US democratic dysfunction continues

Facebook says it has identified further attempts to use social media to interfere with US elections, while Robert Mueller has referred three investigations into possible illicit foreign lobbying by Washington insiders to federal prosecutors in New York – as this involves people associated with Democrats as well as Republicans President Trump should at least be partially supportive of legally confronting the swamp.

NY Times: Facebook Identifies an Active Political Influence Campaign Using Fake Accounts

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had identified a political influence campaign that was potentially built to disrupt the midterm elections, with the company detecting and removing 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues.

The company did not definitively link the campaign to Russia. But Facebook officials said some of the tools and techniques used by the accounts were similar to those used by the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-linked group that was at the center of an indictment this year alleging interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook said it had discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Activity was also detected around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The dream of the Internet enabling a revolution in ordinary people involvement in democracy has become an electoral nightmare in the US.

And we are not immune from it in New Zealand, but the greatest risk here is probably self inflicted wounds by ‘social justice warriors’ and political activists trying to impose their views and policies on everyone else, and trying to shut down speech they don’t like or they disagree with.

Also in the US, illicit foreign lobbying is in the spotlight with the trial of Paul Manafort under way – Manafort on trial: A scorched-earth prosecutor and not a mention of Trump

The nation’s inaugural look at special counsel Mueller’s team in action started with a bang. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye, brought onto the special counsel’s staff from the Alexandria federal prosecutor’s office for this case, faced the jury and declared: “A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him.”

With more than a dozen of his colleagues from the federal investigation alongside and behind him, Asonye recovered quickly, keeping jurors riveted through a 26-minute opening statement that portrayed Manafort as someone who lied about his taxes, his income, his business, and a litany of other topics.

Only once, toward the end of the first day, did anyone mention the words “special counsel.” Zehnle said it, casually, in passing, with no reference to Trump or Russia or any of the political firestorm that has dominated the news for all of this presidency.

Yet the reason the courtroom was packed, the reason an overflow courtroom three stories below was also full, the reason the lawn in front of the building was given over to TV crews in their ritual encampment awaiting news, the reason for all of this was the cases yet to come, the deeper layers of the onion.

And three more lobbyists are also under investigation – Mueller Passes 3 Cases Focused on Illicit Foreign Lobbying to Prosecutors

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has referred three investigations into possible illicit foreign lobbying by Washington insiders to federal prosecutors in New York who are already handling the case against President Trump’s former lawyer, according to multiple people familiar with the cases.

The cases cut across party lines, focusing on both powerful Democratic and Republican players in Washington, including one whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly targeted — the Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta. The cases are unlikely to provoke an outburst from Mr. Trump similar to the one he unleashed in April after prosecutors raided the home and office of Michael D. Cohen, then the president’s lawyer. But these cases do represent a challenge to Washington’s elite, many of whom have earned rich paydays lobbying for foreign interests.

They also tie into the special counsel investigation of Mr. Trump: All three cases are linked to Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, whose trial on financial fraud charges began Tuesday in Alexandria, Va.

Under American law, anyone who lobbies or conducts public relations on behalf of a foreign interest in the United States must register with the Justice Department. The law carries stiff penalties, including up to five years in prison. But it had rarely been enforced, and thus widely ignored, until recently.

Trump should be happy that the political swamp of Washington is at least under scrutiny, albeit a long way from being drained.

Image result for monster swamp washington

The jury is still out on whether Trump is going to monster the swamp, or if he is a monster of the swamp.

But it is obvious that dysfunction in US democracy is a long way from being rectified, if that is at all possible.

 

The mess in the US

The mess in the US is looking messier.

The latest news claims that the ‘private memos’ of James Comey contained classified information, and Donald Trump Jr has been more closely linked to Russian interefrence in last year’s election.

The Hill: Comey’s private memos on Trump conversations contained classified material

More than half of the memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.

This revelation raises the possibility that Comey broke his own agency’s rules and ignored the same security protocol that he publicly criticized Hillary Clinton over in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey testified last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a friend.

Comey insisted in his testimony he believed his personal memos were unclassified, though he hinted one or two documents he created might have been contained classified information.

President Trump dived in to that –  Trump on Monday morning tweeted out an angry response: “James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!”

But his son Donald trump Jr has been linked more closely to Russian interference in the election.

NY Times: Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.

There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. The meeting took place less than a week before it was widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the committee’s servers.

But the email is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

And the NY Times now has a copy of the email: Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Russian government attorney.”

Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.

The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

This is now under more investigation.

The Justice Department, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, is examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

Trump Jr has been defending himself via Twitter.

On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter that it was hardly unusual to take information on an opponent.

On Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!”

After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out images of them himself on Tuesday.

“To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails” about the June 9 meeting, he wrote. “I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet.”

Both Putin and President Trump have tried to distance themselves.

A spokesman for Mr. Putin said on Monday that he did not know Ms. Veselnitskaya and that he had no knowledge of the June 2016 meeting.

Back in Washington, both the White House and a spokesman for President Trump’s lawyer have taken pains to distance the president from the meeting, saying that he did he not attend it and that he learned about it only recently.

So his sone, his son-in-law and and his campaign boss said nothing to him at the time? And have said nothing to him since, even though it has been a prominent ongoing topic?

The president has denied any collusion with Russia over the election, but he looks like he could sink into the mire.

This draining the swamp thing may take a while yet.

Especially when the Trumps look as murky as anyone else.

UPDATE: Murkier

Trotter swamps the centre

Those who see themselves as far to the left or the right of the political spectrum seem to have a lot of trouble understanding what it can be like being able to look both ways from the centre.

It seems to annoy the hell out of them when they see someone without the ‘strength’ of their extreme convictions and they can’t paiht them as a ploar opposite (which makes it easy to call them an enemy).

Chris Trotter has reacted to Rob Salmond’s In defence of the centre post.

He has posted Swamp Things: The political “centre” contains only what the Left and the Right put into it at both The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road.

YOU KNOW THE LEFT’s on a roll, when Labour’s number-cruncher, Rob Salmond, comes out “In Defence of the Centre”.  It’s all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault, of course. Even here, in the far antipodes, the excitement generated by his campaign for the leadership of the British Labour Party is palpable. It leaps out at us from the videos of packed halls and chanting crowds. And we know it’s real because, from his enemies, we get only scorn and hatred – and the unmistakeable stench of fear.

Who hates Jeremy Corbyn? There’s been a bit of interest ij what he’s doing on the other side of the world but I haven’t detected any hatred or fear.

Along with all the same old arguments about elections being won in the centre. Which is, of course, true – but trivial

Understanding the centre and appealing to it enough to win an election is hardly trivial.

That most self-identified “centrists” are no such thing never appears to bother the political scientists of this world.

To the number-crunchers of electoral politics the only thing that matters is that there are a lot of them. So many, in fact, that it is more-or-less impossible to win elections without them.

But let us be very clear about the priorities and preoccupations of this group. It is “centrist” only insofar as it occupies the swampland between the shores of rock-solid belief that loom to left and right.

The ultimate arrogance of a far leaning activist (or commentator) – Trotter ca’t believe someone could have rock solid beliefs unless they are extreme leaning.

Centrists’ “ideas” are a weird amalgam of television images, talkback arguments and newspaper headlines. Their morals are drawn from half-remembered parental reproofs; lines from songs, movies, TV dramas, novels and magazines – not forgetting pub-talk and the angry abuse of social media.

Centrists communicate in the common parlance of popular culture: the inconsistent, self-contradictory and ever-changing patois of office, street, tavern and suburban lounge.

Politically-speaking, the Centre is a rubbish skip: if there’s a message in there, then, for the most part, it’s a very confused one.

I don’t think I’ve seen Trotter write such claptrap before. He must be storring, he can’t really believe this.

And if that sounds like the manifesto of your average political party, then you’re right on the money. The endless pursuit of the Centrist voter has reduced our politicians to the equivalent of those journalistic low-lifes who go scavenging through the garbage of the rich and famous. In much the same way, the carelessly discarded detritus of the men and women “in the middle” gets picked over by political rubbish men, cleaned up, and re-cycled into party policy.

Rubbish.

The enormous appeal of men like Jeremy Corbyn is that their messages do not carry the oily patina of the centrist swamp. People respond to the message’s clarity, its simplicity, and the way each piece of its fits together to form a coherent picture of an alternative future.

There’s nothing coherent about trotter’s picture.

At first, not everybody sees the picture, but before too long word of its power and beauty spreads.

There are images of it on television; arguments in its favour are heard on talkback; and it gets condensed into newspaper headlines. Parents recall catching a glimpse of the picture when they were young. There are songs about it – movies and TV dramas follow. It’s talked about in offices, streets, pubs and suburban lounges.

Trotter must be taking the piss. Or in a century old dreamland.

And the political rubbish men who go poking about in the skips of the Centre are suddenly confronted with evidence of some very different patterns of consumption. And the message it conveys is very clear.

The Centre has changed.

How would Trotter know? He doesn’t seem to have a clue about the centre, so how would he recognise any change.

He (arrogantl;y or ignorantly) headlined his post “The political “centre” contains only what the Left and the Right put into it“. It would be a swamp if it contained what he tries to put into it.

Trotter has been swamped by his own extreme idealism.