Experts urge Clinton campaign to challenge election results in three swing states based on evidence of hacking

New York magazine reports: Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Last Thursday, the activists held a conference call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias to make their case, according to a source briefed on the call. The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000. While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee. [Continue reading…]

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How pro-Trump Twitter bots spread fake news

The Daily Beast reports: President-elect Donald Trump has credited the strength of his political movement, in part, to his immense reach on social-media platforms.

And it’s true, he does have a ton of followers on Facebook and Twitter. But not all of those followers are human. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, automated networks of social-media bots spread erroneous information to potential voters—often to the benefit of Trump.

According to a new memo compiling data from the election by a team of researchers including Oxford University Professor Philip Howard, automated pro-Trump activity outnumbered automated pro-Hillary Clinton activity by a 5:1 ratio by Election Day. And many of those auto-Trumpkins were busy spewing lies and fake news: that Democrats could vote on a different day than Republicans; that Clinton had a stroke during the final week of the election; and that an FBI agent associated with her email investigation was involved in a murder-suicide.

“The use of automated accounts was deliberate and strategic throughout the election, most clearly with pro-Trump campaigners and programmers who carefully adjusted the timing of content production during the debates, strategically colonized pro-Clinton hashtags, and then disabled automated activities after Election Day,” wrote Howard; Bence Kollanyi, a Ph.D. candidate at Corvinus University of Budapest; and Samuel Woolley, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington. [Continue reading…]

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Viral fake election news outperformed real news on Facebook in final months of the U.S. election

Buzzfeed reports: In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.

During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.

Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook. For details on how we identified and analyzed the content, see the bottom of this post. View our data here.)

Up until those last three months of the campaign, the top election content from major outlets had easily outpaced that of fake election news on Facebook. Then, as the election drew closer, engagement for fake content on Facebook skyrocketed and surpassed that of the content from major news outlets. [Continue reading…]

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Lindsey Graham calls for Senate investigation into whether Russia hacked DNC

Huffington Post reports: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said he wants Senate hearings to investigate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. election, casting doubts on President-elect Donald Trump’s desire to improve relations with Russia.

“Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Putin should be punished.”

U.S. officials have said the Kremlin was responsible for hacking into Democratic National Committee computers over the summer and releasing information that damaged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Graham, who was defeated by Trump during the primary, urged fellow Republicans to not “let allegations against a foreign government interfering in our election process go unanswered because it may have been beneficial to our cause.”

He said congressional hearings would include “Russia’s misadventure throughout the world,” including its military aggression in Eastern Europe and whether it committed war crimes in Syria.

Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to cozy up to Russia. During the campaign, he called for closer relations with Russia in fighting the Islamic State and praised Putin for being a “stronger leader” than President Barack Obama. [Continue reading…]

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There’s no such thing as a good Trump voter

Jamelle Bouie writes: Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters — who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes — is perverse, bordering on abhorrent.

It’s worth repeating what Trump said throughout the election. His campaign indulged in hateful rhetoric against Hispanics and condemned Muslim Americans with the collective guilt of anyone who would commit terror. It treated black America as a lawless dystopia and spoke of black Americans as dupes and fools. And to his supporters, Trump promised mass deportations, a ban on Muslim entry to the United States, and strict “law and order” as applied to those black communities. Trump is now president-elect. Judging from his choices for the transition — figures like immigration hardliner Kris Kobach and white nationalist Stephen Bannon — it’s clear he plans to deliver on those promises.

Whether Trump’s election reveals an “inherent malice” in his voters is irrelevant. What is relevant are the practical outcomes of a Trump presidency. Trump campaigned on state repression of disfavored minorities. He gives every sign that he plans to deliver that repression. This will mean disadvantage, immiseration, and violence for real people, people whose “inner pain and fear” were not reckoned worthy of many-thousand-word magazine feature stories. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this, regardless of what you believe about the groups in question. That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice. [Continue reading…]

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How America got Trumped

Kenan Malik writes: Trump can be seen as an agent of change only because real agents of change, progressive social movements that can truly transform people’s lives, have largely eroded.

What we are witnessing is a crisis both of the political class and of progressive opposition to it. The political elite is so disengaged from the electorate that it failed to recognize the depth of anger and disaffection from mainstream institutions and its party machines have become so rusty that they could not check the Trump surge. And oppositional movements are so weakened that Trump can be seen by many as an agent of change.

It is this dual crisis that is unstitching politics, and not just in America. The same phenomenon is at play in Europe, driving the success of the reactionary populist groups from the Sweden Democrats to the Front National in France. And globally, too, from Turkey to India, from Egypt to South Africa, the old order is coming unstitched while opposition movements that have emerged to give voice to that disaffection are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are often sectarian or separatist in form. As in Europe and the USA there is a hole where progressive social movements should be.

There have been many apocalyptic prognostications in the wake of Trump’s success. His victory, many claim, will lead to everything from the rise of fascism to the end of the West. The real issue lies less with Trump himself, than with the dual crisis of the elite and of opposition movement. It is how we address this, and in particular whether we are able to build real movements for change, that will shape the future, and not just in the USA. [Continue reading…]

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Don’t call Clinton a weak candidate — it took decades of scheming to beat her

Rebecca Solnit writes: Sometimes I think I have never seen anything as strong as Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t mean that I like and admire everything about her. I’m not here to argue about who she is, just to note what she did. I watched her plow through opposition and attacks the like of which no other candidate has ever faced and still win the popular vote. To defeat her it took an unholy cabal far beyond what Barack Obama faced when he was the campaign of change, swimming with the tide of disgust about the Bush administration. As the New York Times reported, “By the time all the ballots are counted, she seems likely to be ahead by more than 2m votes and more than 1.5 percentage points. She will have won by a wider percentage margin than not only Al Gore in 2000 but also Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F Kennedy in 1960.”

You can flip that and see that Trump was such a weak candidate it took decades of scheming and an extraordinary international roster of powerful players to lay the groundwork that made his election possible. Defeating Clinton in the electoral college took the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by Republican appointees to the supreme court. It took vast Republican voter suppression laws and tactics set in place over many years. It took voter intimidation at many polling places. It took the long Republican campaign to blow up the boring bureaucratic irregularity of Clinton’s use of a private email server into a scandal that the media obediently picked up and reheated.

It took James Comey, the director of the FBI, using that faux-scandal and his power to stage a misleading smear attack on Clinton 11 days before the election in flagrant violation of the custom of avoiding such intervention for 60 days before an election. It took a compliant mainstream media running after his sabotage like a golden retriever chasing a tennis ball. It took decades of conservative attacks on the Clintons. Comey, incidentally, served as deputy GOP counsel to the Senate Whitewater committee, that fishing expedition that began with an investigation in a messy real estate deal in Arkansas before Bill Clinton’s presidency and ended with a campaign to impeach him on charges related to completely unrelated sexual activities during his second term.

It took a nearly decade-long reality TV show, The Apprentice, that deified Trump’s cruelty, sexism, racism and narcissism as essential to success and power. As the feminist media critic Jennifer Pozner points out: “Everything Trump said and did was framed in a way to flatter him, and more importantly, flatter his worldview.” The colossal infomercial fictionalized the blundering, cheating businessman as an unqualified success and gave him a kind of brand recognition no other candidate had.

It took the full support of Fox News, whose CEO, Roger Ailes, was so committed to him that after leaving the company following allegations of decades of sexual harassment of employees, he joined the Trump campaign. It took the withdrawal of too many Americans from even that calibre of journalism into the partisan unreliability of faux-news sites and confirmation-bias bubbles of social media. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump picks Reince Priebus as chief of staff

The New York Times reports: President-elect Donald J. Trump on Sunday chose Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and a loyal campaign adviser, to be his White House chief of staff, turning to a Washington insider whose friendship with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, could help secure early legislative victories.

In selecting Mr. Priebus, the president-elect passed over Stephen K. Bannon, the right-wing media mogul who oversaw his presidential campaign. If Mr. Trump had appointed Mr. Bannon, a fierce critic of the Republican establishment, it would have demonstrated a continued disdain for a party that Mr. Trump fought throughout his campaign.

Mr. Trump’s choice is certain to anger some of his most conservative supporters, many of whom expect him to battle the Washington establishment over issues like taxes, immigration, trade, health care and the environment. They view Mr. Priebus as a deal maker who will be too eager to push the new president toward compromise.

Mr. Priebus is expected to have multiple deputies, including Katie Walsh, the chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, who is close to Mr. Priebus and helped ensure a tight working relationship between the party’s operational infrastructure and Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Other advisers in Mr. Trump’s inner circle will also have his ear, including Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, who is likely to wield great influence over the new president regardless of whether he holds a formal title. Mr. Kushner, who has no experience in politics or government, is often the last person Mr. Trump turns to for counsel.

Mr. Bannon — the longtime chairman of Breitbart News, a site distinguished by its nationalist, conspiracy-laden coverage — was named chief strategist and senior counselor, and a news release from Mr. Trump’s transition team said that Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon would work as “equal partners.” Mr. Bannon is also likely to serve as a conduit to the populist right and conservative media outlets. [Continue reading…]

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Moscow had contacts with Trump team during campaign, Russian diplomat says

The Washington Post reports: Russian government officials had contacts with members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, in a disclosure that could reopen scrutiny over the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton.

Facing questions about his ties to Moscow because of statements interpreted as lauding Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Trump repeatedly denied having any contact with the Russian government.

After the latest statement by the Russian diplomat, the spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Hope Hicks, denied there were interactions between Russia and the Trump team before Tuesday’s election.

“The campaign had no contact with Russian officials,” she said in an email.

But Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency, said that “there were contacts” with the Trump team. [Continue reading…]

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Islamist extremists celebrate Trump’s election win

Ishaan Tharoor writes: Donald Trump’s presidential election victory has already been cheered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a constellation of right-wing European populists, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and a Middle Eastern strongman. But there’s another curious constituency that seems to be happy about the new American president-elect.

Shortly after Trump was declared the victor, a number of prominent Salafist ideologues linked to jihadist outfits in the Middle East took to social media to cheer the prospect of a Trump presidency.

The remarks signaled the militants’ apparent belief that the victory of a candidate like Trump, who has suggested potentially unconstitutional blocks on Muslim immigration and advocated torture, undermines the United States’ moral standing in the world.

Social-media sites associated with both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda also hailed Trump’s success as the beginning of “dark times” for the United States, marked by domestic unrest and new foreign military campaigns that would sap the strength of the American superpower.

“Rejoice with support from Allah, and find glad tidings in the imminent demise of America at the hands of Trump,” said the Islamic State-affiliated al-Minbar Jihadi Media network, one of several jihadi forums to post commentaries on the results of the U.S. election. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday called on U.S. president-elect Donald Trump to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

“Our message is that the Americans should draft a policy not to take away the independence and sovereignty of other nations. Most importantly they should withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan,” the Taliban said in a statement in reaction to Trump’s surprise election win.

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President Obama’s responsibility to fully inform the American people about Russia’s role in the election of Donald Trump

On October 7, the Director of National Intelligence released a Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement saying:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.

President Obama has 73 days left in office and during this time he has a responsibility to act on this finding.

It may be pointless and arguably counterproductive to start formulating and enacting a strategic response to Russia’s interference in the election — especially given the likelihood that this plan would be set aside by the incoming Trump administration and given the cozy relationship that Trump and Putin are already developing.

Obama’s primary responsibility is to go to the greatest lengths possible in informing the public about what the intelligence services already know and what further information can be established and revealed in the coming weeks.

What is called for is substance to add to the assertion of confidence that has already been made.

In the absence of clear evidence, the assertions about Russia have thus far been tainted by the appearance of being politically partisan — all the more reason why Trump will easily be able to sweep away the issue. Even before the election, he had already dismissed the intelligence finding.

There is a glaring irony in this situation.

On the one hand the FBI just directly intervened in a presidential election — an intervention that was strongly criticized from many quarters and that arguably tipped the result in Trump’s favor. On the other hand, if Obama adopts the traditional caretaker role of an outgoing president, he will likely end up effectively burying evidence that the Russian government not only interfered but helped determine the outcome of a U.S. election.

As much as there might now be a common desire to heal the divisions in America, the public has a right to know and fully understand what just happened.

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Putin congratulates Trump as Russian establishment celebrates

Newsweek reports: Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Donald Trump for his election victory on Wednesday, as politicians from various political parties in Russia said they expected relations between the Kremlin and Washington to improve.

The Kremlin announced that Putin had sent a telegram to Trump on Wednesday morning expressing “his hope they can work together toward the end of the crisis in Russian-American relations, as well address the pressing issues of the international agenda and the search for effective responses to global security challenges.”

Russia’s major political parties also welcomed the news of a Trump presidency.

Sergey Zheleznyak, member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in parliament, hailed Trump’s “deserved victory” in a statement on the party’s website. [Continue reading…]

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