Unfinished Business

Last week on Daily Check-In 03/12/2018, the Republicans of the House Intelligence Committee ended their investigation into the Russian Interference in the 2016 election, saying that they found “no evidence of collusion” between the Russians and Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Democrats on the committed called Bullshit.

On Tuesday, Daily Check-In 03/13/2018, the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), a.k.a. the House Intelligence Committee, released a 21 page memo describing everything the Republicans either refused to investigate, actively interfered with, or purposely stonewalled.  While in any normal universe, this would be front page news for a week and a half, it wasn’t even in the top 10 stories of the week.  Fuck, it wouldn’t even qualify as Top 5 of the weekend.

As I promised multiple times this week, here’s a breakdown of the Status of the Russian Investigation.

 

BREAKDOWN

  • Appendix A:  Lines of inquiry that the Republicans shot down.
  • Appendix B:  A list of more than 30 key witnesses that they didn’t interview
  • Appendix C:  More than 20 entities that they haven’t request information from yet.
  • Appendix D:  More than 15 people and entities that blew off the committee in one way, shape, or form.

 

APPENDIX A: UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The Democrats feel there are unanswered questions concerning the following areas that the Republicans either wouldn’t follow up on, or refused to dig into.

  • Hacking and dissemination of campaign emails.
  • Campaign knowledge of the hack.
  • Russia’s intermediaries.
  • Elections security.
  • Social media campaign.
  • Financial leverage.
  • Money laundering and foreign payments.
  • Post-election efforts and Obstruction of Justice.

 

APPENDIX B: KEY WITNESSES THE MAJORITY REFUSED TO INTERVIEW

Here’s a list of witness that the Republicans on the HPSCI flat out refused to interview.

  • Reince Preibus, Former RNC Head and White House Chief of Staff.
  • Stephen Miller, Speechwriter and Policy Advisor, likely knew about the June 9 meeting.
  • Kathleen (KT) McFarland, Member of the Trump Transition Team and Flynn’s Deputy National Security Advisor.  She was the go-between for the Transition Team and Mike Flynn when Flynn was on the phone with Sergei Kislyak.
  • Sean Spicer, Former White House Press Secretary.
  • Kellyanne Conway, White House Communications Advisor.  Worked with Peter Smith on his attempts to get HRC’s emails.
  • Tera Dahl, Diplomatic Outreach Coordinator.  What did she know about Page and Papadopoulos?
  • Daniel Scavino, Jr., Trump’s Social Media Director.
  • Joseph “Keith” Kellogg Jr., National Security Council and original member of the Trump Foreign Policy Team, along with Page and Papadopoulos.
  • Joseph E. Schmitz, member of the Trump Foreign Policy Team.
  • Sam Nunberg, former member of the Trump Campaign, student of Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.  Recently testified before Mueller’s grand jury.
  • George Nader, adviser to the Emirati Crown Prince and Erik Prince.  Recently became a cooperating witness.
  • Marshall Billingsea, member of the Trump Transition Team who expressed worries about Flynn’s Russian contacts.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations staffers, past and present.
  • Dimitri Simes, CEO of Center for the National Interest, the Conservative Think Tank that hosted the Mayflower Meeting.
  • Clea Mitchell, former attorney for the NRA.  Introduced in Daily Check-In 03/15/2018.
  • Maria Butina, Alexaner Torshin’s protegé, started the Russian group “Right to Bear Arms”.
  • Johnny Yenason, member of RtBA, worked with Maria Butina and Alexander Torhsin.
  • Sergei Millian, Check Out Daily Check-In 11/17/2017 for his background.  He was supposedly a source in the Steele Dossier and was a Russian contact with George Papadopoulos back in April 2016.
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian Attorney and Spy from the June 9 Trump Tower Meeting.
  • Roman Beniaminov, was at the June 9 meeting.
  • Bijan Kian, worked with Flynn Intel Group and Turkey.  Daily Check-In 11/22/2017 has a link to him being a person of interest for Robert Mueller.
  • Simona Mangiante, George Papadopoulos’s wife.  She claims to know what he was up to.
  • John Szobocsan, worked with Peter Smith.
  • Allen Garten, counsel for Trump Organization who likely knows abut the June 9 meeting.
  • Alan Weisselberg, CFO of Trump Organization.
  • Mark Corallo, former White House Counsel, quit over the cover-up of the June 9 meeting.
  • Duetsche Bank, Trump’s ATM and chosen bank for Russians looking to launder money to the west.
  • Trump Campaign Digital Operation, like Avi Berkowitz and Theresa Hong.
  • Cambridge Analytica, including Rebekha Mercer, Alex Taylar, and Julian Wheatland.
  • Darren Blanton, worked with Steve Bannon.
  • Jon Iadonisi, did social media work for the Trump Campaign, as well work for Flynn and Turkey.
  • Aaron Nevins, blogger who messaged Guccifer 2.0 (Russian Government Hackers) and received stolen mails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).
  • CrowdStrike, specifically the two employees who supported the DNC and interfaced with the FBI.

 

APPENDIX C:  DOCUMENT REQUESTS

The following entities have documents that the Democrats would like to see, but the Republicans declined to ask for.

  • Duetsche Bank
  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • Snapchat
  • Imgur
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • Kushner Companies and Observer Media
  • Bayrock Group
  • Estate of Peter Smith
  • KLS Research, LLC
  • Colt Ventures
  • VizSense Inc. and White Canvas Group
  • Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA
  • DMP International LLC
  • Cendyn
  • Bridges LLC
  • Right to Bear Arms
  • Center for Political Affairs
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
  • ACU Strategic Partners

 

APPENDIX D:  COMPULSORY PROCESS

The following people and/or entities pulled everything from telling the HPSCI to fuck off to declining to work with them.  The Democrats want to force them to cooperate, which is well within their power.  The Republicans didn’t feel like it.

  • Donald Trump, Jr.
  • Michael Cohen
  • Jared Kushner
  • Corey Lewandowski
  • Stephen Bannon
  • Hope Hicks
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Erik Prince
  • Randolph “Randy” Credico.  Daily Check-In 12/13/2017 has Roger Stone outing him as his go-between with Julian Assange.
  • Lee Stranahan.  Employed by Sputnik.
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Apple
  • White House
  • Phone and other communications records.

 

CONCLUSION

Assuming the contents of this letter are true, then the Republican decision to end the investigation into an attack on the United States is either the grossest act of partisan in modern history, a coordinated effort with the White House to end the investigation prematurely, an act of sabotage to protect themselves from from uncovering uncomfortable truths, or all of the above.

Not only does this letter tell us what the Democrats wanted to investigate, but also what they will likely investigate if and when they come to power in the House.  The kind of obstruction at play here only lasts as long as the Republicans stay in power.  The Democrats would restart these investigations within 48 hours of obtaining a majority in the House.

Yet another reason to vote this November.

Three Stooges Syndrome

Last week on Daily Check-In 03/06/2018, I made a reference to an old bit from The Simpsons, Three Stooges Syndrome.  Mr. Burns goes to the doctor’s office for a complete physical.  After testing, the doctor gives him the news that he has…, well, everything.  Juvenile Diabetes, Hysterical Pregnancy, and several new diseases that they just discovered in him.  Mr. Burns asks what this means, and the doctor shows the diseases trying to get into his body through the door, but they get stuck like the Three Stooges.  Mr. Burns takes that to mean that he’s indestructible, but the doctor warns him that even a slight breeze could put his body out of balance.

“Indestructible,” Mr. Burns says to himself as he walks out of the office.

When I think of all of the different scandals that are flying around right now, and all of the craziness going on, we’re seeing Three Stooges Syndrome.

A sex scandal, an election funds fraud scandal, an obstruction of justice scandal, a sexual assault scandal, a collusion scandal, a can’t-do-the-basics-of-the-job scandal, a loves-tyrants-and-hates-democracy scandal, and a sold-out-the-country-to-the-Russians scandal.

And with all of these going on, his supporters think he’s indestructible.

What the poop?

Here’s the rationale they use…

Because of everything going on, there isn’t enough focus on just one specific scandal to cripple Trump and take him down, and because of that, he can’t be beat.  This mindset also assumes that Trump is constantly “winning” by not being removed from office each and every day.

What it also assumes is that with everything going on, the average person will get so worn out by the constant barrage of shit, that they’ll just give up and go “derp, whatever” and let Trump off the hook for all of the illegal shit he’s done.

Both of these mindsets are bullshit, but the second one is far more likely.  Hell, some people are already getting lost in the amount of bullshit.

That’s why I’m here.

One of the reasons why I write this blog is to keep track of all of the craziness, keep track of all of the scandals, and make sure that when shit goes down, I’ve got the paper trail to show the who, what, where, when, why, and how of everything that happened.

There’s a lot going on, but sometimes it does get overwhelming.  Trying to focus on Trump’s dealings with Russia one day, then having to figure out the nuances of what constitutes obstruction of justice and witness tampering, then research election campaign law, then circle back to the use of nerve gas in London, and keep an eye on what self-induced drama comes out of the West Wing.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not.  I like keeping track of the insanity, I like politics, and I love to write.  Putting the three together feels like I’m doing something worthwhile.

But, let me get back to the first part of Three Stooges Syndrome.  Does having 9,783 scandals flying around at once make Donald Trump indestructible?

No fucking way.

There is a finite amount of time, effort, energy, and resources that they expend to defend themselves on each of these scandals.  Each scandal, at least the big ones, require their own lawyers, maybe even a whole team of them like Russia.  One small misstep can put people in jail for a very, very long time.  Each time something new breaks, they have to figure out which team is dealing with the problem.  They pretty much need a manager to manage all of the crisis they face.

So, unlike Mr. Burns, Donald Trump is not indestructible. We’re gonna find out very soon, likely within the next few months, that he is very, very destructible.  Having 9,873 scandals doesn’t mean that he can’t come down, it just means the leftover pieces of him will be tiny.  Just like his hands.

 

That’s it for today.  Thank you, and have a good one.

Scandal Speed Run

One of the interesting things with the Trump Presidency is the sheer speed at which their scandals are unravelling and coming out.  Not only are they coming out in rapid fire, but they’re coming out early in the administration as well.

It’s almost like they’re doing a speed run.  How fast can they get through all of the worst scandals in history?

I wanted to compare Trump to the 7 Worst Presidential Scandals, per U.S. News, and see where The Dotard lined up, in terms of speed, scale, and overall corruption.  And, to see if there’s anything they haven’t done yet.

 

BILL CLINTON: MONICA LEWISNKY

Short Version: Bill Clinton got a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky, an intern at the White House.  Kenneth Starr, the Special Prosecutor investigating Whitewater, heard about this and investigated it.  He subpoenaed Bill Clinton, who lied under oath about getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky.  After several years of investigation, the only thing that Starr pulled up was a perjury charge.  Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 along very partisan lines, but was not removed from office.

Time: The blowjob took place in the last year of Bill Clinton’s first term.  He was impeached in the second year of his second term.

Comparison:  This is a two-for.  We have Trump obstructing justice and paying off a porn star to keep her quiet during the election.  Just because of Watergate, I’ll use Stormy Daniels here.  It took a little over a year for his sex scandal to come to the foreground.

SEX SCANDAL LEVEL STARTED IN ONE YEAR.

 

RICHARD NIXON:  WATERGATE

Short Version: A bunch of crooks with ties to the CIA and the Republican Party broke into the headquarters for the Democratic Party, located in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  The crooks got busted, Nixon was implicated in the cover-up, and he eventually had to resign.

Time: The break-in took place in the last year of his first term, and he left office in his second year of his second term.

Comparison: Trump has already helped with a break-in into the DNC email system, and is well on his way to an Obstruction of Justice charge, which is what took Nixon down.

BREAK-IN LEVEL STARTED BEFORE TAKING OFFICE

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

 

WARREN G. HARDING: TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL

Short Version: Harding’s Secretary of the Interior used government resources to obtain oil fields in Wyoming, then awarded them to a company in a no-bid contract that had given him bribes, loans, and payoffs.  Harding’s Interior Secretary became the first Cabinet member to be indicted and convicted while in office.

Time:  The Teapot Dome scandal started in 1922, the second year of his presidency.

Comparison:  Trump’s Cabinet is corrupt AF.  His Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has abused travel for personal use, and likely had a no-bid contract awarded to an unqualified company to provide power restoration to Puerto Rico.

TEAPOT DOME LEVEL STARTED IN NINE MONTHS

 

U. S. GRANT: THE WHISKEY RING

Short Version: In 1875, Grant’s personal secretary was implicated in a bribery and corruption scheme where Whiskey manufacturers complained about the taxes they had to pay.  It turns out that a few of them were bribing officials at the IRS and the Treasury Department, and keeping the money for themselves.

Time:  1875 was the next to last year of Grant’s presidency.

Comparison:  This one’s hard to compare.  Not for the lack of criminality, but that it required cooperation with the government.  That being said, if we’re looking for a straight bribery charge, an emoluments violation, or his staff being involved in some shady shit, we’ve had them all.  They’re close enough, I’ll count them.

BRIBERY LEVEL STARTED IN FIRST TWO MONTHS

EMOLUMENTS LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

STAFF CORRUPTION LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

 

ANDREW JOHNSON: THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT

Short Version: Andrew Johnson was a dick who only became President because Abraham Lincoln had a bad night at the theater.  Johnson was a Right Wing Democrat answering to a Left Wing Republican Congress who was trying to bring the country back together.  They passed a law saying that Johnson couldn’t fire any Cabinet members.  Johnson said “Eat a dick” and fired the Secretary of War.  The House impeached him, and he came within 1 vote of being removed from office.

Time:  Johnson was a bit of a dick from word one, but his impeachment took place in the third year of his presidency.

Comparison:  Trump has already ignored laws passed by Congress in refusing to enact the Russian sanctions.  He hasn’t been impeached for that yet, but the first Articles of Impeachment included the sanctions in it.

JOHNSON LEVEL STARTED IN EIGHT MONTHS

 

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS:  DIDN’T WIN THE POPULAR VOTE AND A CORRUPT BARGAIN

Short Version:  The Election of 1824 was a clusterfuck.  Andrew Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral college, but did not have a majority.  That forced the House of Representatives to vote on the Presidency between the final three candidates.  The one that missed out was Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House.  Clay also hated Andrew Jackson with a passion.  Clay struck a deal with John Quincy Adams, which became known as the “Corrupt Bargain” by Jackson’s supporters.  Clay helped create a coalition that let Adams win, and Clay was named Secretary of State.  Jackson’s supporters used this to spur him on to create his own party for the 1828 election.

Time:  The Corrupt Bargain took place at the beginning of John Quincy Adam’s first and only term, and was 4 years before Jackson took office.

Comparison:  This is a very hard one to compare to, but there are two examples I can think of that directly correlate.  The first was the Mayflower Meeting, and the second being the RNC meeting in Cleveland.  In both situations, Trump’s team asked the Russians for help.  In Cleveland, the GOP Leadership was involved.  And neither of these were a last-chance scenario like the Corrupt Bargain, but were both performed earlier in the campaign.

CORRUPT BARGAIN LEVEL STARTED MONTHS BEFORE TAKING OFFICE

 

CONCLUSION

Out of the 7 worst scandals in United States Presidential History, Donald Trump has managed to have his own version of each and every one of them, and far faster than anyone else in history.  This is a level of corruption that we’ve never seen before in this country.  Hell, most banana republic dictators are less corrupt than Donald Trump.  Of course, most of them are not neck deep in Russian Mafia, or a money laundering device for the world’s most evil and corrupt organizations.

Keep in mind, we’re only 13.2 months into the four year term.  We’re just getting started with the corruption, grift, greed, and criminality of Donald Trump.  We’re going. to find out a whole hell of a lot in the next year.

Thank you, and have a good one.

Voter Rolls – The Easy Target

One element of the Russian Investigation that has drawn a lot of attention is what the Russians hacked and why.

We know they hacked email accounts from the Democratic National Committee, and we’ve heard reports that they hacked the Republican National Committee as well.  They were hacked for compromising information.We know that they have hacked the emails of several journalists, and  they exploited Social Engineering techniques to manipulate people on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites.  We’ve seen reports about how the state voter rolls were compromised, and how chaos was created at the polling places through DDoS’s and other methods.

But one thing we haven’t heard any reports about were the voting totals themselves. There have been rumors, reports, and analyses from the edges of the spectrum, but no reports from any official, semi-official, or under-the-table sources.

Why is that?

The fringes will say that this is because the real evidence of the scope of the corruption is being hidden and obfuscated from the public, because this would cause a complete and total collapse in the fabric of democratic society.  The official sources say that there was no evidence of vote totals being changed.  Then the fringes will say that the totals were changed without a trail, and talk about how easy it is to hack a voting machine, the official sources say that this isn’t how it works, then they start arguing with each other and calling each other names.

So, two groups people argue about whether or not the vote totals themselves were changed, while completely ignoring everything else that took place.

What do I think?

From what I’ve seen, there is not enough evidence to suggest that vote totals were changed.  Not only that, but they wouldn’t need to be changed, and the amount of effort needed to change them wouldn’t be worth the return on investment.  Instead, hacking the voter rolls would be more effective, require minimal effort, and would slide under the radar, not being detected until someone went digging.

 

THE HACKER MENTALITY

Before I go into details about how the American Voting System works, let me describe how a hacking a little bit, and what a hacker thinks.

When most people think of hackers, they think of some neckbeard sitting behind a keyboard punching out obscure code to bring down a secure server while sipping energy drinks and talking about how corruption of “The Man”.  Okay, that’s part of it, but there’s more to hacking than bad hygiene and a caffeine addiction.

Hacking is about exploring a system, finding the weakness inherit in the system. That weakness could be a code exploit, a network weakness, or a PEBKAC* weakness.  What they do with that information depends on the hacker.  Good hackers, or White Hats, will inform the system owner of the exploit and seek to get it fixed.  Evil hackers, or Black Hats, will use that information for nefarious means.  The morally ambiguous Grey Hats fall somewhere in the middle.

How do I know so much about this?  I’ve been in IT most of my life, and, when I was younger, many years ago, may or may not…

Look, I’m pretty sure EVERYTHING I might have done is beyond the Statute of Limitations, but I’m still not going to go into details.  Just in case.  Needless to say, I know the hacker mentality.

 

FINDING THE EXPLOIT

Any system designed by man or used by man can be defeated or compromised by man.  Whether it’s a security system, a computer network, or the mail server at a Fortune 500 company, anything can be broken into.

The questions that a hacker asks are “What is the end goal?”, “Is it worth the effort?”, “What’s the risk?”, and “Is there an easier way into the system?”

What is the end goal?

Most hackers go into a system with an end goal in mind.  It could be exploration, curiosity, trying to find incriminating evidence, grabbing information for personal gain, or getting access for future use.  Sometimes, it’s just to say “I did it.”

Is it worth the effort?

This part varies from hacker to hacker.  Sometimes, it’s an easy job, like a brute-force attack* to get into an email account when most of the password is known.  Other times, the hack could require months of work and weeks of meticulous planning, but the reward is amazing.

What’s the risk?

Once again, this varies from hacker to hacker, and job to job.  Getting access to a secured laptop containing a rival company’s secrets might carry some significant legal risk if caught, but is nothing compared to trying to get into the NSA’s database from the outside.  The biggest reason I greatly scaled down when I did was the penalties involved jumped up from a couple weeks in Juvi to several years in Federal prison.

Is there an easier way into the system?

This is a question that every decent hacker asks.  Is there an easier way to get what I need than what’s given.  Is there an easier way into the database than trying to hack it from an outside connection?  Can I get into the mail server from any computer in the company, or only some of them?  Could I get someone else to get me in to the building by pretending that I’m lost and on my way to an interview or presentation?

This is called finding the exploit.  Finding and researching the easiest way into the system.  IT Professionals, Disaster Recovery Specialists, Security Specialists, Mechanics, and Engineers do this all of the time.  They’ll study all of the aspects of a system, whether it’s a computer network, a data center, a shopping mall, a car, or a bridge, and look for ways to break it.  They’ll go out of their way to find new and exciting ways of destroying things, then redesign them to stand up to that weakness.

Hackers do the same thing.  They study a system, and look for the weakest part of it.  They’ll find the easiest way to do the most amount of work, or damage.  Sometimes, that easiest part is an open wireless network, or a known code exploit, or it’s person who doesn’t know how to use their computer.

 

DOING THE JOB

Now that the hacker has studied the system for an exploit, they have to find a way to pull it off.  An exploit can have multiple ways of being, well, exploited.

Let’s say that a hacker wants access to a corporate mail server so that they can read the mail of the board members, and while researching the system found that there’s a code exploit that allows for a program to sit on the server, hidden from the world, and silently forward all mail sent to selected people and groups to a dummy mailbox for future collection.  Anything that gets sent to Bill@Microsoft.com would get forwarded to some random and obscure mail account hosted in Azerbaijan.

But how does the hacker get the program on the server?

There’s a few different ways they could do this.  They could go phishing* for an employee or contractor to get them to run the program.  Similarly, they could go spear-phishing* to one of the board members directly, and get their login information so then the hacker could login as the board member and install the code themselves.  They could set the program up in some other file to run as a trojan* once it gets downloaded onto a computer.  They could execute a bit of social engineering* and get their way into the building with direct physical access to the computers.  They could set up a man-in-the-middle attack and pretend to be the help desk, after causing someone to call in a help ticket.  Or, they could brute force* their way in with Systems Administrator credentials.

How they go about doing the hack is up to their own personal interest and skills.  It only matters that it works.

 

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH VOTER ROLLS?

Let’s say you’re Hacker Hackovsky, the famous Eastern European hacker, and you’ve been approached by a shady Mr. NOT-RUSSIAN speaking with a terrible American accent, to find a way to influence the American Presidential Election.  At first, you say no, but Mr. NOT-RUSSISAN drive a truckload of bitcoin up to your house, and says “We don’t need a win, we need chaos.  A win for our guy would be good, but chaos is better.”  After doing the math and realizing that this much bitcoin could be turned into real money somewhere, you accept the job.

You have a month to do research before deciding on the methods and targets.  During this month, you discover the following:

  • The American Voting System is ugly.  The voting machines change from state to state, and county by county.
  • Some machines are brand new with a paper trail, while others are more than 15 years old, and not connected to any network.
  • Vote totals are meticulously scrutinized.  A deviation of a couple votes in a polling place out of 1,000 could trigger a full-scale investigation.
  • Most towns and communities have individual polling places.
  • Several states have laws that require new voters to show ID before voting.
  • American Media is ugly, with multiple “sides” reporting the same story to the delight of their audiences.
  • The higher the population density, the more likely the populace is liberal.
  • Older white people love “our guy”, but the young and minorities don’t.
  • Social Media allows people to share ideas, regardless of the truth behind the claims.
  • There are a lot of Americans who do not use critical thinking skills, and therefore don’t ask if the person on the other side is even a person, let alone where they come from.
  • While each county has control over their individual voting machines, the states have control over the voter rolls, the list of who gets to vote where.
  • This list is stored on government databases maintained by each state.
  • While some states have caught up to modern times with security features and real-time change tracking, most of them are on old systems with no change tracking at all.
  • The couple months before the election are the busiest time for these voter rolls to be changed, and there’s little to no way to slow down access to them.
  • “Our Guy” has access to multiple national databases, including a health care company that can access all Americans based on address.  One of these databases includes all voters in America.
  • “Our Guy” also has access to a data analysis firm that can crunch all of this down to specific areas of the country to minimize the amount of work needed, allowing for microtargeting of people.
  • “Our Guy” is very divisive.  Violent extremists and racists love him.
  • “Our Guy” is running against “Her”, a woman that will make life miserable for your benefactor, should she be elected.
  • Two other minor candidates are running, and one of them, “The Other Woman”, is an asset and ally of the cause, and friendly to your benefactor.
  • “Our Guy” is a sore loser, and likely to whine about his loss for years.
  • You also have access to one of the most sophisticated propaganda machines in the world, and several friendly Americans that are willing to spread it, whether they know it or not.

Give the above, what’s the best course of action to cause chaos, and possibly get “Our Guy” elected?

Changing the vote totals at the machine level is out.  There are too many machines, and many of them require physical access.  That means having someone walk into a polling place, knowing the machine ahead of time, plug a USB drive in to the machine or connect an even older peripheral to it, and upload data to corrupt the vote totals.  All while standing in wide view of dozens of people, without drawing any attention.  Then, having to do this for multiple machines, per polling precinct, across the country.  Let’s say there’s 100,000 places to vote in the United States, and an average of 6 machines.  To affect half, this would require 300,000 people with direct access to the voting machines.  Then, those 300,000 would have to stay silent and execute the job perfectly.  Not gonna happen.

Changing the vote totals at the county or state levels are out, too.  There’s a very short window in which to operate, and these systems will be protected, monitored, checked, and double checked throughout the night.  The results have to be hand delivered to the county office under police guard, and once they’re certified, that paper trail will be used to show what it’s supposed to be.

So if you can’t change the vote totals, you can change who votes and how they vote.

How?  Alter the voter rolls, and target specific groups with the propaganda you want.

The voter rolls are different from state to state, but all have basic information like name, date of birth, address, precinct, party, and how often or last time they voted.  They likely also have a social security number, which is used as an ID number in a lot of systems, even though it shouldn’t be used that way.

What else uses SSN’s in their database?  Health care databases.  You could take data from the voter roll database, search for a matching SSN, then see if the information is up to date.  If it’s not, no need to worry, the person doesn’t live there and won’t vote.  If it does match, you could take that data, then see what their party is, how often they vote, and compare that to any active social media profiles that match, and compare that to known demographics and stats, like the likelihood that a Democrat who votes every year and follows progressive causes on FaceBook would vote for Trump.

Once this data is collected, you could determine whether propaganda or voter suppression is the best weapon for certain areas.

The propagandists can craft the messages that will get the best outcome to the right location.  You could buy advertising on Social Media to target largely white areas of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio with ads that show “Her” supporting the boogeyman of the day, whether it’s Muslims, Blacks, or Mexicans.  You could also have the propagandists craft a message showing “Her” attacking minorities and have it run in inner cities.  You could have them buy ads promoting “The Other Woman” as a protest vote, knowing that it would not affect “Our Guy.”

Meanwhile, you edit the voter rolls in states and cities where your work will have the greatest impact.  Choose states that require active checking of the voter rolls, like Texas, or have new Voter ID laws like Wisconsin or North Carolina.  Change some entries on the voter rolls, like middle initials, or street addresses, or zip codes.  Add or remove a Jr. suffix in the database.  Flip party affiliations.  Change the spelling of the last name.  Something small, innocuous, but devastating.  Remember, if the information on the ID doesn’t match what the voter rolls say it should be, they can’t vote.

One of these by themselves will create chaos, but all of it together has a small chance of electing “Our Guy”, but only if everything and everyone works.  It’s a stretch, but can be done with the resources available.  Meanwhile, changing the vote totals would require a small army and/or time travel to pull off, and if your plan requires time travel, it’s a bad plan.

 

THE HOUSE WITHOUT LOCKS

Any system made by man can be defeated by man.

When it comes to breaking into a house, or a computer, or a system, it’s not always about whether or not security is used, but whether the security is worth the hassle.

Think of a burglar looking for a house to rob.  They look at the security that each house has in place.  One has a fence, another an alarm system, another several REALLY BIG FUCKING DOGS, and another has absolutely nothing.  No deadbolt, no locks, no “Beware of Dog” sign, no alarm, no random gun crap lying around, nothing.  Each house has about the same stuff, but this one has no security.

Were the vote totals changed?  Highly unlikely.  The amount of time, effort, energy, and resources needed to pull that off would be astronomical, and would be outed faster closeted Bible-thumping politician.  The vote totals are the house with 10 locks, big dogs, and an alarm with camera controlled machine guns.

The voter rolls, on the other hand, are relatively unsecured.  They were easy to access, easy to change, and easy to manipulate.  They were the house with no locks, the windows are open, and the big screen TV is visible from the street.

So, that’s why there are no credible reports about the vote totals being hacked, but several confirmed reports of voter rolls being attacked.  Why change the vote totals themselves when suppressing those who can vote can be done for 1/100th the cost?

 

TERMINOLOGY

PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.  An IT acronym used to describe the location of an error.  Also called a PBKC error, it is used by IT technicians to describe a problem or issue created by a user.  If you’re IT person ever says this you, they’re a dick.

Brute Force Attack:  Repeatedly attempting to force ones way into a system, usually by attempting different passwords over and over again.  This is very effective on older systems without failed user login lockouts on a few attempts, or if most of the name and/or password are known.

Phishing:  A method of gaining access to a system by sending out bait and getting the user give over the required information, all while pretending to be a legitimate source.

Spear Phishing:  A focused phishing attack, targeting one member or small group, often including personalized information in the attack.

Trojan:  A piece of software, usually malware*, hidden in another piece of software to get it past security.

Man In The Middle:  A type of hacker attack where the user is tricked into communicating with a malicious third party, often while trying to contact a legitimate person.

Social Engineering:  The art of hacking people, businesses, and society.  Exploiting people and their weaknesses for personal benefit.  This could be done through researching the target and/or taking advantage of existing societal norms.

Malware:  Malicious Software.

The Justice League

ROBERT MUELLER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE

When Robert Mueller was appointed the Special Counselor for the Russia Investigation by the Deputy Attorney General back in May 2017, one of the first things that he did was assemble a team to help him with the day to day activities.  Not only would these team members do the heavy lifting in the courtroom, but their expertise would shape the investigation.  These hires also tell us who and what they know.

What do we know about this team?

They are some of the best prosecutors in the world, specializing in everything from white-collar crimes to cybersecurity to terrorism.  Many of them gave up 6, 7, possibly 8 figure salaries and partnerships to work on the Russian Investigation at base government pay.

What does this mean?

This means that there is more than enough evidence to convince some of the greatest lawyers on Earth to leave their private practices representing the wealthiest clients in the world to take part in the largest case in history.  At the least, they will take part in the prosecution of the President of the United States.  At the most, their roles will be pivotal in securing the fate of Democracy as we know it.

Who’s on the team, and what do they do?

Robert Mueller, Special Counselor

Former FBI Director, Mueller took over the position one week before the 9/11 terror attacks.  He became the longest serving FBI Director since J. Edgar Hoover.  After his time there, he became a partner at WilmerHale law firm in Washington, D.C.

James Quarles, member of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force

James Quarles was a young man in the 1970’s, but already a skilled lawyer.  He served as an Assistant Special Prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.

Andrew Weissmann, Fraud and Corruption

Weissmann headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005.  Before that he was a federal prosecutor in New York.  He took down Enron Chariman Kenneth Lay, CEO Jeffery Skilling, and members and bosses in the Genovese, Colombo, and Gambino crime families.

Greg Andres, White-Collar Crimes

Andres brings foreign bribery experience to the team.  He took down an $8 Billion Ponzi scheme in Texas.

Andrew D. Goldstein, Assistant US Attorney from Southern District New York

Goldstein worked for Preet Bharara in SDNY where he led the public corruption unit.  He has experience in money laundering, fraud, and corruption cases.  Before his boss was fired by Donald Trump, Goldstein and Preet were supposedly working on a RICO case against the Trump Organization.  Rumor has it that he took the evidence against Trump with him down to Washington.

Elizabeth Prelogar, The Russian Expert

Prelogar is fluent in Russian, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Rush Atkinson, Criminal Fraud

Atkinson is a prosecutor in the Criminal Division Securities & Financial Fraud Unit.  He took down a mother and son team that orchestrated a $16 million medicare fraud scheme.

Aaron Zebley, former Chief of Staff to FBI Director Mueller

Zebley has expertise in Counterterrorism and National Security cases.  He was prosecuting Al Qaeda before prosecuting Al Qaeda was cool.  In recent years at WilmerHale, he focused on Cybersecurity cases.

Michael Dreeben, Supreme Court Expert

Less than 10 attorneys in history have argued more than 100 cases before the United States Supreme Court.  Michael Dreeben is one of them.

Adam Jed, Civil Appeals Expert

Jed is an appellate lawyer in the civil division, not the criminal division.  This implies that they’re preparing for civil cases, and expecting them them to challenged on appeal.  His most famous case is United States v. Windsor, where he helped overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and brought about the legalization of gay marriage across the land.

Aaron Zelinsky, U.S. Attorney from Maryland

Zelinsky has worked for Rod Rosenstein, and was a hostage negotiator in the State Department under President Obama.

Kyle Freeny, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery

Freeny just wrapped up work on the “Wolf of Wall Street” money laundering case when she got the call to join the Mueller team.

Zainab Ahmad, Counterterrorism and Witness Flipping

Ahmad has singlehandedly crippled Al Qaeda in the United States.  She has more convictions against terrorists in the United States than anyone else.  How?  She’s THE expert in flipping witnesses. If she can flip hardened terrorists against each other, what chance does a member of the Trump Family have against her?

Jeanie Rhee, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Rhee has two years of DOJ experience, and worked with Robert teller at WilmerHale.  She represented the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit in 2015.

Brandon Van Grack, National Security Division Prosecutor

Van Grack is an expert in espionage, national security, and International Crime cases.

Ryan Dickey, Cybercrime Expert  

Ryan K. Dickey is a United States Attorney who specializes in cyber crimes. He was the prosecutor who convicted the original Guccifer, and is the man behind the shutdown of MegaUpload. He is one of the best attorneys in the world for prosecuting computer crimes.

Scott Meisler, Appellate Lawyer

Scott has represented the government in appeals involving search warrants, seizures, motions to suppress wiretap evidence, mail fraud, wire fraud, as well as structuring financial transactions and money laundering.  In other words, he knows how to “defend the technicalities.”

Brian Richardson, The New Guy

Richardson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer in October 2016 before joining the Mueller team in July 2017.  He’s also worked in multiple district courts.

What can we infer?

We have multiple experts in money laundering, fraud, bribery, mafia crimes, cyber crimes, espionage, counterterrorism, asset recovery, witness flipping, international crimes, and Russian culture.  By the way, they also have one of the few people alive that prosecuted a White House for criminal charges.

Mueller is not fucking around.

So far, we’ve got two arrests on white-collar crimes, and two convictions on plea deals for lying to the FBI regarding contacts with Russians.  Plus, there’s a ton of stuff still under seal.

Without hyperbole, this is one of the greatest collection of lawyers ever pulled together.  They’ve been working on this case since May 2017, and the investigation began a year before that.  Any one of these prosecutors coming after a person would cause sleepless nights and panic inducing anxiety.  All of them coming after a person would cause them to seriously contemplate suicide.

They are not fucking around.  People are going to jail, or worse.

Thanks to Reddit user PoppinKREAM and this post for making this post a lot easier to put together.

 

UPDATED FEBRUARY 25, 2018:  From some new information from CNN, I made a few changes:

Kyle Freeney is a she, not a he.  I also added Brian Richardson and Scott Meisler.

UPDATED APRIL 6, 2018:  Corrected spelling of Elena Kagan.

It’s A Feature, Not A Bug

“It’s not broken, it’s supposed to do that.”

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

“The system’s working fine, you’re just using it wrong.”

“The only problem here is user-related.”

I’ve heard many phrases like this in my life-long association with technology, but the phrase “It’s a feature, not a bug” didn’t really come into the lexicon until sometime in the early 2000’s, when some higher-up from Microsoft was quoted saying that in response to customer complaints about error screens they were getting in Windows.  Since then, it’s become an inside joke within the IT world to describe a feature, device, program, or system that doesn’t work for the end user, but part of it, usually the error checking, is working normally.

Why am I talking about an IT inside joke?  Because I feel that it’s relevant to the current situation.

Today is January 22, 2018.  Monday.  And Day 3 of the United States Government Shutdown.  A shutdown that was completely avoidable, and 95% the fault of the Republican Party.  I reserve 5% for the Democrats involved, but this is the same level of blame one would give to the owner of a dog that chewed a hole through the fence at the boarding kennel, broke out of the yard, and dug up the neighbors flowerbed.  Sure, they could have done more to make sure the dog wasn’t left at a neglectful kennel, but they’re about fourth or fifth down the chain of responsibility.

Anyway, on Friday, I watched the Senate vote and fail to pass a spending bill.  I sat back, had a couple glasses of wine, and heckled the television as Mitch McConnell blamed the Democrats for not passing the cloture threshold on the spending bill.  While asking which one of the Ninja Turtles turned to evil and grew up to become a Senator from Kentucky, I realized a few things.

  • I have absolutely no social life whatsoever at this point, and I’m happy with that.
  • This shutdown was completely avoidable.
  • I really like sweet red wine.
  • This was put into motion last year when Trump rescinded the DACA protections.
  • The White House has no interest in negotiating in good faith.
  • The Republican Party Leadership is complicit in this mess.
  • At any point in the last 4 months, since CHIP funding ran out, they could have reauthorized it, but decided to use it as a bargaining chip.
  • At any point since October, Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to codify DACA.
  • This shutdown is a feature, not a bug.

That last one struck me.  Not as hard as the headache the next morning when I woke up, but it still struck me.  This shutdown was planned out since last year when Congress refused to give Trump even a penny for his border wall.  Okay, “planned” is a little strong for these people.  They can’t plan a lunch without screwing it up.  But, the option of a shutdown was put into place.

I think that the Trump White House thought a Government Shutdown would be beneficial for them for a few reasons.

  • It would force Congress to push their agenda.
  • It fits with Trump’s “negotiating style.”
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for standing against them.
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for agreeing with them.
  • It would shut down the Congressional Investigations into Trump.
  • It would shut down the Special Counselor’s Investigation.

Congress doesn’t want to pay for a Mexican Border Wall, or a Muslim Immigration Ban.  Congress doesn’t want to screw up all of the trade agreements, or mess with the treaties in place.  They want to keep the lights on, keep things running, and lower taxes for their donors.  Anything else is window dressing.

As far at “The Great Dealmaker” goes, a shutdown is the only way that he can fall back on his traditional methods of negotiation.  From looking at Trump’s history in business, here’s how a typical business deal goes down…

  • Engage in negotiations with someone in a lower position than you, like a small company or someone desperate for business.
  • Demand onerous terms from the other party, while agreeing to give very little.
  • Fail to deliver on even the pittance that you agreed to give in the first place.
  • Fight your partner now opponent at every step of the way, until they’re no longer capable of defending themselves.
  • Continue to attack your opponent and blame them for the eventual failure of the business while you run it into the ground to squeeze it for every spare penny possible.
  • Shut the business down in an attempt to shift the blame, liquidate the assets, and move on to the next deal.

Any halfway competent President would have avoided a shutdown at the last minute when Chuck Schumer was willing to negotiate funding for the Border Wall in exchange for DACA.  That right there should have been the end of the game.  They could have walked out of the White House, shaking hands, high-fiving, and carried that bill proposal to the House and Senate for a vote.  Instead, Trump is a terrible dealmaker.  He wants everything, is unwilling to compromise, and is either too stupid to see a great deal, or is working for other means.

As far as the Democrats go, there’s no way they would come out of this in a good position.  If they agree to the spending bill, they lose any chance of getting DACA on the floor for a vote before the March deadline.  If they don’t agree, they’re stuck in the middle of a shutdown, and they actually realize how that’s a bad thing.

But, what if this is all part of some master plan by Trump and his Russian allies to shut down the government and the investigations into him?  Well, that’s something to think about.  Congress will be too busy arguing with each other to engage any committee work, and all of their pages and assistants are temporarily sort-of unemployed.  The only work that Congress is doing now is restoring funding so that the government can work.

As far as Mueller goes, his investigation continues.  Special Counselor investigations are funded by a special permanent indefinite appropriation, not an annual one like the standard budget.  So, while the parks are closed and soldiers don’t get paid, Mueller’s team keeps showing up to work.

By the way, Senator Claire MacCaskill proposed an amendment to a bill that would allow the military to still be paid during the shutdown, but it would require unanimous consent.  Mitch McConnell objected.

CLOTURE THRESHOLD

I mentioned earlier about the Cloture Threshold.  Cloture, sometimes called a super majority, is the vote threshold that is required in the Senate to break a filibuster.  A filibuster is an action or speech where a Senator can take the floor and not yield to anyone or anything.  Currently, that threshold is 60.  Unless special rules are enforced, like the reconciliation process used for the Tax Bill and the attempted Obamacare repeal, all Senate votes are treated as though they need to break a filibuster.  This is because the filibuster has been relegated to a procedural tool to clog up work in the Senate.

The vote was 50-49 in favor of the last ditch spending bill.  John McCain was in Arizona getting medical care.  5 Democrats, all from conservative states and facing reelection, voted for the bill.  4 Republicans, none of which are facing reelection in 2018, voted against it.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ll be back later with some updates that happened over the weekend, including a story about several Russians attending Trump’s inauguration.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

2017 Retrospective

Hello there, it’s been a while. December has been a very rough month for me. I’ve had maybe 3 days this month where I haven’t been sick, and 2 of those were spent fighting a broken furnace.

But it’s that time of the year when everyone and their mother throws together a compilation list of the best and worst stuff that happened in the past 365ish days, then go on vacation for the rest of the year.

I hate those posts.

I don’t like nostalgia for nostalgia sake, and 2017 doesn’t deserve a “best of” send off.

I hate it when people talk about the “good old days” and wax poetically about a memory of a time that was a hell of a lot worse than their rose-tinted glasses made appear.

Instead, I want to talk about what changed in 2017, what stayed the same, what was learned, and why it’s worth fighting.

While this is mostly concerned with what has happened in the News, I’m also including personal change as well. I’m hesitant to call it growth, but change is accurate.

WHAT CHANGED IN 2017?

For anyone reading this after waking up from a coma that started the last week of October 2016, I’ve got some bad news. Trump won the Presidential election. But, as we’ve come to learn, he didn’t do it alone. He had a lot of help from his friends in Russia, and there were more than enough Americans that helped him as well.

2017 started off weird, as the Obama Administration has just instituted several major new sanctions on Russia. Trump didn’t seem to want to do anything to Russia, and evidence was still coming in about what happened in November. The MSM was still hoping that Trump, a 70 year old misogynistic, racist, ignorant fool would somehow not embarrass the country in front of the world, and that if we gave him a chance, he might actually not suck.

That hope lasted all of about two days.

After a small inauguration event, Trump’s team went into full-on propaganda mode by distributing false photos of the event where they photoshopped a much larger crowd, while going after anyone who spread the real photos. At the same time, his Administration went after the Parks Service, trying to erase any mention of climate change from Government sites.

That’s when the Resistance started.

The Women’s March. The Alt accounts. The March for Science. The Airport Protests. The March for Reason. More people had marched against Trump by April of 2017 than against Cancer all year long.

It’s also the first whispers that something wasn’t right in the White House. In between trying to undo everything Obama did and implement his Muslim Ban, word came around that Mike Flynn was in some serious legal jeopardy. (SPOILER ALERT: He’s now a convicted felon.) Trump’s team was told in late January by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn had lied to the FBI. She was fired the next day. Flynn resigned 18 days later.

This is just up to February.

A couple things changed in February for me.

First, I found PostimusMaximus on Reddit, and read a lot of his posts. I assume it’s a him, but I could be wrong. Reading his work was eye opening, but insane. I saw many of the markers of old school conspiracy theories, but there was something different with his work. Instead of citing places like Coast to Coast, he cited real sources like the Washington Post and New York Times. I decided to keep an eye on him.

Next, I rejoined Twitter and started following a few people. Claude Taylor, Louise Mensch, and John Schindler. Eventually I followed a lot more people like Countercheckist, Tea Pain, Eric Garland, Rick Wilson, and more politicians, lawyers, and spooks than exist outside of D.C.

There was a weird feeling following these people on Twitter. It was sort of like joining a conversation halfway through and only catching small slivers, and then realizing that the slivers are in a different language. They were talking about indictments and grand juries and investigations by the FBI, the Steele Dossier, SIGINT from the Mayflower Hotel, while the rest of the world was still stuck on Trump and Twitter.

In March, that’s when Russia came roaring in to the picture. During a late night rage tweet, Trump said Obama had tapped his phones. Even though this was a horseshit claim, the House Intelligence Committee decided to hold a hearing about it and invited FBI Director James Comey to testify.

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed, under oath, that the Trump Campaign was under a counterintelligence investigation that started in July 2016, and that grand juries had been impaneled to deal with that investigation.

Hole. Lee. Shit.

This confirmed that at least part of what the Rumor Mill was saying was true, and that it was worth looking into the rest of their chatter, if just to see if it was a case of a broken clock being right twice a day, or if there was something to this group fighting for Democracy.

Over the next few months, I noticed a few other changes. I stopped viewing the CIA and FBI as “the enemy.” I questioned the source of my news more often. I viewed what other people took as gospel and investigated it myself. I became more politically active. I started sounding like a complete nutter when I tried to describe what I was seeing and hearing about Trump and Russia. I was becoming more and more outspoken in my criticisms.

I also realized that these were historic times, and I should write down what happened so one day my kids could ask me “What The Fuck, Dad?”

I toyed with the idea of doing this blog back in May when Trump fired Comey and Robert Mueller was named the Special Counselor. I was looking into it when news of the June 9 meeting broke, and Donnie Jr proved to be the Dumbest Mother Fucker in the history of Dumb Mother Fuckers. I eventually got around to it in July, and I’ve been here since.

WHAT STAYED THE SAME IN 2017?

This is still the United States of America, a country of laws, not men, or wealth, or personalities.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

I learned not to take the press for granted.

There are quite a few people willing to sacrifice the future for small gains now, and those people must be dealt with. Unfortunately, there are quite a few more of them than I originally thought, and a lot of them have too much money. That doesn’t mean they’re invincible, it means the battle will be that much harder.

Sometimes conspiracies do exist.

A conspiracy is only as strong as the weakest person involved. It’s been 5 months since George Papadopoulos turned States Evidence against the Trump Campaign, and less than a month since Mike Flynn was convicted and flipped. George is a young man who doesn’t want to grow old in jail, and Mike Flynn just became a granddad.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Trump and Russia, but the evidence at this point leads to a conspiracy between them to steal the election in Trump’s favor. Nearly every member of his campaign and transition team either had contact with Russians, or knew about it.

Trump is a micromanaging asshole. No one in his circle does anything without his approval.

Donald Trump is unable or unwilling to change his ways.

The Trump Family is a crime family.

Some laws are easier to convince a jury about than others.

IS THIS WORTH FIGHTING FOR?

Absofuckinglutely. The moment we give in is the moment that everything this country was built on dies.

This is America. Churchill said it best when he said that we will always do the right thing, we’ll just try everything else first.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want my kids to grow up in a world where the United States is still that shinning city on the hill where dreams can and do come true, where everyone is equal under the law, and a persons worth isn’t measured by their bank account, but the content of their character.

That’s it for today. I hope to be back up and writing on a normal schedule soon. Stuff did happen over the past couple weeks, including a confirmation of sorts that the RNC knew about the Trump Campaign colluding with the Russians, and that they actively took part in targeting specific zip codes, using information gained by Russians.

Thank you, and have a good one.