YAHOO NEWS CALL MANY PEOPLE LIARS WHO OPPOSE ACTION AGAINST GUNS AND THEIR ABUSE IN FLORIDA AND ELSEWHERE


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EVEN AS FLORIDA OSTRICH CONGRESSMEN CLOSE OFF THEIR BRAINS AND MOUTHS, TRUMP DOES SOMETHING A BIT OUT OF CHARACTER–Trump Calls for Rule Change to Ban “Bump Stocks”


Florida Lawmakers Vote Down Debate on Assault-Style Weapons Ban After Parkland Massacre

FEB 21, 2018

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In Florida, 100 students who survived the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have arrived in the Florida capital, Tallahassee, to demand action from lawmakers on gun control. This is Alfonso Calderon, one of the students.

Alfonso Calderon: “My friends and the families that are never going to have their kids come back to them again, that motivates me every single day, and it will never be a deterrent, for any reason. Nothing could bring me down, being reminded every single day of the horrific things I saw and, hopefully, no one ever has to see ever again.”

Their arrival came as the Florida Legislature voted down a measure to open debate on banning large-capacity magazines and semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 that was used by the shooter, a white former student named Nickolas Cruz. The student activists are planning to march to the Florida Legislature this morning.

Trump Calls for Rule Change to Ban “Bump Stocks” After Parkland Shooting

FEB 21, 2018

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Meanwhile, President Trump is calling for a ban on so-called bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic rifles to act like machine guns, capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute.

President Donald Trump: “Just a few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns. I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized, Jeff, very soon. The key in all of these efforts, as I said in my remarks the day after the shooting, is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference.”

The National Rifle Association heavily lobbied for a rule change on the sale of bump stocks, rather than a congressional ban, following the Las Vegas massacre. Rule changes can be easily reversed and avoid Congress taking up regulations on the sale of bump stocks and other gun control measures. President Trump is also hosting a listening session at the White House today with high school students and teachers who have survived mass shootings. Meanwhile, in Florida, while the Legislature voted down a debate on gun control, it did approve a resolution declaring pornography a health risk, particularly for teenagers.

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AMERICAN-MADE (Revisited?)People are just saying they are working for the country but are really just out making bucks for themselves–PART 2


Life in this film is Similar to our lives both in the Reagan era CIA run-amok and during our current to our mob-run fascist Trump Government, eh? People are just saying they are working for the country but are really just out making bucks for themselves. People are just saying they are working for the country but are really just out making bucks for themselves.–KAS

The True Story Behind the Movie American Made

American Made, the new Tom Cruise crime drama out Sept. 29, has all the makings of a romp: drug running and arms smuggling. An FBI sting. Enough cold, hard cash to make the phenomenon of raining money a plausible ecological scenario. And a sex scene in the cockpit of a plane. That’s flying through the air. With one participant being the pilot. Did we mention it’s Tom Cruise?

If it sounds like an exercise in screenwriting excess, it’s not entirely — the film takes as its inspiration the true story of Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal, a TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler for the Medellín Cartel and, later, an informant for the DEA. It’s an ideal vehicle for Cruise, a.k.a. Maverick, whose mischievous swagger is accented here (literally) with a Louisiana drawl.

The movie hardly purports to be a documentary — director Doug Liman, who reteams with Cruise after Edge of Tomorrow, has referred to it as “a fun lie based on a true story.” And perhaps its looseness with the facts is for the best, as conflicting accounts make it difficult to get a clear picture on certain aspects of Seal’s seemingly made-for-the-movies life. It’s a thorny story that takes place against the backdrop of the Reagan-era War on Drugs and the notorious Iran-Contra affair, with Seal never hesitating to do business with opposing sides, so long as the payout was prodigious.

Here’s what we know about Seal — and what’s still up for debate.

MORE: Review: American Made Lets a Smug Tom Cruise Just Be Tom Cruise

Fact: Seal was an unusually talented young pilot.

According to Smuggler’s End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal — written by retired FBI agent Del Hahn, who worked on the task force that went after Seal in the ’80s — Seal obtained his student pilot license at 15 and became fully licensed at 16. His instructor was so impressed by his natural talent that he allowed him to fly solo after only eight hours of training. After serving in the National Guard and Army Reserve, he became a pilot with TWA, among the youngest command pilots to operate a Boeing 707.

Fact: He had a colorful personality.

As Cruise plays him, Seal was a blend of balls and braggadocio, fond of stunts and rarely registering the possibilities of danger or failure. According to Hahn, Seal’s high school yearbook photo was accompanied by the inscription, “Full of fun, full of folly.” His flight instructor described him as wild and fearless and generally unconcerned with the consequences of his actions. In an interview with Vice, Hahn says Seal was personable but “not as smart and clever as he thought he was.”

Partly Fiction: He was married to a woman named Lucy and they had three kids.

Sarah Wright plays Seal’s delightfully foul-mouthed wife in the movie, alternately exasperated by his schemes and enthralled by the riches they bring. In reality, Seal was married three times and had five children. He had a son and daughter with first wife Barbara Bottoms, whom he married in 1963 and subsequently divorced. He then married Linda McGarrh Ross in 1971, divorcing a year later, before marrying Deborah Ann DuBois, with whom he would go on to have three children, in 1974.

Fiction: The government first took notice of his smuggling when he was transporting Cuban cigars.

While the film depicts Seal’s foray into smuggling as beginning with Cuban cigars, his first documented run-in with the law for a smuggling offense took place in 1972 when he was one of eight people arrested for a plot to smuggle explosives out of the U.S. Though he wasn’t convicted, he lost his job with TWA. By 1976, according to Hahn, he had moved onto marijuana, and within a couple of years graduated to cocaine, which was less bulky, less sniffable by dogs and generally more profitable.

Fact: He smuggled drugs in through the Louisiana coast.

Seal and the pilots he recruited — including one he met in jail and his first wife’s brother — trafficked drugs over the border of his home state. As in the movie, he sometimes delivered them by pushing packed duffel bags out of his plane and into the Atchafalaya basin, to be retrieved by partners on the ground.

Mostly Fiction: Seal was chummy with the leaders of Colombia’s Medellín Cartel, including Pablo Escobar and the Ochoa brothers.

In the movie, Seal meets the cartel big wigs early on. In reality, Hahn writes, he did not deal with them directly, and they referred to him only as “El Gordo,” or “The Fat Man.” He finally met with them in April 1984 when he was working with the DEA on a sting operation intended to lead to their capture. (That operation would go awry when Seal’s status as an informant was revealed in a Washington Times cover story months later

Fact: Seal offered to cooperate with the DEA to stay out of prison.

The DEA was onto Seal for a long time before securing an indictment against him in March 1983 on several counts, including conspiracy to distribute methaqualone and possession with intent to distribute Quaaludes. As the movie suggests, there was some confusion among government agencies intent on taking him down.

His initial attempt to make a deal with a U.S. attorney, offering information on the Ochoa family, was rejected. But in March 1984, he traveled to Washington to the office of the Vice President’s Drug Task Force and cut a deal on the strength of his intel on and connections to the cartel.

Contested: He worked for many years alongside the CIA.

The film has Seal’s involvement with the CIA beginning in the late 1970s, relatively early on in his smuggling career. Under the handling of an agent played by Domhnall Gleeson, Cruise’s Seal gathers intelligence by flying low over Guatemala and Nicaragua and snapping photos from his plane. Later, the CIA turns a blind eye to his drug smuggling in exchange for his delivery of arms to the Contras in Nicaragua, who the U.S. government was attempting to mobilize against the leftist Sandinistas, who controlled the government. The movie even suggests that the CIA helped set Seal up with his very own airport in the small town of Mena, Ark

According to Hahn’s book, rumors of Seal’s involvement with the CIA anytime before 1984 were just that — rumors. The only confirmed connection between Seal and the CIA turned up by Hahn’s research was in 1984, after Seal had begun working as an informant for the DEA. The CIA placed a hidden camera in a cargo plane Seal flew to pick up a cocaine shipment in Colombia. He and his copilot were able to obtain photographs that proved a link between the Sandinistas and the cartel, key intelligence for the Reagan administration in its plans to help overthrow the Sandinistas’ regime. But the final piece of the operation — a celebration of the successful cocaine transport, at which the Ochoas and Escobar were to be arrested all at once — never happened because of the revelation of Seal’s status as an informa

Fact: Seal was assassinated in 1986.

Jorge Ochoa reportedly ordered a hit on Seal early in 1986. At the time, Seal was living in a Baton Rouge Salvation Army facility. Charges against him had not been fully erased as a result of his cooperation with the government, and he was sentenced to probation and six months residing at the treatment center. On the evening of Feb. 19, just after he parked his Cadillac, he was killed by two Colombian hitmen armed with machine guns.

Thanks in part to several witnesses, both men and four additional men who conspired in the killing were arrested within two days. Seal would go down as a legendary criminal, one of the most important witnesses in DEA history and — in Hollywood’s estimation, at least — a classic American story fit for only our most American onscreen hero.

 

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AMERICAN-MADE (Revisited?)People are just saying they are working for the country but are really just out making bucks for themselves.


Life in this film (which takes place between the early 1970s and 1980s–my formative years) is quite similar to our lives both in the Reagan era CIA run-amok and during our current to our mob-run fascist Trump Government.

People are just saying they are working for the country but are really just out making bucks for themselves.–kas

The crazy real-life drug smuggler behind ‘American Made’

If you happened to be traveling along a swampy, mosquito-infested route between Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., back in the freewheeling 1980s, you may have witnessed an unusual occurrence: a half-dozen or so military duffle bags, each stuffed with 110 pounds of pure cocaine, plummeting from the sky.

The man behind the drop was Barry Seal, who pushed them through a secret hatch in the floor of his airplane, installed there for precisely this purpose. One of the drug world’s most daring and ingenious smugglers, Seal was an action junkie who flew low and used Gulf of Mexico oil platforms to hide his presence. Associates, stationed below, retrieved the bags, each containing more than $1 million worth of product.

Colombian drug kingpins knew the burly, middle-aged pilot as El Gordo: “The Fat Man.” American drug distributors valued him as their version of Fed Ex. DEA agents regarded Seal as a man who needed to be turned and used to fight the drug war.

His story — which brims with conspiracy theories that range from him having dealings with a pre-assassination Lee Harvey Oswald to his functioning as a teenage gunrunner — inspired the movie “American Made,” out Friday. Tom Cruise plays the smuggler with the cocky swagger that endeared Seal to some — and might have heralded his undoing.

“He bragged to other pilots about having earned millions,” “American Made” screenwriter Gary Spinelli told The Post. “I don’t think he helped himself by rubbing people’s noses in it.”

Del Hahn — a former FBI agent who tracked Seal, interrogated him and later wrote about the man in the 2016 book “Smuggler’s End” (Pelican Publishing) — remembered what Seal did upon recognizing an FBI surveillance plane that had been following him. “He ran out onto his driveway and started shaking a towel at us,” Hahn said. The move cheekily signaled the law enforcers that they had been made.

From 1975 until the early 1980s, Seal became one of the narco-world’s go-to smugglers. He was honest, adept and innovative. Plus he didn’t do drugs or drink. By all indications, Seal was in it for adventure and challenge — all of which got amped up in 1984, when he became what NBC News called “one of the most daring and important government operatives.”

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Born Adler Berriman Seal, the future smuggler grew up in Baton Rouge, La. Naturally drawn to aviation, he hung out at the local airport and secured a student pilot’s license at age 15. As a teenager, according to Spinelli, Seal impressed a girl by landing a plane on the 50-yard line of their high school’s football field before asking her out on a date. He dropped out of college, married his first wife in 1963 and got hired by TWA in ’67. The initial marriage ended in divorce; he married two more times and fathered four children.

Seal’s transformation to criminal flyboy began in 1972, after the then-33-year-old command pilot went on medical leave from TWA due to a shoulder injury.

During a time when pilots at loose ends were a rarity, a friend of Seal’s by the name of Joe Mazzuka (who, in turn, was acquainted with mob-tied Murray Kessler) recruited the injured Seal to fly explosives to Cuba. Seal justified his actions to himself by believing he was delivering them to forces plotting the overthrow of Fidel Castro. The plan, however, turned out to be a sting operation, aimed at an accomplice. Seal, Mazzuka and six others were busted. But when it came time for the trial, in 1974, key prosecution witnesses were unavailable and the judge declared a mistrial.

‘He bragged to other pilots about having earned millions. I don’t think he helped himself by rubbing people’s noses in it.’

 – Gary Spinelli

Nevertheless, Seal lost his TWA job. So, using underground connections and possibly seeking work in Mexico, he turned to smuggling weed, then pills, then cocaine, favoring his souped-up twin-engine Piper Navajo for the jobs that had him flying in and out of discreet airstrips in Louisiana and Arkansas.

“He was so good at getting product back and forth,” said Evan Wright, author of “American Desperado,” a book focused on the ’80s drug trade. “He understood fueling, distances, how to hide on the Louisiana coast.”

His finances became so robust that, as depicted in “American Made,” a bank in Mena, Ark., turned an entire vault over to Seal and built a smaller one for other customers to share. Spinelli describes Seal as having “half a football field’s worth of cash — and each bill was a crime.”

While it’s unclear how much he made, in 1986 Seal boasted about having brought 20,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States. Considering that he received $2,700 per pound smuggled, he would have earned $54 million (worth at least $126 million in 2017 valuations). Spinelli said Seal blew money on jewelry for his wife. Hahn reported that he spent cash on aircraft and possessed two boats.

However, Seal hardly came off as a kingpin. “Barry Seal was a nerd. He loved planes — and as long as he had one to play with, he was happy,” said Wright. But he wasn’t exactly careful. “He was a loudmouth and drove a ridiculously showy Cadillac convertible. He liked being a big man,” Wright added. He even trained his former brother-in-law, William Bottoms, to fly in blow while Seal guided him via radio.

If Seal truly was in it for the adventure, he got what he wanted: jailtime in Honduras, a plane shot down over Nicaragua with him in the pilot’s seat and a crash in Colombia out of which he managed to escape uninjured. But in 1983, when Seal got busted by the DEA with a reported 200,000 counterfeit Quaaludes that he had transported into Fort Lauderdale, things turned serious.

To avoid 10 years in prison, he became a DEA snitch — procuring evidence against major Central American players including Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar.

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Barry Seal was a pilot for TWA and later became a drug smuggler.Splash News

For risk-loving Seal, the arrangement proved cozy. He transported at least one 1,400-pound load for the DEA. Additionally, he may have quietly smuggled plenty more while working as an informant — and it appears to have gone beyond drugs.

In the book “American Desperado,” Jon Roberts, a now-deceased narcotics trafficker originally from New York City, recalled how “The one time I flew with him [Seal] to Nicaragua [transporting guns, supposedly on behalf of the CIA, in 1983 or 1984], I had told him I was uptight. Barry said, ‘Don’t worry. We’re working for Vice President Bush.’” (The CIA has denied any connections with Seal.)

On June 26, 1984, Seal embarked on an undercover trip that would have him bringing 1,465 pounds of cocaine from Nicaragua to the US Air Force base in Homestead, Fla. He somehow convinced Escobar to be on an airstrip and to help Sandinistas load drugs onto the plane. Via hidden camera, Seal and his co-pilot snapped them in the act.

But somehow, Seal wound up in the shots — and in the news. A July 17, 1984, story on the front page of the Washington Times, leaked to reporter Edmond Jacoby, exposed Seal without naming him. Two days later, a similar article appeared in the New York Times, detailing the amount of cocaine that Seal had smuggled in from Nicaragua. It named Nicaraguan officials as well as Escobar and Ochoa as collaborators.

“He knew he was screwed,” said Spinelli. “But Barry turned down witness protection because he was told that he could never again fly a plane. That would have been worse than death.”

Or maybe not. In 1986 — the same year the IRS concluded that he owed $29 million in taxes and placed a federal lien on him — Seal, who was slated to testify in court against Ochoa, was gunned down behind the wheel of his Cadillac. It transpired in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge Salvation Army halfway house, where he was staying as a condition of probation for a money laundering and cocaine possession plea agreement that dated back to 1984. The shooters were a pair of Medellin Cartel hitmen, sent from Colombia to show what happens to rats. An eyewitness spotted the getaway car. Before they could leave the United States, both killers were in police custody.

A lightning rod for conspiracy theories to the end, after his shooting Seal left behind a whopper. “Supposedly,” said Spinelli, “he died with George Bush’s phone number in his briefcase.”

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Common Good (Part 2): “President Trump talks about the national security of the country, explaining that’s why he’s ripping families apart”


AMY GOODMAN: Talking about the common good, let’s talk about immigrants for a moment. You are a professor at University of California, Berkeley. There are many students who have DACA at University of California, all over the country. We’re talking about nearly a million young people, who are threatened now with not knowing what’s happening, because President Trump says he was ending the program, a judge has now stopped it. But what’s happening at universities, for example, in dealing with kids? How do you talk to young people who are dealing with this uncertainty, with this crisis, the ripping apart of their families, and if not them, the possibility that their parents will be deported, immigrant leaders around the country being targeted, being detained, being threatened with deportation right now, as President Trump talks about the national security of the country, explaining that’s why he’s ripping families apart? And yet you have this seven—this 19-year-old shooter, self-confessed shooter, who has easy access to guns, and President Trump hardly talks about this.

ROBERT REICH: Well, I think this is again a good exemplar of the problem we’re in and the ironies we find ourselves. These DACA kids were promised—there was a promise made to them—that if they registered, if they basically provided information about themselves—they came here as children, it’s not their fault that they came here as children—that they would, if they registered, have an opportunity to stay, an opportunity to apply for permanent citizenship, an opportunity to work. And then, suddenly, arbitrarily, we have a president come along, a new president, who says, “Well, all of that is off. You are actually going to be targeted. You should not be here. Yes, well, it’s too bad you came here as a child.”

This kind of insensitive, amoral—in fact, it’s immoral—approach to these kids, at the same time you’ve got guns in schools and guns all over the place, you know, a kind of an insensitivity to the reality of what this nation is experiencing, it seems to me, is, again, the essence of the problem we now face. Why is it so hard to understand that no nation, except the United States, suffers the gun violence we do, and no nation, except the United States, has as easy access to guns? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect up the dots. But you do have to at least have a concern for the common good.

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The Time is Now to Reintroduce Concept of the Common Good into American Vocabulary–esp. before the Government gives away our future


Robert Reich: Morality & the Common Good Must Be at Center of Fighting Trump’s Economic Agenda

FEBRUARY 20, 2018

TOPICS

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump made a promise to the American people: There would be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Well, the promise has not been kept. Under his new budget, President Trump proposes a massive increase in Pentagon spending while cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Trump’s budget would also slash or completely eliminate core anti-poverty programs that form the heart of the U.S. social safety net, from childhood nutrition to care for the elderly and job training. This comes after President Trump and Republican lawmakers pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly favors the richest Americans, including President Trump and his own family. We speak to Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. He is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book, out today, is titled “The Common Good.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump made a promise to the American people: There would be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

DONALD TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse. But save it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, that promise has not been kept. Under his new budget, President Trump proposes a massive increase in Pentagon spending while cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Trump’s budget would also slash or completely eliminate core anti-poverty programs that form the heart of the U.S. social safety net, from childhood nutrition to care for the elderly and job training. This comes after President Trump and Republican lawmakers pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly favors the richest Americans, including President Trump and his own family.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest has been one of the vocal critics of President Trump’s economic policies. Robert Reich served as labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. He’s now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Most recent book is out today, it’s called The Common Good.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you back, Robert Reich.

ROBERT REICH: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, respond to what we see today. You have this fall in Wall Street, which doesn’t necessarily reflect what happens on Main Street, and you have this budget that’s been introduced, that we just heard, and the broken campaign promises of President Trump. Who’s winning and who’s losing at this point?

ROBERT REICH: Well, I think we’re all losing. That is actually the theme of my book. The rich in America cannot continue to do well when most others are not. If the social contract, that is the basis of this country, is coming apart, if we are basically saying to everyone, “You’re on your own,” we’re all going to be worse off. There is a common good. At least there was a common good. I think the purpose of the book is to ignite a discussion about whether we can re-establish a sense of common good in America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, when you say there has been a common good, talk about that historically in terms of the how the concept developed.

ROBERT REICH: Well, in the Constitution, Juan, it says, “We the people.” We, the people, are establishing a government, and one of the purposes is for our own domestic well-being. And the Declaration of Independence and our founding documents and the Gettysburg Address—I mean, go through everything over the last 200 years that has talked about who “we,” what the pronoun “we” means, and it means equal political rights. And that has been a goal. It hasn’t been effectuated. We’ve sought it. We certainly—I don’t want to romanticize a past in which we certainly have not had equal political rights. But there was—for much of our history, we’ve at least been seeking it. The same with equal opportunity. The same with the rule of law, that no person is above the law. And you go—you go down the list. Again, I want to emphasize these are aspirations, these are ideals, that kept us together, again and again.

And I fear we’re losing them. I mean, Donald Trump is sort of the essence of the problem, but he is not the cause of the problem. I mean, his election was, I believe, a result, at least in part, of a great deal of disillusionment and anger and cynicism that many people have toward a system, toward a ruling class, that did not deliver, that has not delivered. And Trump’s conflicts of interest, his narcissism, his sort of inability to understand that there is something called America that is greater and more important than flag salutes and standing for a national anthem or securing the borders, is symptomatic of something that is much deeper that’s gone wrong in America.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert Reich, who was the labor secretary under President Clinton. And you had a lot of problems with Clinton. I mean, you talked about walking the streets the day he signed off on welfare reform, what some called “welfare deform,” walking the streets of Washington, wondering where all the people were. Well, today, actually, there are a number of people in the streets. They are young people. They are high school kids, who could turn the entire system on its head, not only around gun control. These are the survivors of the massacre in Florida. They’re on a bus to Tallahassee. They’re doing lie-ins and die-ins in Washington, D.C. And they’re saying what even the media—though the media has come out, except for Fox, pretty anti—pretty much for gun control. They always start off by saying, “Well, you can’t get an automatic weapons ban. We will start there. But what is it you think you can do?” They are questioning everything right now. They’re talking about corruption. They’re talking about money in politics. These are kids in 10th, 11th and 12th grade, and younger.

ROBERT REICH: Well, they give me a great deal of encouragement, Amy, you know, that young lady, Emma Gonzalez, for example, that very powerful speech she gave Saturday about gun control. What I see around the country is that there’s a silver lining to Trump and to everything that’s going on right now in our nation’s capital and elsewhere. That silver lining is that you have young people, you also have many activists, who are becoming more active than ever before. A lot of people who had given up on politics, had become cynical, are saying to themselves, “I can’t afford to be cynical, because this country is too important to me and my children and my grandchildren.” They are becoming engaged in politics in a way I haven’t seen since the Vietnam War or the anti-Vietnam War movement. I teach young people. And I can say that every day I count my blessings, because I’m surrounded by kids who care about this country, care about the future, and are not going to allow us to continue to ignore the common good.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And yet, the supporters of Trump have doubled down even more in their backing of him, as we’ve seen, repeatedly been seeing, most recently the Oprah interview with a group of a cross-section of Americans, half of whom had voted for Trump, and then Trump started blasting, on Twitter, attacking Oprah for the interviews. There is a sense among his supporters that he’s doing exactly what they expected him to do.

ROBERT REICH: Well, I think, to a large extent, Juan, those supporters have been watching, you know, the propaganda arm of the White House, which is Fox News. And if you get into that propaganda arm, you know, you begin to accept the lies that Trump has been propagating and Fox News has been propagating. I mean, he—in his whole life, he has been a con man. And I think there are a lot of Americans, sadly, who have been conned by him.

I mean, look at the tax bill. I mean, the idea that the working class is going to do better under that tax bill is absurd. That tax bill, that went through Congress, tax plan, is overwhelmingly favoring the very wealthy, and it’s being paid for—they’re already talking about paying for it. I’m talking about Paul Ryan and Trump, are already talking about paying for it by cutting programs like Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid, that so many Americans depend on, many Trump voters depend on. I mean, the Trump voters are the ones who are being shafted almost worse than anybody else.

And yet, because of the lies, the big lies, they don’t know it—or at least don’t know it yet. I think they will. They can’t help but understand it. In fact, I have spent a lot of time over the last year and a half in so-called red states talking to people who voted for Trump, and many of them are becoming deeply disillusioned. I mean, look at the—look at even the escapades that are coming out about paying off Playboy bunnies and prostitutes. And, I mean, you’ve got evangelicals in America who are saying, “Wait a minute, this can’t—we trusted that this man was somebody who he said he was, but he’s somebody entirely different.” The truth is going to catch up with them.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you wrote recently, though, that in the 2016 election, that “he sucked all the oxygen out of the race by making himself its biggest story. Now, he’s sucking all the oxygen out of America by making himself our national obsession.” And you go on to say, “Schooled in reality television and New York tabloids, Trump knows how to keep both sides stirred up: Vilify, disparage, denounce, defame, and accuse the other side of conspiring against America. Do it continuously. Dominate every news cycle.”

ROBERT REICH: And that’s his—if you want to call it a gift. It’s certainly his technique. And that is what he knows how to do: divide and conquer, make us all feel as if we are against one another, that the most important kind of conflict in America is between them—the “they” being either Trump voters or the people who are against Trump—and disguise the fact that most Americans are now battling over a smaller and smaller share of an economic pie. I mean, you’ve got, for example, white working-class people who are on a downward escalator—they still are on a downward escalator—and they are now being taught to believe that African Americans and Latinos and foreigners and DACA children are somehow responsible for their plight. I mean, it’s taking their eyes off the system, what has happened as a system. This is why I wrote the book. Again, if we don’t start focusing on the common good and what we mean by that, and taking our eyes, at least occasionally, off of this egomaniac in the White House, who knows how to aggravate us and obsess us, then we are going to, in a kind of ironic way, allow him to succeed.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, former labor secretary under President Clinton. He has a new book out. It’s out today. It’s called The Common Good. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Silver Dagger” by Joan Baez. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn to President Trump talking about the infrastructure plan that he’s just presented.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This morning I submitted legislative principles to Congress that will spur the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history. The framework will generate an unprecedented $1.5 to $1.7 trillion investment in American infrastructure. We’re going to have a lot of public-private. That way it gets done on time, on budget.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s President Trump introducing his infrastructure plan. From infrastructure, if you can respond to that, to the budget, to the tax plan, talk about what he’s proposed and what would be a plan for the common good.

ROBERT REICH: Trump is proposing what he says is $200 billion of federal money, that somehow, magically, creates $1.5 trillion of infrastructure spending. Well, first of all, there’s no money left in the federal budget. All of the money that was there has been basically taken with the big tax cut. So, he—on closer inspection, he and the White House are saying, “Well, that $200 billion is going to have to come out of other programs.” Now, when they say “other programs,” we know what they mean. That means programs for the working class and the poor. They’ve been the first on the chopping block for the entire administration so far.

But beyond that, where does the rest of the money come from? It comes from private developers, private investors. How can we attract private investors for that much infrastructure? By giving them the receipts of tolls and fees and user fees—basically, turning the future infrastructure of America, and much of the present, over to the private sector. So we pay twice. We pay not only through our taxes, but we also pay through all of the tolls. And money—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But they also expect large contributions from local, city and state governments—

ROBERT REICH: Exactly.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —that would also be us paying, as well.

ROBERT REICH: Exactly. And the state governments are not going to just be able to come up with the money. They are going to have to raise taxes, as well. And so, you’ve got a system that is Trumpian in all its dimensions, again, without any understanding of the common good. It is going to cost more people more money, and it’s not even going to be infrastructure where we most need it. I mean, where we most need it is repairing old bridges and old highways and water treatment facilities. But where do private investors want to see infrastructure? Where can they get the biggest return? On brand-new highways and brand-new bridges, that will basically skirt the poor areas of this country, not only the poor rural areas, but many of our minority communities.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the—in terms of the tax cut, because I remember, before the election, both Democrats and some Republicans, like John Kasich, were talking about using an amnesty for corporate profits that were being held offshore, when they would repatriate it, to use that for infrastructure, because that was a one-time shot in the arm to the U.S. economy. And that didn’t happen, actually. Most of that money seems to have gone into the overall plugging the gap of this plan. But you’ve also focused on stock buybacks and how companies are using stock buybacks now with this tax plan, while all the attention is going into the pittances that they’re giving in bonuses to their workers.

ROBERT REICH: Exactly. And those bonuses have proven to be very, very tiny relative to the amount of profits that companies are now sinking into buying back their shares of stock, which is a technique used by companies to artificially raise stock prices. Why are they doing this? Largely because CEO pay is so intimately related to share prices, that CEOs, even in an era like this, when there’s almost no reason for share prices to go up—in fact, they’re going down—but artificially keep them up, or keep them from falling as much as they would, by buying back the shares of stock. Now, this has nothing whatever to do with the promise that the Trump—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how has the buybacks increased now, in the past year, compared to previously?

ROBERT REICH: Buybacks were already at a record level in 2017. And so far this year, they are even at a higher level. So, all of that corporate tax in the new tax plan that’s gone into effect, that was supposed to inspire and encourage a lot of new investment—you know, the trickle-down economics theory—well, it’s already proved to be bankrupt.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, Senator Sanders questioned Budget Director Mick Mulvaney about President Trump’s budget plan.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Explain to me the morality of a process by which we give the third-wealthiest family in America—major contributor, I might add, to the Republican Party—over a billion dollars a year in tax breaks, and yet we cut a program which keeps children and the elderly warm in the winter.

MICK MULVANEY: Here’s the morality of the LIHEAP proposal, Senator: 11,000 dead people got that benefit the last time the GAO looked at it. That’s not moral, to take your money, to take my money, to take the money from the people that you were just mentioning—

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Eleven thousand people got it who shouldn’t have. Correct that. But 7 million people get the program. To say that 11,000 out of 7 million—deal with that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Bernie Sanders questioning Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Robert Reich?

ROBERT REICH: Well, morality is very much at the center of all of this. I mean, this is the discussion we ought to be having. I mean, say what you want about Donald Trump. He has at least brought us back to first principles. Why are we together in this nation? What—who are we? Are we just a bunch of individuals who happen to be born here and who should be making as much money and accumulating as much power as possible? Is that the meaning of America? Or is it that we are a bunch of white Christians who were all born here and speak English as a first language? Is that the meaning of America? Well, I’m sorry, that is not the meaning of America as we’ve understood it for much of the 200 years—more than 200 years of our existence. There are ideals that undergird our understanding of why we are a nation. As a great political philosopher Carl Friedrich once said, you know, “To be a Frenchman is a fact. To be an American is an ideal.” You know, we are not a creed. We are not a religion. We are a conviction, a conviction about the importance of certain ideals.

Donald Trump obviously doesn’t understand the common good. He’s never uttered the words “the common good,” I’m sure. But they were understood. You know, I’m old enough to remember people like Robert F. Kennedy, who talked in terms of the common good. I even worked—my first job in government was working for Robert F. Kennedy in his Senate office in 1967. And I, like many of my generation, went out and campaigned for Eugene McCarthy 50 years ago, because we believed so deeply that there was a common good that was being violated by the Vietnam War. Many of us sacrificed our time. And some of my—a friend of mine, very good friend, sacrificed his life in the civil rights movement. Most of us, many of us, were weaned on the notion that this country had moral principles. When Bernie Sanders asks Mick Mulvaney about morality, he is asking a question about what this country once represented and should represent.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in your book, when you’re talking about what are some of the shifts that have begun to tear away at the concept of the common good, you talk about the notion of whatever it takes to win. Can you talk about that?

ROBERT REICH: Well, that has become—and again, Donald Trump is sort of the emblematic of that idea, but it’s been growing for the last three or four decades, whatever it takes to win. In politics, it doesn’t matter what you do, doesn’t matter the effect on the institutions of our democracy, if you can still just win. The same thing with business. If you just show a profit and show a bigger and bigger profit, it doesn’t matter what effect you’re having on communities or on employees or the consequences for the nation. You just win.

All of this win-at-any-cost mentality is actually rather new. You know, we, as Americans, we went through a Depression, we went through World War II. We understood, at some point, that we’re all in the same boat together. It’s not—and again, I want to emphasize this, I don’t want to romanticize the past. It’s not that we were an equal society that adhered in every respect to an understanding of the common good, but we at least strove for it—you know, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Act. We at least were on the road to trying. And then there was a big U-turn, Juan, and you know as well as I. It starts with Ronald Reagan. And we no longer talk about the common good.

AMY GOODMAN: Talking about the common good, let’s talk about immigrants for a moment. You are a professor at University of California, Berkeley. There are many students who have DACA at University of California, all over the country. We’re talking about nearly a million young people, who are threatened now with not knowing what’s happening, because President Trump says he was ending the program, a judge has now stopped it. But what’s happening at universities, for example, in dealing with kids? How do you talk to young people who are dealing with this uncertainty, with this crisis, the ripping apart of their families, and if not them, the possibility that their parents will be deported, immigrant leaders around the country being targeted, being detained, being threatened with deportation right now, as President Trump talks about the national security of the country, explaining that’s why he’s ripping families apart? And yet you have this seven—this 19-year-old shooter, self-confessed shooter, who has easy access to guns, and President Trump hardly talks about this.

ROBERT REICH: Well, I think this is again a good exemplar of the problem we’re in and the ironies we find ourselves. These DACA kids were promised—there was a promise made to them—that if they registered, if they basically provided information about themselves—they came here as children, it’s not their fault that they came here as children—that they would, if they registered, have an opportunity to stay, an opportunity to apply for permanent citizenship, an opportunity to work. And then, suddenly, arbitrarily, we have a president come along, a new president, who says, “Well, all of that is off. You are actually going to be targeted. You should not be here. Yes, well, it’s too bad you came here as a child.”

This kind of insensitive, amoral—in fact, it’s immoral—approach to these kids, at the same time you’ve got guns in schools and guns all over the place, you know, a kind of an insensitivity to the reality of what this nation is experiencing, it seems to me, is, again, the essence of the problem we now face. Why is it so hard to understand that no nation, except the United States, suffers the gun violence we do, and no nation, except the United States, has as easy access to guns? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect up the dots. But you do have to at least have a concern for the common good.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask, briefly—we have about a minute left. You talk in the book about bumping into the CEO of Wells Fargo one day at a light on a street corner at Berkeley and the conversations you had with him. Wells Fargo, probably a racketeering conspiracy all of its own, in terms of how it’s dealt with its clients.

ROBERT REICH: CEOs today—and the CEO of Wells Fargo at the time was just another example—I think, don’t understand that they have public obligations that go beyond public relations. You know, John Stumpf, who was the CEO, he said to me, over coffee—and we did bump into each other—that he wanted to just distinguish Wells Fargo from all the other banks that had been caught up in the 2008 banking crisis, and he wanted to make sure that the public understood that Wells Fargo really was a responsible bank. And he said this with a complete seriousness. I mean, he fooled me.

AMY GOODMAN: We have three seconds.

ROBERT REICH: Well, in three seconds, let me just say, it’s not just Trump. It’s all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: The Common Good is Robert Reich’s new book. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for joining us.

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Is Fox Under GOP Thumb? or is it simply the Biggest Propaganda Arm of any President Ever???


  • Oh absolutely they are!

    Fox news doesn’t report news. They report “news” tailored to their needs to support the Republican party. Only things that meet the requirements of the Republican view. It is a classic example of the press framing issues. It is quite bothersome to think that the Fox Network would sink so low to blatantly harass the Democratic party. Some might argue that CNN does the same thing. This may be true but it is nowhere near what Fox does. Fox just uses current events and twists them to meet their needs of Republican advertising.

    Posted by: scoffee

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  • Fox News is propaganda

    I sometimes switch from mainstream news networks like CNN to Fox News to see how they spin a story. Whenever I do this I often find they are not highlighting the same stories as all of the other networks, and it is like stepping into an alternate reality. It is one reason why so many FOX viewers are so poorly informed on many issues like the Russia Investigation. It is also a major reason they can be so easily manipulated by fake news, because Fox is a prolific purveyor of fake news. Just look at how FOX has created fake scandals like Uranium One and the disinformation contained in the Nunes memo.

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  • Fox News is propaganda

    I sometimes switch from mainstream news networks like CNN to Fox News to see how they spin a story. Whenever I do this I often find they are not highlighting the same stories as all of the other networks, and it is like stepping into an alternate reality. It is one reason why so many FOX viewers are so poorly informed on many issues like the Russia Investigation. It is also a major reason they can be so easily manipulated by fake news, because Fox is a prolific purveyor of fake news. Just look at how FOX has created fake scandals like Uranium One and the disinformation contained in the Nunes memo.

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  • Fox News Is Propaganda To Support Republicans

    I record all news shows on all networks daily and blast through reviews on each daily skipping commercials etc. Anyone with an IQ over 10 can figure this out. Watch Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, etc, etc – then go research the truth – through all news sources, government agencies, etc, etc. No brainer – total propaganda nonsense…

    Posted by: edsinohio

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  • I have a greater than two digit IQ (personally, I’m Mensan like many liberals) and live in reality. Therefore, I can determine when Fox lies.

    Therefore, the answer is “obviously”.

    The journalistic standards at Fox News are non-existent, and they use fake experts who hold no knowledge regarding the subjects they claim to represent. Their questions often start with a flawed premise- such as currently, their Chyrons call the current conservative government shutdown a “Democrat shutdown”. This is a flat lie, and misleads their viewers into reinforcing false personal beliefs not backed by reality. It is not a matter of opinion, nor open to debate.

    There’s no comparison to real news like CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC or other such networks. Conservatives are slow, and therefore confuse opinion segments as “news” segments, which they are not.

    Fox journalism would not pass Journalism 101, even in a bad college.

    Posted by: Noblesdown

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  • In posting the Democratic Party in a bad light

    Fox will report that one Democrat stated in a Tweet or other Media a comment that is in fact deplorable and then insinuate therefore that this is how Democrats are. However, what other News outlet would make use of one comment from one GOP to show how the entire party behaves?
    The sad part is the Fox viewers pointing their finger and repeating how terrible those Democrats behave — all due to the comments of one bad apple. This is an example of misleading the public.

    Posted by: JRG

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  • Of course it is!

    What I’ve noticed is somehow people here want to believe there is ALWAYS 2 sides to an argument, and simply that isn’t always the case. There are some issues that are plainly one sided.

    For instance Donald Trump has been a fraud enriching himself since the beginning of his career. That is is just a fact, there is no other side to that. There is no record of his community service or any type of selfless work to better his community. If there is I’d like to hear about it. However, if the only justification anyone has to offer for his behavior is that he is a “businessman,” then that is just an insult to actual good businessmen who do contribute and give back to their communities without scamming the people. Being a businessman does not mandate or equate to one having to be a selfish ignorant moron. And that’s just a fact.

    Posted by: Real1

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  • FOX is FAKE News

    They continually spread conspiracy theories to defend a corrupt President of the United States. Unethical journalism almost across the board as they tout Trump lies as the truth. Actively attempting to damage the FBI and Judiciary, again to provide cover for a corrupt President of the United States. Let’s face it, Fox News has always been the “news” arm of the Republican Party but they have deteriorated to spread pure unabashed propaganda and are actively engaged in corrupt “journalistic” practices.

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  • Entreatinment, not news

    They went to court for the right to spew false statements, arguing they were an entreatinment network.
    The right to lie.
    Their viewers routinely score worse on news unowledge then non-news watchers.
    They use busy, bright graphcs and busy screens, and misleading chryons to peddle fear non-stop to the old, the white, the provincial, the rural, the isolaed and alone.

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  • Fox is all republican

    Majority of all their reports promote the republican party, whilst denouncing the democratic party harshly. Almost 89% of all of fox news’ reports on the democratic party are negative. On the other hand, almost 95% of all of fox news’ reports on the republican party are positive. Not to mention, fox news alters data to make the republican party look better, and skews graphs in a bias way in favor of the republican party.

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If Trump, his son, his son-in-laws and other cronies continue to pretend to do something in the interest of the USA while actually serving other people from other lands (or your own family business), Mueller will charge you


 “I said that the main charge in the Internet Research Agency was conspiracy to defraud the United States by basically pretending to be something you’re not, by pretending to be engaged in good-faith politics when you weren’t. That’s actually the same charge that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are facing. They are pretending, according to Mueller, to be engaged in lobbying for American interests, when in fact they were representing the interests of pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. So, exact parallel there. The idea is that Paul Manafort was engaging in politics and pretending to be interested in the United States’ best interest, but in fact doing the bidding of pro-Russian money.

What you, I think—the reason why Kushner’s business deals are important, we’ve talked—and in the intro, this wasn’t the only example of—there’s the Don Jr. We’ve talked about how poorly Trump’s people have separated his business interests from the interests of the country. The same is even more true for Jared Kushner, whose family business is basically bankrupt. And over and over again, he’s been shown to be in negotiations with entities, including Russians, but also Chinese and Middle Eastern. So, you know, he’ll go in and say, “OK, we’ll talk about this grand peace plan,” which is not about peace at all, “but, oh, by the way, can you bail out our 666 Park Avenue building, which is badly underwater?” And I think Mueller could make the same argument he’s made with the IRA indictment and the Manafort indictment, and say that Jared Kushner is pretending to be serving America’s foreign policy interests, but in fact he is just doing his own bidding. He’s just trying to bail out his own company. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moving towards a very similar indictment on conspiracy to defraud the United States, having to do with his conflicts of interest.”  

“[I]f Trump and his son and his son-in-law are pretending to be doing the business of the United States but are instead just trying to enrich themselves, again, I don’t think it’s a—you know, we’ve talked about the Emoluments Clause and how you go after the Trump campaign—the Trump officials for their egregious conflicts of interest. And, frankly, it extends into his Cabinet. But what Mueller seems to be doing, with some very good appellate lawyers, by the way, is to be laying out this framework that if you are pretending to be doing something in the interest of the United States but are actually doing something else, serving somebody else’s bidding, whether it’s Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, or whether it’s your own family business, then they’re going to go after you for a conspiracy charge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if these conspiracy charges all kind of link up at the end, in this kind of grand moment of—I think that’s where he’s headed.”Marcy Wheeler

  • independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net. Her recent article is titled “What Did Mueller Achieve with the Internet Research Agency Indictment?”

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GOP is so easily used by the Russians–What other reasons do we need to kick them out of control of our states and Country–Troll Farm City Republican Style


There have been a number of significant developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration. CNN is reporting Mueller is now investigating Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his attempts to secure financing for his family’s business while working on the president’s transition team. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty and testify against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Under the deal, Gates will plead guilty to money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying. These developments come just days after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election by orchestrating an online propaganda effort to undermine the U.S. election system. We speak to Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net.

 

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: There have been a number of significant developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration. CNN is reporting Mueller is now investigating Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his attempts to secure financing for his family’s business while working on the president’s transition team. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty and to testify against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Under the deal, Gates will plead guilty to money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying.

AMY GOODMAN: These developments come just days after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election by orchestrating an online propaganda effort to undermine the U.S. election system. The indictment claims the Russians spread negative information online about Hillary Clinton, and support Donald Trump, as well as Bernie Sanders. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments Friday.

DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN: The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States’ political system, including the 2016 presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare” against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Trump responded to the indictments on Twitter by lashing out at Democrats, the Mueller investigation, the Obama administration and the FBI. In one tweet, he wrote, quote, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign–there is no collusion.”

AMY GOODMAN: Trump also criticized National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, who said the indictments offer incontrovertible evidence that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election.

H.R. McMASTER: And as you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute, for a couple of reasons. First, technically, it was difficult, but then also you didn’t want divulge your intelligence capabilities. But now that this is in the arena of a law enforcement investigation, it’s going to be very apparent to everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about these developments, we go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to talk to Marcy Wheeler, independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties, runs the website EmptyWheel.net.

Marcy, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why don’t you lay out what came down on Friday and then the response of Trump? I mean, this is in the midst of the horror that took place in Florida, the 17 people killed in the massacre at the high school. The weekend, President Trump spends, in a massive tweetstorm around this, hardly mentioning the massacre.

MARCY WHEELER: Right. So, the indictment was for online trolling done by an organization called the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg. And it involves both Facebook ads, Facebook posts, Twitter accounts, Instagram—a range of social media activity that purported to be American, but in fact was Russians trying to gin up bad blood here in the United States and ultimately supporting Donald Trump. As Rosenstein said in the quote you had, it’s 13 Russians and a number of Russian businesses.

But what is interesting about the case, that the charges are conspiracy to defraud the United States—and I’ll come back to that—but then wire fraud and identity theft. So, there are real crimes here, the crimes that these trolls used to pretend to be American but weren’t really American. But what Mueller actually laid out in the indictment is that the problem with this is that in the United States it’s illegal to engage in certain kinds of activity without making it clear who’s behind the activity. And in this case, this is the activity tied to electing one or another presidential candidate. And that’s how he got to the conspiracy to defraud the United States charge, which is interesting because it’s the same primary charge that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates got charged with.

So you’re beginning to see where Mueller is going with the larger investigation. And as McMaster said, you’re seeing now real evidence tied to claims that Russia was behind this activity. And I think you’ll see more Republicans like him, and even Republicans who were involved. I mean, the indictment doesn’t charge any Americans, but it lays out activities that a lot of good-faith Trump volunteers and campaign workers were engaged in. And their actions are perhaps now tainted or got touched or got spun by Russians, which, you know, isn’t fair to them, much less Hillary Clinton, who was—you know, who was ultimately targeted by it. So, I think you’re going to see a change in how, especially Republicans, but even skeptics, more generally, how they approach this issue. But we also now, I think, see where Mueller is going with the rest of the investigation better.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, Marcy, what do you make about the statement by Rod Rosenstein that no Americans willingly participated, according to this indictment, and that there’s no evidence that the alleged interference actually altered the election outcome?

MARCY WHEELER: Well, for one, I’m sure he said that to keep Trump happy and keep himself in his job. But I think it’s actually really important he said that. As I said, you can look at the indictment—and I do this in a post I did on Saturday—and there are at least 20 Americans who were just engaging in politics. They were putting together campaign events. They were engaging in online speech. That’s like, you know, the most sacred part of being an American citizen. And yet, they were unknowingly interacting with Russians, who were trying to and, at times, actually funding or encouraging certain activities.

So, I do think it’s important—he didn’t say no Americans were involved. There are ways in which the indictment suggests certain events may show up later in the investigation. For example, the indictment focuses on two events, a pro-Hillary—an anti-Hillary and pro-Trump event, that took place in the summer of 2016, and it focuses on a great deal of Florida activity. The Florida activity is of particular interest because the Guccifer 2.0, who’s the persona that is believed to have been used by the Russians to leak stolen documents, that figure released a ton of documents on—from the Democrats on Florida campaigns. So, Florida Republicans are actually the ones who most concretely can be shown to have benefited from the stolen documents from the Democrats. So, it may be that we’re going to see the Florida activity tied back in to the actual hack and leak later on. But what Rosenstein was importantly saying is that all of these Americans—most of them named in the indictment were Trump supporters—they didn’t do anything wrong. They were just engaging in politics, and Russians came in and used them, basically, to kind of turn their politics into something that it wasn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the key here—and Rosenstein said it, Trump said it throughout the weekend—is that this didn’t prove any kind of collusion. But Rosenstein said this. This is separate from it. It has to do with Russians interfering with the elections—something the U.S. government knows well about over the decades—right?—in being involved with interfering with other countries’ elections. But can you talk about what happened in Florida, for example, the protests? And also, describe this internet troll farm in St. Petersburg and how it operates.

MARCY WHEELER: Well, I mean, Amy, you make a good point, that the indictment calls this information “warfare.” It says that the troll farm considered themselves to be engaged in information warfare. But sure, we do that, absolutely. And so, one of the questions is, you know: Where are the lines going to be drawn? What are the norms? But, basically, these are people in St. Petersburg who were fluent English speakers, who were paid to engage in certain themes, use fake Twitter accounts, basically, to engage in certain themes and kind of just press the limits of certain partisan divides that already exist here, and not just partisan divides. They were also playing on religion and race, guns. So, they were basically paid to rile up Americans even further than our politics already do. Although I’ll also say that all sides engaged in similar kind of behavior in 2016. I mean, campaigns do this, as well. Campaigns even had bots. The difference here, according to the indictment, is that these bots were hiding the fact that it was a Russian effort, whereas, you know, Hillary or Trump bots were claiming correctly to be Hillary or Trump bots.

One of the most interesting things about the indictment is it describes how much, how well these trolls were able to get actual people here in the United States to go out and, say, pay an actress to pretend to be Hillary Clinton, and pay somebody to build a cage, so that they could, you know, drag around a fake Hillary Clinton in a fake cage to play on the theme of Hillary going to prison. So, that’s the sort of alarming thing, is that from St. Petersburg, they were able to get actual campaign events put together by pretending to be Americans. And I think, again, none of this—none of the American side of this was charged. And the people described in the indictment probably—you know, they were just engaging in good-faith politics. Whether or not I agree with their politics, they were just doing what we’re supposed to do in the United States, which is engage in politics. But we do know, as I said, that the Guccifer 2.0 figure leaked a bunch of Democratic targeting data on the Florida races, and so that state is one to watch, and those events are ones to watch, I think.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Marcy, could you talk about this now L.A. Times report that Rick Gates, the former aide to Trump’s presidential campaign, is expected to plead guilty and testify against Paul Manafort? What’s the significance of this, potentially?

MARCY WHEELER: Well, it’s another cooperating witness there. With the Internet Research Agency indictment on Friday, there actually was not another guilty plea that was announced, for a guy who had sold bank accounts that the trolls used to set up PayPal accounts. So, Gates, if he does flip, will be the fourth cooperating witness for Mueller. He is important because he was Paul Manafort, campaign manager’s deputy throughout the summer of 2016, which is when—Gates was not at the June 9th meeting, where Russians sort of promised to sell—to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton. But Gates was, for example, in the loop on discussions about setting up a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. Manafort forwarded him an email and said, “We need to kind of hide—we need to not signal”—it’s unclear what that means. Gates probably knows what that means. But “we need to not signal on this.”

And so, you know, the public report in the L.A. Times is that Gates will be testifying predominately against Manafort, not against Trump. But I’m a little bit skeptical of that, one, because Gates was very much in the loop throughout the summer, and, two, because Gates stayed on. He was still working in the transition team all the way through the inauguration. So, I suspect Gates has more to tell the Mueller team than the L.A. Times piece makes out. And it just adds to the pressure. You get the feeling—and Trump has even said as much. Trump, a couple of weeks ago, said to Howard Fineman that he doesn’t think Manafort will flip on him, and so he thinks he’s OK. But with Gates flipping and cooperating with the Mueller team, it makes it far more likely that Manafort is going to be forced to do so. And that gets into things like that June 9th meeting.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Wheeler, I wanted to get your response to The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald, who wrote a piece, “A Consensus Emerges: Russia Committed an ’Act of War’ on Par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Should the U.S. Response Be Similar?” He writes, “All of this underscores the serious dangers many have pointed to for more than a year about why all this unhinged rhetoric is so alarming. If you really believe that Russia—with some phishing links sent to John Podesta and some fake Facebook ads and Twitter bots—committed an ‘act of war’ of any kind, let alone one on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11, then it’s inevitable that extreme retaliatory measures will be considered and likely triggered. How does one justify a mere imposition of sanctions in the face of an attack similar to Pearl Harbor or 9/11?” That’s the question of Glenn Greenwald, Marcy.

MARCY WHEELER: Well, so, with the trolling, let’s be really clear that while Russia did spend a lot of money to do this, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what either side, the Republicans or Hillary Clinton, spent to do the same kind of activity. So, it could have made the difference in Michigan—I’m in Michigan. It could have made the difference here, in Wisconsin. But it is not—it is a drop in the bucket compared to the kinds of activities that go on in a political campaign.

We don’t know what else Mueller is going to show. We don’t know what kinds of quid pro quo, if in fact that happened. I always raise the fact that the Shadow Brokers, these leaked NSA files that were closely associated with all this, if that’s shown to be part of this same operation, that’s a great deal of damage to the United States.

That said, the trolling—you and I already said this. This is stuff the United States engages in all the time. It’s considered fair game for intelligence agencies. Even stealing hacking tools, fair game for intelligence agencies. Hacking political candidates, the United States does that, as well.

So, I do think we need to ask about what the appropriate response to this is. But part of that is understanding precisely what happened. And part of it is understanding what the best response is to prevent it from happening. I mean, one of the reasons Putin did this is because of the sanction regime put in place, because of what he perceives as the same kind of activity in 2011 and 2012 in elections in Russia. So, is more of the same going to—

AMY GOODMAN: He felt that Hillary Clinton supported protests against him.

MARCY WHEELER: Precisely, and with the same kind of online activity and the same—I mean, we call it “democracy promotion,” but it uses some of the same kind of tactics as these troll farms used on us. And, you know, the more important question is: Is the issue keeping America safe and free from foreign intervention, or is it needing to retaliate against Putin? And, you know, that may not be a binary choice. But, you know, it seems like this was a pretty remarkable attempt to interfere with the United States. The question is: What is the best response the United States can make, going forward, to prevent it from happening in the future? Is ratcheting up the pressure the thing to do, or is making ourselves resilient, is fixing our own politics? Which is really what Russia did, is they exploited both divisions within our own country, but also how easy it is to get money into our own politics or to have outsiders interfere in our own politics. We’ll be better off fixing that, fixing our politics, rather than ratcheting up again against Russia. And, I mean, I hope that we have a real debate about this, going forward, but people should not dismiss Glenn’s concerns out of hand.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Marcy, could you give us a quick take on this latest report from CNN, that Mueller is now looking into Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and possible negotiations he had with foreign entities about business deals for his company during the transition period? Is this going somewhat far afield from Mueller’s mandate?

MARCY WHEELER: I don’t think so, and here’s why. I said that the main charge in the Internet Research Agency was conspiracy to defraud the United States by basically pretending to be something you’re not, by pretending to be engaged in good-faith politics when you weren’t. That’s actually the same charge that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are facing. They are pretending, according to Mueller, to be engaged in lobbying for American interests, when in fact they were representing the interests of pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. So, exact parallel there. The idea is that Paul Manafort was engaging in politics and pretending to be interested in the United States’ best interest, but in fact doing the bidding of pro-Russian money.

What you, I think—the reason why Kushner’s business deals are important, we’ve talked—and in the intro, this wasn’t the only example of—there’s the Don Jr. We’ve talked about how poorly Trump’s people have separated his business interests from the interests of the country. The same is even more true for Jared Kushner, whose family business is basically bankrupt. And over and over again, he’s been shown to be in negotiations with entities, including Russians, but also Chinese and Middle Eastern. So, you know, he’ll go in and say, “OK, we’ll talk about this grand peace plan,” which is not about peace at all, “but, oh, by the way, can you bail out our 666 Park Avenue building, which is badly underwater?” And I think Mueller could make the same argument he’s made with the IRA indictment and the Manafort indictment, and say that Jared Kushner is pretending to be serving America’s foreign policy interests, but in fact he is just doing his own bidding. He’s just trying to bail out his own company. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moving towards a very similar indictment on conspiracy to defraud the United States, having to do with his conflicts of interest.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, interesting that Kushner also hasn’t managed to get top security clearance, when he’s a senior adviser to President Trump, as Porter didn’t because he beat his wives, etc. And then you’ve got Donald Jr. now in India promoting Trump businesses, as, of course, Donald Trump is the president of the United States. And he’s standing with the prime minister of India as he does this, promoting the Trump brand, Marcy.

MARCY WHEELER: Exactly. I mean, if Trump and his son and his son-in-law are pretending to be doing the business of the United States but are instead just trying to enrich themselves, again, I don’t think it’s a—you know, we’ve talked about the Emoluments Clause and how you go after the Trump campaign—the Trump officials for their egregious conflicts of interest. And, frankly, it extends into his Cabinet. But what Mueller seems to be doing, with some very good appellate lawyers, by the way, is to be laying out this framework that if you are pretending to be doing something in the interest of the United States but are actually doing something else, serving somebody else’s bidding, whether it’s Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, or whether it’s your own family business, then they’re going to go after you for a conspiracy charge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if these conspiracy charges all kind of link up at the end, in this kind of grand moment of—I think that’s where he’s headed.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Wheeler, I want to thank you for being with us, independent journalist covering national security and civil liberties issues for EmptyWheel.net. We’ll link to your piece, “What Did Mueller Achieve with the Internet Research Agency Indictment?”

This is Democracy Now! When we return, we speak with economist Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton. He has a new book; it’s called The Common Good. Stay with us.

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With President Trump, Is the American Experiment Over? –Through the Gates of Evil


Best of TomDispatch: Tom Engelhardt, Through the Gates of Hell

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: On this Presidents’ Day weekend, in honor of the president we have, I decided to repost this old piece of mine.  I wrote it in a white heat of shock, just after learning that Donald Trump had won the presidency.  Throughout the 2016 campaign, I had always left open the possibility that The Donald might actually take the election, that a certain slice of heartland America, feeling its back against the economic wall, might be ready to send what I called a “suicide bomber” into the White House, no matter the results.  Just a few weeks before the election, however, like so many others I was won over by the pollsters and became convinced that he would lose.  In that, as we know from Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, I was in good company, since, with the exception of Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign team, including the candidate himself, were convinced that they didn’t have a chance in hell of winning and most of them were already preparing to turn a losing campaign into a winning hand, job offer by job offer, deal by deal, in a world in which Hillary Clinton would be president.

I won’t soon forget the shock of that night. I had a 103-degree fever, the highest of my recent life, and was thinking about heading to the emergency room as the first results started trickling in. Maybe I was still feverish the next day when I began writing “Empire of Chaos,” which I published at TomDispatch on November 12, 2016, just four days into the Age of Trump.  Looking back, I suspect that feverish quality served me well, leading me directly into the nature of his presidency and of a world that had already been changed in disastrous ways — or Donald Trump would never have won. All I would say today is that sometimes a fever is exactly what you need to see reality as it is and recognize the chaos to come.  A year and a quarter later, with everything that’s happened, I still don’t think I’d change a word of this post or the question with which it ends. Tom]

Empire of Chaos 
With President Trump, Is the American Experiment Over? 
By Tom Engelhardt

The one thing you could say about empires is that, at or near their height, they have always represented a principle of order as well as domination.  So here’s the confounding thing about the American version of empire in the years when this country was often referred to as “the sole superpower,” when it was putting more money into its military than the next 10 nations combined: it’s been an empire of chaos.

Back in September 2002, Amr Moussa, then head of the Arab League, offered a warning I’ve never forgotten.  The Bush administration’s intention to invade Iraq and topple its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was already obvious.  Were they to take such a step, Moussa insisted, it would “open the gates of hell.”  His prediction turned out to be anything but hyperbole — and those gates have never again closed.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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