How a Russian outlet sought to reach American voters on Twitter

Foreign Policy reports: Before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had even wrapped up their respective bids to secure the nomination for president, Kremlin-funded media outlet RT was plotting to promote its election coverage in the United States, Foreign Policy has learned.

RT hoped to take over at least two Twitter accounts or handles for its media coverage: @NotHillary and @NotTrump. Their goal, RT told Twitter’s advertising department, was to use the accounts to push their 2016 election coverage, but neither handle or username has any identifying information tracing the owner back to the Russian government-funded media organization.

Twitter denied the request. The company declined to comment on the record on the specific accounts “for privacy and security reasons.” [Continue reading…]

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The U.S. government-in-exile has a new president

Ben Smith writes: The annual Manhattan conference hosted for a decade by the Clinton Global Initiative became a kind of shorthand for what some hated about the Clintons: a mix of worthy and venal motives, a slosh of money and shady rich people around their world, and flashy and enduring relationships with autocrats in the Gulf.

Tomorrow, Bill Clinton will hand what used to be CGI’s main event off to Mike Bloomberg. And Bloomberg is reviving part of the event’s original role as a kind of US government in exile. The conference was created during the worst of the Iraq War and amid intense American isolation. European and Middle Eastern allies loathed George W. Bush, and turned instead to the open and sympathetic face of Bill Clinton’s America.

Bloomberg’s move to take over the conference (renamed the Bloomberg Global Business Forum) hasn’t drawn much attention, but it’s worth seeing in that context: The former New York mayor is inheriting not a conference, but a platform for an alternative American diplomacy. (Bloomberg, Axios wrote on breaking the news, is “the new Clinton.”)

Bloomberg is formalizing the posture that brought him to Paris in June. After Donald Trump announced that he was canceling the climate accord, Bloomberg said he’ll rally American businesses to meet its targets anyway. [Continue reading…]

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California leads resistance against Trump

Politico reports: Ripping into Donald Trump in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, California lawmakers passed measures urging Congress to censure the president, bucking his immigration policies and seeking to force him to release his tax returns. They also formally called on Trump “to publicly apologize to all Americans for his racist and bigoted behavior.”

If there was any question about the location of the nerve center of the anti-Trump resistance, it was settled with a defiant fusillade of legislation Friday and Saturday memorializing California’s antipathy toward the president.

The end-of-session rush of bills served as a reminder of the limitations of the president’s recent diplomacy with Democrats in Washington — and of an unrelenting effort to keep pressure on the president from afar.

“The issue of resistance is beyond the symbolism,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said after the session officially closed. “There’s real lives at stake … and I think that a lot of other municipalities, as well as other states, are looking towards California … to be the leader of this resistance.” [Continue reading…]

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Who helped the Russians?

David Remnick writes: I asked Clinton if she thought Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians. “I don’t want to overstate what we already know publicly, but I think the compilation of coincidence adds up to something more than public support,” she said, referring to Trump’s refusal to criticize Putin (“Why should I tell Putin what to do?”) and his encouragement of Julian Assange (“I love WikiLeaks!”).

She went on, “The latest disclosure by Facebook about the targeting of attack ads, negative stories, dovetails with my concern that there had to be some information provided to the Russians by someone as to how best to weaponize the information that they stole, first from the Democratic Committee, then from John Podesta. And the refusal of the Trump Administration officials, both current and former, to admit to their involvements with Russians raises a lot of unanswered questions.” Putin’s motives, she said, went well beyond destabilizing a particular campaign. “Putin wants to undermine democracy, to undermine the Atlantic alliance, to undermine the E.U., to undermine nato, and to resurrect Russian influence as much as possible beyond the borders,” she said. “So the stakes are huge here.”

If, as Clinton told me, the Russians had deployed a “new form of warfare” to upend American democratic processes, what should President Obama have done in the closing act of the campaign? At a summit in China, Obama told Putin to back off from any election tampering, and he talked about the issue at a press conference. But he did not raise the stakes. Figuring that Clinton would win, Obama was wary of being seen as tipping the election to her and confirming Trump’s constant assertions that the vote was rigged against him. When the C.I.A. first told Obama, in August, that the Russians had been meddling in the Presidential race, the agency shared the information with the Gang of Eight—the congressional leadership and the chairs and the ranking members of the intelligence committees. The Administration asked for a bipartisan statement of warning. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, adamantly refused, muffling for weeks any sense of national alarm.

“I feel we sort of choked,” one senior Obama Administration official told the Washington Post. Another former Administration official said that national-security people were feeling, “Wow, did we mishandle this.” Clinton, in her book, gingerly “wonders” what the effect might have been had Obama gone on national television in the fall of 2016 “warning that our democracy was under attack.” I asked her whether Obama had failed—whether the issue should have been treated less as a narrowcasted political problem and more as a grave national-security threat.

“Well, I think that I’m very understanding of the position he found himself in,” she said. “Because I’ve been in that Situation Room, I know how hard these calls can be. And I believe that they struggled with this, and they were facing some pretty difficult headwinds.” She was less restrained in her description of the Senate Majority Leader’s behavior. “Mitch McConnell, in what I think of as a not only unpatriotic but despicable act of partisan politics, made it clear that if the Obama Administration spoke publicly about what they knew, he would accuse them of partisan politics, of trying to tip the balance toward me,” she said. “McConnell basically threatened the White House, and I know that was on the President’s mind. It was a predicament for him.” She also lambasted James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, who “refused to publicly acknowledge that there was an investigation, and, with the height of irony, said, ‘Well, you can’t do that so close to the election.’ ” (Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the investigation had not progressed to the point where disclosure would have been appropriate.)

All the same, I asked, did President Obama blow it?

Clinton paused, and spoke very carefully: “I would have, in retrospect now, wished that he had said something, because I think the American people deserved to know.”

In “What Happened,” Clinton, by way of demanding national resolve against a Russian threat, quotes a maxim attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “You take a bayonet and you push. If you hit mush, you keep going; if you hit steel, you stop.”

“Were we mush?” I asked about the Obama Administration’s response.

Now she did not hesitate. “I think we were mushy,” she said. “Partly because we couldn’t believe it. Richard Clarke, who is one of our nation’s experts on terrorism, has written a book about Cassandras,” unheeded predictors of calamity. “And there was a collective Cassandra out there—my campaign was part of that—saying, ‘The Russians are in our electoral system, the Russians are weaponizing information, look at it!’ And everybody in the press basically thought we were overstating, exaggerating, making it up. And Comey wouldn’t confirm an investigation, so there was nothing to hold on to. And I think that the point Clarke makes is when you have an initial occurrence that has never happened before, some people might see it and try to warn about it, but most people would find it unlikely, impossible. And what I fear is we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what the Russians did.” [Continue reading…]

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Feinstein’s anti-Catholic questions are an outrage

Noah Feldman writes: Senator Dianne Feinstein owes a public apology to judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett — and an explanation to all Americans who condemn religious bias. During Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein, the California Democrat, insinuated an anti-Catholic stereotype that goes back at least 150 years in the U.S. — that Catholics are unable to separate church and state because they place their religious allegiances before their oath to the Constitution.

If a Catholic senator had asked a Jewish nominee whether she would put Israel before the U.S., or if a white senator had asked a black nominee if she could be an objective judge given her background, liberals would be screaming bloody murder. Feinstein’s line of questioning, which was taken up by other committee Democrats, is no less an expression of prejudice.

The thrust of Feinstein’s questioning was that, as a believing Catholic, Barrett couldn’t be trusted to apply the Constitution and laws objectively should she be confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Feinstein repeatedly used a term with a long history as a dog whistle for anti-Catholicism in America: dogma. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein asserted. She went on: “Dogma and law are two different things. I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different.”

And the senator topped it off with a classic form of bias: the irrefutable imputation. “Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling?” she asked.

The word “dogma” that Feinstein deployed is specifically connected to the Protestant critique of Catholicism, and to its particularly nasty American version. A dogma is an article of faith laid down by an authority. One of the classic Protestant polemical attacks on Catholicism was the allegation that Catholics are obligated to believe what the church teaches them is incontrovertibly true, whereas Protestants are called on to form their own beliefs on the basis of individual faith and judgment. [Continue reading…]

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Bound to no party, Trump upends 150 years of two-party rule

The New York Times reports: When Donald J. Trump set his sights on the presidency in the 2000 election, he pursued the nomination of the Reform Party, a home for disenchanted independents. “The Republican Party has just moved too far to the extreme right,” he explained. “The Democrats are too far to the left.”

In the end, he dropped the campaign and the Reform Party, the leftover construct from Ross Perot’s two independent presidential candidacies during the 1990s. It was one of at least five times that Mr. Trump would switch party affiliations over the years. “I’m the Lone Ranger,” he once said in another context.

Now in the White House, President Trump demonstrated this past week that he still imagines himself a solitary cowboy as he abandoned Republican congressional leaders to forge a short-term fiscal deal with Democrats. Although elected as a Republican last year, Mr. Trump has shown in the nearly eight months in office that he is, in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War. [Continue reading…]

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Facebook wins, democracy loses

Siva Vaidhyanathan writes: On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere.

The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands.

The majority of the Facebook ads did not directly mention a presidential candidate, according to Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook, but “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from L.G.B.T. matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

The ads — about 3,000 placed by 470 accounts and pages spending about $100,000 — were what the advertising industry calls “dark posts,” seen only by a very specific audience, obscured by the flow of posts within a Facebook News Feed and ephemeral. Facebook calls its “dark post” service “unpublished page post ads.”

This should not surprise us. Anyone can deploy Facebook ads. They are affordable and easy. That’s one reason that Facebook has grown so quickly, taking in $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016, virtually all of it from advertisers, by serving up the attention of two billion Facebook users across the globe.

The service is popular among advertisers for its efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness. Facebook gives rich and instant feedback to advertisers, allowing them to quickly tailor ads to improve outcomes or customize messages even more. There is nothing mysterious or untoward about the system itself, as long as it’s being used for commerce instead of politics. What’s alarming is that Facebook executives don’t seem to grasp, or appreciate, the difference. [Continue reading…]

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Russia’s Facebook fake news could have reached 70 million Americans

The Daily Beast reports: Russian-funded covert propaganda posts on Facebook were likely seen by a minimum of 23 million people and might have reached as many as 70 million, according to analysis by an expert on the social-media giant’s complex advertising systems. That means up to 28 percent of American adults were swept in by the campaign.

On Wednesday, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, revealed that Russia had “likely” used 470 fake accounts to buy about $100,000 worth of advertising promoting “divisive social and political messages” to Americans. It was Facebook’s first public acknowledgment of the role it unwittingly played in the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaign. Stamos’ statement was also conspicuous by what it omitted: Facebook has refused to release the ads. More significant, it hasn’t said what kind of reach Russia attained with its ad buy.

There may be a reason for that. On the surface, $100,000 is small change in contemporary national politics, and 3,000 ads sounds like a drop in the pond when Facebook boasts 2 billion monthly users. But it turns out $100,000 on Facebook can go a surprisingly long way, if it’s used right. On average, Facebook ads run about $6 for 1,000 impressions. By that number, the Kremlin’s $100,000 buy would get its ads seen nearly 17 million times. [Continue reading…]

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Facebook’s role in Trump’s win is clear. No matter what Mark Zuckerberg says

Margaret Sullivan writes: What a ridiculous notion, Mark Zuckerberg scoffed shortly after the election, that his social-media company — innocent, well-intentioned Facebook — could have helped Donald Trump’s win.

“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook . . . influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea,” he said. “Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”

In fact, voters make their decisions based on many factors, not just their “lived experience.”

Disinformation spread on Facebook clearly was one — a big one. That was obvious in November. It was obvious in April when Facebook, to its credit, announced some moves to combat the spread of lies in the form of news stories.

It’s even more obvious now after Wednesday’s news that Facebook sold ads during the campaign to a Russian “troll farm,” targeting American voters with “divisive social and political messages” that fit right in with Donald Trump’s campaign strategy.

The news, reported Wednesday by The Washington Post, fits right in with the findings of a fascinating recent study by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Analyzing reams of data, it documented the huge role that propaganda, in various forms, played in the 2016 campaign. [Continue reading…]

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The fake Americans Russia created to influence the election

The New York Times reports: Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site’s phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s inner racism revealed

Charles M Blow writes: Allow me a moment of personal indulgence: When I began writing a column many years ago, it quickly dawned on me that although I had strong and firm views on some things, there were many others about which my opinions weren’t fully formed. I believe that many of us have areas in our lives where our opinions are fungible. It was only through my experience in this job that my own opinions became so clear to me. Doing the job honed me, revealed me, exposed me.

I believe that something similar, but on a much grander and much more consequential scale, happens with presidents. As Michelle Obama said: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.” That is what is happening with Donald Trump.

He has in the course of his life been on all sides of many issues, although he was always a liar, bully, misogynist, opportunist and economic isolationist. But his racial hostility and white supremacy seem to have blossomed with his entry into politics and his Russia-aided election. After spending a life catering to the appetites of the greedy and gauche, he realized that there was an exponentially larger market of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. To the aspirational he could be landlord, but to the racists he could be overlord.

Trump’s outrageous decision this week to end DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed many young people brought to this country as children to stay and work here, is just the latest expression of Trump’s growing intolerance and his growing adoption and internalizing of white nationalist ideology.

Not only did Trump wimp out and send the anti-immigration zealot Jeff Sessions out to make the announcement, he also made the sadistic and emotionally manipulative act of professing his “love” for the Dreamers last week, while moving to bring them pain this week. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: President Trump’s immigration policies faced a renewed legal onslaught on Wednesday, as a coalition of Democratic attorneys general, nonprofit groups and private companies announced they would oppose his rollback of Obama-era protections for people who entered the country illegally as children.

In an echo of the campaign against Mr. Trump’s effort this year to ban travelers from parts of the Muslim world, a group of 16 attorneys general — all Democrats — filed suit in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, claiming that Mr. Trump had improperly upended the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Led by Attorneys General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Bob Ferguson of Washington, they alleged Mr. Trump’s shift was driven by racial animus toward Mexican Americans and that the Trump administration failed to follow federal rules governing executive policy making. [Continue reading…]

Ishaan Tharoor writes: When describing the deepening political polarization taking place in the United States, Indian American essayist and author Anand Giridharadas once put it this way: “America is fracturing into two distinct societies — a republic of dreams and a republic of fears.”

That line struck me in the wake of the Trump administration’s move to unwind an Obama-era program that gave legal rights and guarantees against deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented people brought to the United States as children, often known — appropriately, for our purposes — as “dreamers.” These are people who know no real home other than the United States, who are productive members of the American workforce, sometimes serve in the U.S. military and abide by the nation’s laws.

As participants in Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, usually known as DACA, they entrusted their personal information to a government which may soon use that data to conduct mass arrests and deportations. Their fates — in many instances, those of their families — hang in the balance as the White House dangles red meat to its right-wing base. Dreams are turning into nightmares. [Continue reading…]

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Obamaworld quietly buzzing with excitement about potential of Deval Patrick for 2020

The Hill reports: Democrats are expressing concern that advisers and aides to former President Obama have already begun signaling which candidate they might support for the White House in 2020.

Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest confidantes, and David Simas, the CEO of Obama’s foundation, have sent smoke signals urging former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to enter the race.

Simas, who once served as a top aide to Patrick, is an ardent supporter of the former governor, sources tell The Hill, while Jarrett has privately told friends that she would do what it takes to support him.

And Politico reported last month that Jarrett believes a President Patrick is “what my heart desires.”
At the same time, friends of Jarrett’s say that while she would love for Patrick to run, she is also open to other candidates.

Others in Obamaworld have quietly been buzzing about the excitement behind a potential Patrick run. [Continue reading…]

 

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‘We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation’

Joe Biden writes: In January of 2009, I stood waiting in Wilmington, Delaware, for a train carrying the first African American elected president of the United States. I was there to join him as vice president on the way to a historic Inauguration. It was a moment of extraordinary hope for our nation—but I couldn’t help thinking about a darker time years before at that very site.

My mind’s eye drifted back to 1968. I could see the flames burning Wilmington, the violence erupting on the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the federal troops taking over my city.

I was living history—and reliving it—at the same time. And the images racing through my mind were a vivid demonstration that when it comes to race in America, hope doesn’t travel alone. It’s shadowed by a long trail of violence and hate.

In Charlottesville, that long trail emerged once again into plain view not only for America, but for the whole world to see. The crazed, angry faces illuminated by torches. The chants echoing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 1930s. The neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and white supremacists emerging from dark rooms and remote fields and the anonymity of the web into the bright light of day on the streets of a historically significant American city.

If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.

The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight? [Continue reading…]

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Trump embraces culture war with call to preserve Confederate statues

The Washington Post reports: President Trump on Thursday assumed the role of leading spokesman for the racially charged cause of preserving Confederate statues on public grounds, couching his defense in historical terms that thrilled his core supporters and signaled his intent to use cultural strife as a political weapon just days after deadly violence in Virginia.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“So foolish!” he added, bemoaning efforts in several municipalities to take down Confederate tributes.

Trump’s celebration of monuments from a dark chapter of American history sparked wide debate over its consequences for his embattled presidency and the nation’s civic fabric, as well as over the challenges facing both parties as he delves into the culture wars.

A chorus of Republicans expressed alarm over Trump’s words and their potential cost with voters. But Trump’s allies inside and outside the White House, most notably White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, argued that Trump’s pronouncements would rally his political base — while also serving as a welcome distraction from the policy stumbles and investigations that have hobbled the administration. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Workers dismantled a 145-year-old statue of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney outside the Maryland State House shortly after midnight Friday, the latest ripple effect from last weekend’s deadly violence at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said his revulsion at what happened in Charlottesville — at a demonstration purportedly in defense of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — prompted him to change his mind about the Taney statute and push for its removal, an act long sought by civil rights groups.

The State House Trust board voted Wednesday to remove the memorial to Taney, a former chief justice who defended slavery in the court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision. Taney’s ruling said blacks, whether slaves or not, could never be U.S. citizens. [Continue reading…]

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This week should put the nail in the coffin for ‘both sides’ journalism

Margaret Sullivan writes: He’s the false-equivalency president.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the national news media’s misguided sense of fairness helped equate the serious flaws of Hillary Clinton with the disqualifying evils of Donald Trump.

“But her emails . . .” goes the ironic line that aptly summarizes too much of the media’s coverage of the candidates. In short: Clinton’s misuse of a private email server was inflated to keep up with Trump’s racism, sexism and unbalanced narcissism — all in the name of seeming evenhanded.

In a devastating post-election report, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center concluded that media treatment was rife with false equivalency: “On topics relating to the candidates’ fitness for office, Clinton and Trump’s coverage was virtually identical in terms of its negative tone.”

That was a factor — one of many — that helped to put Trump in the Oval Office. [Continue reading…]

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In Ukraine, a malware expert who could blow the whistle on Russian hacking

The New York Times reports: The hacker, known only by his online alias “Profexer,” kept a low profile. He wrote computer code alone in an apartment and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the Dark Web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely.

Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.

“I don’t know what will happen,” he wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”

It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the D.N.C. hack and the heated debate it has stirred. The Ukrainian police declined to divulge the man’s name or other details, other than that he is living in Ukraine and has not been arrested. [Continue reading…]

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‘Look at the campaign he ran’: Charlottesville mayor is becoming one of Trump’s strongest critics

The Washington Post reports: A white nationalist site calls him “anti-white.”

An article it published in May outlines some highlights of Michael Signer’s term as the mayor of Charlottesville: his endorsement of a $10,000 donation to pay for legal costs to help immigrants and refugees, and his decision to declare his city a “capital of the resistance” just days after President Trump was sworn into office.

For those reasons and others — including Signer’s Jewish heritage — the writer declared: “This is what the enemy looks like.” [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders’ campaign isn’t over

Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes: Bernie Sanders’s Presidential race ended a year ago, but his campaign never did. Since the election, he has staged events in Michigan, Mississippi, Maine, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Montana, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, and Illinois. At every one, he speaks about the suffering of small-town Americans, and his belief that the Democrats can help them. When I caught up with him recently, his shirt was a little untucked, his head hung down, and he carried a printed copy of his remarks. Sanders was catching a late-night flight to Chicago, and was taking a moment to record a message for Snapchat. The central illusion of a Presidential campaign is that a candidate can, through constant motion and boundless energy, meet countless people and, in the end, give voice to the experience of the country. After the election, Sanders seemed to adopt the illusion as an ethos.

Hillary Clinton’s loss gave his efforts a new urgency. The electoral map, with its imposing swaths of red, pointed to a crisis confronting American liberalism. Donald Trump may have lost the popular vote, but, as he likes to point out, he won 2,626 counties to Clinton’s four hundred and eighty-seven. Many of these counties are in states that Sanders won last year, campaigning on a platform of economic populism—Medicare for all, tuition-free college, and a fifteen-dollar minimum wage. Sanders told me that Trump was smart enough to understand that the Democratic Party had turned its back on millions of people: “He said, ‘Hey, I hear you. I’m going to do something for you.’ And he lied.” Sanders, who is seventy-five, may be too old to run again in 2020, but his barnstorming has a purpose—to deepen the connection to progressive ideas in rural America, to develop an attachment that might outlast him. [Continue reading…]

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Reporter says Putin’s Sputnik pushed him to cover Seth Rich conspiracy theory

Yahoo News reports: Reporter Andrew Feinberg says a Russian state-owned news site he once worked for pressured him to advance a conspiracy theory about the fatal shooting of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Feinberg, who was the White House correspondent for Sputnik, first made the allegations when he left the Russian outlet in May. However, his story is newly relevant in light of a lawsuit filed this week that accused President Trump and the White House of playing a role in a “fake news” story designed to advance the same conspiracy theory.

Feinberg started at Sputnik in January, just as Trump took office. He was the outlet’s first reporter to work inside the West Wing. In a conversation with Yahoo News on Wednesday, Feinberg alleged that Sputnik wanted him to bring up a news article that’s at the center of the lawsuit in the White House press briefing room. [Continue reading…]

CNN reports: It has been more than two months since Fox News retracted its story about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, and the network still claims to be investigating what happened, leaving its employees perplexed and wondering why there has been no explanation and no action taken to put the issue to rest.

“People are talking about it,” a Fox News employee told CNN. “Frankly, there’s confusion over it.” [Continue reading…]

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