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.



Last CPAC 2018 Open Thread: Farewell to Tarwathie Oxon Hill

Yes, as a matter of fact, this happened *just* as the Schiff memo was being released yesterday…

Schlapp brought up how Walters called Steele and implored him not to “take the worst out of what he said” and “have some grace.”

He told Steele “you’ve not been very graceful” to elements of the party…

As they wrapped the segment, Schlapp again said, “Don’t always jump to the conclusion that just because people use inarticulate words that they have it in for you.”

“I didn’t say he had it in for me!” Steele cried. “It was just stupid!”

Bloomberg, “Trump Battles Complacency in Victory Among Conservative Faithful”:

“There’s a different energy here, as opposed to opposition and negativity — less anger,” Dale Bellis, a conservative activist, said in an interview after addressing the conference on Friday. “Anger and fear many times drives us more than does optimism and hope. And so, yeah, we do need to maintain that edge.”…

For many, the desire to protect Trump against his political enemies was top of mind.

“Hanging over everyone’s head is that Nancy Pelosi and everyone is going to try to impeach Donald Trump if Democrats win,” said Sharon Gripshover, a 76-year-old retired physicist from Virginia. “Nobody’s really saying that here, but it’s in the air.”

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel urged attendees on Friday not to let America “go back to the dark ages” of Democrats, including Californian Pelosi, being in control of Congress.

Lee Harvis, 74, a private educator from Maryland, said conservatives are “more comfortable” this year than they were during the Obama era. “There’s still a lot to be angry about, but we’re not fighting in the Warsaw ghetto anymore,” he said…

Read more



Is Donald Trump a Cheating Piece of Shit?

Yes:

During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event. (A representative for Clifford did not respond to requests for comment.) In the 2011 interview with In Touch Weekly, Clifford said that Trump didn’t use a condom and didn’t mention sleeping with anyone else. Another adult-film actress, Dawn Vanguard, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room, met her and two women she brought with her in pajamas, and then “grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking for permission.” He then offered Drake ten thousand dollars in exchange for her company. (Trump denied the incident.) A week after the golf tournament, McDougal joined Trump at the fifty-fifth Miss Universe contest, in Los Angeles. She sat near him, and later attended an after-party where she met celebrities. Trump also set aside tickets for Clifford, as he did at a later vodka launch that both women attended.

This is all while he was married to Melania and Barron was a year or two old. I think now that he has accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, evangelicals will forgive him, so this is clearly only for the record.

Also: At least he didn’t have sexual relationships outside his race.








Republicans Steal Another One

The GOP guy grabs the tie-breaking seat in the Virginia Assembly by getting his name pulled out of a bowl.

The Democrat is expected to challenge this in court, which means the seat will remain vacant for now, but because the GOP thus has a 50-49 edge, they’ll hold the speakership and all committee chairs from now till next election.

Larry Sabato puts this in context:

In other words: the GOP can’t win free and fair elections. So they do everything they can to ensure they never have to contest one.

They are enemies of democracy and we won’t have ours back until they are defeated, root and branch, their citadels and their walls pulled down, their fields salted and their names unspoken until not even the memory of their sins troubles our days.  Every office, every seat, at every level of government needs to be contested.

GOP delenda est.

Image:  William Hogarth, Humours of an Election: Chairing the Member 1754-55



Dogs That Don’t Bark

Not only have Republicans been silent on any number of Donald Trump’s actions that would have caused them to erupt in impeachment fever had Barack Obama done them, they succeeded in suppressing actions that might have thwarted Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Historically, the Republicans have been the firmly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet party. One still occasionally sees anti-Communist rants from Republican commentators, but the fall of the Soviet Union diluted the value of such things.

It’s been 25 years now. People of electoral age grew up in the post Cold War world and may not realize the antagonism and fear that existed. Paul Ryan is 47, so he was 21 in 1991 and fantasizing about Ayn Rand. Mitch McConnell is 75 and doesn’t have that excuse.

Toward the end of last summer, the intelligence community was convinced that Russia was intervening in the election on the side of Donald Trump. They told President Barack Obama and other members of the administration. As the election approached, the situation became increasingly fraught. The best way to counter Russian meddling would be to expose it. However, if the Democratic President announced such a thing, he could be attacked as trying to influence the election.

The solution to that would be for the patriotic leaders of the opposition to join with the President and the intelligence community to warn the public of the foreign interference. Obama and other Democratic officials suggested that to the Republican leadership. McConnell and the Trump campaign doubted the intelligence. John Brennan, then director of the CIA, assured them that it was not a partisan matter. Read more



Open Thread: Everything’s Bolder in This (Mal)Administration…

In a terse letter to Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — leaders of the House oversight committee — President Donald Trump’s congressional liaison Marc Short declined to indicate whether any administration officials had used personal email accounts or messaging services, despite reports suggesting such communications were common in the West Wing.

“The White House and covered employees endeavor to comply with all relevant laws,” Short wrote in a two-page reply delivered late last week and obtained Monday by POLITICO.

Short’s statement comes despite recent revelations that several senior aides to President Donald Trump routinely used private email addresses and personal devices for government business. Among the current and former aides who POLITICO found at least occasionally relied on private email addresses were Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Gary Cohn and Reince Priebus.

In a similarly brief letter, Short also declined to provide records in response to a separate inquiry by Gowdy and Cummings into the use of costly private air travel by top administration officials.

The White House’s limited responses set up a potential confrontation with Gowdy, a hard-nosed prosecutor with subpoena power and a track record that includes sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state. Cummings said last week that he hoped the committee would subpoena any information that the White House declined to provide, as have other Democrats…

Anybody want to bet that Witchfinder Gowdy will take more than a token interest in Lawyer Short’s curt dismissal of his mighty prosecutorial powers?

At least now we know why so many high-ranking Repubs have suddenly started wringing their pale plump hands over the reckless, out-of-control Trump cartel’s totally unprecedented “takeover” of the GOP — suddenly it’s in the Party’s interests to pretend they had nothing to do with this gang of thieves and con artists. Shocked! they are shocked! that there might be gambling going on in their personal branded casino!…



Degrading the public sphere (data edition)

Hannah Recht is one hell of a data visualizer and story teller on healthcare. She is assembling the bare county maps for Bloomberg and then she tweeted the following on Wednesday:

She goes on to explain how and why the government map is fundamentally wrong. It is a combination of people not being familiar with the data and an intent to deceive through malice or laziness.

American public data resources are an incredible asset. They are being degraded as we speak. This is why everyone who could yank a file from November 9-January 20, 2017 yanked files. We feared that there would be massive data degradation. And the solution of archiving public resource files on non-government servers is a reasonable solution to the feared problem of forgetting the past. It does nothing for the ongoing fear that current files will not be collected, corrupted or hideously and deliberately mis-interpreted.

This is just one small example in a domain where I have knowledge and passion. We know it is happening elsewhere such as the EPA and voting rights too. I think the safe assumption is that it is happening everywhere.