ROGER AILES IS DEAD
There is no mourning or in memorium for this one. According to The Washington Post, “The medical examiner in Palm Beach County, Fla., said Mr. Ailes died of complications from a subdural hematoma after he fell at his residence there.” The head of Fox News and former Nixon aide is dead! Roger Ailes is dead! The world is a less secure and safe place because Roger Ailes existed. While journalists see themselves as truth tellers and often there is a modicum hero worship around Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for bringing down Ailes’ former boss Nixon by uncovering the Watergate scandal, it is safe to say the true legacy of Watergate in our time was Ailes and Fox News. This is not a critique of a conservative world view, rather an expression of dismay over the seeds of the lies and propaganda he implanted on our society that helped bring about the malaise and rot that led millions like lemmings off the cliff to fascist authoritarianism we see now embodied in Trump. He could have constructed a news channel promoting a conservative world view not based on lies and bullshit, but that is not what he did, he went the wing nut route and converted millions of Americans to an extremist worldview based on paranoid delusions in the process. In 2000, Fox News prematurely called the election for George W. Bush. In 2016, Fox News lied to its viewers that the FBI had indicted Hillary Clinton after Comey’s memo to Congressional leaders reopened the investigation into her emails just before the election. Ailes molested and harassed his female employees and fired those who would not consent, and his network covered his tracks paying out millions in settlements to enable him. And as one Vice journalist, Sarah Jeong, wrote on Twitter, “In a final act of malice, Roger Ailes died before noon, making it too early to break out the champagne.” While TRUMPISTAN WATCH is not in the business of dancing on the dead, it is important to note a dead Roger Ailes makes the world safer for democracy. TRUMPISTAN WATCH will leave it to other media outlets to pen obituaries (a few linked to below). Just remember, everything that dies some day comes back.
ROSENSTEIN BRIEFS FULL SENATE
The New York Times reports, Deputy Attorney General Rod “Rosenstein told senators that he knew President Trump planned to fire Mr. Comey as director of the F.B.I. before Mr. Rosenstein wrote a memo outlining the reasons for his dismissal, according to three Democratic lawmakers who were in the briefing.” Rosenstein’s meeting with the full Senate came a day after he did a baller thing and “appointed a special counsel to take over the federal investigation into Russia’s interference”. It appears Trump was obstructing justice as “Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, all Democrats, told reporters immediately after the briefing that Mr. Rosenstein had said Mr. Trump’s decision was made before reviewing a memo that was prepared by the Justice Department.” The memo was a formality and Rosenstein stayed on to deliver Comey’s revenge, or so goes Rosenstein’s narrative of events. The New York Times also reports, Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters after exiting the briefing that “It was a counterintelligence investigation before now,” adding, “I think it’s now being considered a criminal investigation.”
From The New York Times.
TRUMP INTERVIEWS FOUR FINALISTS FOR FBI DIRECTOR
The reality TV freakshow president once referred to potential candidates for cabinet positions as “finalists” on Twitter, so TRUMPISTAN WATCH lifts a little nomenclature from the great leader in discussing the four finalists for FBI Director. They include Senator Joe Lieberman, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, current acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Robert McFeely, a former senior FBI official. Surely there will be some final challenge or perhaps they will have to lip sync for their life before the final elimination round?
ROSNEFT SAYS RECEIVED CITGO STAKE AS COLLATERAL
Reuters reports, “Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft <ROSN.MM>, said on Thursday the company received a stake in Citgo firm as collateral in its deal with Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.”
TREASURY TELLS CONGRESS CONCERNED ABOUT ROSNEFT-PDVSA-CITGO
Barron’s reports, “Russia’s indirect stake in three U.S. Citgo refineries, now owned by the nearly-bankrupt Venezuelan government, likely will be studied as a confidential matter by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday in a U.S. Senate committee hearing.” Senator Robert Menendez who sent an April letter to the Treasury expressing concern over a Rosneft takeover of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleros de Venezuela SA (known by the acronym PDVSA) assets in Citgo after the oil company lent money to the collapsing Venezuelan state in a bailout arrangement. On Thursday, Menendez asked Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, “if Mnuchin would be ‘concerned’ if Venezuela defaults on its debts, and ‘Citgo’s 3 refineries, 9 pipelines and 48 product terminals’ across the United States fall into the hands of Russia’s Rosneft”. Mnuchin responded, “this like any other national security issue will be reviewed at CFIUS and at appropriate where national security issues also discussed in other confidential settings [sic] and at the appropriate time as issues progress on a classified basis we would be more than happy to have a confidential discussion.” Barron’s has video of the testimony and instructs “See minute 5:55 in the video.”
KREMLIN PROXY ATTACKS NAVALNY ONLINE
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny have exchanged bitter, strongly worded video attacks as they rejected a Moscow court’s proposed settlement in a defamation case.” Usmanov is an Uzbekistan-born ally of the Kremlin doing its bidding for it. In April, he filed a lawsuit against Navalny’s Anticorruption Foundation. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “The defamation claim stems from a March 2 report by Navalny’s foundation that focused on Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and included allegations that Usmanov gave expensive property to a foundation linked to Medvedev at no cost.” Hours before a preliminary hearing, Usmanov released his video attacking Navalny as a “loser” and “failed businessman.” While “Usmanov’s bearing and body language in the video drew mockery on social media, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova came to his defense on Facebook, praising him for what she called a ‘man’s’ response and saying his video will be studied ‘at universities by rhetoric and PR specialists.’” Maybe in Russia.
DARKNESS AT NUNES: NOT HONORING HIS WORD TO RECUSE
CNN reports, “The former head of the House Russia investigation, Rep. Devin Nunes, is continuing to review intelligence relating to Russia, a move that has Democrats grumbling that he has violated the spirit of his recusal.” Who might he be passing this intelligence to given how inappropriate his behavior was which forced his recusal? This does not bode well for the independence and non-interference of Trump or Russia in this investigation. Nunes “took a trip to the CIA this week to review Russia intelligence,” CNN reports citing sources on the House intelligence committee. This is totally unacceptable and akin to infiltration given what he has done to derail this investigation in the past. Of course “House Speaker Paul Ryan is not setting the terms of Nunes’ recusal from the leadership of the investigation,” because Ryan has done his part to enable the Russian attacks on our democracy by evoking Russia Party omertà to keep quiet concerns within the GOP that the Kremlin has paid the American president. TRUMPISTAN WATCH does not say DARKNESS AT NUNES for nothing: this is an abyss an American adversary is leading us towards.
CHAFFETZ WILL RESIGN FROM CONGRESS NEXT MONTH
The AP reports, “Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced Thursday he will resign from Congress next month, saying a “mid-life crisis” had compelled him to step away from his chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee just as it is poised to investigate President Donald Trump’s firing of the FBI director.” Do you believe that for a moment? What he is going to go buy a convertible, acquire a mistress and start banging chicks half his age now? Well, he might do those things, but nonetheless, given his early attempts to shift the narrative to leaks before making the decision to stand down from that when it was not working and make like he is going hard after Trump seems like an effort to cover his tracks from whatever involvement he may have had and get out of the way before the 2018 shitshow elections and potential criminal indictments rock the GOP. CNN notes, “Chaffetz’s announcement came a day after he tweeted that he had invited ex-FBI Director James Comey to testify next week at a hearing of the oversight committee he leads.”
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ETHICS REVIEW OF MUELLER’S FORMER LAW FIRM
The Washington Post reports, “Newly appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will undergo a Justice Department ethics review that will examine possible conflicts of interest regarding his former law firm, which represents several figures who could be caught up in the probe into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.” Fair enough but perhaps it would have been more useful if aeons ago, before we got to this stage, the Justice Department had done a better job of investigating and launching ethics reviews into Trump’s real estate deals involving “several figures who could be caught up in the probe into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election”? The Washington Post reports, “Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Thursday that the agency will conduct a background investigation and detailed review of conflict-of-interest issues, a process outlined in the regulation governing special counsels under which he was appointed.” Mueller has worked for WilmerHale for the last three years “whose attorneys represent former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.” WilmerHale’s general counsel Bruce Berman “said that Mueller had no involvement in the representation of Manafort, Kushner or Trump, or any client in connection with any Russia-related inquiry,” adding “there are no potential conflicts regarding Mueller’s role as special counsel”. The Washington Post notes, “Ethics experts said they anticipate that the Justice Department will grant a waiver” and “Legal ethics codes also prohibit lawyers from representing a client and then later using information they have learned through that work against the client.” Had Mueller “taken part in WilmerHale’s representation of clients who are targets of the probe, the rule could have allowed them to argue he should be prohibited from investigating them.”
From The Washington Post.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
UPDATE ON ONGOING WHITE HOUSE MUTINY
The Washington Post looks at the ongoing mutiny inside the White House following Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing consequences of that fallout. The Washington Post reports, “Some White House staffers have turned to impeachment gallows humor. Other mid-level aides have started contacting consultants, shopping their résumés. And at least one senior staffer has begun privately talking to friends about what a post-White House job would look like, according to two people close to the staffer.” By contrast, the delusional president who whines of witch hunts and the worst treatment in history of any politician (he must be unfamiliar with Nelson Mandela’s personal history or countless others), “largely thinks that his recent mishaps are not substantive but simply errors of branding and public relations, according to people close to him and the White House.” Others with a finer grasp of reality “are particularly worried about the news this week that Comey wrote meticulous memos about conversations he had with Trump — including one in which Comey says Trump requested that he end his investigation of Flynn”. Ironically, “For many White House staffers, impromptu support groups of friends, confidants and acquaintances have materialized, calling and texting to check in, inquiring about their mental state and urging them to take care of themselves”. Trump seems to have squandered the loyalty of his staff as they realize it is a one-way streak: while Trump demands all encompassing loyalty, he is ready to taint and smear any one and everyone for the slightest perceived transgression.
From The Washington Post.
STATE DEPARTMENT SHIELDS T REX FROM TRANSPARENCY
CNN reports, “The State Department is withholding a document related to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s communications with the department about Russia in his capacity as ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO”. The decision comes after CNN filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department. CNN’s FOIA requested “any ‘communications between ExxonMobil CEO/Chairman Rex Tillerson and officials at the State Department relating to Russia and US policy toward Russia,’” and was denied for unspecified reasons. However the State Department did disclose, “ it’s search had yielded one document responsive to the request.” CNN has submitted an appeal, permissible under U.S. law however seldom successful. Would someone please leak it? Please!
KREMLIN’S SOCIAL MEDIA PROPAGANDA WAR AGAINST AMERICA
TIME has a detailed, in depth piece on the Russia’s social media operations against the United States. On March 2 of this year, “Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department.” The messages depended “on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.” American intelligence services were forced to confront the question: “What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.” It is becoming increasingly clear that the halcyon days of the early internet have given way to something far more menacing, something our friends in the former Soviet Union warned us about, whether Evgeny Morozov in The Net Delusion or Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan in The Red Web, voices and books we would be wise to revisit and listen to today. “The vast openness and anonymity of social media has cleared a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces. ‘Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it’s becoming easier every day,’ says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology.” As an open society, Americans are particularly vulnerable as “Americans generate a vast trove of data on what they think and how they respond to ideas and arguments–literally thousands of expressions of belief every second on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Google.” Of course the roots of the military grade psyops against our people are the result of our own culture of consumerism as “All of those digitized convictions are collected and stored, and much of that data is available commercially to anyone with sufficient computing power to take advantage of it,” rather than treated by lawmakers in Congress as a national security concern. Another major issue is “the fear of Russian influence operations can be more damaging than the operations themselves. Eager to appear more powerful than they are, the Russians would consider it a success if you questioned the truth of your news sources”. However, “intelligence officials have found that Moscow’s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda,” so there is little to gain in minimizing the problem either. MUST READ.
THIS IS NOT THE KREMLIN
TIME released a new cover blending Moscow’s most iconic site, St. Basil’s Cathedral, with the White House. Hilariously, many U.S. and international media outlets mistook the iconic Moscow cathedral for the Kremlin. I guess we can shout THIS IS NOT THE KREMLIN about the illustration and the White House? Do reporters even Google any more?
From various outlets via Google News.
COSMO THE LATEST TO FALL FOR RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN
TRUMPISTAN WATCH has already covered Cassandra Fairbanks, a RusInfoService disinformation production run by Denis Klimentov, a Russian operative whose relative (either son or nephew, but likely son) works for The Atlantic’s social media operations a few times, so quite bored with this one. However, Cosmopolitan magazine, writes about her as if she is some spring chicken in the political arena while burying the fact that she is now an overtly paid Kremlin troll for Russian state-run Sputnik. What is there to say about this? Well it’s all summed up in a Twitter thread and in the TRUMPISTAN WATCH archives. Cosmo’s political writer Rebecca Nelson would be wise to run a corrective, perhaps a first person account on how effectively she was trolled into writing something legitimizing a Kremlin disinformation campaign and propagating it, because that would make a much finer story than the quasi-hagiography currently on the Cosmo website, “Cassandra Fairbanks Loved Bernie Sanders. Now She’s a Donald Trump Superfan.” Because let’s face the facts: the only thing Cassandra truly loves is a paycheck in rubles.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
PROJECT YOURSELF, DON’T REPRESS YOURSELF: ROBIN BELL STRIKES AGAIN
Earlier in the week, TRUMPISTAN WATCH carried an item about artist Robin Bell and his guerilla projection at the Trump DC Hotel of an “Emoluments Welcome” and “Pay Bribes Here” signs over the main entrance. Last night, Bell hit the Department of Justice with his projector, this time the messages focused on Attorney General, boy Jeff Sessions, and the Comey memos. USA Today reports, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume and various hashtags were projected on Department of Justice headquarters and the FBI building in Washington, D.C., Thursday night. Robin Bell (@bellvisuals) claimed credit for the sayings — #SESSIONSMUSTOGO, #WeNeedToSeeTheMemo and #fireSessions — decorating the buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol.” Click through to see the photos, which are pretty great. Bell told CNN “he has no plans of stopping.” Bravo! Keep on keeping on.
From USA Today.