Posts Tagged ‘Russian interference’

Comey Memos Reveal Trump’s Early Doubts About Flynn

April 20, 2018

Documents provide ex-FBI director’s account of meetings with new president and staff at a time when he faced uncertainty over whether he would be retained

Former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill on June 8.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill on June 8. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—Former FBI Director James Comey revealed in a series of private memos that President Donald Trump and his then-chief of staff had doubts within days of taking office about national security adviser Mike Flynn, who subsequently left the administration after misleading officials about his contacts with Russia and later pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement.

Mr. Comey’s previously unreported account of their take on Mr. Flynn was part of seven memos spanning 15 pages that were authored by Mr. Comey over a four-month period in 2017 and shared with Federal Bureau of Investigation leadership.

The memos were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday after being handed over to several congressional committees by the Justice Department.

Much of the material in the memos has been previously disclosed. Mr. Comey has previously said he documented several encounters with the president in contemporaneous written memos. He also testified in Congress that he eventually provided several of them to reporters through an intermediary.

Together, the memos provide Mr. Comey’s account of several meetings with the new president and his staff at a time when the FBI director faced uncertainty over whether he would be retained in his job by Mr. Trump.

They also provide a look at how the new president and administration grappled with a series of surprises, such as the leak of transcripts of Mr. Trump’s phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia and salacious claims made in an unverified dossier that Mr. Comey brought to the president’s attention.

The documents are also part of the wide-ranging probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr. Comey last year, which Mr. Trump denies. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

Mr. Trump late Thursday tweeted, “James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?’

Donald J. Trump


James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?

The memos reveal that Mr. Trump expressed concerns about Mr. Flynn’s judgment just eight days after becoming president. Mr. Comey recounts a Jan. 2017 dinner with the president during which Mr. Trump said about Mr. Flynn: “The guy has serious judgment issues.” At issue was the fact that Mr. Flynn hadn’t told the president about a phone call from an unspecified foreign leader.

People familiar with the matter say that the call was from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was the first foreign leader to call the White House to congratulate Mr. Trump after his inauguration. The call wasn’t brought to Mr. Trump’s attention until he was in the middle of a lunch with British Prime Minister Theresa May and was thanking her for being the first to call him.

Mr. Flynn piped up and explained that it was Mr. Putin, not Ms. May, who the first to call and that Mr. Trump was expected to return Mr. Putin’s call soon, the people said. According to the memo, Mr. Trump was furious “because six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call.”

Another memo documents Mr. Comey’s meeting with then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Feb. 8, 2017. In that meeting, Mr. Priebus asked if Mr. Flynn was being surveilled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Surveillance under that law is reserved for suspected agents of a foreign government. Mr. Comey’s answer is redacted.

An attorney for Mr. Flynn declined to comment. Mr. Priebus didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Comey testified for several hours last year in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after he was fired, telling lawmakers that he believed he was receiving an order when Mr. Trump said he “hoped” he would be able to end the FBI’s inquiry into Mr. Flynn.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Mr. Comey said.

Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying about calls he had with Moscow’s ambassador a month before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. In a court hearing, Mr. Flynn admitted he misled FBI agents about a series of calls he had last December with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in which they discussed sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration and a United Nations resolution critical of Israel.

Mr. Flynn resigned in February 2017, acknowledging that he hadn’t been truthful about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak.

The memos also give Mr. Comey’s account of what he saw as Mr. Trump’s fixation on salacious and unverified rumors that he had engaged prostitutes in a Moscow hotel in 2013. A dossier compiled by an ex-British spy alleges that Mr. Trump watched as Russian prostitutes urinated on a bed where former President Barack Obama and his wife had slept.

Mr. Comey’s memos recall a February encounter in which Mr. Trump “brought up the ‘Golden Showers thing’ and said it really bothered him if his wife had any doubt about it.” Mr. Comey added: “The president said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” but also that Mr. Putin had told him that Russia had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”

Capitol Hill Republicans—who had been pushing for the memos to be released publicly—said that the memos vindicated Mr. Trump, who has long argued that there was no collusion with Russia and that he didn’t obstruct justice in firing his FBI director.

“Former Director Comey’s memos show the president made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated,” Reps. Trey Gowdy, Bob Goodlatte and Devin Nunes said in a joint statement. The three Republicans chair the House Oversight, Judiciary and Intelligence committees, respectively.

Four of the memos were deemed to have classified information, while three are unclassified. Mr. Comey testified to Congress that they were his “unclassified memorialization” of conversations with the president. They were released to Congress with the classified information redacted. Unredacted versions will be available to members of Congress in a secure facility, according to the Justice Department.

Mr. Comey himself appeared to recognize that one of his memos contained information that was potentially classified. The memo, which was written in email form to three other FBI officials, contained a passage from Mr. Comey where he wrote: “I am not sure the proper classification here so I have chosen SECRET. Please let me know [if] it should be higher or lower than that.”

Mr. Comey is in the middle of a book tour for his memoir “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which is deeply critical of Mr. Trump.

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Comey of telling lies in a “badly reviewed” book.

Write to Byron Tau at and Michael C. Bender at

Appeared in the April 20, 2018, print edition as ‘Comey Memos Reveal Flynn Doubts.’


In Comey memos, Trump fixates on ‘hookers,’ frets over Flynn

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a series of startlingly candid conversations, President Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of a top adviser, asked about the possibility of jailing journalists and described a boast from Vladimir Putin about Russian prostitutes, according to Comey’s notes of the talks obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday night.

The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.

The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”

The president also accused Comey of leaking classified information. The memos obtained by the AP were unclassified, though some portions were blacked out as classified. Details from Comey’s memos reported in news stories last year appear to come from the unclassified portions.

In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been provided to Mueller, Comey has said he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened” to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.

The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.

In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as the president adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo.

In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, “has serious judgment issues.” The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message to an official whose name is redacted in the documents.

“I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn,” Comey wrote.

By that point, the FBI had already interviewed Flynn about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Justice Department had already warned White House officials that they were concerned Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn was fired Feb. 13, 2017, after White House officials said he had misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period by saying that he had not discussed sanctions. The following day, according to a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let go of the investigation into Flynn and called him a good guy. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The memos reveal that days before Flynn’s firing, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant.

“Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Priebus asked Comey, according to the memos, referring to an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Comey said he “paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels.”

Comey’s response is redacted on the unclassified memos.

The memos also show Trump’s continued distress at a dossier of allegations — compiled by an ex-British spy whose work was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — examining potential ties between him and his aides and the Kremlin. Comey writes how Trump repeatedly denied to him having been involved in an encounter with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

“The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” Comey writes, noting that Trump then related the conversation with Putin about the “most beautiful hookers.” Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.

The documents also include the president’s musings about pursuing leakers and imprisoning journalists. They also provide insight into Comey’s personal and professional opinions. He judges the administration’s travel ban to be legally valid, and he takes a swipe at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling her predecessor, Eric Holder, “smarter and more sophisticated and smoother.”

The memos were provided to Congress earlier Thursday as House Republicans escalated criticism of the Justice Department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials.

In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department was sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly but did not release the memos. The chairmen issued a statement late Thursday saying the memos show that Comey clearly never felt threatened, and Trump didn’t obstruct justice.

Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress. Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.

Boyd wrote in the letter that the department “consulted the relevant parties” and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He revealed last year that he had written the memos after conversations with Trump.

He said in an interview Thursday with CNN that he’s “fine” with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.

“I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I’ve been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I’m consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well,” he said.’s-‘judgment-issues



DOJ gives House Intel original document that prompted Russia investigation

April 12, 2018

The Hill


The Justice Department has provided House lawmakers with access to a two-page document that the FBI used as the basis for initiating its original counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

All members of the House Intelligence Committee received access to the document, a Justice Department official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had requested access to the unredacted document, complaining that previous “heavily” redacted versions were not adequate for committee Republicans’ investigation into alleged abuses at the Justice Department.

Image result for Trey Gowdy, photos

Trey Gowdy

According to Nunes, he and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon—one day after Nunes threatened to hold both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt and initiate impeachment proceedings against them if they did not comply with the request for the unredacted document.
“During the meeting, we were finally given access to a version of the [Electronic Communication] that contained the information necessary to advance the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Nunes said in a statement.

“Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” he added.

According to a Justice Department official, the remaining redactions in the document are “narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.” Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like “foreign official” and “foreign government,” the official said.

“These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation,” the official continued, adding that they appear “only a limited number of times, and do not obstruct the underlying meaning of the document.”

A handful of conservatives are investigating what they say is evidence that the department’s decisionmaking during the 2016 election was riddled with bias—allegations that Democrats see as a transparent effort to muddy the waters around Mueller, or provide a pretext to shut him down.

“We’re not going to just hold in contempt. We will have a plan to hold in contempt and impeach,” Nunes said of the two Trump-appointed officials on Fox News on Tuesday.

Nunes told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the document will confirm why the FBI opened its original investigation into the Trump campaign.

The New York Times reported in December that the federal probe—now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller—was initiated after the FBI received a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had claimed to an Australian diplomat that he had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

A memo authored by staff for Nunes that was declassified in February affirmed that the bureau opened the probe after receiving the tip regarding Papadopoulos.

But on Tuesday, Nunes appeared to cast doubt on that narrative.

“We haven’t been able to see the EC to confirm that,” Nunes told Fox, referring to the two-page document that he viewed Wednesday.

The revelation about Papadopoulos’ role ran counter to claims by some Republicans that the FBI used information from an unverified dossier of opposition research into Trump that was partially funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to open the probe.

That document—known as a the “Steele” dossier after its principle author, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele—made a series of allegations about the business mogul’s ties to Moscow. President Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt,” has also described the dossier as fiction and its role in the federal investigation has become a flashpoint on the right.

While Rosenstein’s willingness to let Nunes view the document appears to have succeeded in keeping the peace for now, Republican lawmakers on a separate committee are also fuming at what they say is an department foot-dragging on many of their attempts to obtain and review records.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Judiciary Committee member, said if his panel does not receive the documents they’ve requested as part of his panel’s investigation into FBI decision-making during the election, then all options are on the table.

“Our patience has run out because the American people’s patience have run out so I think if they don’t change things in a dramatic fashion in a short period of time — I’m talking days, not weeks or months — then I think everything is on the table,” Jordan told The Hill on Wednesday.

He said this includes contempt and impeachment proceedings as well as calling for resignations.

Image result for Adam Schiff, photos

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the two officials after Nunes publicly voiced his impeachment threat.

“Both Rosenstein and Wray have already made available to the Intelligence Committee scores of highly sensitive documents related to ongoing investigations — including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications — the details of which the majority proceeded to disclose in a deliberately misleading manner which the department rightly called ‘extraordinarily reckless,’” Schiff said in a statement.

“The chairman’s rhetoric is a shocking and irresponsible escalation of the GOP’s attacks on the FBI and DOJ,” he added, claiming it is intended to undermine Mueller’s probe.

Updated at 9:51 p.m.

The Zuckerberg Collusion — Plus How Facebook Stole Your Psychological Profile

April 12, 2018

Was it Facebook’s job to tell voters Russian bots were working for Trump’s election?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, waits to begin a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, waits to begin a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG

Somehow in our time all the problems of human existence have boiled down to one cause: Russian collusion.

What is the main reason Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of three committees of Congress? It is because the media connected a long series of dots to suggest the possibility that Russian bots exploited the personal Facebook data obtained by a firm named Cambridge Analytica to . . . put Donald Trump in the White House. Without the link to collusion—an infinitely elastic phrase with no legal meaning—Mr. Zuckerberg never would have had to leave Menlo Park.

The live Zuckerberg testimony was torture, forcing anyone interested to hear innumerable senators and House members share their thoughts on technology. Lowering the bar on Senate discourse below swamp level, Louisiana Republican John Kennedy said the Facebook user agreement “sucks.”

Despite the legislators’ thunderings about regulation, the likelihood of the House and Senate enacting rules for the web is more remote than Halley’s Comet, due back in 43 years. Congress has failed for years to bring royalty payments for creators of music into the digital age.

It’s sport now to mock Mark Zuckerberg, but taking an idea from your dorm room to a market cap of more than $400 billion proves he’s no dope. What Mark Zuckerberg thinks about what he did deserves attention.

Mr. Zuckerberg divided his prepared testimony between two subjects. The first, headlined “Cambridge Analytica,” was a proxy for the personal-privacy issue; the other was “Russian Election Interference,” a proxy for the collusion obsession.

The Facebook founder describes “Russian interference” as if it is so ubiquitous in his world that it has become an everyday term, like server farms. But Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony offered insight into how the dailiness of Russian interference morphed into the firestorm of “Russian collusion.”

He said Facebook was aware of “traditional” Russian cyberthreats “for years,” including a group called APT28, which he noted our intelligence services had linked to the Russians.

This time frame revives a relevant question: Why didn’t the Obama administration alert the American people in 2015 or earlier to the threat of Russian political subversion? Protecting us from Russian bots wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s responsibility.

We’ll push that further. The “Russian collusion” narrative began in January 2017, coincident with the release of a report by Mr. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, whose headline finding was, “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

Buried beneath the subsequent stampede toward “collusion” was the report’s extensive description of U.S. intelligence’s longstanding, pre-Trump concerns about a Russian “network of quasi-government trolls.” This network was suspected of running cyber-based propaganda campaigns against a range of targets—European governments, the Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and “since early 2014,” multiple state and local electoral boards. But somehow all this suspected Russian interference wasn’t worth putting in front of American voters until after they elected Donald Trump.

Some 15 months later, the Russian-collusion grand opera has degraded into an FBI smash-and-grab operation against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to find payoffs to porn stars. It’s little wonder nearly half the Senate showed up to discuss privacy for a day with the $70 billion man.

Privacy on the web matters, but the odds are overwhelming that before Congress gets to it, another technology—probably blockchain—will mitigate the problem. Of more pressing concern are Mr. Zuckerberg’s thoughts on what he keeps calling the values of the Facebook “community.” Meaning what?

A primary criticism of social-media platforms like Facebook is that they expose users to content that encourages “hate” or is “hurtful.”

Facebook’s answer to this perceived problem has been to hire some 15,000 people dedicated to “community operations and review,” with more monitors on the way.

During his pre-Congress apology tour, Mr. Zuckerberg elaborated on this subject to Vox:

“Over the long term, what I’d really like to get to is an independent appeal. So maybe folks at Facebook make the first decision based on the community standards that are outlined, and then people can get a second opinion.

“You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.”

Up to now, there has been no such thing in the United States as “acceptable speech” defined by the norms and values of people all around the world. Because of his status, Mr. Zuckerberg is a thought leader, and so this idea is not far-fetched.

The bedrock idea of free speech is under pressure in the U.S. now. But if I had to guess which will arrive first—federal regulation of individual privacy or a speech panel of “independent folks” defining what is acceptable—on current course, I think I know which one it will be.


As revelations continue to unfold in the latest Facebook scandal,  we now know that millions of its users have unwittingly participated in research revealing details about their friends, their shopping habits, and their psychological profile, otherwise known as “psychographics,” or profiling of personality.

According to one New York Times report (link is external), Facebook users opted in to complete a personality test using Qualtrics, software widely adopted by social science researchers to gather legitimate data in a convenient online manner. University researchers in the U.S. who use Qualtrics must undergo review by their institutions regarding the protection of study participants. Those review panels require that each Qualtrics survey begins with a statement of the rights of the participants, including confidentiality, anonymity (in most cases), the right to withdraw, risks and benefits, and a clear statement of what the participant can expect to have happen with the data. After completing the questionnaire, the researcher provides participants with a “debriefing” form that reveals the real purpose of the study along with contact information of the investigator.

It appears that these protections weren’t taken when Alaksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge (England) psychologist who worked for Cambridge Analytica, partnered with Facebook to provide a means of profiling users (who had to opt-in) with a personality test assessing the Five Factor Model.  This is a test that is widely used in legitimate research on everything from narcissism to psychopathology and every other personality constellation in between. There are short and long versions; this article(link is external) will lead you to some of these free versions.

It is true that those who gave their most intimate personality data to Kogan had to agree to participate, and then click on the link that took them to Qualtrics. However, what they didn’t realize was that the answers they provided would then provide Cambridge Analytica with profiles that could influence their Facebook feed. Other data about users also got drawn into the profile, which in turn gave even more personal information.

As part of the expose now coming to light, one study, in particular, has not received a great deal of attention, but in some ways is even more ominous than the Cambridge Analytica story alone. In 2015, Kogan published a scientific article(link is external) with collaborators from well-respected academic institutions as well as his company, and Facebook researchers, in which the claim was made that people of higher social status have fewer international friends. The underlying theory was that people with greater wealth and power don’t need to affiliate with people who aren’t like them; i.e., people from other nations. The authors didn’t seem to think that using data from millions of Facebook data, without their awareness, would constitute an ethical violation. See what you think after reading the details of this paper.

You can begin by considering the source of the paper. Published in the journal “Personality and Individual Differences,” which sounds reasonably legitimate (not exactly a grocery store tabloid), the article’s authors are listed as including an “Aleksandr Spectre.” This was Kogan in disguise, using his married surname. It would be impossible to make the connection between him and the Cambridge Analytica psychologist unless you knew to read the study’s footnote to this effect. Second, the journal itself is “Open Access.” This means that you can read the article yourself without requiring an institutional subscription, such as the very expensive university online databases. Sounds great, until you realize that the business model for Open Access journals involves having authors pay substantial sums to see their work reach the scientific community and popular press. In the case of this particular journal, the publisher (Elsevier) lists the fees as approximately $2350 USD(link is external) per article. In return for this fee, you’re guaranteed review by academic readers, so you can’t just publish anything.

The articles that the Open Access journal publishes may very well be as high quality as those published in non-open journals, but there is this important distinction to consider. Those considered to have met the highest standards for Open Access journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. These are the journals that must exercise rigorous peer review and editorial control. Personality and Individual Differences is not listed in this directory.

Now let’s turn to the article itself and how the authors stepped over the line in their use of Facebook data. They note that the population of Facebook users is highly appropriate for research on this topic: “Several aspects of the Facebook platform allow us to overcome certain classic challenges in social sciences. First, Facebook’s user base is massive, spanning over 1.3 billion users; thus, in our second study, our findings provide insights based on data from every corner of the earth and most walks of life” (p. 225). Kogan and his collaborators clearly believe that overcoming the “challenges” of having to recruit participants who deliberately agree to be in a research study justifies their use of data obtained without permission.

There were two studies published in the Yearwood et al. article. In the first, participants agreed through the normal route of providing consent to complete an online survey. As the authors point out, “no deception was used” (p. 225). All participants had at least one Facebook friend. When they agreed to be in the study, they agreed to authorize Facebook to gather information from their profiles automatically which may or may not have been in the “fine print” of the consent form. This agreement, though, meant they would now provide information that could be used to find out their total number of friends and where their friends were currently located.  The total number of friends whose locations and contact information was obtained, totaling 287,739 Facebook users. In other words, over a quarter of a million people had their Facebook data accessed without their knowledge, and all through the pushing of a “yes” button by the actual study participants.

The results of this first, survey-based, study showed a small but significant relationship between people’s social status and the number of international friends. The findings, the authors claimed to support the “restricting social class hypothesis” that wealth narrows your friendships to those in your own country. With this as their starting point, the Yearwood et al. team moved on to the next study using all the Facebook data in the world with, of course, the help of Facebook. As the authors stated, “Facebook provided data on every friendship formed in 2011 in every country in the world at the national aggregate level. These datasets included a total of 57,457,192,520 friendships. From these data, we knew how many friendships were made within each country (domestic friendships) and also how many friendships were made between every country pair (international friendships)” (p. 226). Although these were aggregated data (i.e. no data from individuals), profile and contact data of individuals clearly had to be fed into the analyses in some form.

To be sure, the Facebook data used in this second study was nation-, not individual-based. At this national level of analysis, the authors concluded that people from “high status” countries had fewer international friends than people from “low status” countries, a determination based on Gross Domestic Product of the user’s home country. The effect, though significant, was relatively small, with people from low-status countries having 35% international friendships and those from high-status having 28% of their friends located in other countries.

With these numbers in mind, the authors conclude that people of higher status (or at least those living in high GDP countries), are more likely to have outgroup biases, greater anxiety about people from groups other than their own, and higher levels of prejudice. People with greater wealth, in other words, “tend to think and act in ways that reinforce their social class” (p. 228), despite their greater opportunities to travel and conduct work at an international level.

This paper was only one of the studies, published or not, that Cambridge Analytica performed on Facebook users without their explicit consent. It fails to conform to the ethical standards that psychologists must adopt, as well as the standards that academic journals require before they will publish a study. Additionally, funding for this study was provided by a U.K. research grant as well as by a grant from St. Petersburg State University, in addition to the personnel and resources made available from Facebook. In the U.S., funding by the National Institutes of Health or National Science Foundation will not be provided to a researcher without clear identification of the methods used to recruit participants.

Psychology research can provide you with information that can enhance your life and make it that much more fulfilling. The Facebook studies were an anomaly. The next time you read a study, or consent to be in one yourself, this Facebook teaches you that it may be worth reading the fine print before you push that “agree” button.


Yearwood, M. H., Cuddy, A., Lamba, N., Youyou, W., van der Lowe, I., Piff, P. K., & … Spectre, A. (2015). On wealth and the diversity of friendships: High social class people around the world have fewer international friends. Personality and Individual Differences, 87224-229. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.07.040

Trump Make a Snap Decision To Replace McMaster With John Bolton

March 23, 2018


By Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev

  • McMaster Ousted Days After His Briefing to Trump on Putin Call
  • Trump names ex-U.S. envoy Bolton as national security adviser

Video: H.R.Mcmaster out, John Bolton to come in…
 Image result for John Bolton, photos
Trump Continues to Shake Up the Administration

President Donald Trump made a snap decision to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, moving as the administration weighs tough actions against Russia and acting far sooner than many White House aides expected.

McMaster’s departure had been the subject of intense speculation in recent days, yet most administration officials thought it wouldn’t come for weeks. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just a week ago that the two men had a great working relationship.

Trump and McMaster

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

But Trump changed all that on Thursday evening, abruptly replacing McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and proponent of the 2003 Iraq War best known for his hawkish views.

The move was announced by Trump on Twitter so quickly on Thursday afternoon that many of the president’s top aides didn’t know it was coming.

Even by the standards of Trump, it was a turbulent day that left staff frustrated and demoralized. Earlier, the president rattled markets by imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, saw one of his top lawyers in the Russia probe quit in frustration and watched Congress struggle to try to avoid a government shutdown.

Read more: This is John Bolton’s view of the world

The ride isn’t over: Sunday brings a “60 Minutes” interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who is expected to say she slept with Trump just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son in 2006.

North Korea

The McMaster move also means Trump is heading into talks with North Korea with a new national security team, having also just sacked his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump’s tariffs meanwhile risk alienating one of the most important countries to the success of those talks, China — which retaliated early Friday with $3 billion in levies on imports from the U.S.

McMaster’s exit also comes as Trump faces tough decisions on whether to punish Russia for the attempted assassination of a former spy in the U.K. His security advisers discussed on Wednesday a list of options to present to the president, including fresh sanctions, closing consulates and expelling Russians from the U.S., according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump has been asking aides what allies — including France and Germany — are doing in response to the attack, conducted with what the U.K. says was a Soviet Union-designed nerve agent.

Earlier this week, McMaster briefed Trump for a call with Vladimir Putin and didn’t warn against offering congratulations on the Russian leader’s election win, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Written guidance prepared for the president by White House advisers ahead of Tuesday’s phone call explicitly cautioned against complimenting Putin. But in a verbal briefing he personally delivered to Trump before the call, McMaster didn’t emphasize what not to say about the election, said the people, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Trump likely didn’t read the written guidance before speaking with his Russian counterpart, and he ended up offering good wishes to Putin on his re-election. That congratulatory message — uttered as the U.S. considers a tougher stance toward Moscow — prompted sharp criticism from senior Republican lawmakers and intensified tensions among White House aides involved in Russia matters.

McMaster’s omission may not have made much difference. By the time the call was set up at Trump’s request, two of the people said, most of the president’s advisers widely believed their boss wanted to congratulate Putin and would have ignored any advice to the contrary.

The administration’s stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin had been the source of friction between McMaster and Trump. Last month, McMaster echoed the sentiments of top U.S. intelligence officials who told Congress that Russians are targeting the 2018 elections with potential cyber attacks and efforts to sow political division.

Trump Conflict

“The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said on Feb. 17, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a Russian “troll farm” and its operators for an alleged covert social media campaign to influence the election.

McMaster called the Russian actions as described in the indictment a “sophisticated form of espionage.”

Trump rebuked him on Twitter, saying McMaster “forgot” to say that the results of the election weren’t changed by the Russian meddling — something the indictment didn’t address — and that the only collusion was between the Russians, Clinton and Democrats.

During his 30-minute call with Putin Trump didn’t mention such sensitive issues as the U.K. poisoning or ongoing concerns over Russian interference in U.S. elections. He conducted the conversation while alone in the White House residence, though some Trump aides were on the line. There has been some second-guessing in the White House that Trump was left without the proper staffing support at his side for this call.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, assailed Trump’s outreach to the Russian leader.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

Later, the Washington Post reported that written guidance for Trump had advised him not to congratulate Putin.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, had been the focus of recent speculation that he would soon leave as Trump reshaped his foreign policy team. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was said to be in consultations with Pentagon officials about finding a command that would have allowed McMaster to obtain a fourth star. In a statement released by the White House after his departure was announced, McMaster said he would retire from the military this summer.

Later Thursday night, after Trump announced his replacement, McMaster attended a dinner for visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Washington and received a standing ovation after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed him out in the crowd from the stage.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

What’s genius for Obama is scandal when it comes to Trump — They both used Facebook and Cambridge Analytica methods

March 21, 2018

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03/20/18 09:15 AM EDT

On Sunday, The Guardian reported on the supposedly nefarious workings of President Trump’s data-gathering team at Cambridge Analytica. The report suggested that Cambridge Analytica had essentially issued questionnaires through a third party; those questionnaires, which were personality quizzes, requested that you use your Facebook login. Cambridge Analytica then compiled data regarding those who completed the quiz and cross-referenced that data with political preferences in order to target potential voters.

This isn’t particularly shocking. In 2012, The Guardian reported that President Obama’s reelection team was “building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before.”

What, exactly, would Obama be doing? According to The Guardian, Obama’s new database would be gathered by asking individual volunteers to log into Obama’s reelection site using their Facebook credentials. “Consciously or otherwise,” The Guardian states, “the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.” 

Facebook had no problem with such activity then. They do now. There’s a reason for that. The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

Not so with Trump. As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm.

Again, this isn’t surprising. Since Trump’s election, Democrats — in search of a rationale for their favored candidate’s defeat — have blamed a bevy of social media outlets. Senate Democrats trotted out pathetic Russian-created memes on Facebook, viewed by a handful of human beings, as an excuse for Hillary’s loss; Democrats claimed — without evidence — that “fake news” had swamped Facebook and thus led to Trump’s victory. Democrats have also insisted that Facebook be regulated. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) raged, “You’ve created these platforms, and now they’re being misused, and you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will.” Facebook’s former privacy manager called for the government to step into an oversight role regarding Facebook.

In February, Wired magazine ran a cover story specifically dealing with Facebook’s role in the election of 2016, and their subsequent attempts to “fix” the problem. After the election, Mark Zuckerberg even met with Barack Obama, apparently in an attempt to convince Obama that he was serious about stopping the “misuse” of the platform. And in February, Zuckerberg said he wanted to re-jigger the algorithms on his platform to benefit content that Facebook deems “trustworthy, informative, and local.” Wired celebrated: “You can’t make the world more open and connected if you’re breaking it apart.”

The result of Facebook’s algorithmic changes: conservatives have been slammed. And that’s the point. A study from The Western Journal found that conservative sites have lost an average of 14 percent of their Facebook traffic; leftist sites saw a minor increase. Even major publications saw that effect: The New York Daily News saw a bump of 24.18 percent, while the New York Post dropped 11.44 percent.

And that’s the goal in covering Cambridge Analytica, and Russian interference on Twitter, and all the rest — even without any serious information suggesting that such interference shifted votes, the left can rest assured that its Silicon Valley allies will act to de-platform Republicans and conservatives. There’s a reason Twitter has suspended alt-right racists but continued to recommend that others follow Louis Farrakhan; there’s a reason YouTube is being sued by Prager University; there’s a reason Google used automatic fact-checking on right-wing sites but did no such thing for left-wing sites.

We’re in the midst of a radical reshifting in social media. Ironically, the people who have stumped against regulation — conservatives — are those being targeted by social media companies. If companies like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter don’t start acting like platforms again rather than like motivated left-wing outlets, Republicans likely won’t let principle outweigh practicality for long.

Ben Shapiro (@BenShapiro), a lawyer and conservative commentator, is founder and editor in chief of The Daily Wire. The author of seven books, he hosts a daily political podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Partisan Divisions Emerge Over Future of Congressional Russia Investigations

December 31, 2017

Republicans seek to bring House and Senate probes to an end, while Democrats push for more investigative work

WASHINGTON—As Congress is set to return from the holiday break, sharp differences have emerged between Republicans and Democrats over the next steps in the congressional investigations into whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections, with Democrats pushing for more investigative work and Republicans seeking to bring the probes to an end.

The chairmen of the two Republican-run investigations—which are separately being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence…

Russia probes in Congress spill into 2018

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems unlikely.

Three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in any way involved. The panels have obtained thousands of pages of documents from Trump’s campaign and other officials, and have done dozens of interviews.

The probes are separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller can prosecute for criminal activity, while Congress can only lay out findings, publicize any perceived wrongdoing and pass legislation to try to keep problems from happening again. If any committee finds evidence of criminal activity, it must refer the matter to Mueller.

All three committees have focused on a June 2016 meeting that Trump campaign officials held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and others. They are also looking into outreach by several other Russians to the campaign, including involvement of George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty this month to lying to the FBI as part of Mueller’s probe. New threads continue to emerge, such as a recent revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was messaging with WikiLeaks, the website that leaked emails from top Democratic officials during the campaign.

A look at the committees that are investigating, and the status of their work when they return from their Thanksgiving break:


The Senate intelligence panel, which has been the most bipartisan in its approach, has interviewed more than 100 people, including most of those attending the Trump Tower meeting. Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, have said they plan to bring in Donald Trump Jr. The president’s son was one of several Trump campaign officials in the meeting.

The committee has looked broadly at the issue of interference, and called in executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google, pushing them to take steps to prevent Russian election meddling on their platforms. Warner told The Associated Press the committee is still looking for more information from those companies, which were initially reluctant to cooperate.

Burr has said he wants to wrap up the probe by early spring. He said Monday that he hopes the panel can “at a minimum” release recommendations on election security before next year’s congressional primaries begin.

While there are many areas of bipartisan agreement on the meddling, it’s unclear whether all members will agree to the final report. It’s also unclear if the report will make a strong statement on whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russia.

Warner said it is plain there were “unprecedented contacts” as Russians reached out to the Trump campaign but what’s not established is collusion.

“What we don’t know is, is there a there there,” Warner said. “That’s still something I am reserving judgement on.”



In the House, Democrats hope the intelligence committee can remain focused on the Russia probe as the panel’s GOP chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, and other Republicans have launched new, separate investigations into Democrat Hillary Clinton and a uranium deal during President Barack Obama’s administration. Nunes stepped back from the Russia probe in April after criticism that he was too close to the White House, but remains chairman of the committee.

Some Republicans on the panel have grown restless with the probe, saying it has amounted to a fishing expedition and pushing for it to end. Still, the committee has continued to interview dozens of witnesses involved with the Trump campaign, among them several participants in the 2016 meeting.

The top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, told AP the committee has multiple interviews before the New Year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was scheduled to come before the committee this week, likely answering questions behind closed doors about interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians, and also his own contacts.

The panel has also scheduled an interview Thursday with Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater and a supporter of Trump’s campaign. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Prince was involved in a secret meeting in the United Arab Emirates in January with a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin.

Prince’s interview will be behind closed doors but the transcript will eventually be released, according to the committee.

Schiff said the Republican investigations into Clinton and Obama could be “an enormous time drain,” but they have not yet fully organized. He says the committee must be thorough and he doesn’t believe the Russia investigation should end soon.



The Senate Judiciary Committee has also divided along partisan lines as Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, haven’t agreed on some interviews and subpoenas. But as in the House, the panel has proceeded anyway, conducting bipartisan, closed-door interviews with several people who were in the 2016 meeting.

The panel is showing recent signs that it is aggressively pursuing the investigation. The committee is the only one to have interviewed Trump Jr. And just before the Thanksgiving break, it sent Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a letter asking him to be more forthcoming with the committee.

Grassley has been focused on a law that requires foreign agents to register and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. Along with the other committees, Judiciary is also looking into a dossier of allegations about Trump’s own connections to Russia.

It’s not known if the panel will issue a final report, or if its probe will conclude before next year’s elections.

FILE – In this Nov. 1, 2017, file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, speaks next to Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election activity and technology on Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2017, file photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., center, standing with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., right, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE – In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill in Washington. As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, some Republicans would like to wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging on an almost daily basis, that timeline seems unlikely. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Trump Expected To Announce Jerusalem As Capital of Israel

December 2, 2017
 DECEMBER 2, 2017 09:07


The Trump administration plans on rolling out a detailed proposal for peace in the coming months.

© AFP/File | The White House has described reports of an imminent move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “premature.” Above: U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

US President Donald Trump will announce that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, several US media organizations reported on Friday.

The reports note that Trump will not accompany the announcement with a final decision to relocate the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. They do not detail whether Trump will explain whether Jerusalem is Israel’s capital in part or in whole— one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long left to the parties to negotiate in a final status settlement.

It would be an unprecedented move which Palestinian Authority officials are already warning would kill the burgeoning peace process in the womb. The Trump administration plans on rolling out a detailed proposal for peace in the coming months.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser leading the administration’s peace effort, will speak on their plans at a Brookings Institution forum over the weekend.

US media separately reported on Friday that Kushner may be embroiled in the indictment and ultimately plea agreement of Michael Flynn in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the US election. The reports claim that Flynn lied to the FBI about contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the US over a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank last December, on which he was allegedly in communication with Kushner.

The Israeli government asked Trump’s team to intervene as that resolution was making its way toward a vote, and as the Obama administration was signaling it would allow its passage. It was before Trump’s inauguration, and thus Kushner and Flynn were still private citizens.

Donna Brazile: I considered replacing Clinton with Biden as 2016 Democratic nominee

November 4, 2017

By Philip Rucker
The Washington Post
November 4, 2017 — 2:00 PM

Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the removal of Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City.

Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with “stiff” and “stupid” messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where “someone had died.”

Hillary Clinton at a rally at Arizona State University in Tempe on Nov. 2, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Brazile alleges that Clinton’s top aides routinely disrespected her and put the DNC on a “starvation diet,” depriving it of funding for voter turnout operations.

As one of her party’s most prominent black strategists, Brazile also recounts fiery disagreements with Clinton’s staffers — including a conference call in which she told three senior campaign officials, Charlie Baker, Marlon Marshall and Dennis Cheng, that she was being treated like a slave.

“I’m not Patsey the slave,” Brazile recalls telling them, a reference to the character played by Lupita Nyong’o in the film, “12 Years a Slave.” “Y’all keep whipping me and whipping me and you never give me any money or any way to do my damn job. I am not going to be your whipping girl!”

Brazile’s book, titled “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” will be released Tuesday by Hachette Books. A copy of the 288-page book was obtained in advance by The Washington Post.

Perhaps not since George Stephanopoulos wrote “All Too Human,” a 1999 memoir of his years working for former president Bill Clinton, has a political strategist penned such a blistering tell-all.

In it, Brazile reveals how fissures of race, gender and age tore at the heart of the operation — even as Clinton was campaigning on a message of inclusiveness and trying to assemble a rainbow coalition under the banner of “Stronger Together.”

A veteran operative and television pundit who had long served as DNC’s vice chair, Brazile abruptly and, she writes, reluctantly took over in July 2016 for chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Florida congresswoman was ousted from the DNC on the eve of the party convention after WikiLeaks released stolen emails among her and her advisers that showed favoritism for Clinton during the competitive primaries.

Donna Brazile talks with CNN correspondent Dana Bash at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. Brazile writes that she reluctantly took over as DNC chairwoman that month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Brazile describes her mounting anxiety about Russia’s theft of emails and other data from DNC servers, the slow process of discovering the full extent of the cyberattacks and the personal fallout. She likens the feeling to having rats in your basement: “You take measures to get rid of them, but knowing they are there, or have been there, means you never feel truly at peace.”

Brazile writes that she was haunted by the still-unsolved murder of DNC data staffer Seth Rich and feared for her own life, shutting the blinds to her office window so snipers could not see her and installing surveillance cameras at her home. She wonders whether Russians had placed a listening device in plants in the DNC executive suite.

At first, Brazile writes of the hacking, top Democratic officials were “encouraging us not to talk about it.” But she says a wake-up moment came when she visited the White House in August 2016, for President Obama’s 55th birthday party. National security adviser Susan E. Rice and former attorney general Eric Holder separately pulled her aside quietly to urge her to take the Russian hacking seriously, which she did, she writes.

That fall, Brazile says she tried to persuade her Republican counterparts to agree to a joint statement condemning Russian interference but that they ignored her messages and calls.

Here is what you need to know about the political storm sparked by Donna Brazile’s allegations against the Clinton campaign. (Amber Ferguson, Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

Backstage at a debate, she writes, she approached Sean Spicer, then-chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, but “I could see his eyes dart away like this was the last thing he wanted to talk to me about.” She asked RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, too, but “I got that special D.C. frost where the person smiles when he sees you but immediately looks past you trying to find someone in the room to come right over and interrupt the conversation.”

There would be no joint statement.

The WikiLeaks releases included an email in which Brazile, a paid CNN contributor at the time, shared potential topics and questions for a CNN town hall in advance with the Clinton campaign. She claims in her book that she did not recall sending the email and could not find it in her computer archives. Nevertheless, she eventually admitted publicly to sending it, believing her reputation would have suffered regardless.

At the Oct. 19 debate in Las Vegas, with the email scandal simmering, the Clinton campaign sat Brazile not in the front row — where she had been at the previous debate — but in bleachers out of view of cameras. She recalls watching the debate with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, “among others whom they had to invite but wanted to tuck away.”

Brazile describes in wrenching detail Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. On Sept. 9, she saw the nominee backstage at a Manhattan gala and she seemed “wobbly on her feet” and had a “rattled cough.” Brazile recommended Clinton see an acupuncturist.

Two days later, Clinton collapsed as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero in New York. Brazile blasts the campaign’s initial efforts to shroud details of her health as “shameful.”

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to replace the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee the process of filling the vacancy.

After Clinton’s fainting spell, some Democratic insiders were abuzz with talk of replacing her — and Brazile says she was giving it considerable thought.

The morning of Sept. 12, Brazile got a call from Biden’s chief of staff saying the vice president wanted to speak with her. She recalls thinking, “Gee, I wonder what he wanted to talk to me about?” Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called, too, to set up a call with his boss, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley sent her an email.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), left, poses with his mother, Carolyn Booker, and then-Vice President Biden at a Senate swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol on Oct. 31, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Brazile also was paid a surprise visit in her DNC office by Baker, who, she writes, was dispatched by the Clinton campaign “to make sure that Donna didn’t do anything crazy.”

“Again and again I thought about Joe Biden,” Brazile writes. But, she adds, “No matter my doubts and my fears about the election and Hillary as a candidate, I could not make good on that threat to replace her.”

Brazile writes that she inherited a national party in disarray, in part because President Obama, Clinton and Wasserman Schultz were “three titanic egos” who had “stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes.”

Brazile writes that she inherited Wasserman Schultz’s office — with “tropical pink” walls that she found hard on the eyes — and “ridiculous” perks, such as a Chevrolet Tahoe with driver and a personal entourage that included an assistant known as a body woman.

In her first few days on the job, Brazile writes that she also discovered the DNC was $2 million in debt and that the payroll was stacked with “hangers-on and sycophants.” For instance, Wasserman Schultz kept two consulting firms — SKDKnickerbocker and Precision Strategies — each on $25,000-a-month retainers, and one of Obama’s pollsters was still being paid $180,000 a year.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) at a rally in Coconut Creek, Fla., on Oct. 25, 2016. She resigned as DNC chairwoman on the eve of the party’s national convention that summer. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

“The outgoing president no longer needed to assess his approval ratings or his policy decisions, at least not when the Democratic Party was fighting for its survival against a hostile foreign power,” she writes.

Brazile also details how Clinton effectively took control of the DNC in August 2015, before the primaries began, with a joint fundraising agreement between the party and the Clinton campaign.

She said the deal gave Clinton control over the DNC’s finances, strategy and staff decisions — disadvantaging other candidates, including Sanders. “This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” she writes.

An excerpt of this chapter — titled “Bernie, I Found the Cancer” — was published Thursday in Politico, sparking discord and recriminations through the party.

As she traveled the country, Brazile writes, she detected an alarming lack of enthusiasm for Clinton. On black radio stations, few people defended the nominee. In Hispanic neighborhoods, the only Clinton signs she saw were at the campaign field offices.

But at headquarters in New York, the mood was one of “self-satisfaction and inevitability,” and Brazile’s early reports of trouble were dismissed with “a condescending tone.”

Brazile describes the 10th floor of Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, where senior staff worked: “Calm and antiseptic, like a hospital. It had that techno-hush, as if someone had died. I felt like I should whisper. Everybody’s fingers were on their keyboards, and no one was looking at anyone else. You half-expected to see someone in a lab coat walk by.”

Staffers at Hillary Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn watch a GOP debate on Sept. 16, 2015. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

During one visit, she writes, she thought of a question former Democratic congressman Tony Coelho used to ask her about campaigns: “Are the kids having sex? Are they having fun? If not, let’s create something to get that going, or otherwise we’re not going to win.”

“I didn’t sense much fun or [having sex] in Brooklyn,” she deadpans.

Brazile writes that Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook and his lieutenants were so obsessed with voter data and predictive analytics that they “missed the big picture.”

“They knew how to size up voters not by meeting them and finding out what they cared about, what moved their hearts and stirred their souls, but by analyzing their habits,” she writes. “You might be able to persuade a handful of Real Simple magazine readers who drink gin and tonics to change their vote to Hillary, but you had not necessarily made them enthusiastic enough to want to get up off the couch and go to the polls.”

Brazile describes Mook, in his mid-30s, as overseeing a patriarchy. “They were all men in his inner circle,” she writes, adding: “He had this habit of nodding when you are talking, leaving you with the impression that he has listened to you, but then never seeming to follow up on what you thought you had agreed on.”

Brazile’s criticisms were not reserved for Mook. After Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri challenged Brazile’s plan for Kaine to deliver a pep talk to DNC staff at the party convention in Philadelphia, Brazile writes, “I was thinking, If that b—- ever does anything like that to me again, I’m gonna walk.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, right, and his lieutenants are described in the book as being so obsessed with voter data that they “missed the big picture.” Mook is seen on the campaign plane on Oct. 28, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Brazile writes with particular disdain about Brandon Davis, a Mook protege who worked as a liaison between the DNC and the Clinton campaign. She describes him as a spy, saying he treated her like “a crazy, senile old auntie and couldn’t wait to tell all his friends the nutty things she said.”


In staff meetings, Brazile recalls, “Brandon often rolled his eyes as if I was the stupidest woman he’d ever had to endure on his climb to the top. He openly scoffed at me, snorting sometimes when I made an observation.”

Brazile opens her book by describing the painful days following Clinton’s defeat. She received calls of gratitude from party leaders but still felt slighted.

“I never heard from Hillary,” she writes. “I knew what I wanted to say to her and it was: I have nothing but respect for you being so brave and classy considering everything that went on. But in the weeks after the loss, every time I checked my phone thinking I might have missed her call, it wasn’t her.”

Finally, in February 2017, Clinton rang.

“This was chitchat, like I was talking to someone I didn’t know,” Brazile writes. “I know Hillary. I know she was being as sincere as possible, but I wanted something more from her.”


Former Twitter Employee Says Fake Russian Accounts Were Not Taken Seriously — “More concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts”

November 3, 2017

In 2015, a manager discovered a trove of accounts with Russian and Ukrainian IP addresses

By Selina Wang

In early 2015, a Twitter employee discovered a vast amount of Twitter accounts with IP addresses in Russia and Ukraine.  The worker, Leslie Miley, said most of them were inactive or fake but were not deleted at the time. Miley, who was the company’s engineering manager of product safety and security at the time, said efforts to root out spam and manipulation on the platform were slowed down by the company’s growth team, which focused on increasing users and revenue.

 No automatic alt text available.

“Anything we would do that would slow down signups, delete accounts, or remove accounts had to go through the growth team,” Miley said. “They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts.”

Leslie Miley
Photographer: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Congress grilled social media companies this week about Russian interference on their platforms in the 2016 U.S. elections. Lawmakers scolded them for how long it took to recognize the seriousness of the manipulation. Twitter has revealed that more than 36,000 Russian-linked accounts generated about 1.4 million automated, election-related Tweets. It identified almost 3,000 accounts associated with the Russian pro-Kremlin Internet Research Agency, more than 10 times the number it had disclosed a few months before. But few people believe this is a definitive tally.

Throughout Twitter’s history, security took a backseat to free speech and growth, according to ten former employees who asked not to be identified. In the early days of Twitter, which was founded in 2006, a small handful of workers manually handled requests from users to take down abusive or spam content, according to former staff. Though the number of teams and people dedicated to security dramatically increased over the years, engineering resources remained scarce.

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Twitter has rotated through more than half a dozen product chiefs in the past several years, making it difficult for the company to set a consistent strategy around user security and safety policies, they said. For many years, dealing with activity from trolls, fakers and abusers was a game of whack-a-mole — not a problem to try to prevent. Twitter declined to make simple changes that would’ve mitigated the problem — like requiring a phone number to make an account or labeling bot accounts with a digital marker, according to some of the employees. Those efforts to prevent manipulation often came up against the growth team, whose chief concern was growing the monthly active users, the most important metric for Wall Street’s valuation of Twitter. This, said Miley and other former employees, set the stage for potential interference by more malicious actors.

“For many years, Twitter has fought a high volume of spam and spam accounts originating from Russia and Ukraine. The numbers of suspensions and other enforcement actions on such accounts number in the millions per week,” a Twitter spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. Bloomberg LP is developing a global breaking news network for the Twitter service.

More recently, Twitter has doubled down on security. In its testimony, the company’s general counsel said that it was dedicating all its engineering, product and design teams to rooting out Russian manipulation on its platform. It also said it’s improved algorithms to actively block suspicious logins and spam accounts. Yet experts are less than impressed.  When Congress asked Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute to grade how the tech companies are responding to malicious actors on its platform, he said: “All have improved in recent years. Facebook is the best based on my experience. Google is not far behind. Twitter would be last and always resists.”

Miley joined Twitter in 2013. He started the product safety and security team in 2014. In 2015 he became a manager on the accounts team where he was responsible for the infrastructure that handled user log-ins.

Miley was dismissed during a round of job cuts at the end of 2015. But as the only African-American engineer in a leadership position at Twitter, he said he had already told the company he planned to leave because of his frustrations with management and the company’s lack of diversity. He also said he declined the severance package so he could speak about his experiences at the company. Miley recently left Slack as the head of engineering to work with Venture for America, a non-profit that encourages entrepreneurship. Before Miley left Twitter, he became increasingly concerned about the proliferation of malicious accounts on the platform.

In 2015, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley approached Twitter, asking for help, Miley said. They had found that Twitter had a significant amount of fake accounts, but wanted more data to further their research. Three employees on the product safety and security team, including Miley, met with them. They declined to give the academics data, but the meeting made them curious.

Afterward, the employees ran an analysis on Twitter’s accounts. Miley said he was stunned to find that a significant percentage of the total accounts created on Twitter had Russian and Ukrainian IP addresses. According to Miley’s recollections, he brought the information to his manager, who told him to take the issue to the growth team. Miley said that he doesn’t have records of the tallies.

“When I brought the information to my boss, the response was ‘stay in your lane. That’s not your role’,” Miley said.

Miley said he advised the growth team to delete most of the accounts they had surfaced from Russia and Ukraine, since the analysis suggested that most were inactive or fake. The growth team didn’t take any action on the Russian and Ukrainian accounts after he presented the data to them, according to Miley.

Many pro-Trump bots that were active during the 2016 U.S. elections were long-dormant accounts, according to researchers. These profiles give the illusion that they’re legitimate, and not created for the sole purpose of spreading propaganda during a campaign, according to Samuel Woolley, research director of the Digital Intelligence Lab at Institute for the Future, a non-profit research organization.

During Twitter’s testimony this week, multiple congressmen pressed the company about the percentage of fake or spam accounts. Twitter says it’s less than 5 percent, while outside research has found the number to be closer to 15 percent.




What Team Obama didn’t want you to know about the al Qaeda-Iran alliance

November 3, 2017

The New York Post
Editorial Board

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo has just released hundreds of thousands of documents, long withheld by the Obama administration, that were seized in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

There are no surprise revelations — but they more fully document the years-long extensive cooperation between al Qaeda and Iran that was still ongoing when bin Laden met his end.

And that raises even more disturbing questions about the nuclear deal Team Obama cut — and the real reason these documents weren’t disclosed until now.

Particularly a 19-page assessment by a senior jihadist of the Qaeda-Tehran ties: how Iran supplied “everything [we] needed,” including “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon,” as well safe haven for other jihadis.

Yes, there were occasional conflicts and jealousies — but not enough to sever the relationship, which bin Laden himself described as post-2001 al Qaeda’s “main artery for funds, personnel and communication.”

The Obama White House had this information for nearly five years before negotiating the nuclear deal — talks in which it refused to address Iran’s continuing sponsorship of terror even as it agreed to provide it with more than $100 billion in sanctions relief and hostage ransom payments.

Secretary of State John Kerry himself admitted that much of the money would go to supporting terrorist groups.

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And that includes al Qaeda — which, the documents show, was very much under bin Laden’s control until the moment a Navy SEAL team took him out.

To ensure passage of the nuke deal, did Obama and his CIA directors withhold anything that could undercut their claims about encouraging Iranian “moderates”?

It sure looks that way.

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