Archive | July, 2018

The U.S. Needs to Face Up to Its Long History of Election Meddling

By Peter Beinart

On Sunday morning, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul about Russian interference in the 2016 election. At 7:40 AM, a CNN analyst named Josh Campbell tweeted some of Paul’s comments. He quoted the senator as declaring that the Russians “are going to spy on us, they do spy on us, they’re going to interfere in our elections. We also do the same … We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.” He also quoted Paul as labeling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference with the 2016 election a “witch hunt.”

At 8:23 AM, the liberal author and journalist David Corn retweeted Paul’s quotes with a single word of commentary: “Traitor.” (When I asked Corn about his tweet, he argued that “Paul was excusing a foreign adversary’s attack on the United States. That’s a direct blow at U.S. national-security interests.”)

Corn’s tweet illustrates the danger of this moment. Donald Trump’s refusal in Helsinki to credit his intelligence agencies’ findings about Russian electoral interference has unleashed a nationalist fury in Washington unseen since September 11. In this moment—thick with accusations of “treason” and references to Pearl Harbor—discussing America’s own penchant for election meddling is like discussing America’s misdeeds in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. It’s apt to get you labeled a traitor.

That’s a problem. Discussing America’s history of electoral interference has never been more necessary. It’s necessary not so Americans can downplay the severity of Russia’s election attack. It’s necessary so Americans can determine how—and how not—to respond. The less Americans know about America’s history of electoral interference, the more likely they are to acquiesce to—or even cheer—its return. That’s dangerous because, historically, American meddling has done …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



This Isn’t Dianne Feinstein’s Democratic Party

By Todd S. Purdum

LOS ANGELES—If any proof were still needed that California is ground zero of the “Resistance”—not just to Donald Trump, but to establishment politics as usual—it came crashing along this week when the executive committee of the state Democratic Party endorsed Kevin de León, the comparatively obscure former leader of the state Senate, over Dianne Feinstein, the iconic 25-year incumbent, for the U.S. Senate.

Never mind that Feinstein crushed de León in the state’s “jungle primary” last month, winning 2.9 million votes to his 804,000 in a system that sends the top two finishers to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Never mind that the activist membership of the party committee and de León’s labor-union base do not reflect the broader Democratic electorate, or that Feinstein remains the prohibitive favorite to win in the fall. The state party’s liberal, anti-establishment wing is already winning the future.

“This is Kevin de León’s Democratic Party,” says Dan Schnur, a veteran political strategist who has worked for Republicans from John McCain to former Governor Pete Wilson, but now considers himself an Independent. “The only question is how much longer Dianne Feinstein is allowed to remain part of it.”

Over the past 20 years, California has become such reliably blue territory that not a single Republican holds statewide office. And just as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sui generis ascendancy a decade ago obscured the Republican Party’s inherent political and demographic weakness in the state, Jerry Brown’s successful tour of duty in Sacramento has suppressed, or at least papered over, the underlying internal divisions in the state Democratic Party—divisions that have come sharply to the fore since Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016.

Brown is leaving office this year at age 80, at the top of his game, with the patina of his 1970s reputation …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



How NFL Players Can Avoid Playing Into Trump’s Hands

By Conor Friedersdorf

Given my druthers, NFL players returning to the gridiron this fall would restart their protests against unjust police killings in a new way: They would stand tall during the national anthem while conspicuously holding mini flagpoles with a trio of tiny banners: the Stars and Stripes on top, signifying their patriotism, Black Lives Matter in the middle, signifying their cause, and beneath it a flag declaring, “Donald Trump = cowardly identity politics + political correctness.”

That equation would be substantively justified by the president’s push to have NFL players punished by their employers for engaging in political speech—an action that no elected official should ever take—and his reason for doing so: the political gains he expects if he can stoke ethnic tensions and polarization around a racially tinged debate just as the nation is preparing to vote in this fall’s midterm elections.

Trump may well get his way.

“Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem could be suspended for up to four games under a team policy issued this week,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday. “Miami’s anthem policy comes after the NFL decided in May that teams would be fined if players didn’t stand during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ while on the field. The league left it up to teams on how to punish players. None of the team policies have been made public.” That story prompted the NFL to announce a temporary freeze on the enforcement of its new policy, until it can come to an agreement with the players’ union.

The stage is thus set for autumn confrontations between the NFL and its teams, which want to avoid offending the sensibilities of fans in ways that risk revenue, and NFL players, who may react to being told what they must do on penalty of punishment …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Israel’s New Law Inflames the Core Tension in Its Identity

By Emma Green

Israel passed a law this week that has been floating around the Knesset for a half-dozen years. Branded the “nation-state bill,” the legislation declares that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It establishes Hebrew as the official language of Israel and downgrades Arabic to a language with “special status,” even though many people in Israel’s sizeable Arab minority primarily speak in Arabic. The law also asserts that Jewish settlement—without specifying where—is a national value, and promises to encourage and advance settlement efforts.

Some liberal Jews, especially outside of Israel, are outraged. “The damage that will be done by this new nation-state law to the legitimacy of the Zionist vision … is enormous,” wrote Rick Jacobs, the head of the U.S.-based Union for Reform Judaism, in a press release. J Street, a liberal Zionist organization, called it “a sad day for Israel and all who care about its democracy and its future.”

The law is controversial because it inflames the core tension in Israel’s identity. The country was established as a democracy—and a model of Western, liberal values—but it’s also premised on Jewish identity. In a state established as the national homeland of the Jews, it was never entirely clear what rights non-Jewish minorities should be assigned, and Israel has been arguing with itself over how to balance these identities since it was founded. Critics, especially Jews in diaspora, see this new law as a definitive declaration in favor of the Jewish identity at the expense of the democratic one.

The interpretations of those outside the land and those living there don’t always overlap, however. Israel’s new law is a consequential signal of Israel’s values, especially when it comes to Arab-Israeli minority …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trailer: The Fight to Reunify Separated Families

By Jeremy Raff

One month ago, Anita and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were separated at U.S.-Mexico border. “I haven’t talked to him—I know nothing about my son,” says Anita in this trailer for an upcoming Atlantic original documentary. “This whole thing is a nightmare.”

But pro bono attorney Jodi Goodwin is fighting for Anita. The film, premiering in August, follows Goodwin as she leads a team of lawyers pressing the government to reunite the more than 2,500 children still separated from their parents— including Anita’s son.

For more reporting from the border, read “Nine Days of Agony” and watch “Kids Describe the Fear of Separation at the Border.”

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Can the Cohen Tapes Bring Down Trump?

By Julian E. Zelizer

After a tumultuous week, The New York Times reported on Friday that the FBI has in its possession tape-recorded conversations between attorney Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump in September 2016. In one of the conversations, the two men can be heard discussing potential hush-money payments to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, with whom Trump had an affair. CNN reportedthat the FBI had also seized recordings of other, “more mundane” conversations with the president.

The revelation of the tapes comes almost 45 years after the most famous secret presidential tape revelation of all—the moment on July 16, 1973, when the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and former deputy assistant to the president, Alexander Buttterfield, told the Senate Select Watergate Committee in a televised hearing that President Richard Nixon had recorded his Oval Office conversations. The tapes helped bring an end to Nixon’s presidency. This time, Cohen’s tapes probably won’t have the same effect.

The Watergate Committee, chaired by the folksy North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, had started its televised hearings in May. Throughout the summer, the nation had been riveted as the senators questioned administration officials about what Nixon’s White House had been up to. The most dramatic testimony took place in late June, when former White House Counsel John Dean said that Nixon had discussed methods to cover-up information and even stifle the investigation through “silence money” and promises of clemency.

But Republican support for the president remained strong and the idea of impeachment remained far-fetched. Even after Dean testified, Nixon remained confident that he could survive. As John Farrell writes in his award-winning biography of the president, the testimony until that point was “hearsay.” At one point, Dean had suggested that conversations were recorded, but he had no evidence to prove that was the case. As a …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Planet of the Tapes

By Elaine Godfrey

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)

Today in 5 Lines

  • President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen reportedly recorded Trump before the 2016 election discussing payments to an ex-Playboy model who claimed they’d had an affair.

  • The White House said Trump “is not considering supporting” a referendum on independence for eastern Ukraine that was suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Helsinki.

  • Ohio State University announced that more than 100 former students have made sexual-misconduct allegations against Richard Strauss, a former wrestling-team doctor.

  • Police said at least 17 people were killed after a duck boat capsized during a storm in Branson, Missouri.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told Republicans that if Democrats continue demanding records about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, McConnell will wait to hold a confirmation vote until right before the midterms.

Today on The Atlantic

  • Changing Their Tune: A new talking point has bubbled up among some supporters of President Trump, writes McKay Coppins: “It was a positive thing that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.”

  • African or French?: A spat between Daily Show host Trevor Noah and French Ambassador Gérard Araud reveals a divide between the French and American conceptions of identity politics. (Rachel Donadio)

  • Everything Is Fine: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has emerged as a warrior in President Trump’s culture war, operating under a shocking assumption: “There are things that are more important than truth.” (Megan Garber)

  • Obama Doesn’t Have the Answer: The former president continues to offer hopeful solutions to America’s problems. But he still doesn’t understand President Trump or the forces that put him in office. (Vann R. Newkirk II)


An asylum seeker from Honduras reunites with her five-year-old son in Brownsville South Padre International Airport in Brownsville, Texas, after five weeks of …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Planet of the Tapes” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



The Democratic Party Apologizes to Black Voters

By Russell Berman

ATLANTA—Swanky fund-raisers don’t often begin with an apology to the well-heeled donors who shelled out thousands of dollars to sip wine, eat steak, and listen to pep-rally speeches. But as he looked out over a predominantly black crowd gathered at the Georgia Aquarium on Thursday night, Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, felt compelled to issue a mea culpa.

“I am sorry,” Perez said.

At first, it seemed like Perez was voicing one more generalized regret for the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House—the squandered opportunity that abruptly ended the Democrats’ hold on the presidency and immediately put at risk its policy gains of the previous eight years.

Perez, however, soon made clear that his apology was much more specific. “We lost elections not only in November 2016, but we lost elections in the run-up because we stopped organizing,” he said. “We stopped talking to people.

“We took too many people for granted,” Perez continued, “and African Americans—our most loyal constituency—we all too frequently took for granted. That is a shame on us, folks, and for that I apologize. And for that I say, it will never happen again!”

Applause broke out before Perez could even finish his apology, heads nodding in acknowledgment and appreciation.

That he would choose this event, and this city, to try to make amends with black voters was significant. Thursday’s gala was the party’s first major 2018 fund-raiser to be held outside Washington, D.C., and the I Will Vote initiative it supported aims to bolster DNC efforts to register new voters; fight voter-suppression efforts in the United States; and, ultimately, turn out Democrats across the country in November.

High turnout among black voters was key to Barack Obama’s two presidential victories, and dips in participation when he was not on the ballot contributed to the Democratic wipeouts …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Barack Obama Still Doesn’t Understand Donald Trump

By Vann R. Newkirk II

Barack Obama doesn’t often mention Donald Trump. More than anything else, that has been a constant in his random assortment of public appearances and statements since he left the White House. Even when he has occasionally answered the call from Americans to show leadership during a Trumpian scandal or crisis, Obama has preferred magnanimity, issuing statements exhorting his countrymen to soldier on and praising the goodness of the institutions they must lean on to do so.

In a week featuring perhaps the gravest controversy of Trump’s young term, the fallout over his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama delivered the apotheosis of that post-presidency form. His speech Tuesday in Johannesburg, at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, was the most important moment of his career as a not-so-elder statesman. It was a marathon address that outlined a grand theory of liberalism and skewered Trump’s recent moves without once saying the man’s name. But it also highlighted one of Obama’s most enduring weaknesses: that he still doesn’t really understand Trump, or the forces that elected him.

The stage couldn’t have been set more perfectly for Obama’s big moment. On Monday, Trump managed to create one of the biggest firestorms of his presidency during a press conference with Putin. In a barely coherent series of responses, Trump declined to say whether he trusted his own intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. After facing fierce criticism from even his Republican allies on the Hill, Trump spent Tuesday afternoon engaged in a semantic do-over, claiming he actually meant that he agreed with the intelligence assessment—although he said other actors might have been involved, too.

In between Trump’s blunders, Obama managed to show up the current president, displaying the oratory skills, humor, and vision that defined his …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



There’s Tension in the Air at the Aspen Security Forum

By Natasha Bertrand

ASPEN, Colo.—With many of the nation’s leading national-security experts gathered here this week, the tension between President Trump and several of his highest-ranking intelligence and law-enforcement officials was hard to miss. Speaking at the annual conference, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence didn’t deny that they had considered resigning over Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community. The deputy attorney general announced a new Justice Department policy to expose and counter foreign-influence operations of the kind Trump has consistently downplayed. And the Homeland Security secretary said she did “not disagree” when asked about the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to elect Trump.

The security forum began two days after Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and touched off a furor by equating the intelligence community’s assessment with Putin’s reassurances that there had been no election attack. Back in Washington, Trump generated more confusion when he seemed to answer “no” when asked by a reporter if Moscow is still targeting the U.S. (The White House later said he wasn’t answering the question, but rather declining to take media inquiries.) “He’s got his view,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking at the forum. “He’s expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

The officials’ public remarks repeatedly validated intelligence assessments that the president has seemed intent upon ignoring or undermining. But the biggest questions on people’s minds here were left unanswered: Why was Trump so intent on keeping Putin on his good side? And was there anything the intelligence and law-enforcement communities could do—short of being “straight-shooters,” as Wray put …read more

Via:: The Atlantic