February 22, 2020

Week 171

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week the country strayed further from democracy, as Trump purged the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The firings started when Trump learned a senior official at ODNI had briefed House lawmakers on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, with the intent to help Trump. Trump fired his acting director, installing a loyalist with no intelligence experience, who then started the process of cleaning house of those not loyal to Trump. Admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, noted in an op-ed, “We should be deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security, there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”

At the end of the week, as Democrats were about to vote in their third primary contest, reporting also indicated that U.S. intelligence found Russia was interfering in the Democratic primary, with the intention of helping Sen. Bernie Sanders and sowing discord within the party. Predictably, chaos ensued as Sanders questioned the Washington Post for reporting the story the day before the primary, and tweeted his own version of deep-state rhetoric, saying the “Democratic establishment…can’t stop us!” Trump fueled the flames on Twitter and sought to raise concern with the validity of the Nevada caucus results at a campaign rally.

Trump also issued a series of pardons to wealthy, well-connected white men — several of whom will able to help fund his re-election race. He also publicly threatened to intervene in the Roger Stone case, despite an apparent threat to resign by Attorney General William Barr over Trump’s continued public remarks about Justice Department matters. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stark warning in a withering dissent opinion, accusing the court of bias towards Trump.

  1. On Sunday, WAPO reported Trump is trying to rewrite history, by changing the narrative around the Mueller probe and impeachment, following his acquittal.
  2. Trump claimed exoneration not only from impeachment, but also from other investigations that have dogged his time in office, including lawsuits filed by the state New York over his finances and misuse of charity funds.
  3. Advisors and allies said Trump feels an unabated sense of persecution over all things related to Russia, viewing the FBI’s Russia investigation as a dark cloud over his regime that threatened to delegitimize his 2016 victory.
  4. Trump plans to protect his associates ensnared in the Mueller probe, punish prosecutors and investigators who he believes betrayed him, and convince the public the investigation was an illegal witch hunt, ahead of his re-election.
  5. On Sunday, Trump and First Lady Melania took Air Force One to the Daytona 500, where they took the first lap of the race in “The Beast,” the presidential limousine, becoming the first president to do so.
  6. Later Sunday, Trump attended the wedding of White House adviser Stephen Miller to Katie Waldman, the press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, which was held at the Trump Hotel DC.
  7. On Sunday, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Ambassador Bill Taylor said of Trump withholding aid from Ukraine while pressing investigations, “It was illogical; it could not be explained; it was crazy.”
  8. Asked if Russia was behind the whisper campaign that Ukraine interfered in 2016, Taylor said, “The Russians are very good at that,” adding, “It’s these fake stories that they have propagated…They do it pretty well.”
  9. On Sunday, more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors from both political parties called in an open letter for Attorney General William Barr to resign after Barr intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone.
  10. The letter also called on current prosecutors to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the DOJ inspector general and to Congress.
  11. By Monday, more than 2,000 former DOJ employees had signed the letter. WAPO reported people close to Barr say he is unlikely to be moved by the letter.
  12. On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an unusual request for a “scheduling” conference call in the Roger Stone case for Tuesday, two days before Stone was scheduled to be sentenced.
  13. On Monday, USA Today reported independent Federal Judges Association has called an emergency meeting for Tuesday to discuss growing concern of DOJ officials and Trump intervening in politically sensitive cases.
  14. The head of the group, which has more than 1,000 federal judges, said the group “could not wait” until its spring conference given the deepening crisis. The group is also worried about pressure being put on judges.
  15. On Monday, Donald Ayer, the deputy AG under George Bush, called on Barr to resign in an op-ed, saying Barr is “working to destroy the integrity and independence” of the DOJ so Trump “can operate above the law.”
  16. Later Monday, Ayer told MSNBC that Barr is “un-American” for thinking Trump is above the law, saying, “the central tenet of our legal system and our justice system is that no person is above the law.”
  17. On Monday, CNN reported that federal prosecutors in the SDNY are considering new charges against Lev Parnas and at least one of his business partners with misleading potential investors for Fraud Guarantee.
  18. An investigation of the Florida-based company, which paid Rudy Giuliani, could draw the investigation closer to Giuliani in examining his what role he played in marketing the company and duping investors.
  19. On Monday, Axios reported Trump regime officials are discussing moving deputy NSA Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy after rumors she is the “Anonymous” behind the NYT op-ed and book.
  20. Coates, who was recently elevated to the role on the NSC by NSA Robert O’Brien, has vehemently denied she is “Anonymous.” The move is still under discussion and not finalized.
  21. On Monday, former NSA John Bolton, at his first public appearance since the Senate trial at Duke University, said his upcoming book has many more revelations beyond the Ukraine scandal.
  22. Bolton said of the portions of the manuscript that deal with Ukraine, “I view that like the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae.” When asked if Trump’s July 25 call was “perfect,” he said, “You’ll love Chapter 14,”
  23. Bolton said he was fighting censorship, as the White House was trying to prevent him from publishing parts of the book, claiming they were classified. He said he was pushing back, but it could delay the book launch.
  24. On Wednesday, CNN reported while sitting next to Bolton on stage at an event at Vanderbilt University, former NSA Susan Rice told him, “I can’t imagine withholding my testimony with or without a subpoena.”
  25. Rice added, “It’s inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of gross abuse of presidential power that I would withhold my testimony from a constitutional accountability process.”
  26. On Monday, WAPO reported the Trump’s EPA prepares to rollback a rule that cut emissions of mercury and other toxins, although power companies, unions, and business groups said they do not want the change.
  27. Coal companies lobbied Trump to rollback the Obama-era Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Power companies worry the reversal will result in more pollution as coal companies cut controls to save costs, sickening Americans.
  28. On Monday, WAPO reported that a Guatemalan family, Adelaida Reynoso and her mother, María, among the first to be separated under Trump’s family separation policy in July 2017, have still not been reunited.
  29. On Tuesday, AP reported the Trump regime said it would waive federal contracting laws to speed construction of his wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, helping him fulfill a campaign promise ahead of the election.
  30. The Department of Homeland Security will waive procurement regulations that will allow 177 miles of wall to be built more quickly in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
  31. On Wednesday, WAPO reported at a speech in England, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told a private gathering the U.S. “needs more immigrants” for the economy to continue growing.
  32. In contrast with Trump and Stephen Miller’s public statements, Mulvaney added, “We are desperate — desperate — for more people. We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth…We need more immigrants.”
  33. On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order to re-engineer California’s water plans, diverting water from the northern part of the state to farmers further south, against the state’s wishes.
  34. The order came after the Department of the Interior reversed a decade-old opinion extending endangered species protections to fish. Trump was joined by ally Rep. Devin Nunes and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
  35. Trump cited “outdated scientific research and biological opinions,” saying his order would direct “as much water as possible,” calling it a “magnificent” and “massive” amount to “California farmers and ranchers.”
  36. As Trump visited California, Joe Grogan, the White House’s director of the Domestic Policy Counsel, tweeted, “Just landed in California. POTUS power swing through occupied territory.”
  37. On Thursday, WAPO reported 14 Americans infected with coronavirus were flown home along with uninfected passengers after being quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Japan, against the advice of CDC.
  38. On Friday, WAPO reported that Trump was not told in advance that coronavirus-infected Americans would be flown home. He was briefed earlier and said healthy passengers should not be onboard with sick ones.
  39. State Department and top health officials made the decision to bring back the 14 infected Americans, saying they were already in the evacuation process pipeline, so protocol dictated they be brought home.
  40. When Trump was informed, he was angry, saying it could damage perception of the regime’s handling of the response. Some members of the task force he set up were also not notified in advance.
  41. Trump vented at several senior staffers. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who leads the task force, said on a conference call Wednesday that Trump was upset and not notifying him ahead of time was a “big operational mistake.”
  42. On Saturday, Ball State said professor Shaheen Borna will not teach classes for the rest of the semester, after calling the police on a black student who declined to move seats in his Marketing 310 class.
  43. On Tuesday, in a series of morning tweets, Trump said the Mueller investigation “was illegally set up based on a phony and now fully discredited Fake Dossier, lying and forging documents to the FISA Court.”
  44. Trump called the probe a “fraudulent investigation” that was “badly tainted” and “should be thrown out,” adding if he was not in office he would be “suing everyone all over the place,” and, “MAYBE I STILL WILL.”
  45. Trump also falsely claimed, “Mueller’s statement to Congress that he did not see me to become the FBI Director (again), has been proven false,” and called the probe “a total SCAM” and “WITCH HUNT!”
  46. Trump also tweeted about the forewoman in Roger Stone’s case, quoting Andrew Napolitano on Fox News, saying the forewoman had “a duty, an affirmative obligation” to reveal negative tweets about Trump and his supporters.
  47. Trump added from Napolitano, “Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial). I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I’m not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don’t know.”
  48. Asked about the tweets, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump is “obviously frustrated,” adding, “For three years, he has been under attack…and the Mueller report is another example.”
  49. On Tuesday, the White House announced Trump would pardon Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who pleaded guilty two decades ago for failing to report a felony.
  50. Later Tuesday, Trump also commuted the 14-year sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell then-President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
  51. Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One that Blagojevich “served eight years in jail. That’s a long time,” adding, “It was a prosecution by the same people — Comey, Fitzpatrick — the same group.”
  52. Trump also said that Stone was being treated “very unfairly,” but claimed he had not given thought to granting a pardon, saying, “You’re going to see what happens.”
  53. Trump falsely claimed that he, not AG Barr, is the nation’s top law enforcement officer, saying, “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country.”
  54. Trump also told reporters he had not directly interfered in the prosecution of Michael Flynn and Stone, but added, “You take a look at what’s happening….Somebody has to stick up for the people.”
  55. Trump praised Barr’s “incredible integrity” and said he had “total confidence” in him, adding, “Social media for me has been very important because it gives me a voice,” saying the media does not provide that.
  56. Shortly after, Trump pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who pleaded guilty to eight felony charges in 2009, and financier Michael Milken, who was convicted for racketeering and fraud.
  57. Milken, the former junk-bond chief who financed some Trump deals, had the backing of many Trump allies including Nelson Peltz, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Robert Kraft, and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.
  58. Trump also pardoned David Safavian, the top federal procurement official under George W. Bush, who was sent to prison for lying and obstructing in a case about his ties to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
  59. Trump also granted clemency to six other people. NYT reported Trump’s announcements were mostly about wiping the slates clean for rich, powerful, and well-connected white men.
  60. The Times reported Republicans had advised Trump against commuting Blagojevich’s sentence, saying his crime epitomized the corruption Trump had claimed he wanted to fight against.
  61. Previous presidents have waited until the final moments of their presidencies to issue pardons and clemency on behalf of their friends.
  62. The Times also reported in private conversations with his advisers, Trump has raised the idea of commuting the sentence for Stone, although when asked by reporters Tuesday he said, “I haven’t given it any thought.”
  63. Shortly after, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham issued a statement in support Barr in reaction to calls for him to resign.
  64. The three called Barr “a man of the highest character and unquestionable integrity,” and said, “Suggestions from outside groups that the Attorney General has fallen short of the responsibilities of his office are unfounded.”
  65. On Tuesday, CNN reported court documents provided by the attorney for former NSA contractor Reality Winner, who leaked classified information on the 2016 Russian cyberattack, is seeking clemency from Trump.
  66. On Tuesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said rejected Stone’s request for a delay and said he would be sentenced on Thursday, saying, “There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into the sentencing…It makes sense to proceed.”
  67. Berman added, the “execution of the sentence will be deferred” while she determines if Stone deserves a new trial. The basis for Stone’s request remained under seal but came after Trump criticized the forewoman.
  68. The DOJ was represented by two senior prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C., John Crabb and J.P. Cooney, who agreed that sentencing should move forward this week.
  69. Later Tuesday, WAPO reported AG Barr told people close to Trump, both inside and outside the White House, that he is considering resigning over Trump’s tweets about ongoing DOJ criminal investigations.
  70. Trump has defied Barr’s public and private requests to stop. It was unclear if he told Trump he may resign directly, or hoped advisers would intervene to tell Trump so stop weighing in publicly on DOJ matters.
  71. The Times reported Barr was especially irritated by Trump’s tweets in the morning denigrating Judge Jackson ahead of her conference call on the Stone case.
  72. Shortly after, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec tweeted, “Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign.”
  73. On Wednesday, despite Barr’s threat to resign, Trump continued to tweet about the DOJ, sending more than a dozen tweets and retweets of conservative commentators and lawmakers in the morning.
  74. Trump also quoted a tweet by Rep. Lee Zeldin calling for accountability at the DOJ and FBI, adding, “There must be JUSTICE. This can never happen to a President, or our Country, again!”
  75. Trump also shared a Zeldin tweet calling for House Chairs Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler to be “stripped of their gavels” and “the Dems should be removed from power” in November.
  76. Trump also retweeted conservative allies saying Barr should “clean house” and target those involved in the Russia probe, and that Trump has a “constitutional obligation” to speak up about corruption at the DOJ.
  77. On Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported that John Rood, the No. 3 at the Pentagon, who advised against cutting off military aid to Ukraine, resigned under pressure from Trump associates.
  78. Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper against withholding aid to Ukraine in a July 25 email, hours after Trump’s infamous call. He took office in January 2018.
  79. Trump associates said Rood was viewed as a bureaucrat who would delay execution of the Trump’s policies, which Trump likes implemented rapidly. There was also concern he did not fully agree with Trump’s positions.
  80. In his resignation letter, Rood stated, “It’s my understanding from Secretary Esper that you requested my resignation from serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy,” noting officials serve at Trump’s pleasure.
  81. Shortly after, Trump tweeted the Bloomberg News story, quoting Rood “faced pressure to resign from some who lost confidence in his ability to carry out Trump agenda,” and thanked him for his service.
  82. On Wednesday, Daily Beast reported in a London Court, the attorney for Julian Assange said Trump offered to pardon him if agreed to cover up the involvement of Russia in hacking the Democratic National Committee.
  83. Assange’s attorney claimed the message was passed to Assange by former GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher, saying, “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out.”
  84. Assange’s attorney asked, and the judge granted him to admit a statement by Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for WikiLeaks who says she was present when Rohrabacher made the offer in August 2017.
  85. The meeting took place at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Rohrabacher told a local newspaper after that Assange “reaffirmed his aggressive denial that the Russians had anything to do with the hacking.”
  86. Press secretary Grisham said Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher,” adding, “He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is is a complete fabrication and a total lie.”
  87. In a statement to his website, Rohrabacher claimed, “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange. Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange.”
  88. On Thursday, Yahoo News reported in an interview with Rohrabacher, he confirmed he told Assange he would get Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information that Russia was not behind the DNC hacking.
  89. Rohrabacher said he followed up the meeting by calling then White House chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal. He did not speak directly to Trump, saying Assange “knew I could get to the president.”
  90. Rohrabacher also mentioned a debunked conspiracy theory, saying, “Seth Rich’s name came up a couple of times” during his meeting with Assange, and acknowledged that Assange never confirmed Rich was his source.
  91. On Wednesday, Politico reported the Trump campaign hired Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at the controversial Cambridge Analytica, to help oversee the campaign’s data program.
  92. Oczkowski specializes in data and behavioral science. When AP reported Oczkowski was working for Trump in 2018, he denied it, saying he was working with the Republican National Committee.
  93. Oczkowski also worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Payments to his company, HuMn Behavior, are expected to show up on Trump’s next campaign finance disclosure. He joined the campaign in January.
  94. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted a graphic of his approval being at 50%, adding, “And this despite Fake Witch Hunts, the Mueller Scam, the Impeachment Hoax etc.,” claiming without them, “I would be at 70%.”
  95. Trump also tweeted, without evidence, “Internal REAL Polls show I am beating all of the Dem candidates. The Fake News Polls (here we go again, just like 2016) show losing or tied,” adding, “the Fake News is corrupt!”
  96. On Wednesday, The Hill released its review of John Solomon’s columns on Ukraine. The review found that while many were labeled as an opinion, they nonetheless read like news stories.
  97. Adding to the confusion, the columns were longer than typical opinion pieces, and identified him as “an award-winning journalist.” Outlets like NYT and ABC News followed his work with news articles.
  98. On Wednesday, CNN reported an emergency conference call scheduled for 4 p.m. to discuss Trump-Barr concerns between 14 executive committee members of a group of federal judges was hastily postponed.
  99. A source told CNN the cancellation came after Barr was reportedly considering resigning over Trump’s tweets.
  100. On Wednesday, NYT reported Trump named Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, to become the acting Director of National Intelligence, overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies.
  101. Grenell is known to be a fiercely loyal ally to Trump, but has little experience in intelligence. It was unclear if Trump planned to nominate him permanently to the position, which would require Senate approval.
  102. Grenell replaced the current acting intelligence director, Joseph Maguire. The Post reported Maguire was blindsided by the news. Trump had asked aides which employees are “bad” or “leakers” and should be fired.
  103. Grenell is listed as a “Gold” level member of the Trump Organization’s “Trump Card” loyalty program. He is the second high-level member, after Kelly Craft became ambassador to the U.N., to be picked by Trump.
  104. Grenell’s selection is likely to exacerbate tensions between Trump and the intelligence community, given his lack of qualification for the position. Experts also wondered why Trump did not select a permanent DNI.
  105. Since Grenell was Senate confirmed for his position as ambassador, Trump could make him acting without having to elevate the next highest-ranking official, senate-confirmed Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence Community inspector general.
  106. On Wednesday, while the Democrats had a presidential primary debate, Trump held a rally in Phoenix, speaking for 80 minutes to make the case for his re-election to a packed crowd.
  107. Trump said that complained that Conan the dog got more positive press that him, saying, “Remember the dog, great dog Conan?…when we took out al-Baghdadi….Conan got more publicity than President Trump.”
  108. Trump mentioned Michael Bloomberg, calling him “Mini Mike,” and adding, “We call him ‘no boxes,’” and,“I hear he’s getting pounded” in the debate, adding, “He spent $500 million so far and I think he has 15 points.”
  109. Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton, then paused and gave a thumbs up as the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!” Trump called former FBI leadership “dishonest scum,” adding, “we can never let them get away” with what they did.
  110. As he continued to weigh into the Stone case, Trump alluded to a brief 2016 meeting on an Arizona airport tarmac between then-AG Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, claiming that was why the DOJ did not prosecute Hillary.
  111. Trump claimed his border wall was moving “faster than ever,” and added, “we will soon be almost one new mile a day,” despite his regime not committing to this pace. He promised to 450 miles by year end; 120 miles have been built.
  112. On healthcare, Trump claimed Democrats had failed on health care, and falsely claimed that he is protecting people with preexisting conditions and that his regime “always will.”
  113. On Wednesday, ABC News reported Salvatore Lippa, 57, of Greece, New York was arrested Wednesday for threatening to kill Chair Schiff and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
  114. In a threatening voicemail to Schiff on January 23, Lippa referred to “Schiff, Shifty Schiff,” invoking the nickname used by Trump during the impeachment trial. He also left a threatening message for Schumer on February 4.
  115. On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged a man with threatening Mark Zaid, the attorney for the whistleblower, after the man emailed him in November calling him a “traitor” who “must die a miserable death.”
  116. Zaid confirmed to Politico that the threat was made the day after Trump held up his photo and read some of his tweets at a campaign rally in Monroe, Louisiana.
  117. On Thursday, Gallup polls found Trump’s approval steady at 49%, while his disapproval fell to 48% — the best net approval of his time in office. Gallup said the increase may be a result of his impeachment acquittal.
  118. On Thursday, Politico reported a loose network of pro-Trump commentators and outside agitators have urged him over past months to target the members of the Mueller team after his impeachment acquittal.
  119. Allies call the staffers the so-called Mueller “holdovers,” and in addition to the three who left the Stone case last week, they cite alleged “deep state corruption” at the DOJ and are pushing to have others removed.
  120. Allies are also pushing for a “cleaning out” at the DOJ and FBI of career officials viewed as disloyal to Trump. Several FBI targets including Director James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok were pushed out.
  121. On Thursday, shortly after midnight, Trump quoted Fox News host Tucker Carlson, tweeting, “What has happened to Roger Stone should never happen to anyone in our Country again.”
  122. On Thursday, ahead of Stone’s sentencing, Trump tweeted a quote from CNN “They say Roger Stone lied to Congress,” and added, “so did Comey…and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?”
  123. Shortly after, at a graduation ceremony for prisoners in Las Vegas, Trump told reporters, “I want the process to play out,” adding, “I’d love to see Roger exonerated,” and “personally think he was treated very unfairly.”
  124. Trump also griped about the jury forewoman, who he claimed was a Never Trump activist, saying, “Now, you wouldn’t know about a bad jury? Anybody here know about bad? No?”
  125. Trump also said, “A lot of bad things are happening, and we’re cleaning it out,” adding, “We’re cleaning the swamp. We’re draining the swamp. I just never knew how deep the swamp was,” and, “We had a lot of dirty cops.”
  126. Trump also claimed, “John Kerry and Senator Chris Murphy grossly violated the Logan Act” for speaking to Iranian officials, adding, “If a Republican did what they did, there would be very serious ramifications!”
  127. Kerry appeared on Fox News to respond, saying, “That is, once again, another presidential lie, a complete effort by the president to distort reality.” Kerry helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal under Obama.
  128. On Thursday, the LA Times reported the Republican National Committee is sending misleading census forms — labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” — just weeks before the actual count is set to begin.
  129. The mailer is an RNC survey, labeled “Do Not Destroy. Official Document,” with largely political questions. Trump’s campaign has followed up with text messages to some recipients, urging them to fill in the survey online.
  130. On Thursday, WAPO reported in the weeks after the 2016 election, and finding dozens of pages spreading false news reports on Trump, nearly all from overseas, Facebook created a Project “P,” for propaganda.
  131. Joel Kaplan, a former George W. Bush official, and one of the most senior Republicans, said removing the pages would “disproportionately affect conservatives,” and warned of a backlash by conservatives.
  132. Shortly after the 2016 election, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski came to Facebook’s headquarters to advise on how to handle the Trump regime. After employee outrage he was not hired.
  133. Shortly after, Trump and other conservatives pressured Facebook, citing unproven claims of bias, and leveraged fear of losing Republicans to win concessions, giving politicians the option to lie and spread disinformation.
  134. Another victory for conservatives was when Facebook rebuffed calls to limit politicians’ ability to use advertising tools that allow the narrow targeting of individuals based on their personal information.
  135. On Friday, the LA Times reported Twitter suspended 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts citing “platform manipulation.” The campaign tried a strategy of deploying a large number of accounts to push out identical messages.
  136. Twitter said the Bloomberg campaign had sponsored hundreds of new accounts that post copy-pasted content, many of which were created in the past two months. Bloomberg launched his campaign on November 24.
  137. On Thursday, Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison by Judge Amy Berman Jackson for impeding a Congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  138. Jackson gave a lengthy speech in delivering the sentence. She said Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
  139. She also called out AG Barr, saying his intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations was “unprecedented,” but added politics did not influence her decision.
  140. She added, “The truth still exists; the truth still matters…Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy.”
  141. She added, “If it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses,” adding, “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”
  142. She added Stone’s testimony to Congress was “plainly false” and “a flat-out lie,” and said his misdirection “shut out important avenues” for lawmakers to investigate because it would embarrass Trump.
  143. She said of Stone’s threats to witness Randy Credico, including texting him “Prepare to die,” that he enjoyed “adolescent mind games,” but added, “nothing about this case was a joke.”
  144. She also noted Stone threatened her by falsely claiming the process was rigged, which “willfully increased the risk that someone with even poorer judgment than” Stone could take action to put the courthouse in danger.
  145. Shortly after, Trump spoke to reporters of Stone, “What happened to him is unbelievable,” adding, “They say he lied. But other people lied, too. Just to mention, Comey lied. McCabe lied. Lisa Page lied. Her lover, Strzok.”
  146. Trump also falsely claimed, “Hillary Clinton leaked more classified documents than any human being, I believe, in the history of the United States,” adding, “nothing happened to her.”
  147. Trump also said, “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” saying his case was “totally tainted” by an “anti-Trump activist,” which should compel the judge to order a new trial.
  148. Trump also said, “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch it very closely. At some point I will make it a determination,” adding, “Roger Stone has to be treated fairly. This has not been a fair process.”
  149. Later Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked Judge Jackson, calling her “an Obama-appointed judge” and saying, “If there’s anyone in Washington that deserves to be impeached, it’s Amy Berman Jackson.”
  150. Carlson also called Jackson an “open partisan who has so flagrantly violated the bounds of constitutional law and fairness that it’s shocking she’s still on the bench.”
  151. On Thursday, Politico reported the new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell plans to bring Kash Patel, a former Nunes staffer who worked to discredit the Russia probe, to a senior ODNI role.
  152. Patel will not require Senate confirmation, and like Grenell who will remain ambassador to Germany, will not leave his current post at the NSC’s International Organizations and Alliances.
  153. On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported Trump was surprised and angered by the DOJ decision not to charge Andrew McCabe last week, but was wary of acting out against AG Barr after he threatened to resign.
  154. The move created a fresh point of tension between Trump and Barr, and Trump is weighing his options as he complained about a perceived double-standard between his allies and opponents.
  155. Later Thursday, Trump quoted Andrew Napolitano from an appearance on Fox News, tweeting, “The decision not to prosecute Andy McCabe is utterly inexplicable.”
  156. Trump also tweeted about the Democratic primary, tweeting Bernie Sanders had no “chance whatsoever” of defeating him, and, “Mini, there’s even less chance, especially after watching your debate performance.”
  157. Shortly after, Trump lashed out at journalist A.B. Stoddard over an appearance on Fox Business comparing Bloomberg’s bad debate moments to Trump 2016, tweeting she has “zero talent” and he won every debate.
  158. Fox Business host Neil Cavuto responded on air, saying Trump “did not” win every debate, adding, “When you look at polls that came out…the initial read was that he had failed to do well in those debates.”
  159. On Friday, Trump shot back at Cavuto, tweeting he “has very bad ratings” and “Fake guests” like Stoddard, adding, “Will he get the same treatment as his friend Shepherd Smith, who also suffered from the ratings drought?”
  160. On Thursday, WAPO reported that Trump soured on acting DNI Joseph Maguire after learning a senior official U.S. intelligence official addressed House lawmakers last week on Russian interference in 2020.
  161. The intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump in the 2020 campaign, an assessment that infuriated Trump. It was not clear what steps Russia has taken to help him.
  162. After he learned House lawmakers heard the analysis in a classified setting, Trump become furious with Maguire in the Oval Office, seeing him as disloyal, and hence ending his chances of becoming permanent DNI.
  163. Trump learned about the House Intelligence Committee being briefed from ally Rep. Nunes, who was traveling with him to California on Wednesday when Trump announced on Twitter that Grenell would be named.
  164. The spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the reporting, saying, “These are new paranoid reports,” and adding, “they have nothing to do with the truth.”
  165. On Thursday, NYT reported that Trump grew angry when he learned House lawmakers had been briefed that Russia was interfering to help him get re-elected, fearing Democrats would use it against him.
  166. The Times reported the day after the February 13 briefing, Trump berated Maguire for allowing it to take place. Trump was particularly irritated that Chair Schiff, the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was there.
  167. Shelby Pierson, an aide to Maguire, delivered the briefing in a blunt manner. During the briefing, Trump allies became angered and challenged the findings, saying Trump had been tough on Russia.
  168. The briefing included new findings that Russia intended to interfere in the Democratic primaries, as well as the general election. Trump complained that Schiff would try to “weaponize” the information against him.
  169. On Thursday, Daily Beast reported House Republicans at the briefing “went nuts” when Pierson said Russia was siding with Trump. Some claimed Trump has been so tough on Russia it was implausible.
  170. Trump then pushed out Maguire. Two other senior ODNI officials with long resumes are planning to depart: ODNI Principal Executive Andrew Hallman is departing, as is ODNI General Counsel Jason Klitenic.
  171. Some intelligence officials view Trump tapping Grenell as disrespectful to the intelligence community. Other noted DNI is an essential role, and requires a leader who can gather unbiased intelligence.
  172. Later Thursday, Schiff tweeted, “We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress” adding if reporting is true that Trump “is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling.”
  173. On Thursday, BBC News reported the Pentagon confirmed that the computer systems controlled by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) had been hacked, exposing the personal data of 200,000 people.
  174. DISA is responsible for military cyber-security and it sets up communications networks in combat zones, and also is in charge of secure communications for the White House.
  175. On Thursday, Trump held a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In his speech, Trump again mocked and disparaged the 2020 Democrats about their debate performances.
  176. Trump spent a significant amount of time reading off poll numbers from when he ran against Hillary in 2016, and again lashed out at A.B. Stoddard for about 20 minutes for her appearance on Fox Business.
  177. Trump said of Hillary, “Whatever happened to the 33,000 emails? She deleted them. Can you imagine if a Republican did that? They would want to bring back the death penalty,” while the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
  178. Trump claimed, “We’ve deported record numbers of gang members,” and, “We’ve done more to secure the border than any administration in the history of the country,” while the crowd chanted, “Build that wall!”
  179. Trump also said of former president Barrack Obama, “We should impeach him. We should impeach him,” and mocked the size of Chair Schiff’s neck, calling him “little wise guy.”
  180. Trump criticized the Academy Awards for picking Parasite as the best film, saying, “And the winner is a movie from South Korea!” adding, “Let’s get Gone With the Wind. Can we get, like, Gone With the Wind back, please?”
  181. Trump again complained about wind turbines, saying, “They’re all made in China and Germany,” and “when they’re making them, more stuff goes up into the air and up into the ozone…they get rusty … they look like hell.”
  182. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “Four great candidates are under consideration at DNI. Decision within next few weeks!” Trump told reporters Thursday night that Rep. Doug Collins is one of the four under consideration.
  183. Shortly after, Collins shot down speculation on Fox Business, saying, “it is humbling,” but added, “I know the problems in our intelligence community, but this is not a job that interests me at this time.”
  184. On Friday, former CIA Director John Brennan called Trump’s shake-up of intelligence agencies a “virtual decapitation,” saying the changes are a “tremendous concern.”
  185. Brennan noted with Trump choosing ally Grenell that “Two nonpartisan national security professionals have been removed at the helm of the intelligence community: Joe Maguire and then Andrew Hallman.”
  186. On Friday, Axios reported Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by John Kelly, and recently rehired as head of Trump’s personnel office, will target “Never Trumpers.”
  187. Trump empowered McEntee to purge anyone who is not an absolute loyalist. McEntee told staffers anti-Trumpers will no longer get promotions and suggested the most dramatic changes will come after the election.
  188. On Friday, WAPO reported McEntee’s role is part of a broader search for employees who are disloyal to Trump. Jared Kushner has been pushing Trump for the purge to consolidate power and combat leaks.
  189. Trump called for law enforcement officials who investigated his campaign to be investigated or prosecuted. He also pressured and shamed allies who he believes have not been aggressive enough with his enemies.
  190. On Friday, WAPO reported intelligence officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign Russia was interfering in the Democratic primary to help him win. Trump was also informed, as were House members briefed last week.
  191. It was unclear what form interference was taking. Intelligence officials said Russia’s broader interest is in sowing division in the U.S. and uncertainty about the validity of American elections.
  192. During the 2016 election, Russia used social media to boost Sanders against Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader effort to sow discord and help elect Trump.
  193. Sanders told the Post, “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” adding, “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”
  194. Shortly after, Sanders told reporters he received a briefing “about a month ago,” and of Russia, “it was not clear what role they’re going to play,” adding, “here’s the message, to Russia — stay out of American elections.”
  195. Asked by reporters why the briefing came out now, Sanders pointed at and implicated the Post, saying, “I’ll let you guess about one day before the, the Nevada caucus. Why do you think it came out?”
  196. At the debate on Wednesday, when asked about his supporters attacking people online, Sanders indicated it was possibly Russia and not his supporters, adding, “I’m not saying that’s happening, but it would not shock me.”
  197. On Friday, NYT reported Grenell almost immediately fired Maguire’s deputy Andrew Hallman, telling him his service was no longer needed. Hallman worked in DNI or at the CIA for three decades.
  198. The ouster of both Maguire and Hallman allowed Grenell to install his own team. CBS News reported that Grenell has empowered Kash Patel with a mandate to “clean house,” top to bottom.
  199. Grenell has also already requested access to information from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, including information about Russian interference in the 2020 election.
  200. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Trump for picking Grenell, telling reporters, “It would be like sending me in for brain surgery,” adding, he “just doesn’t know the territory.”
  201. Pelosi said Congress needs to get regular intelligence briefings, saying, “the administration are the custodians of the intelligence, but the intelligence belongs to the Congress,” and “we need to know what they know.”
  202. Pelosi also criticized Trump for not wanting Congress to be briefed, adding to oust the head of DNI “and put somebody in with absolutely no credentials whatsoever for the job…is dangerous to our country.”
  203. On Friday, ProPublica reported Grenell failed to report lobbying work for a Moldovan politician who is now a fugitive and accused by the U.S. of corruption, possibly rendering Grenell vulnerable to blackmail.
  204. His work for the Moldovan official, Vladimir Plahotniuc, may also impact his ability to get security clearance. Experts say it was curious that Grenell had some level of security clearance as a U.S. ambassador.
  205. On Friday, Trump held his third campaign event in three days — an afternoon rally in Las Vegas, Nevada on the day before the state’s presidential primary. The state party canceled the GOP primary.
  206. Trump preemptively pushed conspiracy theories about problems with the Nevada Democratic caucus: “They say they will have a lot of problems and I hate to tell you this,” adding, “I heard their computers are messed up.”
  207. Trump blamed Democrats for Russia, saying, “I see these phonies, these Do-nothing Democrats,” adding, “They said today that ‘Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected.’ Here we go again … Aren’t people bored?”
  208. Trump again mused about serving beyond the two term limit, saying, “2028. You know what? Unless I’m still president then, which is a distinct possibility.”
  209. Trump threatened to pull the licenses of CNN and MSNBC, bragged, “We kept the oil” in Syria, insulted the 2020 Democratic primary candidates, and again complained about the movie Parasite.
  210. Later Friday, Trump pounced on reports Russia is interfering to help Sanders, tweeting, “MSDNC (Comcast Slime), CNN, and others of the Fake Media, have now added Crazy Bernie to the list of Russian Sympathizers.”
  211. Trump also tweeted, “the Do Nothing Democrats, using disinformation Hoax number 7, don’t want Bernie Sanders to get the Democrat Nomination,” adding, “It’s all rigged, again, against Crazy Bernie Sanders!”
  212. Trump also retweeted various tweets from allies mocking Sanders, including one of a tiny version of himself sitting on Putin’s lap from an unverified account that read, “Here’s a “Bernie is Putin’s puppet.””
  213. On Friday, WAPO reported that Trump has weighed in about Bolton’s upcoming book, calling him a “traitor” and saying he will seek to block the book’s publication.
  214. Trump has privately said the book should not see the light of day before the election, and has told his lawyers that Bolton should not be able to publish about their interactions, saying they are privileged and classified.
  215. Trump’s private posture differed from the one being portrayed by the White House, claiming there is a point-by-point process used to determine if classified information is in the memoir.
  216. Bolton received a seven-figure deal for his book, and it was scheduled to be released on March 17. Experts say Bolton can challenge the White House, but it has broad power to classify or declassify.
  217. On Friday, in an op-ed, Admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, wrote, “If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid.”
  218.  McRaven added: “We should be deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security, there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”
  219. On Friday, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court voted to allow the Trump regime’s request to let it implement its public charge rule in Illinois. All four liberal justices dissented.
  220. A previous Supreme Court decision allowed the public charge rule to be implemented in 49 states, the decision Friday lets the regime also apply it to the last state.
  221. In a withering dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused her Supreme Court of bias towards the Trump regime, saying it “seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not.”
  222. Sotomayor added normally, “to justify upending the normal rules,” the government “must also show a likelihood of irreparable harm.” And “it has not made that showing here.”
  223. On Saturday, Roger Stone’s legal team filed a motion for a new trial, claiming Judge Jackson’s assertion in her ruling the jurors served with integrity is untrue, and that the jury’s forewoman was biased against Stone.
  224. Stone’s motion alleged, “a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality.”
  225. On Saturday, as Democrats voted in the Nevada caucus, Trump stirred up Russian interference for Sanders, tweeting, “According to Corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff, they are pushing for Crazy Bernie Sanders to win.”

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Copyright Amy Siskind, February 22, 2020

Trump fired acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire this week, after learning a senior ODNI official had briefed the House Intelligence Committee on Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2020 election. Other ODNI officials also exited this week in a purge.