The Mystery Man Revealed – And Open Thread

Quinta Jurecic and Ben Wittes have written their article on outing FBI informants, and several outlets have given the name of the probable informant.

I have the sense that I still don’t fully understand this situation, which I commonly get about revelations of the Trump campaign and its connections to various skeevy people. That is probably because there are more shoes to drop from this centipede, so I can’t fully understand the situation.

That Stefan Halper might be an informant has been publicly discussed since March. His positions and connections should have suggested that possibility to anyone who dealt with him before that. The Washington Post and New York Times articles of Friday night, together with material published earlier, lead to the conclusion that the person being discussed is Stefan Halper.

What Halper did was talk to George Papadopoulos and propose a project with him and also met with Carter Page and Sam Clovis in the summer of 2016. Earlier he met with Michael Flynn. Presumably this was because the FBI had information that Russians were communicating with these folks, and Halper was trying to get information about how that was going down.

The FBI could have sent agents openly to talk to those people, but they probably decided to take an indirect route because of the proximity of the election. Those FBI visits would have gotten out and caused some publicity. This is one of the asymmetries with how the Clinton emails were dealt with.

It would have been good practice for the Trumpies to have notified the FBI themselves when they were contacted by Russians, but, as we have seen in other cases, they did not once see fit to do this.

Since Halper already had a public profile and connections to intelligence agencies, it’s not clear to me why outing him seems to have been such a big deal to those agencies, who were reported to have been working for weeks to minimize the damage if he was outed. It’s possible that he was doing more than what is publicly available, and that those additional activities were much more sensitive.

Part of the concern is that if Congress is willing to reveal intelligence operatives for political reasons, it will be much more difficult to recruit sources and informants. And, of course, the President has now piled on.

It’s not at all clear why Devin Nunes, Trump, and others claim that knowing who this person is will undercut the Mueller investigation. They have claimed a connection between him and the Steele dossier, but, if anything, the information Halper obtained would have gone to the FBI before the dossier did. So, to the extent Halper’s material correlates with what’s in the dossier, it would be independent support.

It’s also not clear how all the information was leaked. Did the leaks start in March? Who are the sources for the Times and the Post stories? Will this be prosecuted the way Valerie Plame’s outing was?

The Jurecic – Wittes article is long and much more closely argued than what I’ve written. Very worth reading.



GOP Miscreants Open Thread: I’m Not Alone…


 
What a fitting metaphor! Perhaps some of you will also take pleasure in the hope that Roger Stone’s time in the barrel has come?

The subpoena was recently served on John Kakanis, 30, who has worked as a driver, accountant and operative for Stone.

Kakanis has been briefly questioned by the FBI on the topics of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks website, its founder Julian Assange, and the hacker or hackers who call themselves Guccifer 2.0, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

Mueller has not scheduled a grand jury appearance for Kakanis, the person said…

In an emailed statement to Reuters on Friday, Stone said he believed that Mueller’s scrutiny on him stemmed from “misapprehensions and misconceptions” created by the media, and that he would ultimately be exonerated of any alleged wrongdoing.

“I sincerely hope when this occurs that the grotesque, defamatory media campaign which I have endured for years now will finally come to its long-overdue end,” wrote Stone, one of Trump’s closest political advisers in the years before he ran for president.

During the 2016 Republican primaries, a Stone political action committee paid more than $130,000 to an entity called “Citroen Associates” for “voter fraud research and documentation” and “research services consulting,” according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Florida state records identify the owner of Citroen Associates as John P. Kakanis.

The subpoena handed to Kakanis is the latest development suggesting that Stone, an early Trump backer whose reputation as an aggressive political operative dates back to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, is being looked at by Mueller.

Reuters reported earlier this week that FBI agents working for Mueller delivered two subpoenas to Jason Sullivan, a social media and Twitter expert who worked for Stone during the 2016 campaign, and that agents told him Mueller’s team wanted to question him about Stone and WikiLeaks…

Other Trump associates who have been questioned by Mueller, including former campaign advisors Sam Nunberg and Michael Caputo, have also been asked about Stone and WikiLeaks.

“They asked me about Roger’s businesses – who he worked with prior to the 2016 election. They asked me about Roger’s tax returns,” Nunberg said in a phone interview earlier this week, adding that he believed Mueller was stepping outside his mandate in casting such a wide net around Stone’s activities.

The irony is, the better Stone disciples Kakanis and Sullivan are, the more swiftly they’ll turn on their mentor (and their fellows). If Roger and his Nixon tattoo end up in a cell because some low-ranking minion trades their freedom for his, the poetic justice alone might cause him to stroke out. And if — this is just daydreaming, on my part — if exposing Stone’s rotten Trump dealings should happen to officially unmask some of the other beneficiaries of a 40-year history of GOP ratfvckery, he might not be the only one…



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: This Is Who The Repubs CHOOSE to Be


 
When it comes to demonizing immigrants, the GOP doesn’t mind at all if their “President” Trump says the quiet parts out loud!

Pro tip from someone who’s actually read your Bible: If they can “contort themselves” into defending treating immigrants as other-than-human, they aren’t actually Christians.
Read more



Paul Waldman Says It – Open Thread

The past week or so has brought a never-ending stream of gaslighting good advice from helpful conservatives who want Democrats to understand better how they can win in November.

Central to that advice has been to respect the people who voted for Trump. Or, conversely, Democrats have been attacked as coastal elitists who look down on the mid-Americans who are the salt of the earth.

Blessings on Paul Waldman.

But the mistake is to ignore where the belief in Democratic disrespect actually comes from and to assume that Democrats have it in their power to banish it.

It doesn’t come from the policies advocated by the Democratic Party, and it doesn’t come from the things Democratic politicians say. Where does it come from? An entire industry that’s devoted to convincing white people that liberal elitists look down on them.

It’s more than an industry, actually; it’s an industry, plus a political movement. The right has a gigantic media apparatus that is devoted to convincing people that liberals disrespect them, plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity.

He goes into detail on the respect shown white working class voters by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as opposed to the repetition of a very few slips on their part by that gigantic media apparatus.

In the world Republicans have constructed, a Democrat who wants to give you health care and a higher wage is disrespectful, while a Republican who opposes those things but engages in a vigorous round of campaign race-baiting is respectful. The person who’s holding you back isn’t the politician who just voted to give a trillion-dollar tax break to the wealthy and corporations, it’s an East Coast college professor who said something condescending on Twitter.

So what are Democrats to do? The answer is simple: This is a game they cannot win, so they have to stop playing. Know at the outset that no matter what you say or do, Republicans will cry that you’re disrespecting good heartland voters. There is no bit of PR razzle-dazzle that will stop them. Remember that white Republicans are not going to vote for you anyway, and their votes are no more valuable or virtuous than the votes of any other American. Don’t try to come up with photo ops showing you genuflecting before the totems of the white working class, because that won’t work. Advocate for what you believe in, and explain why it actually helps people.

Finally — and this is critical — never stop telling voters how Republicans are screwing them over. The two successful Democratic presidents of recent years were both called liberal elitists, and they countered by relentlessly hammering the GOP over its advocacy for the wealthy. And it worked.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Edited to bold the most important sentence.



Late Night Lying Liars Open Thread

Ronan Farrow comes out with more info about the ratfvking deal that the Trumpies contracted out to try to defeat the Iran deal.

The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall… In a statement, Black Cube said, “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work.” The statement also read, “It is important to note that Black Cube always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”

I suspect there is more to come.

A while back, in a comment thread, I pointed out that part of the problem with the New York Times’s reporting on Donald Trump is that they are immersed in the New York culture that permitted his rise. I didn’t realize how true and how ugly that culture is. Frank Rich does. I know it’s a great hate-read, but there’s a lot there that helps with analysis.

Have a good night before the full force of the week hits.



The Opposition To The Iran Deal Is Intellectually and Morally Bankrupt

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article titled “The Iran Deal Is Strategically and Morally Absurd” at the Atlantic website. It is a good example of the repetitive and tendentious tripe that the opponents consistently offer up.

I am not fond of the bloggy format of dissecting a piece of writing sentence by sentence by sentence, although Gerecht’s piece could easily provoke such a response. Each sentence presents a misrepresenation or other ugliness that it seems wrong to allow to pass. But I’d like to make my response more succinct.

Since the title begins with “The Iran Deal,” one might expect that that would be the subject of the article. But few words are expended on the substance of the deal compared to, for example vituperation against Barack Obama. The personalization of Gerecht’s argument is typical of criticism by opponents on Twitter and elsewhere. Read more



This Is What You Do When You Don’t Have A Real Argument

Two of the key people in the Obama administration for the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were investigated by an Israeli private intelligence agency trying to find dirt on them, The Guardian reported today.

The agency talked to reporters in order to find whether Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, advisors to President Obama, had shared sensitive information. Presumably they found nothing, or we would have heard about it.

This has been the modus operandi of the JCPOA opponents all along. On Twitter, they indulge in ad hominems and personal attacks rather than present a coherent argument. They set up straw men with views that misrepresent the case for the agreement. They all seem to have the same talking points and slogans (“sunset clauses,” “give Iran nuclear weapons”) in what I might have called an echo chamber if they hadn’t seized on that accusation first.

Back in the summer of 2015, they tried to set up a phony controversy about “secret side agreements.” Several of the supporters of the agreement, including me, responded strongly and, I think, managed to squash their propaganda before it fully bloomed. For that, we were attacked again and again on Twitter.

All the opponents have is lies and false accusations. This latest exposure of their dirty tactics is of a piece with the tactics they have used all along. It’s an indication that they have nothing else.

 

In case you were in doubt, Rudy says the quiet part out loud.

 

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.