January 14, 2017, John Hanno
Where Are the Patriots?
Where are the Republi-con Patriots who should be stepping forward to protest Russian interference in our Democratic elections, the ones who proudly wear the flag on their suit lapels and who like to stand in front of the American public, with rows of American flags in the background, the more the better; as if the more flags displayed, the more credible and patriotic you become.
One who could step forward is Senator John McCain, who received sensitive information from an unknown source, containing unsubstantiated but potentially compromising research on Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia, Putin and their intelligence agencies, and who thought it important enough to give to the FBI. This dossier was allegedly compiled as anti-Trump opposition research for his Republican opponents during the 2016 primaries and then used for Democratic research during the general election.
Another might be Senator Lindsey Graham, who believes Trump should make Vladimir Putin “pay a price” for waging cyber attacks on the DNC during the presidential election campaign. Graham said Putin “tries to destroy democracy around the world, interferes in our elections, kills his opponents and steals his people blind,” and is “not gonna stop this until he pays a price, and no one’s made him pay a price yet.”
Congressional Democrats and both of these Senators, contrary to the incoming Trump transition team and the rest of the cowardly and conflicted Republicans in congress, have asked for an independent investigation of Russian interference in our election. The Republi-cons want America to disregard Trump’s and his proposed cabinet’s close ties to Russia and to just move on. Most of America says not so fast!
The AP’s Richard Lardner reported today that: “The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate possible contacts between Russia and the people associated with U.S. political campaigns as part of a broader investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”
“In a statement late Friday, Sens. Richard Burr. R-N.C., the committee’s chairman, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take action, and Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel’s top Democrat, said the panel “will follow the intelligence where it leads.”
“Burr and Warner said that as part of the investigation, they will interview senior officials from the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration. They said subpoenas would be issued “if necessary to compel testimony.”
“We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right,” the senators said.
“A declassified intelligence report released last week said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the election to favor President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, revelations that have roiled Washington.”
“According to the committee’s statement, the inquiry will include:”
— “A review of the intelligence that informed the declassified report about Russia’s interference in the election.”
— “Counterintelligence concerns” related to Russia and the election, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
— “Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” against the United States during the election and more broadly.” Richard Lardner
Georgia Representative John Lewis valiantly stepped forward last Friday, saying that he will not view Trump as a legitimate President. He will not attend this inauguration, the first he’s missed in three decades, because he said: “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” He said they corrupted “our open and democratic election process.” Trump falsely and belligerently insisted for years that President Obama was not a legitimate President because he was born in Kenya but now Congressman Lewis is legitimately giving Trump a taste of his own medicine.
Operatives in the Republican party have systematically disenfranchised democratic voters, minorities, women, students and senior citizens, in every state controlled by Republican Governors and legislatures, by requiring onerous voter IDs, by closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, by restricting early and weekend voting, by kicking democratic leaning voters off the voter roll with the cross-checking scheme, by the elimination of felon’s voting rights, even after they’ve served their time and by possibly even manipulating the voting counts of electronic voting machines. Coupled with gerrymandering, hacking by the Russians, FBI Director Comey’s shenanigans and the latest anti-democratic peril, far right and Russian propagandists spreading fake news stories, this must be considered the most corrupt and illegitimate election in our history.
And Democrats in congress have reached a point where they’ve lost confidence in FBI Director Comey’s ability to transparently explain his conduct leading up to the election, when he intervened, contrary to FBI protocol, days before the election to again question Hillary’s emails, but at the same time sat on for months, the dossier about the shocking and potentially much more serious allegations regarding Trump and the Russians. He clearly impacted Hillary’s campaign momentum and it showed in her poll numbers. He either negligently or purposely caused Hillary to lose the election.
I’m sure there are 10’s of millions of Americans like myself, who believe Donald Trump should not be sworn in until there’s a full independent investigation of (1) members of his campaign’s possible involvement in the Russian cyber hacking and election interference, (2) Putin’s involvement and influence in our election, (3)Trump and his proposed cabinet’s involvement with Russia and Putin, (4) Trumps potential conflicts of interest concerning Russia and Putin and (5) a full review of Trumps and his Secretary of State’s income tax returns. How can we place any credibility in this election? If Trump is sworn in before all these questions are sorted out and these investigations are completed, he will never be viewed by a majority of Americans, as a legitimate president.
After 2 years and 3 or 4 Billion dollars, you would think America could somehow conduct a free and fair national election. Is it a wonder that we have such a low participation rate. And after Hillary Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but still lost the election because of the archaic Electoral College, those numbers will certainly decline even further. Our whole election process is anything but free, fair or credible. Putin and the Russians are toasting their success in undermining America’s most visible Democratic process, and somehow in dividing it’s political parties even further.
International organizations and many NGOs regularly conduct election monitoring throughout the world. The Carter Center (Democratic President Jimmy Carter) has been involved in election monitoring for decades and has worked with the United Nations and the National Democratic Institute to develop international principles for election observation. They should probably come to America’s rescue, and help us establish truly Democratic elections.
All patriotic Americans should speak up and demand that our intelligence agencies find and interview the former British intelligence operative who investigated the shenanigans involving Trump and his embedded Russian operatives before Trump is sworn in and before Putin and his assassins find him. There’s already rumors that Putin is trying to find out who leaked the dirty laundry in the ex-MI6 spy’s memos.
And to the flag waving hypocritical Congressional Republi-con winuts, who won’t pass up any chance to wave the U.S. Constitution under the noses of Democrats, you’re showing your true allegiance. You turn a blind eye to the insane tweets of DJT and his fealty to a kleptocratic despot, who Republican Senator Marco Rubio describes as a war criminal and mass murderer but then turn around and threaten to investigate the Director of the Office of Government Ethics after Walter M. Shaub Jr. spoke at the Brookings Institute on Trumps plans to avoid conflicts of interest while serving as President.
Mr. Schaub stated: “We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit. That’s why I was glad in November when the President-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it, “in no way have a conflict of interest” with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan can’t achieve that goal.” and also said: “It would, however, be cause for alarm if the Senate were to go forward with hearings on nominees whose reports OGE has not certified. For as long as I remain Director, OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials will not succumb to pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest.”
“According to an article in Politico, Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), head of the House Oversight Committee, has threatened to subpoena Shaub over his refusal to discuss objections to Trump’s proposed business handling with the committee.”
“According to The Hill, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the OGE was “doing the job that Jason Chaffetz himself is refusing to do,” and called Chaffetz’s threat “outrageous.” Earnest also said Chaffetz is “seeking to intimidate a senior executive branch official who is responsible for enforcing federal ethics rules.”
Americans must once and forever demand free and fair Democratic elections, overturning Citizens United, elections no longer than 2 months, public financing of all elections, limited free broadcast media, debate access for all third party candidates, one man one vote and the presidential election, like all state elections, which is won by popular vote. And unless the Republican controlled Congress decides to stand up for this standard of American Democracy, the Republi-con inaction and subterfuge will permanently disgrace the Grand Old Party. John Hanno
From Mother Jones
The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff
When I broke the story in October, I spoke with him. Here’s what he said.
David Corn, January 13, 2017
Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a years long operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.
“Someone like me stays in the shadows,” the former spy said.
The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.
The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.
The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was “sufficiently serious” for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. “This was an extraordinary situation,” he remarked.
The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was “shock and horror.” After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, “My track record as a professional is second to no one.”
The former spy told me that he was reluctant to be talking with a reporter. He pointed out this was not his common practice. “Someone like me stays in the shadows,” he said. But he indicated that he believed this material was important, and he was unsure how the FBI was handling it. Certainly, there had been no public signs that the FBI was investigating these allegations. (The FBI at the time refused to tell me if it had received the memos or if it was examining the allegations.)
“This was something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former spy told me. “I think [Trump’s] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.” He noted that he believed Russian intelligence’s efforts aimed at Trump were part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to “disrupt and divide and discredit the system in Western democracies.”
After speaking with the former counterintelligence official, I was able to confirm his identity and expertise. A senior US administration official told me that he had worked with the onetime spook and that the former spy had an established and respected track record of providing US government agencies with accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters. “He is a credible source who has provided information to the US government for a long time, which senior officials have found to be highly credible,” this US official said.
I also was able to review the memos the former spy had written, and I quoted a few key portions in my article. I did not report the specific allegations—especially the lurid allegations about Trump’s personal behavior—because they could not be confirmed. The newsworthy story at this point was that a credible intelligence official had provided information to the FBI alleging Moscow had tried to cultivate and compromise a presidential candidate. And the issue at hand—at a time when the FBI was publicly disclosing information about its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email at the State Department—was whether the FBI had thoroughly investigated these allegations related to Russia and Trump. I also didn’t post the memos, as BuzzFeed did this week, because the documents contained information about the former spy’s sources that could place these people at risk.
When I spoke with the former spy, he appeared confident about his material—acknowledging these memos were works in progress—and genuinely concerned about the implications of the allegations. He came across as a serious and somber professional who was not eager to talk to a journalist or cause a public splash. He realized he was taking a risk, but he seemed duty bound to share information he deemed crucial. He noted that these allegations deserved a “substantial inquiry” within the FBI. Yet so far, the FBI has not yet said whether such an investigation has been conducted. As the former spy said to me, “The story has to come out.”
From Raw Story
Israeli spies: Trump ‘golden showers’ dossier only one of many troubling reports being investigated
Eric W. Dolan, January 14, 2017
Intelligence agencies from around the world are investigating multiple reports that allege some connection between President-elect Donald Trump and the Russian government, according to Israeli intelligence officers who spoke to BuzzFeed.
Last week, BuzzFeed published an unverified dossier that claimed the Russian government had material that could be used to blackmail Trump. The dossier claimed Russia had recordings of Trump’s “personal obsessions and sexual perversion.” It was later revealed that the dossier had been compiled by Christopher Steele, a former member of the British intelligence agency MI6.
Intelligence agencies have reportedly been circulating several other reports regarding Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
“There have been various reports about Trump’s ties to Russia,” an intelligence officer told BuzzFeed. “The dossier is one of them, but there are others, they make other allegations. Some are more specific, and some are less. You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia.”
Steele, who was hired by Trump’s political foes during last year’s campaign season, had become so worried by the allegations he uncovered that he sent his report to the FBI, according to The Independent. However, Steele “came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry” of Trump, the paper reported.
BuzzFeed said they were trying to verify the allegations contained in Steele’s dossier, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Trump and his transition team have forcefully denied the allegations contained in the report, castigating them as “fake news.”
Israeli intelligence officers were recently warned by U.S. spies not to share intelligence with the Trump administration until they could be sure the former reality TV star hadn’t been compromised by Russia, reported the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
“The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion,” the report claimed.
From the Pew Research Center, Fact Tank
August 2, 2016
U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries
By Drew DeSilver
With less than 100 days left till the U.S. presidential election, we thought it was time for a fresh look at how U.S. voter turnout – regularly decried as dismal – compares with other developed democracies. As is so often the case, the answer is a lot more complicated than the question.
Political scientists typically measure turnout by looking at votes cast as a percentage of eligible voters. Since many hard-to-measure factors can affect eligibility (citizenship, imprisonment, residency rules and other legal barriers), in practice turnout calculations usually are based on the estimated voting-age population. By that measure, the U.S. lags most of its peers, landing 31st among the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states.
U.S. turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 53.6%, based on 129.1 million votes cast and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. Looking at the most recent national elections in OECD countries, the highest turnout rates were in Belgium (87.2%), Turkey (84.3%) and Sweden (82.6%). (Turnout in last month’s Australian parliamentary election almost certainly was in that range too, but we don’t yet have a current estimate for Australia’s voting-age population.) Switzerland consistently has the lowest turnout in the OECD, with less than 39% of the voting-age population casting ballots in the 2015 federal legislative election……
7 Other Nations That Prove Just How Absurd U.S. Elections Really Are
By Zeeshan Aleem
May 19, 2015
Is there a greater example of American excess than the presidential campaign process?
From the formation of exploratory committees until the inauguration of the next president, the American election frenzy lasts about two years, a vast majority of which is spent talking about little of substance. Along the way, the U.S. easily outspends every other country in the world, a trend that has only been accelerated by the gutting of restrictions on corporate contributions to campaigns in recent years. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign could cost up to $2 billion, according to early estimates.
What’s even worse is that the exceptional amount of time and money doesn’t produce an engaging democratic process. The U.S. ranks near the bottom in terms of voter participation when compared with other developed nations. Issues like obstacles to voter registration and the ability to simply get to the polls without missing work contribute to strikingly low turnout in the world’s most powerful democracy.
None of this is inevitable, and some of these problems could be easily fixed. Here’s a brief look at some practices in other democracies that the U.S. could learn from, if not replicate:
1. The longest campaign in Canadian history was 10 weeks.
The election process in other countries is typically far shorter than in the U.S. Even though there isn’t an official limit on maximum campaign length in Canada, the longest election campaign in Canadian history was in 1926 for 74 days — about 10 and a half weeks between when the date of the election was announced and voting day.
They’re usually significantly shorter. Party positioning and discussion of election scenarios precede the official election campaign period, but it’s a matter of months rather than years.
2. In the U.K., political parties can only spend $30 million in the year before an election.
Election spending is strictly limited in the U.K. Each party cannot spend more than $29.5 million in the year before the election. The New York Times reported that the combined spending of both major British political parties in 2010 came out to around the same amount as the American presidential candidates spent on money on expenses related to raising money in 2012.
3. In Germany, political parties release just one 90-second television ad.
Berlin, Germany- August 22: Cars drive past election campaign posters hanging from lampposts on August 22, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Source: Getty
Many democracies around the world place strict regulations or outright bans on how political parties can advertise on television. In Germany, parties are given airtime on two public television networks based on their performance in the past election and the size of their party, according to Politico. Each party usually only makes one minute-and-a half-long ad to convey their message during those slots.
Politico reported that in the 2013 election, this amounted to eight ads on each channel for the major parties — for the entire campaign. Parties can purchase more ads to run on private television channels, but limits on spending budgets and the high cost of television spots place huge constraints on their use. Negative ads are rare.
4. In 2013, over two-thirds of income to Norway’s political parties came from the government.
Many countries successfully use public financing of campaigns as a way of regulating their cost and relieving the need for reliance on wealthy donors. In Norway’s 2013 elections, 67% of political party income was provided by the government.
The U.S. does have a public financing system for presidential campaigns, but in 2008 Barack Obama opted out — the first candidate to do so since its creation in 1976 — citing concerns that it was a “broken” system and that the spending limits it imposed put him at a disadvantage against his opponent’s ability to marshal corporate resources that circumvented its limits. In 2012, both presidential candidates opted out of the system.
5. Voter registration is automatic in Sweden.
Source: Brennan Center for Justice
Voter registration is one of the tedious details of the democratic process that has enormous consequences for election outcomes. In Sweden, the government automatically registers all eligible voters using data from the national population database.
The U.S., on the other hand, is one of few democratic countries in the world that places the onus of voter registration entirely on citizens themselves, leaving about a quarter of eligible Americans unregistered to vote. Most states do not allow same-day registration, which boosts turnout.
6. In Australia, voting is compulsory.
Broome, Australia- September 7: Members of the public vote at Cable Beach Primary School on September 7, 2013 in Broome, Australia. Source: Getty
In Australia, citizens are fined a small sum of money if they don’t vote, and if they don’t pay that fine, then the penalty grows more serious. Since making it mandatory in the early 20th century, Australian voter participation has never fallen below 90%.
Compulsory voting diminishes socio-economic bias in voter turnout (typically poorer voters are less likely to vote) and allows campaigns to focus on messaging without nearly as much time and money spent worrying about mobilizing voters. Requiring citizens to visit the polls is certainly not every country’s cup of tea, and is not without its major flaws — the question of forcing ignorant or apathetic citizens to choose candidates is a serious one. But it is effective in getting voters to the polls. Obama has even suggested that it would be an easier fix than reforming campaign finances in the near future.
7. In Brazil, Election Day is on the weekend.
Brazil votes on Sundays. The fact that people don’t have to find a way to skip work or school when voting is likely one of the reasons that Brazil has a significantly higher voter turnout rate than the U.S., which votes on Tuesdays and has limited early voting options.
In the U.S. there have been calls for weekend voting. The current calendar was designed in the 19th century to accommodate voters who relied on horse and buggy to get back from the polls before market day on Wednesday.
These are just a handful of examples of differences in the way elections are conducted around the world that could provide some valuable insights into how to make American democracy saner and more responsive.