Local Investigator to Share Findings
By Doug Porter
Talk about timing. On Monday, FBI Director James Comey revealed an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into efforts by the Putin regime to influence the 2016 presidential election.
This morning we’re learning about a big dollar relationship between Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. Trump has known Manafort since the 1980s when he was partners with Roger Stone. Roy Cohn, who gained notoriety as chief counsel for Senator Joe McCarthy, introduced Trump to Stone during that decade.
On Thursday, San Diego’s Democrats For Equality meeting will feature activist John Mattes, whose early suspicions about the sources of anti-Clinton posts on the pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook pages pointed to foreign involvement, will present the findings of a six-month investigation he conducted about Russian interference.
A Bernie Movement, Divided
The role of misinformation spread on social media in splintering the left wing of the Democratic Party remains understated. Suffice it to say many Sanders supporters were effectively discouraged from remaining politically involved for reasons going beyond the effetism of core Democratic leadership.
A Buzzfeed article published on November 8 discussing pro-Trump spamming websites included an early look at John Mattes’ inquiry.
This summer, just after the Democratic National Convention ended, John Mattes noticed a sudden influx of new people asking to join his San Diego Berniecrats Facebook group. Mattes approved them and soon came to regret it. The accounts started spamming his Bernie Sanders group with links to anti–Hillary Clinton articles from strange websites he’d never heard of.
“Around the time that Hillary collapsed in public, our page became increasingly populated with fake stories full of Hillary hate,” Mattes told BuzzFeed News. “People were accusing Hillary of murdering opponents. It was alleged that she utilized body doubles.”
Mattes, a lawyer, former journalist, and former investigative counsel to the US Senate, investigated the Facebook accounts and the sites they were promoting. What he found was that the websites being promoted were run by people in Veles, a town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Some of the Facebook profiles also listed that as their location…
…Mattes said his Facebook group splintered along pro- and anti-Clinton lines and lost members. “By September, Bernie supporters had left our page in droves, depressed and disgusted by the venom,” he said.
More recently, the Huffington Post ran a story including Mattes’ observations with the headline: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Faced A Fake News Tsunami. Where Did It Come From?
The Huffpo story included more accounts with Sander’s supporters either quitting or being driven out of the movement, tarred with the brush of being ‘Hillbots.’
Like the crowds attending Trump’s post-election rallies, the antipathy towards Clinton driven by those spammers lives on in dark corners of the left.
Another recent story on the Facebook spamming/misinformation on Rachel Maddow/MSNBC, drew personal attacks aimed at Mattes i.e, “full boar(sic), lying a** Hillary troll.” I guess in a world where more Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government, there’s room for these kinds of delusional fools.
Buried all the way at the bottom of a McClatchy story about Russian ‘bots’ and an FBI investigation into possible overlap with right wing sites, including Breitbart and InfoWars, in disseminating misinformation is this tidbit:
Russia’s offensive might have been anticipated from a speech a top Kremlin official made in February 2016.
In the speech in Moscow, Andrey Krutskikh told a conference of Russian computer security officials that the Putin government would be unleashing a cyber nuclear attack reminiscent of Russia’s 1949 development of the atom bomb. Krutskikh, whose speech was first reported by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and independently confirmed by McClatchy, also reportedly said the offensive would cause U.S. officials to gain respect for Russia’s cyber capabilities.
“Russia has again figured out from its old Soviet playbook that its greatest weapon in the world is information,” said Lauren Goodrich, senior Eurasia analyst at the Stratfor Corp., a global intelligence firm based in Austin, Texas. “Its information and disinformation campaigns have skyrocketed.”
She said the Kremlin’s budget for “public information” had quadrupled this year as it mounted similar cyber attacks on behalf of right-wing candidates in France, Germany and other European countries.
Just Say No to [the Mafia]
Perhaps the easiest way to grasp what went on between the Trump campaign and the foreign power with Moscow as its capital is to replace the word Russia with [the Mafia]. That’s what I’m going to do with the rest of this story, with a few other edits to make my point. Any discussion involving [the Mafia] brings up old perceptions that tend to cloud the narrative.
Foreign policy considerations aside, what we’re dealing with is plain old greed and corruption. A crook made it into the White House. One of the things he can steal will be what’s left of our democracy.
The week started with FBI Director James Comey (via Buzzfeed):
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the [Mafia’s] efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said during widely anticipated testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday. He added that the probe began in late July 2016.
The FBI does not typically confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.
I liked the New Yorker’s reporting on the hearing:
Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, offered a time line of known contacts between Trump associates and [Mafia] representatives, and of efforts by the Trump campaign to signal its support for [Mafia] …policy objectives. He mentioned the softening of language concerning [crime] in the G.O.P. platform; the failure by the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to tell the Senate about his meetings with the [Mafia Consigliere]; and the former Trump adviser Michael Flynn’s efforts to cover up his conversation with the same [Mafia Consigliere]. Schiff also said that he was seeking to verify some of the claims found in a dossier of raw intelligence produced by a former MI6 agent named Christopher Steele, who had been hired by Trump’s political opponents prior to the election. “Is it a coincidence that the [Mafia] gas company Rosneft sold a nineteen-per-cent share after former British intelligence officer Steele was told by [Mafia] sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size?” Schiff asked at one point…
…Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, took a different approach. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman, focussed not on the campaign or [the Mafia] but on leaks to the media. Tom Rooney, of Florida, pressed Mike Rogers on how many people had access to transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls with the [Mafia Consigliere]. Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, led Comey down the road of whether reporters could be prosecuted for publishing classified information. This partisan tug-of-war—over witnesses, subpoenas, and investigative resources—will likely be a drama that continues in the months ahead.
CNN, by the way, published a list of 80 times Donald Trump mostly praised [the Godfather]. And that may be as good as it gets when it comes to proving any real links. Counterintelligence investigations are painstakingly slow. Prosecutions are rare. Fortunately, in this case, there are plenty of enablers and associates. Not all of them will be willing to take a fall.
The Paul Manafort Connection
If I was Trump’s former campaign manager, I’d be looking for a really good lawyer right about now.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post published a story based on documents allegedly found in a vacant office suggesting Manafort falsified an invoice for ‘computers’ to a Belize company to cover up payments from a $12 million slush fund.
A … lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced [crime boss]using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.
The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the [crime boss’ organization], who enjoyed [the Mafia’s] backing while he was in power…
This morning, the Associated Press based a story on business records suggesting Manafort performed work for a known associate of [the Godfather].
The newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to [the Godfather’s] interests in the region. According to those records and people with direct knowledge of Manafort’s work for [the Godfather associate], Manafort made plans to open an office in [a Mafia location], and at least some of Manafort’s work in [a Mafia front] was directed by [the Godfather associate], not local political interests there. The [Mafia location] office never opened.
Manafort has been a leading focus of the U.S. intelligence investigation of Trump’s associates and [the Mafia], according to a U.S. official. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the investigation were confidential.
Meanwhile, federal criminal prosecutors became interested in Manafort’s activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen … assets after the ouster of [pro-Mafia leader].. early 2014. No U.S. criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.
Blood Money and a Break-in
Everywhere you look the Manafort connections exist, and they are scary. Whether it’s the bizarre texts hacked from his daughter’s iPhone discussing “blood money” described in Politico, or the break-ins of the car and home of the DNC staffer assigned to look into Manafort’s affairs as described in Newsweek, it is clear this a ‘bad dude’ with access to the White House.
As presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told The Washington Post, “There’s a smell of treason in the air. Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mindboggling event.”
And Trump’s coverups are quickly losing him friends in high places. When you’re losing the Wall Street Journal, you should know you’re in trouble. Bigly.
Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.
Never going to stop reminding people of what Trump/Pence campaign website posted on October 9, 2016. pic.twitter.com/I3aSlhipEi
— emigre80 (@emigre80) March 21, 2017
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