Daily Bread for 2.10.18

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see cloudy skies with a high of eighteen. Sunrise is 6:57 AM and sunset 5:20 PM, for 10h 23m 28s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 23.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

At Whitewater’s Cravath lakefront (341 S. Fremont St., Whitewater, WI 53190, see map), there will be a Polar Plunge for Special Olympics, with registration beginning @ 10 AM, a chili cook-off at 11 AM, and opening ceremonies & freezin’ for a reason beginning at noon.

On this day in 1950, Joe McCarthy continues his baseless allegations: “in a speech delivered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed to possess the names of 57 U.S. government employees, actively engaged in Communist activities. [Source: Google Newspaper Archives].”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ GOP Congressman Will Hurd contends Russia Is Our Adversary (“Russia is eroding democracy by exploiting the nation’s divisions. To save it, Americans must begin working together”):

Before I was elected to represent southwestern Texas in the U.S. Congress, I spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA. I served in places where Russia has geopolitical interests, and learned that Russia has one simple goal: to erode trust in democratic institutions. It has weaponized disinformation to achieve this goal for decades in Eastern and Central Europe; in 2016, Western Europe and America were aggressively targeted as well. Social media is merely a 21st-century mechanism to fuel the familiar Cold War-propaganda machine. The Russians know that well executed disinformation, when exercised tactically, can quickly metastasize.

Unfortunately, over the last year, the United States has demonstrated a lack of resilience to this infection. The current highly charged political environment is making it easier for the Russians to achieve their goal. The hyperbolic debate over the release of the FISA memos by the House Intelligence Committee further helps the Russians achieve their aim. Most recently, Russian social-media efforts used computational propaganda to influence public perceptions of this issue, and we found ourselves once again divided among party lines.

When the public loses trust in the press, the Russians are winning. When the press is hyper-critical of Congress for executing oversight and providing transparency on the actions taken by the leaders of our law-enforcement agencies, the Russians are winning. When Congress and the general public disagree simply along party lines, the Russians are winning. When there is friction between Congress and the executive branch resulting in the further erosion of trust in our democratic institutions, the Russians are winning.

The cycle will not stop, and Russian influence operations will continue, unless we take immediate action.

To address continued Russian disinformation campaigns, we need to develop a national counter-disinformation strategy. The strategy needs to span the entirety of government and civil society, to enable a coordinated effort to counter the threat that influence operations pose to our democracy. It should implement similar principles to those in the Department of Homeland Security’s Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, with a focus on truly understanding the threat and developing ways to shut it down.

(Americans who defend Putin’s regime defend its imperialism & oppression abroad, and the degradation of democratic institutions in this country.)

➤ Kate Benner reports No. 3 Official at the Justice Department Is Stepping Down:

 

Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by President Trump, according to two people briefed on her decision.

Ms. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein.

Such a move could have put her in charge of the special counsel and, by extension, left her in the cross hairs of the president.

Ms. Brand, who became the associate attorney general in May 2017, will become the global governance director at Walmart, the company’s top legal position, according to people briefed on her move. She has held politically appointed positions in the past three presidential administrations.

In her current job, she reports directly to Mr. Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation.

(Whether Brand’s departure weakens her department yet further one cannot say; it’s enough to know that she would have, in time, likely ruined her worthy, deserved reputation in the service of Sessions, and under pressure from Trump, had she stayed. She surely made the right personal choice.)

➤ Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Matt Zapotosky report Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance:

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

The decision stands in contrast to one Trump made last week on a Republican memo alleging the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. After the House Intelligence Committee voted on a Monday to make that document public, Trump authorized its release swiftly on a Friday afternoon.

➤ Kaitlan Collins and Sophie Tatum report Second WH official resigns over domestic abuse allegations:

David Sorensen, a member of the Trump administration’s speechwriting team, has resigned after being accused of domestic abuse, a White House official says.< He is the second administration official to resign this week over domestic abuse allegations, after top White House staffer Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday.

According to a White House official, Sorensen’s job with the Council on Environmental Quality did not require a security clearance, but his background check was ongoing.

The Washington Post first reported Sorensen’s resignation Friday evening, and reported that his ex-wife alleged that “he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine’s coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life.”

➤ This year is the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. There will be a national anniversary celebration in Chicago this summer —