politics

Buttigieg delivers a short and punchy stump speech, heavy on Democratic catechism — the sanctity of Medicare, support for universal healthcare and legalized abortion, fighting climate change, reining in corporate political influence — but one largely devoid of specifics, beyond eliminating the electoral college in favor of a popular vote for president.

JULIAN Assange’s dating profile from 2006 has been unearthed – where he branded himself a “pig-headed intellectual” and “87 per cent slut”.

The then 36-year-old created the profile on OkCupid in December, shortly after launching infamous WikiLeaks, the site that would land him fame and finally arrest.

 Julian Assange winked and gave a thumbs up from the police van as he arrived at court following the dramatic arrest yesterday morning

Getty Images – Getty

Julian Assange winked and gave a thumbs up from the police van as he arrived at court following the dramatic arrest yesterday morning
 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had a profile on dating site OKCupid, under the pseudo name Harry Harrison

Ok Cupid

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had a profile on dating site OKCupid, under the pseudo name Harry Harrison
 Despite not using his real name, the pictures on 'Harry Harrison’s' page appear to confirm that this really is Julian Assange

Ok Cupid

Despite not using his real name, the pictures on ‘Harry Harrison’s’ page appear to confirm that this really is Julian Assange
 The fact that the page hasn’t been accessed since Jan 2007 adds to the likelihood that it’s the real deal

Ok Cupid

The fact that the page hasn’t been accessed since Jan 2007 adds to the likelihood that it’s the real deal

Assange is now facing decades in prison after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in a dramatic arrest in London last night.

He’s expected to face charges in the US after prosecutors filed for his extradition over the WikiLeaks scandal.

After seven years in hiding, this dramatic shift has unearthed a multitude of dirt on the hack’s life, the latest being his dating profile.

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange arrested by police and removed from the Ecuadorian embassy

In it he writes: “WARNING: Want a regular, down to earth guy? Keep moving. I am not the droid you’re looking for. Save us both while you still can.

“Passionate, and often pig headed activist intellectual seeks siren for love affair, children and occasional criminal conspiracy.

“Such a woman should [be] spirited and playful, of high intelligence, though not necessarily formally educated, have spunk, class & inner strength and be able to think strategically about the world and the people she cares about.”

LOOKING FOR LOVE

The unusual relationship request is accompanied by five photographs resembling Assange, the main one being a close-up smiling picture.

It’s captioned: “The author, facing the rising sun after an all puzzle contest.”

Confirming the validity of the profile, OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagan said: “This is real, as best we can tell.

“We have manual and automatic systems in place to prevent fraud. We can tell when a profile is created, from where — and we’re not going to say.

“If the profile is a ruse, then whoever did it went to elaborate lengths. And if someone faked this in 2006, that person has done an amazing job predicting the future.”

This is real, as best we can tell

Sam Yagan OkCupid co-founder

The bizarre revelation was made on blog Frugal Brutal Beauty in 2010.

Assange goes under the name ‘Harry Harrison’, the pen name of an American author of science-fiction books whose protagonist, “Slippery Jim,” is a globetrotting con man.

‘Harry’ was extremely active during his first month on the site, according to Yagan, completing 42 personalty tests. Most members only complete one, if any.

Although his specific answers aren’t available, it is possible to see the results, which included:

  • The Politics Test: Strong Democrat
  • The Death Test: Dead at 83
  • The Intellectual Sexiness Test: 85 intellectual sexiness!
  • The Atheist Test: 75 per cent – The Ardent Atheist
  • The EXTREMELY advanced MATH Test: 84 on the MathDorkOMeter

In addition, Harrison answered the site’s “match questions,” which show that he’s 27 per cent more arrogant, 12.3 per cent kinkier and 10.5 per cent “less capitalistic” than OkCupid’s seven million members.

Yagan admits Assange’s profile attracted “several” responses.

A hairy and dishevelled Assange spent 2,487 days holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid sex assault claims in Sweden claims.

He feared being sent to the States – where he was wanted over an alleged hacking conspiracy with whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

During that time his health has deteriorated as a result of a lack of sunlight, a Wikileaks source told the Mirror.

In court yesterday, the 47-year-old was blasted a “narcissist who can’t get beyond his own self interest” as he was found guilty of skipping bail in 2012 – relating to his time at the embassy.


WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:

  • Julian Assange found guilty of skipping bail in UK and could face a year in jail
  • He was arrested after 2,487 days holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – costing taxpayers more than £10m
  • Assange went into hiding in August 2012 to avoid facing extradition to Sweden over sex assault and rape allegations
  • He is also wanted in US for on suspicion of espionage and publication of sensitive government documents
  • Assange fears he could face death penalty if extradited to US over WikiLeaks scandal
  • Ecuadorian President said Assange’s release dependent on not facing extradition to country with death penalty
  • Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said “UK courts will decide” his future
  • It’s been revealed Assange staged ‘dirty protests’ while in Ecuador’s embassy

He now faces a battle against extradition to the US where he was today charged over the Iraq War Logs.

Swedish lawyers want to reopen the sex allegations which first sent Assange into hiding – a move which has cost the British taxpayer more than £10m.

He will now learn his fate at Southwark Crown Court on May 2.

 Assange flashed a peace sign in handcuffs

Getty Images – Getty

Assange flashed a peace sign in handcuffs
 Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden - where he faced accusations of sexual assault
Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden – where he faced accusations of sexual assault
Diane Abbott defends Julian Assange after his arrest from the Ecuadorian Embassy


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A top House Democrat said Friday the White House’s reported plan to get back at Democrats by transporting all released asylum seekers into sanctuary cities is proof the Trump administration’s approach to immigration policy is political and not about national security.

“The fact that this idea was even considered — not once but twice — serves as a reminder that the Trump Administration’s reckless immigration agenda is not about keeping the country safe, but about partisan politics and wantonly inflicting cruelty,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in a statement.

Thompson said the administration’s various immigration policy reforms “are all terrible.” The White House has introduced a travel ban of citizens from select countries primarily in the Middle East, and a “zero tolerance” initiative that led to families being separated at the border, and others.

“If the Administration wants to send a message to Democrats, let us send this message to the President: if your immigration policies are not fixing the problem but only cause chaos and focus on keeping people out, they will always fail. Playing politics with the country’s homeland security has been a mainstay of the Trump Administration since day one. The American people want it to end,” he said.

A Thursday report said White House officials asked officials at several federal agencies in November to look into turning over families who had illegally entered the country, and were seeking asylum, to be released in small and mid-size cities where local Democratic leaders had refused to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

“Sanctuary cities,” as they referred to, provide safety to immigrants who have committed additional crimes while in the U.S. by not honoring a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to detain a person for them after his legal proceedings for that crime have concluded.

The Trump administration has railed over the policy, saying it protects suspected and convicted criminals from being handed over to ICE in a safe environment and forces agents to go into the community to find wanted criminals.

[Opinion: Washington Post offers miserable fix to asylum problem]

Investigations now shift onto the Obama administration as Attorney General William Barr says there was spying and surveillance on the Trump campaign and President Trump said it was treasonous. This enters us into a new age of politics and hopefully justice and the deep state criminals are now in the cross-hairs.

Source: The War Room

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Bill Priestap, left, with Michael Horowitz, DoJ inspector general.

By Eric Felten, RealClearInvestigations
April 12, 2019

Attorney General William Barr shocked official Washington Wednesday by saying what previously couldn’t be said: That the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 involved “spying.”

The spying, which Barr vowed to investigate, is not the only significant possible violation of investigative rules and ethics committed by agents, lawyers, managers, and officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice. A catalogue of those abuses can be found in recently released testimony that Edward William Priestap provided to Congress in a closed-door interview last summer. From the end of 2015 to the end of 2018 Bill Priestap was assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, which meant he oversaw the FBI’s global counterintelligence efforts.

In that role, he managed both of the bureau’s most politically sensitive investigations: the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information and the probe into whether Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election. His testimony provides rare insight into the attitudes and thoughts of officials who launched the Russia probe and the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose final report is expected to be released very soon.

More important, his testimony contains extensive indications of wrongdoing, including that the FBI and DoJ targeted Trump and did so with information it made no effort to verify. It paints a portrait of the Obama-era bureau as one that was unconcerned with political interference in investigations and was willing to enlist the help of close foreign allies to bring down its target. And, perhaps presaging a defense to Barr’s claim that American officials had spied on the Trump campaign, it showcases the euphemisms that can be used to disguise “spying.”

Filling In the Blanks

Priestap’s testimony took place on June 5, 2018, in Room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The questioning, by congressmen and House committee staff, focused on whether the FBI had applied the same rigor to the Clinton investigation that it had to the Trump probe.

The transcript the public can read today contains not only those questions and Priestap’s responses, but also the tell-tale redactions of anxious bureaucrats. One thing that is very clear is that the Sharpie brigades at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice really, really didn’t want anyone to know where Bill Priestap was a week into May 2016.

Rep. Jim Jordan: Where in the world was Bill Priestap?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Not long into the questioning that Tuesday morning last summer, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked, “Do you ever travel oversees?”

“Yes,” said Priestap.

 “How often?”

 “As little as possible.”

The seeming comedy routine notwithstanding, Jordan later asked how many times in his 2½ years running the counter-intelligence shop Priestap had traveled abroad.

 “I want to say three times,” he said.

 “And can you tell me where you went?” Jordan asked.

“The ones I’m remembering are the [REDACTED].”

Jordan drilled in: “All three times to [REDACTED]?

Priestap said the trips he remembered “off the top of my head were all [REDACTED].”

Jordan asked whether Priestap remembered when he went to this place. Priestap said “No.”

Jordan was back at it in later rounds of questioning, asking whether Priestap had traveled to a given location at a given time in 2016. Over and again, censors from the FBI and DoJ have redacted the location and the time.

What could this exotic destination be?  How is the timing of Priestap’s trip there a matter of national security? What secrets were the redactors trying to protect?

Peter Strzok: “Bill” was in London. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Turns out the Sharpie brigades weren’t nearly as thorough as they thought. A long-available transcript of text messages between FBI agent Strzok and lawyer Page – the paramours who worked on both the Clinton and Trump investigations – provide the answer. It’s right there on the page detailing texts between Strzok and Page on May 4, 2016. At around 9:31 that Wednesday evening, Strzok writes to say he is worried about getting a memo into shape that is expected that night or the next morning. He feels pressured even though “I don’t know that Bill will read it before he gets back from London next week.” Go to a text from the next Monday morning, May 9, and Strzok is wondering who will be receiving the daily report on the Clinton investigation, what “with Bill out.”

So there we have it. Bill Priestap was in London on or around May 9. Which strongly suggests that all three of the international trips taken by him during his tenure as FBI counterintelligence chief were to London.

Still, there is a reason the censors had out their Sharpies. It has to do with another question Jordan asked Priestap: “Okay. So what were you doing in [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED] of 2016?”

“So,” Priestap replied, “I went to meet with a foreign partner, foreign government partner.” In other words, almost certainly British intelligence. Not exposing our British partners has been the Justice Department’s justification for locking up secrets about the beginnings of the Trump investigation. The redactions try and fail to hide that Priestap met repeatedly with his British counterparts in 2016.

Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was also in London. So was the FBI, around the same time.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

Students of the Russia-collusion saga will recall that some of the earliest and most significant events cited as leading to the FBI’s investigation of Team Trump took place in a certain REDACTED country during a REDACTED season in 2016. It was over breakfast on April 26 in London that the mysterious Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, told young Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Five days later, on May 1, Papadopoulos had drinks with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in a London bar where he shared this piece of gossip/intel. And, of course, London is home to the author of the anti-Trump “dossier,” Christopher Steele.

According to the official story laid out in the New York Times, Australian officials did not pass on this new information for two months. And while Steele was retained by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the spring to dig up dirt on Trump for the Clinton campaign, the official story is that he did not start working with U.S. officials until the summer.

And so it is more than passingly curious that Priestap kept going to London when these significant events were occurring. Jordan asked Priestap about his second trip there: “What did it have to do with?”

Priestap demurred: “I’m not at liberty to discuss that today.”

After some dodging and weaving, Jordan came back to the question, but this time with an uncomfortable specificity: “Was your second trip then concerning the Trump-Russia investigation?” he asked.

“Sir, again, I’m just not at liberty to go into the purpose of my second trip.”

Priestap could have answered “no” without perjuring himself, he could have quickly put this matter to bed.  His “I’m not at liberty” answers strongly suggest that the Trump-Russia investigation was exactly what his second trip to London was about.

Spying, Redefined

Attorney General Barr’s statement that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign makes another part of Priestap’s testimony – about why an FBI asset in London named Stefan Halper reached out to Papadopoulos and to another Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page — even more significant.

Stefan Halper: also in London.

Voanews.com/Wikimedia

Weeks before Priestap’s testimony was taken last summer, the efforts of Halper, an American scholar who works in Britain, had been exposed. Republicans had been spluttering with outrage that the FBI would deploy a spy against an American presidential campaign. Democrats had been countering that while the bureau used informants, only the ignorant and uninitiated would call them spies.

Democratic staff counsel Valerie Shen tried to use her questioning of Priestap to put the spying issue to bed. “Does the FBI use spies?” she asked the assistant director for counterintelligence (who would be in a position to know).

“What do you mean?” Priestap responded. “I guess, what is your definition of a spy?”

“Good question,” said Shen. “What is your definition of a spy?”

Before Priestap answered, his lawyer, Mitch Ettinger, intervened. “Just one second,” he said. Then Ettinger – who was one of President Bill Clinton’s attorneys during the Paula Jones/Monica Lewinsky scandal – conferred with his client.

Back on the record, Priestap presented what smacks of pre-approved testimony: “I’ve not heard of nor have I referred to FBI personnel or the people we engage with as – meaning who are working in assistance to us – as spies. We do evidence and intelligence collection in furtherance of our investigations.”

Shen was happy with the answer, and so she asked Priestap to confirm it: “So in your experience the FBI doesn’t use the term ‘spy’ in any of its investigative techniques?” Priestap assured her the word is never spoken by law-enforcement professionals – except, he said (wandering dangerously off-script), when referring to “foreign spies.”

“But in terms of one of its own techniques,” Shen said, determined to get Priestap back on track, “the FBI does not refer to one of its own techniques as spying?”

“That is correct, yes.”

“With that definition in mind, would the FBI internally ever describe themselves as spying on American citizens?”

“No.”

So there we have it with all the decisive logic of a Socratic dialogue: The FBI could not possibly have spied on the Trump campaign because bureau lingo includes neither the noun “spy” nor the verb “to spy.” Whatever informants may have been employed, whatever tools of surveillance may have been utilized, the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign – didn’t spy by definition, as the bureau doesn’t use the term (except, of course, to describe the very same activities when undertaken by foreigners).

What’s telling about this line of questioning is that it inadvertently confirms Republican suspicions — and Attorney General Barr’s assertion. If House Democrats believed there had been no spying on the Trump campaign, they could have asked Priestap whether the FBI ever spies on Americans, given the common meaning of the verb “to spy.” They could have flat-out asked whether the FBI had spied on Trump World. Instead, Democratic counsel asked whether, given the FBI’s definition of spying, the bureau would “internally ever describe themselves as spying on American citizens.” It would seem that Democrats were every bit as convinced as Republicans that the FBI spied on Trump’s people.

Interpreting ‘Political Interference’

Democratic lawyer Shen also seemed to be engaged in damage control when she asked Priestap whether “political interference in the Department of Justice or FBI investigation [is] ever proper?”

Surprisingly, Priestap said it was: “In my opinion, I can imagine situations where it would be proper.” He explained that the political appointees in an administration might determine “that the national security interests of the country outweigh the law enforcement/prosecutive interest of the FBI and Department of Justice.”

Shen then appeared to push him to clean up his answer, suggesting that what Priestap was describing wasn’t “a political determination” but “a policy interpretation balancing national security and law enforcement.”

“Yeah. I guess,” Priestap said. “And maybe I misunderstood your question.” Then what does he do but repeat his belief that political appointees — and “by political, I could imagine, for example, the National Security Council” — might act on the notion that national security outweighs other considerations.”

“Right. Yeah. Right,” Shen said. “Let me rephrase.” She explained she wasn’t asking about decisions political officials make, but rather, decisions officials make for political reasons. Then came the rephrased question: “Is interference in a Department of Justice or FBI investigation ever proper when motivated by purely political considerations?” [Emphasis added]

“Not in my opinion,” responded Priestap.

What Shen was laboring to establish was that the only sort of investigative behavior that could be called political interference was when someone at DoJ or FBI acted out of “purely political considerations.” That’s a standard that leaves plenty of room for politics.

Targeting Trump?

But does it leave room enough for the “dossier”? The political abuse foremost in Republican minds was, and remains, that collection of howlers and hearsay allegedly compiled by Christopher Steele, who was sold to the public as a high-minded former British spy instead of a man being paid by the Clinton campaign to dirty up Trump.  Steele’s efforts were lapped up by the FBI and DoJ even though the lawmen knew Steele was peddling political work-product — opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Carter Page: Was he the real quarry, or was Donald Trump?

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

In particular, Republicans have charged that Steele’s dossier was presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court without full disclosure of its partisan origins, thus perpetrating a fraud on the FISA court. The accusation was formalized in May 2018, when Republicans demanded the appointment of a second special counsel because, they claimed, “the FBI and DOJ used politically biased, unverified sources to obtain warrants issued by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISA Court) that aided in the surveillance of U.S. citizens, including Carter Page.”

Shen, the House Oversight Committee minority counsel, brushed that accusation aside with what appeared to be an unambiguous and definitive question: “Mr. Priestap,” she asked, “are you aware of any instances of the FBI and DOJ ever using politically biased, unverified sources in order to obtain a FISA warrant?”

Priestap gave the most unambiguous and definitive of answers: “No.” One might be tempted to think that was an endorsement of the dossier, a confirmation that the FISA warrant applications were largely based on information that was neither politically biased nor unverified. But that would be taking the question and the answer on face value, when something rather less straightforward was going on.

Shen followed with another broad, all-encompassing question about the propriety of the FBI and DoJ’s behavior: “Are you aware,” she asked Priestap, “of any instances where the FBI or DOJ did not present what constituted credible and sufficient evidence to justify a FISA warrant?”

Priestap’s response is a textbook case of circular logic: “If it’s not justified, the court doesn’t approve it. So, like, if we’re not meeting the standard required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the requests are turned down.”

“So, in other words,” said the Democratic counsel, “by definition, if you presented information and a FISA court approved it, that would constitute credible sufficient information?”

“In my opinion,” said Priestap, “yes.”

Sit back and savor that exchange for a moment. One of the most senior officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation – an organization that regularly refers for prosecution people who don’t tell the full truth – champions this peculiar standard of credibility: If you can snooker a FISA court judge, the information used to traduce the court is rendered by definition “credible sufficient information.” What is the condition of the FBI if its leaders think whatever you can get past a judge is good enough?

This strange concept of legal alchemy aside, the question remains whether the dossier was used merely as a vehicle to get information on Carter Page, or whether the real quarry was Donald Trump himself. As before, Shen was unintentionally helpful at winkling inadvertent truths out of her cooperative witness. It started with the softest of softballs: “Are you aware of any FBI investigations motivated by political bias?”

“I am not.”

“Are you aware of any Justice Department investigations motivated by political bias?”

“No.”

 And a little later: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken to damage the Trump campaign at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

“No.”

And there Shen might have left it, having elicited basic denials that the FBI and Justice had abused their power. But then she pushed her luck, asking a question that wasn’t worded quite carefully enough: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken to personally target Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

Priestap must have pulled quite the face because Shen immediately declared, “I’ll rephrase.” Here’s how she tried it the second time: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken against Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

Before Priestap can answer, his lawyer, Mitch Ettinger, interjected: “I think you need to rephrase your question.”

At which point Shen’s Democratic colleague Janet Kim jumped in to help: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken against Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI for the purpose of politically undercutting him?”

At last, Priestap was able to say, “No.”

That long road to “no” strong suggests that the highest levels of Justice and the FBI personally targeted Trump and took action against him. The only caveat is that Priestap believes none of that targeted action was done to undercut Trump politically. That may be so (however much the savvy observer may think otherwise). But it doesn’t blunt the main takeaway — that the bureau and DoJ targeted Trump.

In Summary…

So what did we learn from Bill Priestap’s compendious and revealing testimony?

  • We learned that the FBI and Justice targeted and took action against Trump.
  • We learned that the FBI, according to Priestap, is incapable of securing a FISA warrant with information that isn’t credible, although the judge’s approval of the warrant means by definition that the information is credible.
  • We learned that the FBI believes political interference in an investigation can be proper as long as the bureau isn’t acting purely politically.
  • We learned that the FBI did send at least one asset to do to the Trump campaign an activity that even the bureau would call “spying” — if it were done by foreign operatives.
  • We learned that the origins of the Trump-Russia tale will never be fully understood until the part played by British intelligence is made clear.

That’s an awful lot to take away from one largely neglected transcript. But it suggests just how much remains unknown about the Trump-Russia investigation while providing a glimpse at the people that want to keep it that way.

Related Articles

Source: Real Clear Politics

Vladimir Putin is a dedicated enemy of the United States and the U.S.-led international order. But while the proof of Putin’s enmity towards America is abundant and clear, Putin is an excellent PR man when he wants to be.

Note, for example, his performance at the International Arctic Forum in his home city of St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

First, Putin played the tough guy. As thousands in the audience watched and the cameras rolled, Putin saw that his economic development minister, Maxim Oreshkin, was using his phone while Putin was speaking. Big mistake. Putin asked Oreshkin how much Russia had invested in import substitution in 2018. Oreskhin didn’t know the answer. Putin then publicly humiliated him. This is was the red meat for state TV: the macho man offering decidedly Russian black humor.

But Putin had a very different message for the foreign news media.

This alternate strategy was encapsulated when Putin was asked whether he wants President Trump to be reelected. Putin took a moment to consider his answer and then responded. U.S. policy towards Russia is often negative, Putin explained, but there are areas of compromise even on issues of disagreement such as Syria. Then Putin cleverly shifted the conversation to an area where international opinion is most unfavorable to the U.S.: President Trump’s refusal to support the Paris climate accord. Putin presented himself as the earnest intermediary here. “The U.S. emits a lot of greenhouse gases we have to understand that so we have to find a solution. We have to somehow engage with the U.S. in a dialogue.”

The diplomatic nice talk offered, Putin then returned to the original election question. It wasn’t for Russia to decide, he said. “This is not the sphere where such categories as ‘I want,’ ‘I don’t want’ apply. We respect the choice of the American people and whoever is elected we will work with him or her.”

The crowd clapped enthusiastically.

Of course, Putin’s warm earnestness is actually deliberate deception. As in 2016, Putin will interfere with the 2020 election to support the candidate whose victory he believes is most in Russia’s interest.

Yet the diplomatic lying is very clever. It’s not just that it sounds good, it’s that it subtly plays to the belief that Putin is misrepresented in international media. That he isn’t, in fact, the leader who blitzes some Syrian towns and covers up chemical weapons attacks in others. That he isn’t the leader who suffocates innocents in English country villages and kills journalists. That he isn’t the man who wants to dominate eastern Europe and, if undeterred, would do so by force.

Clever indeed. Putin’s words in St. Petersburg were classic KGB “deza” or disinformation operations. He said things that a lot of people want to believe. And thus Putin cleverly frames himself as the good guy.

The last time a Democrat won an open Senate seat in Arizona, he was helped along by a GOP candidate who never recovered from a campaign misstep in which he “shot a burro in the ass,” as the winning candidate’s campaign manager memorably put it recently. That candidate, Dennis DeConcini, was last elected in 1988. He retired after that term.

So how will liberal activists reward Kyrsten Sinema for becoming the first Democratic senator from Arizona since DeConcini? If Fight for the Future, a net neutrality pressure group, has its way, thanks will come in the form of a giant billboard “at one of the busiest intersections in Phoenix” calling Sinema “corrupt” and in the pocket of “corporate donors.” Her infraction is to be the only Democrat not to sign on to a net neutrality bill and instead to work with Republicans to craft a bipartisan bill that stands a chance of passing.

In this political climate, bipartisan cooperation is an unforgivable sin, and Sinema is repeatedly guilty of it.

Arizona has a new maverick.

Sinema, 42, has a compelling personal story that’s unique in one way: It informs her centrism, rather than serving as a platform for radicalism. By the time Sinema was 5, her middle-class Tuscon family was fracturing, her father mired in debt. He and her mother divorced, and Sinema was put into poverty. For a time, her Florida home was an old, remodeled gas station. “She’s a survivor,” former Democratic caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., said in 2015. “I think she’s smart about how she does it. I think a lot of people underestimate her.” The comment rings prophetic; in 2018, Crowley lost his own reelection bid against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the phenom freshman. In the same year, Sinema turned one of Arizona’s Senate seats blue for the first time in three decades.

[ Related: Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally have one thing they agree on: They hate each other]

During that winning campaign, she emphasized her credibility as a independent Democrat rather than a party hack. Asked by an Arizona radio station if she considered herself a “proud Democrat,” she responded: “Gosh, it’s hard to say proud. I don’t know that — I’m not sure that people are even proud of parties anymore, because I feel like the parties are not doing a good job. So I would say that I’m a proud Arizonan. That’s something I’m very proud of. And I’m proud of the work that I have done in Washington, D.C., and the work I’ve done in the state Senate and the statehouse before going to Congress. But I’m not particularly proud of the parties.”

Sinema was, according to the Arizona Republic, one of two members of the state’s Democratic House delegation who “sided with President Donald Trump’s agenda more in the past three months than most Republicans in the state’s House delegation.” But those three months weren’t much of an outlier for Sinema. In 2015, she opposed President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. She didn’t buy into the aggressive selling point that the only alternative to it was war. “I think it’s hyperbole and I think it’s not necessarily true,” Sinema told the Huffington Post. “It’s possible that if the deal didn’t go through, war could be one option and it could become more likely. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have options in front of us. I’m frustrated by these false dichotomies.”

Sinema also is a dissenter from left-wing orthodoxy on big banks. When, as senator-elect, she was given a spot on the Senate Banking Committee, the Washington Examiner wrote, “Sinema was long a friend of big banks in the House, and the committee appointment represents the return on a well-made investment. … During her Senate race against Republican Rep. Martha McSally, Sinema was in the top 20 of recipients of campaign contributions from both the banking and the finance sectors.Washington Examiner Commentary Editor Timothy P. Carney explained: “Sinema fought for the realtors and against Arizona’s taxpayers (disdain for whom she has repeatedly shown). Those efforts may explain why the realtors have spent $34,000 on ads supporting her Senate bid — the most they’ve spent on any Senate race this fall. In the House, one of Sinema’s core crusades was saving and expanding the Export-Import Bank. … Ex-Im is a corporate welfare agency that extends taxpayer-backed financing to foreign buyers of U.S. goods.”

[ Also read: Sinema forging paid leave plan deal with GOP]

And then there’s the issue that’s always a touchstone for Arizonans, immigration. In the House, Sinema had voted for legislation that would impose stiffer penalties on undocumented immigrants who reenter after being deported, as well as forcing immigrants who seek a healthcare tax credit to verify their status with the government first. Sinema took a harder line on asylum-seekers and, in October, backed Trump’s call to station more military personnel on the border with Mexico.

One advantage, according to Democratic campaign strategist Brad Todd, is that “she has been everything from a socialist anti-war protester to a vote against Nancy Pelosi, depending on what advanced her most in the moment.” Todd told the Washington Examiner that this worked especially well in 2018 because “Arizona’s Democratic talent bench was short and its base desperate for victory.”

Her Senate victory over McSally, who was later appointed to fill the seat of the original “maverick,” the late Republican Sen. John McCain, seemed only to reinforce her independent streak. In addition to her net neutrality sacrilege, Sinema is joining Republican colleagues to address paid family leave. According to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is leading the effort, Sinema was the first to cross the aisle on it, making it “the first bill that is bipartisan” on the issue. The plan, Cassidy told the Washington Examiner in early April, is likely to involve Social Security, perhaps allowing people to take benefits earlier to pay for family leave in return for delaying retirement.

Sinema signed on to an effort led by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to get the Commerce Department to release a classified report on auto tariffs and national security. She took heat from pro-abortion groups for supporting one of Trump’s judges, Arizona District Court nominee Michael Liburdi, in February. She was also one of only three Democrats to back the confirmation of Attorney General William Barr. She defended her vote in a statement: “As Arizona’s senior Senator, I will evaluate every presidential nominee based on whether he or she is professionally qualified, believes in the mission of his or her agency, and can be trusted to faithfully execute and uphold the law as it exists. After meeting with Mr. Barr and thoughtfully considering his nomination, I believe Mr. Barr meets this criteria.”

Perhaps most significant, however, was Sinema’s reaction to the controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. Omar is one of the members of the “Squad,” most notably the freshman trio of Omar, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ocasio-Cortez, who has turned her social media fame and grassroots devotion into an ability to set congressional Democrats’ priorities. An example is her climate boondoggle, the Green New Deal. It’s opposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., but that didn’t stop Democratic presidential hopefuls from signing on to it. This tension really came to a head over Israel, however.

Omar has repeatedly accused American Jews of dual loyalty. On one occasion, she claimed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, was paying off politicians to put Israel’s welfare before America’s. Tlaib had made similar dual-loyalty insinuations. Ocasio-Cortez stood by her colleagues, and when Pelosi tried to pass a resolution criticizing Omar’s anti-Semitism, Ocasio-Cortez and the grassroots led a revolt and won. The resolution was broadened far beyond anti-Semitism, and the final version was aimed at white nationalists more than anyone else. In March, the pro-Israel lobbying group held its annual conference, and Omar pushed Democrats to avoid it.

What was Sinema’s reaction to all this? The day of Omar’s tweet about the group, Sinema was at its regional dinner. The next morning, she tweeted: “Our support for a secure Israel as a beacon of democracy must remain unwavering. Proud to speak at @AIPAC‘s Phoenix dinner last night about strengthening and deepening this alliance.” She also spoke at the group’s national conference on March 25.

With Democrats increasingly souring on the alliance with Israel, Sinema is determined to stand athwart history shouting “Stop.”

Is her maverick status sustainable, or will pressure to conform amid increasing polarization be too strong? “My guess is if she’s going to have a primary challenge,” Brad Bannon, president of the D.C.-based Bannon Communications Research, told the Washington Examiner, “it’ll be more likely she gets a primary challenge from a Latino, because of the demography of the state, more than an ideological challenge.” Bannon says, “Politics is very much a function of the state you represent.” And Sinema “represents a state that is about as closely divided, in partisan terms, as you can get.”

Perhaps being a maverick in the McCain mold is the way to survive in Arizona statewide politics. For Sinema, that required transcending her reputation for radical anti-war politicking in the early 2000s. She was up to the task. “Few blue state politicians have the range to pull off that transformation, or the electoral room to pull it off,” says Todd. More Democrats, Todd told the Washington Examiner, should be taking notes: “I have been surprised [Alabama Sen.] Doug Jones has not tried it. Or that [former Missouri Sen.] Claire McCaskill didn’t try it.”

Despite the heat Sinema is taking from her left flank, Bannon thinks Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other party floor leaders will happily shrug off left-wing complaints: “My guess is Chuck Schumer doesn’t care. He’s trying to assemble a Democratic Senate majority, and in order to do that, he’s going to accommodate Kyrsten Sinema and other Democrats like her who may be running for either open seats or GOP seats in 2020.” Party leaders understand reality, Bannon told the Washington Examiner, and “the reality is, you can have a caucus that is monolithically liberal or monolithically conservative, but you can’t have a monolithic caucus if you’re in the majority.”

For that reason, Bannon says, “they’re willing to accommodate mavericks like Kyrsten Sinema.”

Seth Mandel is executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

Novelist Bret Easton Ellis has lamented “hysteria” over President Trump and described Michelle Obama’s comment that “when they go low, we go high” as “breathlessly condescending”.

“The hysteria over Trump is what I am talking about. It’s not about his policies or supposed racism. It’s about what I see as an overreaction to Trump,” Ellis said in an interview with the New Yorker. He said: “It’s not just the left. There seems to have been this hysterical overreaction that can be solved with voting him out of office.”

Ellis was talking about new book White, in which the Michelle Obama comment appears.

The author, who rose to prominence with Less than Zero, American Psycho, and The Rules of Attraction, was asked about the outrage over Trump calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. Ellis said he was more “bothered by people using that one thing two years later” in discourse surrounding the president.

“I was forced to care based on how it was covered and how people have reacted. Sure, you can be hysterical, or you can wait and vote him out of office,” Ellis said.

“They might very well vote him out. I hope they do, so we have some sense of normalcy in this household,” Ellis said referring to his live-in boyfriend, who he describes as a “Democratic, socialist-bordering-on-communist millennial.”

At a House Democrats conference this week, model Chrissy Teigen and musician John Legend shared their political ideas with an adoring crowd.

The celebrity couple, who addressed how to deal with internet trolls, could certainly contribute a unique perspective on civility.

But they failed. When moderator Melissa Harris-Perry asked Teigen and co-panelist House Speaker Nancy Pelosi what women should say more, Pelosi suggested “no.” Teigen, without missing a beat, recommended “fuck you.”

Because when our political discourse is in the mud, what we need is more dirt.

Teigen clarified on Twitter that what she meant was that women should express the expletive, if not in words, at least with their eyes and their vote.

It’s unclear what it means to say that phrase with your eyes. Maybe it means staring aggressively at politicians on the other side of the aisle? So the purest expression of feminism is now the angry glare?

Whether women actually go around saying “fuck you” to those they disagree with, which is not advisable as a path to success, or whether they express their fury with their votes, there’s the same underlying problem: rage.

Feminists and members of the #Resistance like to capitalize on anger to drive activism. But fury against the other side doesn’t help anyone accomplish anything. Same goes for Republicans. When women and men are confronted with the opportunity to pick incivility over rational discourse, they should take a cue from Pelosi and say “no.”

The new poll out from Siena College of New York’s 14th Congressional District shows that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is personally popular back home, sporting a 52% favorability rating.

But the poll also shows that her ideas and actions are not so popular — not even in a seat as heavily Democratic as hers. Any strong Democratic candidate with a bit of money and the right message should have a real shot at knocking her off in next year’s primary.

The first part of that message has to be about the Amazon deal. AOC was a minor player in blocking the business and the jobs it would have brought. But her outright opposition to Amazon is something that 57% of her constituents reject — I suspect the same is true of her longstanding opposition to building pretty much anything useful in the area. (It’s kind of amusing to see politicians treat Queens like it’s ANWR.) In fact, 58% of AOC’s constituents want Amazon to reconsider and come back over her objections.

This is, of course, the very issue on which to hit AOC hardest — she turned jobs away from the district she’s supposed to represent. After that, 40% already view her as too inexperienced to represent the district. Forty-three percent believe her views are “too far to the Left.” That can form another bit of the attack: She has these national and ideological ambitions, and her constituents’ interests come in a distant second, even in the event that she actually understands what they are.

As for AOC’s 52% favorability, it’s high, but it won’t take long to knock it down in a local campaign. Attack her actions in office and attack her extremism. Slam her as the camera-happy lightweight she’s proven to be so far in office. Ask if people wouldn’t rather elect someone who isn’t an embarrassment to her district and her party. Point to how AOC humiliated so many of the Democrats’ presidential candidates with her Green New Deal fiasco.

Conservatives would sorely miss AOC if she were to go down in a primary. They haven’t had anyone quite this fun to highlight and run against in some time — Nancy Pelosi doesn’t even come close. AOC has arguably made the careers of some YouTubers on the Right.

But nothing lasts forever. Politics abhors a vacuum, and New York’s 14th is looking pretty empty up there, if only the right person dares go for it.


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