How Trump bobs and weaves to avoid the truth

As he so often does, President Trump falsely declared on “60 Minutes” that North Korea and the United States were going to war before he stepped in to thwart it.

Interviewer Lesley Stahl was having none of it. “We were going to war?”

Trump immediately retreated to safer ground, expressing a view rather than trying to assert a fact: “I think it was going to end up in war,” he said, before moving on to his “impression” of the situation.

The 26-minute interview that aired Oct. 14 was typical Trump — bobbing and weaving through a litany of false claims, misleading assertions and exaggerated facts. Trump again demonstrated what The Fact Checker has long documented: His rhetoric is fundamentally based on making statements that are not true, and he will be as deceptive as his audience will allow.

.. Trump resorting to all of his favored moves to sidestep the truth.

.. On Stahl’s first question, about whether Trump still thinks climate change is a hoax, the president dodged by saying “something’s happening.” He then completely reversed course and declared that climate change is not a hoax and that “I’m not denying climate change.”

.. Trump also falsely said the climate will change back again, even though the National Climate Assessment approved by his White House last year said that there was no turning back. He said he did not know whether climate change was man-made, though the same report said “there is no convincing alternative” posed by the evidence.

.. Trump did his usual shrug when asked whether North Korea is building more nuclear missiles. “Well, nobody really knows. I mean, people are saying that.” Among the people who are saying that are U.S. intelligence agencies, who have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and is instead working to conceal its weapons and production facilities.

.. Even when he adjusts his rhetoric, at times contradicting what he has just said, Trump almost always appears to believe firmly in what he is saying.

.. On trade, the president continues to suggest that deficits mean the United States is losing money: “I told President Xi we cannot continue to have China take $500 billion a year out of the United States.”

That’s wrong. The trade deficit just means Americans are buying more Chinese products than the Chinese are buying from the United States, not that the Chinese are somehow stealing U.S. money.

.. Trump also continues to misstate the trade deficit with China. It’s not $500 billion, as he told Stahl; it was $335 billion in 2017

.. Curiously, he denied to Stahl that he ever said he was engaged in a trade war with China, even though he has said and tweeted it many times, including on Fox News last week.

.. He also falsely said that “the European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade.” That’s a misreading of history, at best. The E.U. got its start shortly after World War II as the European Coal and Steel Community — an early effort to bind together bitter enemies such as Germany and France in a common economic space to promote peace.

.. Trump surfaced another old favorite knock on U.S. allies — “we shouldn’t be paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe.” Actually, the United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s common fund. Trump keeps counting U.S. defense spending devoted to patrolling the Pacific Ocean and other parts of the world as part of NATO funding.

When it was pointed out that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former general who served in the military for 44 years, says he believes NATO had kept the peace for 70 years, Trump sniffed, “I think I know more about it than he does.”

.. Questioned about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump conceded that “they meddled.” But he added, “I think China meddled, too.” When Stahl said he was “diverting the whole Russia thing,” Trump insisted he was not. “I’m not doing anything,” he demurred. “I’m saying Russia, but I’m also saying China.”

There is no evidence China engaged in the same disinformation effort as Russia, which intelligence agencies have said was designed to swing the election toward Trump.

.. Finally, Trump continued his habit of mischaracterizing what his predecessor did. He claimed that Barack Obama “gave away” the Crimea region of Ukraine, when actually Russia seized it and Obama then led an effort to impose sanctions in response.

.. In one of the testier back-and-forths, Trump tried to shut down Stahl with one line that was indisputably true: “I’m president,” he said, “and you’re not.”

Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don’t Buy the Russia Story

the whole mess with Iraq and Afghan wars, and especially everything that Wikileaks exposed about them, is one of the biggest providers of source material for Russian “whataboutism” (see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_you_are_lynching_negroes). In early 00s, it was mainly useful to justify the way Russia handled Chechnya. But from 2008 on, it became more and more important – South Ossetia, Crimea, Donbass, Syria.

.. With that in mind, leaks about any American administration serve those goals. Bush was certainly fair game. As do any leaks that concern any Western countries, their allies, and affiliated countries. Which happens to be exactly what Wikileaks has been focusing on.

.. I don’t get why people are so trustful of Assagne’s assurances the source wasn’t Russian. Unless he hacked it himself or was looking over the shoulder of the guy who hacked it, he simply cannot know who the ultimate source of the material is. The person he got it from may very well not have been Russian. But who did that person get it from? It’s no different than a Tor exit node delivering information it receives: it simply isn’t in a position to know the true origin.

The fact that Assange has come out very hard trying to imply it was Seth Rich and not Russians is itself the most suspicious thing.1. He can’t possibly know if Russia is the true source.

2. Seth Rich is a classic KGB style conspiracy theory with literally not one shred of evidence, at all.

So he’s doing two very odd things here that he’s never done. He’s saying Russia is NOT the source AND Seth Rich IS the source.

It’s typical for someone with good intentions to find themselves owned by a spy agency. Assange is most likely in so deep he can’t fix it.

It’s a fact he’s taken money from Russia and the theory of him being compromised by them goes back years before the election. He’s the one that arranged for Snowden to go to Russia.

So he’s compromised and a tool now. It doesn’t matter if he was once free or not at this point.

. I don’t think Assange is a Russian agent (even though he receives money from RT etc). I think he has his own motives. At the time this was more anti-Clinton that pro-Trump specifically.

More recently his Tweets have become more supportive of Trump personally (although interestingly not really his agendas necessarily). My uncharitable suspicion is that he’s hoping for a presidential pardon.

.. Why do you believe that the Russian reaction to pulling back would be to pull back as well? If anything, all experience shows that they’ll use that to do a power grab in the neighbouring countries instead. Treating “sphere of influence” as a valid concept is immoral, it essentially means allowing Russia to do whatever they want to others against their will; there’s a good reason why their neighbours are allying with the west – it’s because they want protection from being “sphereofinfluenced”.

 

The Risks Lying Within Donald Trump’s One-on-One Meeting With Vladimir Putin

GOP senator, who recently met with Russia’s leader, warns of ‘denial, hostility, blaming others’

“If our experience is any indication of what the president will find, it will be denial, hostility, blaming others and long and tedious responses,” the Kansas Republican said in an interview as he was returning home.
.. Moreover, Sen. Moran suggests the president might want to think twice about his plan to meet privately with Mr. Putin, with no aides present. The senator and his colleagues are fuming at the way the Russian media portrayed (or, they say, baldly mis-portrayed) their own private meetings with Russian officials, suggesting the Americans only briefly and meekly raised the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election campaign.
..  Trump, understandably, has focused instead on what he sees as the upside potential. In general, he thinks the world is a safer place if the U.S. and Russia get along. More specifically, he wants Russia to help in the effort to force North Korea to denuclearize by not providing backdoor economic relief to the regime in Pyongyang, particularly by buying North Korean coal.

.. Russia may use the very fact of a private meeting with the president to claim the U.S. has accepted Russia’s annexation of Crimea and acknowledged its right to interfere in Ukraine. Russian media already have trumpeted statements by Mr. Trump suggesting sympathy for the Russian position on Crimea as proof the Americans have thrown in the towel on the subject.
Moreover, Mr. Putin may well use Mr. Trump’s own apparent ambivalence about the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to portray the U.S. and Russia as moving beyond the traditional alliance that has guarded Western security through the post-World War II era.
.. Mr. Trump and his aides are playing a good-cop, bad-cop routine, in which Mr. Trump questions the motives of America’s allies and carries on pointed spats with the leaders of France, Germay and Canada, while his aides praise the allies and their efforts. In a briefing for reporters last week, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to NATO, lauded what she called “the biggest increase in defense spending by our allies since the Cold War.”
.. Finally, Mr. Putin doubtless will continue to simply deny any interference in the 2016 election campaign, a denial that Mr. Trump noted again on Twitter last week: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”The risk is that the Russian leader will use Mr. Trump’s seeming willingness to accept his denials as proof that any claims to the contrary—including a seven-page bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee last week—are specious.

Mr. Trump’s critics already portray him as way too cozy with his Russian counterpart. Unless Mr. Trump plays the summit well, he could allow the meeting to play directly into that critique.

The Great Russian Disinformation Campaign

In a new book, Timothy Snyder explains how Russia revolutionized information warfare—and presages its consequences for democracies in Europe and the United States.

When Westerners first began to hear of Vladimir Putin’s troll army—now some five years ago—the project sounded absurd. President Obama in March 2014 had dismissed Russia as merely a weak “regional power.” And Putin’s plan to strike back was to hire himself a bunch of internet commenters? Seriously?

.. historian Timothy Snyder observed that Russia’s annual budget for cyberwarfare is less than the price of a single American F-35 jet. Snyder challenged his audience to consider: Which weapon has done more to shape world events?

.. Amid the collapse of the Soviet state, canny survivors of the old regime seized valuable assets. Yeltsin secured their new wealth; they secured Yeltsin’s power.
..  Yeltsin elevated Putin as his deputy, then resigned in his favor. Putin faced the electorate in 2000 supported by all the power and money commanded by a Russian incumbent. Public opinion was consolidated by a conveniently timed series of murderous terrorist bombings. Number Snyder among those Western experts who strongly suspect that the bombings were organized by the Russian authorities themselves to legitimate Putin’s accession.
.. He promoted ideologies that Snyder inventively describes as schizo-fascism: “actual fascists calling their opponents ‘fascists,’ blaming the Holocaust on the Jews, treating the Second World War as an argument for more violence.” Putin’s favored ideologist, Alexander Dugin, “could celebrate the victory of fascist in fascist language while condemning as ‘fascist’ his opponents.”
.. In this new schizo-fascism, homosexuals played the part assigned to Jews by the fascists of earlier eras. Democratic societies were branded by Russian TV as “homodictatorships.”
.. When Ukrainians protested against faked elections and the murder of protesters, Russian TV told viewers, “The fact that the first and most zealous integrators [with the European Union] in Ukraine are sexual perverts has long been known.”
.. Putin himself struck more macho poses and wore outfits more butch than all the stars of the Village People combined.
.. “Putin was offering masculinity as an argument against democracy.”
.. it all started with the August 2012 law outlawing advocacy of gay rights.
.. Even as Russian troops in Russian uniforms seized the peninsula, Putin denied anything was happening at all. Anyone could buy a uniform in a military surplus store. Russia was the victim, not the aggressor. “The war was not taking place; but were it taking place, America was to be blamed.”
.. Snyder identifies a new style of rhetoric: implausible deniability. “According to Russian propaganda,
  • Ukrainian society was full of nationalists but not a nation;
  • the Ukrainian state was repressive but did not exist;
  • Russians were forced to speak Ukrainian though there was no such language.”

Russian TV told wild lies. It invented a fake atrocity story of a child crucified by Ukrainian neo-Nazis—while blaming upon Ukrainians the actual atrocity of the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian airliner by a Russian ground-to-air missile.

Russia’s most important weapon in its war on factuality was less old-fashioned official mendacity than the creation of an alternative reality (or more exactly, many contradictory alternatives, all of them Putin-serving). “Russia generated tropes targeted at what cyberwar professionals called ‘susceptibilities’: what people seem likely to believe given their utterances and behavior.

..  “The Russian economy did not have to produce anything of material value, and did not. Russian politicians had to use technologies created by others to alter mental states, and did.”

.. Snyder cites repeated examples of journalists in prominent platforms, trusted by left-of-center readerships, whose reporting seemed to support Russian claims that Ukraine had become a romper room for neo-Nazis—or alternatively to “the green flag of jihad.”

.. Many of these reports cited second- and third-hand sources, some of whom disappeared untraceably after depositing their testimonies on Facebook.

Hard-left and alt-right social-media trolls then tidied up after the reporters, belittling claims that the original sources were disinformation.

.. Trump in Snyder’s telling was not the successful businessman he performed in his TV non-reality series, The Apprentice, but an American loser who became a Russian tool. “Russian money had saved him from the fate that would normally await anyone with his record of failure.”

.. . His first big foreign-policy speech of the election campaign—viewed from a reserved front-row seat by the Russian ambassador to the United States—was reportedly ghostwritten in considerable part by Richard Burt, a former American diplomat then under contract to a Russian gas company. (Burt has denied this attribution).

.. Snyder sees Trump as very much a junior partner in a larger Russian project, less a cause, more an effect.

.. slowly before Trump—and rapidly after Trump—America is becoming like Russia: a country on a path to economic oligarchy and distorted information.

.. Trump’s attitude to truth again and again reminds Snyder of the Russian ruling elite: The Russian television network RT “wished to convey that all media lied, but that only RT was honest by not pretending to be truthful.”