It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like a full week already. The biggest obstacle to the U.S. House of Representatives impeaching President Trump is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and she’s refusing to budge; the Russians cooked up even more ambitious plans to stir up racial hostility in the United States; and another account from an Obama administration official that suggests Jim Comey exaggerates and stretches the truth when he wants to make himself look good.
The Rampart Blocking the Impeachment of Trump Is . . . Nancy Pelosi?
At this rate, Nancy Pelosi is going to regret winning the House of Representatives in 2018:
Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.
Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda.
Pelosi dismissed this argument, asking Raskin whether he wanted to shut down the other five committees working on Trump investigations in favor of the Judiciary Committee.
“You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?” Pelosi quipped, referring to the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
These little anecdotes are reassuring, because they indicate to those of us on the right that Democrats don’t keep all of their condescension, self-righteousness, sneers, disdain, and contempt stored up to use on us. No, this is just how they talk to everyone, including each other. According to Politico, Steve Cohen basically called Pelosi a coward to her face.
During the Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Cohen said President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings “over sex” while Trump is “raping the country,” according to two sources in the room. Cohen later confirmed his remarks.
Pelosi pushed back on Cohen during the meeting and his assertion that she was simply afraid impeachment would cost her the House majority.
“This isn’t about politics at all. It’s about patriotism. It’s about the strength we need to have to see things through,” Pelosi said, according to an aide in the room.
Cohen’s not alone. One of President Obama’s old HUD guys, Brandon Friedman, is out there proclaiming, “Democrats were sold a bill of goods by Pelosi: Vote for us so we can become the majority and hold Trump accountable. When voters did that, the argument became, ‘We can’t hold Trump accountable because it could jeopardize our majority!’”
What happens to Pelosi when she’s opposed by the pro-impeachment Left and the anti-impeachment Right?
New Papers: Russians Wanted to Create African-American Separatist Group for Sabotage
This month turned out a good time to be focus on Russian disinformation. NBC News offers a new look at some of the ambitions of the Russians at the Internet Research Agency, beyond the 2016 U.S. elections:
The documents — communications between associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked oligarch indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for previous influence operations against the U.S. — laid out a new plot to manipulate and radicalize African-Americans.
The documents contained proposals for several ways to further exacerbate racial discord in the future, including a suggestion to recruit African-Americans and transport them to camps in Africa “for combat prep and training in sabotage.” Those recruits would then be sent back to America to foment violence and work to establish a pan-African state in the Southern U.S., including South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
There is no indication that the plan — which is light on details — was ever put into action, but it offers a fresh example of the mindset around Russian efforts to sow discord in the U.S.
One aspect of the mindset it reveals is that ethno-nationalists think everyone else sees the world in ethno-nationalist terms.
There are roughly 47 million African-Americans in the United States. No doubt somewhere in that mix you could find some who be attracted to the idea of a pan-African state spread across five southern states. I’m not African-American and shouldn’t presume to know how every member of this group would react. But I suspect quite a few would think, “Wait, why would I want that? I already have a country. I’ve already put a lot into building my life in this country. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into ending separate but equal, particularly in those five states! Why would I want to create my own separate country through violence instead of trying to change and improve the one I’m in?”
Also note that while the Russians were discussing this idea, they were also promoting the secession of Texas and other Southern states through the Facebook group “Heart of Texas.” No doubt, they would love to see the United States paralyzed by warring internal factions, each refusing to compromise and attempting to break away.
A key point in my talk is that when you’re trying to differentiate between foreign disinformation or propaganda efforts and genuine homegrown political activism, foreign disinformation rarely focuses on any solutions, and when they do, it’s the most extreme option.
A significant portion of the IRA’s efforts targeted African-Americans and focused on the issue of police brutality and shootings. The examples of Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Walter Scott make clear that when African Americans face an encounter with the police, they have reason to fear that even the smallest misunderstanding or misstep could have unjust and deadly consequences. But most African-Americans deeply upset about this are thinking about the best way to address it. More African-American police officers? A country where every cop wears a body camera? Federal civil-rights prosecutions, as seen in South Carolina? More police training? Some mix of all of these?
What you haven’t heard is African-Americans declaring that the appropriate response is to form their own country.
One of my big points in my talk last week was that the Russians at the Internet Research Agency had only studied American culture from a distance. They’re trying to manipulate us, but they don’t really understand us — and as a result, their efforts are going to be a little clumsy, heavy-handed, and not quite sound right to American ears.
One last point: In addition to his ties to the Internet Research Agency, Yevgeny Prigozhin is also tied to the Wagner Group. Depending upon who you ask, the Wagner group is a private military contractor like Blackwater, or an off-the-books army of Vladimir Putin, deploying to places like Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and perhaps Venezuela.
A murky aura persists around Wagner and the man who is thought to own it. A balding 57-year-old who often manages to be photographed scowling, Yevgeny Prigozhin is an example of how people close to Putin build their wealth — and then are deployed as useful tools. He was a little-known restaurateur until he appeared in Putin’s orbit in the early 2000s and began serving the autocrat during visits by foreign dignitaries. Prigozhin became a powerful businessman as he received a steady stream of catering contracts from the state. Often referred to in the local press as “Putin’s chef,” he is now seen as a key member of Putin’s inner circle.
These perks come with strings attached, according to Stephen Blank, a Russia expert who has been researching the Wagner Group for the U.S, Army War College. He sees Prigozhin as an example of how Putin has weaponized Russia’s wealthy elites. “They’re subordinate to the state, and they keep their money and their positions on the condition that they serve the state,” he said.
Loretta Lynch: I Never Wanted to Create the Federal Bureau of Matters
Remember Jim Comey’s anecdote of attorney general Loretta Lynch telling him to refer the investigation of Hillary Clinton as a “matter” and not as and “investigation”?
For what it’s worth, Lynch says it didn’t happen the way Comey described:
Q: Are you familiar with his — I think he’s testified to this — that you instructed, I believe in September of 2015, Director Comey to call the Midyear Exam investigation a matter?
Lynch: I heard his testimony on it and that was the first time that he had ever indicated to me, in my understanding — he may have told 17 others — that he had that impression of our conversation.
Q: So you do not believe you ever instructed him to call it a matter?
Lynch: I did not. I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will… I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.
Oh, come on. What are the odds that Jim Comey would exaggerate or stretch the truth a little to create a story that paints him as the last honest man in Washington?
ADDENDUM: In case you missed it late yesterday, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, who took over running the network in March 2018, told the Los Angeles Times, “Without question our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics. My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused.”