Nel's New Day

November 22, 2019

GOP, DDT Acting like Russian Assets

Impeachment testimony has concluded—perhaps. Republicans argue that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) had to investigate “corruption” in Ukraine because they were responsible for meddling in the 2016 election. Testimony refuted this conspiracy theory, but Republicans cannot give up support for this falsehood that was created by the Russians

Today, the public discovered that Republicans have known that Russia has pushed the “fictional narrative” of Ukraine’s responsibility for meddling since early 2017—and that senators were briefed on the Russian security services’ disinformation campaign by Russian security services. Ukraine didn’t do the hacking during the 2016 election: Russia did. Russia’s aim was to increase discord among adversaries, and Russia succeeded. Russia’s intelligence officers told prominent Russians and Ukrainians, who then told U.S. political figures and journalists unaware of the origin. U.S. intelligence agencies told senator about this campaign, and the Republicans ignored the information. Reporters Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg wrote:

“That muddy brew worked its way into American information ecosystems, sloshing around until parts of it reached Mr. Trump, who has also spoken with Mr. Putin about allegations of Ukrainian interference. Mr. Trump also brought up the assertions of Ukrainian meddling in his July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into whether he abused his power by asking for a public commitment to investigations he stood to gain from personally.”

Despite information that their conspiracy theories about Ukraine are false, GOP House members insisted on bringing it up in questioning with no evidence to support their false theories. In his call to Fox and Friends this morning, DDT again pushed the Russian propaganda. Even those ultra-conservative hosts looked and sounded dubious, one of them asking if DDT is sure of the debunked theory that the FBI gave a Democratic server to what DDT falsely called a Ukrainian-owned company. The hosts of Fox and Friends didn’t look pleased by their interaction with DDT. 

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/fact-check-trump-s-false-claims-about-ukraine-dnc-server-n1089596   DDT falsely claimed, “[The FBI] gave the server to CrowdStrike … which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.” CrowdStrike is the California-based cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate a breach. The investigation showed that it was a Russian hack to create chaos, discord, and disruption of the 2016 election. Publicly traded on the Nasdaq, Crowdstrike’s biggest shareholder is Warburg Pincus who has personal ties to DDT. One of CrowdStrike’s founders, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a Russian-born U.S. citizen, who often consults with the U.S. government on cybersecurity. Common practice in investigations is to digitally copy physical servers to preserve the information as evidence. The DNC has decommissioned 140 servers and rebuilt 11, related to 2016. The RNC also used CrowdStrike after it was hacked. This falsehood from DDT was one of many during his 53-minute commentary on Fox and Friends. 

During his colloquy, DDT admitted that he shook down Zelensky for the military aid:

“We’re looking for, why should we be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to countries when there’s this kind of corruption?”

Congress passed the law with the military aid, and DDT signed it. DDT admitted he wants to prove that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election to help his reelection campaign. To help DDT’s re-election, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appears to be initiating an investigation into Joe Biden.

During her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill, formerly a Russia expert from the National Security Council, spoke about the false GOP fringe notion:

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016.”

With their refusal to accept the truth and their continued claim that Ukraine was the meddler in the U.S. election, Republicans are joining DDT as Russian assets, weakening Ukraine and the U.S. while strengthening Russia. The right wing tried to slime her because of her British accent—she’s a coalminer’ daughter. She told them that she comes from the same area as George Washington’s ancestors. Accused of being a “Never Trumper,” she nevertheless defended him whenever possible. Sondland described Hill as “emotional,” but her demeanor during the hours-long questioning debunked his attempt to destroy her testimony. The GOP lawyer Steve Castor ended up in a trap with more damning testimony against DDT when he accused her of just being upset. While GOP representatives became more enraged at her during her testimony, she calmly sat there waiting for them to finish. Tim Miller is right by calling her Queen Fiona for her testimony. His full account is well worth reading. 

Earlier in the week, Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU and one of the “three amigos” on DDT’s shadow policy team to circumvent official appointees for Ukraine, saved himself and testified against the concept of a “rogue diplomacy” with Ukraine. Fox’s Chris Wallace summarized Sondland’s testimony:

 “[Sondland] took out the bus, and he ran over President Trump, Vice President Pence, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney—he implicates all of them.”

Sondland said that he followed DDT’s orders when he talked to Ukraine about investigations, that there was a quid pro quo, and that “everyone was in the loop.” Pence tried to deny any knowledge, but Sondland testified that weeks before the July 25 phone call he specifically told Pence he “had concerns” about how the military aid to Ukraine “had become tied” to the investigations. Sondland also said that he had no choice but to work with DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. DDT spent the day denying Sondland’s testimony, repeating “I want nothing.” He even wrote a speech about it with his Sharpie in case he forgot the words. DDT then refused to take any questions from reporters. Pence’s office said Sondland lied. More details about Sondland’s testimony this week.

About Sondland, Hill testified, “He wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy.”

Pentagon Ukraine-Russia expert Laura Cooper testified that Ukraine met all of legal corruption elimination thresholds months before DDT froze the military aid and that the DOD had certified the funds before May. A claim is that DDT doesn’t want to send money to corrupt countries—at least those that don’t personally benefit him—but the military aid for Ukraine had built-in conditions to prove it has undertaken anti-corruption reforms.

The right also smeared Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the fired NSC specialist on Ukraine, after he testified that DDT’s July 25 call to Zelensky by DDT was inappropriate. Vindman heard the call. Republican attacks on Vindman are so severe that the Army is considering the need to protect Vindman and his family on a military base.

DDT complains about not having any witnesses, but two GOP witnesses testified this week. Tim Morrison, former NSC official, testified that he immediately went to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg after he heard the call and said the transcript should be restricted to hide it from the public. Morrison suggested that DDT’s July 25 call be restricted because of the “political” ramifications” if people knew about it. After White House lawyer John Eisenberg hid the transcript—which has not been completely released—in the highest classified system, Morrison said Eisenberg said that this placement was a “mistake … and administrative error.” Later Morrison said that Eisenberg told him “I gave no such direction.” Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, the other GOP witness, changed his earlier testimony to say that he now remembered Sondland had brought up the Burisma/2016 election investigations at the July 10 meeting in the White House with a Ukrainian delegation.

Takeaways from Week Two:

  1. President Trump was directly involved in directing the investigations into Ukraine.
  2. Contrary to what Mulvaney stated in the White House briefing room, it is virtually unheard of for the president’s political interests to have an effect on foreign aid.
  3. Interfering in aid to Ukraine may have put Ukrainian lives at risk and strengthened Russia’s hand in the region.
  4. Ukraine knew in May that DDT was pressuring them. 
  5. Pompeo refuses to defend the people who work for him in the State Department. 
  6. Leading federal GOP officials and lawmakers continue to act as assets for Russia to protect them despite their knowledge that Russia, not Ukraine, meddled in DDT’s election.
  7. Giuliani is still bragging about working on the same investigations in Ukraine. 
  8. Pompeo’s and Mulvaney’s refusal to testify make DDT look even guiltier.  

November 2, 2012

We Need to Vote!

Recent Barack Obama endorsements: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and The Economist!  For all his businesslike intentions, Mr. Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says.”

One person can make a difference in the selection of the president for the next four years; in this case it may be Ohio’s Republican secretary of state John Husted. First, he fought for voter photo ID that would disenfranchise Democrats. Next, he continued to go to court to keep predominantly Democratic districts from early voting, particularly at nights and on weekends when blue-collar workers could go to the polls.

Not satisfied with these ploys, Husted is in charge of voting machines in a state where thousands of absentee ballot requests have been rejected. Husted said that it’s just a computer error, but the computers—owned by a company with connections to Mitt Romney—have dumped absentee ballot requests at an abnormally high rate in Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Cleveland where 865 ballot requests have been erroneously thrown out.

Without the ability to vote by absentee, these voters are forced to go to the polls where they will probably be required to use a provisional ballot, which are notoriously thrown in the garbage. The total is 4,500 registered voters across the state left waiting for their absentee ballots while as many as 6,000 provisional ballots cast by registered voters could be tossed out. If by some good fortune the provisional ballots are counted, this won’t happen until November 17, according to state law.

Also, thanks to Husted, votes from people who vote in the wrong polling station because pollworkers directed them there will also be discounted, according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That was a common problem in the dysfunctional 2004 presidential election. How easy it is to get rid of votes—just sent voters to the wrong place. These are all the pieces that could add up to a win for Romney is a state with elected officials determined to be Republican no matter how many people vote Democratic.

That said, I want to talk about the importance of voting. On Monday, the day before Election Day, Oregon celebrates its 100th anniversary of woman suffrage, eight years before the nation followed suit in 1920. Today, I asked the owner of a small restaurant if she had voted. (Everyone in Oregon votes by mail.) She said that she planned to vote on Monday and that she was encouraging all her friends to vote although some of them said they might not bother. I told her to tell the young women that women starved themselves and were beaten and imprisoned so that they would have the right to vote. As for the men, I said to tell them that they should vote so that their girlfriends and wives could continue to get contraception.

Her friends who are considering not voting are joined by 90 million other people in the United States out of 207,643,594 eligible voters.    I understand why people caught in the storm and unable to get to the polls would not vote, but there is no excuse for the other “unlikely voters.” Two-thirds of these people are already registered to vote, and eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives. But they’re too busy, or they don’t care much for either candidate, or their vote wouldn’t matter, or the president didn’t do everything he promised.

Another complaint that unlikely voters have is the negative tone to the campaigns. Ironically, the people who complain about this may determine their vote from the harsh lies told by one side or the other. If negative advertising didn’t work, candidates wouldn’t use this approach. But one woman who said she wouldn’t vote because of the negativity has never voted.

Yet over half the unlikely voters see a difference between the two major parties. By 43 to 18 percent, they support President Obama. Two-thirds of the unlikely voters say they voted four years ago. Yet four years ago, with enthusiasm at its high and no storm on the East Coast, almost 80 million people didn’t vote. Perhaps some of them had a sense of embarrassment in admitting that they didn’t vote. Almost half the unlikely voters have an annual household income of under $60,000, comparable to all eligible voters, and nearly six in 10 have no more than a high school diploma, again about the same percentage as eligible voters.

Asides: Even Fox servants are rebelling against the lies that the network spews out into the blogosphere. Appearing on Fox and Friends, Geraldo Rivera first called out host Eric Bolling for his claim that no one sent any help after the Benghazi attack. Rivera declared, “That is an obscene lie. You are a politician looking to make a political point.” When Bolling tried to assert that there were available rescue teams, Rivera continued to disagree, “You are misleading the American people because you want to make a political point. We have never in the history of this republic mounted a raid on the circumstance described here ever.” A new report, based on surveillance tapes, shows that the U.S. acted promptly following the attack.

Not happy with lies about Benghazi, Bolling and co-host Steve Doocy accused NBC of throwing a benefit tonight for storm victims rather than waiting for New York City to “get its feet under itself.” It’s like Michael Brown, Hurricane Katrina’s FEMA director, criticizing President Obama for rushing in to alert people about the storm rather than waiting a week after the disaster the way Brown did.  Bolling and Doocy, however, had no criticism for Romney’s faux “storm relief event.”

Concerned about Russia’s response to Romney’s harsh rhetoric, his son Matt traveled to Moscow on business and told a Russian known to deliver messages to President Vladimir V. Putin that his father wants good relations with Russia. Romney’s declaration that Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” has caused alarm among Russian leadership regarding diplomatic relations between the two countries. Matt Romney was in Russia looking for investors for his California-based real estate firm, Excel, a real estate investment trust that avoids taxation by distributing 90 percent or more of its taxable income in the form of a dividend.

Voting lines are really long in Florida, partly because Gov. Rick Scott reduced the amount of time after then-Gov. Charlie Crist extended them in 2008—because the lines were really long. Democrats asked Scott to extend the amount of time; he refused but gave voters this advice: “I want everybody to get out to vote.”

When a non-partisan Congressional Research Service documented that giving tax breaks to the rich helps concentrate wealth at the top but doesn’t boost the economy, Republican lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had the report killed this past week. McConnell follows the Republican Bush tradition of elimination information such as an increase in terrorism in 2005, increased factory closings in the same year, and under-performing charter schools.

The auto bailout that Romney complains about was good for his family: they personally profited at least $15.3 million. The bad news for Romney is the discovery that his June 1, 2012, Public Financial Disclosure Report to the Office of Government Ethics did not reveal this windfall because he did not disclose the underlying holdings of his private equity and limited partnership funds. The worse news is that a number of groups are calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate Romney for noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act and compel him to either disclose his investments or divest them.

Last April, Bishop Daniel Jenky, head of a Catholic diocese in Illinois, used his mass to compare President Obama and Senate Democrats to Hitler and Stalin. Now he has mandated every priest in his diocese to read a letter indicating that parishioners’ salvation is based on voting the right way—no mention of President Obama but it’s obvious. Nicholas DiMarzio, a New York Catholic bishop, expressed similar sentiments last week. The wall between church and state is tattered.

Steven Benen has counted 917 lies out of Romney’s mouth this past year—but there could be more. We still have four days to go!

Even corporation executives are fed up with the lies—especially when their companies are affects. Trump, from his Twitter account, said, “Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China–and will!” Chrysler’s head of product design Ralph Gilles, from his Twitter account, answered Trump: “You are full of shit!”

While all this is happening, George W. Bush is in the Cayman Islands, giving the keynote speech at a conference on how to avoid paying taxes to the United States.

My last word: there will be a special The Rachel Maddow Show on Sunday!

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