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Hillary Clinton Will Appear on S.N.L.’s Season Premiere

When Saturday Night Live kicks off its 41st season this weekend, there will be two Hillary Clintons to greet us. The campaign won’t yet confirm it, but rumor has it that Secretary Clinton herself will make a cameo in this Saturday’s cold open—alongside cast member Kate McKinnon, who has inherited the duty of playing Hillary on the show.

According to The New York Times the appearance was intended as a surprise, and could still change; after all, S.N.L. creator Lorne Michaels has been known to change his lineup at the last minute. But Clinton turned down an opportunity to address the Human Rights Campaign to make the appearance, indicating just how much she values the opportunity to show off her human, funny side on what’s still one of the country’s most important sources of political satire.

As James Andrew Miller pointed out earlier this week, Clinton’s delayed appearance on S.N.L. in 2008—she backed out of a cameo and then only came on after Barack Obama had already stopped by—may have hurt her in that primary campaign. And though she doesn’t have nearly as strong a challenger so far as Obama was in the 2008 race, she’s still struggling to put across the ever-important “likability” factor. When she finally did appear on S.N.L. opposite Amy Poehler in 2008, she pulled it off. Can Saturday’s appearance—should it happen—give her that much-needed bump?

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A Christmas-Music Podcast | National Review

Editor’s Note: National Review has inaugurated a new feature, “To the Contrary,” where an NR writer dissents from NR’s official editorial line and another writer replies. NR opposes impeachment, but below, Ramesh Ponnuru makes the case for it in an article that originally appeared in the December 31, 2019, …
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Steele distributed other dossier reports, including one to an oligarch’s lawyer

Just before Christmas 2015, the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele emailed a report to private clients that included an American lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch.

The title of the dossier was “FIRTASH Abortive Return to Ukraine,” and it purported to provide intelligence on why the energy oligarch Dmitri Firtash tried, but failed, to return to his home country of Ukraine.

“FIRTASH’s talk of returning
to Ukraine a genuine ambition rather than merely a ruse to reveal Ukrainian
government’s hand. However the oligarch developed cold feet upon the news of a
negative reception at Boryspil airport,” Steele reported on Dec. 23, 2015.

Perhaps most important to the recipients, the former MI6 agent’s report purported to share the latest thinking of Russian and U.S. officials on Firtash, who at the time faced U.S. criminal charges and was awaiting extradition from Austria.

Those charges and extradition remain unresolved four years later. Firtash insists on his innocence, while the U.S. government stands by it case despite recent criticism from Austrian and Spanish authorities.

“The prevarication over his
return has lost FIRTASH credibility with the Russians, but his precarious
position in Austria leaves him little choice but to acquiesce with Moscow’s
demands,” the Steele report claimed. “Separate American sources confirm that US
Government regards FIRTASH as a conduit for Russian influence and he remains a
pariah to the Americans.”

The anecdote of the Firtash
report underscores that challenges the FBI faced when it used Steele in 2016 as
a human source in the Russia collusion probe.

He not only opposed Trump and
was paid by Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm to dig up dirt on the then-GOP
nominee, he also was in the business of selling intelligence to private clients
– all perfectly legal — while informing for the FBI.

Steele had engaged the U.S. government on occasion since his retirement from MI6 in 2009, both as an FBI informant in the FIFA soccer corruption case and as intelligence provider to the Obama State Department. So any assessment he offered from U.S. officials was closely watched by private clients.

His Firtash report cited an unnamed
intelligence source indicating that Firtash had little chance of winning any favor
under the Obama administration, but that other oligarchs in the region might be
welcomed by the Americans if they sought to play a role in Ukraine.

“The source had a separate
confirmation from US sources that Washington regarded FIRTASH as a conduit for
Russian influence,” the report said. “Whilst the USG was prepared to do
business with the likes of Rinat AKHMETOV and Ihor KOLOMOISKY, FIRTASH remained
a pariah.”

The U.S. lawyer who received Steele’s report represented Firtash and had spent part of 2015 checking whether there was an opportunity the State or Justice Department might negotiate to settle the criminal case against his client.  He determined the U.S. government did not, something Steele’s report only affirmed anew.

Steele did not immediately respond to a message to his London business office seeking comment. But his firm has issued a blanket statement on its Web site saying it does highly professional work but doesn’t comment on specific clients or products.

“Orbis
Business Intelligence has an established track record of providing strategic
intelligence, forensic investigation and risk consulting services to a broad
client base,” the firm wrote. “The nature of our business, and our high
standards of professionalism dictate that we would not disclose to the public
information on any specific aspects of our work.  We remain fully
committed to the secure provision of our services to our clients and partners
worldwide.”

Steele and his infamous dossier alleging an unfounded
conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to hijack the 2016 election are
expected to play a starring role in a long-awaited Justice Department inspector
general’s report reviewing the FBI’s Russian collusion probe.

The report to be made public next month is expected to
reveal that one FBI official falsified a document and other U.S. officials
withheld information both about Steele and the innocence of some of the targeted
individuals when the FBI sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant
to probe the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia starting in October 2016.

Some intelligence experts have
been quoted recently
as saying Steele’s information against Trump, much of
which the FBI could never verify, may have been Russian disinformation designed
to sow chaos during the U.S. election.

After two-plus years of investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded this spring that there was no collusion or conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Nonetheless, the allegations have lingered over the Trump presidency and divided the country bitterly.

Steele’s Firtash report is a cogent reminder that while Steele on occasion worked for the U.S. government, he also was simultaneously pitching intelligence he got from American sources and others to his private clients, some who had different interests than the United States.

The back and forth between U.S. and other contacts in Steele’s business was laid bare by email and text messages released by the Justice Department last year. For instance, the messages show that less than three weeks after emailing the Firtash report, Steele reached out in January 2016 to senior U.S. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, a prosecutor with responsibility for Eurasian oligarchs, to set up a possible meeting in London.

Steele and Ohr had frequent contact all the way through 2017, including when Steele shared on July 30, 2016 some of his anti-Trump evidence with Ohr, who then took it to the top of the FBI. Steele was eventually dropped by the FBI as an informant for leaking to the news media.

Fiona Hill, a recent impeachment witness and a former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, suggested to lawmakers in a deposition recently that Steele’s dual role as government insider/informer and private intelligence provider left him vulnerable to Russian disinformation when he wrote his dossier.

“He was constantly trying to drum up business,” Hill testified when asked about her own contacts from time to time with the former British intelligence agent.

She said that when she read Steele’s anti-Trump dossier in
January 2017 she instantly feared it might be disinformation fed to Steele by
the Russians because he previously had done spy work for MI6.

“That is when I expressed the misgivings and concern that he
could have been played,” Hill testified.

She added: “The Russians would have an axe to grind against
him given the job he had previously. And if he started going back through his
old contacts and asking about that, that would be a perfect opportunity for
people to feed him some kind of misinformation.”

The IG report set to be released Dec. 9 will give Americans
a more comprehensive look at Steele and the FBI’s reliance on him as an informant.

And then it will be up to the FBI, DOJ and congressional
oversight committees to re-evaluate what lessons can be learned from the now-debunked
Russia collusion probe.  

Those likely are to include better vetting of informants, stronger oversight of the FISA process and new regulations for when the FBI can investigate a candidate during the middle of an election, especially when the allegations emanate from a political opponent.

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Elizabeth Warren wooed donors at top Manhattan restaurant boasting $6,600 wines

[Ed. – It gets worse and worse for her.]

Elizabeth Warren recently made headlines jabbing 2020 Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg over his Napa Valley “wine cave” fundraiser. But the Massachusetts senator’s own campaign fundraisers have sometimes taken place at a restaurant boasting bottles that cost more than $6,500.

Federal Election Commission records show Warren’s political action committee … and her Senate joint fundraising committee enjoyed at least four events at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan co-owned by celebrity chef Danny Meyer. Both of the Warren-affiliated organizations paid thousands of dollars to the restaurant for reception and catering expenses between December 2014 and October 2017.

A dinner at the restaurant’s main dining room runs $134 for a three-course tasting menu — and that’s before the wine. While customers can find wines such as the Chilean white La Ruptura at $48, Gramercy Tavern’s 34-page wine list also offers bottles of Burgundies costing $6,600. …

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Trump’s Impeachment and “Impeachment Lite”

The shock of Donald Trump’s election, in November, 2016, obscured a tragedy of equal moment—the eclipse of reason, fact, and ethical judgment in the Republican Party.

Twenty-one years ago, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, there were numerous Democratic lawmakers who lambasted him for his trespasses; five voted against him. Clinton, for his part, apologized to the American people before the House voted on his fate. “What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds,” he said. “I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame.”

Clinton had lied about sex. That was the root of the accusations against him. Trump, with the help of Rudy Giuliani and others, attempted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, an ally under assault from Russia, as a way to extract a crude and distinctly personal political favor. Was this not a far graver offense? And yet everyone knew that there was never the remotest chance of hearing a word of contrition from Trump—and that from the Republican Party there would be no self-questioning, no doubt. Tribalism—and the demands of Trumpism—would not permit it.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Lindsey Graham recognized, and said publicly, that Trump was “unfit for office”—and when Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and so many other Republicans in Congress recognized Trump for the moral vacuum that he is. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, once called Trump “a terrible human being.” Rick Perry, his Secretary of Energy, saw him as a “barking carnival act” and deemed his candidacy “a cancer on conservatism.” Ted Cruz called him a “pathological liar” and “utterly immoral.” They used to care. But things have changed.

At the same time, nearly every loyalist who leaves the Trump White House—James Mattis, Gary Cohn, H. R. McMaster, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, et al.—comes clean, on or off the record, about despising Trump. They describe in detail the President’s countless acts of duplicity and incompetence. Only fearful, humiliated ex-Trumpers in need of campaign support, such as Jeff Sessions, who is again running for the Senate in Alabama, abase themselves and speak of his virtue. Nikki Haley, who seems intent on being Trump’s successor (or perhaps Mike Pence’s replacement on the ticket), refers to Trump as “great to work with” and “truthful”; in 2016, she said that he was “everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.”

In other words, when it comes to Trump, everyone knows. As the Republican caucus members fell into line on Wednesday, they revealed themselves. No one defended Trump on the merits, on the facts—not with any conviction or coherence. Who came to praise his character or values? No one. Instead, there were only counter-accusations, smoke-bomb diversions about procedure, ill will, and even talk of the President’s martyrdom. Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican with a name fit for Mencken, was distinguished in his metaphors, yet hardly eccentric among his caucus, when he said, “Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, keep this in mind: when Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this President in this process.” Democrats, in fact, had offered the President the chance to defend himself, but he had declined to do so. His “defense” was to hold back as much evidence and as many witnesses as he could.

No one marshalled any evidence to dispute that the President had dispatched Giuliani and others to assist him in manipulating and muscling the Ukrainian government into doing him a “favor.” No one denied with any conviction that Trump had asked for foreign help in 2016 (“Russia, if you’re listening…”) and was looking for it this time around, too. Not only had Trump not apologized or denied it, he doubled down. Hadn’t he asked the Chinese, in October, to carry out an investigation of the Bidens right there on the White House lawn?

Republican members may sincerely admire the judges whom the President has appointed, the tax cuts for the wealthy that he has supported, and the ad-libbed trade war that he has waged. But they also know that Trump is, as Adam Schiff put it in the most eloquent speech of the day, a cheat. On July 24th, Trump watched as the special counsel Robert Mueller testified, damningly but ineffectively, in Congress. On July 25th he called the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and asked for his “favor.” On July 26th, he called his million-dollar campaign donor and Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant in Kyiv, to make sure that the Ukrainians were going to do it—that they were going to investigate the Bidens, on his behalf. He didn’t care about corruption in Ukraine, or the war Russia was waging against Ukraine. He cared only about “big stuff,” as Sondland put it. He cared about himself. And he was willing to extort an ally to get what he desired.

On Wednesday evening, the commentators on television solemnly invoked the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, history. Everyone went full-on Jon Meacham.

But Trump made it plain that he would not nod to any sense of grace or occasion. During his impeachment crisis, President Andrew Johnson was quick to the bottle and revealed, in many speeches, a deep streak of self-pity. “Who has borne more than I?” he asked an audience in Cleveland, in 1866. Trump is certainly as thin-skinned as Johnson was. Consult his Twitter feed. And yet just around the moment when the House passed the first article of impeachment, Trump was trying his best to do a rhetorical devil-may-care act at a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, asserting that real Air Force pilots were more handsome than the “Top Gun”-era Tom Cruise. He improvised. He did shtick. He threw out one random insult and Dada observation after another. He talked about Beto O’Rourke. (Remember Beto O’Rourke?) He talked about showers. He talked about sinks. He talked about many other things. He performed as if none of what was happening in Washington mattered. He was now impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he felt safe. He had his party. He had Fox News and his Twitter followers. He had his base. He could not be touched. “It’s impeachment lite,” he told the crowd. “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time.”

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Buttigieg Surrogate Calls Impeachment a ‘Washington Story’ Ahead of First Primary Ballots

President Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump exits after speaking at a White House Mental Health Summit in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House on December 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty

A surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said that the impeachment process is “literally a Washington story” on Tuesday, emphasizing the need to break through a media firewall that will emphasize the president’s upcoming Senate trial as the first primary ballot approaches.

“I know that cable news media is going to be sucked up into it, which is why it’s important to have a really great ground-game in the early states,” Democratic strategist Jennifer Holdsworth told Hill.TV. “It’s also important to make sure that you’re up on the air getting your message across, while you’re running a commercial while all of this craziness is going on on the other networks.”

Health care and the economy have traditionally ranked as the top two issues for voters in general election cycles. But impeachment has thrown a wrench into the usual calculus, complicating efforts to hand-wave away the importance of these proceedings to both Democratic and Republican voters.

Recently, The Democracy Fund partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles, to conduct one of the largest public opinion surveys in history. The project, called Nationscape, aims to query over half a million people ahead of the 2020 election.

Nationscape has already spoken with voters about the impeachment process, and the results show that, far from being a Washington story, impeachment is a priority.

Not impeaching President Donald Trump was found to be the most important issue for Republicans, well above the second-highest priority of not banning guns. Not providing reparations for slavery and building a border wall come in a close third and fourth place, respectively.

On the Democratic side, impeaching Trump is the second-highest priority ahead of 2020, just behind not separating immigrant children from their parents and just above preserving abortion rights.

Holdsworth did not return Newsweek‘s request for comment prior to publication.

Nationscape’s survey affirms other analyses which show that in recent years, issues related to governance have become some of the most important for Americans. In November, “the government” and “poor leadership” were cited as the most important problems facing the country by a 33-percent plurality of respondents, according to Gallup. This represents a more-than 10 point increase since August.

In recent years, Gallup has found, governance issues are cited as the most important issue with more regularity than at any point since at least 2001.

On the other hand, the share of Americans mentioning economic issues as the country’s “most important problem” has fallen, peaking to relative highs during the 2008 financial crisis and falling steadily over the ensuing decade.

Just ahead of the impeachment vote, Gallup found that a slight majority of Americans think that Trump should not be impeached and removed from office. Other surveys, such as a recent poll from Morning Consult, have found a slight majority of registered voters back impeachment and removal.

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Buttigieg Would Compensate, Fast Track Citizenship for Illegal Minors Separated from Families

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that he’s for compensating illegal immigrant children separated from their families at the border, and on top of that, he would fast track U.S. citizenship for them.

“You said last month that the U.S. owes compensation to children separated from their families at the southern border. The consensus among child welfare workers is that they will suffer lifelong trauma as a result of that separation. Are you committing as president to financial compensation for those thousands of children?” Buttigieg was asked at the PBS NewsHour POLITICO Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, Calif.

 

“Yes,” Buttigieg said, “and they should have a fast track to citizenship because what the United States did under this president to them was wrong. We have a moral obligation to make right what was broken, and on the larger issue of immigration, my understanding of this issue isn’t theoretical. 

“It’s not something I formed in committee rooms in Washington. It begins with the fact that my household, my family, came from abroad. My father immigrated to this country and became a U.S. citizen. It comes from the fact that I’m the mayor of a city where neighborhoods that were left for dying are coming back largely due to the contributions mainly of Latino immigrants,” he said.

I’ve seen neighbors shut down, families huddling in church, panicking just because of a rumor of an ice raid. It did not make our country safe,” Buttigieg said. 

“To look into the eyes of an eight-year-old boy whose father was deported even though he had nothing so much as a traffic ticket against his name and try to think of something to tell that boy because I couldn’t tell him what he most wanted to hear, which is just that he was going to have his dad back,” the mayor said.

“How can harming that young man possibly make America safe? When I am president, based on those experiences, I will make sure that this is a country of laws and of values, and that means not only ending these unspeakable, cruel practices at the border but finally and truly fixing the immigration problem that has needed a full overhaul since the 1980s. We cannot wait four years, 10 years. We cannot wait anymore to do something,” he said.

Buttigieg was also asked whether he supports reparations for the descendants of slaves.

“I support H.R. 40, which is the bill that has been proposed in Congress to establish a commission to look at reparations, but we shouldn’t wait for that commission to do its work to do things that are reparative. Remember, we’re not talking about a gift to anybody. We’re talking about mending what was broken,” the mayor said.

“We’re talking about the generational theft of the wealth of generations of African-Americans. And just crossing out a racist policy and replacing it with a neutral one is not enough to deliver equality. Harms compound, just like a dollar saved in its value compounds over time. So does the value of a dollar stolen, and that is why the United States must act immediately with investments in minority-owned businesses, with investments in health equity, with investments in HBCUs, and on the longer-term, a look at reparations so that we can mend what has been broken,” he said.

 

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New poll shows nearly half of voters approve of Trump’s impeachment

Nearly half of voters in a new HuffPost-YouGov poll say they approve of the House’s decision to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump chats with attorney Alan Dershowitz at Mar-a-Lago Extreme weather in 2019 broke over 120,000 records in US: report Yang asks ‘Where’s Tulsi?’ after video of Democratic candidates leaves her out MORE.

The poll found that 49 percent of voters approve of impeachment, while 42 percent disapprove. Nine percent are unsure. 

The poll also found that 47 of voters percent think Trump should be removed from office, compared to 42 percent who do not think he should be removed from office. Eleven percent are not sure. 

Support of impeachment is highly partisan, with 89 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents surveyed saying they approve of impeachment and 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying they disapprove. 

The House voted nearly along party lines last Wednesday to approve the two articles of impeachment against Trump, setting the stage for a Senate trial. 

That trial is likely to take place in January, but the timing is uncertain because Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew poll shows nearly half of voters approve of Trump’s impeachment Trump, first lady attend Christmas Eve services in Florida Democratic strategist: Impeachment is ‘moral obligation’ MORE (D-Calif.) has withheld sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate to try to win leverage in a battle with Republicans over rules for the trial. The House accused Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

For the president to be removed from office, more than two-thirds of the GOP-led Senate would have to vote for his ouster following a trial in the upper chamber.

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The new poll from HuffPost and YouGov comes after a recent survey from Politico and Morning Consult found that 52 percent of voters support the House’s decision to impeach Trump and that 51 percent would support a decision by the Senate to remove him.  

The new HuffPost-YouGov poll was conducted between Dec. 20 and Dec. 22 among 1,000 U.S. adults. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points. 

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The Trumpire strikes back: White House launches incoherent counterattack on Mueller probe

Last week we found out that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s now-notorious fixer, had been working on that Trump Tower Moscow deal much longer than was previously known. According to Yahoo News, congressional investigators and prosecutors have emails and text messages showing that Cohen was still working the deal with Trump associate and government informant Felix Sater well into 2016, even as Trump was sewing up the Republican nomination. Sater is the one who famously sent Cohen the email in 2015 that said “I will get Putin on this program, and we will get Donald elected.” Cohen had insisted that the deal was scrapped at the end of 2015, and that turns out to be a lie. Shocking, I know.

Then there was the byzantine story of Michael Cohen and some Qatari investors in a basketball league, who were offering bribes and who may be involved in one of the Steele dossier’s most intriguing rumors: the one about a quid pro quo involving the Trump campaign and the multibillion-dollar sale of one-fifth of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to the Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund. Did I mention that it was byzantine? You can read all about it in this Slate article by Jeremy Stahl.

On Saturday, The New York Times dropped a bombshell about yet another meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and some foreign agents offering to “help” with his dad’s presidential campaign, this one in August of 2016, three months before the election. The group that met at Trump Tower included George Nader, an emissary for two wealthy princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel and former Blackwater owner Erik Prince. (Nader and Prince also attended that suspicious Seychelles meeting with Russian and UAE officials a week before the inauguration)

The Times reported that Donald Jr. “responded approvingly,” and Nader became a Trump intimate who subsequently met frequently with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, the future (if short-lived) national security adviser. After the election, a company associated with Zamel gave Nader an “elaborate” presentation about how important social media had been to Trump’s win and Nader, for unclear reasons, paid Zamel “a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million.”

Everyone denies there was anything untoward about any of it, of course. They’re all as innocent as newborn babes. But all these overlapping chess moves might lead one to take a second look at Trump’s astonishing decision last summer to take sides against Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, in the dispute between that country and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Those were just three big new stories that hit last week, opening up a whole different line of inquiry about foreign interference in the 2016 election. And yet, despite all the guilty pleas, indictments, interviews and subpoenas, two (admittedly tainted) congressional investigations and mountains of press reports that indicate something extremely unusual happened in the Trump presidential campaign, the conservative media has embarked on a crusade from an alternate universe.

In the right wing’s alternative version of reality, none of these stories about Trump and his associates meeting with foreign actors eager to help him sabotage his rival’s campaign, or large sums of unaccounted-for foreign money being funneled to his personal fixer, or even the obvious conflicts of interest suggesting that flat-out corruption is the most reasonable explanation for Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy, even exist. In their reality, federal law enforcement intervened in the election to deny Donald Trump the presidency on behalf of Hillary Clinton. You may think they had a funny way of showing it, since they kept their investigation top secret while the FBI director went out of his way to sully Hillary Clinton’s reputation at the last minute. But that’s the conservative media’s story and they are sticking to it — at least for now.

The details in actual reality are pretty straightforward. The FBI had been keeping tabs on Paul Manafort and Carter Page for some time, well before they  signed on to the 2016 Trump campaign, because of their suspicious ties to the Kremlin and other high-level politicians in Moscow’s orbit. In Page’s case, he had been approached by Russian agents some years back, while Manafort was known to be engaging in financial crimes involved with Ukrainian oligarchs. It is not surprising that law enforcement antennae went up when people such as that joined a presidential campaign.

Then there was the hacking, the social media manipulation and the hiring of retired Gen. Michael Flynn, formerly the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who had been fired by President Obama and had a huge ax to grind. Then a young foreign policy guy, George Papadopoulos, got drunk in London and spilled to an Australian diplomat that he’d been approached by Russians who told him they had all kinds of dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported over the weekend that all of this led the FBI in the summer of 2016 to engage a longtime Republican foreign policy expert who had operated as an informant in the past to approach Papadopoulos, Page and Flynn to see what he could find out. We don’t know whether this source turned up anything, but investigating the possibility that campaign officials were being set up by foreign actors for blackmail or undue influence would be a standard counter-intelligence operation. Having an informant check it out is more discreet than sending in some G-men to interrogate the officials and, as I mentioned, the fact that the FBI never breathed a word of any of this during the campaign makes the suggestion that they were trying to help Hillary Clinton entirely absurd.

You will recall that Rudy Giuliani blabbed a while back that Team Trump was planning to “make a fuss” on the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation. This seems to be part of their coordinated extravaganza, with the president himself leading the charge:

This has been percolating for some time on the right, courtesy of House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has been demanding that the name of this informant be released to him, and even threatening Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a contempt citation. The FBI and the Justice Department have refused, citing the usual danger to “sources and methods,” but the name has been circulating in right-wing media for days anyway and is now public. The stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post are likely heavily sourced by this coordinated “fuss.”

I’m not sure what was accomplished by this, or by the weird insistence among Trump supporters that this somehow proves the Mueller investigation is tainted. This argument by law professor Jonathan Turley seems to rest on the premise that the FBI was being unfair to the Trump campaign because, in keeping the investigation secret, it didn’t give the campaign the opportunity to let the public know that it was under investigation for possible conspiracy with a foreign adversary. Does that make sense?

On Sunday, Trump made his next move:

The Justice Department responded obediently that it had asked the inspector general to “expand the ongoing review . . . to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation” launched in 2016. Trump must feel very powerful.

This tweet on Sunday night by HUD official Lynne Patton perfectly illustrates how reality is perceived in the Trumpian alternate universe:

Someone needs to remind these people that they won the election. They seem to have forgotten.

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Bloomberg Campaign Says It’ll Cut Ties With a Company That Used Prison Labor

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Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, through a vendor, once contracted with a call center that used prison labor, according to the Intercept.

The former New York City mayor’s campaign contracted with the telecommunications company Procom to contact people in California through a third-party vendor, according to the news organization. Procom, which operates two call centers out of Oklahoma state prisons, was hired by the vendor to make the calls on the campaign’s behalf, according to the Intercept. The third-party vendor that hired Procom, meanwhile, hasn’t been disclosed, and it’s unclear whether the inmates were hired to conduct polling, canvassing, or some other task.

READ MORE: Michael Bloomberg finally says sorry for all those years of Stop-And-Frisk. He was still defending it in January.

“We didn’t know about this and we never would have allowed it if we had,” Bloomberg spokesperson Julie Wood said in a statement about the Intercept’s article. “We don’t believe in this practice and we’ve now ended our relationship with the subcontractor in question.”

Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the country, driven in part by punitive laws that punish women at an unusually high rate.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders welcomed Mike Bloomberg to the race with some choice burns

One of the prisons that supplied labor for the Bloomberg campaign is a minimum-security prison in rural Oklahoma that holds more than 900 women. Procom pays the Oklahoma Department of Corrections the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for the women’s labor, and the state agency transfers some amount of that money down to the women for their work, according to the Intercept. It’s unclear how much of that money makes it to the women, but the state’s corrections website says it pays inmates up to $20 per month. Procom disputed to the Intercept that its workers were making that little.

While working in non-state owned industries, prisoners in Oklahoma usually make 54 cents per hour at best, according to the Prison Policy Institute.

Cover: Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks before taking part in an on-stage conversation with former California Gov. Jerry Brown at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)