[A] former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him. […]
In June, the former Western intelligence officer—who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a US firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients—was assigned the task of researching Trump’s dealings in Russia and elsewhere, according to the former spy and his associates in this American firm. This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.) “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”
This was, the former spy remarks, “an extraordinary situation.”
Archives for October 2016
Since beloved commentor & party-sparker EFGoldman likes the idea, we’ll be getting together at Su Chang’s, in Peabody — just down the road from the Northshore Mall. Their food is great (we first heard of the place from visiting Cantonese friends-of-friends), very reasonably priced, and there’s plenty of free parking.
Because it’s a Saturday, I’m thinking a start time of 4:30pm or 5pm would be good… that should give everyone time to catch up on weekend errands/business, while giving anyone coming from farther away time to enjoy themselves before we all turn into pumpkins. Opinions?
I’m watching a Storage Wars marathon (and basically anything else that can hold my interest) because I am so fucking sick and tired of this election, but I had a random thought. Let’s see if we’re being cynical enough about this whole Comey.
Given the disclosures today about Trump and the Russian server and the bombshell that the Russians were allegedly attempting to recruit Trump for five years, what if Comey found out a while back that this was happening, but wanted to hold it close to vest so as not to endanger the investigation. Then when they found out, they desperately wanted to inform the public, but were afraid if they came forward with this info, it would play into Trump’s spiel about rigged elections. Simultaneously, Comey knows he has a lot of rogue agents who are leaking crap about the Clintons at every time, and for obvious reasons, he wants to get rid of them.
The next best way to do this would be to first leak the nothing burger about emails neither wrote nor received, knowing full well it will be quickly refuted, then track who knows what and was involved and you could follow the leaks and find out who the disloyal and rogue agents are. Then, you could coordinate the planned leaks about Trump and the Russians for maximum damage, and no one can claim the election is rigged, because if it was ok for Clinton it is ok for Trump.
You then take out Trump, who you think is a real threat, identify the problems within the FBI, retain your nonpartisan stature, and you and Loretta get to go on a nice purge prior to HRC taking over in January.
Or I have read too many shitty spy novels and Comey is just an idiot.
I need a break, how about you?
Bixby is over the drama:
Bailey is settling in nicely:
I have a hundred pieces of candy and no takers. Everyone I’ve talked to in my circle is having the same low turnout.
Let’s try and fill this thread with good thoughts….
Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:
The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.
Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.
Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.) I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative. Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.
Well, perhaps, not so much.
One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too. Foer writes:
Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)
I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.
But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is. For months, with communication peaking at politically significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.
Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query. Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.
Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.
And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.
PS: Bat signal for Adam. I’d love some actual knowledgeable commentary on this. (Feel free to attach to this or a new front page item, if you’re so moved, btw.)
Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899
Update at 8:15 PM EDT by Adam L. Silverman
Tom asked me to weigh in here, so here goes. I am not a computer scientist and while I’ve taught one criminology course on cyber based crime and terrorism way back in 2006, wrote a paper with a computer science specialist on how the Internet can be used to transmit extremist ideology and promote terrorism back in 2003, other than reading up, as necessary for work, on what the US is doing within the cyber domain, I can’t comment on the technical aspects of Foer’s reporting. I do, however, have expertise with both link and social network analysis; especially to determine who is connected to who to understand an operating environment. In this case, based on Foer’s reporting and the work of the subject matter experts he’s citing, there appears to be a confirmed connection (link) between two nodes (with a weaker link between one node and a third node). And that connection runs two ways and based on what the technical subject matter experts indicate that two way connection is for the purpose of electronic communication. The two nodes are a Trump Organization server and a Russian oligarch owned bank who’s owners have ties to Vladimir Putin.
At this point there are only two real questions: 1) Is the appearance of a two way communicative connection between the Trump Organization (node 1) and Alfa Bank (node two) actual or an digital artifact? Foer’s reporting seems to settle this that it is actual/real. And 2) What was the purpose of the communication? Was it simply for mundane business purposes – that the Trump Organization has accepted investment from Alfa Bank or those that keep their money there or that the Trump Organization has accepted loans to keep its operations going from Alfa Bank in order to maintain liquidity? Or was the purpose of the communications for something else? There is insufficient information to answer those questions based on Foer’s reporting. Hopefully the NY Times or some other enterprising journalists such as David Farenthold or Kurt Eichenwald might be able to shed some light on that before election day.
Via valued commenter Conster, an excerpt of a CNBC story posted an hour ago:
FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former FBI official tells CNBC.
The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.
Let’s take a step back and assess. In case #1, nothing is likely to come of the emails on Huma Abedin’s laptop, unless you believe Hillary sent Huma an email that says, “Please inform our Muslim Brotherhood comrades that Ambassador Stevens will be in Benghazi on 9/11. Allahu Akbar!”
In case #2, U.S. government officials, including the FBI, have concluded that a hostile foreign government is trying to swing the U.S. election toward Putin fan Donald Trump. Trump is notoriously vague on policy and had almost zero input on the GOP platform except to check off Russian wishlist items like disrupting the NATO alliance. That happened during the tenure of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was subsequently forced to resign after his ties to Putin came to light.
But Comey decided a probable nothingburger of a development in case #1 is important enough to toss a monkey wrench into a national election in the final weeks, and he didn’t want to sully the Bureau’s integrity by attaching its sacred name to statements about #2 so close to the election.
Comey is either willfully injecting himself into the presidential race, too chickenshit to stand up to partisan dickheads like Jason Chaffetz and rogue agents who allegedly threatened to leak investigation details or lacks the judgment to comprehend the effect of his actions. Whether through partisan hackery, cravenness or naiveté, he’s not fit to lead the FBI.
You won the cookbook giveaway!
Sent an email yesterday but never heard back. Hopefully you’ll see this today and contact me so you can get your book.
If I don’t hear by tonight I will draw another number.
In pursuit of some non-political thinking, submitted for your pleasure.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being in Austin and having another encounter with their famous breakfast tacos. The sublime experience was delivered by Torchy’s Tacos and their sauces. I brought some extra sauces home and am now trying to recreate something like them before they go bad and I no longer have reference tastes.
And so of course I thought to mention them here, in case anyone’s cracked the code(s). My understanding is that it would take 24 or more hours to make their sauces because of many secret ingredients that take time to prepare such as special pepper sauces. So it’s not truly possible to recreate them at home, but getting close is more than enough reward.
But let me back up a step or two.
For those not in the know, Austin has a fantastic tradition of breakfast tacos; they are enjoyed throughout central Texas, including Dallas, but reach their pinnacle in Austin. They are a mix of eggs/cheese/chilies/veggies/meats and are served on a toasted corn or flour tortilla, and accompanied by sauces. Truly, this type of breakfast food is more than just eggs and stuff on a tortilla; there’s an art to these things, and every aspect contributes to the final result, especially those sauces.
Austin’s standard sauce is a creamy jalapeno-based sauce that is much milder than you might think. Some places fry or roast peppers before adding them and a neutral oil to make a creamy emulsion. As for Torchy’s, I enjoyed their chipotle and advocado sauces and those are what I am trying to recreate. They are both moderately spicy, and the chipotle sauce is white, and has a hint of the tang of ranch dressing, so that may be one secret. But the avocado sauce is a mystery though I expect its base is the standard Austin green sauce with some extras, including some avocado. It’s so good it hurts.
Having spent my early childhood in Texas, and almost a decade recently in Southern Colorado, I’ve grown to relish this type of Southwestern breakfast fare and make such things more than once a week. My signature ingredients include home-canned sliced jalapenos and frozen New Mexico or Pueblo (Colorado) green chilies I procure, process, pack, and freeze for individual thawing. I also make a mean green chile and am perfecting my posole this winter.
With my greatly-increased knowledge and skill in cooking and love of DIY sauces, trying to nail these sauces down is a new passion. They’re that good, and I’m hoping to share the love and perhaps get some much-needed help!
Basic Austin Green Sauce
Clean, slice, seed, and remove white veins from 6 jalapenos
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
3-6 cloves garlic
4 tbs lime juice
3/4 tsp salt
Process all ingredients except oil in food processor until smooth.
Then gradually add oil until the mixture emulsifies.
I like to put in fridge to let it set before eating, but that’s purely texture-aesthetic.
Please feel free to offer any tips, to discuss other delicious treats, and to otherwise offer something that goes good on the table to block out tension, second-guessing, and endless agitation. 8 more days until we make history…again.
Eight days to go until Election Day. Even if you’re confident about Clinton’s prospects (as I am), this is a time of jangled nerves because of the enormous stakes, and it’s human nature to be testy in trying times. Here’s a photo of a lovely blue heron submitted by valued Balloon Juice reader “cope” to remind us not to get our feathers too ruffled:
At various times during the current campaign — and indeed throughout her career in public life — Hillary Clinton has returned to the theme of love and kindness. We could all use a little more of that in our lives, especially now.
To me, love and kindness are among the core animating principles that drive me to identify as a liberal. I believe we should do more to help each other out.
This has been the ugliest election season any of us have ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets worse over the next week and on into the post-election period. Some unbelievably malevolent forces have been unleashed, and we all have our part to play in pushing them back.
But maybe this heron from cope can help us all cope in the coming days by reminding us that there’s still so much beauty in the world. Or not. Your choice. Open thread!
Rhode Island is silver gapping their exchange but the communication effort is horrendous.
two insurers – Neighborhood and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island – will be offering plans to individuals in 2017. A third carrier, UnitedHealthcare, declined to do so after attracting few customers this year and last.
The decline in average premiums for individuals is being driven by Neighborhood, a relative newcomer on the state’s insurance scene, which says its average premium will decline nearly 6% in 2017 compared with this year. Blue Cross says a weighted average of its premiums shows they will increase 5.9%.
In 2016, a 40 year old non-smoker sees an NHPRI plan for $259 and a BCBSRI plan for $263. It was a converged market. With the price changes for 2017, the NHPRI plan will cost about $246 while the BCBS plan will cost $278. This is a significant spread between the two plans.
NHPRI applied to Silver Spam the subsidy point as they filed three plans with the same network and the same plan type. That would set a subsidy attachment point around $250 for the forty year old single non-smoker. The cheapest plan would only be $4 less expensive than the benchmark plan. The BCBS plan would cost roughly $28 more. The market consequences of this approach is that NHPRI would get most of the cost sensitive membership that was healthy. BCBS would get more of the unhealthy membership and the less cost sensitive membership. Overall, the Rhode Island on-Exchange subsidized buying pool would be fairly old and comparatively unhealthy under the initial offering of three isomophic plan designs from NHPRI.
However, the Rhode Island exchange rejected two of the isomorphs. Now there is a single Silver offered by NHPRI at a very low price with the benchmark being set by the BCBS plan. Cost sensitive and healthy individuals will be getting a great deal on the NHPRI low cost Silver plan. An individual making $18,000 a year receives rougly a 50% discount on the NHPRI plan compared to the BCBS benchmark plan instead of a 5% discount they would have received under the silver spam scenario. The Silver gap strategy will see NHPRI get a very large and very healthy risk pool and the total buying population in Rhode Island should increase as the post subsidy price for a Silver plan will be significantly lower in 2017 than it was in 2016 for subsidized buyers. Healthy individuals facing severe cash constraints are the least likely buyers to buy insurance. By lowering their effective prices, we should expect to see more healthy buyers in Rhode Island which should improve the overall risk pool.
This cat won Halloween. https://t.co/0pzzwr36Ni
— Trudy (@thetrudz) October 31, 2016
They'll never find me here… pic.twitter.com/SOcJn9Ku3l
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) October 29, 2016
The day I write that the race is so emotional that no minds will change, everyone writes me in hysterics. Awesome. https://t.co/bfcfw94fmm
— Sam Wang (@SamWangPhD) October 30, 2016
… This is actually a good thing. This is an opportunity to apply lessons from this season to predict what happens next.
First, the starting points:
– For twenty years, polarization has made voters increasingly emotional and less likely to change their views. Donald Trump represents the culmination of this trend.
– On time scales of a week, journalists get bored with a storyline, and look for ways that the trend is being violated. Until Friday, the developing story was “Clinton is coasting to victory.”
– Whichever major party you support, your optimal strategy as a citizen is to focus on knife-edge cases, i.e. cases where the outcome is in doubt.
From these, I suggest the following consequences:
The national race will not change meaningfully. This is not a story that changes anyone’s mind. Maybe the margin (national or Meta) between the two candidates will move by 1 percentage point when aggregated…2 points max. It doesn’t change the high likelihood of a Clinton win.
Journalists and pundits will continue to feed hysterics by fussing over the Comey story. They may even attempt to use polling evidence to justify their coverage. However, note that national polls had already tightened by 1-2 percentage points, even before Comeygate.
Keep your eye on the ball, which is downticket….
Oh, I’ll go out on a limb on one last item: there is time for one more weird twist in the campaign. Considering the life cycle of journalists’ hidden thought processes, I’ll say it is Donald Trump’s turn for the next adverse story.
Apart from waiting for that ‘one more weird twist’, what’s on the agenda as we start the last week before the election?
Trump says Hillary Clinton will let 650 million people pour into the United States and "triple the size of our country in one week"
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) October 31, 2016
… The better to enjoy the frisson of terror when they imagine the dusky hordes pouring across our borders…
That's more than the entire population of every nation in Latin America. https://t.co/lYPZ45Z33z
— Wyeth Ruthven (@wyethwire) October 31, 2016
— Correct The Record (@CorrectRecord) October 31, 2016
This isn’t a campaign, it’s a bunch of racist revanchists LARPing their ill-conceived fantasies.
(Apologies in advance to genuine LARPers, who have a much better grasp of the difference between reality and wouldn’t-it-be-kewl role-playing.)
From what I can glean from recent articles (for example), it sounds like a rogue unit of FBI agents went way off the reservation after Comey wound down their Clinton investigation, to the point that they cooked up a scheme to undermine the FBI director (waiting three weeks to report the laptop put Comey in a no-win position, with the implicit threat of leaks if he delayed the letter) and worked on behalf of Russia against American democracy.
If James Comey cared sbout his Bureau’s credibility, a different FBI unit would be kicking in their doors right now.
Ok to clarify I do not mean that anyone has reported that agents are taking orders from Putin. Rather I mean to say that Russia is singularly, deeply committed to Trump to the point of subverting an American election. If you torpedo Clinton from a privileged position in the DOJ then you are clearly subverting democracy. That part is pretty cut and dried. You would also be serving Russia’s nefarious behavior in this election, whether you explicitly mean to or not. I was being over-cute with language to emphasize the point when frankly (if I interpret the direction of reporting correctly) the basic Hatch act stuff would be plenty to get a trial started.
…in retrospect I would say ‘alongside’ rather than ‘on behalf of’. Different people, same immediate goal. Blogging from your phone while pissed off can produce inelegant results. But I’ll leave the original so that comments left pre-clarification still make sense.
As Josh pointed out at the link and Kevin Drum observed as well, we have basically two hypotheses: either James Comey delayed the story for maximum effect or else some agents put him in this position by not reporting this laptop up the chain until the last minute. Reporting suggests the rogue agents idea, but more than that I just think we know enough about Comey to feel pretty confident that he would not willingly set the election on fire like this. It would be too easy to discover after the fact that he knowingly cooked the grenade. It would ruin him. If that is the case, James Comey really needs the rogue agents hypothesis to pick up steam. I think ‘need’ might not be strong enough a word. If he can persuade people that a group of bad actors maneuvered him into an impossible position, that might restore some confidence in his leadership and the Bureau in general. Some.
One of my governing maxims is that incentives drive behavior. At least equal to nature and nurture you have this intangible web of rewards and punishments that surround and guide everyone. The director of the FBI has a profound incentive to burn the guys who embarrassed him. You could call it an existential need. That could have an interesting effect on the direction this story takes.
Who needs a white noise machine when you have this snoring beast. I could hear him over the tv:
That was ten minutes after his feeding and subsequent grooming session on my lap.
Open thread for the baseball event!
ETA: Also Sunday Night Football, Iggles vs. Cowboys.