose business otherwise depends on their good will.

If your income and profit depended on maintaining close relations with the government agencies which you once helped manage — as is true of so many of D.C.’s Revolving Door beneficiaries — wouldn’t you also leverage your public credentials to bolster whatever agenda they were supporting at any moment? For so long, Washington’s national security policy has been shaped by profit motives, fueled by legalized Revolving Door corruption, dressed up as counterterrorism and national security imperatives.

This is one of the problems with having TV and cable networks fill their rosters with former military and intelligence officials: They are ideologically and, so often, financially motivated to support those agencies’ worldview and agenda under the guise of “news” — in other words, to spout state propaganda. Of course they are going to use their Democratic Party credentials to support the CIA’s campaign elevate this CIA torturer: They have every ideological and business incentive to do so.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

As my colleague Jon Schwarz noted when Haspel was unveiled, some Democratic national security officials are unironically using the exact phrase invoked by the Nazi defendants at Nuremberg to justify, or at least mitigate, Haspel’s conduct:

Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. . . . You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.”

There is some factual accuracy to this claim: Haspel was not some rogue torturer. It is absolutely true that she was implementing CIA policy as decreed by George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. Like most CIA officials involved in torture, not only was Haspel protected from punishment for that, but she was repeatedly promoted. That’s because torturing helpless detainees is regarded by the CIA as a noble and patriotic act.

That’s why it was so predictably disastrous when Barack Obama elevated to the highest national security positions CIA officials such as John Brennan who had supported and advocated for major parts of the CIA’s torture and rendition program, and why it was even worse when Obama devoted himself to shielding all torturers from all forms of criminal and even civil penalty for their war crimes (even in the face of a treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan, requiring all signatory states to prosecute, not immunize, their torturers no matter their excuse for using it).

Indeed, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski pointed out today, a central prong of the GOP’s pro-Haspel messaging is “all the support Brennan got for CIA director from Democrats opposing her.” And that is, as he says, a “fair point”: after all, how can Democratic Senators posture now as vehement opponents of empowering torturers when they cheered Obama for naming the torture-and-rendition advocate Brennan as CIA Director, voted for his confirmation, and have now turned Brennan into a beloved #Resistance hero whose every Twitter utterance instantly goes viral?

While the primary guilt for torture lies with those who did it (namely, top officials of the Bush White House and the CIA which obeyed their criminal orders), Obama’s sustained 8-year campaign to rehabilitate, protect and even empower torturers converted torture from what it should be – a criminal taboo that automatically leads to prosecution – into just another partisan political dispute. As a result, those who advocate it or even did it not only remain in decent company but even get Washington Post columns, MSNBC contracts, and hugs from beloved liberal TV icons.

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George W. Bush with Ellen Degeneres, backstage after the former President appeared on “Ellen” and was hailed by her as a good friend

Ellen Degeneres (Instagram account)

The outcome of that climate is that one of the people who oversaw some of the worst torture the U.S. has inflicted is about to be elevated to lead the world’s most powerful intelligence agency.

The word “normalize” has become a favorite media cliché in the Trump era, but it applies with full force here: Gina Haspel as CIA Director is what happens when you normalize torturers by barring their prosecution and awarding them with high-level positions in media, politics, and the intelligence community. Torture becomes just another good faith political disagreement, something that at worst “taints” someone’s record – to use the remarkable  minimizing word chosen by the Washington Post’s long-time CIA defender David Ignatius – but should be weighed against their good points:

This is American Exceptionalism in its purest, and ugliest, expression: war criminals which lead African nations or enemies of the U.S. are sent to the Hague to be prosecuted, while American war criminals are rewarded, empowered, and praised. When an American tortures, it’s not a crime but a mere “taint,” and certainly not one that should result in denial of promotions let alone handcuffs and a prison cell.

During the last Israeli election, when pundits thought Benjamin Netanyahu may lose, I recall many Palestinian activists hoping that Netanyahu would win, because it’s clarifying of what Israel is to have Netanyahu as its leader rather than some prettier, more palatable figure who would support the same policies of occupation, aggression, and illegal settlement.

One could certainly look at Gina Haspel that way: she’s the Director the CIA deserves, an accurate reflection of what this agency really is. Having someone who everyone knows is a torturer at the helm of this agency will make it that much harder to sustain the U.S. media propaganda script – led by CIA spokespeople such as NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Ignatius – about the good and noble work this agency does. On some level, it’s healthy for the CIA to finally wear its true identity on its sleeve.

But it’s also clarifying about the charade of Trump and the #Resistance, about the supposed inability of the parties to agree on anything, of the refusal of people from different ideologies to unite. That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is. And if the Democrats cannot unite to stop that, that will be further evidence of what they are. What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?

The post Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist? appeared first on The Intercept.

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