Sunday, February 23, 2020

Last Call For Retribution Execution, Con't

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions. 
While Trump's distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for "bad people" inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh "pro-Trump" options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige.

In reporting this story, I have been briefed on, or reviewed, memos and lists the president received since 2018 suggesting whom he should hire and fire. Most of these details have never been published. 
A well-connected network of conservative activists with close ties to Trump and top administration officials is quietly helping develop these "Never Trump"/pro-Trump lists, and some sent memos to Trump to shape his views, per sources with direct knowledge.
Members of this network include Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Republican Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen.

The big picture: Since Trump's Senate acquittal, aides say the president has crossed a psychological line regarding what he calls the "Deep State." He feels his government — from Justice to State to Defense to Homeland Security — is filled with "snakes." He wants them fired and replaced ASAP. 
"I think it's a very positive development," said Rich Higgins, who served on Trump's National Security Council in 2017. H.R. McMaster removed Higgins after he wrote a memo speculating that Trump's presidency faced threats from Marxists, the "Deep State," so-called globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans. (This was long before the full scope of the FBI's Russia investigation was known to Trump and his aides.) 
Higgins told me on Sunday he stands by everything he wrote in his memo, but "I would probably remove 'bankers' if I had to do it over and I would play up the intel community role — which I neglected."

Just a good ol' fashioned Soviet pogrom.

Trump is apparently taking his advice on who to fire and who to hire from Clarence Thomas's wife Ginny, who has a right-wing gravy train group called Groundswell.  And Groundswell has been on the forefront of lunatic fringe conservatism since 2013. David Corn warned us about them seven years ago:

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks. (For more on Groundswell’s “two front war” against Rove—a major clash on the right—click here.)
One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

All these names should be depressingly familiar to ZVTS readers: especially Bannon and Bongino, and now they have Trump's attention and he's running the playbook they've wanted for almost a decade.  It's going to get ugly, fast.

The good news is at least some of those soon-to-be-purged employees will have a story or two to tell.

Stay tuned.

Spies Like Us, Con't

The Trump regime loyalists are now openly calling the intelligence community liars, with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien echoing Acting DNI Richard Grenell in saying there is "no intelligence" to indicate Russian interference in the 2020 elections on behalf of Donald Trump.

Last week, intelligence officials warned lawmakers in a briefing before the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians are continuing their efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, and that one prong is aimed at helping re-elect President Trump. But the president's top national security official said there's "no intelligence behind" such claims.

Speaking to "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien disputed the reports of what was presented during a House Intelligence Committee briefing that he said was "leaked" to members of the press. O'Brien said he had "not seen the finding" himself.

"From what I understand about the report....I get this second hand, but from Republican congressmen that were in the committee, there was no intelligence behind it," O'Brien said. "I haven't seen any intelligence to support the reports that were leaked out of the House. But it's just hard to comment on that because, again, I wasn't there. And these are leaks that were coming from a House Intel Committee hearing. I haven't seen any intelligence that would- would back up what I'm reading in the papers."

Following the congressional briefing, intelligence officials then briefed the White House on election security and offered the same assessment — that Russia is trying to help Mr. Trump win re-election in 2020 — a senior administration official told CBS.

Moscow has since denied that it's trying to interfere in the election and help Mr. Trump, and said the reports are the result of paranoia, according to the Reuters news service.

Mr. Trump was also dismissive, tweeting Friday, "Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa."

Sources tell CBS News that Mr. Trump was unaware of the classified House briefing and was furious when he found out about it from House Republicans.

Now, this seems like a huge hedge, and Grenell is actually saying the same thing: neither of them have seen intelligence, neither of them attended the briefings.  It doesn't mean the intel doesn't exist, but let's face fact, it absolutely does. 

For all his faults, former DNI Dan Coats never said the intelligence that Russia was interfering on behalf of Trump in 2016 didn't exist, it 100% did and we've known about the internet farm in St. Petersburg that did exactly that, along with the social media manipulation, and the repeated hacks into state voter registration servers, plus the DNC email hack laundered through WikiLeaks.

Grenell and O'Brien aren't going quite that far, yet.  But Trump is too busy ordering mass purges of the intel community anyhow for the distinction to matter too much.  I fully expect whoever did brief House Democrats and Bernie Sanders on Russian interference will find themselves manning a desk somewhere in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands before the end of the year.

The point of these denials is precisely that, to set up plausible deniability.  They're "not aware of" intelligence so when the inevitable leaks happen they can say they weren't aware of it, and it will justify purges going forward in order to "stop future leaks".

The ultimate goal is to discredit the Mueller probe and to smokescreen the Trump regime getting help from Russia in 2020, and the seed that the people who absolutely have seen the intelligence haven't "seen" it is now planted.

Sunday Long Read: Everyone's An Expert

Tom Nichols may be a Never Trump scold, but he's right on one thing, his book The Death of Expertise describes our current internet culture where people online purport to be smarter than the trained doctors, lawyers, scholars and engineers, and more and more folks are turning to these internet "experts" rather than the actual ones for advice.  

Often these internet geniuses are so toxic towards the actual experts that it actively dissuades people from listening to the actual masters of their field at all (asee the anti-vax movement as a primary example).

And sometimes, as in our Sunday Long Read about internet advice on "freebirth", that toxicity can be fatal.

Judith has wavy chocolate-colored hair, matching almond eyes and a mouth that naturally sits in an upturned, playful smile. As she sits on her living room sofa nine months after her loss, her freshly bitten fingernails offer a clue to the anxiety that often overwhelms her.

Judith asked that NBC News not use her full name, fearing a backlash from the trolls, paid-per-click bloggers and well-meaning health advocates who congregate in online spaces to debate birth choices. Judith is terrified they’ll say the things she already tells herself in the darkest moments.

“I can’t take any more guilt,” she said.

It’s impossible to know whether Judith’s baby would be alive if she had induced at 42 weeks or scheduled a cesarean section or made any choices other than the ones she did. The hospital didn’t perform an autopsy, and doctors couldn’t explain exactly why her baby’s heart stopped beating. Even so, Judith has spent every day since then replaying different scenarios, imagining a better outcome and asking herself just how she got here.

As well as she can figure, it started with the podcasts.

Judith worked at a flower shop. The daily drive was an hour outside of town, time she filled by listening to podcasts. When she got pregnant, she devoured episodes of “The Birth Hour” and “Indie Birth,” popular programs on which women shared their childbirth stories, which ranged from hospital to home births. But it was the “Free Birth Podcast” that really spoke to Judith.

Billed as “a supportive space for people who are learning, exploring and celebrating their autonomous choices in childbirth,” the podcast features Emilee Saldaya, 35, a Los Angeles freebirth advocate and founder of the Free Birth Society. The group has 46,000 followers on Instagram, and its podcast hit a million downloads last year.

On the podcast, Saldaya interviews mothers about their freebirth stories. These women reminded Judith of herself; they were college educated, spiritual, creative types who spoke about their births in powerful, radical terms: as euphoric events that happened in bathtubs, in nature or in their own beds, surrounded by their partners and family. Women in these podcasts weren’t listening to doctors but to their bodies. They weren’t lying on their backs waiting for someone to pull a baby from them but bringing their babies into the world with their own two hands.

Judith tore through some 70 episodes. She relistened to her favorites, one of which featured a woman who had given birth by candlelight in an off-the-grid yurt in the California mountains with only her husband and a dog she called her “midwolf.”

While she listened, Judith would daydream, imagining herself as a future guest on the podcast.

“I became obsessed,” Judith said. “I would just wonder, ‘What's my story going to be like?’ and think, ‘I want my story to be as badass as their stories.’

Given the massive uptick in child mortality in the United States in the last twenty years, especially among black women giving birth, this seems massively irresponsible.  I have nothing but empathy for Judith and her story.  It's the people who convinced her that this was the right thing to do that will forever earn my ire.

Bern-ing Through The Competition

With a substantial win thanks to Hispanic voters in Nevada's caucuses yesterday, unless something dramatic changes in the next two weeks or so, Bernie Sanders will be in a commanding position position after Super Tuesday as the opposition to him is hopelessly split. That should be reminding people of Donald Trump's 2016 run in many, many more ways than just one...

Put "Bernie Bros" on the back-burner.

It's the army of sobrinos and sobrinas — the Spanish words for nephews and nieces — who should strike fear in the hearts of Bernie Sanders' rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination and party elites after he ran up the score among Latino voters in the Nevada caucuses Saturday. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other Latinx backers of Sanders refer to him fondly as their "tío," or uncle.

Sanders was the choice of 54 percent of Hispanic caucus-goers Saturday on his way to steamrolling to the most convincing victory of the primary season, according to an NBC entrance poll. His closest competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, racked up 14 percent, with no other candidate cracking double digits.

Those results signaled that the energy Sanders has poured into building a more diverse coalition than his failed 2016 campaign is paying off at just the right time. He can now stake the first claim — less than two weeks before the "Super Tuesday" contests in 14 states — to having won a state where white, Hispanic and black voters are all represented in substantial numbers.

"If you can’t put two out of those three together, you should start figuring out your exit plan," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said of most of Sanders' rivals — excluding Biden and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg — in a telephone interview with NBC News.

Gallego added that he is "not surprised" that Sanders performed so well because the candidate and his campaign learned from missteps in 2016 and organized early and effectively in the Latino community.

The outcome among Hispanic voters here could easily portend success for Sanders in delegate-rich California and other heavily Hispanic states and congressional districts coming up on the primary calendar. At the same time, Sanders has closed Biden's lead with African-American voters to 31 percent to 29 percent nationally, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday.

If things hold true, in two weeks pundits are going to start attaching "presumptive nominee" in front of "Bernie Sanders" and it's going to be true.  After tonight, it's time for the second-stringers to drop out: Steyer, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and I hate to say it, Warren.  Bloomberg won't go anywhere, but the only way anyone can stop Bernie at this point is everyone else bailing and leaving the road open for somebody, and that somebody should be Biden at this point.

It won't happen, of course.  Too much ego involved, and by splitting the opposition among five opponents, Sanders now has an open, if not easy path to Milwaukee in five months.

Sanders still isn't pulling in majorities, which means there's still a chance for somebody to rise up to challenge him.  But everyone still in the race believes they are one who will win, and all but one of them are 100% wrong...
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