The Present Danger

According to The New York Times:

[A joint intelligence bulletin issued by federal authorities says] the deadly breach at the Capitol last week will be a “significant driver of violence” for armed militia groups and racist extremists who are targeting the presidential inauguration next week.

Disseminated widely to law enforcement agencies across the country, the bulletin is labeled “Domestic Violent Extremists Emboldened in Aftermath of Capitol Breach, Elevated Domestic Terrorism Threat of Violence Likely Amid Political Transitions and Beyond.” [It says] anti-government militias and racists extremists “very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021″.

The “boogaloo,” a movement that seeks to start a second civil war, and extremists aiming to trigger a race war “may exploit the aftermath of the Capitol breach by conducting attacks to destabilize and force a climactic conflict in the United States,” according to the bulletin.

The federal officials wrote that extremist groups have viewed the breach of the Capitol as a success and have been galvanized by the death of Ashli Babbitt, a QAnon follower who was shot by the police as she tried to enter the . . . Speaker’s Lobby, just outside the House chamber. The extremists could perceive that death as “an act of martyrdom”.

[The bulletin says] the Capitol breach, as well as conspiracy theories from QAnon, will likely inspire such extremists “to engage in more sporadic, lone-actor or small-cell violence against common” violent extremist “targets, including racial, ethnic, or religious minorities and institutions, law enforcement, and government officials and buildings”.

The federal officials also wrote that “the shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election,” the false claim perpetuated by President Txxxx, “may lead some individuals to adopt the belief that there is no political solution to address their grievances and violent action is necessary.”

The Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., and subsequent breach of the Capitol also offered an opportunity for militia members and extremists from different groups to meet, which could increase the extremists’ “willingness, capability, and motivation to attack and undermine a government they view as illegitimate.”

Unquote.

So some parts of the federal government are already conveying accurate information. It’s a step forward that people at these agencies were allowed to point out that their (current) boss is lying about winning the election and that right-wing extremists are the most dangerous domestic threat (as they’ve been for years). 

In other good news, Jim Acosta of CNN tonight referred to the president as “Lord of the Lies”. But where was he with that phrase the past four years when we really needed it?

On Borrowed Time, Georgia On Our Minds⁠

From former National Security Adviser Susan Rice in The New York Times:

For now, our democracy has held. It’s dodged a bullet — or, more precisely, multiple concerted efforts by the president of the United States to torpedo its very foundations. . . 

Still, the lesson we must learn is not a reassuring one: A determined autocrat in the White House poses a grave threat to our democratic institutions and can severely undermine faith in our elections, particularly when backed by partisans in Congress.

Perhaps only when the stars are optimally aligned — when voters turn out in huge numbers, when the outcome is not close, when state and local officials and the courts adhere to the rule of law, when foreign interference is thwarted, when the media behaves responsibly and when people remain peaceful — can our democracy endure its greatest tests.

[This president] will leave office on Jan. 20, whether he acknowledges defeat or not. Yet, if his Republican enablers in Congress retain a Senate majority, they will not hesitate to reprise the politics of power at any cost, even by again subverting the democratic process.

So, bolstering our democracy depends in large part on the people of Georgia voting out their incumbent senators on Jan. 5. If the Senate flips to Democratic control, Congress will be able to apply the lessons of our democracy’s near-death experience.

It would enact the For the People Act to combat corruption, strengthen ethics rules and improve voter access as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the protections of the 1965 legislation. Congress would pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the power of future presidents who deem themselves above the law and finally adopt long-stalled legislation to shore up our election infrastructure against adversaries, foreign or domestic.

Now is no time for self-congratulation or complacency. We must act with the unique urgency and courage of those who know they are living on borrowed time.

Stunning Disclosures That Aren’t Breaking News

Feeling the effects of a two weeks-long news vacation, I took a calculated risk and reviewed the subjects my two favorite columnists have written about. There wasn’t anything especially intriguing from Paul Krugman of The New York Times. But The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman got me reading with this headline: “Stunning new disclosures blow huge holes in Trump’s Potemkin facade”. 

From way back on September 9th, in other words, old news for you:

President Txxxx’s argument for reelection has two fundamental pillars. First, his handling of the pandemic was uniformly stupendous, vanquished the coronavirus to the point where it’s largely behind us and revealed that he has cared deeply about its victims all along.

Second, now that pandemic has been largely crushed, the most dire threat to ordinary Americans’ lives and communities is a terrifying specter of organized left-wing political violence that threatens civil collapse, and only Txxxx can stop it.

A host of new revelations — some involving Txxxx’s early understanding of the coronavirus threat, and others concerning his efforts to fabricate a leftist domestic terrorist menace — have blown up this multifaceted Potemkin facade.

The new revelations also illustrate in stark new detail just how corruptly Txxxx and his cronies have manipulated the levers of government to make all those illusions appear as truths.

[Note: The President Commits Murder in the First Degree]

We begin with the explosive disclosures in Post associate editor Bob Woodward’s new book about the Txxxx administration. With the U.S. death toll from covid-19 now approaching 200,000, Woodward’s conversations with Txxxx — all of which are on tape — reveal that the president knew all along how bad the pandemic would be.This is what Txxxx told Woodward on Feb. 7:

You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. … This is more deadly. This is 5 percent vs. 1 percent and less than 1 percent. You know, so this is deadly stuff.

So to be clear, on Feb. 7 — when there were only 11 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the United States — Txxxx both emphasized the danger of the virus being passed through the air and explicitly declared he understood it was far more deadly than the flu.

Then on March 19, Txxxx told Woodward this:

Well I think Bob, really to be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.

Txxxx admitted he knew the pandemic was worse than he said publicly, and that he deliberately minimized it to avoid panic. Remember, it has already been reported that the “panic” he feared was spooking the markets because that threatened his reelection.

Only one month later, on March 9, Txxxx dismissively compared the coronavirus with flu, claiming flu kills tens of thousands annually and that “life & the economy go on.” Txxxx downplayed the virus and said it was under control numerous times throughout February and March and beyond.

Even if a leader might in certain circumstances be justified in holding back information to avoid a panic, this was not one of those circumstances. In this case, there were very specific measures that we needed Americans to take to limit the virus’s spread, including social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings and wearing masks.

Every time the president said the pandemic wasn’t serious, he persuaded people not to take those measures. Not only that, he actively discouraged people from taking them, cheering on protests of lockdown orders in Democratic-controlled state capitals. He did this with the full knowledge that it would worsen the pandemic, leading to more deaths.

[The President Covers Up / Makes Up Threats to National Security]

Now on to the second revelation: House Democrats just released a complaint from a new whistleblower at the Department of Homeland Security. It makes a series of extraordinary charges about senior DHS officials seeking to manipulate intelligence to boost Txxxx politically.

The complaint from the whistleblower, Brian Murphy, a senior official at DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, claims intense pressure was brought to bear to hype the threat of leftist violence. The complaint says two top DHS officials — acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf and deputy Ken Cuccinelli — halted the distribution of a Homeland Threat Assessment because of how it “would reflect upon President Txxxx.”

“Two sections were specifically labeled as concerns: White Supremacy and Russian influence in the United States,” the complaint continues.

On Russian influence, the complaint says, Wolf ordered Murphy in May 2020 to report on efforts by China and Iran to interfere in our election, and to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference.”

Incredibly, the complaint says Murphy “would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”

The hyping of China and Iran seemed designed to false-equivalence away Russian interference, as Txxxx wants. Notably, we’ve already seen previous intelligence reports on foreign interference play this same deception game.

On white supremacy, the complaint describes discussions in May and June of 2020 with Cuccinelli about the DHS threat assessment at which this happened:

Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent “left-wing” groups. Mr. Murphy declined to make the requested modifications, and informed Mr. Cuccinelli that it would constitute censorship of analysis and the improper administration of an intelligence program.

That is simply remarkable — both in its downplaying of the right wing extremist threat and in its hyping of a leftist one.

Now remember that many of Txxxx’s top national security officials — including Attorney General William P. Barr, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and acting Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan — have made public statements hyping the notion of a left-wing domestic terror threat. . . .

Much of [the Republican] convention was devoted to manufacturing illusions of an active, far-reaching and organized leftist domestic extremist threat.

Now we’re learning that intelligence may have been actively perverted to support this narrative in a manner that prompted a whistleblower to repeatedly object — and now to come forward.

All this comes as Barr is set to release a review of the origins of the Russia investigation that could discredit its findings, facilitating another round of Russian sabotage. Meanwhile, Txxxx’s intelligence officials are no longer providing in-person briefings on that sabotage, limiting members of Congress’s understanding about what Russia is doing and further easing their ability to meddle in our election. . . . 

Every time we think we’ve penetrated through to the very worst of this corruption, another layer gets peeled back, revealing still more. . . . 

“Four More Years Are Unthinkable”

Another Republican admits the truth. He is Miles Taylor, former Chief of Staff of the Department of Homeland Security. His job included trying to keep the president informed about national security issues.

He also expressed his views for The Washington Post:

After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Txxxx administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions.

Like many Americans, I had hoped that Dxxxx Txxxx, once in office, would soberly accept the burdens of the presidency — foremost among them the duty to keep America safe. But he did not rise to the challenge. Instead, the president has governed by whim, political calculation and self-interest.

I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.

The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted several times.

Txxxx’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.

The decision-making process was itself broken: Txxxx would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.

Incredibly, after this ill-conceived operation was rightfully halted, in the following months the president repeatedly exhorted DHS officials to restart it and to implement a more deliberate policy of pulling migrant families apart en masse, so that adults would be deterred from coming to the border for fear of losing their children. The president was visibly furious on multiple occasions when my boss, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, refused.

Top DHS officials were regularly diverted from dealing with genuine security threats by the chore of responding to these inappropriate and often absurd executive requests, at all hours of the day and night. One morning it might be a demand to shut off congressionally appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him, and that evening it might be a request to sharpen the spikes atop the border wall so they’d be more damaging to human flesh (“How much would that cost us?”). Meanwhile, Txxxx showed vanishingly little interest in subjects of vital national security interest, including cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and malicious foreign interference in U.S. affairs.

How can you run a huge organization under those conditions? You can’t. At DHS, daily management of its 250,000 employees suffered because of these frequent follies, putting the safety of Americans at risk.

The president has similarly undermined U.S. security abroad. His own former national security adviser John Bolton made the case so convincingly with his recent book and public accounts that there is little to add, other than to say that Bolton got it right. Because the commander in chief has diminished America’s influence overseas, today the nation has fewer friends and stronger enemies than when Txxxx took office.

Txxxx has also damaged the country in countless ways that don’t directly involve national security but, by stoking hatred and division, make Americans profoundly less safe.

The president’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic is the ultimate example. In his cavalier disregard for the seriousness of the threat, Txxxx failed to make effective use of the federal crisis response system painstakingly built after 9/11. Years of DHS planning for a pandemic threat have been largely wasted. Meanwhile,  more than 165,000 Americans have died.

It is more than a little ironic that Txxxx is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president. His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.

Unquote.

The numbers are getting too big to comprehend, but, as The New York Times reported this week, “the true coronavirus toll in the U.S. has already surpassed 200,000”.

Hillary Makes Her Case and Lambastes Trump

Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in San Diego today during which she explained her national security priorities and showed Trump no mercy. And she did it while being totally “Presidential”. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that she is a serious person who is seriously qualified to be President. Here’s a brief summary of her remarks from The New York Times. It’s accurate enough but leaves out her argument that doing things like reducing income inequality and fostering human rights also contribute to our national security. 

You can see the whole speech courtesy of CSPAN. It’s beyond belief that any rational person could watch it and go away thinking Trump would do a better job protecting us than she would. If you asked them, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Vladimir Putin, would agree.