The English author George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” But even Orwell couldn’t have imagined the propagandistic whoppers that American journalists would mouth in their frenzied attempt to sanitize Obama’s spying on Trump.
Again and again, Obama’s ministry of propaganda, with its branch offices from CNN to the New York Times to the Washington Post, solemnly instruct Americans that “unmasking is not spying.” That is about as convincing as the slogans carved on Orwell’s fictional ministry headquarters in 1984: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”
One needs surveillance skills to find any disapproving references in the mainstream media to the pervasive political espionage that the Obama administration conducted against Trump. Even the Trump haters on Morning Joe had to acknowledge the shamelessness of the New York Times in burying the Susan Rice story on A16 — a story that made only oblique and rationalizing reference to her political espionage.
Were Walter Duranty alive today, he could still find a job at the New York Times, except this time he would have to tell lies about Russians, not for them. In almost every story about Trump, some sinister reference is made to his “Russian” problem. What problem? That is never explained. We’re just supposed to shudder and assume the worst, even as James Clapper and Mike Morrell admit that the evidence for any Trump-Russian collusion is nil.
How dare Trump “divert” attention from a fiction by talking about a fact! Doesn’t he know that he is supposed to treat the collusion as real and Obama’s espionage as fake? What’s wrong with him? That’s the tenor of the coverage.
The stories get more and more ludicrous in their straining. On Monday, the media gravely informed the public that a campaign volunteer for Trump, Carter Page, once unwittingly met with Russian spies… two years before he volunteered. Oh my. What might we learn next? That some voters for Trump vacationed at Black Sea resorts in the years preceding their votes for Trump?
CNN’s Walter Duranty prize winner has to be Jim Sciutto, who put on his best anchor-man voice to tell us to avert our gaze from the spying on Trump. Omnisciently, he intoned that “it appears to be a story largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from the larger investigation.” An investigation into what? He didn’t say, but, trust him, it is pretty bad. After all, he has a “Republican” source — see how fair he is! — who says that Rice’s political espionage is not at all “unusual.” Who was this source? David Gergen in the green room? And let’s not forget that a representative for Rice had assured him that “the idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.” Well, that settles it.
Alert CNN watchers, however, noted that Mr. Neutrality used to work for the Obama administration as a political appointee (as chief of staff to Ambassador to China Gary Locke). Like other former Democratic staffers — Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos, among others — Sciutto cultivates the affectation of the “straight-news man” to conceal his partisan background. But all it takes for that front to dissolve is a discombobulating Democratic scandal in which ACLU liberals find themselves in the role of Richard Nixon.
Susan Rice’s shaky, dry-mouthed performance on MSNBC Tuesday looked like a scene out of Orwell’s fiction too. Ministry of Truth official Andrea Mitchell hesitantly asked her questions about the scandal, making sure not to tax her too much or ask her any awkward follow-up questions. The interview lasted over ten minutes, but Mitchell couldn’t find time to ask her about the bald lie she told on PBS in March (that she knew “nothing” of unmasking the Trump team). Nor was Big Brother to be brought up under any circumstances. So even as Rice droned on about the importance of unsparing national security briefings, Mitchell steered clear of any mention of the beneficiary of that briefing — President Obama. The question that Mitchell once bit into with zest in the days of Watergate — What did the president know, and when did he know it? — never passed her lips.
But even in that safe space, Rice couldn’t avoid certain slips. “There was no collection or surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals,” she said, before adding the lawyerly qualifier, “and by that I mean directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals.”
Translation: the FBI probed the computer server connected to Trump Tower, while she, Brennan, and the other Obama aides rifled through unmasked intercepts and transcripts of foreigners with whom he and his team were talking.
We are entering into a politically charged environment where ordinary interactions between senior government officials and their foreign counterparts can quickly become toxic.
Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did nothing wrong when he spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is just as evident that Sen. Jeff Sessions did nothing wrong when he spoke twice to the same gentleman in the context of his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The first Sessions meeting in June was part of a conference organized by the State Department and the Heritage Foundation that included 50 ambassadors. Sessions was the keynote speaker and was approached by some of the ambassadors afterwards, including the Russian envoy.
The second meeting in September took place in Sessions’s office. There were staffers present at the meeting, which was held in a Senate building because Sessions had turned down a request by the ambassador for a private lunch, which he considered inappropriate. No one is claiming that anything discussed at either meeting was in any way incriminating or damaging to national security. According to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, FBI investigators have reportedly gone farther than that, having already indicated to the House and Senate intelligence committees that there is “no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.” That conclusion has, however, been challenged by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who countered that the investigation is still in its initial stages.
Flynn was forced to step down after a campaign of vilification orchestrated by some senior officials at CIA and NSA, possibly acting on behalf of the outgoing Obama administration, though the actual issue that led to his resignation was a reported failure to be completely honest with Vice President Mike Pence regarding his phone calls with Kislyak. Whether that was an oversight or deliberate remains to be determined, but the Trump administration clearly decided that it was not a fight worth engaging in given the superheated media coverage that it produced.
The Sessions story is somewhat different, though it too includes hysterical reactions from the media and also from some leading Democrats. The controversy surrounding Sessions is based on a single question asked by Sen. Al Franken, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Sessions responded that he was “not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Explanations of what Sessions did or not mean have generally taken two approaches. If you believe Sessions was discussing how Moscow might help defeat Hillary, was he was hiding something nefarious? Or, if you believe he was innocent, was he honestly responding to Franken’s apparent focus on contact with Russians as an element in the campaign?
As I believe the entire narrative seeking to portray the Trump victory as some kind of Manchurian-candidate scheme concocted by the Kremlin is complete nonsense, I tend to believe Sessions was answering honestly, after interpreting the question in a certain fashion. His spokesman has described the exchange as: “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign—not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”
It is important to note that Sessions was not part of the Trump campaign staff, which explains his answer to Senator Franken. It would have been nice if he had begun his response to by noting that he has had intermittent interaction with Russian officials as part of his responsibilities in the Senate and then gone on to state that there had been no such contact that he was aware of as part of the campaign. But he did not do that, which has opened the door to the current politically-motivated firestorm.
What is particularly disturbing about the attack on Sessions is the hypocrisy evidenced by congressmen like Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who are demanding that the attorney general resign because they claim he committed perjury. Answering questions in such a way as to avoid saying too much is a fine art in Washington—a skill that both Schumer and Pelosi have themselves also developed—but it does not amount to perjury. Sessions’s answer to Franken is not completely clear, but it is not an out-and-out lie. In that respect the attack on Sessions is like the attack on Flynn, basically a way of getting at and weakening President Donald Trump by opportunistically discrediting his high-level appointments.
That Sessions has now recused himself from anything having to do with Russia may be politically advisable, at least in part, to quell the outrage in the media and among nearly all Democrats and the usual caballero Republicans. But the original demands were inappropriate, as no one has demonstrated that Sessions has in some way worked with a foreign power to damage the national security of the United States. He is being tried by innuendo and in the cooperative media.
And then there is the even more disturbing Russian aspect to all of this. Sessions’s staff noted that as a senior senator on the Armed Services Committee, he met with 25 ambassadors. Why aren’t Schumer and Pelosi asking for a list of all those contacts? Ambassadors are doing their jobs when they represent their nations’ interests, which include working against some U.S. policies and trying to get foreign officials to reveal sensitive information “off the record.” Russia does indeed do that, but so do many countries that are regarded as close friends.
Russia is yet again being singled out for political reasons, even though Moscow and Washington are not at war. The evidence that Vladimir Putin has been somehow interfering in U.S. politics is definitely on the thin side and apparently not about to get any better. And fooling with Russia can be dangerous as it is the only country on earth that can destroy the United States. Nevertheless, in spite of that, there are many in the Democratic Party and the media who would like to make Russia something like a permanent enemy, to sustain the warfare state while also having a punching bag that can be blamed for whatever else might be going wrong.
One might reasonably consider the attacks on Sessions to be less about him and more about both Trump himself and Russia. Indeed, Trump and Russia are conjoined as the impending investigation into Moscow’s possible role in the election is also by its very nature a way to begin a process that would reverse the Trump electoral victory. Implicating yet another senior government official as a possible Kremlin patsy—and pressing ahead with a broader, bipartisan inquiry into the alleged subversion of the Trump campaign by Moscow—will narrow the president’s options for any reset with Russia while weakening his administration.
I note that President Trump has appointed hardliner Fiona Hill as his point person for dealing with Russia on the National Security Council. It is a bad move and possibly a sign that the relentless pressure regarding Moscow is beginning to bear fruit, forcing Trump to backtrack on his campaign promises to seek a reset with Putin.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon detailed President Donald Trump’s agenda during an appearance at CPAC, thrilling the audience of conservatives who wanted to hear more about what Trump would do as president.
Bannon broke the agenda down into three categories. pointing to economic nationalism, national sovereignty, and the deconstruction of the administrative state.
VIDEOBannon And Priebus All Smiles At CPAC
Part of restoring American sovereignty, Bannon explained, was fixing and improving intelligence, the defense department, and homeland security.
Economic nationalism would focus on restoring American prominence in trade and commerce — “rethinking” how to reconstruct trade deals around the world to favor America first, he said.
Bannon explained that the Trump administration and Congress were already working together to focus on bilateral trade deals with other countries, especially after pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership. The goal, he said, was to make America a “fair trading nation” and bring more high paying jobs into America.
The CPAC audience applauded and cheered when Bannon spoke of the deconstruction of the administrative state, cutting cabinet agency regulations that were choking business growth.
“The way the progressive left runs is that if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put it in some sort of regulation in an agency,” he said. “That’s all going to be deconstructed.”
On the dark and cloudy morning in Brooklyn after Donald Trump’s Election Night upset, 20 members of the nonprofit Make the Road New York gathered in the conference room of their office for an all-hands emergency meeting.
The Latino and working-class organizing group, which specializes in immigrant rights, had not fully prepared for its nightmare scenario of Trump winning the presidency. Few people in the room believed the Republican candidate had more than a slim chance of victory.
The mood was extremely emotional. Some were visibly distraught, some were furious, some even cried.
But as the day went on, the small huddle of organizers got back to work to chart a course forward—to prepare for what Daniel Altschuler, their director of civic engagement and research, would later describe as a “defining fight of our lives.”
The team worked the phones and started coordinating with their membership and allies in the community for future action and public protest. Within 24 hours, they had a plan for organizing a march that would take place in Manhattan the Sunday after Trump’s election. Roughly 15,000 people flooded the streets to tell their next president, “We will not let you tear our families apart.”
Make the Road New York, and local groups like it, were laying the groundwork for what the country would see on the news out of JFK International Airport less than three months later in response to President Trump’s refugee and “Muslim ban.”
“This is man who actually won on a campaign of hate and xenophobia and sexism… We knew we had to respond rapidly,” Altschuler told The Daily Beast this week. “Folks on our organizing team and communications team were poised to respond rapidly because of what we do… We went out to the airport immediately on Saturday. I was en route to the airport around 11:30 a.m.… We were on the phone with other groups, saying, ‘Bring your people to JFK, bring your friends to JFK.’”
Altschuler and his colleagues spent the following days in near-constant contact with attorneys on the ground and lawyers’ associations, lawmakers, reporters, the New York Immigration Coalition, and immigrant- and minority-rights organizations, including progressive Jewish and Muslim groups.
And Make the Road New York was just one of many groups, virtually unknown and unheard of nationally, leading the anti-Trump mass resistance and airport demonstrations that erupted all across the United States over the weekend.
News reports and TV broadcasts about the week’s protests described the events as “spontaneous protests” mounted in response to the Trump administration’s travel and immigration executive order.
But to Make the Road New York, and the groups like it across the country, there was nothing “spontaneous” about it. As some observers and activists were quick to point out, these grassroots and professional organizers had been waiting and planning for this type of mass, direct action—ready-made to go viral on social media—ever since, well, Nov. 9. From the moment Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the general election, they’ve been anticipating and mapping out their battle plans for Trump’s orders on deportations, bans, and detention.
So when you heard about a large crowd at an airport in the past few days yelling catchy slogans like “FUCK TRUMP, FUCK PENCE, THIS COUNTRY’S BUILT ON IMMIGRANTS,” it was no “spontaneous” outpouring of support. It was the result of a lot of unseen work and man hours.
“It was a domino effect of rapid mobilization,” said Renata Pumarol, communications director at New York Communities for Change, which was also on the ground at JFK. “And going forward, we have our plans in place to resist Trump… and pressuring corporate Dems to resist every appointment, every aspect of Trump’s agenda.”
Over the past weekend, tens of thousands took to the streets in demonstrations in cities including Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, and Los Angeles. Activists in New York who spoke to The Daily Beast were also in close communication with organizers at the O’Hare International Airport “emergency protest,” which took place simultaneously.
“We had been laying the groundwork for this for a long, long time,” Hatem Abudayyeh, the Chicago-born Palestinian-American and executive director of the Arab American Action Network, told The Daily Beast. “We partially have infrastructure in place already as an organizing institution that has a lot of relationships with the strongest organizing institutions in Chicago and around the country. We have been having conversations with our allies and friends and attorneys—we’d been having these conversation before the election. A week before the election, we all had panicked because we were thinking, ‘Oh, man, this guy could definitely win.’”
On Election Night, Abudayyeh and his co-workers knew they needed to prep for a “surge” in their workload and marching. Now he and his allies in Illinois “want to be in the streets as much as possible,” he said.
“We’re inspired by what’s happening all across the country,” he added. “The fascinating thing about Saturday is it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger after the initial call to get out there at 6 p.m. By 8 or 9 o’clock, folks saw this happening live on TV or live on Facebook or live wherever, and they came to it without knowing that it had been called for.”
He and fellow activists have been actively coordinating with other local advocacy groups—Organized Communities Against Deportations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the local Black Lives Matter chapter, to name a few—as well as private law firms extending offers of pro-bono work for refugee and immigrant families. It’s been a round-the-clock blitz that those involved expect to continue indefinitely in the Trump era.
“We absolutely have our work cut out for us,” Abudayyeh said. “We talked about that the very first night [on Saturday], knowing we were going to be organizing ’til 2 in the morning and waking up at 6 to start all over again.”
Lara Kiswani, leader of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, was still losing her voice as of Wednesday, when we talked on the phone. She and the center had been busy during the weekend of protest at San Francisco International Airport.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves [since November] on getting people to understand the rights around protests, especially for undocumented people who are more vulnerable in these situations,” she told The Daily Beast. “We’ve been digging in for a while… given the Trump administration… we have to deepen our work as we’re preparing for these mass mobilizations.”
Along with working with local union leaders and protesters, AROC is a member of the “Bay Resistance” action network, which is bound together by a text-alert system that goes out to the members and leaders of specific social-justice groups.
“The system is for when people are under threat or attacked—and Saturday triggered the text-alert system, and we organized around it, and took some leadership,” Kiswani said. “We stuck around all day and night, and our demands weren’t met. So we decided to call for a shutdown [of the airport] on Sunday because those demands weren’t met. Our demands were simple: Let the lawyers in… [and] let the families out.”
“It’s a time for a culture of resistance,” she continued. “The work now is to get the community to step up and be prepared… and really build across movements while Trump is in office.”
From San Francisco to New York City, her fellow progressive activists are building toward the same long-term objectives of peaceful but noisy resistance.
“This is the moment,” Altschuler said. “We have to continue to elevate the very moral crisis that the Trump administration is creating—we have to every day.”