Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who Will Be The First Trump Regimistas To Go To Prison For Treason?


Last weekend, we looked at the enormity of the horror Vladimir Putin represents. A Maddow clip I embedded, showing the slavish obeisance with which a growing number of poorly educated so-called "Christian conservative" Trumpists in red state America treat Putin, was removed from YouTube by MSNBC. Yesterday Think Progress' senior religion reporter, Jack Jenkins, reported about this bizarre emerging alliance between Putin and Trump’s God squad. Treason is very much in the air.
As evidence continues to emerge of Russia’s alleged attempts at the direction of Vladimir Putin to disrupt the 2016 election through nefarious means, President Donald Trump has endured fiery criticism from all sides regarding his ties to the authoritarian leader. In addition to an avalanche of progressive detractors, Republican senators such as Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have expressed unease about the connection, and Pope Francis declared the budding alliance between the U.S. and Russia “dangerous.”

But as Trump prepared for his first face-to-face meeting as president with Putin this past weekend, his attempt to thaw relations with Moscow was blessed by a seemingly unusual source: Rev. Franklin Graham, a prominent member of the Religious Right and the son of evangelist Billy Graham. Days before the meeting, the younger Graham--  a longtime Trump supporter who led a prayer at the president’s inauguration--  published a Facebook post voicing optimism about a potential Trump-Putin partnership.

“The media and enemies of President Trump have tried to drive a wedge between Russia and the United States,” Graham, who is known for spouting Islamophobic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, wrote. “Our country needs Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Join me in praying for President Trump and President Vladimir Putin as they have this very strategic meeting.”

An evangelical heaping praise on a U.S.-Russian partnership may surprise some, but the pastor’s prayerful post belies a deeper history that is already shaping American politics: Graham, working tandem with Russian church officials and select few of his right-wing Christian colleagues, has already formed an alliance with the Russian president --  all while Putin continues to use faith as a tool to accrue power.

...Graham’s remarks are the result of a years-long international power consolidation effort by Putin, who is is well known for using faith--  particularly the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), a subset of Eastern Orthodox Christianity whose reach extends beyond Russian borders--  as a mechanism to expand his country’s influence and antagonize Western opponents.

According to Christopher Stroop, a visiting instructor at the University of South Florida honors college and a published expert on modern Russian history, Putin became close with the ROC after beginning his third term in 2012.

“The Orthodox church domestically shores up the [Putin] regime, but it also works internationally to push the party line in pursuit of its own goals as well--  and the church hierarchs are genuinely socially conservative,” Stroop told ThinkProgress, noting that Putin’s embrace of the ROC coincided with a broader shift toward right-wing populism.

...[A]s the New York Times reported last fall, Putin lifts up the church’s moral authority as a “traditional” answer to the west’s increasing liberalism, positioning Russia as an opponent to progressive causes such as LGBTQ rights and multiculturalism. This allows Putin to perpetuate the idea that Europe and America--  not Russia--  are faithless nations by comparison.

“Putin has rebranded himself as a champion of traditional values,” Stroop said.

...The push against the liberal west slowly won converts the world over, with Russia analyst Casey Michel describing the country in February as “the leader of the global Christian Right.”

“American fundamentalists bent on unwinding minority protections in the U.S. have increasingly leaned on Russia for support --  and for a model they’d bring to bear back home, from targeting LGBT communities to undoing abortion rights throughout the country,” Michel wrote in Politico.

The potential political benefits for the Kremlin are obvious: The Religious Right would be a prize for anyone looking to gain influence American politics, as right-wing faith leaders--  especially those who claim evangelical Christianity--  have long played an active role in elections. What’s more, some of their most controversial members (including Graham) have only gained influence during Trump’s rise.

...[T]he shift has accelerated in recent years. Other anti-LGBTQ groups such as the American Family Association, American Center for Law and Justice, and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) have all endorsed various anti-gay legislation in Russia. NOM head Brian Brown even traveled to Russia to testify on behalf of anti-gay legislation and deem Putin a “lion of Christianity.”

Evangelical leaders such as pastor Rick Joyner have also spoken favorably of Russia in the past year, and Ken Ham--  an ardent creationist who erected both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky--  praised Putin’s jabs at the West in a Facebook post in 2014.

“Putin is actually seeing what is described in Romans 1 happening before our eyes in the USA (and the West in general) and being exhibited before the world. We are in a massive spiritual battle--  I pray the church wakes up,” Ham said, referencing Putin’s rejection of LGBTQ rights.
Now let's move to a different part of this treachery, one that is more center-stage in today's political conversation-- the treasonous posture of the Trump family during the 2016 election. Yesterday Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, reporting for McClatchy, broke the explosive story about how Jared Kushner-in-law is being investigated by the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department for helping to guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states-- areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told McClatchy he wants to know whether Russia’s “fake or damaging news stories” were “coordinated in any way in terms of targeting or in terms of timing or in terms of any other measure … with the (Trump) campaign.”

By Election Day, an automated Kremlin cyberattack of unprecedented scale and sophistication had delivered critical and phony news about the Democratic presidential nominee to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of millions of voters. Some investigators suspect the Russians targeted voters in swing states, even in key precincts.

Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.

One source familiar with Justice's criminal probe said investigators doubt Russian operatives controlling the so-called robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently "known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states."

All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is confidential.

Top Democrats on the committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have signaled the same.

Schiff said he wants the House panel to determine whether Trump aides helped Russia time its cyberattacks or target certain voters and whether there was “any exchange of information, any financial support funneled to organizations that were doing this kind of work.”

Trump son-in-law Kushner, now a senior adviser to the president and the only current White House aide known to be deemed a “person of interest” in the Justice Department investigation, appears to be under the microscope in several respects. His real estate finances and December meetings with Russia’s ambassador and the head of a sanctioned, state-controlled bank are also being examined.

Kushner’s “role as a possible cut-out or conduit for Moscow’s influence operations in the elections,” including his niche overseeing the digital operations, will be closely looked at, said the source knowledgeable about the Justice Department inquiry.

Kushner joined Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort at a newly disclosed June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York.. The meeting, revealed by the New York Times, followed emails in which Trump Jr. was told the lawyer for the Russian government would provide him with incriminating information on Clinton and he replied “If it’s what you say I love it.”

That disclosure could only serve to heighten interest in whether there was digital collaboration.

Mike Carpenter, who in January left a senior Pentagon post where he worked on Russia matters, also has suspicions about collaboration between the campaign and Russia’s cyber operatives.

“There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” he said, without naming any American suspects.

Trump has repeatedly repudiated or equivocated about the finding of four key intelligence agencies-- the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and the Directorate of National Intelligence-- that Russian cyber operatives meddled with the U.S. election.

Last Friday, during their first face-to-face meeting, Trump questioned Putin about Russia’s role in the election meddling and Putin denied culpability, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was present. Trump then said the two countries should find ways to move forward in their relationship, Tillerson said.

A Russian official who was at the meeting said the two sides agreed to form a working group to address cybersecurity, including interference in other countries’ internal affairs. However, Trump backtracked Sunday night, saying in a tweet that he doesn’t believe such an effort can happen.

As more has been learned about the breadth of the Russian cyber onslaught, congressional Democrats have shown growing resolve to demand that the Republican-controlled intelligence committees fully investigate ways in which Trump associates may have conspired with the Russians.

Among other things, congressional investigators are looking into whether Russian operatives, who successfully penetrated voting registration systems in Illinois, Arizona and possibly other states, shared any of that data with the Trump campaign, according to a report in Time.

“I get the fact that the Russian intel services could figure out how to manipulate and use the bots,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told Pod Save America recently. “Whether they could know how to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren’t even aware (of) really raises some questions … How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?”

The Russians appear to have targeted women and African-Americans in two of the three decisive states, Wisconsin and Michigan, “where the Democrats were too brain dead to realize those states were even in play,” Warner said.

Twitter’s and Facebook’s search engines in those states were overwhelmed, he said, meaning they couldn’t discern fake news from real news.

“On your news feed, you suddenly got … ‘Hillary Clinton’s sick’ or ‘Hillary Clinton’s stealing money from the State Department,’” said Warner.

It started even before Trump locked up the nomination. Throughout the Republican primary elections in early 2016, Russia sent armies of bots carrying pro-Trump messages and deployed human “trolls” to comment in his favor on Internet stories and in social media, former FBI special agent Clint Watts told Congress weeks ago.

Watts, now a cybersecurity specialist with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the targets included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

As Donald Trump was locking up the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016, a U.S. intelligence intercept picked up Russians discussing ways to spread news damaging to Clinton, two people familiar with the matter said.

No one has proved that Russia’s attack influenced the vote count in the Nov. 8 general election., but it wouldn’t have taken much to tip the results and change the course of history.

Clinton lost the decisive states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by a combined 77,744 votes out of 13.9 million ballots cast. She could have won Michigan if 5,353 Trump voters had gone for her instead, Wisconsin if 11,375 votes had flipped to her and Pennsylvania if 22,147 Trump voters had instead picked her.

Kushner’s pivotal role in the Trump cyber effort was underscored by his hiring in 2015 of Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital guru who previously had done work for the Trump Organization, said two GOP operatives familiar with the campaign.

Parscale’s company raked in about $90 million for work targeting many states with paid advertisements, social media messages and other cyber tools.

As the Trump campaign’s top digital director, Parscale ran much of the operation from his San Antonio offices. He is expected to appear before at least one of several congressional committees investigating aspects of Russia’s interference in the election.

Parscale could not be reached for comment.

CNN quoted him last month as dismissing suggestions that Russian-directed online bots would have been effective in swinging votes to Trump. He said the campaign did not find Twitter-- where those bots mainly functioned-- to be an effective tool.

Washington attorney Abbe Lowell, who was recently hired to be Kushner’s chief defense counsel and has “a reputation as a guy you hire if you're going to do battle with the government,” according to one former federal prosecutor, declined to comment on the Russia inquiries facing Kushner.

Shortly after his name arose in the inquiry, Kushner publicly volunteered to tell Congress about his Russia contacts and to answer questions about all issues for which he’s being scrutinized. Another of Kushner’s lawyers, Jamie Gorelick, says he will cooperate with both congressional and Justice Department investigations.

However, no interview date has been set, and Kushner’s attorneys decline to say whether he has produced records sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Smart money in DC indicates Kushner is far more likely to serve prison time before Trump, Jr. or Sr.

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At 6:12 PM, Blogger Steven Dorst said...

My prediction: Nobody will go to prison for treason!

Treason is a very specific crime, requiring two witnesses per the Constitution.

But there area lot of other crimes that many of them could be convicted of. Perjury will be, perhaps, the easiest to prove (I've lost count of how many of his merry band denied contact with foreign governments on their security clearance forms.)

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only ones in danger of treason charges are the media, and I think they know it. Explains a lot. If the entirety of the drumpfsterfire weren't so gawdawful stupid, regularly admitting to crimes and all, they'd be intimidating the media and we'd never hear another word about it.

So the us has a hundred million religious zealot morons, some number of them that the Russians have co-opted? Sounds about right.
We also have easily gooned elections (both of the money parties have defrauded elections) and Putin took advantage of it? Sounds about right.
One money party was running a virulent Russophobe who was operative in fomenting the neo-Nazi coup in Ukraine. The other money party was running a sub-sentient imbecile who is easily cajoled into doing whatever Putin wants... so he does. Sounds about right.

And between the 2 pathetic loser candidates, 127 million American shit-for-brains voted (something like 65 million who could have did not). How many of them were of the Christian zealot shit-for-brains that love Putin's particular xenophobias? How many of those were affected by putin's manifold election manipulation? Who knows. But it sounds about right that it could have been millions.

And obamanation knew about most, if not all, of this and all he did was take away a couple of houses from the Russian foreign service? I mean... ya think he shoulda done a LITTLE more?

No? Sounds about right.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If churches want to engage in politics, then it's time for them to begin paying taxes. Political issues are of the real world, and Yeshua did command that "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

Funny how many "fundamentalist" preachers are millionaires, isn't it?


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