Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, October 31st, 2016.


New Revelations on Trump’s Taxes and the Russia Connection

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Bad Hair

The New York Times committed an act of journalism and has published a must-read investigative report on Donald Trump’s taxes. In brief, tax experts say “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition.” It’s worth reading the whole article.

Meanwhile, David Corn writes at Mother Jones about what the FBI might be investigating regarding Trump’s dealings with Russia. A former intelligence officer shared with Corn what he had told the FBI:

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.

“This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former intelligence officer comments. “I think [Trump’s] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.”

And Franklin Foer writes at Slate that some computer scientists investigated whether Russian hackers might be hacking the Trump campaign, as they had Clinton’s. What they found was weird. There was regular pinging going on between a bank in Moscow and a Trump server in New York.

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. …

…Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence.

There is some weird-ass stuff going on, people.

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The Damn Emails

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Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

While everyone is hyperventilating about emails that, apparently, no one has read yet, Kurt Eichenwald reports at Newsweek,

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

Nothing so far has been revealed in Clinton’s emails that warranted indictments. But it sounds as if Trump has been breaking laws for years and getting away with it. Note that the worst of the actions Eichenwald uncovered relate to Trump’s violations of fair housing laws

But let us review what the new Clinton email “revelations” amount to. Executive Summary: Nothing so far.

My understanding is that at the time FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s “device,” he didn’t yet have a warrant that allowed the FBI to read them. All they knew was that State Department emails ended up on Weiner’s “device,” supposedly forwarded by Huma Abedin, although she says she doesn’t know how that happened. We don’t know if any of those emails were sent or received by Hillary Clinton, or if Clinton even knew about the emails on the “device.”

Some news outlets are reporting that the emails were in Abedin’s Yahoo account, which makes me wonder if somehow an account was set up to automatically forward emails and Abedin didn’t realize it. The Clinton campaign is not exactly a tech-savvy crew. But if that’s the case, it’s likely most of these emails are duplicates of ones already known to the FBI.

But there’s more. CNN is reporting that the FBI knew about the emails on the “device” weeks ago. Why did James Comey sit on this information and then release it days before the election? At first it was assumed that Comey sent the letter as soon as he knew about the emails; maybe he wanted to avoid an appearance of being partisan. But if that was the case, it backfired big time.

Josh Marshall writes:

It is quite telling that even at this late stage of the election, when partisan tempers are naturally running at their fiercest, former career DOJ lawyers, former high level DOJ appointees and legal experts on both sides of the aisle are lining up to say this was not only an extremely poor decision but may even have violated the law. (Note here: President George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer suggests Comey may even have broken the law. Another example is here.) As far as I can see, no one who actually knows what Comey’s legal, professional and ethical responsibilities were in this case can find a basis to defend his actions. Even Republicans who might be inclined to interpret ambiguous facts through a partisan prism don’t seem able to come up with one.

I’ve said a number of times that I do not believe Comey acted out of a desire to interfere with the outcome of the election. I still believe that. But I’m not sure it matters. What seems inescapable is that Comey has made avoiding criticism from Republicans (and leaks by FBI agents that would generate such criticism) his top, almost his sole priority. That being the case, his intent seems all but irrelevant. It amounts to some professional equivalent of reckless disregard, perhaps with a smattering of largely irrelevant naïveté thrown in.

See also FBI Director James Comey screwed up big time.

The presidential race has tightened up since Friday, although Clinton is still heavily favored to win.

Meanwhile Sen. Harry Reid has not only accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act; he says the FBI is sitting on damning information about Trump’s ties to the Russian government:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

It should be noted that Brian Ross at ABC News reported last September that Trump does millions of dollars of business with Russians, which wouldn’t have been possible without Putin’s approval.

But I’ll give John Oliver the last word today.

Update: Oops! Here’s another last word. CNBC reports:

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

Somebody’s partisanship is showing.

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Boo!

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Bad Hair, holiday

Happy Halloween!

Too scary?

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