The Open Thread for March 22, 2018

It’s’ all coming together.  The Washington Post reports that “Stephen Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s early efforts to collect troves of Facebook data as part of an ambitious program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters.”

“The 2014 effort was part of a high-tech form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which under Bannon identified and tested the power of anti-establishment messages that later would emerge as central themes in President Trump’s campaign speeches, according to Chris Wylie, who left the company at the end of that year.”  Among the messages tested were “drain the swamp” and “deep state.”  Said Wylie: “The only foreign thing we tested was Putin. It turns out, there’s a lot of Americans who really like this idea of a really strong authoritarian leader and people were quite defensive in focus groups of Putin’s invasion of Crimea.

And then the Daily Beast reports that “Cambridge Analytica hoped to capitalize on Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton and her ally, an email written by one of its employees indicates.”  “Emily Cornell, the employee, sent the email on July 29, 2016. It went out to people working with Make America Number One, the pro-Trump super PAC funded by Republican super-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.”  “On July 22, seven days before Cornell’s email, Wikileaks had published almost 20,000 emails it had stolen from the Democratic National Committee.”

Finally, the Guardian reports that Cambridge Analytica “was offered material from Israeli hackers who had accessed the private emails of two politicians who are now heads of state.”  “Multiple sources have described how senior directors of Cambridge Analytica – including its chief executive, Alexander Nix – gave staff instructions to handle material provided by computer hackers in election campaigns in Nigeria and St Kitts and Nevis.”

He is white, home-schooled, conservative, anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.  It is a Radical Christianist Terrorist.

The report that President Trump “did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers” when he congratulated Russian president Vladimir Putin was breathtaking and “one of the most startling leaks” of this whole administration. It has left President Trump and his senior staff furious and rattled,” Jonathan Swan reports.

“The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets. Possible motives include concern about how Trump is handling Putin, frustration by the officials about Trump ignoring their advice, or internal power games.

My guess is it was National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster or his staff.  He knows he is about to be replaced, so what does he have to lose?

Peter Stris, attorney for former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, told NBC News that his client “had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump for 10 months. It was a romantic relationship. They were together very often.”

He explained why she’s suing for the right to speak freely about her affair: “This is not someone who signed a hush agreement and regrets it. This is someone who was taken advantage of by a consortium of interests, including a massive company that happens to be run by someone who is personal friends with the President of the United States.”

ThinkProgress: Stormy Daniels is in the headlines, but Karen McDougal is a bigger problem for Trump.

“National Republicans — on the heels of the Roy Moore and Rick Saccone debacles — worry they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco: coal baron and recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship,” Politico reports.

“With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians, senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — and potentially become a national stain for the party.”

Politico: “Democratic primary turnout was up across [Illinois] — overall, it was triple what it was in 2014, according to the Democratic Governors Association.”

“And turnout was 30 percent higher on Tuesday than in 2010, a more comparable primary election since there was a competitive Democratic primary that year. In an ominous sign, Republicans saw an estimated drop of 30 percent in turnout over 2014, which was a highly competitive primary where Rauner edged out three other top contenders.”

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Tennessee finds former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) with a slight edge over Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 41%, with 13% still undecided.

Washington Post: “In November, 6,066 state legislative seats are up for grabs, and more candidates — particularly on the Democratic side — are running for state legislative seats than have in decades… In fact, more Democrats are running than in any election since 1982.”

“White House officials this week told Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) that President Trump did not plan to campaign for or endorse Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) if she was appointed to the state’s open Senate seat, saying they were worried that the former Democrat would lose,” Politico reports.  “Bryant responded that he intended to go ahead and pick Hyde-Smith for the post, anyway. He’s expected to formally announce the selection Wednesday.”

“Republicans are deeply concerned that Chris McDaniel, an anti-establishment conservative state senator who is running for the seat, will use Hyde-Smith’s past party affiliation against her in the race.”

HUD  Secretary Ben Carson told a House committee that he had “dismissed” himself from the decision to buy a $31,000 dining room set for his office last year, leaving the details to his wife and staff, the New York Times reports.  “Mr. Carson offered a rambling, at times contradictory, explanation of the purchase of the table, chairs and hutch, a transaction that turned into a public relations disaster that led President Trump to consider replacing him, according to White House aides.”

Cold bed for Dr. Carson.  In fact, he is probably sleeping on that dining room table now.

Lawfare asks whether we will ever know what Mueller knows: “To put the matter bluntly, it all boils down to how Mueller sees himself and his role. How does he? We have no idea. His history as a cautious and conservative actor—not to mention the outrage sparked by Starr and Comey’s more aggressive interpretations—would suggest a certain degree of orthodoxy. What’s more, his and his team’s utter silence outside the courtroom suggests a vision of the special counsel role narrowly focused on the work of investigation and prosecution to the exclusion of almost any public statements whatsoever.”

“Yet if any situation has ever begged for a truth-commission understanding of the role, L’Affaire Russe cries out for a capacious public reporting function. The questions it raises are sweeping and implicate not just presidential conduct but the integrity of an American presidential election.  The question may boil down to how urgent Mueller feels the need is for Congress, or the public, to understand what happened—and also the extent to which he can play the needed public education role simply using the tools of the conventional prosecutor.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden took fresh jabs at President Trump while speaking at an anti-sexual assault rally, telling students at the University of Miami that he probably would have “beat the hell out” of Trump if they’d attended school together ABC News reports.  Said Biden: “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it. They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’”

He added: “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life. I’m a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

A new Quinnipiac poll finds American voters disapprove of President Trump’s job performance by 53% to 40%.  By a 55% to 42% margin they say Trump “does not have a sense of decency,” and by a 67% to 29% margin they say “he is not a good role model for children.”  Said pollster Tim Malloy: “Americans say President Trump is damaging the country’s image globally; flunking the decency test and setting a bad example for kids. There’s no way to spin or sugarcoat it. The optics are ugly.”

Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operativesABC News reports.   “Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe’s previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move.”

You can watch a video that explains how Vladimir Putin received 76.7 percent of the vote and won another six-year term as president of the Russian Federation with a margin of 65 points over his nearest competitor.  And the White House thinks that Putin is to be congratulated and that we must not criticize this supposedly free and fair election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for what he called a “breach of trust” after it was reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to the Trump campaign, accessed information from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

Daily Kos: “The White House has signed off on the omnibus spending bill which has not yet been released to the public, or all members of Congress. That makes it likelier that a government shutdown will be averted this weekend, but it’s always possible when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is around and playing coy about whether he’ll give his consent to bring the bill directly to the floor or not. As of now, the House is planning a Thursday vote, which—barring Paul grandstanding—could mean that a one- or two-day continuing resolution to allow them to wrap up over the weekend won’t be necessary.

There are a few positive surprises in it, including expanded background checks for gun purchases. The bill includes the bipartisan Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background System) Act, which doesn’t do a ton, but does require states to add updates more frequently to the current criminal database. That’s been included without the poison pill Republicans were demanding, a national concealed carry reciprocity. That’s made House conservatives “furious,” according to Politico. […]  While there isn’t wall funding or funding for more ICE agents, there is some funding for beefing up existing security at the border. However, there is no resolution to the crisis for Dreamers, the young people who had been covered by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order. ”


Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

1 comment on “The Open Thread for March 22, 2018

  1. cassandram

    It never ceases to amaze me how the stupidest of Stupid GOP Tricks are the ones they have the most investment in. The voter lawsuit is what you could seriously characterize as a frivolous lawsuit. And yet, here they are trying to get a court to rubber-stamp their efforts to suppress the votes of anyone they choose. And it is sorta rich that two guys named Kris Kobach and Hans Von Spakovsky would tell a judge that you can tell illegal voters by their names.

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