The Kinds and Significance of Russian Interference — 2016 and 2020

Trump’s meltdown last week — in which he purged top staffers at the Director of National Intelligence after a briefing on Russian interference in the 2020 election, followed by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien making shit up on Meet the Press — has created a firestorm about Russian interference in the 2020 election. That firestorm, however, has spun free of what ways Russia interfered in 2016 and what effect it had.

Five ways Russia interfered in 2016

First, remember that there were at least five ways Russia interfered in 2016:

  • Stealing information then releasing it in a way that treats it as dirt
  • Creating on-going security challenges for Hillary
  • Using trolls to magnify divisions and feed disinformation
  • Tampering with the voting infrastructure
  • Influence peddling and/or attempting to recruit Trump aides for policy benefits

Stealing information then releasing it in a way that treats it as dirt

The most obvious way Russia interfered in 2016 was by hacking the DNC, DCCC, and John Podesta (it also hacked some Republicans it did not like). It released both the DNC and Podesta data in such a way as to exaggerate any derogatory information in the releases, successfully distracting the press for much of the campaign and focusing attention on Hillary rather than Trump. It released DCCC information that was of some use for Republican candidates.

Roger Stone took steps — not all of which are public yet — to optimize this effort. In the wake of Stone’s efforts, he moved to pay off one participant in this effort by trying to get a pardon for Julian Assange.

Creating on-going security challenges for Hillary

In addition to creating a messaging problem, the hack-and-leak campaign created ongoing security challenges for Hillary. Someone who played a key role in InfoSec on the campaign has described the Russian effort as a series of waves of attacks. The GRU indictment describes one of those waves — the efforts to hack Hillary’s personal server — which came in seeming response to Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment. An attack that is often forgotten, and from a data perspective was likely one of the most dangerous, involved a month-long effort to obtain Hillary’s analytics from the campaign’s AWS server.

Whatever happened with this data, the persistence of these attacks created additional problems for Hillary, as her staff had to spend time playing whack-a-mole with Russian hackers rather than optimizing their campaign efforts.

Using trolls to magnify divisions and feed disinformation

Putin’s “chef,” Yevgeniy Prigozhin, also had staffers from his troll factory in St. Petersburg shift an ongoing campaign that attempted to sow division in the US to adopt a specific campaign focus, pushing Trump and attacking Hillary. Importantly, Prigozhin’s US-based troll effort was part of a larger multinational effort. And it was in no way the only disinformation and trolling entity involved in the election. Both parties did some of this, other countries did some, and mercenaries trying to exploit social media algorithms for profit did some as well.

Tampering with the voting infrastructure

Russia also tampered with US voting infrastructure. In 2016, this consisted of probing most states and accessing voter rolls in at least two, though there’s no evidence that Russian hackers made any changes. In addition, Russian hackers targeted a vendor that provided polling books, with uncertain results. The most substantive evidence of possible success affecting the vote in 2016 involved failures of polling books in Durham County, NC, which created a real slowdown in voting in one of the state’s most Democratic areas.

In recent days, there have been reports of a ransomware attack hitting Palm Beach County in September 2016, but it is unclear whether this was part of the Russian effort.

Because there’s no certainty whether the Russian hack of VR Systems was behind the Durham County problems, there’s no proof that any of these efforts affected the outcome. But they point to the easiest way to use hacking to do so: by making it harder for voters in particular areas to vote and harder for specific localities to count the vote.

Some of what Russia did in 2016 — such as probes of a particularly conservative county in FL — may have been part of Russia’s effort to discredit the outcome. They didn’t fully deploy this effort because Trump won.

Influence peddling and/or attempting to recruit Trump aides for policy benefits

Finally, Russia accompanied its other efforts with various kinds of influence peddling targeting Trump’s aides. It was not the only country that did so: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, UAE, and Israel were some of the others. Foreign countries were similarly trying to target Hillary’s campaign — and the UAE effort, at least, targeted both campaigns at once, through George Nader.

Importantly, however, these efforts intersected with Russia’s other efforts to interfere in the election in ways that tied specific policy outcomes to Russia’s interference:

  • An unrealistically lucrative Trump Tower deal involved a former GRU officer and sanctioned banks
  • At a meeting convened to offer Trump dirt about Hillary, Don Jr agreed in principle to revisit ending Magnitsky sanctions if Trump won
  • George Papadopoulos pitched ending sanctions to Joseph Mifsud, who had alerted him that Russia had emails they intended to drop to help Trump
  • Paul Manafort had a meeting that tied winning the Rust Belt, carving up Ukraine, and getting paid personally together; the meeting took place against the background of sharing internal polling data throughout the campaign

As I’ll note in a follow-up, information coming out in FOIAed 302s makes it clear that Mike Flynn’s effort to undercut Obama’s December 2016 sanctions was more systematic than the Mueller Report concludes. So not only did Russia make it clear it wanted sanctions relief, Trump moved to give it to them even before he got elected (and his Administration found a way to exempt Oleg Deripaska from some of these sanctions).

Manafort continued to pursue efforts to carve up Ukraine until he went to jail. In addition, Trump continues to take actions that undercut Ukraine’s efforts to fight Russia and corruption. Neither of these have been tied to a specific quid pro quo (though the investigation into Manafort’s actions, especially, remained inconclusive at the time of the Mueller Report).

So while none of these was charged as a quid pro quo or a conspiracy (and the reasons why they weren’t vary; Manafort lied about what he was doing, and why, whereas Mueller couldn’t prove Don Jr had the mens rea of entering into a quid pro quo), Russia tied certain policy outcomes to its interference.

Trump’s narcissism and legal exposure exacerbated the effects

The Russian attack was more effective than it otherwise would have been for two reasons. First, because he’s a narcissist and because Russia built in plausible deniability, Trump refused to admit that Russia did try to help him. Indeed, he clings more and more to Russian disinformation about what happened, leading the IC to refuse to brief him on the threat, leading to last week’s meltdown.

In addition, rather than let FBI investigate the people who had entered into discussions of a quid pro quo, Trump obstructed the investigation. Trump has spent years now attacking the rule of law and institutions of government rather than admit what DOJ IG found — there was reason to open the investigation, or admit what DOJ found — there was reason to prosecute six of his aides for lying about what happened.

The Russian effort was just one of the reasons Hillary lost

It’s also important to remember that Russia’s interference was just one of the many things that contributed to Hillary’s loss.

Other aspects were probably more important. For example, Republican voter suppression, particularly in Wisconsin and North Carolina, was far more important than any effect the VR Systems hack may have had in Durham County. Jim Comey’s public statements about the email investigation had at least as much effect as the Russian hack-and-leak campaign did on press focus. Hillary made some boneheaded choices — like barely campaigning in WI and MI; while I had worried that she made those choices because Russia tampered with her analytics (with the AWS hack), that doesn’t seem to have happened. Disinformation sent by the Trump campaign and associates was more significant than Russian disinformation. It didn’t help that the Obama Administration announced a sharp spike in ObamaCare prices right before the election.

The response matters

As noted, Trump’s narcissism dramatically increased the effect of the Russian efforts in 2016, because he has always refused to admit it happened.

Compare that to Bernie’s response to learning that Russia was trying to help his campaign, which accepted that it is happening and rejected the help.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

“In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

This was not perfect — Bernie could have revealed this briefing himself weeks ago, Bernie blamed the WaPo for reporting it when it seems like the story was seeded by O’Brien. But it was very good, in that it highlighted the point of Russian interference — sowing divisions — and it reaffirmed the import of Americans selecting who wins. Plus, contrary to Trump, there’s no reason to believe Bernie would pursue policies that specifically advantaged Russia.

Other factors remain more important than Russian interference

There’s very serious reason to be concerned that Russia will hack the outcome of 2020. After all, it would need only to affect the outcome in a small number of precincts to tip the result, and the prospect of power outages or ransomware doing so in urgent fashion have grown since 2016.

That said, as with 2016, there are far more urgent concerns, and those concerns are entirely American.

Republicans continue to seek out new ways to suppress the vote, including by throwing large swaths of voters off the rolls without adequate vetting. There are real concerns about voting machines, particularly in Georgia (and there are credible concerns about the reliability of GA’s tally in past elections). Republicans have continued to make polling locations less accessible in Democratic precincts than in Republican ones.

Facebook refuses to police the accuracy of political ads, and Trump has flooded Facebook with disinformation.

And Bloomberg’s efforts this year — which include a good deal of trolling and disinformation — are unprecedented in recent memory. His ad spending has undercut the ability to weigh candidates. And his personnel spending is increasing the costs for other candidates.

Russian efforts to sway the vote are real. Denying them — as some of Bernie’s supporters are doing in ways that hurt the candidate — does not help. But, assuming DHS continues to work with localities to ensure the integrity of voting infrastructure, neither does overplaying them. Between now and November there’s far more reason to be concerned about American-funded disinformation and American money distorting our democratic process.

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81 replies
  1. Monica J Jerbi says:

    This is an excellent writeup, Marcy; however, you missed one of the foundation’s for Russia’s success at using trolls to magnify divisions and feed disinformation linking several of your five ways. Russia used hacking and social media for audience network analysis and microtargeting divisive messages to the very people most vulnerable to a particular message. Almost half of American’s medical (including a percentage of psychiatric) records were hacked before the 2016 presidential election as were people’s private email accounts. You mix/layer information from such hacks (e.g., people with extreme views and psychiatric problems to leverage, which people are in contact with/influence opinion leaders, what personal issues would flip opinion leaders or cause them to shut down/stay home, etc.) with Cambridge Analytica type psychometrics and hacked voter data in swing counties in swing states and you swing an election pretty easily. That also enables the GOP to truthfully use message repetition around Russia’s tampering with voting infrastructure as ineffective because no vote tallies were changed. That statement is out of context because that was not the purpose. Also remember both parties use different software and apps for voters, so hacking these provides a goldmine in audience research about who is affiliated with which party to target.

    • bmaz says:

      You might have missed that we have been covering all of this since the 2016 election.

      Welcome to Emptywheel.

      • Monica Jerbi says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. You all do excellent work. I must have missed the articles referencing hacked medical and psychiatric data, private email accounts, voter infrastructure, etc. for audience network analysis and microtargeting. This is big and combined with algorithms and artificial intelligence enables Russia to turbocharge the classic Soviet “reflexive control” propaganda/subversion approach across borders.

      • Vinnie Gambone says:

        Yes, but Russia’s massive mind fuck bears repeating, and the caller nails the ways Russia sabotaged our elections.

        Ms Jerbi left out the Russians used the harvested FB data the Russian Professor
        and marrried it with Manafort’s polling data enabling them to target low turn out districts where the opinion shaping campaigns would be most fruitful. It’s not meddling. It’s not interference. IT IS SABOTAGE. Friggin hate it when use the word meddling. It’s like a sexual abuser saying , oh I just rubbed myself on her; there was no penetration. They totally fucked us, and we call it “meddling”.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      You’re assuming the Cambridge Analytic type analysis actually works. I don’t think there’s much real evidence that the kind of marketing they do is effective.

      • BobCon says:

        I think there is good evidence that it is as effective as using the standard distribution lists for direct mail, radio ads, and cards stuck in front doors.

        I think there is a lot of doubt whether there is any added value to the kind of micro messaging CA style outreach can do, however.

      • Monica Jerbi says:

        You sound like GOP talking points designed to deflect. Why do you assume Cambridge Analytic type analysis (only a small portion of my actual comment) actually doesn’t work? Your account is anonymous, so it is hard to evaluate your expertise. Have you ever done audience analysis or message refinement for communications campaigns aimed at foreign audiences? Do you know anything about behavioral communications (as distinct from awareness raising, branding, and Western style marketing)? Do you know anything about Russian/Soviet “reflexive control” and “active measures”? Have you ever microtarged people on Facebook by interests, behaviors, etc.? If you don’t have any such expertise, I am not sure how you would know what you are talking about. Even without it, it is common sense if you identify people who are antisemitic or believe immigrants are stealing their jobs, you can motivate them to spread such messaging online via social media and even take real world action to support the candidate who reflects their views. Likewise, you can identify the kids of Vietnam veterans still upset about how Vietnam veterans were treated and pit them against refugees and asylum seekers in support of a wall. I could go on and on with examples. Such microtargeting is very easy and effective, especially combined with the audience network analysis and other hacked information I previously mentioned. Perhaps most importantly, the only reason we don’t know how effective this interference was is due to the lack of seriousness/study the matter has received. In other words, if you obstruct an investigation/don’t investigate fully, you can truthfully indicate you don’t know the results.

        • bmaz says:

          Hi there. You rolled in here out of nowhere making demands and telling us what we have and have not done, and what we ought to do. Now you are calling people that have been around here a LOT longer than you “GOP talking points” adherents.

          This is not your blog. Mind your manners.

          • Monica J Jerbi says:

            Dividing and fueling hate are two of the Russian objectives for interfering in our elections (along with destroying trust in democratic institutions to implode our democracy from within), so it is ironic “dividing” is successfully being used in the comments of an article about Russian interference. This does not help build unity around solving the problems our country faces. Moreover, perhaps you are mixing me up with somebody else or didn’t read my comments? I didn’t demand anything. I merely posed a series of questions because, as you correctly note, I am new to this blog, and I can’t assess how seriously to take somebody anonymous who is using what appears to be GOP talking points. All very counterproductive for sure.

            • drouse says:

              You surely did make demands. You demanded his bonafides to justify his opinion. Without, I might say, providing your own.

            • bmaz says:

              Hi there Monica. You are the one being counterproductive. And if you are going to be a mouthy nuisance to not just our commenters, but the very proprietors of this blog, your time here may be short. We do not owe you squat.

              • Monica J Jerbi says:

                “Mouthy nuisance?” “Arrogant trolling (below)”? I get it. DARVO and not productive intellectual or informed commentary to analyze and problem solve around a very real threat to our democracy. Mistook this blog as serious investigative journalism since some of Marcy’s analysis is excellent; however, Googling see links to Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept. So the DARVO comments and those links make it pretty clear what is really going on, and you are right, it’s not a good fit for me. Thanks and good-bye!

                • bmaz says:

                  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass, because I would not want to see your head damaged. Oh, and feel free to shove your “DARVO” crap.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  DARVO? LOL.

                  Your comments tend toward the emotionally violent when your obsessions are not catered to by those engaged in other pursuits. So I’ll say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

                  • punaise says:

                    OK, this is kind of ungenerously piling on:

                    Ate all vice, ate all vice
                    Every posting you greet me

                    Small of might
                    Clean and bright
                    You look happy to meme me

                    Blossom of “know”
                    May you bloom and grow
                    Bloom and go forever

                  • earlofhuntingdon says:

                    If the shoe fits….Nesting a comment to yours:

                    “Regretfully they tell us
                    But firmly they compel us’
                    to say goodbye…
                    To you.”
                    Coo-coo.

                    Speaking of coo-coos, does anyone know how to send Ken Cuccinelli a map telling him where to go? We could probably send it to any number of his equally well-informed colleagues.

                    • Eureka says:

                      All I know is that the “map” leading out from the Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS’s twitter account is pretty creepy. They suggest that you “follow” or “might be interested in” people like Parscale, the head of Trump’s comms team, and OANN.

                      Yet another way the ‘great algos in the basement’ are just not working for democracy, when a gov official’s public presence is a propaganda hydra.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Instead of berating people for what you claim to know and they do not – your account is as “invisible” as everyone else’s – explain what you mean. You may find it’s harder than you think, but never mind. It would be to everyone’s benefit. Otherwise, it’s arrogant trolling.

      • Vinnie Gambone says:

        Yes there is no evidence except that Trump and Russia won in exactly the counties they need to win.

  2. BobCon says:

    Russia was funneling millions to the NRA which was a major force for Trump in 2016, spending something like three times as much for him as Romney in 2012. We have to assume this kind of shell game will only increase in 2020, especially since McConnell has neutered the FEC and Barr can put the brake on DOJ investigations.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Completely agree with you BobCon. The massive impact this money had on the 2016 election should not be discounted. I would be interested in knowing the current status of the NRA’s bank account. I know that there has been a blow up in the leadership over LaPierre’s profilegate personal spending of NRA funds, along with the spending of others in office. Now they have a woman, Carolyn Meadows as President, but I have not found credible accounts of their financial situation.

      I wonder if they are too hot for the Russians to use as a money funnel now? I hope someone is sussing out who else is a beard for Russian money. I worry that the insanity of the election year will impede shining some sunlight in this area.

      • holdingsteady says:

        Molly,
        Your comment reminded me of a rule change Mnuchin made last year where the NRA and most other non profits no longer have to disclose their donors to the IRS, thus removing that tool entirely as it relates to IRS criminal division being able to investigate potential Russian money still being funneled through non profits (sorry if that’s a run-on sentence).

        That rule change was defended (disingenuously of course (by Mnuchin to protect donors’ privacy rights, I’m sure the Russians appreciate their newly afforded privacy.

        Ron Wyden and Bob Casey are complaining about it – it is somewhat comforting to know it’s on the democratic congress members’ radar:

        https://src.bna.com/JRn

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yep, no such thing as balancing conflicting interests for Mnuchin or anyone else involved with Team Trump.

          No governmental or public interest, no competing private interest, trumps the interests of rich white men, how they make their money, who they band together with, and how they work to achieve their political ends.

          It’s one reason the progressives fighting for the Democratic nomination scare the hell out of them. It should.

      • BobCon says:

        It is really, really hard to know the source of a lot of dark money that will be flowing into the election before November, at which point it will be too late.

        There will be a chunk of it going to the Democrats to be sure, but traditionally the large part of the post Citizens United tidal wave has gone to the GOP.

        No mistake, most of that will be coming from sleazy domestic sources, but there is still a huge risk of foreign cash getting a bank shot into the 2020 election.

    • tinao says:

      Totally agree BobCon. I bet moscow mitch was a recipient of those funds and now that the russian oligarch deripaska is building an aluminum factory down in Kentucky after trump lifted the sanctions on him tha’ts where one of the feet in the door is still.

  3. misteranderson says:

    That was really good. Thanks for outlining all of that. I never thought about Bloomberg’s effect. I wish to god you’d write a book about all of this but then maybe the story isn’t finished yet.

  4. tinao says:

    Thank you emppy! That was the most comprehensive look at what happened and continues happening to our elections and trump’s culpability I’ve seen. Again,THANK YOU! I’ve been watching our election infrastructure problems since bush shoved hava down our throats, and the one thing I’d tell people to find out is what your state
    ‘s rules are for allowing a recount. Now that more of us have paper ballots, they are only as good as our ability to access them for a recount. Great work.

    • Ruthie says:

      Over the weekend I listened to an interview of Thom Hartmann on The Majority Report. He described how exit polls, which had previously been reliable enough to call elections on, started diverging from election results after 2002ish – at least in Republican controlled states. The divergence is a result of voter roll purges, which leaves some people who show up to vote casting provisional ballots, which aren’t counted unless results are very close. Apparently, many people leave thinking their votes will eventually be counted, hence the discrepancy in exit polls. It was very interesting.

  5. anaphoristand says:

    While it doesn’t cleanly fit the sectional header, in addition to directly hacking some GOP persons/campaigns, the Russian hack of SMARTech RNC files (and their choice not to publicly disperse them) has been a thoroughly under-covered aspect of the overall 2016 op, with huge potential implications for Trump’s subsequent ability to successfully manufacture consent across the entire party.

  6. Vicks says:

    Any chance Russia/pro Trumper-ers have figured out a way to sway polling?
    I know that the demographics of those who pick up the phone without screening the caller has been discussed, but has that information been measured?
    Is there a way/source polling company’s are obtaining their call lists that could be open to manipulation?
    I can’t help but wonder where Trump would be if his support wasn’t actually that steady, or if the slow creep to what is now approval in the high 40’s was manufactured, or puffed up by a large collection of “reliable phone” numbers that rotated through these lists?
    I am sure each polling company has a way of checking to see if the same respondent comes up more than often they should in their own work, but do these companies have any way to see if these same numbers aren’t also seeded in the lists their competitors are using?
    In recent history I have participated in just one phone poll on my mobile phone (2018 local candidates) yet on a random visit to NC I answered the phone at my Trump voting mother’s home and (gladly) answered their survey questions on national issues, my mom later said she gets those calls all the time.
    Do I dare again ask, wtf the Trump administration did with the all of the voter registration data the “election fraud committee” (or whatever team trump called it) demanded and collected from the states that were supposed to protect it?
    The committee, that from what I understand, never held a meeting and shut itself down after fighting aggressively to get what voter information it could from the states without going to court?
    I am aware of my biases, and I know that many of these polling companies have reliable models they use to gather the best information they can, but I have also learned that more often than not with this administration, it’s the places where things don’t add up that marks the spot to start digging around.
    I have never met a single person Trump has converted after the 2016 election, yet I know at least a dozen that regret voting for him.
    My experiences are skewed living in a purple state, and I don’t talk politics with everyone I meet, but can someone tell me how Trump’s has added enough supporters not just to make up for those he has lost since the election, but to show an increase?

    • BobCon says:

      Nate Silver has his faults, but he has done a good job tracking the way polling outfits lean and digging into the methods they use.

      The easiest way is through things like how they judge who is a likely voter, or how they correct their sampling. Sometimes these things are done in good faith, sometimes (Rasmussen, Zogby) they are very sketchy. Silver does a decent job discounting bad actors when he compiles his analysis.

      There’s also the issue of focus group reports, which are even easier to skew. Frank Luntz is notorious for leading groups into the conclusions he wants; Luntz still appearing on TV outside of the Fox echo chamber is a sign of how bad most producers are.

  7. Midwest says:

    I st found this out today, but I live in ND and last fall there was an article in the Bismarck, ND paper saying that Parnas had given money to Kevin Cramer (who eventually took Heidi Heitkamp’s seat in the Senate) Cramer fawns over Trump to the point of sticking his tongue in the guy’s ear and got the contract for Fisher to work on Trump’s wall, bypassing normal federal contracting processes (Fisher is out of ND and has a record of EPA fines, something IRS related, and one family member no longer with the outfit was convicted of child sexual abuse). RIck Berg (who previously lost to Heidi), the GOP chair for ND, said at the time they would be looking to see where the donation went and would refund or donate to charity if they found it.

    Reason I found out is because of a local lady who is a semi-retired journalist who follows and posts about news very closely and acutely, she teaches journalism as well, and wondered if anyone had ever heard any follow up.

    Has there been any accounting or listing of ALL the GOP-ers Parnas gave money to in recent years? Wasn’t clear from the article, bt sounded like he didn’t even bother to funnel it through another entity.

    • Eureka says:

      Check Adam Klasfeld & team at Courthousenews.com, they’ve done the most comprehensive reporting on who got grifter money and what they did with it post-bust.

  8. Manqueman says:

    Best defense to all this is an informed electorate. Which the establishment press — peoples’ primary source of being informed — is doing an excellent job of preventing.

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    “Because there’s no certainty whether the Russian hack of VR Systems was behind the Durham County problems, there’s no proof that any of these efforts affected the outcome.”

    The depressing point here, of course, is that the distributed nature of US election infrastructure — unconvincingly defended as a kind of safety mechanism, but which would never pass muster to international observers — is probably hackable (or DDOSable) without leaving obvious traces. The desire for instant results doesn’t help; nor does the partisan shape of many election boards. If the rolls for Waukesha County in Wisconsin were messed with in November, would the GOP chair of the board of canvassers raise the alarm, given the recent voter suppression efforts in the state?

    Russian influence is designed to test deep stress points that already exist in a fragile democracy that has a higher estimation of itself than it deserves.

    It serves the narcissism of a Republican party that has convinced itself that Democratic governance is illegitimate — see the attempts of gerrymandered legislatures to hobble governors-elect during the lame duck period. It whispers to people with authoritarian fantasies that their dreams can come true.

    I hate to say it, but COVID-19 is likely to have its say, because a public health crisis taps into every stress line in the US.

    • bmaz says:

      “I hate to say it, but COVID-19 is likely to have its say, because a public health crisis taps into every stress line in the US.”

      Yeah. And the Trump proclamation that “don’t worry, the spring warming will kill it” Is beyond unhelpful.

      • P J Evans says:

        His habit of firing all the people who actually know what they’re doing and don’t follow his whims is going to get a lot of people killed by COVID-19 or some other disease that goes pandemic.
        (The latest is that Trmp is screaming about the intelligence agencies hating him. Which isn’t a surprise: what would a sane person expect when the boss insults employees all the time and doesn’t trust experts?)
        https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1232130591862247424 )

  10. N.E. Brigand says:

    Hillary Clinton was a pilot. Her campaign was the plane she was trying to safely land. Had she done so, she would have been promoted to management. On that final, fateful journey, she flew too low and her plane carrying too much weight, but she still would have reached the runway if it weren’t for three factors. First, the disgruntled mechanic, James Comey, who felt that she wasn’t serious enough about airplane maintenance and decided to teach her a lesson by deliberately loosening a few bolts. That was only meant to scare her and wouldn’t have brought the plane down on its own. Second, the saboteur, Vladimir Putin, who planted a small bomb. To be sure, he wanted the plane to crash, but by itself, the explosion wouldn’t have enough. And third, a perfect media storm that amplified all the other problems. So the plane plummeted to earth a little less than 15 miles from the airport — 77,744 feet, to be exact.

    Well, that’s the metaphor I’ve been using for the past three years, so I’m very glad to see Ms. Wheeler make the case with actual facts.

    • bmaz says:

      Think you can add in there as a factor that her campaign manager and supposed wonderkid Robbie Mook did not pay enough attention to the Rust Belt states. Remove any one, maybe two, of the factors you list, and the Rust Belt thing, and Clinton is probably President. But they are all valid factors and complaints. It is what it is now though. The lessons that ought be applied to 2020 is a different thing. And warning signs are all over the place yet again.

      • Rayne says:

        We don’t know if Mook was played; it would have been very easy to focus on picking off one person. Look at how little serious attention has been paid to Tad Devine’s role on Sanders’ 2016 campaign. A fair number of people have noted the potential risks he posed but who has actually dug through everything Devine did while with Sanders’ campaign? Ditto for Mook.

        This point is super important and may have been enough to throw Mook and his closest team members off their game:

        Whatever happened with this data, the persistence of these attacks created additional problems for Hillary, as her staff had to spend time playing whack-a-mole with Russian hackers rather than optimizing their campaign efforts.

        It would be nice to have a serious and extremely deep postmortem, but I doubt we’ll ever get one.

    • Marinela says:

      One question that we should also ask, if Hillary is not the democratic nominee in 2016, would democrats win the WH in 2016?
      My take probably no.
      After four years of Trump, dems should have a smooth sailing to win the WH, but is not locked.
      The problem is deeper I think.

      • Rayne says:

        You’re discussing a pipeline problem and a methodology problem.

        In 2016 there really wasn’t another candidate in the pipeline who was as prepared and ready as HRC. Should there have been? Yeah. Some of the pipeline problem was simply bad timing — like Biden’s situation.

        In 2004, 2012, and 2016 the weaknesses of primary process methodology across both major political parties.

        Too many candidates in 2004 and 2016 — Dems in 2004, GOP in 2016.

        Caucus flaws and emphasis on IA+NH were highly evident in 2012 and 2016. Recall it took the GOP +2 weeks to finalize the results of the 2012 Iowa caucus.

        This isn’t just a Democratic Party problem. We have Trump now because the Republicans were also preyed upon by someone who came from outside and bought their way in, rather like Steyer and Bloomberg. It’s clear to hostile entities outside the U.S. where our weaknesses are and that the nomination may be bought.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      Ooooh–I like this analogy/metaphor, N.E. Brigand! It surely is a contrast to the Transnational Crime Syndicate that has taken over the GOP/Trump Administration.

    • Marinela says:

      Propaganda machine. Modi needs the trade deal, he provides the “Dear Leader” with fake adoring crowds.

        • Vicks says:

          I remember when I thought the worst case scenario was the country dealing with Trump’s petulance once he realized there wasn’t going to be any tolerance for this self dealing crap.

        • Vicks says:

          That list should shows that clearly there is too much corruption for the average citizen to keep track of, and that ANYONE in opposition to this administration has a duty to never stop hammering the details of what is taking place into the heads of complacent Americans.
          Someday something will get people to finally listen, for now his “followers” are numb to any talk of morality and don’t give a crap about what he is doing (in India of all places) as long as they can’t see how it affects them.
          This virus is something that ticks at the fear Trump uses to arouse his base, so far he has (once again) placed his own needs to the safety of those he is supposed to lead, if he fails to cover his tracks with whatever pivot he is going to use, this may be the sucky way people start to realize the downside of blind loyalty.

  11. Eureka says:

    Andrew Gillum, on Sunday (thanks, CJ Roberts):

    “This will be the first presidential election in decades in which the Republicans RNC will no longer be shackled by a federal consent decree that stopped many of the GOP’s “ballot security” tactics, such as dispatching armed, off-duty police officers to minority voting precincts….”
    https://twitter.com/AndrewGillum/status/1231604108332797954

    He quote-tweets a link to an article about Florida GOPers trying to legislate “poll watchers.” Roger Stone must be so Proud.

    Bonus content: saving you a search of “Roy Cohn” and “Frogs” (the unintended consequences of @Fahrenthold’s research on the Trump properties):

    “…The Roy Cohn Suite?…[photo]”
    https://twitter.com/TrumpinTheShark/status/1232030618730614784

    Additional info in replies ^.

    • Eureka says:

      e.g. re Stone “poll watchers” efforts, 2016:

      White nationalists plot Election Day show of force
      https://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/suppress-black-vote-trump-campaign-230616

      Also as relates to 2016, this post, and another recent EW post, I will never not believe that Stone’s The Hill piece ~”Can the election be rigged, you bet” — which linked Politico, ~”How to hack an election in 7 minutes”, among other sources, and which he asked Guccifer 2.0 to retweet — was merely FUD, and not another instructional “ask.”

      Stone’s piece and articles linked therein hit too many essential targets, and IMO makes more sense as “directions” than it does for the ostensible reasons he gives for why he’s belaboring certain points.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Remember, even Maria Butina wanted to be a poll watcher. But this kind of intimidating behavior has been going on for decades. Because libraries serve as sites for Early Voting, employees there have seen things over the course of time that are worrisome. Who knows how much of this has ever been reported. And even if reported, is it taken seriously?

      Here in FL, I received my sample ballot a few days ago. As you see, there are 16 candidates listed, including some who have ended their campaigns. Our Supervisor of Elections is a Republican, as is the mayor. I wonder if this is the reason for this deceptive list, perhaps to sow confusion. Or maybe there are some technical or legal reasons for this extensive list. I wonder if the actual ballot will have all these names.

      Sample ballot for March 2017 – Presidential Preference Primary, Democratic Party

      Michael Bennet
      Joe Biden
      Michael R. Bloomberg
      Cory Booker
      Pete Buttigieg
      Julian Castro
      John Delaney
      Tulsi Gabbard
      Amy Klobuchar
      Deval Patrick
      Bernie Sanders
      Joe Sestak
      Tom Steyer
      Elizabeth Warren
      Marianne Williamson
      Andrew Yang

      • P J Evans says:

        There’s a deadline after which you can’t remove your name. It’s generally two to three months before the election, to allow for printing and mailing. (Mine had all of those, plus four others.)

      • bmaz says:

        My ballot is sitting on my desk. It has all 15 of those and four local randos even I have never heard of, for a total of 19.

        Has to be mailed off at least five days before the March 10 election date, else you have to hand deliver it to your polling place. I’ll wait for the Super Tuesday results to land and then put it in the mail.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the petroleum-fueled neocons at the Heartland Institute are very sincere. Feeling pressured by the global phenomenon that is Greta Thunberg, the Institute’s patrons – big oil, big tobacco, big healthcare – invented their own “anti-Greta.”

    Her name is Naomi Seibt, a nineteen year-old German. Her mum is a lawyer, who counts among her clients members of the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland party. Heartland pays Seibt about US$2000/month to fund her “sincere belief” that, “Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology.” She will be a featured act at the upcoming CPAC.

    In contrast, Greta Thunberg is an unpaid activist, who has won numerous awards for her work, including:

    [an] honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society; Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and the youngest Time Person of the Year; inclusion in the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019)[9] and two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (2019 and 2020).

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/25/anti-greta-teen-activist-cpac-conference-climate-sceptic

  13. Vinnie Gambone says:

    I will not defend Ms Jodi’s tone or manners, but she (and Marcy) describes precisely the mechanism the Russians have employed to motivate Americans themselves to attack fellow Americans. I see it every day in my blue color union supporting swing city, swing state neighborhood. People who are decent in every other way spouting and shouting support for TRUMPISM. It ain’t blanket bombing of pamphlets from the sky. It’s not door hangers . It’s not inane political literature that day after the election is political litter. These are messages being promulgated by the parents of the kids who play on the same softball team as your kids. Trump has become their favorite thing to talk about.

    What Jodi said is true. “it is common sense if you identify people who are antisemitic or believe immigrants are stealing their jobs, you can motivate them to spread such messaging online via social media and even take real world action to support the candidate who reflects their views. Likewise, you can identify the kids of Vietnam veterans still upset about how Vietnam veterans were treated and pit them against refugees and asylum seekers in support of a wall. I could go on and on with examples. Such microtargeting is very easy and effective, especially combined with the audience network analysis and other hacked information I previously mentioned.” Don’t hold this against me, but I’m a little sorry she was run off. I didn’t know what DARVO was but I looked it up, It’s what Trumpsters do constantly. That and the art “what -about-ism” Kelly Anne Conway has mastered. Democrats need to utilize the CA type stuff to their advantage. They have a long way to go before they match the republican Facebook activism. Sander’s movement is the only thing coming close. If sanders wins I hope he picks Warren as VP. She is a street fighter. She doesn’t need prepared remarks. She the best counter puncher the Dems have. We need to drive more people to check in on Marcy’s analysis, not drive them off.
    Even if they are mouthy. If Jodi was a troll, I didn’t see it.

    • bmaz says:

      So, let’s see here, you are going back well over a decade to criticize how we run this blog? And you think that if Sanders ever gets elected, he should choose Warren, a Senator from a state with a Republican governor who would appoint a Republican to replace her, even if only until a special election could be had (See: Brown, Scott)?

      You remember how that worked out the last time? Ended up with a Republican Senator for Massachusetts for an extended time. That and that she is yet another old white person, and would provide no nod to youth and diversity? Good plan, thanks for your input.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile, conservative Democratic adviser and former Pinocchio stunt double, James Carville, is still wearing last night’s outfit. I hope the usually unprepared Mornin’ Joe has an abundant supply of air freshener.

    Mr. Carville, decades into his game, seems unprepared to advise about any candidate who moves on her own without the establishment pulling her strings.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile, lol over Joe Biden’s claim that he would “negotiate” with China by “insisting he would insist, insist…insist,” that America needs to be there and China must let us in. His being met by a billion friendly smiles – behind a billion raised middle fingers – would be a sight to behold.

    • bmaz says:

      It not only came off as silly, but what exactly are “we” going to do over there, even if they would welcome us, which they will not? The outbreak areas are beyond huge. Americans on the ground there could do nothing more than look around and go “Oh shit, this is really bad!” And leave.

      We have samples of the virus, need a bigger Manhattan Program style effort to accelerate vaccines and also retrovirals for those already affected. Going to China accomplishes nothing. But that is the best Uncle Joe could come up with.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The Chinese would rightly tell the US to put its own glass house in order before throwing stones at theirs.

        The US might need more than a few hundred COVID-19 test kits. That number would be inadequate for the bus station in Cleveland. It might need the resilience of domestic vaccine R&D and production facilities, rather than remain dependent on foreign ones and the vulnerable supply and distribution chains that link them.

        To make any response effective, it might need to augment with public resources its rapacious healthcare insurance industry.

        The US might need a fully staffed and funded governmental infrastructure – people, research facilities, public outreach resources, monitoring and response protocols, dedicated transport, land and buildings – to detect, analyze, plan for, reduce the likelihood of, and respond to national, regional, and global epidemics.

        One of the effects of the climate crisis is that they are more likely to occur and to spread more rapidly. Blank stares, thumbs up gestures, and shit happens exclamations – like luck and imaginary weather forecasts – are not adequate substitutes.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile, those of you with Gee Male accounts might check your tabs – especially if you rely on the free version.

    The dominant e-mail service routinely filters inbound mail and drops it into various tabs: primary in-box, promotions, spam. Once upon a time, that was convenient, because you and your mail provider probably agreed on what was spam: endless requests for you to buy blue pills or to send your bank details to Nigeria.

    Today, however, the filtering is more manipulative. A recent study produced a chart of what political emails – signed up for by the account holder – landed in the primary in-box and which were sidetracked. Pete Buttigieg’s mailings arrived 63% of the time, Michael Bloomberg’s 17%, Bernie Sanders’s 2%. None of Warren, Biden, or Steyer’s mailings made it to the in-box, it was all sidetracked.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/26/gmail-hiding-bernie-sanders-emails-google-inbox-sorting-consequences-2020

    The study was done by the Markup, a New York non-profit founded by former journalists at ProPublica. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Markup

    • P J Evans says:

      I get e-mails from Warren. I also check the spam box. (The ones that stopped coming through were from businesses, and they didn’t go to spam, either.)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The study and chart indicated messages were redirected – in the samples they studied – to more than one non-primary in-box tab. “Promotions” was the most frequent, followed by “spam.”

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The horizon Trump can see is about as far away as the end of his tie. He sees Coronavirus, for example, solely through the prism of his re-election. A falling stock market and declining acclaim put that in peril. Science, public health, individual, family, and societal well-being? He has no clue and cares less. That makes him a monster. We have to live with it for another eleven months. If there are any adults left inside the Beltway, they have a job to do that they’ve been shirking for three years.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If your question is directed at me, it’s probably not hard to figure out. But like the owner and contributors to this blog, I’ll admit my preference after the Democratic Convention.

      I try to limit my comments to journalistic bias, especially the hidden kinds that come from editorial choices for headlines, what to cover or not cover, selection of interview guests whose positions are obvious and whose conflicts are often unacknowledged. Then there are the obvious bad choices, like continuing to give Rick Santorum or Chris Matthews any air time at all.

  18. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Earl, my was not directed at you but thank you for the reply.
    I visit the site to learn. I have and continue to learn a lot.
    So thank you all for your work and dedication.
    IANL, but I have worked on campaigns in every election , primary and general alike, since Mondale. I”ll keep my opinions to myself hereafter.
    ” You have not bowed someone just because you have silenced them.”

Comments are closed.