The Trump/GOP Healthcare Plan: Lie

Indefatigable CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale surfaced this big, fat whopper from last night’s racist hate rally. Warning: the CNN clip contains brief video of Trump speaking at the hate rally, so if you watch it, you’ll see the bloated, sweaty orange shitgibbon chopping the air with his hand as he lies about the nonexistent Republican healthcare plan for about 15 seconds:

Hasty transcript of Trump’s quote for those unwilling to subject themselves to the image:

“Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats, who will never be able to pull it off.”

As Dale points out, Democrats already “pulled it off” with the ACA, which is the only reason preexisting conditions aren’t a thing now, and if the Trump administration gets its way, the ACA will be struck down entirely by the courts, which will not only cause millions to lose access to coverage via the exchanges but also leave every single American with private insurance to the tender mercies of the insurance companies on a whole host of provisions, including preexisting conditions.

A few months ago, Trump started making noises about GOP healthcare reform policies, which Republican electeds played down. That’s because even if Trump is dumb enough to believe his own lies about the nonexistent GOP healthcare plan (debatable), people like Mitch McConnell know releasing a plan would necessitate defending said plan in upcoming elections. But are they going to go into the 2020 election with absolutely nothing? Possibly!

Trump appointed a couple of GOP senators to look into the issue, appointing Medicare fraudster Rick Scott as “point man.” But while Scott is definitely a crook, he’s not stupid, so he immediately threw that hot potato right back at the White House on one of the Sunday shows, saying “I look forward to, you know, to seeing what the president’s going to put out.” So did it fall through the cracks? Maybe Jared is working on it?

Anyhoo, regardless of what you think of the various Democratic Party primary candidates’ approaches to healthcare, at least they have policies to debate. The same is true of many other issues, like the phantom wall that Trump lied about last night too. It looks like all Trump will bring to the general election is more lies. Am I wrong in thinking it’ll be harder to pull off a all-lie-based campaign strategy as an incumbent? Maybe, but I ‘m going to choose optimism on this point.

Open thread!

The 24th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre

On July 11, 1995 Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serbs led by Ratko Mladic. In the days and weeks prior to the Serbs taking the city, approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically killed, including those trying to flee the city and into and through the woods and forests to reach safety from the Srebrenican Massacre. Muslims fleeing the city sought refuge with the UN Peacekeeping contingent from Holland. Rather than protect them, the Dutch turned them over to Mladic’s forces. The men and boys were separated and massacred, while the women and girls were distributed by Mladic’s forces throughout the region.

The Srebrinican Massacre was the worst mass killing in Europe since the end of World War II and the Holocaust. The remains of many, if not most of the victims of the massacre were never found, identified, and or returned. Over a thousand Bosnian Muslims are still considered missing. Today, on the 24th anniversary, they were able to return the remains of 33 newly identified sets of remains.

More remains are found every year.

Unfortunately, in 2019, many of the Bosnian Serb officials, especially those aligned with Russia, continue to deny the massacre and the larger genocide it was a part of. Instead they continue to push the same dangerous, racist, exclusionary, and eliminationist rhetoric that their predecessors used in the 1990s.

Although the mass killings were branded genocide by international courts, Serbian and Bosnia Serb officials refuse to use the term. They did not send official delegations to the commemoration on Thursday.

Nenad Popovic, an openly pro-Russian minister in Serbia’s government, said in a statement that “there was no genocide in Srebrenica and Serbs will never accept to be stamped as genocidal people.”

He said Serbia should rethink its goal of becoming a European Union member because of such claims.

Open thread.

Watching the Disinformation Being Made and Distributed III: Seth Rich Edition

Yesterday we went through the map and off the looking glass for a tour of the convoluted information pathway used to create a rooted in conspiracy theories, largely evidence and fact free rebuttal intended to proactively protect the President as a result of the recent arrest and indictment of Jeffrey Epstein. This followed our expedition into the dank meme infested murky waters at the beginning of July regarding Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks and behavior during the congressional delegation visit to tour detention facilities for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers on the southern border. This morning, Yahoo News Michael Isikoff broke the news, ahead of a podcast dedicated to the topic, that it was Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, that created the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was murdered on orders of Secretary Clinton* in retribution for stealing the DNC emails and leaking them.

What is not surprising in Isikoff’s reporting is the information pathway for this disinformation campaign to influence American public opinion by muddying the waters around Russia’s undeclared hybrid war and active measures campaign against the US and to negatively influence American attitudes towards Secretary Clinton. (emphasis mine)

In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.

Yet in a graphic example of how fake news infects the internet, those precise details popped up the same day on an obscure website,, that is a frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda. The website’s article, which attributed its claims to “Russian intelligence,” was the first known instance of Rich’s murder being publicly linked to a political conspiracy.

The Russian effort to exploit Rich’s tragic death didn’t stop with the fake SVR bulletin. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the Russian government-owned media organizations RT and Sputnik repeatedly played up stories that baselessly alleged that Rich, a relatively junior-level staffer, was the source of Democratic Party emails that had been leaked to WikiLeaks.It was an idea first floated by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who on Aug. 9, 2016, announced a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s murder, saying — somewhat cryptically — that “our sources take risks.”

At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. IRA-created fake accounts, masquerading as those of American citizens or political groups, tweeted and retweeted more than 2,000 times about Rich, helping to keep the bogus claims about his death in the social media bloodstream, according to an analysis of a database of Russia troll accounts by Yahoo News.

So where did the information flow once it was created, injected into the information domain, and then amplified and reamplified? Through the usual suspects of extreme right conspiracists, the alt-right and other white supremacists, the far fringe of the conservative social media and digital news media ecosystem, surrogates of the President. And from there to Fox News, conservative talk radio, and political commentary and then the mainstream news media jumped on it because it was news that Sean Hannity was hammering this insane conspiracy theory over and over, night after night. (emphasis mine)

The “Conspiracyland” podcast traces the spread of the conspiracy theories about Rich. From their origins as a Russian disinformation plant, the bogus theories about his murder emerged as a persistent theme on alt-right websites and then were fanned by right-wing conspiracy entrepreneurs such as Alex Jones of Infowars and Matt Couch, the founder of an Arkansas-based group called America First Media, which bills itself as “the leading investigative team in America in the Seth Rich murder.

Along the way, the idea that Rich was murdered in retaliation for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks was championed by multiple allies of Trump, including Roger Stone. The same day Assange falsely hinted that Rich may have been his source for DNC emails, Stone tweeted a picture of Rich, calling the late DNC staffer in a tweet “another dead body in the Clinton’s wake.” He then added: “Coincidence? I think not.”

Within months, the Rich conspiracy story was also being quietly promoted inside Trump’s White House. Questions about whether the White House pushed the conspiracy theories about Rich have been raised periodically over the last two and a half years — and were consistently denied by White House officials. But the Yahoo News investigation uncovered new evidence that the false claim that Rich was the victim of a political assassination was advanced by one of the White House’s most senior officials at the time.

“Huge story … he was a Bernie guy … it was a contract kill, obviously,” then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon texted to a CBS “60 Minutes” producer about Rich on March 17, 2017, according to some of Bannon’s text messages that were reviewed by Yahoo News. (Bannon did not respond to requests for comment.)

The conspiracy claims reached their zenith in May 2017 — the same week as Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe — when Fox News’ website posted a sensational story claiming that an FBI forensic report had discovered evidence on Rich’s laptop that he had been in communication with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Sean Hannity, the network’s primetime star, treated the account as major news on his nightly broadcast, calling it “explosive” and proclaiming it “might expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history.

Among Hannity’s guests that week who echoed his version of events was conservative lawyer Jay Sekulow. Although neither he nor Hannity mentioned it, Sekulow had just been hired as one of Trump’s lead lawyers in the Russia investigation. “It sure doesn’t look like a robbery,” said Sekulow on Hannity’s show on May 18, 2017, during a segment devoted to the Rich case. “There’s one thing this thing undercuts is this whole Russia argument, [which] is such subterfuge,” he added.

In fact, the Fox story was a “complete fabrication,” said Sines, who consulted with the FBI about the Fox News claims. There was “no connection between Seth and WikiLeaks. And there was no evidence on his work computer of him downloading and disseminating things from the DNC.”

We’ve got the following pathway: Russia’s SVR creates the conspiracy theory, it then dumps it through a cutout website where it’s picked up by far right conspiracist and alt-right social media, specifically twitter. RT and Sputnik, which are Russian state controlled news media intended to propogandize Americans and non-Russian audiences in Europe, then reports on it. And Julian Assange promotes it, which further obscured both the GRU’s hacking of these emails and his role as a Russian intelligence asset in disseminating them. From there the conspiracy theory is amplified by the Russian intelligence service adjacent Internet Research Agency bankrolled by “Putin’s Chef” and Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Proghozin. The IRA trolls and bots keep the conspiracy alive where it is picked up by Alex Jones and from there it makes its way to Hannity and Fox News, after a quick detour through Roger Stone, who has a show on Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Once with Hannity it is picked up and reported on as news by the mainstream media and then weaponized in the President’s defense by his new, though not disclosed at the time, defense attorney Jay Sekulow.

What we’re getting, bit by bit, is a network map of the information networks being used to influence Americans. While some of the nodes and links within the information networks may vary a bit from influence operation to influence operation, overall it is the same network that is being weaponized. And a lot of the people in it are Americans targeting other Americans. Sometimes for political gain. Sometimes for profit. Sometimes for the Lulz. And sometimes for all of those reasons.

Nine days ago it was to smear Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez as a tool for distracting from the real issue: that the US is detaining undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and children separated from their parents in concentration camps. Yesterday it was to create a reasonable sounding, but almost completely fact free prebuttal regarding the President’s longstanding personal friendship with Jeffrey Epstein in light of Epstein’s recent arrest and indictment for sexually trafficking minors. Today we are given a tour of the information network that created and spread the conspiracy theory that Secretary Clinton had Seth Rich murdered as punishment for him stealing the DNC emails. These three examples will not be the only disinformation campaigns that will be revealed. Nor will they be the only ones to leverage this information ecosystem to influence Americans. And they will not all be produced, aided, and abetted by Russia. Other state and non-state actors, including Americans, will continue to weaponize information to influence Americans and America for their own purposes. Until or unless the US government, or failing that, the Democratic candidates and their campaigns, create a viable and effective counter-influence strategy and deploy it operationally, all Americans are at risk from this information warfare.

Open thread!

* As can be seen in the Roger Stone quote in Isikoff’s report, it was easy to weaponize the Seth Rich conspiracy because Republicans and conservatives have been explicitly stating and implicitly implying that Secretary Clinton has been running a 40 plus year operation to murder anyone who crosses the Clintons. According to this larger conspiracy theory, that was pushed into the American information ecosystem during the investigation of Vince Foster’s suicide by Congressman Burton (R-IN) and his lead congressional investigator David Bossie, who went on to be one of the President’s deputy campaign managers, Secretary Clinton killed Foster as she had killed others who had gotten in the way of her or President Clinton’s political, social, and/or economic ambitions. If this conspiracy theory was accurate, WHICH IT IS NOT!!!!!, Secretary Clinton would be the most prolific female serial killer in history. WHICH SHE ISN’T!!!!

Shove Actually (Open Thread)

So, in a series of tweets today, Trump went and demonstrated for all the world that the UK Ambassador to the United States was being kind when he merely called Trump inept, incompetent and insecure:

The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was..

…handled. I told @theresa_may how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster! I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far…

….and they are both only getting bigger, better and stronger…..Thank you, Mr. President!

The message here — from Trump’s own fat thumbs, unless he dictates these inane and childish burblings — is far more damaging than anything said in the leaked cables. It is that the President of the United States is a clown, a bully and a raging narcissist who won’t hesitate to shit on his “friends,” so there’s not really much point in kissing his fat orange ass like PM May did. I hope she didn’t have to twist too many arms to arrange the state visit.

None of this is new information, of course, but it’s yet another national embarrassment.

Although I assume that Tories who are in the running for May’s job are uniformly odious wank-monsters, this reply from Jeremy Hunt seemed on point:

1/2 @realDonaldTrump friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our Prime Minister and my country. Your diplomats give their private opinions to @SecPompeo and so do ours! You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree…

2/2…but allies need to treat each other with respect as @theresa_may has always done with you. Ambassadors are appointed by the UK government and if I become PM our Ambassador stays.

So far, it looks like Boris Johnson is bravely keeping mum. Haven’t heard about reactions from any others gunning for May’s job.

How is this playing across the pond, UK and UK media-following jackals? I seem to recall an entire Hugh Grant rom-com with the premise of a PM standing up to a bullying American president. Could Trump’s oafishness create an opportunity for a candidate willing to stand up to him, either Hunt or preferably someone who’s not right-wing douche-canoe?

Otherwise, open thread!

Open Thread: Oh, Look, Another GOP (Alleged) Felon!

Can’t throw an ore-bearing rock around the Peepot Dome Gang without hitting one. From the NYTimes, “Investigation Intensifies Into Top Trump Fund-raiser”:

Federal prosecutors have intensified their wide-ranging federal investigation into Elliott Broidy, a top fund-raiser for President Trump, signaling the Justice Department’s continued interest in questions about foreign influence on the administration.

In recent months, federal authorities have searched Mr. Broidy’s Southern California office and subpoenaed records related to him from a onetime business partner and from Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee. They have reportedly asked the authorities in Romania for assistance investigating associates with whom Mr. Broidy worked to win military intelligence contracts potentially worth as much as $64 million.

They have also charged four people who worked with Mr. Broidy on plans to influence the administration, including on behalf of interests in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. While the charges against three of his associates were unrelated to their work with Mr. Broidy, most have been asked about their relationships with him, according to several people familiar with the investigation.

Taken together, the steps suggest mounting pressure on Mr. Broidy. And they underscore the legal questions raised by his efforts to parlay his access into business advantage in the frenetic weeks after Mr. Trump’s election, and then to influence the new administration’s policies toward the Middle East, where he was pursuing contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The scrutiny comes as the Justice Department has stepped up its enforcement of foreign lobbying laws and continues to investigate whether foreign money was illegally funneled into Mr. Trump’s super PAC or inaugural committee.

Mr. Broidy’s lawyers have contended that he did not do anything that would require him to lobby. One of the lawyers, Chris Clark, said in an email on Monday that he dismissed as “utterly false” the idea that his client used his connections to Mr. Trump to drum up business…

We never had to *ask*, Your Honor. Once we’d inserted our guy into office, we could count on him doing what was best for The (GOP) Family…

The AP story is more painstaking with the details:

Broidy, a 61-year-old Los Angeles businessman, made a fortune in investments before moving into defense contracting and has played prominent roles in GOP fundraising, including as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2006 to 2008 and vice chair of the Trump Victory Committee in 2016.
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