President Trump has personally pledged to spend one billion dollars if it will keep him in the White House. McKay Coppins, a journalist for The Atlantic, has identified how a substantial amount of this funding is being spent. After creating a Facebook page so he could follow pro-Trump social media accounts and communicate with online Trump supporters, Coppins uncovered something remarkable: a campaign-coordinated effort to undermine journalists and the mainstream press on a mass scale. Coppins told Hari Sreenivasan about the Trump campaign’s stunning effort to launch one of the largest disinformation campaigns ever conducted.
It is a stunning turnabout. A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.
.. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life,
- in how he has treated his wives,
- in his business dealings and scams,
- in his pathological lying and cruelty,
- in his bullying and shamelessness,
- in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”)
Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.
.. Some of us who have been lifelong Republicans and previously served in Republican administrations held out a faint hope that our party would at some point say “Enough!”; that there would be some line Mr. Trump would cross, some boundary he would transgress, some norm he would shatter, some civic guardrail he would uproot, some action he would take, some scheme or scandal he would be involved in that would cause large numbers of Republicans to break with the president. No such luck. Mr. Trump’s corruptions have therefore become theirs. So far there’s been no bottom, and there may never be.
.. the Republican Party’s as-yet unbreakable attachment to Mr. Trump is coming at quite a cost. There is the rank hypocrisy, the squandered ability to venerate public character or criticize Democrats who lack it, and the damage to the white Evangelical movement, which has for the most part enthusiastically rallied to Mr. Trump and as a result has been largely discredited.
.. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are right now the chief emblem of corruption and cynicism in American political life, of an ethic of might makes right. Dehumanizing others is fashionable and truth is relative. (“Truth isn’t truth,” in the infamous words of Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.) They are stripping politics of its high purpose and nobility.
.. A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.
Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this?
Billboards. TV campaigns. Radio programs. The anti-immigrant government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban uses different levers to influence public opinion, particularly on the subject of the European refugee crisis.
Even school textbooks.
On page 155 of the latest 8th-grade history textbook, students are told that Mr. Orban thinks refugees are a threat to Hungary — and then encouraged to believe he is right. “It can be problematic,” the book concludes, “for different cultures to coexist.”
.. the far-right leader’s message is now woven into the school curriculum.
.. His party’s appointees or supporters dominate many artistic institutionsand universities. A growing number of plays and exhibitions have had nationalist or anti-Western undertones. Religious groups and nongovernment organizations critical of Fidesz have seen funding dry up.
.. For many far-right populists on both sides of the Atlantic, the Hungarian leader is revered.
“He’s a hero,” Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former strategist, said this month, while touring Europe. He described Mr. Orban as “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”
.. he met with Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who created the Stanford Prison Experiment, the controversial 1971 study of authoritarianism, which explored how ordinary people would respond when placed in positions of power.
.. how Mr. Orban has attempted to influence the civil arena through like-minded culture warriors.
.. biggest beneficiaries tended to be groups with religious and nationalist
.. since an elected government represents the will of the people — and since civil society should strive to fulfill the people’s will — then civil society exists to carry out a ruling party’s manifesto, rather than to challenge it.
.. the government sent an opinion survey to every Hungarian household that claimed Mr. Soros was leading a project — named the Soros Plan — to force Hungary to admit thousands of migrants, dismantle its border fences, and in the process “diminish the importance of the language and culture of European countries.” It was demonstrably false.
.. During the 1980s, Mr. Orban was a young liberal activist who studied civil society at Oxford University
.. “I would like,” Mr. Illes recalled Mr. Orban telling him, “to destroy all NGOs in this country.”
.. “Most theaters,” she said, “have a socially unengaged message,”
.. “It’s important for us to emphasize our identity because we could lose it in a few moments,” Mr. Dorner said in an interview, citing anxiety about immigration by “the Africans, the Middle Easterners.”
.. the academy ignored and even condemned critics of Mr. Orban such as Gyorgy Konrad, a renowned author. Instead, it awarded monthly stipends in perpetuity to artists like Gyozo Somogyi, best known for depicting Hungarian military heroes
.. When the University of Debrecen awarded an honorary doctorate last August to Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president and an ally of Mr. Orban, four academic departments protested the decision.
.. Yet in response, the university leadership launched an investigation into their dissent.
.. Officially, the loss of each department’s financial autonomy has been presented as a cost-saving measure.
.. the real aim was to curb the academic autonomy of each department.
.. money was nevertheless found to sustain two entirely new academic institutions.
.. The first — Professor Patyi’s National University for Public Service — was set up to train civil servants, policemen and soldiers
.. The second, a think tank called Veritas, has a more demonstrably political aim. Its main mission is to provide revisionist interpretations of 20th-century Hungarian history — including the reign of Miklos Horthy, the autocrat who led Hungary before and during the Second World War.
.. He described the deportation of Jews under Horthy in 1941 as a mere “police action against aliens.”
.. the new preamble to the Hungarian Constitution — a controversial text which implies that Hungarian nationality is exclusively Christian, even though Hungary has a substantial Jewish minority.
The second, former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg, said in an interview Monday that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a conversation Nunberg said investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III recently asked him to describe... “I wish him no ill will, but Sam can manically and persistently call you,” Stone said, recalling that Nunberg had called him on a Friday to ask about his plans for the weekend. “I said, ‘I think I will go to London for the weekend and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throwaway line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange undetected is ridiculous on its face.’ ’’.. “The allegation that I met with Assange, or asked for a meeting or communicated with Assange, is provably false,” he said, adding that he did not leave the country in 2016... Nunberg told The Post that the questions he was asked by Mueller’s investigators indicated to him that the special counsel is examining statements Stone has made publicly about WikiLeaks.“Of course they have to investigate this,” he said. “Roger made statements that could be problematic.”
.. He said he did not recall the exact date when Stone told him that he had met with Assange, adding that he did not take the comment as a joke at the time. He said he was glad to hear Stone told The Post that the remark was made in jest.
“No one connected to the president should be connected with Julian Assange,” he added.
.. WikiLeaks has come under intense scrutiny from U.S. officials for its distribution of hacked materials. Last year, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said it was “time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia.”
.. In response, Assange said that Pompeo had chosen “to declare war on free speech.”
During the 2016 race, the organization released hacked Democratic emails at two key junctures:
- A cache of DNC emails landed on the eve of the party’s national nomination convention and
- a collection of Podesta emails appeared on the same day in October that The Post revealed a tape of Trump speaking about women in lewd terms.
.. On Aug. 8, 2016, in an appearance at the Southwest Broward Republican Organization in Florida, Stone answered a question about what he suspected would be the campaign’s October surprise by saying: “I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”
.. He later said he had not meant that he had communicated with Assange directly.
On Aug. 21, Stone tweeted that something grim was looming for Podesta.
“Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary,” he tweeted.
On Oct. 3, he tweeted: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.”
“Payload coming. #Lockthemup,” Stone tweeted on Oct. 5.
Two days later, WikiLeaks published a cache of Podesta’s hacked emails describing internal conflicts within the Clinton Foundation and excerpts of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street executives.
He earned the slightly mocking nickname of “Putin’s cook.”
Despite his humble, troubled youth, Mr. Prigozhin became one of Russia’s richest men, joining a charmed circle whose members often share one particular attribute: their proximity to President Vladimir V. Putin.
.. According to the indictment, Mr. Prigozhin, 56, controlled the entity that financed the troll factory, known as the Internet Research Agency, which waged “information warfare against the United States” by creating fictitious social-media personas, spreading falsehoods and promoting messages supportive of Donald J. Trump and critical of Hillary Clinton. He has denied involvement.
.. he has emerged as Mr. Putin’s go-to oligarch for that and a variety of sensitive and often-unsavory missions, like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria.
.. “He is not afraid of dirty tasks,”
.. “He can fulfill any task for Putin, ranging from fighting the opposition to sending mercenaries to Syria,” she said. “He serves certain interests in certain spheres, and Putin trusts him.”
.. the Kremlin endorsed projects like the troll farm without directly organizing them.
“This is done by somebody who receives large-scale government contracts,” he said. “The fact that he gets these contracts is a hidden way to pay for his services.”
.. When the troll factory was formed in 2013, its basic task was to flood social media with articles and comments that painted Russia under Mr. Putin as stable and comfortable compared to the chaotic, morally corrupt West. The trolls soon branched into overseas operations focused on Russian adversaries like Ukraine and the United States.
.. limited details about his personal life have emerged, mostly through the Instagram accounts of his two grown children.
One picture featured his son, Pavel, walking naked on the deck of the 115-foot family yacht. Other pictures showed a private jet and a vintage powder blue Lincoln Continental, said to be Mr. Prigozhin’s favorite car.
.. sweeping view from his wooded compound in Gelendzhik, the resort town on the Black Sea.
.. pier for the yacht, was built in an ostensibly protected forest much beloved by Mr. Putin and his cronies
.. In exchange for providing soldiers to protect Syria’s oil fields, companies linked to Mr. Prigozhin were awarded a percentage of the oil revenue
.. The only clues are the companies’ overlapping ties, including the same managers, shared telephone numbers or IP addresses.
So far, these crime bosses have been masterful at circumventing the sanctions that have primarily hurt the enslaved North Korean population.
That’s why the United States and its allies ought to take a page from an Israeli playbook and wage financial warfare against Mr. Kim and his cabal.
.. The notion behind using money as a weapon against terrorism belonged to Meir Dagan, a legendary soldier and spymaster who developed the idea in the nascent days of Israel’s fight against Hamas and terror groups supported by Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Dagan rightly believed that money was the oxygen that fueled the groups’ suicide bombing campaign against Israel. If Israeli security services could suffocate the funds that paid for the bloodshed, the attacks would stop.
.. Harpoon targeted the banks that held accounts belonging to Palestinian terrorist commanders, and the unit encouraged lawyers — including me — to launch suits in United States federal court seeking monetary damages for victims of state sponsors of terror
.. Harpoon went after Hezbollah’s cocaine business in Venezuela and in Lebanon, as well as its money-laundering activities in West Africa and America.
.. And when the Hezbollah hierarchy was cash strapped, Harpoon targeted the financial institutions that allowed the terrorists to move their cash across continents, ultimately shutting down the Lebanese Canadian Bank
.. Most military commanders acknowledge that there are very few, if any, feasible solutions to today’s standoff with Pyongyang. The only effective path is to unleash an offensive press against Kim’s inner circle.
.. This effort ought to include a full-court press of dirty tricks, coercion, heavy-handed threats and even direct action, all covert and deniable, against Kim’s financial wizards who handle the finances, dispense the narcotics and hijack Bitcoins.
.. Only when the money dries up will the loyalty of the men in Kim’s inner circle be compromised and cut away. The North Korean dictator will then be under enormous pressure to do whatever he can to alleviate the effects of the spies tapping into his cash and control.