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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Manafort Is In a Lot of Trouble

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

At WP, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous report:
Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

There is no evidence in the documents showing that Deripaska received Manafort’s offer or that any briefings took place. And a spokeswoman for Deripaska dismissed the email ex­changes as scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry.”
At NYT, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jo Becker report:
Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.
The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.
In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.
At NYT, Michael S. Schmidt:
Mr. Mueller has asked for all internal White House communications about numerous former campaign officials, including Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman who is now under federal investigation. The document request also seeks communications about Mr. Trump’s campaign foreign policy team: Carter Page, J. D. Gordon, Keith Kellogg, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Russia: Deep Impact

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

If a star of fake wrestling shows can become president, then a guy who played a president (not to mention God) can talk about Russia.




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Wire, DC Edition

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Axios:
The FBI wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, both before and after the election, CNN reports. According to the report, those taps were active during a "period when Manafort was known to talk" to President Trump, but not at the time Manafort attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
Three sources told CNN the investigators were concerned Manafort had "encouraged Russians to help with the campaign."
The taps were authorized by a FISA court, per CNN, a step that requires high-level approval and significant documentation. A storage facility belonging to Manafort was also searched.
 The investigation into Manafort began in 2014, over consulting work he did in Ukraine. He is now a central focus of Robert Mueller's investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Another bombshell, per the NY Times: after agents executed a search of Manafort's home in July, prosecutors "told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him."

Monday, September 18, 2017

RT, Sputnik, and Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Jim Rutenberg writes that the NYT that RT and Sputnik are at the center of a Russian-directed social-media network that helped Trump.  He quotes John Kelly, the founder and chief executive of  the social-media marketing and analytics firm Graphika.
Shortly after the election, academic and corporate clients hired him to track the proliferation of “fake news” — that is, unequivocally false content. He confined his search to social accounts that shared fake news at least 10 times during the last month of the campaign. This September, in his airy, loft-style office suite on the West Side of Manhattan, he called up the results of the study on a laptop screen. They were visualized as a black sphere on which each of the 14,000 fake-news-spreading accounts appeared as a dot, grouped and color-coded according to ideological affiliation. The sphere was alive with bursts of purple (“U.S. Conservative”), green (“U.S. Far Left”), pink (“Pro-Russia/WikiLeaks”), orange (“International Right”) and blue (“Trump Core”).
Within the fake-news network, Kelly explained, RT was high on the list of most-followed accounts, but it was not the highest — it ranked No. 117 out of roughly 12,000 accounts he was tracking. Its website was the 12th-most-cited by the fake-news consumers and purveyors — ahead of The New York Times and The Washington Post but behind Breitbart and Infowars.
What was more interesting was who followed RT. It drew substantially from all quadrants of Kelly’s fake-news universe — Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters, Occupy Wall Streeters and libertarians — which made it something of a rarity. “The Russians aren’t just pumping up the right wing in America,” Kelly said. “They’re also pumping up left-wing stuff — they’re basically trying to pump up the fringe at the expense of the middle.”
Nearly 20 percent of the fake-news-spreading accounts, Kelly’s analysis determined, were automated bot accounts, of the sort the American intelligence assessment claimed were working in tandem with RT and Sputnik. But who was operating them was unclear — and regardless, they were far outnumbered by accounts that appeared to belong to real human beings, reading and circulating content that appealed to them. In this paranoid, polarized and ill-informed subset of American news consumers, RT’s audience crossed all ideological boundaries.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Respectability

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character . 

Federalist 62: 
No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.
From The Daily Beast:
President Donald Trump on Sunday retweeted an animated GIF showing him hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton, knocking her to the ground as she boards a plane. The image was among several that the president retweeted on Sunday morning, in addition to a tweet mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.” Trump has tweeted controversial animations before—notably a video of him punching a man who had the CNN logo superimposed on his face.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Is a Nonwhite Majority Inevitable?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographic divides of the 2016 campaign.

At TNR, John Judis writes that Democrats cannot count on a nonwhite majority to bring them back into the majority:
Whiteness is not a genetic category, after all; it’s a social and political construct that relies on perception and prejudice. A century ago, Irish, Italians, and Jews were not seen as whites. “This town has 8,000,000 people,” a young Harry Truman wrote his cousin upon visiting New York City in 1918. “7,500,000 of ’em are of Israelish extraction. (400,000 wops and the rest are white people.)” But by the time Truman became president, all those immigrant groups were considered “white.” There’s no reason to imagine that Latinos and Asians won’t follow much the same pattern.
In fact, it’s already happening. In the 2010 Census, 53 percent of Latinos identified as “white,” as did more than half of Asian Americans of mixed parentage. In future generations, those percentages are almost certain to grow. According to a recent Pew study, more than one-quarter of Latinos and Asians marry non-Latinos and non-Asians, and that number will surely continue to climb over the generations.
Unless ethnic identification is defined in purely racial—and racist—terms, the census projections are straight-out wrong and profoundly misleading. So is the assumption that Asians and Latinos will continue to vote at an overwhelming clip for Democrats. This view, which underpins the whole idea of a “new American majority,” ignores the diversity that already prevails among voters lumped together as “Latino” or “Asian.” Cuban-Americans in Miami vote very differently from Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles; immigrants from Japan or Vietnam come from starkly different cultures than those from South Korea or China. While more than two-thirds of Asian voters went for Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2016, they leaned the other way in the 2014 midterms: National exit polls showed them favoring Republicans by 50 to 49
Then again, there is California, where demographic change has helped to wipe out the GOP on the statewide level.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Poor Jeff Sessions

Poor Jeff Sessions.  First, Trump reverses himself and agrees to enshrine DACA in law.

Now this NYT story by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman brings his private humiliation into public view:
In the telephone call to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Rosenstein said he had decided to appoint Mr. Mueller to be a special counsel for the investigation. Congress had been putting pressure on Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to put distance between the Trump administration and the Russia investigation, and just the day before The New York Times had revealedthat Mr. Trump had once asked Mr. Comey to end the F.B.I.’s investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.
When the phone call ended, Mr. McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an “idiot,” and said that he should resign.