B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Clapper, U.S. intelligence doubts legitimacy of Trump’s election – in case you missed it fighting about NFL players

The day after our Commander in Tweet called talk of Russian interference in the U.S. election a “hoax”, and precisely the same time he called NFL players who didn’t stand for the national anthem “sons of bitches,” James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told CNN host Erin Burnett there’s enough evidence to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election.

“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of (Trump’s) victory in the election,” Clapper said to almost no audience.

Instead the weekend has continued to bare the one national hallmark of the Trump presidency, a culture war that has moved from message boards and C-list propaganda websites like Breitbart and its comments section to the national news cycle. Thanks to our mobile phones and monopolistic social media platforms, you too can fight with your friends and family about everything except what Trump didn’t want you to.

Multiple reports say Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief, will face indictment. If it isn’t for malfeasance with the Russians in the election, will most likely be for actions he’s taken while under employment of other Putin appartchiks, or for the various reports that he and his firm laundered cash for dictators such as Mobute in Congo.

As I wrote throughout 2016, and what Sydney Morning Herald’s Chris Zappone covered consistently  the last two years of anyone, the Russians were using every bit of the Internet in an all-front cyberwar against the United States. Whether it was spreading disinformation, hacking, manipulating Twitter through the use of Russian trolls or bots, or using the platform of white supremacist Julian Assange (who decided to assail Abraham Lincoln for the deaths of white soldiers during the battle over slavery during the Civil War on Friday as well), it came across all platforms. Nearly a year afterward, Facebook is just now releasing news fake Russian accounts were manipulating its ad platform to spread disinformation and at such success they were setting new lows in charges and highs in engagement. This goes without mentioning Michael Flynn.

All of this was frustratingly known before the election. Flynn and Manafort were certainly known to have taken money from the Russians and Manafort’s background was beyond shady. Why he was never brought up on charges either in the U.S. or in the ICC will remain a mystery, but he’s facing the ill-tune currently because of Robert Mueller’s inquiry into the election.

That Clapper believes the assessment corroborates the Russians swinging our election is beyond the imagination of any American. These things simply don’t happen here, and with the current flow of fake news, right wing media and propaganda, fixing the situation will require sensitivity that will be impossible to achieve. That Trump and Republicans in office seem to have no qualms taking all this in stride (with the exception of John McCain), and brush it off as a non issue is even worse. This is a threat to the trust in our civic and governmental processes that’s existential, yet ordinary politics and the snarls of donors rule the day. We’ve also been attacked – a certain act of war – by a shaking, shrinking Russia that still has a vast nuclear arsenal.

My own assessment months before the election was the Russians were using previous tactics it had wielded in Eastern Europe and in the Ukraine to drive their favored candidate to victory. Twitter trolls were often so open to it, they would put some random spot in the United State as their home in Twitter bios and had great command of US culture and the English. They would do battle defending Trump and spreading his tweets far and wide, but when talking to other trolls, would write back and forth in Russian and discuss news and events so provincial it would bore the most eager of the Motherland’s newshounds. They were also openly anti-Semitic, even gleefully calling for the return of the pogroms of the early 1900s.

There was 4chan, whose red-pilled young millenials had had the covers lifted after battling the press and the feminist movement on Twitter, in which a number of those involved in Gamergate and the tactics used there, were quickly assumed by the Russians such as the informational power of the meme and other tactics. The similarity between the violent threats made during Gamergate to women covering the event and to people on both the left and right who would write anything negative about Trump, his campaign or family, was nearly perfect in both its tactics and ferocity.

I didn’t believe the Trump himself had known of any Russian involvement. I believed Manafort and Flynn probably did, but that wouldn’t be enough to be impeachable. I also believe whatever influence the Russians had it couldn’t have possibly swung the election.

Tonight I no longer believe that.

That brings us to another news report, that was buried over the weekend thanks to Trump’s NFL rant. Reports came out Friday afternoon the Russians attempted to hack election systems in 21 states.  States that were targeted included every key battleground state (most of which went to Trump) along with others.

Homeland Security has told state election boards the Russians tried to access voter registration rolls, but reports earlier in the summer said they tried to access voting machines. While officials say these attempts were not successful, the one common denominator during this entire scandal has been what comes out months later – oh by the way, that thing that was discussed and didn’t happen. It happened.

So if the Mueller investigation goes as far as to cast doubt on Trump’s legitimacy of president, what happens next? We have a total breakdown in faith in the system on both sides. Liberals will see a stolen election and government officials and agencies who failed to act when they knew or had reason to be concerned about the process. Republicans will see this as “fake news” and a coup de tat, the swamp tossing out Donald Trump, for shaking the ground so hard. The reaction of liberals, already many of which are becoming radicalized in the antifa movement, will certainly have some violence. Reaction from the Trump base, which has already seen a coming out of the White Supremacy and White Nationalist movements, and is still being fed with grievance and anger, will certainly be violent. The alt-right will kick into action and whip part of the country into a gun-toting frenzy. Whether this finally kicks conservatives and moderate Republicans into action, that’s unknown. So far none of this information, much of which has been well known for years, has moved them. And as what usually happens, the wrong or right actions don’t save the day, it’s the actions ones don’t take.



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