Newsworthy Items That Have Slipped Through the Cracks: We’re Doomed

I don’t mean to panic anyone, but the US breached the debt ceiling on March 16th and the current extension on the Fiscal Year 2017 continuing budget resolution runs out on April 28th. Given the dysfunction within the majority caucuses in the House and the Senate, the fact that the new Administration’s skinny budget has been declared DOA upon its arrival in Congress, and the fact that NO ONE ANYWHERE – INCLUDING THE WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS, MOST OF THE NEWS MEDIA, AND APPARENTLY MOST AMERICANS!!!!!!! – seems to be paying any attention or talking about this, perhaps we should be just a wee bit concerned.

Have a nice evening!



We Are at War. It is High Time That Our Leaders Begin Acting Like It!

Last July, when the hacking into the DNC became public knowledge, I wrote that we are at Cyber War. That what had happened was an act of war, though confined to the cyber domain. Today’s events are just the latest reinforcing example that we are at war, even if it is not formally declared. Russia has long believed that they were, at least, in a new cold war with the US and the West. Beyond that, however, is that Andrey Krutskikh, a senior advisor to Vladimir Putin, described the conflict this way:

According to notes of Krutskikh’s speech, he told his Russian audience: “You think we are living in 2016. No, we are living in 1948. And do you know why? Because in 1949, the Soviet Union had its first atomic bomb test. And if until that moment, the Soviet Union was trying to reach agreement with [President Harry] Truman to ban nuclear weapons, and the Americans were not taking us seriously, in 1949 everything changed and they started talking to us on an equal footing.”

Krutskikh continued, “I’m warning you: We are at the verge of having ‘something’ in the information arena, which will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals.”

Putin’s cyber adviser stressed to the Moscow audience the importance for Russia of having a strong hand in this new domain. If Russia is weak, he explained, “it must behave hypocritically and search for compromises. But once it becomes strong, it will dictate to the Western partners [the United States and its allies] from the position of power.”

Krutskikh’s comments may have been a precursor of a new doctrine for information operations announced publicly by the Kremlin in December. The senior administration official described the Russian strategy: “They think of information space as a domain of warfare. In the U.S, we tend to have a binary view of conflict — we’re at peace or at war. The Russian doctrine is more of a continuum. You can be at different levels of conflict, along a sliding scale.”

What does all this have to do with the events of today? It is part of the necessary prologue to be able to answer John’s question about Congressman Nunes. It’s not that Bannon has anything on Nunes. It is that Nunes’s <strike>business partner is tied</strike> is connected to Putin:

And that may, perhaps, explain why this morning Congressman Nunes disclosed, without authorization, classified information pertaining to US SIGINT collection. Congressman Nunes does not have declassification authority in regard to that information. He then went and briefed the President on what he had just leaked because he thought the President needed to know it. This is curious for two reasons. 1) This is not the job of a Congressman who is chairing a committee that oversees executive branch agencies and activities. 2) The President, as the President, has the ability to know anything he wants to know that is being done, or has been done, by the US Intelligence Community. That he did not seem to know this, that he does not seem to have been briefed on it, means that he and his subordinates either couldn’t be bothered knowing or, because of the counterintelligence investigation – its scope and who may be its targets – this information had been compartmented from the President to protect sources and methods. If it is the former, it shows how inept the President’s advisors and staff are. If it is the latter then Congressman Nunes has dug his hole even deeper. Interfering with and obstructing a Federal counterintelligence investigation is not something that the FBI looks kindly upon.

Moreover, the real takeaway for today is why the President and so many of his people were in ongoing contact with Russians and other foreign targets of both routine and specifically targeted US SIGINT collection.

Before anyone asks me what happens now? The answer is I do not know. I know what should happen both overtly and covertly. Overtly Congressman Nunes should be removed from his chairmanship and the committee. Covertly he should have his access to classified material cut off and the RNC and the California GOP should be firmly explaining to him why he is not standing for reelection in 2018. But the truthful answer is we have to wait and see.

Congressman Schiff is trying to prevent his committee from being blown up by the committee chair. A man who is not particularly smart and who has a Russian <strike>partner</strike> distributor connected to Putin. Here too, like so many times that I’ve remarked on this stuff, I can once again place a key player in all of this within <strike>no more than two</strike> three links to Putin or those in his orbit. Director Comey will now become very, very circumspect with what he does and does not brief the Congressional Gang of Eight because key members, Congressman Nunes specifically, cannot be trusted with any sensitive information. Congress’s oversight of the Intelligence Community is now compromised.

Additionally, Congressman Schiff has stated that he has seen hard of evidence of collusion between the President’s team and the Russians. It is unclear if he is referring to the Trump Organization, Trump-Pence Campaign, Trump Transition, the current Trump Administration, or some combination of them.

As I wrote last June in my post on cyberwar, Russia has declared that they are in a state of war with the US. They are acting like it. The US has key leaders from one of its two political parties (the GOP), as well as from one of its fringe, gadfly, spoiler parties (the Greens) who are continually demonstrating that they are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. As I’ve written before, we are fully in a Constitutional crisis and have been for months. We are at war and have been for well over a year. The Republic is in peril. It is far past time for our leaders to begin acting like it!



Boizhe Moi…

I got nothing.

Here’s the clip from C-SPAN.

From Time (autoplay clip at the link):

“Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Trump then said Republicans need to spread the word that Lincoln was a Republican, appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the “party of Lincoln.”

“Let’s take an ad, let’s use one of those PACs,” he said.

3:25 to 3:29 mark sums it up nicely:



Open Thread: You Know It’s Bad for the Repubs, Because They’re Already Trying to Cover It Up

Aaaand here comes Rep. Trey ‘But Her Emails’ Gowdy… Per USAToday:

Rep. Trey Gowdy used Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing to cite Obama administration officials, including the former president, as potential sources for leaks.

The South Carolina Republican was questioning FBI Director James Comey during the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing as part of its investigation into Russian interference with the U.S. election.

Like many of his Republican colleagues, Gowdy used his time to focus on recent leaks of classified information to journalists. But he went a step further by raising specific names of people from the former administration to show they had access to leaked classified material, implying they might have been sources of the leaks…

Gowdy argued that “unmasking” Flynn’s name was a felony because it was part of a confidential intelligence gathering and had previously been “masked” to protect his identity.

“I’m not going to get either that particular case, that matter, or any conversations I had involving the president. So I can’t answer that question,” Comey responded.

But Obama wasn’t the only one. Gowdy also rattled down a list of people who had held high-ranking positions in the Obama administration and asked whether each would have had access to the “unmasked” name. He included former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former White House adviser Ben Rhodes, former attorney general Loretta Lynch and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

“In the universe of possible motives of felonious dissemination of classified material, we could rule out wanting to help the intelligence communities and the law enforcement communities. Those are two motives that are gone now, that leaves more nefarious motives,” Gowdy said…

How dare those filthy Democrats try to expose our treason on behalf of the higher cause! Do they not understand that targeted leaking is only permissible by OUR party?

ETA:



An Important Point About Director Comey’s Testimony Today

Over the weekend, Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare, provided a primer on how to interpret FBI Director Comey’s testimony today. This is based on Wittes’s past observation of Director Comey’s behavior in similar matters.

But free as I am from the shackles of any actual knowledge, let me offer readers the following user’s guide to Comey’s testimony, which can be summed up in one simple sentence: Comey’s communicativeness with the committee—and through it with the public—will almost certainly be inversely proportional to the seriousness of the Russia investigation.

That is, if Comey says a lot, makes a lot of news on Russia matters, and cheers a lot of anti-Trump hearts by maximally embarassing the President for his outrageous comments on Obama’s alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, that will very likely be a sign that Comey has relatively little to protect in terms of investigative equities in the Russia matter and is thus free to vent. Conversely, a quiet, reserved Comey—one whose contrast with the relatively loquatious FBI director who talked at length about the Clinton email matters will infuriate a lot of liberals and frustrate those who want to know what’s going on with Russia—may well spell trouble for the President.

A sure sign that the Russia Connection is not that big a deal is if Comey talks about it.

In the third scenario, Russia is a very big deal. Comey, in other words, has significant investigative equities to protect and he believes that he needs to be there in order to protect them—in other words, that he has a responsibility to not get himself fired because of his anger about the Trump tweets (or anything else) because he has to make sure the investigation can proceed unimpeded. In this situation, I would expect him to be minimally verbal. He may have to answer yes or no questions in certain instances, including about the truth of the wiretapping allegations, but he will refuse to answer a lot of questions. He will make as little news as humanly possible. He will be exceptionally spare with his opinions. He will make a point of not antagonizing the President. Lots of people will leave disappointed.

If I were advising Trump, this is the scenario that would scare me most. We know, both from the hospital room testimony and from the Clinton email testimony, how Comey behaves when he feels at liberty to speak. We also know he’s angry right now and would presumably love a chance to defend the integrity of his agency and his agents. If he passes up that opportunity, I will read that as a sign that he is biting his lip very hard because there’s something more important at stake.

I highly recommend you click across for Wittes’s full analysis. It provides some very useful and important context to today’s testimony.



Today’s Hearings

Anyone watching? I can’t — I’m busy, plus I can’t stand the sight of Comey’s puffy-eyed mug, even if he is confirming that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties. Comey is a piece of shit. I hope he’s the piece of shit who brings down Trump. But he’ll always be a piece of shit, regardless of present and future actions, for his unforgivable grandstanding in the 2016 election.

I’m also not going to watch the Gorsuch hearings because I have no desire to witness Grand Theft, Supreme Court Seat on live TV. Gorsuch fails the only standard that matters; he is not Merrick Garland.



The Taoiseach Lays the Smack Down: Enda Kenney’s 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Address

At yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration featuring the Irish PM, Enda Kenny, the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Taoiseach made his feelings known about the President’s, and by extension, the Republican Party’s current policy preferences on immigration. Kenny’s White House remarks received praise almost everywhere, including in Ireland, where there had been significant concern on whether he should cancel out of this year’s event.

The Taoiseach’s speech on immigration has received global recognition for ‘lecturing’ US President Trump on immigration.

The Taoiseach used the St Patrick’s day visit to speak about the contribution of the Irish community in the United States, leading to the New York Times calling it a “lecture” for the US President on immigration.

Speaking at a party in East Room of the White House, he thanked Mr Trump for “giving so much of his time” to help celebrate St Patrick’s legacy as “the patron of immigrants”.

He appealed to the President to take a more favourable view of immigrants – but made no mention of Mr Trump’s controversial travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries.

At the 6:30 mark of the video below you can watch and listen to the Taoiseach’s full remarks following the President’s remarks.

The much excerpted point of Kenney’s remarks are these one minute and fifty-two seconds: