In the Wake of Trump’s Third Electoral Failure, NYTimes Boasts of Hiring a Third Trump-Whisperer

His sanction-worthy misrepresentations of the Igor Danchenko indictment notwithstanding, Jonathan Swan is a good reporter. Indeed, his move to the NYT, which frees him to write like a human being rather than a McKinsey consultant (AKA Axios style), will likely be a significant improvement on his coverage of DC politics.

But it is downright insane that, at a time the GOP and Fox News are at least making noise about ditching Trump, the NYT pitched this hire — and their own political reporting — in terms of Trump.

Our insightful, authoritative and addictive coverage of the election this year drove home an essential truth: The Times’s political team is simply the best in the business.

Take our coverage of Republicans and Donald J. Trump.

We have Maggie Haberman, the dominant reporter of the Trump era, whose prolific, revealing and exclusive coverage has become indispensable to millions of readers. We have Michael Bender, whom Maggie admired as her “fierce competitor” from his days at The Wall Street Journal, and who has delivered exclusives on everything from the former president’s plans to buy Greenland to examinations of how Trumpism remade the Republican party.

And today we are thrilled to tell you that Jonathan Swan, a gifted, dogged and high-impact reporter, will be joining The Times. Jonathan, a national political reporter at Axios, is one of the biggest news breakers and best-sourced reporters in Washington.

Even if you have never met Jonathan, you know his stories. He first reported that Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate deal, that Steve Bannon would be fired and that Paul Ryan would retire from Congress.

Or perhaps you watched his riveting interview with then-President Trump in 2020, which won Jonathan an Emmy (and made his facial expressions famous.) Ben Smith, the former media columnist for The Times, wrote at the time that it was “perhaps the best interview of Mr. Trump’s term.’’

Jonathan’s nine-part written series on the final days of the Trump administration won broad acclaim, and the podcast on which it was based rose to No. 1 on the Apple charts. [my emphasis]

Again, I think the Swan hire is a net good for reporting — but aside from the degree to which Swan is an improvement over Jonathan Martin, who just moved to become Politico’s Politics Bureau Chief — that has nothing to do with the NYT.

Particularly accompanied as it is by Maggie’s multiple efforts to suggest Trump is still The One, the pitch of Swan as a Trump-whisperer — rather than simply as a very good reporter of right wing politics — this announcement commits to keeping Trump (as a politician, rather than, for example, a criminal suspect, something none of these three are very good at reporting) the center of attention.

And it comes in a piece that boasts of election reporting it calls, “insightful, authoritative and addictive,” but which had some rather spectacular failures — particularly with the Fettrman debate and a correct Kansas poll they downplay. While in August NYT acknowledged that a Red Wave might not come, their review of why it didn’t still seems to misunderstand what it means to vote to save democracy. If you wanted to understand the election, the NYT was generally unhelpful, and that’s before you consider its focus on horse race coverage rather than policy.

They think they did good a job, or at least are telling themselves they did!

Why would you boast that your political reporting is “addictive,” anyway? unless you’re proud of the way Trump used Maggie’s work to flood the zone with press clippings that had the effect of obscuring larger crimes.

The NYT’s pitch of a good reporter in terms of Trump comes as other outlets have made hires based on their shitty news judgment that there would be a Republican wave the outlet would want access into. Most famously, as early as March, CBS hired Mick Mulvaney in anticipation of a non-existent Red Wave still 8 months in the future.

[A] top network executive seemed to lay the groundwork for the decision in a staff meeting earlier this month, when he said the network needed to hire more Republicans to prepare for a “likely” Democratic midterm wipeout.

“If you look at some of the people that we’ve been hiring on a contributor basis, being able to make sure that we are getting access to both sides of the aisle is a priority because we know the Republicans are going to take over, most likely, in the midterms,” CBS News’s co-president Neeraj Khemlani told the staff of the network’s morning show, according to a recording of his comments obtained by The Washington Post. “A lot of the people that we’re bringing in are helping us in terms of access to that side of the equation.”

The thing is, these shitty expectations for a Republican landslide may distort coverage going forward, because multiple news outlets paid big money to invest in access to people who lost, most of all into a guy who lost fairly spectacularly three times now.

As they did in 2020, voters gave democracy another lifeline. They voted, affirmatively, for democracy. But it’s not clear the press view protecting democracy, as opposed to protecting access, with anywhere near the same urgency.

Update: Just as I published this piece, I saw this NYT column, which not only continues to make everything about Donald Trump, fails to account for how narrow margins in both houses change this calculus (particularly with regards to its facile claim that, “party leaders are asked to declare their allegiances to Mr. Trump or other potential rivals”), and has this incredible paragraph:

 First there was Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, and then the attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry, the “Access Hollywood” revelations late in the 2016 campaign, his public declaration that he trusted Vladimir Putin more than he did American intelligence agencies.More recently, Mr. Trump has waged a two-year misinformation campaign, claiming his 2020 defeat was “rigged.” His supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to disrupted the peaceful transfer of power. He now faces investigations into efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia, into his company’s finances and into his handling of classified documents.

It gets the chronology of the first sentence wrong. It calls Trump’s lies about 2020 “misinformation,” not “disinformation.” It claims he tried to “disrupted” the peaceful transfer of power and not prevent it. It suggests any investigation into an attempt to overturn the election is limited to Georgia. The description of the stolen document investigation as one into “handling” of classified documents misstates the crime, but it par for the course in legacy media coverage of that investigation. (And it has a typeset — with the missing space after the period — and a tense error that suggests it was not edited, even ignoring the lack of Oxford comma.)

Trump no doubt wants to keep himself as the center of attention. He no doubt will demand loyalty oaths from people willing to bet he’ll succeed. But if he does succeed — with whatever catastrophic effect on the country — it will be significantly because of editorial decisions the NYT made.

Yes, DOJ Is Reportedly Investigating the 2018 Election that Trump Just Invoked with Ron DeSantis

In the wake of Tuesday’s shellacking of Democrats in Florida and the losses of winnable seats by Trump endorsees, Republicans are explicitly discussing Ron DeSantis as if he is the head of the party, in lieu of Trump. That set off a temper tantrum on the second shittiest social media site run by a narcissistic billionaire [sic] in which Trump:

  • Accused Fox of fighting him and likened the focus on DeSantis to the 2016 election
  • Claimed his endorsement of DeSantis in 2018 was a “nuclear weapon” that took out Adam Putnam
  • Took credit for DeSantis’s victory over Andrew Gillum
  • Claimed he “sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win”

This last bullet, which seems to claim that Trump deployed DOJ resources to help DeSantis win, has attracted a great of attention.

It would be utterly corrupt to imagine that Trump used DOJ resources to help in an election — though there is evidence he did in 2020: when Bill Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution released altered Peter Strzok notes that Trump used in an attack on Joe Biden. He of course tried to do far more, going so far as attempting to replace Jay Rosen with Jeffrey Clark to give DOJ sanction to frivolous lawsuits.

Plus, people are far too quickly suggesting this claim is made up entirely, and that there’s no evidence of misconduct in 2018. That’s true not just because Trump’s lies generally have some basis, albeit really tenuous, in reality.

Just ten days ago, after all, the NYT reported that prosecutors on at least two investigative teams (which might actually be prosecutors bringing together networked conspiracies as seemed likely for 14 months), implicitly boosted by cooperation from Joel Greenberg, are investigating the 2018 Stop the Steal effort in Broward County.

The NYT article focused on efforts by Trump’s rat-fucker and friends to shut down challenges to the vote count: a Jacob Engels/Proud Boy mob in Broward County.

President Donald J. Trump and other top Republicans were stoking claims that the election had been stolen, and their supporters were protesting in the streets. Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys and people close to Roger J. Stone Jr., including Representative Matt Gaetz, took part in the action as the crowd was chanting “Stop the Steal.”

The time was 2018, the setting was southern Florida, and the election in question was for governor and a hotly contested race that would help determine who controlled the United States Senate.

Now, four years later, the Justice Department is examining whether the tactics used then served as a model for the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

[snip]

The 2018 protests were triggered by the tight outcome of the races for United States Senate and Florida governor. On election night, the Republican Senate candidate, Rick Scott, declared victory over the Democrat, Bill Nelson, but the race was close enough that local officials were set to hold recounts in key locations like Broward County.

Prominent Republicans, including Mr. Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, suggested on social media that the Democrats were trying to steal the election. Mr. Engels promoted an event in Broward County, writing on Twitter that he was headed there “to handle this situation” and was going to “STOP THE STEAL.”

On Nov. 9, a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

Undoubtedly, the Proud Boys are not the FBI (though the FBI in this phase was far too credulous of the Proud Boys). But given the NYT report, it is nevertheless the case that Trump-related Broward County rat-fuckery in 2018 not only happened but is already under investigation.

It may even be the case that DOJ collected information about such things in near real time. DOJ obtained renewed warrants on three Roger Stone accounts on August 3, 2018. It continued to investigate Stone and associates at least through October 2018. And an investigation into the rat-fucker remained ongoing through his November 2019 trial and into at least April 2020.

Again, that doesn’t mean that Trump’s specific claim — that DOJ was involved in all this — is specifically true. It means that before you dismiss it out of hand, you should ask what bread crumbs of reality this probable lie is based on.

When Trump started threatening DeSantis, I immediately thought of Roger Stone, because collecting dirt with which to exert political pressure is what Trump’s rat-fucker does and because Stone was always active in these same circles. And the Broward County Stop the Steal effort may be the least of it.

Oprah Beats Trump!

Among the factors that helped John Fetterman to pull off a win over Mehmet Oz was a late endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. The endorsement mattered not just because of who she is, but because Oz came to national attention on her show. Which means that in the highest profile Senate race of the night, Oprah’s endorsement proved more valuable than Trump’s.

That was, remarkably, even true of Liz Cheney. Both Democrats she endorsed — Abigail Spanberger and Elissa Slotkin — are projected to win reelection in swing districts. Cheney endorsed far fewer people than Trump, but both endorsees won.

Trump’s record was more mixed — but only JD Vance has yet won a high profile race, beating Tim Ryan in Ohio. Reportedly, Vance did not mention Trump in his victory speech. Ouch.

We won’t know who will win the Senate until at least the results of the Nevada race. The state changed its mail deadline this year, so it’s unclear how many votes will come in from Clark County; on update, Catherine Cortez Masto is behind Adam Laxalt but may make that up in mail-in votes. If CCM does not win, it’ll come down to a December run-off in Georgia.

And as of now, a number of outlets won’t call the House until more races come in. As of 12PM IST, the GOP has 199 seats to Dems’ 178. It’s even still possible Dems will retain control. Even Lauren Boebert’s seat is still too close to call, but it looks increasingly likely Adam Frisch will unseat her.

Except for perhaps Pennsylvania, Democrats had their best results in Michigan. Along with Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson all winning reelection, it appears Dems have flipped both houses of the legislature. And in addition to Slotkin, Hillary Scholten, a former DOJ immigration lawyer, beat John Gibbs in my own district, MI-3. Dems were helped mightily by the abortion referendum on the ballot, which handily won. This result was also made possible by a neutral redistricting measure passed in 2018. What has happened in MI in recent years may be a model for democratic renewal. And it certainly positions “Big Gretch” well going into 2024.

Florida and New York have been (thus far) the bright spots for Republicans, with Ron DeSantis and Mario Rubio winning by comfortable margins and Republicans flipping Dem seats in a New York after Dems totally botched redistricting.

There were other key Trump candidates who also lost, including (if AZ results hold), all the election-denying Secretary of State candidates in swing states.

So where does that leave us? A 50-50 Senate and House. If Dems win one or both, their superior discipline and the advantage of the Presidency will make it possible to get things done. If Republicans win the House, I expect endless chaos. No Republican — and certainly not Kevin McCarthy — has the leadership to manage a virtually tied House. (Mitch McConnell could undoubtedly make the most of a 51-49 Senate, however.

The more important factor is within the Republican Party. Republicans may finally have to face what an electoral disaster Trump is for them. He has never won a majority, and under his leadership, the Republicans have lost the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and a mid-term election in which they should have flooded Dems. The GOP lost this time by running a bunch of MAGAt candidates who were far easier for Democrats to defeat And DeSantis’ strong win will set up a natural conflict between the two men in Florida.

The tension between those two — as well as the tension between Trump and McCarthy or McConnell (Trump has, perhaps cynically, endorsed both continuing on as leaders) — may shift the internecine war from one that pits Trumpist Republicans against the country to one that pits Trumpist Republicans against those who would like to move on. It is possible that by setting up a war (or wars) within the GOP, this result will have the effect of suffocating the MAGAt flame.

It’s never a good idea to rule Trump out. But this election gives the Republicans an opportunity to rip the bandaid of Trumpism off. DeSantis is no better as a person (he’s the competent authoritarian everyone has warned about, but he is nowhere nearly as charismatic as Trump). But tensions between the two of them may serve to give Democrats time to maneuver.

This post was updated at 12:00 IT/7AM ET.

Mid-Term Election 2022: Control of Congress and Reproductive Rights [UPDATE-7]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Polls closed across most of Eastern Time Zone about an hour ago and will close soon in Central.

IF YOU WERE IN LINE BEFORE END OF YOUR LOCAL POLLING (7:00 OR 8:00 P.M. DEPENDING ON LOCALE), STAY IN LINE AND VOTE.

This post will be updated sporadically through the evening and into tomorrow with news about election outcomes across the U.S.

Please also stay on topic in this thread, mid-term election-related discussion only.

Please also share how turnout was in your area if you voted today. Thanks!

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 9:10 PM ET —

Daniel Nichanian (a.k.a. @[email protected], @[email protected]) has pulled together a tremendous cheat sheet to all the elections and issues on ballots today.


Thanks, Daniel! Note that he and the journal he manages, Bolts, have a presence on Mastodon on the journa.host server.

Here’s how things were going in Ann Arbor MI at 6:40 p.m. this evening:

Hope this is a really good sign for the top of the ticket — those women in Michigan — and Proposal 3 to enshrine reproductive rights in Michigan’s state constitution.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 9:30 PM ET —

Washington Post is doing this right though the news is grim:

It’s disgusting to know that candidates who don’t believe in democracy were elected to office today by way of the democracy they’re undermining.

TEXAS: Ken Paxton, who’s on the ballot, is trying to screw with the vote in progress.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 10:30 PM ET —

TEXAS: And the corrupt dirtbag pulled it off, managed to cut off voting.

As you can see, Marc Elias is watching this closely. Harris County, home to the city of Houston, is the most populous county in Texas; it’s also less than 28% non-Hispanic white. Can’t have those people voting, can we, Paxton?

GEORGIA: A nauseating dead heat in the Senate race.

GOOD NEWS

MARYLAND: Democrat Wes Moore is the state’s first Black governor-elect. Marijuana was also legalized. And GenZ takes its first seat in a state legislature this election:

VERMONT: Pete Welch is the projected winner of U.S. Senate seat as successor to Senator Leahy. Democrat Becca Balint wins VT-01 House seat, and the state is the first to approve reproductive rights as part of its state constitution.

* Should have noted earlier that Balint’s win is for the ONLY House seat representing Vermont; VT-01 is an at-large district.

BAD NEWS

VERMONT: Republican Phil Scott won re-election as governor.

FLORIDA: DeathSantis has won re-election in spite of trying to kill off his base. Marco Rubio appears to have held onto his seat.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-4 — 11:30 PM ET —

GOOD NEWS

FLORIDA: Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost is the first GenZ candidate to win a House seat this election, taking FL-10 which includes Orlando. He was a March for Our Lives organizer.

ILLINOIS: J.D. Pritzker (D) won re-election as governor.

PENNSYLVANIA: Josh Shapiro (D) appears to have won the governor’s race. Thank goodness. (Fetterman looks good but still not a closed deal.)

OHIO: Democrats Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Shontel Brown (OH-11) and Joyce Beatty (OH-03) win reelection. Emilia Sykes (D) won the redistricted OH-13; the old OH-13 had been Tim Ryan’s district.

BAD NEWS

OHIO: J.D. Vance to the Senate and Mike DeWine returns as governor. Republicans Brad Wenstrup wins re-election to OH-02, Bob Latta returns in OH-05, and that asshat Jim Jordan wins re-election to OH-04.

Goddamn it, Ohioans, really? Just stay the hell on your side of the border.

This is just ridiculous:

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-5 — 12:15 AM ET 09-NOV-2022 —
This was good:


The ballot count is still going Fetterman’s direction.

GOOD NEWS

CALIFORNIA: Alex Padilla (D) appears to have won the U.S. Senate race.

MAINE: Janet Mills (D) has been re-elected as governor.

MICHIGAN: Gretchen “that woman in Michigan” Whitmer has won re-election as governor. Go Big Gretch! The triumvirate of estrogen, including Jocelyn Benson (D) as secretary of state and Dana Nessel (D) as state attorney general appear to have won re-election with huge margins. HUGE. Congrats to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D) as well.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Maggie Hassan (D) returns to the Senate.

NEW YORK: Kathy Horchul (D) is elected as governor.

OHIO: Greg Landsman (D) appears to have flipped OH-01.

RHODE ISLAND: Seth Magaziner (D) retains RI-02 for Democrats after Jim Langevin’s retirement.

VIRGINIA: Abigail Spansberger (D) keeps her VA-07 House seat.

BAD NEWS

GEORGIA: Not unexpected but that Trumpy wretch Marjorie Taylor Green won re-election in GA-14. That district is effed up.

MISSOURI: Eric Schmitt, one of RAGA’s members, won the U.S. Senate race. Just revolting.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Ted Budd (R) narrowly wins the U.S. Senate seat.

Which means the Senate remains far too pasty and not representative of our nation:

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-6 — 1:45 AM ET 09-NOV-2022 —

Huh. Is this what a red wave looks like?

GOOD NEWS

MICHIGAN: Proposal 2 which established a right to vote, and Proposal 3 which established reproductive rights, passed and will become part of the state’s constitution.

MASSACHUSETTS: Big night with governor’s office flipped by MA Attorney General Maura Healey (D), first openly gay governor. Andrea Campbell (D) won the AG’s race, now the first Black AG in that state. See community member pdaly’s comments in thread below about Massachusetts.

MINNESOTA: Tim Walz (D) won re-election. Dean Phillips retained his MN-03 House seat as did Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Angie Craig (MN-02).

MISSOURI: Amendment 3 which would legalize marijuana possession and use by adults age 21 and older appears to have passed.

NEW JERSEY: Andy Kim (D) will be back as representative for House district NJ-03.

NEW MEXICO: Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham won re-election to the governor’s office.

TENNESSEE: Amendment 3 passed, abolishing slavery. Holy mother of gods I had NO idea this was an issue.

WISCONSIN: Tony Evers (D) re-elected as governor. Take a bow, Ben Wikler, for organizing Wisconsin Dems. Democrat Mandela Barnes’ race for Ron Johnson’s Senate seat is neck-and-neck, doubt this will be settled by dawn.

BAD NEWS

ALABAMA: Wes Allen (R), election denier, won the Secretary of State race.

ARKANSAS: Issue 4 which would have legalized marijuana failed. Snoop Dogg must be heartbroken. Equally heartbreaking: Sarah Huckabee won the governor’s race.

INDIANA: Election denier Diego Morales (R) won the Secretary of State race. This one is particularly bad because he’s worked in SOS at lower level receiving poor performance reviews.

IOWA: Dear gods, you fools re-elected Chuck Grassley who’ll be 95 if he should finish his term as Senator. Election denier Kim Reynolds (R) won the governor’s race. I can’t with you.

NORTH DAKOTA: Voters rejected marijuana legalization.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Election denier Monae Johnson (R) won the Secretary of State race; voters also rejected marijuana legalization (though it had passed in 2020).

VIRGINIA: Elaine Luria (D) who has been a House January 6 Committee member, lost her re-election bid for VA-02 to Jennifer Kiggans (R).

WYOMING: Election denier Chuck Gray (R) won the Secretary of State race, but ran unopposed. He’s said he’s going to purge the SOS department of those who don’t agree with him.

~ ~ ~

There have been some big firsts tonight:

I hope I wake up to more like this.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-7 — 2:15 AM ET 09-NOV-2022 —

Okay, I lied, I’m still awake and wound up because SENATOR FETTERMAN!!!

And there’s strong possibility my state Michigan may go completely blue.

But seriously, I do need some sleep. See you in the morning!

Vote NO on ‘Flaw and Disorder’ Republican Attorneys General

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. / ~Rayne]

Critical to the massing of insurrectionist rioters on January 6 is a group of elected Republicans, several of which are running for re-election.

Unfortunately, the media has forgotten their role and lost sight of them even though they’ve had a good news peg to use for investigation and reporting.

That group is the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which funded and produced a robocall to encourage insurrectionists to attend and participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

State Attorney General

State

Status

Steve Marshall Alabama

Incumbent

Treg Taylor Alaska

Appointed, term ends 2022

Mark Brnovich Arizona

Lost primary

Leslie Rutledge Arkansas

Running for AR Lt. Gov.

Ashley Moody Florida

Incumbent

Chris Carr Georgia

Incumbent

Lawrence Wasden Idaho

Lost primary

Derek Schmidt Kansas

Running for KS Gov.

Todd Rokita Indiana

Term ends 2025

Daniel Cameron Kentucky

Term ends 2024

Jeff Landry Louisiana

Term ends 2024

Lynn Fitch Mississippi

Term ends 2024

Eric Schmitt

Immediate Past Chairman

Missouri

Term ends 2025 | Running for U.S. Senate

Austin Knudsen

Policy Chairman

Montana

Term ends 2025

Doug Peterson Nebraska*

Not running

John Formella New Hampshire

Term ends 2025

Drew Wrigley North Dakota

Incumbent

Dave Yost Ohio

Incumbent

John O’Connor Oklahoma

Not running

Alan Wilson

Chairman

South Carolina

Incumbent

Mark Vargo South Dakota

Not running

Jonathan Skrmetti Tennessee

Term ends 2030

Ken Paxton Texas

Incumbent

Sean Reyes Utah

Term ends 2025

Jason Miyares Virginia

Term ends 2026

Bridget Hill Wyoming

Not running

Patrick Morrisey West Virginia

Term ends 2025

Not on this list of current RAGA members is Chris Carr, an incumbent running for re-election in Georgia.

Carr resigned from RAGA five days after the attack on the Capitol.

Note that some of these RAGA members are seeking higher office.

Some of them were much more active in the January 6 conspiracy, like Ken Paxton who sued the states of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania over the 2020 election results and spoke at the January 6 rally in Washington DC before the assault on the Capitol.

Paxton also has avoided accountability to his state for securities fraud charges; he was indicted in 2015 and has yet to stand trial. He’s pulled hijinks to avoid being served a subpoena related to a lawsuit by an abortion rights fund. He’s avoiding his responsibilities to the state of Texas.

Paxton has also refused to condemn the insurrectionists or the attack on the Capitol.

None of these RAGA incumbents should be re-elected because they supported the conspiracy to obstruct government proceedings on January 6, 2021. None of them made a public mea culpa about their role as financial supporters.

The RAGA members seeking higher office should be denied their quest; they have refused to support democracy though they swore oaths to do so.

Every RAGA member needs to answer for their contribution to January 6. The media needs to do a better job to this end. None of these folks should feel comfortable attempting to run for top law enforcement official in their state which is an indication media hasn’t done an effective job uncovering RAGA’s culpability on January 6.

Furthermore, corporations which donated to RAGA, suspended their donations, and then donated again to RAGA should be scrutinized.

______

(* There is no Democratic Party candidate running for this open seat. This is unacceptable.)

The Intercept Helps Protect Rudy Giuliani’s Lies about Ruby Freeman

I had ambitious plans to do four things today: write this post on what I’m calling the Roger Stone convergence, wash my walls in advance of priming them for paint, writing about how we’d all be better off remembering that Elmo (Elon Musk — like most nicknames I adopt, I wasn’t smart enough to make that one up) just entered a forced marriage, and explaining why this Intercept article is a piece of shit.

Lo and behold, as I was sitting around procrastinating and rationalizing that I shouldn’t climb a ladder while Mr. emptywheel was on his tenth ever visit to the office where he has worked at for 18 months, I saw that Mike Masnick wrote the article about the Intercept piece I was contemplating writing, down to multiple observations that the journalists kept including things that have fuck all with what they claim they’re writing about.

In other words, this entire system has literally fuck all to do with the rest of the article, but the Intercept makes it out to be a system for suppressing information.

[snip]

The article continues to pinball around, basically pulling random examples of questionable government behavior, but never tying it to anything related to the actual subject. I mean, yes, the FBI does bad stuff in spying on people. We know that. But that’s got fuck all to do with CISA, and yet the article spends paragraphs on it.

There are just two things I wanted to add to Masnick’s post (really, go read his), first to add some points about the Intercept’s “Hunter Biden” “laptop” claims, and also to talk about why this matters so much.

Masnick writes at length about how fucking stupid the Intercept’s take on the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” is. I want to add a few key points, interspersed with Masnick’s.

And then, I can’t even believe we need to go here, but it brings up the whole stupid nonsense about Twitter and the Hunter Biden laptop story. As we’ve explained at great length, Twitter blocked links to one article (not others) by the NY Post because they feared that the article included documents that violated its hacked materials policy, a policy that had been in place since 2019 and had been used before (equally questionably, but it gets no attention) on things like leaked documents of police chatter. We had called out that policy at the time, noting how it could potentially limit reporting, and right after there was the outcry about the NY Post story, Twitter changed the policy.

Yet this story remains the bogeyman for nonsense grifters who claim it’s proof that Twitter acted to swing the election. Leaving aside that (1) there’s nothing in that article that would swing the election, since Hunter Biden wasn’t running for president, and (2) the story got a ton of coverage elsewhere, and Twitter’s dumb policy enforcement actually ended up giving it more attention, this story is one about the trickiness in crafting reasonable trust & safety policies, not of any sort of nefariousness.

Yet the Intercept takes up the false narrative and somehow makes it even dumber:

In retrospect, the New York Post reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the 2020 election provides an elucidating case study of how this works in an increasingly partisan environment.

Much of the public ignored the reporting or assumed it was false, as over 50 former intelligence officials charged that the laptop story was a creation of a “Russian disinformation” campaign.

Interjection: These men likely have spent too much time with Glenn Greenwald, who lies about what the former spooks did as regularly as some people attend church. They didn’t “charge” that the story was a creation of Russian disinformation. They said it had the hallmarks of such a campaign, but emphasized that they didn’t know.

It is for all these reasons that we write to say that the arrival on the US political scene of emails purportedly belonging to Vice President Biden’s son Hunter, much of it related to his time serving on the Board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.

We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement — just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.

Then they provided around six reasons why they believed it might be true. All six were and remain true (and there has been reinforcement of several since then). Glenn likes to claim these spooks lied, which is nearly impossible, since they simply expressed a belief. Importantly, their belief was and remains eminently reasonable.

Now back to Masnick:

The mainstream media was primed by allegations of election interference in 2016 — and, to be sure, Trump did attempt to use the laptop to disrupt the Biden campaign. Twitter ended up banning links to the New York Post’s report on the contents of the laptop during the crucial weeks leading up to the election. Facebook also throttled users’ ability to view the story.

In recent months, a clearer picture of the government’s influence has emerged.

In an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast in August, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook had limited sharing of the New York Post’s reporting after a conversation with the FBI. “The background here is that the FBI came to us — some folks on our team — and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election,’” Zuckerberg told Rogan. The FBI told them, Zuckerberg said, that “‘We have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump.’” When the Post’s story came out in October 2020, Facebook thought it “fit that pattern” the FBI had told them to look out for.

Zuckerberg said he regretted the decision, as did Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter at the time. Despite claims that the laptop’s contents were forged, the Washington Post confirmed that at least some of the emails on the laptop were authentic. The New York Times authenticated emails from the laptop — many of which were cited in the original New York Post reporting from October 2020 — that prosecutors have examined as part of the Justice Department’s probe into whether the president’s son violated the law on a range of issues, including money laundering, tax-related offenses, and foreign lobbying registration.

Interjection: The Intercept’s representation of what the WaPo and NYT wrote is horseshit (again, it leads me to suspect these gents have spent too much time listening to Glenn’s rants).

First, as I wrote about the NYT “authenticat[ion]” at the time, the description of the emails was of particular interest because it cited someone who had familiarity with the investigation.

People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined emails between Mr. Biden, Mr. Archer and others about Burisma and other foreign business activity. Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.

That person could have been an FBI agent leaking about the investigation (as likely has happened more recently, when someone revealed they believe there is sufficient evidence to charge on crimes unrelated to the “laptop,” probably an effort to pressure US Attorney David Weiss to charge Hunter Biden). Or it could be someone like Mac Issac or Robert Costello, both of whom were in the chain of custody of the “laptop,” the testimony from whom might be of interest to the Hunter Biden investigation and/or might be of interest in the investigation into Rudy Giuliani’s negotiations with known Russian agents for Hunter Biden dirt that almost exactly resembles what the laptop is. The story actually doesn’t say the FBI first obtained the emails from the laptop. Indeed, the story reports that the foreign influence aspect of the investigation started in 2018, before the FBI got the laptop, in which case the FBI may have obtained the emails from Apple, which is where at least some of the content on the laptop came from. Almost certainly the FBI would have obtained the iCloud content independently anyway, to ensure the integrity of their chain of evidence. But all the NYT said is that someone — perhaps someone who has been questioned in the investigation — is leaking details to the press. All the NYT has done is get the emails from someone involved in the attack on Hunter Biden and — possibly with their help — authenticate the same headers anyone else has.

That doesn’t say “the laptop” is authentic; it says the investigation into Hunter Biden has been grossly politicized.

Now, before we review what the WaPo said, remember that reporters are citing this article to support a claim that the “laptop” was not disinformation. The goal here is to suggest authenticity. For those purposes, here’s what that WaPo story says:

Among the reasons for the inconclusive findings was sloppy handling of the data, which damaged some records. The experts found the data had been repeatedly accessed and copied by people other than Hunter Biden over nearly three years. The MacBook itself is now in the hands of the FBI, which is investigating whether Hunter Biden properly reported income from business dealings.

Most of the data obtained by The Post lacks cryptographic features that would help experts make a reliable determination of authenticity, especially in a case where the original computer and its hard drive are not available for forensic examination. Other factors, such as emails that were only partially downloaded, also stymied the security experts’ efforts to verify content.

[snip]

In their examinations, Green and Williams found evidence that people other than Hunter Biden had accessed the drive and written files to it, both before and after the initial stories in the New York Post and long after the laptop itself had been turned over to the FBI.

Maxey had alerted The Washington Post to this issue in advance, saying that others had accessed the data to examine its contents and make copies of files. But the lack of what experts call a “clean chain of custody” undermined Green’s and Williams’s ability to determine the authenticity of most of the drive’s contents.

“The drive is a mess,” Green said.

He compared the portable drive he received from The Post to a crime scene in which detectives arrive to find Big Mac wrappers carelessly left behind by police officers who were there before them, contaminating the evidence.

That assessment was echoed by Williams.

“From a forensics standpoint, it’s a disaster,” Williams said.

[snip]

Analysis was made significantly more difficult, both experts said, because the data had been handled repeatedly in a manner that deleted logs and other files that forensic experts use to establish a file’s authenticity.

“No evidence of tampering was discovered, but as noted throughout, several key pieces of evidence useful in discovering tampering were not available,” Williams’ reports concluded.

[snip]

Some other emails on the drive that have been the foundation for previous news reports could not be verified because the messages lacked verifiable cryptographic signatures. One such email was widely described as referring to Joe Biden as “the big guy” and suggesting the elder Biden would receive a cut of a business deal.

I’ve also been told that since the laptop was not airgapped, it’s possible Burisma emails were downloaded after Russia reportedly hacked Burisma, meaning those emails could absolutely be fraudulent.

So the Intercept reporters display their highly attuned nose for disinformation by deeming worthy of reporting a “laptop” that does have emails with valid keys downloaded from iCloud (in partial fashion, which should itself raise questions) but also includes a great deal of shit and obvious alteration. The only thing this “laptop” is useful for reporting on is how unreliable “the laptop” as a package is. It is useful for nothing more than serving as the shiny object it was used for in October 2020. Any reporter citing this report as proof that stuff wasn’t forged — or that the whole “laptop” wasn’t packaged up with the help of the same people who were peddling this information to Rudy in the same time period — discredits themselves. The report specifically said such conclusions were impossible and raised a lot of reasons to be more concerned about “the laptop.” The report shows that this “laptop” was a serial hit job and that for a second straight election, people close to Trump once again tried to win an election by using stolen personal data.

Back to Masnick.

The Zuckerberg/Rogan podcast thing has also been taken out of context by the same people. As he notes, the FBI gave a general warning to be on the lookout for false material, which was a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do. And, in response Facebook did not actually block links to the article. It just limited how widely the algorithm would share it until the article had gone through a fact check process. This is a reasonable way to handle information when there are questions about its authenticity.

But neither Twitter nor Facebook suggest that the government told them to suppress the story, because it didn’t. It told them generally to be on the lookout, and both companies did what they do when faced with similar info.

From there, the Intercept turns to a nonsense frivolous lawsuit filed by Missouri’s Attorney General and takes a laughable claim at face value:

Documents filed in federal court as part of a lawsuit by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana add a layer of new detail to Zuckerberg’s anecdote, revealing that officials leading the push to expand the government’s reach into disinformation also played a quiet role in shaping the decisions of social media giants around the New York Post story.

According to records filed in federal court, two previously unnamed FBI agents — Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent in the San Francisco field office, and Dehmlow, the section chief of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force — were involved in high-level communications that allegedly “led to Facebook’s suppression” of the Post’s reporting.

Interjection: This Intercept story was dated October 31, which last I checked is after October 28. Which means if these reporters were actually reporting from the docket, then they should be accountable for this October 28 filing which says that — according to Meta — the plaintiffs in this nonsense lawsuit made up the bit about Agent Chen.

Meta, however, recently sent Plaintiffs’ counsel a letter—attached as Exhibit A—explaining that Plaintiffs’ understanding of Meta’s statement concerning ASAC Chan is “incorrect.” Meta further stated that that “Mr. Chan at no point in time advised Meta ‘to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story’ . . . [n]or did any of his colleagues.” Based on this newly received evidence, the Court should amend the Deposition Order, and withdraw its authorization of a deposition of ASAC Chan. ASAC Chan, a management-level FBI official, should not have to divert time away from his official duties to participate in an expedited deposition when the record contains no evidence suggesting that he has engaged in the communications that led the Court to authorize his deposition in the first place.

[snip]

Plaintiffs also relied on several of their own self-serving allegations concerning ASAC Chan—rather than actual evidence—to justify his deposition. See ECF No. 86 at 19-21 (referring to various allegations in Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint). Those allegations generally embellished certain innocuous, public statements ASAC Chan made concerning routine cyber threat discussions he had with various companies, including social media companies. For example, Plaintiffs rely on their allegation that ASAC Chan “admits to regular, routine coordination about censorship with social-media platforms,” see id. at 19 (quoting 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 389), but that allegation relies on an interview in which ASAC Chan simply stated: the FBI regularly “shar[ed] intelligence with technology companies, with social media companies, so that they could protect their own platforms . . . we have all of these methods for collecting intelligence . . . [w]e share them with you and then you do what you want with them to protect your networks,” https://www.banyansecurity.io/resource/get-it-started-get-it-done/ (cited in 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 387-89) (emphasis added). Plaintiffs could not identify a single quotation in that interview where ASAC Chan ever stated that the FBI asked or pressured any social media company to remove any content from its platform. Plaintiffs also relied on an allegation that ASAC Chan had stated that social media platforms have been “trying to take down any misinformation or disinformation” and that they have “portals where [users] can report” election-related misinformation.” ECF No. 86 at 20. Again, Plaintiffs could not quote any portion of ASAC Chan’s statement where he stated that he, or anyone else at the FBI, asked or pressured any social media company to remove any content from its platform.

[snip]

Meta emphasized that “Mr. Chan at no point in time advised Meta ‘to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story’ . . . [n]or did any of his colleagues.”

The letter from Facebook to the plaintiffs also notes there are no communications that support their Facebook claims.

We identified Mr. Chan to you during a phone call on September 15, 2022. On that call, we identified Mr. Chan as Meta’s primary individual point of contact on the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force. And we informed you that we had not identified any emails between Mr. Chan and Meta about Hunter Biden’s laptop. You confirmed in writing after that call that “as referenced in today’s call, we continue to request communications between Meta and FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, especially as it relates to the Hunder [sic] Biden laptop story. Reg represented today that he did not believe there are written communications involving” Mr. Chan.

Which is the perfect setup for Masnick’s conclusion about the Hunter Biden story.

Now here, you can note that Dehmlow was the person mentioned way above who talked about platforms and responsibility, but as we noted, in context, she was talking about better education of the public. The section quoted in Missouri’s litigation is laughable. It’s telling a narrative for fan service to Trumpist voters. We already know that the FBI told Facebook to be on the lookout for fake information. The legal complaint just makes up the idea that Dehmlow tells them what to censor. That’s bullshit without evidence, and there’s nothing to back it up beyond a highly fanciful and politicized narrative.

But from there, the Intercept says this:

The Hunter Biden laptop story was only the most high-profile example of law enforcement agencies pressuring technology firms.

Except… it wasn’t. Literally nothing anywhere in this story shows law enforcement “pressuring technology firms” about the Hunter Biden laptop story.

This story proves the opposite of what it claims.

It proves that the reporters who wrote it read a report that cautioned strongly about relying on the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” because of all the forensic problems with it — which is one reason among many why responsible reporters shouldn’t have reported on it in October 2020 (and most did not, precisely because there was nothing reliable). And it further shows to substantiate their core claim of coercion, the reporters rely on sources that themselves made up claims of coercion.

And here’s why it matters.

As Masnick lays out, the Intercept reporters “pingpong” from topic to topic, with little evident understanding of the topics they’re talking about. Several of the meeting notes they try to spin as wildly spooky deal with how one runs elections in an era of outright disinformation — shit like Presidential candidates repeatedly making false claims about the reliability of the vote count. This one, for example, focused primarily on the difficulties election workers face as they’re trying to tally election results amid a cloud of rumors and deliberately false claims.

The report makes quite clear that what’s at stake is the “peaceful transition of power.”

As Masnick recalled, Chris Krebs debunked a lot of false claims in 2020 and Trump promptly fired him for correctly stating that the elections were free and fair.

This is the kind of thing that the Intercept reporters — reporters who ignored a filing that debunked their key claim about FBI coercion and who didn’t understand that the WaPo said the opposite of what they claimed — appear to want to get rid of. If they achieved what they claim they want, CISA would no longer be able to tell local election supervisors about the false claims armed men trolling dropboxes are making to justify their actions. If they achieved what they claim to want, CISA would not be able to share information nationally about organized disinformation campaigns targeting mail-in votes.

The logical outcome, if these Intercept reporters succeeded in halting what they portray in the story, is that CISA would not be able to protect your vote.

Nor would it be able to protect election workers like Ruby Freeman from false claims that Rudy Giuliani spread, falsely claiming a ginger mint was a thumb drive used to steal votes.

In an opinion denying Rudy’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit from Freeman and Shaye Moss, Beryl Howell cites the harm that the mother and daughter claim arises from Rudy’s false claims.

The accusations levied against plaintiffs had consequences. Plaintiffs claim they have experienced online, personal, and professional consequences directly resulting from Giuliani’s statements and conduct. See id. ¶¶ 140–57. Strangers camped out near Freeman’s home in Georgia, harassing her and her neighbors. Id. ¶ 141. “Christmas cards were mailed to Ms. Freeman’s address with messages like, ‘Ruby please report to the FBI and tell them you committed voter fraud. If not[,] you will be sorry,’ and ‘You deserve to go to jail, you worthless piece of shit whore.’” Id. ¶ 143. Protesters targeted her home on January 5 and January 6, 2021, though Freeman had fled her home at the recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Id. ¶¶ 144–45. Pizza delivery orders were ordered to her home that her family never ordered, which is a common tactic of online harassment called “doxx[ing].” Id. ¶ 142. Local police received more than twenty harassing phone calls while monitoring Freeman’s phone and, eventually, she had to change her email and phone numbers. Id. ¶ 140. Freeman has experienced strangers harassing her in public and has lost friendships, id. ¶¶ 148–49, plus she has had to cease her online business because of prolonged harassment on social media and public events, id. ¶ 147.

She also cites Rudy complaining about how he got banned from social media for making those false claims.

3 Statement 8 was made by Giuliani during an OAN interview on January 18, 2021, as follows:

I mean, they pretty much censored it while it was going on, so they would love to turn the page on it. I mean, I get banned from any of the big tech things when I say that not only was there voter fraud, I have evidence of it, I’ve seen it, I have a motion picture of it. I can show you the voter fraud in living color. It was done in Fulton County, Georgia, it was well over 30,000 ballots were stolen. They were attributed to Biden instead of Trump. Had they been caught and held to account for it, Trump would have won Georgia. Amend. Compl. ¶ 89. A reasonable listener could read this message as referencing the Edited Video and the actions of election workers in Fulton County, which workers include Freeman and Moss.

Finally, she deems sufficiently credible Freeman and Moss’ claims that Rudy made these false claims about the two of them as part of a plan to overturn the democratic election.

7 Giuliani defends the Strategic Plan as a plan to “‘educate the public,’” Def.’s Mem. at 13 (quoting Strategic Plan at 1), rather than to disseminate false information. Regardless of how Giuliani characterizes the goal of the Plan, plaintiffs allege that the Plan’s goal was to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and they allege more than enough evidence in their Amended Complaint to infer that unlawful act was the Plan’s underlying purpose. See, e.g., Amend. Compl. ¶ 9 (noting that the Strategic Plan “relied on the following call to action: ‘YOU CANNOT LET AMERICA ITSELF BE STOLEN BY CRIMINALS – YOU MUST TAKE A STAND AND YOU MUST TAKE IT TODAY’”).

If the Intercept reporters achieved what they claim they want, it would be far harder to combat clear abuse like Rudy’s because it would halt CISA’s efforts to debunk such obvious false claims. It would make it less likely that Rudy would get banned for his false claims about two women who did nothing more than help count the vote. It would be harder to protect your vote, and it would be harder to protect the life and livelihood of election workers.

This article fed the efforts of fascists to delegitimize efforts to protect democracy. Tucker Carlson loved it. For good reason: because he peddles bullshit that poses a risk to your vote and the livelihood of Ruby Freeman.

Not only didn’t it substantiate what it claimed, but it discredited precisely the efforts that will be used next week to protect democracy.

Update: ProPublica reports that, contra Intercept’s claim that disinformation efforts are increasing, DHS under Biden has backed off the kind of support for election workers that was so successful (and important) in 2020.

In May, one Department of Homeland Security office instructed staffers that work on “sensitive” topics including disinformation should be put on “immediate hold,” according to material reviewed by ProPublica. In the months that followed, DHS canceled a series of planned contracts that would have tracked and studied the proliferation of disinformation and its connection with violent attacks. And after issuing six nationwide warnings about domestic terrorism fueled by disinformation in the first 13 months of the Biden administration, DHS has only issued one in the eight months since.

The government’s retreat comes ahead of midterms in which election officials throughout the country are being inundated with false rumors about their work. After talks on a project to help election officials monitor and respond to threats stalled, election officials from Colorado and Florida wrote a private letter in August to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pleading for help.

“Threats and harassment of election officials has become an extremely serious concern and terribly frequent experience for election workers,” they warned, adding, “We are ourselves a crucial part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, in need of and deserving of protection.”

“Time is of the essence,” the officials wrote.

Weeks later, DHS scrapped the project.

[snip]

[E]lection administrators remain deeply concerned.

“States need more support. It is clear that threats to election officials and workers are not dissipating and may only escalate around the 2022 and 2024 elections,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said in an email to ProPublica. “Election offices need immediate meaningful support from federal partners.”

Kevin Drum compared the ProPublica’s worthwhile report with the Intercept one here.

The Intelligence Gaps Where the Saudis Hid Their October Surprise

NYT has a story on Joe Biden’s serial surprise as he discovered the Saudis were reneging on what the President thought was a deal to keep pumping oil.

Here’s the timeline:

May: Amos Hochstein and Brett McGurk believe they make a deal for a two-part increase of production

June 2: OPEC announces the first part of production increases and Biden announces his Saudi trip

June 3: Trump travels from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster for Saudi golf tournament

June 7: Adam Schiff and others send Biden a letter warning about Saudi Arabia

Prior to July 15: Briefings for Intelligence Committees on secret plan

July 15: Biden meets with Mohammed bin Salman

August 3: Saudis announce half of production increase promised (“the first public warning”)

September 5: OPEC announced production cuts

Late September: US officials begin hearing of deep production cuts on October 5

September 24: MbS says there will be no production cuts

September 27: Abdulaziz argues cuts would impede diversification plans

September 28: Saudis inform the US they will announce production cuts

October 26: Jared Kushner speaks at Saudi investment summit

NYT emphasizes the Saudi expression of self interest and hints at influence from Russia.

American officials say they believe that Prince Mohammed was particularly influenced by a high-level Sept. 27 meeting in which Prince Abdulaziz, the energy minister, argued that oil production cuts were needed to keep prices from plummeting to as low as $50 per barrel. The U.S. officials said they learned Prince Abdulaziz asserted that, under such as scenario, the Saudi government would lack the resources to fund economic diversification projects at the heart of Prince Mohammed’s domestic agenda.

Some U.S. officials believe that the Russians influenced the Saudi about-face, pointing to Prince Abdulaziz’s strong working ties with top Russian officials close to Mr. Putin, particularly Alexander Novak, the deputy prime minister who oversees energy policy.

[snip]

On Tuesday, speaking on stage at the annual investment forum in Riyadh, Prince Abdulaziz said that the kingdom would do what was in its best interests.

“I keep listening to, ‘Are you with us or against us?’ Is there any room for, ‘We are for Saudi Arabia and the people of Saudi Arabia’?” he said. “We will have to deliver our ambitions.”

But the story focuses more on how the Americans repeatedly got caught by surprise.

The Americans came away from the summit with the belief that the agreement was on track and that Prince Mohammed was satisfied. But in Riyadh, top Saudi officials were privately telling others that they had no plans for further meaningful oil production increases.

Indeed, the first public warning of this came on Aug. 3, when OPEC Plus announced a paltry bump in production for September of 100,000 barrels a day — half of what U.S. officials believed the Saudis had promised them.

American officials said they did not understand why that decision was made. Then OPEC Plus announced on Sept. 5 it would cut production by 100,000 barrels per day — retracting the increase it had announced a month earlier. After that, U.S. officials were increasingly confused and concerned about the kingdom’s direction.

In late September, American officials began hearing that Saudi Arabia could get OPEC Plus to announce a deep cut to oil production at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 5. [my emphasis]

There’s no comment about Trump’s ongoing meetings with the Saudis as this transpired, not even the one the day after Biden announced his visit, the same day (as it happens) that Trump refused to give back all the classified documents he stole. There’s no comment about MbS’s repeated, publicly stated preference for Trump over Biden.

The story describes Biden’s surprise as the result of wishful thinking. And the US wasn’t totally surprised. They got advance warning of the October cuts with enough time to send Janet Yellen to attempt to reverse the cuts.

But as depicted, the Saudis were saying, from the start, that they intended to renege on the deal with Biden, and the US went on believing the deal would hold for months.

There is no way the US should be taken by that much surprise: not by the Saudis, not by the Israelis, not even by the Brits. If they genuinely were this badly surprised, it would suggest significant intelligence gaps on the part of the US. The US spends billions to avoid such surprises.

One of the last times the IC had a surprise this big came when Vladimir Putin decided, after secret phone calls with Mike Flynn, not to respond to Obama’s 2016 sanctions. (They quickly found an explanation for the surprising turn of events, which intelligence collection Trump’s Director of National Intelligence burned years later.)

Perhaps it’s the paranoia fostered by a man who repeatedly intervenes in US foreign policy to obtain personal benefit, but I can’t help but notice these intelligence failures followed Trump’s meeting with the Saudis in Bedminster.

Jim Trusty Tells Hand-Picked Special Master Raymond Dearie to Fuck Off

At the beginning of a status hearing before Raymond Dearie the other day, Jim Trusty suggested they had until November 12 to submit their designations on privilege for the remaining 21,792 pages of documents. DOJ attorney Julie Edelstein corrected him, and said their deadline was November 2.

Per Aileen Cannon’s order throwing out much of Dearie’s proposed work plan and extending deadlines, that appears to be right. That order set that deadline for 21 days after DOJ issued a notice of completion to indicate Trump had the documents with a spreadsheet to track everything.

No later than twenty-one (21) calendar days after the receipt of Defendant’s Notice of Completion, Plaintiff shall provide the Special Master and Defendant with one comprehensive, annotated copy of the spreadsheet described above that specifies, for each document, whether Plaintiff asserts any of the following:

a. Attorney-client communication privilege;

b. Attorney work product privilege;

c. Executive Privilege;

d. Presidential Record within the meaning of the Presidential Records Act; and

e. Personal record within the meaning of the Presidential Records Act.

Plaintiff’s designations shall be on a document-by-document basis.

On paper, at least, it seems that Edelstein is correct. DOJ submitted their notice of completion on October 12 (two days before Cannon’s deadline). The deadlines that trigger off that should be November 2 (for Trump to submit designations) and November 12 (to submit disputes to Dearie).

It’s worth keeping that deadline dispute in mind as you consider what Jim Trusty did last night.

First, DOJ submitted a letter purporting to summarize the disputes between the two sides about the privilege determinations for fifteen documents that Dearie must issue a ruling on. I’ll come back to those in a follow-up; the important detail is the document shows Trump making ridiculous claims. As a reminder, this page has links to most documents from the stolen document case and my posts.

Hours later, Jim Trusty filed a letter saying that Trump’s team believed both sides were going to file a joint document, and because DOJ hadn’t and because Trump doesn’t agree with some of DOJ’s designations, they’re not going to file their disputed items until October 24, Monday.

As noted in the Defendant’s October 20, 2022 submission (ECF 150) the parties met and conferred regarding Filter A documents on October 19, 2022. Up until receipt of the Defendant’s October 20, 2022 filing, we anticipated that there would be a joint submission and an exchange between the parties preceding that joint submission to confirm both parties’ positions. This is consistent with the process that was undertaken for the October 3, 2022 joint submission with the Filter Team. Instead, the government filed its own log and presented its legal positions on the documents for which there is dispute between the parties.

Unfortunately, the log submitted by the government is not fully accurate as to the Plaintiff’s position on various documents.

In light of these facts, the Plaintiff will file our position on the documents that remain in dispute by the close of business on October 24, 2022.

Since Aileen Cannon decided to override Dearie and start changing deadlines randomly and unilaterally, it has been unclear what the deadlines or workplan will be on this case — the single certain thing is that, in the end, Trump will complain about Dearie’s designations and Cannon will review them de novo. Both Cannon’s original order and her Calvinball order overriding Dearie set initial deadlines for privileged determinations, but have no follow-up deadlines.

But in an October 7 order, Dearie did set deadlines. Trump’s 5-day deadline to complain about any orders has passed, and unless the Cannon Calvinball has gotten really tricksy, I’m not aware of anything overriding that deadline.

And that deadline was yesterday.

Trusty had enough time to review the DOJ filing and disagree and at least note about which items there’s a disagreement. There are only 15 documents here!!

But instead, Trump responded to the public docketing of his absurd claims by spending the time to write up a letter announcing he was taking his toys and going home for the weekend to pout. The best way to understand this action is that Trump simply doesn’t believe Judge Dearie has any authority to require actions of him.

And so Dearie could take the DOJ report and issues rulings, which might result in a report that came out early enough before the election for Cannon to have to overrule them before it. But if that happens, Trump will simply say he wasn’t part of that process.

Update: Dearie has noted that Trump’s response is untimely and given him until end of business today.

Dates

October 7: Dearie issues order on filter team materials, sets October 10 and October 20 deadlines (in bold)

October 10: Deadline to return originals of Category B documents to Trump

October 11: DOJ Reply to Trump Emergency Motion at SCOTUS

October 12: Deadline to complain to Cannon about Dearie’s October 7 order; Notice of Completion submitted

October 13: DOJ provides materials to Trump

By October 14: DOJ provides notice of completion that Trump has received all seized documents

On or before October 14: DOJ revised deadline to 11th Circuit

October 18: Phone Special Master conference

October 20: Deadline for disputes about Executive Privilege and Presidential Records Act on filtered material

October 24: Date Trump unilaterally declares his deadline to comply with Dearie’s order

November 2 (21 days after notice of completion): Trump provides designations for all materials to DOJ

November 8: Election Day

November 10, 2022: Trump revised deadline to 11th Circuit

November 12 (10 days after notice of complete): Both sides provide disputes to Dearie

November 17, 2022: DOJ revised reply to 11th Circuit

December 16: Dearie provides recommendations to Cannon

January 3: New Congress sworn in

No deadline whatsoever: Cannon rules on Dearie’s recommendations

Seven days after Cannon’s no deadline whatsoever ruling: Trump submits Rule 41(g) motion

Fourteen days after Cannon’s no deadline whatsoever ruling: DOJ responds to Rule 41(g) motion

Seventeen days after Cannon’s no deadline whatsoever ruling: Trump reply on Rule 41(g)

The Legal and Political Significance of Nuclear Document[s] Trump Is Suspected to Have Stolen

After Merrick Garland called Trump’s bluff yesterday, multiple outlets reported that DOJ was looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons.

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

[snip]

Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials, experts said. Publicizing details about U.S. weapons could provide an intelligence road map to adversaries seeking to build ways of countering those systems. And other countries might view exposing their nuclear secrets as a threat, experts said.

It’s unclear whether this information is coming from investigators trying to demonstrate what a no-brainer this search was, people who’ve otherwise seen the Attachment listing items to seize, or from Trump’s camp in an effort to pre-empt damage from when this will be released. With few exceptions, most details made public about the search thus far have come from Trump’s side.

But the report that FBI showed probable cause to believe Trump was hoarding a document or documents pertaining to nukes has several significant legal and political implications.

First, it makes it far more likely that Trump has violated, and can be proven to have violated, part of the Espionage Act, 18 USC 793.

In my post describing the likely content of an affidavit justifying a search of the former President, I noted that somewhere in there, the FBI would have had to anticipate and rule out the possibility that Trump simply declassified these documents which, if Trump could prove it, would render the documents simply stolen documents covered by the Presidential Records Act.

  • Some explanation of why DOJ believes that these documents weren’t actually declassified by Trump before he stole them

But the fact that these are nuclear documents, under the Atomic Energy Act, Trump cannot declassify them by himself. They’re “restricted documents,” the one kind of document that’s true of. Here are threads by Kel McClanahan and Cheryl Rofer explaining the distinctions — even Chelsea Manning weighed in! As McClanahan likened it, nuclear documents are protected by two padlocks, and Trump only had the legal key to one of those padlocks.

So by showing probable cause that Trump had stolen at least one document pertaining to nuclear weapons, FBI would accomplish that task: Trump could not claim to have declassified any such documents, because he cannot have declassified them by himself.

Now consider how it impacts Trump’s exposure under the Espionage Act. As I laid out here, to prove someone violated the Espionage Act, you don’t actually prove they were refusing to return classified information; you prove they had what is called “National Defense Information.” Even if Trump claimed to have declassified the documents, if the Agency in question (here, likely DOD or DOE) still believed the information to be classified and still treated as such, it could still qualify as NDI. But ultimately, a jury gets to decide whether something is NDI or not. One key difference between the first and second Joshua Schulte trials, for example, is that DOJ relied not on expert testimony to prove that he leaked or was trying to leak NDI, but rather on the logic of why the government would want to keep information about its assets secret. I thought it was one of the areas where the second prosecution was vastly more effective than the first.

There are few easier concepts to explain to a juror than that you need to keep information about nuclear weapons safe, and that doing so pertains to the national defense.

Then there’s the backstory. Early in the Trump Administration, there were reports that Trump had a scheme (one that involved all Trump’s sketchiest flunkies, including Mike Flynn) to transfer sensitive nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia. The Oversight Committee conducted an investigation, the results of which, with the hindsight of Mohammed bin Salman’s $2 billion investment in a paper-thin Jared Kushner finance scheme and the Foreign Agent charges against Tom Barrack, look all the more suspect.

In 2017, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, orchestrated a visit to Saudi Arabia as the President’s first overseas trip. Mr. Kushner also met on his own with then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who subsequently ousted his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, launched a crackdown against dozens of Saudi royal family members, and reportedly bragged that Mr. Kushner was “in his pocket.”

In October 2018, the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was met with equivocation by President Trump and other top Administration officials. This month, the White House ignored a 120-day deadline for a report on Mr. Khashoggi’s killing requested on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Within the United States, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia—a potential risk to U.S. national security absent adequate safeguards. These commercial entities stand to reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia—and apparently have been in close and repeated contact with President Trump and his Administration to the present day.

However, experts worry that transferring sensitive U.S. nuclear technology could allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conceded this point in 2018, proclaiming: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

When Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act, it imposed stringent controls on the export of U.S. technology to a foreign country that could be used to create nuclear weapons. Under Section 123 of the Act, the U.S. may not transfer nuclear technology to a foreign country without the approval of Congress, in order to ensure that the agreement reached with the foreign government meets nine specific nonproliferation requirements.

[snip]

[W]histleblowers provided new information about IP3 International, a private company that has assembled a consortium of U.S. companies to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, IP3’s only project to date is the Saudi nuclear plan. A key proponent of this nuclear effort was General Michael Flynn, who described himself in filings as an “advisor” to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016—at the same time he was serving as Donald Trump’s national security advisor during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition. According to the whistleblowers, General Flynn continued to advocate for the adoption of the IP3 plan not only during the transition, but even after he joined the White House as President Trump’s National Security Advisor.

[snip]

Another key proponent of this effort was Thomas Barrack, President Trump’s personal friend of several decades and the Chairman of his Inaugural Committee.

The nuclear energy scheme (which did not involve nuclear weapons, but implicated concerns that the Saudis would develop them) overlaps closely with the scope of the Foreign Agent charges against Barrack (and I don’t rule out that FBI’s focus on such document(s) stems, in part, from Barrack’s upcoming trial). One of the overt acts charged against Barrack, for example, is that he “forced” the Trump White House to elevate the treatment of MbS on a visit to the US in March 2017 beyond that accorded by his rank at the time.

To be sure: There’s not a hint of evidence that the government has reason to believe Trump tried to sell or otherwise share the documents he stole with foreign entities. If the government suspected Trump might do so with Restricted Documents covered by the Atomic Energy Act, it would implicate a different crime, 40 USC 2274, with which Jonathan Toebbe was charged last year for trying to deal such technology to Brazil. Trump has succeeded in obscuring the crimes listed on his warrant (though not all crimes need to be listed on the overt warrant), but if the Atomic Energy Act were implicated, that would be really hard to do (unless this leaked detail is an effort on Trump’s part to prepare for the mention of the Atomic Energy Act on the warrant, though I doubt that’s the case).

So for now, Trump’s past history of attempting to share nuclear technology with the Saudis for the profit of his closest advisors is just background noise: something that makes it all the more concerning he is suspected of stealing such documents. But if the FBI did not find nuclear documents they have reason to believe Trump stole, then that could change quickly.

Finally, there’s a political angle. The press has been absolutely remiss in calling out Republicans for their hypocrisy about classified information — or their irresponsibility in parroting Trump’s complaints about a serious breach investigation. Instead, the press treated the nation’s security as a he-said, she-said fight between political parties.

But the report that the FBI has reason to believe that Trump stole documents about nuclear weapons provides just the kind of horse race angle that seems to be the only thing that vast swaths of journalists can understand anymore. That’s because in 2016, Marco Rubio argued that Trump was “unfit for the Presidency” because we could not give the “nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.”

Indeed, Val Demings, who is in a close fight against Rubio in November’s Senate elections, just made it an issue yesterday, before the nuclear angle became clear.

2016 Marco Rubio scoffed at the notion that someone like Trump should be given access to the nuclear codes. 2022 Marco Rubio — largely because he wants to win Trump’s favor in the election against Demings — doesn’t even want the FBI to investigate whether Trump stole the nuclear codes when he left office.

Perhaps with a horserace angle, the press might finally hold Republicans accountable for their irresponsibility of their efforts to protect Trump here.

Mid-Term Election 2022: August 2 Primary Elections and Ballot Initiatives [UPDATE-3]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Though we’re deep into the primaries already, tonight’s a pretty big night as the following states all held primary elections today including ballot initiatives:

Arizona — August 2 (head to bmaz’s post for this state’s results)

Kansas — August 2

Michigan — August 2

Missouri — August 2

Ohio — August 2

Washington — August 2

Counting may not be complete for races but there’s already a doozy of a political wind indicator out of red state Kansas. An initiative to amend the state’s constitution was on the ballot and it hasn’t gone the direction anti-abortion activists wanted.

Here’s an explainer from Ballotpedia:

The Kansas No State Constitutional Right to Abortion and Legislative Power to Regulate Abortion Amendment is on the ballot in Kansas as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on August 2, 2022.

A “yes” vote supported amending the Kansas Constitution to:

  • state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion and
  • state that the legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion.

A “no” vote opposed amending the Kansas Constitution, thereby maintaining the legal precedent established in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019) that the Kansas Bill of Rights provides a right to abortion.

As of 9:16 p.m. ET the results looked like this:


And by 9:26 p.m. ET, Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman was calling it for reproductive rights:


There had been an attempt to ratfuck the vote for this initiative:


Voters were sent text messages without attribution providing the wrong instructions about the initiative. It’s not clear whether this violates any federal law but Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission responded to complaints about this ratfucking attempt with a Twitter thread explaining that under Kansas’s current state law attribution for political advertisements wasn’t required for ballot initiatives though it is required for candidates’ campaign ads.

Sounds like this should be on the next ballot.

~ ~ ~

In my home state, things went about as expected:

– Trump’s endorsed candidate, Tudor Dixon, won the MIGOP primary. She’s not as wretched as a couple other MIGOP candidates but she’s still absolutely awful.

How nice of you to want to force your personal choice on all Michiganders, Dixon.

– MAGA candidate Kevin Gibbs had the lead early over Rep. Peter Meijer. The race has tightened substantially and is too narrow to call at this point.


You’ll recall the DCCC through money behind Gibbs so they could run against a Trumpy candidate in a newly configured district. Meijer, who was one of only 10 GOP reps to vote for Trump’s impeachment, currently holds the seat once held by Justin Amash.

~ ~ ~

Trump’s attempt to split the baby by endorsing “Eric” in the Missouri GOP Senate primary race didn’t go to plan, exactly. Eric won, but not Eric Greitens.


Trump will claim victory through Eric Schmitt anyhow, you can be sure. His narcissism wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ ~ ~

What do you see in the other primary races and ballot initiatives tonight? Let us know in comments.

Let’s stay on topic here because there’s plenty of primary election material to discuss without dragging in other topics.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:35 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

DCCC’S money paid off and defeated incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer:

Grrr…sure hope DCCC pulls out the stops and gets behind Scholten because the western part of this district and the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince crowd may not take this lying down even if a Trumpy MAGAt is the GOP candidate.

I’ve experienced supporting a state legislative candidate who was targeted by DeVos money. It can get fucking ugly.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 1:00 AM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

Can you not do better than this hack, KSGOP? This is the best you’ve got, a lawyer who needed remedial law classes?

Anyhow, here’s Democratic opponent Chris Mann’s campaign website.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 9:15 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

Another too-little-discussed bellwether was Missouri’s 1st Congressional District primary race. Incumbent progressive Rep. Cori Bush beat out four other Democrats taking more than 69% of the vote. Her strongest opponent, Steve Roberts, is and remains a Missouri state senator for District 5; he ran to the right of Bush.

The GOP primary in that district was won by Andrew Jones Jr. with 6,927 out of 16,328 total GOP votes. Even Roberts took more votes than the total GOP primary votes.

Clearly MO-01, home to 714,746 citizens, wants a progressive representative.

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