Americans Being Patriotic; the Russian way

Russians Appear to Use Facebook to Push Trump Rallies in 17 U.S. Cities

Daily Beast Exclusive:‘Being Patriotic,’ a Facebook group uncovered by The Daily Beast, is the first evidence of suspected Russian provocateurs explicitly mobilizing Trump supporters in real life.

Suspected Russia propagandists on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year’s election, The Daily Beast has learned.

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

The Aug. 20, 2016, events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!” and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. It’s difficult to determine how many of those locations actually witnessed any turnout, in part because Facebook’s recent deletion of hundreds of Russian accounts hid much of the evidence. But videos and photos from two of the locations—Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs—were reposted to a Facebook page run by the local Trump campaign chair, where they remain to this day.

“On August 20, we want to gather patriots on the streets of Floridian towns and cities and march to unite America and support Donald Trump!” read the Facebook event page for the demonstrations. “Our flash mob will occur in several places at the same time; more details about locations will be added later. Go Donald!”

The Florida flash mob was one of at least four pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton demonstrations conceived and organized over a Facebook page called “Being Patriotic,” and a related Twitter account called “march_for_trump.”  (The Daily Beast identified the accounts in a software-assisted review of politically themed social-media profiles.)

Being Patriotic had 200,000 followers and the strongest activist bent of any of the suspected Russian Facebook election pages that have so far emerged. Events promoted by the page last year included a July “Down With Hillary!” protest outside Clinton’s New York campaign headquarters, a September 11 pro-Trump demonstration in Manhattan, simultaneous “Miners for Trump” demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in October, and a pro-Trump rally outside Trump Tower last November, after his election victory.

The Being Patriotic Facebook page was closed in August 2017—right when Facebook purged accounts secretly operated by a notorious St. Petersburg troll factory called Internet Research Agency. According to a public report by U.S. intelligence agencies (PDF), Internet Research Agency is financed by “a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.” Being Patriotic’s posts included scores of pro-Trump or anti-Clinton memes framed and watermarked in the same style as those found on the Heart of Texas and Secured Borders Facebook pages previously identified as Russian operations.

The Being Patriotic Twitter account was suspended at around the same time.

A Facebook spokesman told The Daily Beast the company was “not able to confirm any of the details here,” in response to a question about the Russian origin of Being Patriotic, but did not challenge The Daily Beast’s reporting.

On Sept. 6, Facebook acknowledged for the first time that inauthentic accounts from 2015 to 2017 promoted what the company’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, characterized as “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.” But Stamos said that most of the fraudulent activity it found—some 3,000 ads connected to 470 now-shuttered accounts linked to Russian troll farms—“didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting, or a particular candidate.”

After The Daily Beast found known Russian accounts that used Facebook’s Events tool to promote rallies inside the United States, the company said that it was not well positioned to determine “if something like coordination occurred” between the Trump campaign and Russia—something investigators and security researchers doubt because of the social network’s massive trove of information on its customers.

But the discovery of the Being Patriotic rallies suggests that the fraudulent activity on Facebook did indeed involve messaging on behalf of Trump, did prompt at least some Americans to rally on Trump’s behalf, and did result in the Trump campaign volunteers subsequently sharing material from those events.

The pro-Trump events represent “the next level” of suspected Russian influence operations, said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has testified about those operations to a Senate committee investigating them.

“This would be a direct effort that they attempted that’s more than online promotion,” Watts told The Daily Beast. “‘Let’s organize and try to get people to move to events in a proactive way around a candidate. Again, if it traces back to Russia, you can’t deny that’s foreign influence in an election.”

The extent of Being Patriotic’s impact is not clear. In June of last year, for example, the Being Patriotic Facebook page asked participants to “gather in front of Trump Tower, N.Y.” The event received call-outs on Facebook and Twitter, and 138 people marked themselves as “attending” on Facebook. Over 400 marked themselves as interested.

March_For_Trump specifically reached out to Nick Toma, a local news anchor in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for coverage of a “Miners for Trump” rally it promoted last October, only a month before the election.

“@NickTomaWBRE Hi, Nick! We’re holding a ‘Miners for Trump’ rally tomorrow. If you’re interested in covering it, please let us know,” March_for_Trump wrote on October 1st.

When Toma was emailed the link to the tweet, he told The Daily Beast: “Don’t recall ever seeing it before.”

Facebook has turned over some of the illicit ads to special prosecutor Robert Mueller after a federal judge issued a search warrant for the material, according to CNN. Facebook also showed congressional investigators that material but did not leave it with them. Legislators investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election have expressed frustration over what they describe as insufficient disclosures to Congress, and have indicated that they will seek public testimony from Facebook and other social-media companies.

Watts, the former FBI agent and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, noted that “plausible deniability is built into any Russian active-measures strategy,” such as using troll farms in St. Petersburg or Macedonia to conceal influence campaigns. But compelling unsuspecting Americans to gather in the streets on behalf of Trump shows the reach and efficacy of those efforts.

The page earned such a large following, a known Macedonian fake news distributor, Nikola Tanevski, purchased BeingPatriotic.com this year, but the page is currently dormant. Tanevski runs popular, pro-Trump fake news factories USATwentyFour.com and TheAmericanBacon.com. Attempts to reach Tanevski did not receive a response.

The layers of deception went beyond Facebook posts and manufactured rallies. When it wasn’t organizing events, Being Patriotic encouraged violence against minorities in incendiary posts. “Arrest and shoot every sh*thead taking part in burning our flag! #BLM vs #USA,” Being Patriotic’s Twitter account posted in April 2016, using the hashtag for the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

The account also advertised a toll-free “Being Patriotic Hotline” to report instances of voter fraud on Election Day.

“Detected a voter fraud? Tell us about it! Call 888-486-8102 or take photo/video and send it to us,” the account wrote on Nov. 8. Being Patriotic’s sister account, @March_for_Trump, plugged the same phone number, as well as a hotline for the “Trump Lawyer Team.” The number is now disconnected.

‘Broward’s Most Famous Trump Fan’

When asked for comment, the White House referred The Daily Beast to the Trump campaign, which, in turn, did not respond to emailed questions. But Susie Wiles, who served as Trump’s campaign manager in Florida, told The Daily Beast that the Broward County portion of the flash mob “was not an official campaign event.”

That’s despite the fact that the event was promoted on “Official Donald J. Trump for President Campaign Facebook Page for Broward County, Florida.” Photos and videos of the demonstration were posted there afterward.

When emailed the link to the Facebook posting, Wiles told The Daily Beast: “There are groups such as this across the state—and maybe other places, too. Groups of people get together and establish a presence such as this but it is unaffiliated with the campaign, per se. The photos ring no bells with me.”

Wiles also said that the Trump campaign’s purported Broward County Facebook page, which markets itself as being “official,” was not set up by the campaign.

“The Donald Trump campaign did not set these Facebook pages up,” she told The Daily Beast. “Rather, supporters (like the lady registered as the contact) set them up to support the campaign and subsequently the president.”

The “lady” registered as the contact is Dolly Trevino Rump, the Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County who, until this April, was also the secretary of the local Republican Party. The Miami Herald described her as “perhaps Broward’s most famous Donald Trump fan.” Rump did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Neither did the chairman of the Broward County Republican Party.

The Being Patriotic event listings for its Florida flashmobs included the names and phone numbers of people listed as local volunteer coordinators. When contacted by The Daily Beast, two of those coordinators vaguely recalled the events taking place, but not much else.

Betty Triguera, who was listed as a coordinator for a gathering in Sarasota, Florida, told The Daily Beast that she recalled but didn’t attend the event.

“We got the information from it on Twitter but I didn’t go,” Triguera said unable to remember other details.

Jim Frische, who was listed as a coordinator for an event in Clearwater, Florida, told The Daily Beast that he was called about organizing an event and put one together.

He said he was unsure if it was organized by the campaign.

“I don’t recall the group’s name,” Frische said. “I know somebody called and said would you organize something so I put together a group. “I remember doing it and I think we had a dozen or so people out on the street corner. I remember afterward hearing it had happened all over the state.”

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/russians-appear-to-use-facebook-to-push-pro-trump-flash-mobs-in-florida?

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Experts paint grim legal picture for Trump if he pardons those connected to his Russian treason

10 legal experts on why Trump can’t pardon his way out of the Russia investigation

“It may prove to be one of the stupidest things he has yet done.”

Last Friday, President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt after ignoring a court order to cease his signature immigration roundups but hadn’t yet been sentenced. Trump ignored the court’s judgment and ended the case without any formal Justice Department review.

To some, Trump’s decision is a sign that he’s preparing — or at least willing — to pardon people associated with the growing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Robert Bauer, a law professor at New York University and former White House counsel to President Obama, argued in the Washington Post that the pardon may be a “test run for shutting down the Russia investigation.”

I reached out to 10 legal experts and asked them if the Arpaio decision is a signal of how Trump might seek to undercut the Russia investigation. I also asked what it would mean for the investigation if Trump pardoned key players in the scandal like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, or Jared Kushner before any of them could be convicted.

While it’s impossible to predict what Trump will do, nearly all the experts I spoke to agree on one thing: If Trump does use his pardoning powers to thwart the Russia investigation, it’s very likely to backfire.

If someone like Flynn or Kushner were preemptively pardoned, he wouldn’t be able to plead the Fifth Amendment if he were called to testify against Trump. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination. But if someone has been pardoned, they no longer face the threat of prosecution, and so they can’t use a desire to avoid incriminating themselves as an excuse not to answer a question.

So in addition to potentially obstructing justice, Trump would only leave himself — and his colleagues — more vulnerable if he decided to pardon anyone currently under investigation. Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t pull the trigger anyway. But he might want to think long and hard about the implications before he does.

There is, however, one scenario in which Trump could save himself and others from potential prosecution. It’s what Susan Bloch, a law professor at Georgetown, calls the Nixon scenario: “Trump pardons them [Flynn, Kushner, Manafort, and Donald Trump Jr.] as he is exiting the White House and Trump exits early, allowing Pence to become president, and Pence then pardons Trump. Trump will then have successfully shielded himself and his colleagues from criminal liability.”

Their full responses, edited for clarity and style, are below.

Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor, Duke University

President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio serves not only as a political signal but also as a legal strategy. Potential witnesses in Robert Mueller’s investigation now know that if they refuse to testify, they need not fear contempt citations. And if they lie to protect President Trump, he stands ready to pardon them for both their underlying offenses and their obstruction of judicial or congressional processes.

When it comes to family and staff implicated in the Russia investigation, timing will be everything, and pardons may come late in the process. President Trump appears likely to cling to the White House for as long as he profits personally from his presidency. When he must finally relinquish the office, he will no doubt make aggressive use of the pardon power on the way out.

Julie O’Sullivan, law professor, Georgetown University

If the President pardons anyone involved in the Russian investigation, it may prove to be one of the stupidest things he has yet done. If the president were to pardon Kushner or Manafort or Flynn, presumably that pardon would extend to the Russia investigation because that is what concerns Trump. If — and this is a big if — the president is shown to have pardoned them to avoid his own personal exposure in the Russia investigation, that in and of itself could constitute obstruction of justice.

Mark Tushnet, law professor, Harvard University

It’s generally thought that accepting a pardon constitutes an admission of guilt with respect to the offense for which the person was convicted. That prevents the government from prosecuting the person for that offense. But it doesn’t operate as a general grant of immunity for other offenses, so the person who is pardoned still can assert his or her right against self-incrimination with respect to those offenses.

The case of a “preemptive” pardon — that is, one issued before conviction — is different. The scope of the person’s Fifth Amendment rights would depend on the scope of the pardon — if for only specific offenses, the person would retain Fifth Amendment rights for other offenses. Basically, even after a pardon, people who Mueller wants testimony from will still be negotiating for immunity grants.

Asha Rangappa, associate dean, Yale Law School

If President Trump pardons subjects of Mueller’s investigation, they will be unable to claim their Fifth Amendment rights if they are asked to testify under oath. In theory, this would then facilitate Mueller’s investigation, as these individuals would have to tell Mueller everything they know.

Of course, this presumes that the subjects of any such pardon would tell the truth if compelled to testify under oath. Normally, the threat of being prosecuted for perjury — which would be a wholly separate crime — is what would ensure their truthfulness. What Trump’s pardon of Arpaio reveals, however, is that he is not above subverting the judicial process to reward those who stay loyal to him.

Joshua Dressler, law professor, Ohio State University

If President Trump pardons someone involved in the Russian investigation, it may depend when he pardons that person. If he awaits an indictment and pardons in advance only for the particular offenses named in the indictment, that individual might still assert his Fifth Amendment privilege on other not-yet-pardoned offenses.

However, if the president provides a pardon similar to that provided by President Ford to Nixon, in which Nixon was pardoned for “all offenses he may have committed between the dates xxx-xxx,” then that person would not have a lawful basis to assert the Fifth Amendment. He has been freed of all risks.

If President Trump provides a full Nixon-type pardon, and if the person pardoned still refuses to testify, that person could be held in contempt and jailed until he agrees to testify. But the president might pardon that as well.

Paul Butler, law professor, Georgetown University

Being pardoned is not an admission of guilt. President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon prospectively, before he had even been charged with a crime. A pardon is the president’s to bestow, and does not depend on whether the person pardoned accepts it or rejects it — it’s a presidential order to prosecutors and judges, rather than to the subject of the pardon.

A pardon is different from a blanket grant of immunity, however, so a person pardoned by the president might still claim the Fifth Amendment privilege in testifying about the subject of the pardon — for example, there might be a legitimate concern about a state prosecution for the same conduct.

Christopher Slobogin, law professor, Vanderbilt University

Under the Constitution, the president can pardon someone for a crime before legal proceedings have begun, which means before it’s known for sure whether a crime has been committed. Thus Trump could pardon everyone involved in the Russia probe by declaring that they are pardoned “for all federal offenses committed in connection with communicating with Russian officials during the 2016 election campaign.”

The only limitation is that the president cannot pardon for offenses against state, as opposed to federal, law (so if Arizona wants to go after Sheriff Arpaio, it can despite the pardon). If Congress doesn’t like the president’s use of the pardon, its only legal remedy is impeachment, although it could also hold hearings to embarrass him.

Peter Shane, law professor, Ohio State University

Russiagate pardons would pose some strategic risks for Trump. No one pardoned could constitutionally withhold their testimony in either a criminal investigation or from Congress. And, unlike the pardon of Arpaio, which is a despicable blow to the rule of law, pardoning anyone who might have been a co-conspirator in misconduct involving Trump himself would much more plausibly be impeachable.

And in any event, there is no “ground to prepare.” Pardoning Manafort, Flynn, Kushner, or anyone surnamed Trump would unleash a firestorm of protest that the Arpaio pardon will not lessen in any way. In Marbury v. Madison, John Marshall said there were “political” acts for which the president “is accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience.” While Trump’s “conscience” has yet to display itself, both Congress and the voters can hold him to account “in his political character.”

Ric Simmons, law professor, Ohio State University

it is unclear whether a defendant who accepts a pardon is somehow admitting guilt. There is a 1915 Supreme Court case which states that accepting a pardon carries an admission of guilt (Burdick v. United States), but often pardons have been granted because the president states he believes the defendant was actually innocent, and some federal statutes expressly contemplate the fact that a person who is pardoned may be legally innocent. At best, the legal rules on this are unclear.

So even though Flynn or Manafort or Kushner would not necessarily be admitting guilt if they accepted a pardon, their pardon would mean that it would be much easier to get them to testify about their actions.

Andy Wright, law professor, Savannah Law School

President Trump did significant further damage to his presidency by pardoning Joe Arpaio. To the extent it was an attempt at a “warm-up” act for Russia-related pardons, it will largely have the opposite effect. Any attempt to pardon Russia figures on naked cronyism grounds would enhance the president’s legal troubles and backfire politically.

Put another way, if Trump pardoned Michael Flynn for false statements to the FBI, Flynn could not assert false statement liability to justify pleading the Fifth in front of Congress. (If he faced state criminal charges for the same conduct, then the Fifth could still be asserted, although that is hard to imagine in the Russia investigation context.)

If Flynn still refused to testify, Congress could detain him and jail him in the Capitol building until he agreed to testify to Congress’s satisfaction. This practice is called “inherent contempt,” and either the Senate or House can act to jail a contemptuous witness on its own. A pardon would not reach Congress’s contempt jailing because it is a civil, rather than criminal, detention.

If Flynn then decided to lie to Congress, his original pardon would not cover that conduct. While a president can pardon offenses that have occurred but have not yet resulted in a conviction — as President George H.W. Bush did with several Iran-Contra figures — the president cannot pardon a crime not yet committed. Therefore, the president would have to pardon Flynn again if [Trump] were truly committed to giving him full immunity.

Of course, each one of these potential presidential acts would continue to erode the president’s political support. The Arpaio pardon may have been a lawful exercise of presidential power, but it was legally baseless and disgraceful. A friend of mine likes to describe the dangers of burning your “candle of goodwill” down to the point the flame goes out. With each abnormal, unbecoming, or dishonorable act, President Trump makes it harder for his appointees to defend him, harder for traditional Republicans to maintain their uneasy power alliance with him, and easier for Democrats to take the moral high ground and secure political advantage.

President Trump is in danger of snuffing out his candle in the first year of his presidency

https://www.vox.com/2017/8/29/16211784/donald-trump-pardon-constitution-michael-flynn-manafort

By constantly repeating the same lies Trump is setting a record pace of BS

Trump has a well earned reputation as someone who exaggerates, fabricates, and flat-out lies to advance his personal ambitions.

(Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)

In 214 days, President Trump has made 1057 false and misleading claims

The Washington Post Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false and misleading claims made by President Trump during his first 365 days in office.

Fact Checker has been tracking President Trump’s false or misleading claims for more than seven months. Somewhere around Aug. 4 or Aug. 5, he broke 1,000 claims, and the tally now stands at 1,057.

That’s an impressive number by any standard. In fact, we are a little late with this update because we have simply been overwhelmed keeping track of the deluge of claims made by the president in the later part of July. Things slowed down during the president’s “working vacation,” so we have finally been able to catch up.

At the president’s current pace, he averages nearly five claims a day. Many are repeats of claims that have been previously debunked. We also include statements that are unacknowledged flip-flops from previously held positions, such as touting new highs in a stock market that he previously derided as being a “big, fat bubble.”

More than 30 of the president’s misleading statements have been repeated three or more times.

Trump’s most repeated claim, uttered 50 times, was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Congress has been unable to pass a law that would repeal Obamacare, making the continuation of the law Trump’s problem.

Trump repeatedly takes credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected. Forty-two times, he has touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search. And 19 times he has boasted that he achieved a reduction in the cost of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even though the price cut had been in the works before he was elected.

But some of the president’s repeated claims have nothing to do with policy but instead rehash discredited campaign rhetoric, such as the false charge that Hillary Clinton gave 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to Russia or that the deputy FBI director got $700,000 from Clinton. Both claims were deemed Four-Pinocchios false in 2016. Yet Trump brought them up 11 times.

Some of Trump’s favorite claims are simply odd. Eleven times, he has said that the United States has already spent $6 trillion on “Middle East wars,” money that could have been used instead on building roads in the United States. He often suggests this is a recently calculated figure, but it combines the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which is actually in South Asia) and then includes future obligations for veterans costs and interest on the debt through 2053.

At the six-month mark, the president was averaging 4.6 claims a day, but he has now increased his pace. At his current rate, the president won’t break 2,000 claims in his first year in office. But with five months to go, all bets are off.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/22/president-trumps-list-of-false-and-misleading-claims-tops-1000/?utm_term=.8b97420668a5

 

Trump advisor Bannon’s twisted vision

Only months ago Donald Trump’s chief strategist predicted military involvement in east Asia and the Middle East in Breitbart radio shows:

The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East.

Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House.

In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders.

While many in Trump’s team are outspoken critics of China, in radio shows Bannon hosted for Breitbart he makes plain the two largest threats to America: China and Islam.

“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years,” he said in March 2016. “There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.”

China says nearly the entire South China Sea falls within its territory, with half a dozen other countries maintaining partially overlapping claims. China has built a series of artificial islands on reefs and rocks in attempt to bolster its position, complete with military-length airstrips and anti-aircraft weapons.

Bannon’s sentiments and his position in Trump’s inner circle add to fears of a military confrontation with China, after secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that the US would deny China access to the seven artificial islands. Experts warned any blockade would lead to war.

Bannon is clearly wary of China’s growing clout in Asia and beyond, framing the relationship as entirely adversarial, predicting a global culture clash in the coming years.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat,” Bannon said during a February 2016 radio show.

On the day Trump was inaugurated, China’s military warned that war between the two countries was a real possibility.

“A ‘war within the president’s term’ or ‘war breaking out tonight’ are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality,” an official wrote on the website of the People’s Liberation Army.

Aside from conflict between armies, Bannon repeatedly focused on his perception that Christianity around the world is under threat.

Steve Bannon’s role in inner circle of Trump team raises fears of security crisis

In one radio show, used to promote an article incorrectly claiming that a mosque had been built at the North Pole, Bannon focused heavily on China’s oppression of Christian groups.

“The one thing the Chinese fear more than America … they fear Christianity more than anything,” he said.

But China is not the only hotspot Bannon sees, and forecasts another ground war for American troops in the Middle East.

“Some of these situations may get a little unpleasant,” Bannon said in November 2015. “But you know what, we’re in a war. We’re clearly going into, I think, a major shooting war in the Middle East again.”

He also branded Islam as “the most radical” religion in the world, and moved swiftly since entering the White House to enact policies hostile to Muslims. Some have called Trump’s central doctrine a “war on Islam”.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/steve-bannon-donald-trump-war-south-china-sea-no-doubt

 

It can’t happen here, right? (Civil War? update)

While “wanna be dictator” Trump fans the racist flames of unrest……………….

A group of national-security experts set chance of civil war at roughly 35 percent

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria reports that in the New Yorker, Robin Wright considers the fragility of “the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy.” She cites a Foreign Policy survey that found a consensus among a group of national-security experts of a roughly 35 percent chance of civil war breaking out in the next 10 to 15 years, and interviews one of those experts, Keith Mines, a former diplomat, who puts the chances of civil war at 60 percent.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,’ Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville,” Wright writes.

“Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the ‘in’ way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.”

“The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence,” Wright writes.

The full Robin Wright story;

After the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, St. Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

President Trump “modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,” Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. “Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,” he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

To test Mines’s conjecture, I reached out to five prominent Civil War historians this weekend. “When you look at the map of red and blue states and overlap on top of it the map of the Civil War—and who was allied with who in the Civil War—not much has changed,” Judith Giesberg, the editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era and a historian at Villanova University, told me. “We never agreed on the outcome of the Civil War and the direction the country should go in. The postwar amendments were highly contentious—especially the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law—and they still are today. What does it mean to deliver voting rights to people of color? We still don’t know.”

She added, “Does that make us vulnerable to a repeat of the past? I don’t see a repeat of those specific circumstances. But that doesn’t mean we are not entering something similar in the way of a culture war. We are vulnerable to racism, tribalism, and conflicting visions of the way forward for our nation.”

Anxiety over deepening schisms and new conflict has an outlet in popular culture: in April, Amazon selected the dystopian novel “American War”—which centers on a second U.S. civil war—as one of its best books of the month. In a review in the Washington Post, Ron Charles wrote, “Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions . . . both poignant and horrifying.” The Times book reviewer noted, “It’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.” The book’s author, Omar El Akkad, was born in Egypt and covered the war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, and the Ferguson protest as a journalist for Canada’s Globe and Mail.

Before Charlottesville, David Blight, a Yale historian, was already planning a conference in November on “American Disunion, Then and Now.” “Parallels and analogies are always risky, but we do have weakened institutions and not just polarized parties but parties that are risking disintegration, which is what happened in the eighteen-fifties,” he told me. “Slavery tore apart, over fifteen years, both major political parties. It destroyed the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party into northern and southern parts.”

“So,” he said, “watch the parties” as an indicator of America’s health.

In the eighteen-fifties, Blight told me, Americans were not good at foreseeing or absorbing the “shock of events,” including the Fugitive Slave Act, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, the John Brown raid, and even the Mexican-American War. “No one predicted them. They forced people to reposition themselves,” Blight said. “We’re going through one of those repositionings now. Trump’s election is one of them, and we’re still trying to figure it out. But it’s not new. It dates to Obama’s election. We thought that would lead culture in the other direction, but it didn’t,” he said. “There was a tremendous resistance from the right, then these episodes of police violence, and all these things [from the past] exploded again. It’s not only a racial polarization but a seizure about identity.”

Generally, Blight added, “We know we are at risk of civil war, or something like it, when an election, an enactment, an event, an action by government or people in high places, becomes utterly unacceptable to a party, a large group, a significant constituency.” The nation witnessed tectonic shifts on the eve of the Civil War, and during the civil-rights era, the unrest of the late nineteen-sixties and the Vietnam War, he said. “It did not happen with Bush v. Gore, in 2000, but perhaps we were close. It is not inconceivable that it could happen now.”

In a reversal of public opinion from the nineteen-sixties, Blight said, the weakening of political institutions today has led Americans to shift their views on which institutions are credible. “Who do we put our faith in today? Maybe, ironically, the F.B.I.,” he said. “With all these military men in the Trump Administration, that’s where we’re putting our hope for the use of reason. It’s not the President. It’s not Congress, which is utterly dysfunctional and run by men who spent decades dividing us in order to keep control, and not even the Supreme Court, because it’s been so politicized.”

In the wake of Charlottesville, the chorus of condemnation from politicians across the political spectrum has been encouraging, but it is not necessarily reassuring or an indicator about the future, Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis, told me. During the Civil War, even Southern politicians who denounced or were wary of secession for years—including Jefferson Davis—ended up as leaders of the Confederacy. “If the source of conflict is deeply embedded in cultural or social forces, then politicians are not inherently able to restrain them with calls for reason,” Downs said. He called the noxious white supremacists and neo-Nazis the “messengers,” rather than the “architects,” of the Republic’s potential collapse. But, he warned, “We take our stability for granted.”

He dug out for me a quote from the journalist Murat Halstead’s book “The War Claims of the South,” published in 1867. “The lesson of the war that should never depart from us,” Halstead wrote, “is that the American people have no exemption from the ordinary fate of humankind. If we sin, we must suffer for our sins, like the Empires that are tottering and the Nations that have perished.”

Eric Foner, the Columbia University historian, won the Pulitzer Prize, in 2011, for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Like the other scholars I spoke to, Foner is skeptical that any future conflict will resemble America’s last civil war. “Obviously, we have some pretty deep divisions along multiple lines—racial, ideological, rural versus urban,” he told me. “Whether they will lead to civil war, I doubt. We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today.” He pointed out that “the spark in Charlottesville—taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee—doesn’t have to do with civil war. People are not debating the Civil War. They’re debating American society and race today.”

Charlottesville was not the first protest by the so-called alt-right, nor will it be the last. Nine more rallies are planned for next weekend and others in September.

 

Robin Wright is a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and has written for the magazine since 1988. She is the author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.

Trump’s 3 am moment looms, and The World feels threatened

So far, the crises that President Donald Trump has faced while in office have all been of his own making.
However, Republican strategist Rick Wilson warns that is going to change — and he says the way the Trump administration so far has responded to its own self-inflicted crises should “terrify us all.”

“Crisis tests the mental acuity and character of presidents,” he writes in the Daily Beast. “It demands a degree of focus and reveals character like nothing else.”

Unfortunately for the United States, writes Wilson, our current president seems completely ill equipped to handle a Cuban missile crisis, a housing market crash, or a 9/11-style terrorist attack.

“What we know of Donald Trump is that he lacks all of these characteristics, and while some of his advisers have shining parts, he ignores those who offer him counsel on how to behave, govern, and lead as a president,” he explains. “The Scaramucci sideshow was one more example of how deeply unready Trump is for a real crisis and how at risk our nation is because the president is temperamentally (and, let’s be real, mentally) unfit to serve.”

So what should we do when an inevitable external crisis arises? Wilson says we should hope for the best — while expecting the worst.

“The way Trump governs himself when America isn’t under overt attack should sober you,” he says. “The prospect of how he’ll respond when we are should terrify us all.”

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/trumps-3-a-m-phone-call-is-coming-and-his-response-should-should-terrify-us-all-gop-strategist/

Globally, more people see U.S. power and influence as a major threat

Concerns about American power and influence have risen in countries around the world amid steep drops in U.S. favorability and confidence in the U.S. president.

Across 30 nations surveyed by Pew Research Center both in 2013 and this spring, a median of 38% now say U.S. power and influence poses a major threat to their country, up 13 percentage points from 2013.

Concerns about U.S. power as a threat are comparable to worries over Chinese and Russian power in much of the world. About three-in-ten around the globe name China or Russia as a major threat.

It’s worth noting that worries about all three countries trail concerns about other tested threats. People are much more likely to feel threatened by ISIS and climate change, in particular, but also by the condition of the global economy, cyberattacks, and refugees from countries like Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, the proportion of the public that views American power as a major threat to their country grew in 21 of the 30 nations between 2013 and 2017. The largest increases occurred in Spain (42 percentage points), Chile (34 points), and Turkey and Ghana (28 points each).

Just in the past year, perceptions of the U.S. as a major threat have increased by at least 8 percentage points among several long-standing American allies, including Australia (13 points) and the UK (11 points). Concern about U.S. power is up 10 points in Canada, Germany and Sweden, and 8 points in France and the Netherlands.

In other countries, however, fewer people see the U.S. as a major threat compared with four years ago. In Poland and India, for example, the share of people who believe U.S. power is a large concern for their country decreased by 8 percentage points. And in Russia, the Philippines and Jordan, perceptions of American power as a major threat did not change between 2013 and 2017.

 

U.S. power and influence ranks as the top threat in only one country – Turkey (72%) – where it ranks 8 points higher than the second-greatest concern, refugee displacement from countries like Iraq and Syria. (Due to security concerns, the survey did not ask people in Turkey about the threat posed by ISIS.)

In Japan, people see China and the U.S. as almost equally threatening: 62% of Japanese respondents see the U.S. as a major threat while 64% say the same for China. On the other hand, fewer than one-in-five in Israel (17%) and Poland (15%) say American power is a major threat.

America’s neighbors, Mexico and Canada, both see the U.S. as more threatening than either China or Russia. In Mexico, a 61% majority perceives U.S. power as a major threat. And in Canada, 38% feel threatened by the U.S. This figure exceeds Canadians’ threat ratings of Russian and Chinese power (30% and 25%, respectively).

Concerns about U.S. power and influence differ by demographic groups across a number of key U.S. allies. In Australia, for example, women are 20 percentage points more likely than men to feel American power is a major threat. Women are also considerably more likely to view the U.S. as a major concern in Canada (16 points), Japan (11 points), the UK (11 points) and France (10 points).

Those on the ideological left are also more likely than those on the right to see U.S. power and influence as a large concern. In the UK, for example, 52% of those on the left see American power as a major threat to their country. Just 29% of Brits on the right agree. The left-right gap is 22 percentage points in South Korea, 20 points in Canada, 18 points in Australia, 13 points in Greece, 11 points in Sweden and 8 points in the Netherlands.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/01/u-s-power-and-influence-increasingly-seen-as-threat-in-other-countries/

 

Putin’s got another big treasonous supporter in Congress

Dana Rohrabacher represents California’s 48th District. Orange County California. Congressman Rohrabacher serves as Chairman of the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Rohrabacher is a hard right winger and a Trumpster and has won acclaim during his 13 terms from the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.

 

Financier Bill Browder has accused Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of violating federal sanctions by using information provided by Russian officials to try to convince Congress to overturn those sanctions.

Browder filed a complaint with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control this week saying Rohrabacher and his staff member, Paul Behrends, violated the Magnitsky Act by taking information from a sanctioned Russian official and using the information to try to change the act.

The act is named for attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after accusing several prominent Russians of stealing $230 million in taxes. Browder, who was Magnitsky’s boss, persuaded Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012. It prevents more than 40 prominent Russians involved in the affair from traveling to or banking in the U.S. The act infuriated Russian President Vladimir Putin, who retaliated by halting U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

The complaint relies heavily on a recent Daily Beast report about a memo Rohrabacher received detailing complaints about Magnitsky and Browder during a 2016 meeting in Moscow with a high-ranking Russian justice official who was among those sanctioned under the act.

Congress was considering expanding the act at the time, and there was an intense lobbying effort by a handful of people with Russian ties on Capitol Hill to have Magnitsky’s name removed from it.

In the complaint, Browder alleges Rohrabacher and Behrends “provided services to one of the central figures targeted by the Magnitsky Act” because they got information from the Russian official and used it to try to change the law.

In a statement responding to the complaint, Rohrabacher said he questions why Browder doesn’t want the congressman to get information from multiple sources.

“Anyone who knows me understands that I am the Member of Congress least likely to take directions from government officials, especially foreign government officials. Because of some grotesquely misleading headlines, Mr. Browder flatters himself by claiming that I contemplated conducting a hearing all about him. Perhaps he protests too much,” Rohrabacher said.

Browder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and called out Rohrabacher as part of Russian efforts to sway Congress to get rid of the Magnitsky Act. It’s unusual for a sitting member of Congress to be called out by a witness on Capitol Hill, but senators didn’t react to the statement.

“We know for sure that part of their campaign was running around Capitol Hill. One of the people that they were able to convince to go along with them is a member of the House of Representatives from Orange County, Dana Rohrabacher, who they have met with on a number of occasions and who has been effectively touting, or spreading their propaganda around the House of Representatives,” Browder said.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-complaint-filed-over-rohrabacher-