The Indictment against the twelve Russian operatives

There is an attorney named James Dunlap[1] who took the time to summarize the indictment that Special DOJ Counsel Robert Mueller filed against 12 Russian agents (all part of a group known as the “Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff”) for their meddling in our 2016 election.  I’m reproducing this summary here (with some edits) because it really is something to read the details of what the Special Counsel and his team already know (and which President Drumpf still does not believe).  Here is the summary:

  • Article 1 of the indictment states that the Russian government actively set up multiple intelligence units (known as the GRU) with the sole aim of interfering with the 2016 election. Two of these units, 26165, and 74455, were specifically tasked with acquiring and releasing stolen documents via hacking.
  • Article 2 specifically calls this a “conspiracy” and states that the 12 indicted Russians had contacts with “persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury.”
  • Article 3: The aforementioned Russian intelligence units deliberately targeted the Clinton campaign.
  • Article 4: The aforementioned Russian intelligence units deliberately targeted the DNC as a whole.
  • Article 6: In June of 2016, they released tens of thousands of hacked documents using fictitious online personas.
  • Article 10: One of the intelligence officers, Boris Antonov, oversaw a department within 26165 tasked with hacking the U.S. military, governmental and non-governmental organizations.
  • Articles 12-18: The Russian hackers often used various online aliases, both male and female, such as (but not limited to) “Kate Milton,” “James McMorgans,” and “Karen Millen.” Sergey Morgachev, another Russian hacker, was a Lt. Colonel in the Russian military. He created the hacking malware used by dept. 26165, known as “X-Agent.” Another hacker named in the indictment, Nikolay Kozachek, was a Lt. Captain in the Russian military. Artem Malyshev (also named in the indictment) was a Second Lieutenant in the Russian military. Aleksandr Osadchuk (also named in the indictment) is a Colonel in the Russian Military. He oversaw the creation and dissemination of anti-Clinton material online.
  • Article 19: Russian Military Officer Aleksey Potemkin, assigned to 74455, supervised the creation of fake social media accounts used in the release of DNC documents.
  • Article 21: Over 300 individuals affiliated with the DNC were successfully targeted.[2]
  • Article 24, subsection B: The Russian’s hacking of the DNC was so advanced that they were able to monitor individual computers in real time. Subsection C states that their malware sent actual screenshots of DNC computer activity to a server in Arizona that the Russians had access to. They were also able to capture keystrokes entered by DCCC employees.
  • Article 24, subsection D: The Russians monitored individual DNC / DCCC employees for hours on end, and obtained information about DNC fundraising plans and even banking information (as well as other personal information).
  • Article 26 subsection A: By June 2016 the Russians had complete access to 33 DNC computers, totally and completely.
  • Article 27: The GRU gained access to information regarding DNC opposition research, field operation plans, and the Benghazi operation.
  • Article 28, subsection B: Aside from the server in Arizona, the GRU also stored data to a server in Illinois, to which they filtered large gigabytes of stolen information via a program they developed known as “X-Tunnel.”
  • Article 32: The DNC became aware of Russian attempts to hack their servers and hired a security firm to identify the extent of the intrusions. The security firm (identified in the indictment only as “company 1”) also put in place measures to halt GRU access to DNC computers, but, despite this, the GRU was so efficient that they continued to maintain access via “X-Agent” well through October of 2016.
  • Article 33: The GRU immediately became aware of “company 1’s” (referring here to the security firm that the DNC hired) efforts, and took countermeasures in response. This included investigating / hacking “company 1” itself, and later, apparently as a retaliatory measure against the DNC, setting up a wesbsite that redirected from a DNC online political donations website, to another website set up by the GRU (in other words, the GRU took funds from DNC donors, using the pretext of a false DNC donations website).
  • Articles 35-36: The GRU set up another website, the sole purpose of which was to release stolen DNC documents. They created fake social media accounts that falsely attributed this website’s creation to a group of “American hacktivists.” It received over 1 million hits.
  • Article 37: The GRU has also released stolen documents dating back to 2015 (i.e., they’ve been up to this for quite a while).
  • Article 40: The notion of a “lone Romanian hacker” being responsible for the DNC leaks was a fiction deliberately created by the GRU and disseminated via fake social media accounts.
  • Article 42: Using a popular blogging site, the GRU set up a blog that used the most “searched for” keywords by conspiracy theorists, (e.g., “Illuminati,” “Worldwide,” “Conspiracy,” et. al.), -and used this website to further disseminate the “lone Romanian hacker” conspiracy theory. [3]
  • Article 43, Subsection A: An individual the indictment identifies only as “a known member of congress” contacted an online GRU dummy persona, (“Guccifer 2.0”) and requested stolen documents related to their political opponent, and the GRU / “Guccifer” responded by giving that member of congress access to the stolen data they were requesting.
  • Article 43, Subsection B: The GRU released stolen documents to what the indictment identifies as “a lobbyist and online source of political news.”
  • Article 43, Subsection C: “Guccifer” / The GRU sent stolen documents pertaining to the “Black Lives Matter” movement to a reporter (unidentified in the indictment), to which the reporter not only responded, but offered to write an article using that information.
  • Article 44: The GRU, posing as “Guccifer 2.0” wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign.[4]
  • Article 45, subsection B: The GRU, using an alias, contacted a U.S. reporter (unnamed in the indictment) and ultimately gave that person access to stolen DNC data.
  • Articles 47-49: Here the indictment refers to an organization, identified only as “Organization 1,”[5] which itself reached out to the GRU aliases seeking the stolen emails / data. “Organization 1” is directly quoted by the indictment as having communicated to “Guccifer,” that they should “send [Organization 1] any new material here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” Organization 1 was given, and later released, the data, approximately 3 days before the Democratic National Convention. In total, between October and November of 2016, over 50,000 stolen documents were released.
  • Articles 50-79 : Lists the counts against the 11 Russian Military Personnel, which include charges of (1) Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against the United States, (2) Aggravated Identity Theft, (3) Conspiracy to Launder Money (4) the Use of Transferred Money to Commit Crimes Against the United States, (5) General Unlawful Conspiracy.[6]

President Drumpf, of course, is still not convinced that it was just the Russians. He still keeps suggesting that “other people” may have been involved.  Maybe that “400 pound” Romanian hacker that the GRU made up.

It should be clear to everyone by now why the Donald cannot completely accept the notion that the Russians were the primary actors who interfered in the 2016 election. Because if he did accept that, he would also have to accept the real possibility that he is only President of the United States because of Russian interference and James Comey’s public announcement that he was re-opening the Hillary Clinton investigation just a little more than a week before the November election. And that, my friends, Donald Drumpf cannot do.

[1] There are a number of attorneys named James Dunlap, and it’s not completely clear which James Dunlap it is.

[2] Article 21 is lengthy, and includes a detailed, play-by-play account of how 26165 and 74455 achieved their aims

[3] Article 46 of the indictment further states that later entries on this blog site posted articles claiming that the released, stolen documents had “nothing to do with Russia.”

[4] The indictment includes direct quotes of their online conversation, and this is clearly referring to Roger Stone.

[5] This organization is almost certainly Wikileaks.

[6] It should be noted that many of these counts have sub-crimes attached to them, such as unlawful hacking, etc.

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Why was anyone surprised?

There’s been a lot of Sturm and Drang about Trump’s performance with Putin in Helsinki yesterday, but I don’t know what everyone is getting so excited about: it was completely predictable.

Some commentators are saying that Trump’s performance was treasonous, and may be it was. But mostly it was predicated on the fact that Trump – who is still obsessed about the fact that Hillary won the popular vote – cannot manage the possibility that he wouldn’t be President without Russian assistance.

And by now it should be clear that he wouldn’t have been President without the assistance of the Russians and James Comey.

But that creates too much cognitive dissonance in the mind of Donald Trump for him to accept.

Besides, Putin is everything that Trump wants to be and is not.

I mean, letting Trump meet one-on-one with Putin without the benefit of any advisors is like letting a hedgehog into a cage with a tiger.  Putin swallowed him whole, and then spent most of yesterday with kind of a Cheshire cat smile on his face.

Did Putin want Trump to win? Oh yeah. He even said so publicly.

Trump, who lies to himself more than even to any of the rest of us, will convince himself that this was some kind of great performance, the universal denunciation of everyone else notwithstanding. So much winning!

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Why I love the World Cup

I realize that trying to convince Americans of the allure of the beautiful game is a fool’s errand. Trying to explain why the rest of humanity loves the World Cup is likewise a path leading to a dead end.

I’m not going to try and convince you of the beauty of the game. I know what the problem is for Americans: not enough scoring. Futbol is actually a lot like basketball, except for the two sports are on the extreme opposite end relative to the amount of scoring that takes place. In this country, soccer is a sport that nine year old girls play while their mothers holler from the sideline.  So it has been for a number of decades now, and so it shall remain.

So why do I love the World Cup?

In some ways, the World Cup is a kind of surrogate for warfare, a place where countries can compete unapologetically, and nobody gets hurt. (Except for Neymar, but you know, not really.) It’s the one time that I can actually feel patriotic about being German without having to apologize for the Holocaust. Also, my team is bloody good, at least most of the time. Like a NY Yankees fan, it’s nice to support a winner.

The tournament is a festival where everyone can get involved. Rather improbable countries, like North Korea, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Iceland have made it to the World Cup. Everyone can have fun, and almost everyone does (except for the Americans, who don’t really care).

And then there are the aspects of it which really do have historical significance. For example, Argentina and England faced each other in Mexico, four years after the end of the Falklands War. That game was famous for two goals, both scored by Diego Maradona, as the Argentinians went all the way to win the cup.  The first was Maradona’s “hand of God” goal – in which Maradona clearly punched the ball in, a fact that the referee did not see – as well as his second goal, in which he slalomed through half of the English defense – thereby restoring a lot of Argentinian post-war pride.

Or 1954, the year that Germany was allowed back into the fellowship of nations after World War II, and managed to win the whole thing.[1]

Or when the United States had to play against Iran at the 1998 World Cup in France, where they lost 2:1 (and provided a lot of satisfaction for the Iranians).

This year Croatia, one of the many republics that emerged from the former Yugoslavia had the chance to play against Russia. In Russia. Former client state against former overlord. Imagine the satisfaction that the people of Croatia enjoyed by kicking Russia, the other big, bad world bully, out of their own tournament![2]

The tournament also allows play between nations who otherwise would never have anything to do with each other. Japan and Senegal, for example. Or Egypt and Poland.  Or Uruguay and France.  Or Ecuador and Germany. These are delicious pairings between teams that have generally never met before. Anything can happen.

There have been some remarkable upsets over the years. For example, in 1966, at the England tournament, North Korea beat Italy 1:0. Nobody believed that could happen, and it’s probably still the biggest sports triumph in the history of North Korea. Or, in 1950 when the United States, featuring an all-amateur team, upset England also by a 1:0 score.[3]

Another beautiful thing about the World Cup, is that it allows countries who have a “golden generation” of players to excel on the world stage. France had its golden generation when they won the tournament on home soil in 1998. Brazil has had several golden generations, but never more so then when they pulverized the competition in 1970. Germany had the first of its golden generations when they also won on home soil in 1974. Most recently Spain won with its golden generation in 2010.

Today there are two teams who have “golden generations” playing at the tournament, and those are Croatia and Belgium. Croatia has, as previously mentioned, made it to the World Cup Final. And Belgium almost got there, just narrowly missing out in losing to France. They still play for the third place game on Saturday.[4]

So there it is, my friends. The World Cup is a world party, one that everybody gets excited about, except the Americans. It’s chance to cheer unapologetically for your country; to have small countries beat big countries; to have matches with delicious historical overtones; to have teams and peoples meet who have never met before.

[1] The Germans have won fairly reliably every twenty years since – after 1954 they won in 1974, 1990, and 2014. (In 1990 they were four years early.) At this rate one can expect them to win again in 2034.

[2] Croatia has now also made it into Sunday’s final against France.

[3] English fans were so incredulous that a lot of them thought it was a misprint, and that England had actually won 10:1. The American goal-scorer was a Haitian-American player who was also a dishwasher in the restaurant owned by the same man who owned his soccer club.

[4] I would have liked to have seen Croatia vs Belgium, two small sides with their golden generations going after each other. I also would have like to see France vs England, two of the traditional powerhouse footballing nations – each with young and promising sides – take each other on.

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Sorry America, Trump gets his Pick Regardless

In the last week I’ve been hearing arguments that Trump should not get a Supreme Court pick while he’s under investigation. That argument has been made by Corey Booker, for example, and is premised on the notion that there could be a conflict – such as about whether the Mueller investigation has the power to force Donald Trump to testify – and that conflict might end up before a Supreme Court with a couple of justices who feel personally loyalty to Donald Trump.

Sorry folks, that doesn’t work.

First of all, that would have meant that Bill Clinton would never have had the chance to pick a justice.

Second, all that would engender is that the opposition party would create an investigation so that the President couldn’t pick a justice.

We’ve already seen how much an opposition party can manufacture unnecessary investigations by watching how many investigations Republicans created about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Also, the fact that we’re within four months of a mid-year election is also not a good reason to not allow the President to choose a justice. Appointments should be made, and the Senate should weigh in, in the ordinary course of business.

As Barack Obama famously said, elections have consequences.

Oh yes they do. And lots of conservatives voted for Trump precisely because they thought he would reshape the Supreme Court.

What happened with Merrick Garland is that Mitch McConnell, that feckless Machiavellian fucker, just stole Obama’s pick. If a Senator could be impeached, McConnell should be the first up.



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No one is going to win this argument on the DOJ Inspector General’s report

I’m the kind of person who will actually read the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General’s report entitled “A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election,” or at least the Executive Summary.[1] So let me just note – for those complaining about the length and expense of the Mueller investigation – that there have been not only half a dozen investigations into Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi and her use of a private email server, but now also an investigation into the conduct of those investigations. It’s a meta-investigation (if not a series of mega-investigations).[2]

To review, this investigation by the DOJ Inspector General was initiated by requests from Congress, “various organizations” and “members of the public” and focused on the conduct of the FBI in relationship to the investigations into Hillary’s private email server.[3] The IG was charged with answering six particular questions:

  • allegations that FBI policies or procedures were not followed in regards to then-FBI director James Comey’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and Comey’s letters to congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016;
  • allegations that certain investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
  • allegations that then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from participating in certain investigatve matters;
  • allegations that the DOJ’s then Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, Peter Kadzik, improperly disclosed non-public information and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters;
  • allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information during the course of the investigation;
  • allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize this release, were influenced by improper considerations.

The report also addresses the allegations by the Trump administration that the FBI is improperly biased towards President Trump.

As noted in the news coverage of the report’s release, the report provides plenty of ammunition for both sides of the aisle to have complaints about how the FBI went about its business.

The FBI’s Impact on the Clinton Campaign

Most observers (other than complete Trump partisans) by now acknowledge that James Comey’s October 28 announcement that the FBI was re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails was the “October Surprise” that swung the razor thin margins in Donald Trump’s favor in the 2016 presidential election. The margins were so thin in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the state’s that eventually put Trump over the top) that even a single percentage point swing would have been enough to make the difference. What this IG report shows is that Comey clearly did not follow the rules with respect to any of his public announcements about the Clinton investigations. What Comey should have done is not made any announcements with respect to his investigations, but leave that to the Department of Justice.

It’s clear, by the way, that Comey thought that Hillary would win the election by a country mile, and that his disclosing information about the re-opened investigation would not make any difference. As the IG wrote:

[W]e found that his decision [to send the letter to Congress] was the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the information after the election.

That’s all nice and fine, except the clear protocol is for the FBI not to comment on pending investigations. These announcements almost certainly cost Hillary the election.

Peter Strock and Lisa Page

Republicans, on the other hand, are going to have a lot of fun with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page (who may have been having an affair). What a couple of idiots! Aren’t these people supposed to be FBI agents? Haven’t they ever heard of the maxim to not put anything in an email (or a text) that you don’t want to have published in the NY Times? Especially if you’re an FBI agent!

It turns out that Strock and Page thought Trump was an “utter idiot” and a “disaster,” and wrote so to each other in texts that they exchanged.  They wondered about how destabilizing his Presidency would be. (That just makes them sane in my book, and not necessarily partisans.)

The two of them turn out to have been equal opportunity detractors, as they also hated (Obama-era Attorney General) Eric Holder, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Senator Ted Cruz, Trump advisor Roger Stone, and Congress “as a whole.” Strock also had criticisms of Hillary Clinton and complained that a fact-checker dismissed Bernie Sanders’s criticism of her as being too close to fossil-fuel lobbyists.[4]

No One Will Win this Argument

No one’s going to win this argument, that’s for sure. Again, there is too much ammunition on both sides. But I still find it highly ironic that Trump so hates the FBI, the agency that basically hand-delivered the election to him on a silver platter.

Instead of firing James Comey, he should have canonized him.

But then there is the little problem of all the illegal shit Trump got into while running for office (not to mention since becoming President) and the fact that somebody has to investigate those things. Republicans will surely dismiss the Mueller report once it’s finished, but people in the middle may see that there really has been a problem with how Trump has been running his presidency as well has campaign, which is basically like an unindicted criminal enterprise.

[1] Given that the report itself is 568 pages, it’s a little much to comprehend in one sitting. And also completely unnecessary.

[2] In short, the number of investigations into Hillary Clinton – which produced no indictments and no findings of criminal conduct – should require all those complaining about the Mueller investigation to just STFU! Of course, that won’t happen.

[3] In one of the delicious twists of irony, the report found that FBI Director Comey was himself guilty of using a private email account relative to some of his correspondence.

[4] Strock was removed from the Mueller investigation on December 2, 2017, as soon as his political texts came to the attention of the FBI.

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Ann Coulter has no Shame

Yesterday I published a post on my own experience in being separated from my parents at a young age for a short period of time.

Last night I came across this: Ann Coulter, claiming that the children being torn from their parents at the border are “crisis actors.”

This is a lot like Alex Jones claiming that the parents of the children shot at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut in 2012 are also “crisis actors.”

Jones is now being sued for defamation by some of these “crisis actor” parents, and it will be very interesting to see how that case turns out.

For his part, Jones has previously claimed (in his divorce proceedings) that he is a “performance artist” playing a character. Kind of like Stephen Colbert in his now defunct Colbert Report.

Just like Glenn Beck claimed (when it was convenient) that he was just an “entertainer.

Why is it that only Republicans and conservatives get away with this kind of shit? If our side just tried lying outright, we’d be shamed right off of the World Wide Web.

This is the kind of false equivalence that exists between the likes of Ann Coulter, and someone like Rachel Maddow, who takes pains to be as scrupulously accurate as she can.

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The Legacy that Republicans are Creating and will have to Wrestle With

When I was about eighteen months old, my parents dropped me off at a Catholic nunnery for about two weeks. My sister was about to be born, there were complications, and my Grandparents (they thought) had enough on their hands with my rambunctious brother. My father would come and visit me every day – I don’t know if that helped or hurt, since he would also leave without me every day – until my sister was born and they brought me home.

About twenty years later, in my first year of law school, I had one too many hash brownies at a party. I went to bed and then woke up in a complete panic. I was so panicked that I went upstairs to my friends Gabi and Günther’s room and asked if I could stay up there for the rest of the night. That was the kick-off to a period where I regularly had anxiety attacks, which it took me a number of years to get over.

Sometime during that process of calming down my mother told me the story of having dropped me off at the nunnery, an event I had absolutely no recollection of, but which I recognized immediately.

Aha! That was the panic that I had been experiencing.[1]

I’ve worked through this over the years, but there is one lingering symptom left: when I travel overseas, I’m always conscious of being very far away from home. It doesn’t prevent me from traveling overseas, but it can make the experience of it less exuberant. There is a part of me that always has to fight with myself, reminding me that I’m an adult and that I would be no safer if I were back at home.

I’ve been thinking about this while reading the stories of the asylum-seeking children being ripped away from their parents at the U.S. border.

There’s unnecessary trauma being created for thousands of them, on top of whatever trauma was already in play that motivated their families to go on the run in the first place.[2]

This action of ripping children out of the arms of their parents has created a storm of outrage, including by (the rarely heard from) Laura Bush, who authored and op-ed for the Washington Post, and (remarkably enough) Melania Trump, who joined in with Laura Bush (and proved once again that she has absolutely no influence on her husband whatsoever).

In the meantime, Jeff Sessions went before the press to quote the Apostle Paul for the notion that it is Godly to “obey the laws,” a sentiment which Sarah “Huckster” Sanders immediately endorsed with her own Biblical quotations.

This is what happens when you allow people to cherry-pick verses from the Bible. You can find a verse for almost any sentiment.

I’m no Jesus scholar, but it’s my understanding that Jesus was much more concerned with welcoming strangers, lifting up the downtrodden, and sheltering the oppressed. He was, I’m told, no fan of obedience to the Roman empire.

To cherry-pick just one verse of my own:

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

And yet, while large majorities of Americans disapprove of this heartless policy, a clear majority of Republicans approve of the policy.

Oh boy.

There is a large and growing number of Republicans who are going to have to wrestle with their legacy and what they approved of once the Trump years are over. Many of them will discover that whatever moral “cachet” they once had (or were seen as having) has been pissed away in their support of this extraordinarily malicious “President” they so claim to adore.

[1] Let me be the first to admit that I’m not the most courageous person to begin with, and I might have developed anxiety attacks for other reasons. But this was the trigger in my case.

[2] I’ll just add the obvious observation that if Republicans really wanted to keep people from streaming to the border, we here in the United States could do a lot more to improve conditions in countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. People don’t undertake journeys like these unless they are completely desperate and at their wits end.

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