This is Weird: Robert Mercer Makes a Move

Wilson is referring to this news from the NY Times:

Robert Mercer, a billionaire investor who is a big backer of many conservative causes and a patron of the former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, is stepping down as co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, the giant hedge fund.

Mr. Mercer sent a letter to investors and pension advisers on Thursday morning in which he said he would step down. A copy of the letter was reviewed by The New York Times.

The one-paragraph letter to investors did not give a reason for Mr. Mercer’s decision. Mr. Mercer’s involvement in conservative politics became a lightning rod for criticism during and after the presidential election.

But in a letter to the employees of the hedge fund, with the subject line “past, present, and future,” Mr. Mercer acknowledged the public scrutiny he has faced since Mr. Trump’s election.

Here’s the link to Mercer’s letter. And here are three of the more interesting items in the letter that Rick Wilson is responding to.

The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.

Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.

For personal reasons, I have also decided to sell my stake in Breitbart News to my daughters.

What remains to be seen is whether he’s actually making a break with Bannon and Breitbart or this is all for show and he’ll still be involved behind the scenes with his daughter fronting things. As for Milo, provided Mercer actually carries through on pulling his support, he just lost his sugar daddy and now has no source of income or funding. As Buzzfeed recently reported, everything Milo is doing is being paid for by the Mercers.



Emails! 2: A Final Point

When I drafted my earlier post today I removed a couple of sentences because I thought I was ahead of myself in my assessment. Specifically I deleted that “anyone who has ties to Assange are now facing scrutiny from the Special Prosecutor’s investigation. This includes Congressman Rohrbacher, Nigel Farage, Roger Stone, etc, and those tied to them, such as Steve Bannon, Chuck Johnson, Milo Yiannopoulos, etc.”

The Guardian has now reported that my initial instincts were correct:

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.

“One of the things the intelligence investigators have been looking at is points of contact and persons involved,” one source said. “If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage.

“He’s right in the middle of these relationships. He turns up over and over again. There’s a lot of attention being paid to him.”

The source mentioned Farage’s links with Roger Stone, Trump’s long-time political adviser who has admitted being in contact with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker whom US intelligence agencies believe to be a Kremlin agent.

But Farage’s relationships with people close to the US president began years earlier. Farage first met Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategist and former campaign chief executive, in the summer of 2012, when Bannon, who was interested in rightwing movements in Europe, invited the then Ukip leader to spend a few days in New York and Washington, according to an account in the New Yorker magazine.

There Farage was introduced to, among others, the staff of the then senator Jeff Sessions, who is now the US attorney general. Speaking of his longtime admiration for Bannon, Farage told the New Yorker last year: “I have got a very, very high regard for that man’s brain.”

While these connections in the neo-nationalist and neo-fascist right are not surprising, they are good examples of network based targeting. The same type of social network analyses that were exploited to great effect in warping the US elections in 2016 are now being used to investigate and ultimately to prosecute those who targeted the US and the election. There’s an entire network of alt-righters, neo-NAZIs, white supremacists, neo-nationalists, neo-fascists, etc orbiting around these big names. Each and every one of those folks, from the Rage Furby to the Mandrill Mentality to Halfbaked Alaska to Ensign Urinalysis to the Stupidest Man on the Internet and the Twink for Trump should consider hiring good lawyers. The small fry are going to get quickly cooked in order to get to the big fish.



Emails!

I just want to take a moment and focus on the Papadopolous confession that John highlighted earlier. Specifically this part from the Statement of the Offense:

Defendant PAPADOPOULOS acknowledged that the professor had told him about the Russians possessing “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” but stated multiple times that he learned that information prior to joining the Campaign. In truth and in fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS learned he would be an advisor to the Campaign in early March, and met the professor on or about March 14, 2016; the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign; and the professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS about the “thousands of emails” on or about April 26, 2016, when defendant PAPADOPOULOS had been a foreign policy adviser to the Campaign for over a month.

The DNC, DSCC, and DCCC hacks, as well as the spear phishing hack on John Podesta all took place before the Russians used the foreign professor as a dangle to hook first Papadopolous and then, hopefully, the Trump campaign. Similar language was used in the approach by the Agalarovs and Veselnitskaya in June 2016 to Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.

While the Papadopolous approach in the spring and the Donald Trump Jr approach in the summer did not, as far as we know, lead to a transfer of any of this materials to the Trump campaign, those emails and hacked documents still were made public. They were specifically made public by Wikileaks/Julian Assange. While Assange has consistently denied that he works for, is involved with, and/or received the stolen documents from Russian sources (intel and/or organized crime), what little fig leaf of cover his denials provides is fast disintegrating. At this point Assange’s disingenuous denials, and those of his supporters, are almost completely pointless.

Even more interesting is that this is at least the third, if not the fourth, attempt by the Russians to use a nebulously defined emails that incriminate or have dirt on Secretary Clinton to approach the Trump campaign. Papadopolous, based on the statement of offenses, seems to be the first in chronological order (that we currently know of). Peter Smith, who claimed to be in contact with LTG (ret) Flynn, was the second. Donald Trump Jr, along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, would seem to be the third based on the approach from the Agalarovs, via Goldstone, on behalf of Veselnetskiya in June 2016. The possible fourth would be Roger Stone based on his October 2016 Twitter statement that John Podesta would soon have time in the barrel.

And it is the nebulous definition of what is meant by emails on the Russian side that is important. As far as anyone knows the only emails and documents that the Russians got were whatever they hacked from the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, as well as spear phished from John Podesta’s email account. None of these are the work  emails that either the DOJ was reviewing as part of a dispute between the State Department and the US Intelligence Community over what needed to be up classified or declassified in regard to FOIA requests. Nor were they the 30,000 or so emails that had been deemed to not be work related and therefore not turned over to the State Department for archiving pursuant to Federal records laws. The Russians, however, had determined that dangling the notion that they had Secretary Clinton’s actual emails and that they could make them available was the best bait to fish with. This wasn’t hard to figure out. The President and his surrogates on the campaign trail were bellowing about it at rallies. Everyone at FOX News but Shep Smith and Chris Wallace were constantly ranting and raving about it. As was everyone on talk radio and on the right wing news/commentary parts of the Internet and social media.

Apparently the NY Times has been right all along; this is all about Secretary Clinton’s emails. That the Trump campaign wanted them and that the Russians had determined the Trump campaign would be willing to deal to get them. Tells you something about what Putin thinks of the President and the people around him. And what he thinks he could get from the President.

This is going to be important too, once people start focusing on it:



Just a Quick Note on the Mueller Investigation

Throughout the comments since last night’s breaking news regarding Robert Mueller’s Special Prosecutor’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections there is a lot of confusion and speculation, informed and uninformed, about what is actually going on. I wanted to make what I think is an important, but often forgotten point: Mueller’s investigation is rooted in/an outgrowth of a joint counterintelligence investigation.

Joint Publication 2-01/Joint and National Support to Military Operations defines counterintelligence as:

Counterintelligence (CI) uses collection techniques that are similar to HUMINT, but CI targets those entities that are targeting friendly forces, a more narrow focus than HUMINT. Nonetheless, exploitation of data collected by CI assets can yield information critical to I&W and force protection. Service component CI elements conduct CI collection using liaison; elicitation; passive collection; review of open sources; military CI collections; and screening, interviews, and debriefing of displaced persons, defectors, refugees, and US persons with access to information of CI interest. Additionally, law enforcement information and suspicious activity reports are important sources of information that need to be processed, exploited, and fused with other CI sources. Processing of CI information primarily involves report preparation by collection activities at both the joint force and component levels. At the joint force level, this processing may also be accomplished within the J-2X*.

For more detailed information regarding CI processing, exploitation, and reporting, see JP 2-01.2, Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Support to Joint Operations.

Lawfare has an excellent two part run down of counterintelligence in regard to Mueller’s mandate as the special prosecutor by Aditya Bamzai. Professor Bamzai explains in part one:

 Counterintelligence investigations are different from criminal investigations in several ways.  For one thing, the goal of a counterintelligence investigation may be different from, and perhaps broader than, a criminal investigation.  A criminal investigation would ordinarily pursue allegations of criminal conduct.  A counterintelligence investigation, by contrast, may pursue allegations of “coordination” between U.S. persons and foreign hackers that may be unseemly and problematic if true, but potentially not criminal—such as, to use Professor Kent’s example, the possibility that a person within the United States coordinated to distribute material previously hacked by agents of a foreign government.  As the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations explain, the FBI is “not limited to ‘investigation’ in a narrow sense, such as solving particular cases,” but may also collect information to support “broader analytic and intelligence purposes.”  In the case of the FBI, the line between counterintelligence and criminal investigations may not be a bright one.  “In many cases,” as the Guidelines put it, “a single [FBI] investigation will be supportable as an exercise of a number of these authorities—i.e., as an investigation of a federal crime or crimes, as an investigation of a threat to the national security, and/or as a collection of foreign intelligence”—because the FBI has a role in enforcing both criminal law and “in collecting foreign intelligence as a member agency of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

There’s a lot more at the link, but this, I think, is one of the most important portions for everyone to get their heads around. Mueller inherited the joint counterintelligence investigation that had begun during the summer of 2016 into Russian active measures and interference in the 2016 election. This means that Mueller and his team in the Special Prosecutor’s office have access to the full range of US, allied, and partner intelligence and counterintelligence related to the issues he’s investigating. It is this material that forms the bases of FISA warrant requests, not political oppo research like Fusion GPS’s Steele dossier.

In seeking to bring charges, which are not always the focus or outcome of a counterintelligence investigation, Mueller has to navigate from the world of intelligence and counterintelligence, from the classified world of need to know and special access programs to information that can be brought before a grand jury. This means that while Mueller, his team in the Special Prosecutor’s office, and those on the joint counterintelligence task force he inherited know the full depth, breadth, and scope of what happened, how it happened, why it happened, where it happened, and who it happened to it doesn’t mean he can just curate that into a compelling narrative and bring it to the grand jury. Like everyone else with a clearance and access he has to protect not just the information, but the sources and methods that were utilized to get the information. This means that whatever information he brings to the grand juries he has access to, and whatever charges he brings, are going to have to fit within the body of Federal criminal law.

As a result there is a lot of speculation that what he’s doing looks like a white collar investigation and prosecution or one of organized crime. And this may be true as far as appearances go. But it is true in that he and his team have to find evidence that can be presented to the grand jury and then utilized in a trial to prosecute those who are the target of his inquiries and the joint counterintelligence task force. We may never see a charge of espionage, because while it certainly happened with the hacking of Podesta’s emails, the DNC, the DSCC, and the DCCC, as well as similar hacking of GOP organizations and officials, Mueller may not be able to make that case without divulging sources and methods. Instead he’s got to find another way to get at those who engaged in these activities through more mundane charges. Hence all the speculation about leveraging Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), as well as other investigations into financial and business irregularities into Manafort, Flynn, etc. What we’re going to see play out in public – as a result of indictments and prosecutions – is really just a bit of what has actually happened and what Mueller and his team know. In this case the meme is very, very accurate.

The J-2X is the staff element of the intelligence directorate of a joint staff that combines and represents the principal authority for counterintelligence and human intelligence support. See also counterintelligence; human intelligence. (JP 2-01.2) Adam here: J stands for Joint, 2 is the numerical code for the intelligence section in a US military unit, and the X here is referring to the counterintel and human intel personnel.



Friday Night News Dump: Mueller Has a Sealed Indictment

CNN has the details (h/t Thru the Looking Glass):

Washington (CNN)A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

More details at the link. And now we know why the GOP disinformation campaign was kicked into high gear this week.
Stay frosty!


Medal of Honor Award Ceremony Live Stream

The President will be awarding a long overdue Medal of Honor today. The recipient, Gary Michael Rose, was an 18D (Green Beret “shooting medic”) during the events he is finally being recognized for.

Rose, who was a Green Beret, was given the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest medal for valor, four months after the mission in 1971. Monday’s Medal of Honor is considered an upgrade of that award.

The honors recognized Rose’s valiant efforts in Vietnam as he traveled with the unit, which was called the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, or MACSOG. He suffered wounds from bullets and rockets as well as a helicopter crash.

He is credited with saving more than 100 comrades during the mission.

Rose was the only medic among 16 Green Berets and 120 Vietnamese tribal fighters known as Montagnards traveling in the covert unit. They were dropped in the Laotian jungle Sept. 11 for the mission known as Operation Tailwind. As they moved into enemy territory to a North Vietnamese encampment, they almost immediately came under heavy fire and the force took multiple casualties.

In several cases, Rose used his own body as a human shield to protect members of his unit, even as he was wounded, and continued to treat others. “My focus was to take care of the guys who were hurt,” Rose recalled. “You just got to do your job and keep moving down the road.”

In the end, every soldier would be wounded, three Montagnards were killed and three helicopters crashed.

On Friday, Rose reiterated the medal will belong to his MACSOG unit, others who fought at that time and recognizes the efforts of the troops who did and didn’t make it back from the mission.

“This medal, I consider a collective medal,” Rose said. “For all of us who fought on the ground, in the Air Force and the Marines on Operation Tailwind. In a greater sense, it also honors the Special Forces during this time frame.”

What is so interesting about this award is its connection to one of the largest Vietnam War conspiracy theories. In 1998 CNN debuted a new new’s magazine show in conjunction with Time Magazine. The first episode dealt with Operation Tailwind. But not the actual Operation Tailwind. Rather it focused on what turned out to be an elaborate conspiracy theory created around the myth that the US government deliberately stranded Soldiers in Vietnam. Essentially making them missing in action. The story quickly fell apart and did major damage to CNN’s reputation. The whole thing is detailed in an excellent book by Professor Jerry Lembcke: CNN’s Tailwind Tale: Inside Vietnam’s Last Great Myth.

Here’s the live stream so you can see if the President can stay on script or whether he compounds last week’s unforced errors with some new ones.

Open thread!

 



Open Thread: Bad Parenting, Tragi(comic) Results

Yeah, Sheriff Thirsty is throwing stones right at his own glass jaw. Bella Abzug was my first political icon; I’m all in favor of more political women wearing Big Statement Hats.

Gail Collins read Ivana’s new book, and points out that D-Jr is another victim of the broken Rich White Narcissist subculture so sadly prominent today…

I’m sort of presuming that you’re not going to read it, despite the fact that it includes several recipes. So let me summarize. The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”

As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)

Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”

Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.

It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school…

Of course, his old man was reportedly physically abusive, as well.

Can you imagine the Wingnut Wurlitzer weasel screaming if this was Chelsea Clinton — never mind our most recent President’s daughters?