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Ship lists Trump’s way

By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted April 3, 2017

The AHCA’s failure the week before last prompted the usual cries of doom which President Trump has laughed off all the way to the White House. Rich Lowry’s “The Crisis of Trumpism? went viral: unsurprisingly, because he told the D.C. audience what they wanted to hear. Mr. Lowry, of course, is the editor of Natioanl Review and was so for its “Against Trump? issue. He and his crew are long past the days of President Trump being a “ conservative-movement-menace?, but his piece shows that he’s not quite reconstructed. He still pegs President Trump as a populist instead of a Conservative, for which he blames the fiasco. Unsurprisingly, he believes that Trump should work with some Dems but blew that chance by tweeting and saying mean things. Equally unsurprisingly, he forecasts that President Trump will work with some Dems – specially, New York Dems – and end up like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yep, he told ‘em what they wanted to hear.

To be fair to the fellow, his “Crisis? piece was not even in the same league as Chuck Todd’s wish-disguised-as-a-prediction made last Friday. On MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell show, Todd said: "President Donald Trump must accept 'the fact' that Russia interfered in this election or he will be 'on the brink of becoming a temporary lame duck presidency.'"

Like most hopes expressed as predictions, Todd’s words came right at the wrong turning point. This last week, we’ve seen the momentum shift towards President Trump’s charge that his campaign has been spied upon by “Obama? - meaning of course the Obama Administration. The star of the news cycle is now House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes.

Piecing It Together

The main charm of the Internet is the wide availability of content, in particular backed-up commentary. We now have the freedom to bust out of the pre-packaged narratives that we had to settle for in the aulden days.

With this freedom comes a new responsibility: the duty to read a whole bunch of items, commentaries, and so on. Not to mention, the responsibility to check out items that smell of fakery. (For what it’s worth, I ashcanned one linkie because it proved to be fake news.)

The turn of the tide from “Russian interference? to “Obama wiretapping? was made for the exercise of this new freedom, and responsibility. Topics like this are ones for which the usual suspects rely heavily on anonymous sources, which means that the backing for them ain’t auditable. If I want to verify the claim that U.S. Treasury debt shrunk slightly since President Trump’s inauguration, I can emulate those easy-to-make-cheap-shots-at toilers in the think tanks and get the figures from this page. Not so with anonymous sources: we have to rely upon old-fashioned nose work, sniffing out pieces that we have to put together.

As for the Nunes ascendancy, and the newfound credibility of his claims of wiretapping, a good summary was put together by Flopping Aces. Excerpting the investigative work of Adam Housley and Malia Zimmerman of Fox News, it zeroes in on Nunes’ suspicion that the surveillance of Trump figures like General Flynn was too indiscriminate to be chalked up to national security. It also points out that Adam Schiff essentially punted by squawking about procedure instead of reiterating his tales about Russian hacking. The Hill has Schiff’s splutter here.

The Fox scoop itself, which was one of the few which deserved the appellation “Breaking News,? contained this bombshell:

The communications collected from Trump team associates apparently were picked up during surveillance of foreign targets. But an intelligence source familiar with those targets said they were spied on long before Trump became the GOP presidential nominee in mid-July.

In addition, citizens affiliated with Trump’s team who were unmasked were not associated with any intelligence about Russia or other foreign intelligence, sources confirmed. The initial unmasking led to other surveillance, which led to other private citizens being wrongly unmasked, sources said.

"Unmasking is not unprecedented, but unmasking for political purposes ... specifically of Trump transition team members ... is highly suspect and questionable," an intelligence source told Fox News. "Opposition by some in the intelligence agencies who were very connected to the Obama and Clinton teams was strong. After Trump was elected, they decided they were going to ruin his presidency by picking them off one by one."
True, this revelation does rely upon an anonymous source. Townhall toiler Cortney O’Brien passed along Housley’s on-air bombshell: "The person who did the unmasking is a 'very senior' and 'very well known' person in the intelligence community," and is not in the FBI. "It seems the spreading of names was done for 'political purposes that have nothing to do with national security,' or foreign intelligence, but hurting Trump’s team, Housley noted."

Stipulated, former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy thinks that the unmasking of Gen. Flynn and others is licit. But he does say that the FBI's sharing of the Flynn-Kislyak conversation with "Obama advisers" and "Obama officials" does look fishy, as does the later interrogation of Flynn by FBI officials. Like the overkill about Putin, this overkill looks too insistent to be taken at face value.

As for Rep. Schiff’s complaints, the Daily Caller disposed of one with dispatch: "Nunes Did Nothing New By Viewing Raw Intel At The White House.? It says that Nunes’ trip to the White House to view that classified info was not out of line because it's been done quite a few times before. The White House viewing space normally handles raw intel while Congressional secure room received finished reports. The Caller’s debunking does come with a non-anonymous source that backs it up.

The Farkas Connection...

The uproar a’borned a reluctant star, Evelyn Farkas. Thanks to the elephant’s memory of the Internet, a chatty discussion with the friendly folks at MSNBC on March 2nd turned into the “smoking gun? admission that the Obama Administration did spy on Trump for political reasons. Even Snopes has taken notice, in its usual way. She herself has officially denied that she spilled the beans; the American Spectator was collegial enough to publish her full denial. As is customary for well-respected senior government officials who have also served as Hillary Clinton campaign advisors, she relies upon gripping rhetoric - “Wild Misinterpretation? - as the icing for the cake of “selectively edited.? Mark Levin’s Conservative Review has been good enough to embed a video of her entire big debut, which you can watch all through to judge for yourself. Your humble scribe is of the opinion that her final money quote - “’That’s why you have the leaking,’ Farkas concluded. ‘People are worried.’? - was an awfully smooth transition from the meat of her words:

"Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left, so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy... that the Trump folks – if they found out how we knew what we knew about their... the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence." [This was her explanation of why the Obama Administration abruptly lowered the classification level of the data and shoved it around to all and sundry.]
I have to say, she was quite smooth: too smooth to include even a tepid demur like “I understand why someone would leak..? Let alone: “Although I do not approve of leaking,...?

Unsurprisingly, she’s now one of the people that are worried. In her denial, she said flatly that she had no access to any classified information after she left her government post in 2015. So, she denied being one of the six Hillary staffers who did have access to classified information after they left their government jobs for Hillary’s employ.

In the absence of hard data, we gotta do the best we can with circumstantial evidence. Given that Dr. Farkas was a Clinton-campaign colleague of the staffers who did have access, we have to rely on James Comey’s fulsome praise of Hllary’s scrupulosity in quarantining classified data. And of course, the level of integrity in Hillary campaign advisors that shone through in the Emails that Wikileaks published. (Evelyn Farkas’ name is not mentioned in any of them.)

...And The Fade-Away Of Russia

At least one pundit, the redoubtable Sundance of the Last Resort, has said that President Trump has used the fooforaw to get rid of an in-house leakin’ mole: Katie Walsh. His post says that Ms. Walsh was fired because she was the leaker who gave the names of Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis to the New York Times. These two were the officials who showed Rep. Nunes the raw intel. (Both of them have security clearances and authorization to do so.) Brietbart’s Joel Pollack comes out and says that President Trump has turned the news-cycle tables, and also says that Trump is secretly enjoying all this fooforaw.

Already, Trump has been much tougher on Russia than Obama ever was. From blasting Russia at the UN Security Council over the eastern Ukraine, to threatening to tear up the New START treaty, Trump has opposed Putin — and it shows. Trump foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka, formerly of Breitbart News, is also a vociferous critic of Russia.

So the Russia "scandal" is much ado about nothing. But it keeps the media distracted from what Trump is really doing — such as taking a chainsaw to Obama’s regulations — and it keeps the Democrats from developing an actual message.
In fact, Sec. Tillerson – who was the subject of a Washington-Post hit-piece that an Associated Press reporter averred was fake news - has said flat-out that the U.S. sanctions against Russia are staying in place. So: the Kremlin has gotten nothing from the Trump Administration, beyond diplomatic words and fellow-travelling in the war against ISIS in Syria - which can easily be pegged as President Trump letting the Russkies do the heavy lifting. The Narrative gives us an...unusual picture of Putin as simultaneously Bond-villain smart and just plain dumb.

And we’re all supposed to believe it.

Leave it to the Russkies to have what should be the last word on the rickety Kremlin-interference narrative:

"You have reached the Russian embassy, your call is very important to us. To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent, press 1. To use the services of Russian hackers press 2. To request election interference, press 3 and wait until the next election campaign. Please note that all calls are recorded for quality improvement and training purposes." ESR

Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.

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