Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

When more Americans vote, Democrats win.  When fewer Americans vote, Republicans win.  Therefore, making Election Day a federal holiday is a "power grab by Democrats" if you're Mitch McConnell.

Democrats have long accused Republicans of restricting access to the ballot because Republicans are likelier to win when fewer people vote. On Wednesday, the GOP leader in the Senate appeared to admit that they’re right.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his opposition to a relatively uncontroversial measure that would make Election Day a federal holiday in order to make it easier for people to get to the polls. He called it a “power grab” that would help Democrats win elections.

“Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for I assume our folks—our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns,” McConnell said. “This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A brand-new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who would like to hover around while you cast your ballot?”

The measure is part of a sweeping democracy reform bill introduced this month by House Democrats, which also includes reforms like automatic and Election Day registration, nationwide early voting, independent redistricting commissions, and public financing of congressional campaigns. McConnell has led the Republican opposition to the legislation, calling it “the Democrat Politician Protection Act.” 

The notion that more Americans voting on Election Day, especially Americans that wouldn't have the opportunity to go vote because of work, is a "power grab" by a party, is a base admission by McConnell that Republicans can only win through voter suppression, and he's right.

Shutdown Meltdown, Con't

With Trump already threatening another shutdown in two weeks if he doesn't get his wall, voters are definitely getting tired of his tantrum baby nonsense and would pin the blame squarely on his orange ass.

Voters have little appetite for another government shutdown if Congress does not approve money to build President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult. 
But Trump’s apparent fallback position — declaring a “national emergency” to divert money to the project — is also unpopular, leaving the embattled president again stuck between a base that wants him to build the wall at all costs, and the majority that wants him to fund the government and move on. 
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted Jan. 25-27, after Trump announced an end to the more-than-monthlong shutdown that began late last year. A large majority of voters, 72 percent, support the agreement to reopen the government, the poll shows, while only 15 percent oppose it. 
But after that, things get dicey for Trump and the GOP. Only 31 percent of voters support shutting the government down again to force Congress to appropriate money for the wall, while nearly twice that many, 58 percent, oppose another shutdown. If the government does shut down again, a combined 54 percent would blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent would blame Democrats in Congress. 
Trump has suggested that he could declare a “national emergency” to avert a shutdown but still build the wall — but that, too, is unpopular. A narrow, 51 percent majority opposes declaring an emergency, which is supported by 38 percent.

So yeah, he's boxed in, with a base that demands he shut the place down without the wall, or they will throw him to the hounds if he doesn't...and on the other side the majority of Americans will do the same if he does.

He's in a no-win situation right now.  The challenge is somehow putting this on the back burner long enough for him to get away with passing the buck again, and he's going to need a hell of a distraction for that.

Like, I dunno, some South American country to slap around...

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Another big Betsy Woodruff/Erin Blanco piece at The Daily Beast today profiles Joel Zamel, the former Israeli intelligence officer who gamed out back in 2015 how social media manipulation by a foreign power could affect US politics, how Zamel shopped that idea to a very eager Trump campaign, and how Robert Mueller has the receipts for all of it.

Days after Donald Trump rode down an escalator at Trump Tower and announced he’d run for president, a little-known consulting firm with links to Israeli intelligence started gaming out how a foreign government could meddle in the U.S. political process. Internal communications, which The Daily Beast reviewed, show that the firm conducted an analysis of how illicit efforts might shape American politics. Months later, the Trump campaign reviewed a pitch from a company owned by that firm’s founder—a pitch to carry out similar efforts.

The founder of the firm, called Wikistrat, has been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as they investigate efforts by foreign governments to shape American politics during the 2016 presidential campaign. Joel Zamel, a low-profile Israeli-Australian who started the firm, has deep contacts in Middle Eastern intelligence circles. There are no known publicly available pictures of him. But he met people in the upper echelons of the Trump campaign.

In April 2016, senior Trump campaign official Rick Gates reviewed a pitch produced by a company called Psy Group, which Zamel reportedly owns. The pitch laid out a three-pronged election influence campaign that included creating thousands of fake social media accounts to support then-candidate Trump and disparage his opponents, according to The New York Times.

After Trump became the party’s official nominee, Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. and discussed the plan, which echoed both the real election interference already underway by the Kremlin and the scenario Wikistrat gamed out the year before.

Zamel took part in at least two meetings in Washington in 2016 and 2017. And his staff at Psy Group made several connections about their social media manipulation plan with individuals who represented themselves as close to the Trump team.

It’s unclear if the Psy Group plans ever went forward. Some former employees of the firm who previously spoke to The Daily Beast said Gates never pursued the campaign. Others said part of the plan was carried out.

To be clear, Wikistrat’s manipulation sim was just one of hundreds the firm has conducted. And at the time, many firms in the private intelligence sector were looking for ways to explore the ramifications of the growing threat of online propaganda and political interference.

Trying to dismiss this as realpolitik game theory doesn't hold water, either.

Peter Marino, one of the Wikistrat analysts who helped create the report in 2015, told The Daily Beast that, looking back, he finds the firm’s prescience quite strange.

“At the time we were discussing the subject of cyber-interference in democratic processes, it seemed and felt like just another idle intellectual exercise and scenario planning project for political scientists,” said Marino, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Chinese politics and history. “But retrospectively, it feels a bit too on-the-nose not to be disturbing.”

Wikistrat is essentially a think tank for rent. The firm, which only has a few full-time employees, contracts with foreign policy and national security experts to produce reports for corporate and government clients about specific geopolitical issues. The firm’s analysts also sometimes produce reports that aren’t for clients, according to people close to the firm; the firm then displays those reports on its website to demonstrate the quality of its work, or markets them to potential buyers.

Zamel had a product, he tried to sell it to Rick Gates.  Most of all, Zamel provided cover for the Russians actually doing the heavy lifting.

And let's not forget, Gates has been cooperating with Robert Mueller for nearly a year now.  Mueller knows exactly what went on here.

Count on it.


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