Saturday, September 16, 2017

Is Mueller Following Up On Kevin McCarthy's Revelation That The Kremlin Pays Rohrabacher? And What About Nunes?


I wonder how staunch conservatives in towns like Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Fountain Valley feel about their Representative being referred to as "the pro-Russia congressman." That exactly how the San Francisco Chronicle labeled eccentric-- some would say crackpot-- Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in a headline Thursday. The picture that reporter Joe Garofoli painted of Rohrabacher was, by his own admission, "surreal." Rohrabacher, he wrote, "greater me in bare feet, sitting on his front step making fundraising phone calls while wearing a stained white T-shirt and khakis he bought at Goodwill. Later, he proudly showed me a blazer he scored there for $10." Roahabacher is likely to need whatever he can bring in from fundraising. Last cycle he didn't have any opposition from the DCCC-- which has ignored his district for... as long as anyone can remember. It has a PVI of R+7 last cycle (safely red); this cycle the PVI is R+4, which is reasonably contestable in a wave election, particularly if there is something peculiar about the incumbent-- like being in bed-- or being perceived as being in bed-- with the Kremlin. McCain beat Obama 51-46% and Romney beat Obama 55-43% but this very red district went for Hillary over Trumpy-the-Clown 47.9% to 46.2%. It was the closest Trump came to winning any of the Orange County districts.

Rohrabacher beat his under-funded Democratic opponent, Suzanne Savary, last year 178,701 (58.3%) to 127,715 (41.7%). Outside parties didn't get involved; he spent $646,004 to her $102,133. This cycle he's raised (as of the June 30 filing deadline) $496,494 while his 3 top Democratic rivals have been catching up. Harley Rouda raised $318,334; Hans Keirstead raised $138,504; and Laura Oatman raised $119,399. Rohrabacher has never had a real and sustained national focus on him before. He's 70 and it seems to be wearing him out. When I spoke with him the a couple of weeks ago, he complained about aches and pains "from surfing." My friend asked if he had been surfing in the Moscow River. He grimaced uncomfortably but seemd to worn out to engage. Rouda seems to have the most active campaign so I reached out to him. He seems more interested in talking about jobs and the economy, healthcare and global warming and green energy than about Russia. But Rohrabacher's eccentricities and shenanigans with the Kremlin haven't gone unnoticed. "Congressman Rohrabacher's continued relationship with the Kremlin and Putin," he told me this morning, "are not only dangerous to America's interest and unbecoming behavior for a United States Congressman, they are a disservice to the people in the 48th district. While Dana travels the world meeting with Vladamir Putin and Julian Assange, people back home are concerned about rising costs of prescription drugs and access to health care. We need a Congressman who will stand up and protect our coastal communities from the real-threat of climate change, not one who is doing the bidding of foreign governments and hackers."

Back to Garofoli at the Chronicle, who points out that Rohrabacher is "a hero to weed-lovers for being a Republican at the forefront of the pro-marijuana legalization movement, and a pariah to fellow Republicans for being so pro-Russia that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy once jokingly said that 'Putin pays' him. He wants to cut a deal with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and thinks the Charlottesville riots were staged by liberals and were 'a total hoax.'... During our visit, he largely dismissed human influence on climate change."

Standing at the corner of Fringe and Conspiracy streets, Rohrabacher would seem to be easy picking for Democrats, who are making Orange County the centerpiece of their plan to return to power in the House by flipping 24 GOP seats. They’re focused on districts like Rohrabacher’s, where Hillary Clinton outpolled President Trump and the incumbents are perceived as out-of-touch.

It won’t be that easy. Rohrabacher also stands squarely in the middle of the old school, wealthier, whiter, conservative, still- lovin’-the-Gipper part of the OC. He’s run for Congress 15 times, and he’s won by more than 20 percent 13 times. Call him fringe-y, but he’s conservative OC kind of fringe-y.

That’s why, if next year turns out to be the kind of low-turnout, midterm election that favors Republicans, Orange County GOP chairman Fred Whitaker said he’s “not worried about Dana at all.” And it doesn’t hurt that Republicans have an 11-point voter registration advantage in the 48th Congressional District.

Still, Rohrabacher acknowledges, “this race will be the toughest.” Not because Democrats are going after his seat and nine candidates have jumped in to oppose him, including two who are raising serious money. Because, he said, “of Russia.”

Rohrabacher describes himself as the lone voice against both conservatives and liberals who want retribution against Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But what about the “high confidence” with which the nation’s top intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the election?

“Total bullshit,” Rohrabacher said over peanut butter sandwiches-- his favorite meal-- that he slapped together in his kitchen. “I’ve read those reports and they’re full of weasel words.”

“That story is a total fabrication in order to do one thing: To prevent Donald Trump from exercising the legitimate authority he was given by the voters in the last election,” he said.

One of Rohrabacher’s sources: Assange. Last summer, on his own dime, Rohrabacher visited Assange, who for years has been harbored in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, fearing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault accusations and bail-jumping charges in England.

Rohrabacher said Assange told him that Russia wasn’t involved in the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee that Wikileaks released, but didn’t say who was. Maybe the emails fell off the back of a truck, as they used to say in my grandpa’s neighborhood.

Rohrabacher isn’t buying that conspiracy theory, but he’s deep into another-- that Democrats were behind last month’s white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Va. Oh, and calling them white nationalist riots is a liberal media deceit, he said.

“It’s all baloney,” Rohrabacher said.

Under Rohrabacher’s scenario, a former “Hillary and Bernie supporter” got Civil War re-enactors to gather under the guise of protecting a Robert E. Lee statue there.

“It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,” Rohrabacher said. “It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation” and to “put our president on the spot.”

Those of you who are fans of conspiracy connoisseur and conservative commentator Alex Jones, host of Info Wars, will recognize that scenario as one of his dreamscapes, which is “Pants on Fire” groundless, according to the nonpartisan Politifact.
The bizarre claim seems to have shocked Rouda as much as it did people up and down the 48th district, regardless of partisan feelings. People are starting to question Rohrabacher's mental stability and wondering if it ins't time for him to finally retire and start relaxing. Rouda told me that "Rohrabacher's latest conspiracy theory is deplorable. Since 1939 Americans have been resolute-- Nazis are not welcome here. There is no other way to say it; the violence we saw in Charlottesville is simply unAmerican. For all of Dana Rohrabacher's antics, being a Nazi apologist is the most disgusting."


Over the years, the intelligence community has felt Rohrabacher has been, probably inadvertently, a Russian dupe. They have warned him that Russian spies have tried to recruit him. Does Russian really do stuff like that? Well, they know he's a crackpot and are expert in seducing crackpots. The new issue of the New York Times Magazine has an exhaustive piece by Jim Rutenberg on Russia's New Theory of War; stuff they take seriously but American voters don't. Political figures in the West, perceived by the Kremlin to be hostile to Russian ambitions are systematically targeted in a deadly "information war," like the one Putin directed against Hillary Clinton.
After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum. Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.” When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, at the palace of Versailles in May, Macron spoke out about such influence campaigns at a news conference. Having prevailed weeks earlier in the election over Marine Le Pen-- a far-right politician who had backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea and met with him in the Kremlin a month before the election-- Macron complained that “Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.”

But all of this paled in comparison with the role that Russian information networks are suspected to have played in the American presidential election of 2016. In early January, two weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, American intelligence officials released a declassified version of a report-- prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency-- titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.” It detailed what an Obama-era Pentagon intelligence official, Michael Vickers, described in an interview in June with NBC News as “the political equivalent of 9/11.” “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the authors wrote. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” According to the report, “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence assessment detailed some cloak-and-dagger activities, like the murky web of Russian (if not directly government-affiliated or -financed) hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole gigabytes’ worth of email and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. But most of the assessment concerned machinations that were plainly visible to anyone with a cable subscription or an internet connection: the coordinated activities of the TV and online-media properties and social-media accounts that made up, in the report’s words, “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

...One way of looking at the activities of Russia’s information machine is as a resumption of the propaganda fight between the United States and the U.S.S.R. that began immediately following the Second World War. In the late 1940s, the Marshall Plan, the herculean development project helmed by Secretary of State George Marshall, flooded postwar Europe with money and advisers to help rebuild cities, advance democracy and form an integrated economic zone. Joseph Stalin immediately saw it as a threat — and saw propaganda as one of his best weapons to contain it.

In 1947, Stalin formed the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), a Belgrade-headquartered forum to coordinate messaging among European Communist parties. Cominform used Communist newspapers, pamphlets and posters to paint the Marshall Plan as an American plot to subjugate Europe. A representative Soviet poster distributed in Vienna showed an American-- identified by American-flag shirt cuffs-- offering aid packages with one hand while plundering Austria’s gold with the other. Radio Moscow-- the state-run international broadcaster-- and Soviet-supported newspapers throughout Europe accused the “imperialist” United States of pursuing a plan of “dollar domination” to make the Continent dependent on American goods and services, and of conscripting local youth to fight American proxy wars elsewhere.

Writing in the New York Times that year, the correspondent Anne O’Hare McCormick recounted false reports in the Red Army newspaper in Vienna that the locals were afraid to walk the streets at night lest American soldiers rob and mug them-- propaganda, she wrote, that “may not convince, but it adds to the confusion between truth and falsehood and fosters that darkness of the mind in which dictatorships operate.” In a 1947 letter to George Marshall’s undersecretary, Robert A. Lovett, William C. Chanler, a wartime Defense Department official, urged a response, warning that “we are making the same mistake that was made with Hitler.”

...It’s hard to imagine Russia’s state-backed media getting any traction in the United States if there wasn’t already an audience for it. For some subset of Americans, the intelligence report singling out RT and Sputnik was just another attack from the supposed “deep state” that Breitbart, for instance, had been fuming about for months-- and it was less than surprising when, this spring, Sputnik hired a former Breitbart reporter, Lee Stranahan, to start a radio show in Washington. As Stranahan told The Atlantic, though his paycheck might now come from the Russians, “Nothing about it really affects my position on stuff that I’ve had for years now.”
A couple of nights ago I had dinner with an old colleague from my days at Warner Bros. He's working as a TV producer now and he was telling me about a new TV project he's working on. As a promotional tool for the show, he had just signed contracts with half a dozen "social media influencers," random people with huge followings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They'll be getting 6-figure salaries to hype the show. I was fascinated and asked more about them. One, he described as a woman who posts pictures of herself showing large nipples in wet t-shirts. She has millions of followers in the show's target demographic. I think they got her to sign an exclusive deal with them. What they're doing is not that different from what Putin is doing-- although with less resources and without ill intent. So-- going back to Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's widely circulated charge about the Kremlin paying Rohrabacher-- what exactly does he get from the Russians? And what about Devin Nunes, another Kremlin tool from the California Republican delegation.

Although the Establishment is running a very conservative, Republican-lite Democrat against Devin Nunes in the Hispanic-plurality Central Valley district that goes from Clovis and the outskirts of Fresno down through Dinuba to Visalia, Tulare and Lindsay, there is a solid progressive in the race as well, Ricardo Franco. Franco is running on a jobs, healthcare, education and water platform but he told us this morning that "The American people should not have a lot of confidence in a man like Nunes to be handling an investigation of this importance. He's shown a serious lack of judgment in handling information. Nunes was part of Trump's transition team and we've seen various members of that team come under scrutiny. I trust Mueller will do a fair, impartial job in his investigation, but I do not see how Nunes' participation can add anything to the investigation at this point."

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At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You trust Mueller... based on what?

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Areta Auto said...

A lifetime of service

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

to whom? think about it before you blurt out an answer.

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who made the Comrade memes?

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever made the comrade memes did an excellent job. May I suggest adding Trey Gowdy, Jim Jordan, Chuck Grassley, Matt Gaetz, Ron DeSantis, Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Mike Cernovich, Jack Pososbiec and Julian Assange to the collection?


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