job

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job is “very much at risk” if she decides to go along with the wishes of her Democratic caucus and pursue the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham said the California Democrat “is riding a bucking wild bronco,” noting “70% of the Democratic base throughout America wants President Trump impeached.”

“She knows that impeachment would be political suicide because there’s no reason to impeach the president, so she’s trying to keep the party intact,” he said. “If she goes down the impeachment road, Republicans take back the House, we keep the Senate, President Trump gets re-elected, but her job is very much at risk . . . She’s going to be driven toward impeachment. If she goes down that road, it will be suicide for the Democratic Party.”

Graham also praised Trump for being the only U.S. president who has gotten “Kim Jong Un’s attention,” though he believes North Korean is trying “run out the clock on President Trump.”

“I’m glad the president is engaging him,” he said. “All those before President Trump failed on their watch and President Trump has finally got Kim Jong Un’s attention.”

“But I’m not naive about this. I think they’re trying to run out the clock on President Trump. The only way Kim will give up his nuclear weapons if he believes he’s better off without them . . . What we do in Venezuela and what we do in Iran will make a difference as to how Kim reacts to us in North Korea.”

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Source: NewsMax Politics

Conrad Black reportedly asked Alan Dershowitz for help in getting President Donald Trump’s attention to the former international media mogul’s 2007 conviction on fraud and obstruction of justice.

According to The Washington Post, Dershowitz’s letter to Trump played a major role in Trump’s pardon of Black, who wrote a 2018 book titled “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”

“Some people are representing that it was a ‘back-scratching’ job — that I write nice things about the president, and he gives me a pardon,” Black told the Post. 

“But [Trump] said he always thought it was a bad rap, and the White House legal confirmed that and said it was.”

The White House said singer Elton John, radio host Rush Limbaugh, and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger also advocated Black’s behalf.

According to the Post, Dershowitz, who said he did not know Black well, talked about the case with Kissinger before using his influence with the Trump administration.

Since 2017, the longtime Democrat has become an informal adviser to the president.

“Pardons are designed for cases like this — to ameliorate harsh sentences. Sentences today are too harsh,” Dershowitz said, the Post reported “A pardon is an apt mechanism to reduce injustice.”

Black, who owned a media empire that included Canada’s National Post, Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and The Jerusalem Post, served more than three years and was deported to his native Canada after he was released in 2012.

Dershowitz said he sent a letter to the White House a few months ago by email and did not hear back. Black told the Post the White House legal team reviewed the letter and agreed “it was an unjust verdict.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

May 26, 2019

By Cate Cadell

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-stocks-tiananmen-idUSBRE8530F720120604, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labor and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilize” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralized under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorized, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

(Reporting by Cate Cadell. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Source: OANN

IndyCar: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500-Carb Day
May 24, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves during Carb Day practice for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

May 25, 2019

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – If Tiger Woods can get back in the winners’ circle Helio Castroneves says he sees no reason he cannot return to Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and finally claim a place in the Brickyard’s most exclusive club.

In more than a century of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) only three men — A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears — have won the 500 four times and with a win on Sunday Castroneves would become the first non-American to join that group.

Now on the downside of his career, the 44-year-old no longer drives full-time on the IndyCar Series but Roger Penske continues to give his long-time employee a competitive car and a chance to get his name on the Borg-Warner trophy again.

The bubbly Brazilian has always been a driver to take motivation from wherever he can find it and this week is drawing inspiration from Woods, who completed one of sport’s all-time great comebacks last month when he ended an 11-year major title drought with a stunning victory at the Masters.

“You know it took Tiger Woods 10 years to go back and win another big one so maybe it could be this year (for me),” said Castroneves. “You’re always looking for positive ways to look and I’m always a positive guy and realistic at the same time.

“I can only imagine how special it would be. At this point you can dream big but you still have to execute first.”

Castroneves was quick to put his mark on the Indy 500, winning on his Brickyard debut in 2001 and repeating in 2002.

It was seven years before he returned to Victory Lane in 2009 and he has not found his way back since, though he has twice come agonizingly close, finishing as runner-up in 2014 and 2017.

In 2014 Ryan Hunter-Reay denied Castroneves victory by 0.0600 seconds, the second-closest finish in race history.

Castroneves said it was the memory of 2017 that haunted him most, recalling how Japan’s Takuma Sato powered past him with five laps remaining then bravely fought off the Brazilian to take the checkered flag.

“It’s hard to forget the ones you’ve missed,” said Castroneves, who has looked right at home back in his Penzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, qualifying 12th fastest in the 33-car field.

“Obviously great memories of the ones that happened but the ones you’ve missed stay in your mind.

“I mean 2017 with Takuma was really tough; I did everything I could but he did a really great job.

“Hopefully I don’t have to think this year about being a close call and just make it happen.”

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

Source: OANN

Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, released a two-part video on Twitter Friday night, saying that Trump has the “utmost respect and our love” of Voight and his fellow Republicans.

“This job is not easy, for he’s battling the left and their absurd words of destruction,” Voight said. “Our nation has been built on the solid ground from our forefathers, and there is a moral code of duty that has been passed on from President Lincoln.

“Our country is stronger, safer and with more jobs because our president has made his every move correct,” Voight continued. “Don’t be fooled by the political left because we are the people of this nation that is witnessing triumph.”

“Let us stand up for this truth,” Voight, said, “that President Trump is the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

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The head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is out at the agency, the latest shakeup at the department charged with implementing President Trump’s immigration agenda, according to multiple reports.

Lee Francis Cissna, who took over as USCIS director in October 2017, sent a letter to agency staff on Friday evening confirming that he had submitted his resignation effective June 1, saying he submitted it “at the request of the President,” CNN reported.

“As an immigration law and policy professional dedicated to the rule of law like so many of you, I appreciate that this opportunity to serve was a unique experience,” Cissna wrote in the email thanking staff and looking back at his tenure at the agency, according to CNN.

An agency spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Trump is reportedly expected to tap former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) to be the next head of USCIS, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that is tasked with overseeing legal immigration to the U.S.

A White House official confirmed earlier this week that Trump was expected to hire Cuccinelli for a new top job on immigration based in DHS as the administration seeks to implement the president’s immigration agenda. No start date has been made public.

Read More:
https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/445532-trump-citizenship-and-immigration-services-head-out-at-agency

FILE PHOTO: Tennis: Miami Open
FILE PHOTO: Mar 21, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Bianca Andreescu of Canada hits a backhand against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania (not pictured) in the first round of the Miami Open at Miami Open Tennis Complex. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports -/File Photo

May 25, 2019

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – Injury breaks are not usually welcomed by tennis players but when Bianca Andreescu’s shoulder began troubling her in Miami it offered her the chance to take stock of a stunning breakthrough.

The 18-year-old Canadian became the first wildcard to win the Indian Wells title the week before — a feat that shook the tennis world and had Rod Laver remarking that a star had been born.

Andreescu has only played in two Grand Slams and at the start of the year said just making the French Open main draw was her goal. She will debut as the 22nd seed.

When she takes on 20-year-old Czech Marie Bouzkova it will be her first match on clay this season and her first anywhere since a sore shoulder forced her to retire in her last 16 clash with Anett Kontaveit in Miami.

It ended the incredible 10-match winning streak that has catapulted the Ontario-born Andreescu into the big time.

“I think the injury helped me in the way that I could have the chance to let everything soak in and spend time with my family and friends,” Andreescu, whose exploits have trumped those of compatriots and close friends Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, told Reuters in a phone interview.

“I have amazing family and friends and they really helped me stay grounded because the media when I got home were all over me. It was certainly a different feeling but I’m getting used to it slowly but surely.”

Andreescu says her shoulder is ready to go in Paris, having opted to skip the warm-up tournaments and head to Mallorca to tune up her claycourt game at the Rafael Nadal Academy.

“I’m completely healed,” she said. “It was a wide decision because if I had continued the tear could have got worse.

“The facilities at Rafa’s academy were amazing, really good physios, really good food, the people were nice and they accommodated me really well.

“On my days off I could just stroll around and get my mind off the game and focus on relaxing which was really helpful. It was a good two-week period and I feel that I needed that.”

Andreescu, who moved back to her parents’ native Romania soon after she was born, says her career has been a “crazy ride” since returning to Canada to become part of the development program that produced Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov.

“Happy days for Canadian tennis,” she said. “We are just feeding off each other’s success and energy. I played juniors with Felix and Denis, we grew up together and just seeing them, all of us doing well at the same time, it’s just incredible.

“Tennis Canada is doing a great job. Without them I wouldn’t be here today. I’m so grateful. I can’t begin to repay them.”

TITLE RUN

Andreescu’s title run in Indian Wells began slowly but she soon got on a roll, beating seeds Dominica Cibulkova and Qiang Wang before obliterating former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 6-0 6-1.

In the final she downed reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, banked the $1.3 million winner’s check and celebrated with a burger.

Her performances were likened to a more powerful version of Martina Hingis — full of variety and not just belting balls.

Naturally curious, Andreescu says finding different ways to win matches is her biggest strength.

“I’ve always been like, even as a junior,” she said. “I think I just get bored easy! I kept improving on that and its paying off. A lot of the players have only got one game style.

“I’m one of few that can give a variety of shots back and I think they don’t like that.”

Andreescu said her rise from ending 2018 ranked 178th to her current 22 is “a dream come true”.

“You get treated a bit differently, for sure,” she said. “And not having to go through qualifying for the French is so much better for body and mind.

“I can now use all my fuel for the first round.”

Unsurprisingly, she names Romanian Simona Halep as one of her inspirations, and said it was a chat with the current French Open champion in 2016 that launched her career.

“We shared a ride at the Rogers Cup in 2016 I asked her if she could give me one piece of advice. She told me I should stop playing juniors and focus on the pros.

“That was a really good decision.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

The Economic Innovation Group’s (EIG) Distressed Communities Index (DCI) shows a significant economic transformation (from two distinct periods: 2007-2011 and 2012-2016) that occurred since the financial crisis. The shift of human capital, job creation, and business formation to metropolitan areas reveals that rural America is teetering on the edge of collapse.

Since the crisis, the number of people living in prosperous zip codes expanded by 10.2 million, to a total of 86.5 million, an increase that was much greater than any other social class. Meanwhile, the number of Americans living in distressed zip codes decreased to 3.4 million, to a total of 50 million, the smallest shift of any other social class. This indicates that the geography of economic pain is in rural America.

“While the overall population in distressed zip codes declined, the number of rural Americans in that category increased by nearly 1 million between the two periods. Rural zip codes exhibited the most volatility and were by far the most likely to be downwardly mobile on the index, with 30 percent dropping into a lower quintile of prosperity—nearly twice the proportion of urban zip codes that fell into a lower quintile.

Meanwhile, suburban communities registered the greatest stability, with 61 percent remaining in the same quintile over both periods. Urban zip codes were the most robust—least likely to decline and more likely than their suburban counterparts to rise,” the report said.

Visualizing the collapse: Economic distress was mostly centered in the Southeast, Rust Belt, and South Central. In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia, at least one-third of the population were located in distressed zip codes.

Prosperous zip codes were the top beneficiaries of the jobs recovery since the financial crisis. All zip codes saw job declines during the recession, each laying off several million jobs from 2007 to 2010. But by 2016, prosperous zip codes had 3.6 million jobs surplus over 2007 levels, which was more than the bottom 80% of distressed zip codes combined. It took five years for prosperous zip codes to replace all jobs lost from the financial crisis; meanwhile, distressed zip codes will never recover.

EIG shows that less than 25% of all counties have recovered from business closures from the recession.

“US business formation has been dismal in both magnitude and distribution since the Great Recession. The country’s population is almost evenly split between counties that have fully replaced (with 161 million residents) and those that have not (with 157.4 million). This divide is due to the fact that highly populous counties—those with more than 500,000 residents—were far more likely to add businesses above and beyond 2007 levels than their smaller peers. Nearly three in every five large counties added businesses on net over the period, compared to only one in every five small one,” the report said.

To highlight the weak recovery and geographic unevenness of new business formation, EIG shows that the entire country had 52,800 more business establishments in 2016 than it did in 2007.

Five counties (Los Angeles, CA; Brooklyn, NY; Harris, TX (Houston); Queens, NY; and Miami-Dade, FL. ) had a combined 55,500 more businesses in 2016 than before the recession. Without those five counties, the US economy would not have recovered.

On top of deep structural changes in rural America, JPMorgan told clients last week that the entire agriculture complex is on the verge of disaster, with farmers in rural America caught in the crossfire of an escalating trade war.

“Overall, this is a perfect storm for US farmers,” JPMorgan analyst Ann Duignan warned investors.

Farmers are facing tremendous headwinds, including a worsening trade war, collapsing soybean exports to China, global oversupply conditions, and crop yield losses in the Midwest due to flooding. This all comes at a time when farmers are defaulting and missing payments at alarming rates, forcing regional banks to restructure and refinance existing loans.

Today’s downturn of rural America is no different than what happened in the 1920s, 1930s, and the early 1980s.


Trump hit China with 25% on more than half of their exports. The stock market panicked this week. Here’s why you should celebrate…

Source: InfoWars

The Economic Innovation Group’s (EIG) Distressed Communities Index (DCI) shows a significant economic transformation (from two distinct periods: 2007-2011 and 2012-2016) that occurred since the financial crisis. The shift of human capital, job creation, and business formation to metropolitan areas reveals that rural America is teetering on the edge of collapse.

Since the crisis, the number of people living in prosperous zip codes expanded by 10.2 million, to a total of 86.5 million, an increase that was much greater than any other social class. Meanwhile, the number of Americans living in distressed zip codes decreased to 3.4 million, to a total of 50 million, the smallest shift of any other social class. This indicates that the geography of economic pain is in rural America.

“While the overall population in distressed zip codes declined, the number of rural Americans in that category increased by nearly 1 million between the two periods. Rural zip codes exhibited the most volatility and were by far the most likely to be downwardly mobile on the index, with 30 percent dropping into a lower quintile of prosperity—nearly twice the proportion of urban zip codes that fell into a lower quintile.

Meanwhile, suburban communities registered the greatest stability, with 61 percent remaining in the same quintile over both periods. Urban zip codes were the most robust—least likely to decline and more likely than their suburban counterparts to rise,” the report said.

Visualizing the collapse: Economic distress was mostly centered in the Southeast, Rust Belt, and South Central. In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia, at least one-third of the population were located in distressed zip codes.

Prosperous zip codes were the top beneficiaries of the jobs recovery since the financial crisis. All zip codes saw job declines during the recession, each laying off several million jobs from 2007 to 2010. But by 2016, prosperous zip codes had 3.6 million jobs surplus over 2007 levels, which was more than the bottom 80% of distressed zip codes combined. It took five years for prosperous zip codes to replace all jobs lost from the financial crisis; meanwhile, distressed zip codes will never recover.

EIG shows that less than 25% of all counties have recovered from business closures from the recession.

“US business formation has been dismal in both magnitude and distribution since the Great Recession. The country’s population is almost evenly split between counties that have fully replaced (with 161 million residents) and those that have not (with 157.4 million). This divide is due to the fact that highly populous counties—those with more than 500,000 residents—were far more likely to add businesses above and beyond 2007 levels than their smaller peers. Nearly three in every five large counties added businesses on net over the period, compared to only one in every five small one,” the report said.

To highlight the weak recovery and geographic unevenness of new business formation, EIG shows that the entire country had 52,800 more business establishments in 2016 than it did in 2007.

Five counties (Los Angeles, CA; Brooklyn, NY; Harris, TX (Houston); Queens, NY; and Miami-Dade, FL. ) had a combined 55,500 more businesses in 2016 than before the recession. Without those five counties, the US economy would not have recovered.

On top of deep structural changes in rural America, JPMorgan told clients last week that the entire agriculture complex is on the verge of disaster, with farmers in rural America caught in the crossfire of an escalating trade war.

“Overall, this is a perfect storm for US farmers,” JPMorgan analyst Ann Duignan warned investors.

Farmers are facing tremendous headwinds, including a worsening trade war, collapsing soybean exports to China, global oversupply conditions, and crop yield losses in the Midwest due to flooding. This all comes at a time when farmers are defaulting and missing payments at alarming rates, forcing regional banks to restructure and refinance existing loans.

Today’s downturn of rural America is no different than what happened in the 1920s, 1930s, and the early 1980s.


Trump hit China with 25% on more than half of their exports. The stock market panicked this week. Here’s why you should celebrate…

Source: InfoWars

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By Eric Felten, RealClearInvestigations
May 25, 2019

Now that the Russia collusion allegations have evaporated, the long knives are out and the president’s antagonists are watching their backs. They have moved from accusing President Trump of treason to pushing revisionist narratives that try to shift the blame for the debunked probe onto others.

President Trump with Attorney General William Barr: Newly empowered.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

This effort is expected to accelerate following Trump’s decision Thursday to empower Attorney General William Barr to declassify CIA, Pentagon, and Director of National Intelligence documents as necessary to access “information or intelligence that relates to the attorney general’s review” of the Russia probe.

In other words, he’s gaining the authority needed to investigate the investigators.

CIA sources immediately objected in the New York Times that assets’ lives would be at risk, stunting Langley’s ability to recruit. Perhaps. But the argument is a bit shopworn, raising the question whether intelligence managers are looking to protect their agents and sources, or aiming to protect themselves.

There are a growing number of indicators that the leading players in the 2016 election drama are turning on one another, making a mad dash for the lifeboats to escape being dragged under with the political Titanic that is Christopher Steele and his dossier. These are many of the same people who had been eager to exploit the dossier, that collection of memos paid for by the Clinton campaign and supposedly sourced from Russia. Once treated like the Rosetta stone of collusion, the Steele documents now seem even to Trump antagonists more like the Howard Hughes diaries.

Back when fingers weren’t pointing: FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 2014.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A “former CIA official” has told Fox News that two of Trump’s most high profile accusers – former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Director of the CIA John Brennan – didn’t want anything to do with Steele’s opus. It was former FBI Director James Comey, the source said, who was pushing to use the dossier in the official Intelligence Community Assessment, issued in the final days of the Obama administration. Having failed at that, thanks to Clapper and Brennan’s diligence (or so the story goes), Comey went rogue and confronted President-elect Trump with the salacious highlights produced by Steele.

Even the peripheral players are doing their best to shift blame. Former FBI General Counsel James Baker – who is under criminal investigation for leaks –  recently went on the Skullduggery podcast to assert that  he and other bureau officials were “quite worried” that  Comey’s meeting with Trump would look like a page out of J. Edgar Hoover’s playbook – invoking  the legendary FBI director who stockpiled damaging information to blackmail politicians. Would Comey be wrong to interpret Baker’s comments as an offer to testify against his former boss in exchange for a deal on the leaks investigation?

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch: Case of testimony over “matter.”

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Comey has no shortage  of adversaries, partly because old rivals he thought he had dispatched — such as former Attorney General Loretta Lynch —  are back in the mix, and he is possibly sensing his vulnerability. It was in June 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Comey tossed Lynch under the proverbial bus. Now it’s clear she’s showing she can climb out from under the motor coach and dust herself off.

In September of 2015, Lynch and Comey were preparing to testify on Capitol Hill and expected to be asked about the Hillary Clinton email probe — code-named the Midyear Exam — which at that point had not been officially acknowledged. “I wanted to know if she [Lynch] would authorize us to confirm we had an investigation,” Comey told lawmakers. “And she said yes, but don’t call it that; call it a ‘matter.’ And I said why would I do that? And [Lynch] said just call it a ‘matter.’” Comey says he reluctantly went along with Lynch’s demand, even though it gave him “a queasy feeling.” He worried “that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate.”

Lynch pushed back against the notion she had twisted Comey’s arm. In April 2018 she told NBC’s Lester Holt that she didn’t remember the meeting the way Comey described it, and that the FBI director had raised no objections.

Comey and Lynch: Seeing things differently.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

But now that the questions about officials’ behavior regarding the 2016 candidates has become a fraught topic, those officials are taking stronger stands to defend themselves. Comey continues to leave little wiggle room in his portrayal of the conversation with Lynch. In a December 2018 closed-door congressional interview, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) asked him to confirm “the fact that the attorney general had asked you to refer to this investigation as a matter, correct?”

“That is correct.” Comey said.

Not so, says Lynch. On Dec. 19, 2018, she appeared before a closed-door session of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. She was being questioned by Republican staff attorney Zach Somers. He asked “whether you ever instructed Director Comey to call the Midyear Exam investigation a matter?” She said his testimony was the first she had any indication “that he had that impression of our conversation.”

That answer was a little ambiguous, so Somers asked Lynch directly: “So you do not believe you ever instructed him to call it a matter?”

“I did not,” said Lynch. “I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will.” Under penalty of lying to Congress, the former AG declared, “I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology.”

Before leaping to the conclusion that Lynch is calling Comey a liar, we need to keep reading the transcript of Lynch’s testimony, which ends up being far less definitive than it first appears. As is so often the case with lawyers’ lawlerly responses, the assertion turns on specific words. Lynch said she didn’t “instruct” or “direct” anyone to use any “specific” language. Instead, she testified, she had told Comey that she personally referred to the Hillary affair as a “matter” or “issue” and “that was the suggestion that I made to him.”

Could it be this is the shape of investigations — sorry, matters — to come? The spectacle of former power players parsing verbs at one another? It may seem a sound defensive strategy now, but it will grow harder to craft phraseology subtle enough to slip out of trouble. Legalistic sparring becomes increasingly difficult as the number of those being put under oath proliferates, and as the number of investigations mount. The game theory concept known as the “Prisoner’s dilemma” is confounding enough when there are two players having to figure out whether to trust one another or sell each other out. Make it multi-person, game theorists point out, and the difficulty for the players grows exponentially.

Making the game even more difficult is how much of the play is being done under cover. When so much of the frenzied blame-shifting is right out in the open, who knows how much whet work with the long knives is going on in the shadows? “If Brennan and Comey and Clapper are doing this publicly,” one Senate staffer says, private-sector dossier-peddlers “[Sidney] Blumenthal, [Cody] Shearer and [Glenn] Simpson are doing it privately.”

There’s no overstating institutional animosities and how likely they are to affect efforts to find out the full story of what happened in the 2016 election. The Department of Justice, the FBI, the State Department and various intelligence agencies are supposed to cooperate, working together to amplify their efforts through coordination. Instead, they often end up at odds, competing for the praise and resources that come with successes and laying off on others the blame that attends mistakes and failures.

“The FBI and DoJ are ruthless to each other, petty to one another,” one congressional staffer marvels.

Peter Strzok: “DoJ are putzes, man,” he texted. “God I hate them.” 

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

FBI investigator Peter Strzok provides a vivid example of the attitudes at play. In texts to his lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, he makes declarations such as “I hate DoJ.” Half an hour later he sends another text that includes “And I hate DoJ.” Elsewhere in the texts, the people of “main justice” are called “political dicks” In the same spirit Strzok declares “DoJ are putzes, man.” Later he tells Page, “Don’t trust DoJ” and declares, “God I hate them.” Page describes DoJ as the “no brigade.” She writes, “I just feel like throttling DOJ.”

Connoisseurs of the knife fights between Justice and the bureau keep an eye out not only for what gets reported in the press, but where it gets reported. “The Department of Justice has good relations with, and tends to leak to, the Washington Post,” says a longtime Capitol Hill staffer. “The FBI leaks to the New York Times.”

He points to the competing narratives about then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s supposed offer to wear a wire and record conversations with the president. The story broke in the New York Times last September and portrayed then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe as the level-headed professional pushing back against Rosenstein’s fevered fantasies, which included not only the suggestion of secretly recording Trump, but the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment to have him removed from office. “The extreme suggestions show Mr. Rosenstein’s state of mind in the disorienting days that followed Mr. Comey’s dismissal,” the Times wrote. “Mr. Rosenstein appeared conflicted, regretful and emotional, according to people who spoke with him at the time.” In other words, if there were dubious decisions being made by federal law enforcement officials, it wasn’t just Rosenstein’s fault, according to the Times; it was because the deputy AG was losing his marbles.

Conflicting accounts: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, and FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, right, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The Times story was followed shortly thereafter by a Washington Post take on the same events, a version significantly more friendly to Rosenstein. According to “attendees at the meeting,” it was McCabe who was pushing boundaries, advocating an “investigation into the president,” the Post wrote. In this account, “Rosenstein responded [to McCabe] with what one person described as a sarcastic comment along the line of: ‘What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?’” The Post story attributed to a “Justice Department official who met frequently with both McCabe and Rosenstein” that “in the months that followed, Rosenstein never broached either subject — the 25th Amendment or a possible wiretap involving the president.”  

You don’t have to be a champion contestant on that peculiar Washington game show — “Guess the Source!” — to have a sense of which side of the street was providing what information to which newspaper.

Given the Times’s sources in and around the FBI, there is particular significance when the Times writes a revisionist history of the bureau’s activities involving the 2016 election. At the end of 2017 the paper had done its best to write the dossier out of the creation myth of the Russia investigation. The Times had maintained, in an April 20, 2017 article, that it was Carter Page’s ill-advised commencement speech in Moscow in the summer of 2016 that had sparked the FBI’s concerns the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia. This line came from the dossier, which had alleged that Page had secret meetings with billionaire oligarchs during his Moscow stay. But after the dossier started to be exposed as the partisan document it was, a new reason emerged to justify the launching of a counterintelligence probe into team Trump — that George Papadopoulos had supposedly mentioned, over drinks with an Australian diplomat, that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz: With him on the case, leakers are “getting ahead of the story.”

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

That alternate origin story remained largely unchanged until early this month, when the Times rewrote its narrative, clearly with the help of FBI sources. The new narrative included the revelation that the bureau had sent a “government investigator” to London under the false name “Azra Turk.” Her undercover mission was to flirt with Papadopoulos and pump him for information about Trump and the Russians. The Times helpfully (from the FBI’s point of view) portrayed this as evidence of the “level of alarm” investigators had about Trump and Russia. 

The article was a classic example of a fundamental Washington PR technique, that of “getting ahead of the story.” Knowing the Azra Turk business is being looked over by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, sources in, or formerly of, the bureau went to friendly reporters and fed them information that could put the events in the least unflattering light possible. Note, however, that the bureau players — who normally wring their hands about the national security damage done by the release of unredacted information — aren’t above leaking details of covert ops if that’s what it takes to soften a blow.

As things unravel further, they’re likely to get nastier. In part that’s because the FBI doesn’t just hate the Department of Justice. If the Page-Strzok texts are any indication, the bureau doesn’t much like the State Department either. “DOJ is a wild pain in the ass,” Strzok texts Page. “Not as bad as State, but still.” Faced with sending some documents about the Hillary email investigation to Foggy Bottom, Page texts, “I’m not giving State an advance warning. F them.” Strzok responds, “And yes, totally. F State. No heads up.”

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page: “We both hate everyone and everything.”

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

They not only sneered at their colleagues across the street (Justice and the FBI are housed on opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue), their feelings toward their bureau co-workers ranged from diffidence to detestation.

Consider the infamous text from Strzok to Page: “Just went to a southern Virginia Wal-Mart,” Strzok wrote. “I could SMELL the Trump support.”

Lost in the noisy outrage over the Trumpy odors insult has been Page’s reply: “Yep, out to lunch with Sally” Moyer, Page texted. “We both hate everyone and everything.”

“Do you hate everyone and everything?” Republican staff attorney Arthur Baker asked Moyer — a unit chief in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel. The question came in an October 2018 closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

“Some days,” Moyer deadpanned.

The questioner was nonplussed: “But you don’t hate everyone and everything all the time?”

“Not all the time, no.”

Sally Moyer: A little gallows humor.

Moyer may have been indulging in a little gallows humor, but aggravation with the job and co-workers at the FBI — hate for everyone and everything all the time — seems to be commonplace in the bureau. Page calls various colleagues everything from “an ASTOUNDING douche” to “a petulant baby.”

Given the paramount heights to which both Strzok and Page had risen within the FBI, it’s unlikely they were outliers among the bureau’s management class. Their casual contempt for co-workers and for the departments of Justice and State can’t be attitudes far out of step with those of their seventh-floor colleagues. Sticking it to State and Justice and even (perhaps especially) the fellow down the hall: If that was the culture of the FBI’s leadership when the investigators were riding high and enjoying the power that came from collaborating with State and Justice in the pursuit of a president, just imagine how they are likely to behave toward one another now that they have become the pursued rather than the pursuers.

Even in the best of times, departments and agencies such as Justice, State and the FBI find themselves in back-stabbing bureaucratic battles of all against all. Imagine how those Hobbesian bureaucrats, whether current or former, are likely to behave when the outcomes being fought over have profoundly personal ramifications. One recalls the moment in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when the upstanding George Bailey is sinking in frantic desperation: “Do you realize what this means?!” he shouts at doddering Uncle Billy, who’s lost the bank deposit. “It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison. That’s what it means.” With shocking savagery, Bailey throws the old man down in his chair and declares, “One of us is going to jail, and it’s not going to be me!”  

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