Peace pact event slated to go on as planned, source says
The White House is denying social media reports of a spat with Israeli officials over mask-wearing and social distancing at a midday White House event where Benjamin Netanyahu will sign peace accords with the leaders of two Arab countries.
One report posted in a Twitter thread by a former senior Democratic Party official, Jon Cooper, described the situation as a “dispute” and alleged White House staff were trying to both please Israeli security officials and Donald Trump.
“Trump has requested that no masks be worn, and chairs be placed right next to each other as if it was one of his rallies. Trump is again saying there is ‘no problem and the virus is going away’ and ‘just look at our economy – it’s coming back,'” Mr Cooper tweeted without citing or describing his sources.
He contends White House aides had told colleagues who will be among those on the South Lawn for the historic event they should not wear masks “because it looks better.” Mr Cooper also contends Israeli security have told the White House they are concerned about the 70-year-old Netanyahu contracting a virus that has killed over 194,000 people on US soil, and were threatening to keep him at a Washington, DC, hotel.
A source with knowledge of the planning denied any conflict with the Israeli delegation, saying there have been “no issue at all leading up to today.”
Israel will implement a national lockdown on Friday night, the first country to do so twice. Several hundred people are expected on the White House’s South Lawn, a bigger anticipated audience than the 250-person gatherings allowed in the Jewish State.
A US official told the Times of Israel the lawn is a “vast” space and participants will be kept as far apart as possible, adding each of the three Middle Eastern countries’ delegations are taking the matter seriously. But that does not mean mask-wearing will be mandatory.
As of around 11 a.m., the double-pact signing event was still scheduled to proceed.
Mr Netanyahu, according to a White House-crafted schedule, is slated to arrive at the executive mansion and be greeted by the US first couple at 11:20 a.m.
Mr Trump and his aides are hailing the peace pacts Mr Netanyahu is slated to sign with the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain as the potential start of a more-peaceful Middle East. He told Fox News Channel on Tuesday morning more such pacts involving Israel are likely ahead.
WASHINGTON – One tweet claimed coronavirus numbers were intentionally inflated, adding, “It’s hard to know what to believe.” Another warned, “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci.”
A Facebook comment argued that mail-in ballots “will lead to fraud for this election,” while an Instagram comment amplified the erroneous claim that 28 million ballots went missing in the past four elections.
The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views – standing up for President Donald Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.
Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, a prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.
The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.
“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”
The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”
Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”
“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.
He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.
“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”
The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.
In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also deactivated a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.
- Attorney General William Barr has shown he has no respect for the law.
- During his time as attorney general, Barr has acted more like President Donald Trump’s personal defense lawyer than as America’s top law-enforcement official.
- If Trump isn’t voted out of office, Democrats should be prepared to impeach Barr.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
It’s time to do something far-reaching about Attorney General Bill Barr.#ImpeachBarr and #DisBarr climbed the social-media charts over the past week after Barr’s Justice Department moved to intervene on President Donald Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit. In a stunning move, Barr stepped in from the president’s personal lawyers to take over the defense of the case against the commander-in-chief. The suit stems from Trump’s response to a sexual-assault claim.
That’s right: At taxpayer expense, the attorney general is marshaling the resources of the Justice Department to defend Trump on a personal matter — not a governance matter.
It’s just the latest in a long list of actions by Barr to protect the president’s politics at the expense of the rule of law that nourishes our democracy.
Barr has made a new art form of politicizing the Department of Justice and imposing his will through interference, obstruction, and subversion. He has made it clear that he works for the president — not the American people.
Given this reality, it’s time for Congress — especially Democrats — to prepare to impeach Barr.
Blurring bright lines
At every turn as attorney general, Barr increasingly reveals that he’s Trump’s crony.
He has asked foreign governments to discredit the Mueller report.
He has fought tooth and nail to block the release of Trump’s tax returns.
He tried to throw out charges against the former Trump adviser Michael Flynn after he pleaded guilty.
He shamefully defended the Trump ally Roger Stone.
He punishes or fires DOJ officials who don’t fall in line behind Trump.
Peter Strzok was removed from Russia investigation and fired by the FBI over text messages critical of Trump
Donald Trump is “compromised by the Russians”, a former member of Robert Mueller’s investigation insisted on Sunday, contending that the president is “incapable of placing the national interest ahead of his own”.
Peter Strzok was removed from the Russia investigation and fired by the FBIover text messages which were critical of Trump. He has now written a memoir, Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump.
Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, Strzok echoed many reporters and observers who have pondered the president’s behaviour towards Russia and Vladimir Putin, saying he thought Russia’s hold on Trump was based on financial interests and liabilities arising from the president’s pre-politics life in real estate.
“I think when you take a look at the Trump financial enterprise, particularly its relationship with Russian monies and potentially those related to organised crime and other elements, that those interactions have placed him in a position where the Russians have leverage over him and are able to influence his actions.”
Strzok also said “it is not without exaggeration that there is no president in modern history who has the same broad and deep connections to any foreign intel service, let alone a hostile government like Russia”.
Mueller, the special counsel appointed after Trump fired FBI director James Comey over “this Russia thing”, did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow as Russian interfered in the 2016 election in the aim of assisting the Republican candidate.
But Mueller did hand down multiple indictments and secure convictions of close Trump aides, while laying out extensive contacts with Moscow and multiple instances of the president appearing to attempt to obstruct justice.
Trump has claimed vindication, attacking Mueller, Strzok, the FBI and the Obama administration which oversaw the beginnings of the Russiainvestigation. He has consistently claimed “no collusion”.
Strzok told NBC he “concluded the opposite”.
“Mueller was focusing on violations of the law,” he said, “and the standard to be able to establish in a courtroom that something occurred is very, very different from the standard that a counterintelligence expert or an intelligence person would look at and judge whether or not that caused them concern.
Trump, Strzok said, is “surrounded by people who have a pervasive pattern of contact with the Russians, and not only contact, but contact that they’re hiding.
“Look at 2016, his campaign manager [Paul Manafort] who pled guilty and was dealing with people affiliated with Russian intelligence services; one of his foreign policy advisers who lied to us about his connection to the Russians and pled guilty [George Papadopoulos]; his former national security adviser [Michael Flynn] who didn’t tell the truth to me and who pled guilty twice to not telling the truth about his contact with the Russians.”
Our current batch of Domestic Enemies are using Hitler’s Playbook.
Our Forefathers took the fight to these sonsabitches and beat their asses.
Now here we are with the exact same ideology spitting in our eyes right here at home.
The ability of Americans to put up with abuse has a very definite limit.
What that limit is depends on the sense of urgency that spreads through our society.
When the flag goes up though, I really wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of our wrath.
Apparently history has faded the vivid memories of the absolute horrors perpetrated during World War Two.
Apparently also, some people are going to be destined to relive those horrors.
God help ’em, because I won’t.
Because they asked for it.
Almost two decades ago, Giuliani emerged from 9/11 with widespread popularity.
AND WHO DO YOU THINK TOLD HIM TO DO IT?
Yesterday, the Treasury Department officially labeled Andriy Derkach “an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.” The only person who even claims to find this remotely surprising is Rudy Giuliani, who has been working hand in glove with Derkach for months.
There is an old Simpsons episode in which Homer Simpson, watching a spy movie, blurts out, “I think that guy’s a spy!” His irritated wife whispers back, “Of course he’s a spy. You just saw him go through spy school!” This exchange is worth bearing in mind as you read Giuliani’s response to the “revelation.”
Reached by the New York Times, Giuliani pleads ignorance:
Mr. Giuliani said in an interview Thursday night that he “felt comfortable” meeting with Mr. Derkach “because there were no sanctions against him” at the time. While he acknowledged that he “didn’t do much investigation” of Mr. Derkach, Mr. Giuliani said: “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent. There is nothing I saw that said he was a Russian agent. There is nothing he gave me that seemed to come from Russia at all.” But he added, “How the hell would I know?”
Giuliani’s reason for not suspecting Derkach as a Russian agent is that he didn’t tell him he was a Russian agent. I am not an espionage expert, but I have watched enough spy shows to know that one of the basic practices of foreign agents is not to announce that they are foreign agents. If you have ever watched The Americans, you will notice that Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings do not go around wearing furry Russian hats and handing out KGB business cards. It’s basic tradecraft.
Now, the fact that Derkach was advancing Russian interests was hardly a secret. He had previously belonged to the Party of Regions. That’s the pro-Russian Ukrainian party that had been financed by Russia, and whose campaign had been managed by Paul Manafort in 2010. If Giuliani had any suspicions in his mind, he could have done a Google search and turned up the fact that Derkach has been closely aligned with pro-Russian figures in Ukraine and attended the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB in Moscow.
You just saw him go through spy school!
What’s astonishing about Giuliani’s role is its sheer brazenness. A decade ago, Manafort was paid by Russia to manage the presidential campaign of its pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Manafort owed money to his Russian oligarch boss, and subsequently proceeded to take a job managing the campaign of a pro-Russian presidential candidate in the United States. Then he was convicted of various crimes.
Over the last year and a half, Giuliani has taken on a similar role that Manafort played. He has been strong-arming the reformist elements in Ukraine (which are a threat to Moscow) while using his network of Russian agents to gin up material to smear Joe Biden, in an effort to get Trump a second term. Two of his partners have already been arrested, Giuliani remains under federal investigation, and, oh yeah, Trump was already impeached by the House of Representatives.
But he’s still going! Derkach has been giving Giuliani recordings of Joe Biden speaking to Ukrainian officials during his tenure as vice-president. The recordings in fact show Biden advancing the administration’s pro-reform agenda in that country, but Giuliani and his Russian partners have presented it instead as evidence Biden was somehow seeking a payoff. The Russian dirt is being disseminated by One America News, a pro-Trump right-wing propaganda network. Trump has been promoting its material on its Twitter feed.
So Trump’s lawyer is working directly with a Russian agent. But apparently it’s okay because Derkach didn’t introduce himself as a Russian agent?
Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post
Many plants are being built right now – auto plants – in Michigan, just like I said. They’re being built in Ohio, they’re being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they’re being built all over and expanded at a level that we’ve never seen before. Cause I said to Japan, Germany and others, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to come here and build plants, otherwise we’re going to have to make it very tough on you with tariffs.’ ” – President Donald Trump, remarks on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2020
It’s been a while since we have reviewed these claims in a full fact check. So has anything happened to make Trump’s falsehoods any more true?
Essentially, Trump says that under his watch, auto assembly plants have been added at an unprecedented rate in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and possibly other states – “they’re being built all over and expanded at a level that we’ve never seen before.” He attributes this to his jawboning of countries such as Japan and Germany – and his threat of higher tariffs.
So we checked in with the experts at the Center for Automotive Research, a group that assiduously tracks this information.
No surprise. Trump is making stuff up.
Kristin Dziczek, vice president at CAR, said there have been four new auto assembly plants announced since Trump took office – three in Michigan, one in Alabama. Here are the details, with the information provided by Dziczek.
– Navya, a French company, announced 2017. This is the company’s first North American production facility, which will roll out 25 of its driverless Arma shuttles by the end of the year. Kits will be brought from France initially, but Navya is under contract with U.S. suppliers to provide parts. (Saline, Mich., 50 jobs.)
– Toyota, a Japanese company, in a joint venture with Mazda, announced 2017. Toyota Motor Corp. has abandoned plans to build Corolla sedans at a joint assembly plant it is building in cooperation with Mazda in Huntsville, Ala., and instead will build an as-yet-unannounced crossover there. (4,000 jobs.)