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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Truth Isn't Truth"

CHUCK TODD: What, what, I mean, I mean let’s talk with collusion, I mean the Trump tower meeting itself is at least evidence of you better investigate --
CHUCK TODD: It’s, it’s, it’s --
CHUCK TODD: -- how is it not?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, because the meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about, about Clinton. The meeting turned into a meeting --
CHUCK TODD: Which in itself it’s attempted collusion. I understand --
RUDY GIULIANI: No it’s not.
CHUCK TODD: You just said it. The meeting was intended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a criminal lawyer. (OVERTALK)
RUDY GIULIANI: No, it wasn’t. No, no.
CHUCK TODD: That was the intention of the meeting, you just said it.
RUDY GIULIANI: That was the original intention of the meeting. It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate’s staff would take. If someone said, I have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting. If it happens to be a person with a Russian --
CHUCK TODD: From the Russian government?
RUDY GIULIANI: She didn’t represent the Russian government, she’s a private citizen. I don’t even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. All they had was her name.
 Her name is Natalia Veselnitskaya.  Emails prove that Donald Jr. knew that the information came from the Russian government.
RUDY GIULIANI: Yes, each time, by 3 or 4 days, so we could write a letter in response. They have taken 2-3 weeks to get back to us, so what I have to tell you is, look, I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn’t have a, a conversation --
CHUCK TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like --
RUDY GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says, “I didn’t -- ”
CHUCK TODD: Truth isn’t truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what, I, I, I--
RUDY GIULIANI: No, no, no--
CHUCK TODD: This is going to become a bad meme.
RUDY GIULIANI: Don’t do, don’t do this to me.
CHUCK TODD: Don’t do truth isn’t truth to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Postmodern Rudy

In Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump.
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
Josh Dawsey, WP, 5/23/18:
Giuliani said he was concerned that the president would become a target or that the interview would be a perjury trap, because the “truth is relative.” The president’s legal team continues to try to set limitations on an interview, including the duration and questions posed, he said.
“They may have a different version of the truth than we do,” Giuliani said.
Chris Cuomo interview of Giuliani on CNN, 8/15/18:
 CUOMO: If fact counting is anything, we've never had anybody with the level of mendacity that he has, not even close. But we'll leave it there -
GIULIANI: It's in the eye of the beholder.
CUOMO: No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing at Reuters:
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a cyber attack on the congressional campaign of a Democratic candidate in California, according to three people close to the campaign.
The hackers successfully infiltrated the election campaign computer of David Min, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives who was later defeated in the June primary for California’s 45th Congressional district.
FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Rohrabacher is a 15-term incumbent who is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress and is a staunch supporter of President Trump.
The hacking attempts and the FBI’s involvement are described in dozens of emails and forensic records obtained by Rolling Stone.
The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California’s nonpartisan “top-two” primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election.
Maya Kosoff at Vanity Fair:
Similar phishing attacks have been reported by the campaign for Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill—according to the Daily Beast, Russian operatives tried and failed to access the McCaskill campaign’s data using a variant of the password-stealing technique employed by “Fancy Bear” hackers who targeted Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in 2016. (In that instance, hackers sent fake e-mails to targets alerting them that their Microsoft Exchange password had expired, and asking them to enter a new one.) Last month, Microsoft revealed that it had detected and blocked hacking attempts against three different congressional candidates so far in 2018; the hackers, Microsoft V.P. of security and trust Tom Burt, announced at the Aspen Security Forum, had used “a fake Microsoft domain . . . as the landing page for phishing attacks.” Separate attempts at meddling have occurred on social-media sites. A few weeks ago, Facebook announced that it had discovered new, malicious accounts on Facebook and Instagram designed to influence elections by targeting divisive social issues, similar to the effort put forth by the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency in advance of the 2016 election. The operators behind the 17 profiles and 8 Pages, which were set up between March 2017 and May 2018, appeared to be more sophisticated, disguising their identities more effectively than the I.R.A.

On July 13, DNI Dan Coats said at The Hudson Institute:
You only need to go back less than two decades ago to put, I think, the current cyber threat into its proper context. In 2001, our vulnerability was heightened because of the stovepipe approach of our intelligence and law enforcement communities that produced what they called "silos of information." At the time, intelligence and law enforcement communities were identifying alarming activities that suggested that an attack was potentially coming to the United States. It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

Every day, foreign actors — the worst offenders being Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — are penetrating our digital infrastructure and conducting a range of cyber intrusions and attacks against targets in the United States. The targets range from U.S. businesses to the federal government (including our military), to state and local governments, to academic and financial institutions and elements of our critical infrastructure — just to name a few. The attacks come in different forms. Some are tailored to achieve very tactical goals while others are implemented for strategic purpose, including the possibility of a crippling cyberattack against our critical infrastructure.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Very Tough Democratic Ad

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

The House Majority PAC goes after:

Apocrypha Now

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's personal qualities. Among those qualities is his ignorance of important details and his tendency to make things up.

At The Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng reports on a meeting between Trump and principals from veterans groups on March 17, 2017.  The conversation turned to Agent Orange.
Attendees began explaining to the president that the VA had not made enough progress on the issue at all, to which Trump responded by abruptly derailing the meeting and asking the attendees if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.”
He did not initially name the film he was referencing, but it quickly became clear as Trump kept rambling that he was referring to the classic 1979 Francis Ford Coppola epic Apocalypse Now, and specifically the famous helicopter attack scene set to the “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Source present at the time tell The Daily Beast that multiple people—including Vietnam War veterans—chimed in to inform the president that the Apocalypse Now set piece he was talking about showcased the U.S. military using napalm, not Agent Orange.

Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.”

One clue belying the president’s insistence is that the famous Robert Duvall line from the scene in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” is not “I love the smell of Agent Orange in the morning.”

He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering—organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans—descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.

Finally, Trump made eye contact again with Weidman [Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)] and asked him if it was napalm or Agent Orange. The VVA co-founder assured Trump, as did several before him, that it was in fact napalm, and said that he didn’t like the Coppola film and believed it to be a disservice to Vietnam War veterans.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Security Clearances and Russia

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

Peter Nicholas and Michael C. Bender at WSJ:
President Trump drew a direct connection between the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and his decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and review the clearances of several other former officials.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Brennan as among those he held responsible for the investigation, which also is looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Russia has denied interfering.
Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Democratic administration of former President Obama and one of those who presented evidence to Mr. Trump shortly before his inauguration that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “And these people led it!”
He added: “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
Was the timing designed to distract from the Omarosa tapes?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Return of the Cognitive Madisonians

In 1994, 2006, and 2010, there was widespread voter concern that one-party control of government was having bad effects, and voters opted for divided government.  Some voters are what Everett Carll Ladd called "cognitive Madisonians."  Even if they never read The Federalist, the idea of checks and balances affects their vote choice.

Perhaps the strongest argument the GOP made on “Meet” was this: Republicans in control of Congress will be a check and balance on the Obama White House. “I think what people are looking for … are checks and balances,” Cornyn said. “They've had single party government, and it's scaring the living daylights out of them.” As it turns out, our NBC/WSJ poll from May showed a whopping 62% preferring different parties controlling the White House and Congress. And as National Journal’s Ron Brownstein noted in his Friday column, that preference has played out over the last 40 years. “Since 1968, neither party has simultaneously controlled the White House and Congress for more than four consecutive years.” The "check" argument is most powerful with indie voters, who personally may have a favorable opinion of the president but have been disappointed in his policies. The "check" allows Republicans to make the pitch to a voter who isn't ready to give up on Obama's presidency but wants to send him a message.
Republicans have made clear they plan to run close to President Donald Trump in the campaign for November’s midterm elections, believing his ability to energize the Republican base is the only way to offset a blue wave of enthusiastic Democratic voters.

A new poll from a coalition of Democratic groups casts doubt on that strategy, showing the GOP will suffer as campaigns center around the president’s personality and record, and Democrats portray Republicans as Trump’s servants.

The survey of likely voters from Navigator Research, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, found Democrats had a 8-point lead on a generic ballot for Congress, 45 percent to 37 percent.

The Democratic lead grows, however, when the battle for Congress is framed as a referendum on the president. Asked if they would prefer a Democrat who mostly opposes Trump or a Republican who mostly supports him, 52 percent picked the Democrat, and 39 percent choose the Republican.

When presented with a Democrat who will be a “check and balance” on Trump against a Republican who will help Trump pass his agenda, Democrats led 50 percent to 38 percent.

The polling memo recommended the “check and balance” language, saying it is less likely to repel white voters without a college degree and voters who live in small towns and rural areas.