Six fun (sad/awful/false/infuriating) stories emerged from the swamp in the last couple of days. Peter Taylor noted elsewhere on the site some vows made by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions on the issue of "leaks." Some of the usual suspects have pretended that this is a "Threat" against the noble profession of
The strongest or least-false coverage of this issue from that point of view may be from font of evul Politico ... in a story called Jeff Sessions' Attack on the Media Is Worse Than You Think. Of course, Objectivist analysis might find that the threat is more than necessary, and that it will encourage a proper "chilling effect." Less clear is the notion of "Lie Detectors" (in the White House). Polygraphs are a useful investigative tool, but not accepted by US courts on the whole.
Less intrusive than a lie detector is the power to subpoena ... but see the story for all the convolutions. (one stand-out point was that it is relatively rare for journalist-itutes to be prosecuted or held in contempt for refusing to reveal sources [think Judith Miller]; the Politico story points out that the four arrested cited-but-not-cited by Sessions were not recipients but those who had purloined secret and often highly-classified 'spy' entrails from the DC borg.)
The second story circulating is that Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC. This may or may not be true -- even though everyone and the dog has been biting on the "news." I do not know if this would become public in the normal course of justice.
The third story is that President Trump is a lazy do-nothing, who spends far too much time at his golf clubs ... instantiated in a nasty Newsweek cover.
The fourth story is related to the Mueller grand jury suggestion ... this excerpt is from the brief Slate article "U.S. Reportedly Intercepted Suspected Russian Agents' Chatter That Manafort Asked for Their Help With Clinton:
Buried in a long story on CNN Thursday recapping the current state of play in the Russia investigation was a reminder that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is largely out of the spotlight at the moment, may not be for long. Manafort, who had spent years on the political fringes helping dictators and strongmen get elected around the world and then lobbying on their behalf in Washington, came out of nowhere to join the Trump campaign, and then take over the reins when Cory Lewandowski was fired in June 2016. By that time, unusual communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had pinged on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar. As did Trump’s new right hand man.In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation… CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.
There are obviously multiple investigative balls in the air, and the public focus has shifted of late to Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, who certainly have had longer and more lasting influence on Donald Trump, but keep an eye on Paul Manafort, his Russia connections are deep and dodgy.
Update, Aug. 4, 2017: Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, issued this statement on the latest round of accusations: “Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election or to hack the DNC. Other than that comment, we aren't going to respond to anonymous officials illegally peddling second hand conspiracy theories. But the Justice Department, and the courts if necessary, should hold someone to account for the flood of unlawful government leaks targeting Mr. Manafort."
Manafort was the first somewhat hinky part of the Trump campaign and influence apparat to appear in posts here on OL, back a year and more ago. It's not surprising that Mueller would request documents and testimony from the Manafort axis. It isn't that he was a tool of Russia or an obvious go-between, but that he could have been a major conduit for the wink-wink quid pro quo that the crazy Russia conspiracists are certain is going to be found.
Did Mr Manafort wink-nudge the Trump attitude that 'we take help from where it comes, given that politics is a dirty dirty game'? I mean, isn't the essential question reduced to who promised what in return?
I take the tentative position that Trump's stated positions on Russia during the campaign and since being in office are obvious. So it will be exceedingly hard to show him 'promising' things on the down low, since he did it on the stump. Then, if he was inclined to reduce sanctions bite on Russia and to warm things up between the superpower and the also-ran, it was open and public. Which requires that underlings and satellites were going to be the ones dealing with the details of wink-wink, nudge-nudge. If you are a Menshist, or not.
(the more hysterical of the Russia hoopla employees and hobbyists are those who think every rumour is true, every leak informs the big picture. So the Flynn Effect [very pro-Russia relax] and other fizz from the week means Russian "information warfare" was coordinated. Which is alarmist nonsense, right?)
The fifth story is about vacation-time, but in this instance taken by the manly President of Russia. Here's a sample:
The sixth story is as usual performed by two casts, in two theatres. In the permutations, a Cernovich wing in the White House leaks out a broad range of accusations against Trump's National Security Adviser Lt. General HR McMaster -- that he is a tool of Soros/Rothschilds/Saudis, an enemy of Israel, and ever-so Swamp-Like that his hideous influence must be extirpated from Cabinet.
Two guys come shambling up the alley. First guy looks like Steve Bannon, the second guy looks like McMaster, and the guy with McMaster is brown and in a turban**. Which one would you ask out on a date/for help? Which one is leaking to the Washington Post, or -- as this week -- to Cernovich-Breitbart-Gateway Pundit?
I think there is a mini-war of ideas in the White House, which slops over into a war of words and Grand Hoopla Theatre in the mediatic multiplex. But what do I know. I am that guy who wrote "Why Donald Trump lost the election."
Trump defends McMaster in wake of criticism on the right
Incidentally, as a bonus seventh story -- did you know that obsessive humans do such things as rigorously analyze Twitter accounts that peddle the Kremlin lines of attack?
Yes you did, but did you know that PR and political attack campaigns have a particular 'footprint' or pattern? Of course you did, so it won't be a surprise that there is a website that tracks real-time information-warfare memes and their flows in Kremlin-friendly orbit. If you squint and pretend to be Louise Mensch, yesterday's peak trends like the Cernovich Leaks from the angry West Wingers about McMaster were coordinated with a robust 'managed news' campaign directed by the drunk guy in the alley. See if you can find your favourites bot link or alt-news site here. I add a screenshot of the crazy site, but first an intro from the feverish topic ends of Twitter.
* I am picturing Harjit Sajjan, who rarely togs out in his Commander outfit, but still. Who doesn't feel safer when a turbaned Sikh gets on the bus? I would think Bannon was a drunk, and McMaster probably a loud talker. Which makes me think how many more generals should join the Trump cabinet and administrative apparatus.