The Conspiracy Memo About Obama Aides That Circulated in the Trump White House

The 2017 document, titled “The Echo Chamber,” accused former Obama officials of undermining the incoming Administration.

In early 2017, some of Donald Trump’s advisers concluded that they faced a sophisticated threat responsible for “coordinated attacks” on the new Administration. They circulated a memo, titled “The Echo Chamber,” which read like a U.S. military-intelligence officer’s analysis of a foreign-insurgent network. Instead of being about enemies in a distant war zone, however, the network described in the memo consisted of former aides to President Barack Obama.

The memo claimed that the “communications infrastructure” that the Obama White House used to “sell Obamacare and the Iran Deal to the public” had been moved to the private sector, now that the former aides were out of government. It called the network the Echo Chamber and accused its members of mounting a coördinated effort “to undermine President Trump’s foreign policy” through organized attacks in the press against Trump and his advisers. “These are the Obama loyalists who are probably among those coordinating the daily/weekly battle rhythm,” the memo said, adding that they likely operated a “virtual war room.” The memo lists Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national-security adviser to President Obama, as “likely the brain behind this operation” and Colin Kahl, Vice-President Joe Biden’s former national-security adviser, as its “likely ops chief.”

.. officials said that it was circulated within the National Security Council and other parts of the Trump White House in early 2017.

.. Some of the same conspiracy theories expressed in the memo appear in internal documents from an Israeli private-intelligence firm that mounted a covert effort to collect damaging information about aides to President Obama who had advocated for the Iran deal.

.. In May, 2017, that firm, Black Cube, provided its operatives with instructions and other briefing materials that included the same ideas and names discussed in the memo

.. A source familiar with the operation has maintained that the investigation of Rhodes and Kahl was part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client in the shipping industry, pursuing commercial interests.

.. Conspiracy theories of this kind appear to have thrived in the Trump White House, which was divided into factions that often used media leaks to undermine their rivals and compete for influence with the President.

.. In private meetings, Bannon’s allies in the power struggle, some of whom had military backgrounds, said they were eager to fight back.

.. The firm compiled a list of nine reporters and commentators it claimed were part of the Echo Chamber, including

  • The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg,
  • the New York Times’ Max Fisher, and
  • NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell.

.. Both the memo and Black Cube documents reference attacks in the press on Sebastian Gorka

.. In a section titled “Gorka Allegations,” the Black Cube documents reference allegations that he was anti-Semitic and affiliated with Nazi groups, which Rhodes mentioned in a tweet on one occasion.

..  Jake Sullivan, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, is identified as one of the leaders of the Echo Chamber. The former Obama Administration officials Tommy Vietor, Ned Price, Jon Favreau, Jon Finer, and Dan Pfeiffer are all listed as “likely operations officers.”

 

 

Conservatives battle the left, without a clear foe

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference began 472 days after the 2016 presidential election. Its first day ended with jeers for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

.. During Barack Obama’s presidency, speakers — Trump included — warned that Democrats would “fundamentally transform” America and saddle children with unpayable debt.

.. portrayed a conservative movement that was winning the present and the future, in the position, finally, to smash the left.

.. the CPAC conservatives lacked a clear, new adversary.

.. Donald F. McGahn used his remarks to spell out how Trump’s judicial appointments — a ready applause line — were part of a long-term strategy to dismantle the bureaucratic state.

.. the young crowd was promised resources for campus organizing — and lawsuits, when necessary — to unravel decades of left-wing dominance at universities.

.. “The future of western civilization will be won on college campuses,”

.. The conference’s exhibit hall contained little about potential Democratic presidential candidates; the only one that stood out was a stand-up of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), made grotesque and outfitted with a Native American headdress.

.. Onstage, the Democratic Party was alternately mocked as pathetic or described as an increasingly radical menace

.. Sebastian Gorka, a former White House adviser who now works with the main presidential super PAC, said that Trump would face any impeachment push from Democrats by “outflanking them every day on Twitter multiple times.”

Donald Trump and the Dawn of the Evangelical-Nationalist Alliance

In their eyes, religious conservatives aren’t making a cynical bargain by embracing a president with dubious religious bona fides. They finally have the street brawler they’ve always wanted.

they all centered on returning the country to a better and more comfortable time.

To economic nationalists, it meant going back to an era of high tariffs and buying American. To defense hawks, it meant returning to a time of unquestioned military supremacy. To immigration hard-liners, it meant fewer jobs for foreign-born workers—and, for some of those voters, fewer dark faces in the country, period.

But for many evangelicals and conservative Catholics, “Make America Great Again” meant above all else returning to a time when the culture reflected and revolved around their Judeo-Christian values. When there was prayer in public schools. When marriage was limited to one man and one woman. When abortion was not prevalent and socially acceptable. When the government didn’t ask them to violate their consciences. And, yes, when people said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

.. the president recalled the Founders’ repeated reference to a “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence. “How times have changed,” Trump said. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”
The audience roared with a 20-second standing ovation.

.. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council .. Trump’s greatest impact is legitimizing those people and views that have been marginalized. “Barack Obama used the bully pulpit and the courts to demonize those who held to the very values that made America great. And Trump is doing the opposite,” Perkins says. “What the president and his administration can do is once again make people feel like it’s OK to stand up and talk about these traditional values, and engage in these conversations. Then we can win hearts and minds, and that’s where the transformation begins.”

.. When Moore spoke to a Friday luncheon sponsored by the American Family Association, he was introduced unapologetically as someone who would put Christianity ahead of the Constitution.

.. He raised eyebrows by inviting former White House aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, the polarizing promoters of Trump’s “America First” message, to speak at the event, despite neither having any roots in the Christian conservative universe.

.. This shotgun wedding resulted in some predictably awkward moments. Bannon, emphasizing the importance of grass-roots politics in winning elections, raised the 44th president’s former job title. “What’s a community organizer? I’ll tell you what it is. Somebody that could kick your ass—twice.” There were crickets from the audience; it was almost certainly the first time someone had ever used a curse word during a speech to the Values Voter Summit.

.. Erick Erickson, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted, “Sad to see this said at a Christian conference. Where is the grace? Where is the mercy? Where is the Christ?”

.. Many Christian voters embraced Trump not despite his provocative style but because of it, betting on a brash street brawler to win the culture battles they had been losing for generations.

.. And their faith has been rewarded: From abortion policy to religious liberty to judicial appointments, Trump has delivered for social conservatives more than any other constituency, making them the unlikely cornerstone of his coalition.

.. With political victory, however, has come the loss of moral high ground

.. If he wins the Senate seat, a spiritual renaissance in America is unlikely to result. But something else will: a deepening alliance between economic nationalists and social conservatives, two distinct tribes that are growing codependent in the era of Trump. As Perkins now sees it, Republicans will win elections only by merging these factions—hence his inviting Bannon and Gorka to speak.

How Donald Trump Opened the Door to Roy Moore

There was evidence that the father was abusing the kids, who by 2002 were teenagers. He acknowledged whipping them with a belt and forcing them to sit with paper bags over their heads. He refused to send the younger children to summer school, even though their grades were bad. When the kids called their mother, their father taped the conversations. By the time the case got to the Alabama Supreme Court, a lower court had ruled in the mother’s favor. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the ruling, with then Chief Justice Roy Moore writing in a concurring opinion that a gay person couldn’t be a fit parent.

“Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated,” wrote Moore. He added, “The state carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”

.. But Moore’s victory is also a victory for Trumpism, a populist movement that has eroded normal limits on political behavior.

.. Fritz Stern, a historian who fled Nazi Germany, described the “conservative revolution” that prefigured National Socialism: “The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future.”
.. What Moore’s critics see as lawlessness, his fans see as insurgent valor. Trump’s most prominent nationalist supporters, including Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, lined up behind Moore, describing him as part of the Trumpian revolution. Nigel Farage, a right-wing British politician and Trump ally, flew to Fairhope, Ala., to speak at a rally for Moore, saying on stage, “It is getting someone like him elected that will rejuvenate the movement that led to Trump and Brexit.”
.. Back then, anti-gay prejudice was far more acceptable than it is today, but Moore’s messianic denunciation of a lesbian mother was still shocking. Trump is not a pious man, but by destroying informal restraints on reactionary rhetoric, he’s made his party hospitable to the cruelest of theocrats.
Moore’s success is bound to encourage more candidates like him. The Republican establishment’s borders have been breached. Its leaders should have built a wall.

Gorka: Roy Moore’s Victory in Alabama Primary a ‘Revolutionary Moment in American Politics’

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, chief strategist for the MAGA Coalition and former deputy assistant to President Trump, told SiriusXM hosts Steve Bannon and Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily that Roy Moore’s victory in the Alabama Senate primary “changed American politics.”

.. For me it’s a reassertion of sovereignty and a reassertion of democracy, where the wishes of the people are actually expressed in a way that the money and the influence of the establishment totally fails.”

.. “When you look at, what’s the latest count? $30 million spent by the Swamp. For the local people’s voices just to reject that attempt by the establishment to hijack that primary, I think it really, truly is a revolutionary moment in American politics.”

.. “If you think that the Swamp is going to give back our nation without a fight, then you’re sorely mistaken.”

.. this isn’t just about the lobbyists. It’s not just about the people on Capitol Hill. The Swamp – I don’t like the phrase ‘Deep State’; I like the phrase ‘the permanent state’ – is also largely about the bureaucrats who just think they know better than anybody else,” Gorka said.

.. When you’ve got somebody who’s a GS-14 who thinks, ‘Nope, I’ve been here for 20 years, I’m going to be here after the president leaves, and I know better, and I’m just going to do my own thing,’ that’s what we have to fight as well – the idea that there’s this entrenched political elite that’s not just politicians, but also bureaucrats that think they know better,” he said.

.. Gorka agreed with Bannon’s critique that too much of the Republican consultant class thinks big campaign money is the only necessary ingredient for political victory.

“They think the politics of personal assassination, of political assassination and triangulation, is it,” Gorka said. “They’re just going to throw more money at it. They don’t need to convince you of anything. They don’t need to argue their policies. They just wish to destroy you. They just don’t get it.”

.. “As long as they don’t understand that, we are going to win every single time because you cannot buy Americans.”

eports: Trump ‘Embarassed and Pissed’ by Strange Endorsement Mistake, ‘Especially Upset’ at Bannon’s Role in Moore Victory

Trump “knew [endorsing Strange] was a mistake but one he was willing to make because Luther was loyal,” a senior White House official told CNN. A person familiar with his mindset said the President went to bed “embarrassed and pissed.”

.. Bannon pulled out all the stops to rally pro-Moore forces in the closing days of the campaign, making multiple TV appearances, and working to bring a team of populist-nationalist all-stars to the Yellowhammer state for Moore, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, ex-UKIP leader Nigel “Mr. Brexit” Farage, Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson, and fellow ex-White House adviser Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

.. “The president complained about Bannon’s aggressive moves on Moore’s behalf, as well as about the political advice he got from aides inside the White House,”

..  Palin exhorted the crowd at Thursday’s post-debate train-yard rally that, “A vote for Judge Moore isn’t a vote against the president. It’s a vote for the people’s agenda that elected the president,” as she warned against the political class “hijacking” the Trump election victory.

.. Gorka also emphasized that supporting Moore was a loyal move for Trump supporters like him. He told Fox News’s Brett Baier on Friday:

The president has gone with the forces of the establishment on this one candidate. But guess what happens – when Judge Moore wins on Tuesday, it will strengthen the president, because now he’ll be able to go to the establishment GOP – to the swamp dwellers and say, ‘Hey guys, we are back on my agenda. This wasn’t worth it.’

..  In retrospect, the decision appears to have made on advice from anti-populist elements both outside the administration, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and within the White House, like senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Why is Donald Trump so bad at the bully pulpit?

Why is Trump so bad with words? Blame reality television, Twitter and political talk shows.

Trump “cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric.”
.. Consider Trump’s three biggest rhetorical own-goals over the past week.
  1. His “fire and fury” statement on North Korea forced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to talk the United States off a ledge.
  2. Trump’s belated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ejection of U.S. diplomats was even worse:
  3.  Trump attempted to address the violence triggered by white nationalists in Charlottesville with a namby-pamby statement that blamed “many sides” for the violence.
    • It is odd that a president who claimed to despise political correctness with respect to Islamic terrorists suddenly chose to be circumspect in describing homegrown neo-Nazi terrorists.
    • Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.

.. Running for office repeatedly tends to hone one’s rhetorical instincts. At a minimum, most professional politicians learn the do’s and don’ts of political rhetoric.

.. Trump’s political education has different roots. He has learned the art of political rhetoric from three sources:

  1. reality television,
  2. Twitter and
  3. “the shows.”

His miscues this past week can be traced to the pathologies inherent in each of these arenas.

..  I have seen just enough of the “Real Housewives” franchise to know that this genre thrives on next-level drama. No one wants to watch conflicts being resolved; they want to watch conflicts spiral out of control. So it is with Trump and North Korea. He never sees the value in de-escalating anything, and North Korea is no exception. Calm resolution is not in the grammar of reality television.

.. I am pretty familiar with Twitter, and the thing about that medium is that it is drenched in sarcasm. It is a necessary rhetorical tic to thrive in that place. The problem is that while sarcasm might work on political Twitter, it rarely works in politics off Twitter.

.. Finally, there are the political talk shows. If there is one thing Trump has learned from that genre, it is the “both sides” hot take. Pundits are so adept at blaming a political conflict on both sides that the #bothsides hashtag is omnipresent on political Twitter.

.. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

.. substantive problems with Trump’s reaction to each of these three crises

  • .. He seems overly eager to escalate tensions with North Korea and
  • steadfastly does not want to call out Vladimir Putin or white nationalists by name.
.. his limited grasp of the bully pulpit. He ad-libbed all these rhetorical miscues. In doing so, he relied on tropes he had learned from reality television, social media and political talk shows.
Those tropes might work for a reality-show hack desperate to engage in self-promotion. They do not work for the president of the United States.