House Intelligence Committee Hearing on the Mueller Report and Counterintelligence

The House Intelligence Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications. I just noticed that C-Span was not airing it until a few minutes ago. And the cable news networks don’t appear to be broadcasting it either. I’m not sure if this is a result of the snooze fest that was Monday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller Report or because they were expecting to cover several hours of hearings by the House Oversight Committee culminating in a contempt vote for both Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross. That vote has been postponed until, at least, this afternoon. So for those interested, here’s the live feed of the ongoing House Intelligence Committee on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications.

Open thread!

The Only Way Out is Through: There Can Never Be a Return to What Was Normal

I cannot count how many times – in briefings, in operational planning team meetings, in working groups, in other meetings – that I have stated to Soldiers, members of the other uniformed Services, and civilians from the Interagency that one of the end states we should be trying to achieve is not a return to what was normal. That there is no going back to how things were, whether in real life in Iraq or Afghanistan or in a war game’s scenario, the minute before the enemy invaded, the tanks rolled across the border, and/or the air campaign began. Whatever existed politically, socially, economically, religiously, and in regard to kinship as normal for that state and society ended as soon as the invasion started. The whole point of what we were trying to achieve is to establish enough stability to create enough space to begin to build a new normal. And that while the new normal would include some of the old normal, a lot of what existed in the old normal was gone forever. And trying to get it back or reestablish it was a waste of resources.

I was heartened to hear Mayor Buttigieg express this reality during his speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner yesterday (it should be queued up at the 4:31 mark):

For those who can’t watch the video, for whatever reason, he said:

We’re not going to win by playing it safe or promising to return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke.

This is not the first time that he has said something like this. From January:

I get the urge people will have after Trump. ‘Look at the chaos and the exhaustion: Wouldn’t it be better to go back to something more stable with somebody we know?’ But there’s no going back to a pre-Trump universe. We can’t be saying the system will be fine again just like it was. Because that’s not true; it wasn’t fine. Not if we could careen into this kind of politics.

I’m not advocating anyone support the Mayor, let alone anyone else. There are three candidates in the Democratic primary that I’m very enthused about, and another 1/2 dozen or so who I could live with as the nominee and eventually as president. Though I expect that most of the candidates will be out of contention and out of the campaign by the late Fall. But what Mayor Buttigieg is stating is something that is very, very important for everyone to hear, understand, accept, and internalize. And that’s not just because it is what I’ve been telling military and Interagency personnel for over a decade. Or that it’s nice to imagine that Mayor Buttigieg read one of my assessments during his time mobilized in Navy Intelligence and internalized the point I was trying to make. Rather it is because this is our real reality.

There is no going back to how things were before January 21, 2017 or November 8, 2016 or June 15, 2015. The America that we knew on those days – good, bad, and ugly – no longer exists. We can no more restore that America as we can the fantasy of a bygone America that lives in the minds of the Freedom Caucus members, the Tea Partiers, Senator McConnell’s gilded age fetishism, or the theocratic herrenvolk democracy of Vice President Pence.

We can only move forward and attempt to establish a new normal, a new American political, social, economic, and religious equilibrium. That new normal will include some parts of the old normal, hopefully the best parts, but it cannot be the old normal. And doing so won’t be easy. It is easy to break a state, a society, a culture. It is hard to repair them once broken.

The only way out is through.

Open thread.

House Judiciary Committee On the Mueller Report Live Stream

Here’s the live stream.

Open thread!

Slowly at First, and Then Suddenly: How the Trump Election Conspiracy Unraveled

This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

“The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the Times reported. Some key elements — exactly who was behind the plan, and what parts, if any, were carried out — remain murky.

But like a lot of Trump scandals, the smoke from any alleged fire was clearly visible. Nader became a Trump ally who met frequently with key players like then-national security adviser (and future felon) Michael Flynn. He also, according to the Times, later made a large payment to the ex-spy Joel Zamel, as much as $2 million. After Trump was elected, Erik Prince attended a then-secret meeting in the Seychelles believed to have been brokered by UAE to cement ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. After Trump became president, American foreign policy has been almost unwaveringly consistent in fighting for the foreign policy goals of nations believed to have supported his 2016 election: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — most notably with Trump’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal that is seriously destabilizing the Middle East. These dealings increasingly appear to have benefited the Trumps and Kushners not just politically but financially — even as they are not helpful, and even counterproductive at times, to the American people whom Trump was allegedly elected to represent.
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The Need to Speak With One Voice: Strategic Communication and Message Discipline Going Into the 2020 Election Cycle

One of the major frustrations for a lot of people now, as well as a seemingly lively source of discussion in the comments over the past couple of days, is why the Democrats and the center left to left of center organizations that support them cannot seem to get on the same page with their strategic messaging. And why are the Republicans and the conservative movement that supports it able to do so. The latter question is much easier to answer: the Republican Party, Republicans in elected and appointed positions, and the leaders and members of the conservative movement that support them, coordinate their messaging, produce uniform talking points, distribute them, use them, and then have them reinforced by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting’s local affiliates through mandated editorials, conservative/right wing talk radio, and conservative print, social, and digital media. And all of this is amplified by Russian military intelligence, as well as other states such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others who all have their own strategic objectives regarding the US and its policies.

All of this coordination and amplification are the result of Republicans, the conservative movement that supports them, the conservative organizations that do as well, and the conservative news, opinion, social, and digital media ecosystem largely speaking to white Christians. Mostly older, usually suburban to rural, and broadly evangelical, though their social and religious conservative coalition also includes traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints*. And this coordination and amplification produces results like this:

Here’s the transcript:

The Democrats, the center left to left of center organizations that support them, or, in some cases, work against them for not being pure enough, and the broad center to center left to liberal to progressive to left of center multi-ethnic, multi-religious, more urban, but also suburban, and some rural, multi-generational coalition that makes up the Democratic Party have a much harder time coordinating messaging. Some of that, of course, is evident in the previous sentence. It is hard to coordinate across so many different groups and their interests. The Republican Party has reduced itself to the representatives of a very narrow portion of Americans and, as a result, only has to message to that narrow portion of Americans. The Democratic Party is, for better or for worse, trying to represent not just everyone else, but also the narrow portion that is the Republican Party despite being hated and despised by Republicans. That makes developing a unified message, coordinating it across all potential communicators, and then enforcing message discipline much, much, much harder. It is further complicated by institutional and systemic issues that the Democrats cannot control, such as journalists who cover politics embracing bothsiderism and the view from nowhere because they think it will get Republicans and conservatives to stop abusing them. It won’t. All it does is make them the refs who are constantly being worked. And they succumb to their abusers every time. To the point that they preemptively abuse themselves.

Another complication right now, especially in regard to Special Counsel Mueller’s findings and what to do about them, is that there are just too many voices. I cannot prove it, as I’m not privy to her strategy, but my take on Speaker Pelosi’s response to the Special Counsel’s report and how to proceed is because she recognizes that she will only get one chance to use what Bob Mueller brought to light, if she acts prematurely, if the course of action is not completely effective, then she’s simply left the President, as a political creature, wounded, but enraged. She also, unfortunately, has to manage the half a dozen committee chairs most involved with ongoing inquiries into these and related matters pertaining to the Russian interference in the 2016 elections; the President’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, his administration’s, and other Republican elected and appointed officials’ financial and other connections and relations with Russians connected to Putin and his government; the President’s, his family’s, and his business’s finances, and related criminal and/or constitutional violations. That’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of information coming to light, a lot of people trying to communicate that information. And it results in a lot of noise drowning out the signal.

If I was advising Speaker Pelosi, I would recommend a slightly different approach. Specifically that she should appoint a Select Committee for the review of the Special Counsel’s findings and related matters. This would allow the House Democratic Caucus to speak with one voice – that of the select committee’s chairman or chairwoman. And have one singular coordinating point for the development and dissemination of relevant information. This wouldn’t be the immediate opening of impeachment, but, rather, the opening of a select committee specifically intended to look into all of these matters holistically to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. The existing committee investigations should still continue, but their purposes would be to feed the necessary information into the select committee. It would create a singular source point, a singular point of activity, and a singular point of contact for the Democratic majority’s inquiry to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. This makes more strategic communication sense than having to watch a half a dozen different committees work as the focus would be on the select committee and its work.

While this won’t solve the larger problem of too many messages, too many voices, and too little coordination of them, which is the curse that arises from the blessing that is the broad and deep coalition that makes up the Democratic Party, it will resolve them for the inquiries into Russia’s ongoing undeclared war against the United States, Russia’s active measures campaign as part of that war to help elect the President, and the President’s, his administration’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, and into the GOP’s own entanglements with Russia as it prosecutes its undeclared war against the United States. Pursuing this course of action would focus the attention on the select committee and make it easier for Americans to follow what is happening in the investigation and harder for the journalists focusing on politics to get distracted by shiny objects. Which, in turn, would actually make it easier for Speaker Pelosi to move to impeachment should the Democratic majority in the House determine it should do so.

Open thread!

* As I’ve written here before, if these folks ever get their way – the establishment of a white, Christian herrenvolk democracy – the evangelicals will first turn on the traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints they’ve convinced to sign on and once they’ve purged these groups and their members, the evangelicals will turn on each other over their own, intra-evangelical theological and dogmatic disputes. Sort of a domestic Thirty Years War.