Daily Bread for 9.19.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of seventy-nine. Sunrise is 6:40 AM and sunset 6:56 PM, for 12h 16m 06s of daytime. The moon is new, with just 0.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred fourteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Common Council meets this evening at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1959, during a trip to the United States, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev becomes angry when he is told that he will not be allowed to visit Disneyland. On this day in 1832, the Sauk and Fox cede Iowa lands: “On this date Sauk and Fox Indians signed the treaty ending the Black Hawk War. The treaty demanded that the Sauk cede some six million acres of land that ran the length of the eastern boundary of modern-day Iowa. The Sauk and Fox were given until June 1, 1833 to leave the area and never return to the surrendered lands. (Some sources place the date as September 21.)”

Recommended for reading in full —

Susan Hennessey, Shannon Togawa Mercer, and Benjamin Wittes assess The Latest Scoops from CNN and the New York Times: A Quick and Dirty Analysis:

CNN and the New York Times this evening published dueling scoops on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

As Jim Comey might put it: Lordy, there appear to be tapes.

First, CNN reported that U.S. government investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. According to CNN, the court that provides judicial oversight for the administration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorized an FBI investigation into Manafort in 2014 focused on “work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party.” Manafort’s firm, among notable others, had failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for work with the pro-Russian Ukrainian regime. This first investigation was reportedly halted in 2016 by Justice Department prosecutors because of lack of evidence, but a second warrant was later issued in service of the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence of the election and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

CNN reported that interest in Manafort was “reignited” because of “intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” The FBI also conducted physical searches: one of a storage facility belonging to Manafort and a more widely reported search of his Alexandria home in late July. Manafort was not under surveillance when he became chairman of Trump’s campaign, CNN sources suggested, because of the gap between the two warrants….

So was Trump right to say that he was “wire tapped”?

No.

Nothing in this report vindicates Trump’s claims that he or Trump Tower were wiretapped.

Trump accused President Obama of wiretapping him.

This story reports that Manafort was a target of collection and that Trump was talking with him at the time Manafort was under surveillance. It does not report that Trump Tower, where Manafort did have an apartment, was the location of that targeting.

Press reports have indicated for months that at least one, and potentially multiple, close associates of Donald Trump were subject to FISA warrants. It is possible now—as has been noted many times since Trump tweeted his accusation in March—that if the U.S. president was in communication with these individuals, his communications might have been incidentally collected. That isn’t the same as being wiretapped—and being subject to incidental collection as part of lawful collection against a third party really is not the same thing as being wiretapped by President Obama. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has already attempted to spin incidental collection into presidential vindication in a bizarre series of press conferences unveiling intelligence revelations—which later turned out to have been fed to him by the White House itself….

Carol D. Leonnig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report that Facebook’s openness on Russia questioned by congressional investigators:

House and Senate investigators have grown increasingly concerned that Facebook is withholding key information that could illuminate the shape and extent of a Russian propaganda campaign aimed at tilting the U.S. presidential election, according to people familiar with the probe.

Among the information Capitol Hill investigators are seeking is the full internal draft report from an inquiry the company conducted this spring into Russian election meddling but did not release at the time, said these people who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters under investigation.

A 13-page “white paper” that Facebook published in April drew from this fuller internal report but left out critical details about how the Russian operation worked and how Facebook discovered it, according to people briefed on its contents.

Investigators believe the company has not fully examined all potential ways that Russians could have manipulated Facebook’s sprawling social media platform….

Compare Facebook Gave Special Counsel Robert Mueller More Details on Russian Ad Buys Than Congress.

Ann Ravel writes How the FEC Turned a Blind Eye to Foreign Meddling (“For years, my fellow FEC commissioners refused to apply campaign finance rules to the internet. Now Russia is running amok on Facebook”) :

….policymakers for years have ignored or outright opposed the need to hold the internet advertising industry to the same standards the country has already agreed on for television and radio. Our campaign finance rules are outdated for the internet age, and rules on the books aren’t enforced. Now, with the revelation that Russia, too, sees the political value in America’s online advertising market, the chickens have come home to roost.

I warned that Vladimir Putin could meddle in our elections nearly three years ago, as vice chair of the Federal Election Commission, the federal agency charged with not only protecting the integrity of our election process, but ensuring disclosure of the sources of money in politics. Our vulnerabilities seemed obvious: The FEC’s antiquated policies refer to fax machines and teletypes, but barely mention modern technological phenomena like social media, YouTube and bots. The inadequacy of the FEC’s current regulations makes it practically impossible for both regulators and citizens to determine if the funding for a political advertisement online came from a domestic source or an enemy abroad. We had left the window wide open for foreign interference.

I suggested to the commission that the FEC consult with internet and tech experts to discuss how the agency’s current approach may or may not fit with future innovations. Starting this conversation should have been noncontroversial, especially at an agency whose very mission is to inform the public about the sources behind campaign spending.

But my comments were greeted with harassment and death threats stoked by claims by the three Republican commissioners that increased transparency in internet political advertising was censorship. Requiring financial disclosure, they argued, “could threaten the continued development of the internet’s virtual free marketplace of political ideas and democratic debate.” One commissioner went so far as to tell me that even talking about this subject at the commission would itself “chill speech”….

(American free speech concerns would not – and indeed should not – bar inquiry into a Russian dictator’s  propaganda and electoral interference.)

Aaron Blake asks What’s the matter with Trump’s lawyers?:

They say a man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. President Trump isn’t representing himself, but sometimes it feels like he has a bunch of Donald Trumps on retainer.

While lawyers generally operate behind the scenes and try to keep their public comments limited and calculated, Trump’s lawyers have routinely done things outside the norm. They’ve gotten into spats with reporters and trolls, talked about internal deliberations and their odds of success and, most recently, discussed the Russia investigation within earshot of a New York Times reporter.

That last one is the most recent development in the increasingly strange saga of Trump’s legal team. The New York Times reported Sunday that they had overheard a conversation between Trump lawyers Ty Cobb and John Dowd last week at Washington’s popular BLT Steak restaurant, which is both near the White House and very close to the Times’s Washington bureau. Oops….

A quick recap [of other recent embarrassments]:

(Some of these incidents would be difficult to accept even from a young lawyer, and these men – they’re all men from the examples – are not young. Encountering even one of these incidents or remarks would lead me to suggest intra-firm coaching & corrective action, including a written warning before possible dismissal, as well as a more careful review – sad but needed in cases like this – of the care with which the firm’s hiring committee was choosing new associates, if these were cases among young lawyers.)

Where Did the Saying I’ll Eat My Hat Come From? Today I Found Out explains: