Daily Recap — October 10

My thoughts and prayers are with those suffering the winds of Hurricane Michael. God be with you.

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SAUDIS GONNA SAUDI

 

It looks like US Intel is throwing their own asset under the bus, as they are reporting that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered an operation to detain missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after luring him back to Saudi Arabia.

Using their favorite bullhorn, the failing Washington Post, US intel officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Salman and other Saudi officials tried to get Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, where he is from, with offers of government employment and protection. 

The officials said the intelligence further ties the Saudi government to Khashoggi’s disappearance at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Turkish police have said that Khashoggi was likely killed by a Saudi security team when he visited the consulate last week.
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Saudi officials have strongly claim that they dindu nuffin in relation to his disappearance, and Salman last week invited Turkish authorities to search the consulate, saying plainly, “We have nothing to hide.”

Khashoggi has been critical of the Saudi government in pieces written wrote for The Washington Post. He reportedly turned down offers for positions with Salman’s government, telling one friend, “Are you kidding? I don’t trust them one bit,” according to the Post.

Apparently he trusted them enough to take their bait. While intel officials are supposed to warn people who might be harmed, U.S. officials told the Post that the intelligence they reviewed only indicated Salman and his government wanted to detain Khashoggi, not hurt him.

“Capturing him, which could have been interpreted as arresting him, would not have triggered a duty-to-warn obligation,” one former official told the Post. “If something in the reported intercept indicated that violence was planned, then, yes, he should have been warned.”

So let’s get this straight. They only suspected that he may be improperly detained, not attacked, therefore he was on his own? Yep, sounds like the CIA.

PDT has said he is pressing the Saudi government over his disappearance, partially because of a letter from a bipartisan group of senators today requesting that he initiate an investigation under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. PDT has also signed an executive order inspired by the Magnitsky Act designed to punish countries who violate basic human rights, which is a bit comical considering our massive security relationship with Saudi Arabia.

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BIG PICTURE:

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Platitudes give us warm fuzzies, but they don’t run the world, folks. Self-interest does. And as soon as the Saudis have provide the hedge against Iran that we require, we’ll be sure to actually care about their human rights abuses. Just the way it is.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to pretend to care about this journalist, all while Bin Salman enjoys the latest and greatest actionable intelligence on his enemies courtesy of our very own intel apparatus.

And yes, he absolutely is an asset of ours. He, being young, dumb and egotistical, has let it slip to several people within and outside his inner circle. Humans aren’t good at keeping secrets.

I wish I could tell you that our intel community had nothing to do with luring the journalist there, but frankly, the CIA doesn’t have much of a conscience. It could actually work to our advantage at times if they were actually competent. Alas, they just go around the world starting fires they don’t know how to put out.

In this case, the fire is a young Islam reformer who is our best chance at replacing Wahhabism with something more moderate, and with minimal bloodshed. Unfortunately, like so many world leaders before him that we’ve propped up, his power is going to his head.

Someone at the agency better get the message across to this kid — we made him and we can break him. Otherwise, we’re looking at another hopeful experiment sacrificed at the altar of ego.

Should be interesting to watch.

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BUT BUT BUT RUSSIA?!?!

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You may recall several times over the past couple years in which I and other sane persons warned that if we’re truly worried about election interference, China warrants far more attention than Hackin’ Vlad. That didn’t fit the narrative, unfortunately, hence why we’re only getting some real news about this topic a month before election day.

Better late than never, I guess.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before a Senate committee today that China is “exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion.”

For the liberals out there, “unprecedented” means it’s more expanisve than any effort before it. In other words, if you weren’t completely full of crap, you would be more upset with what China is up to right now than you were about Russia. But we all know that will never happen.


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FBI Director J. Edgar Wray also said during the hearing that China “in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.”

“Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They’re fighting today’s fight,” he said. “China is fighting tomorrow’s fight, and the day after tomorrow and the day after that.”

HOLY CRAP, HE JUST TOLD THE TRUTH ABOUT RUSSIA. They’re a glorified gas station, folks. 


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What is China doing, exactly?

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You’re going to have to take Trump’s word for much of his electoral interference claim, as he asserts that some of the most damning info is classified. The classified info likely deals with cyber attacks. The reason it’s held so closely to the vest is a confirmation of knowledge can tip them off to what we’ve been able to uncover, thereby blowing our method of intelligence-gathering.

There are some overt action to point to, however. China has directly paid for fake newspaper articles in areas they see as vulnerable to the Trump tariffs. One such article criticizing Trump trade practices was published in the Des Moines Register just this past month. 

Then there are the counter-tariffs, 80% of which target counties that heavily favored Trump in the 2016 election. The tariffs work hand in hand with the propaganda to kneecap what is already a tough effort to even the playing field with China on trade.

In an address last week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats accused Beijing of targeting state and local government and “trying to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy and us[ing] investments and other incentives to expand its influence” during a speech at military college The Citadel last week.

The good news is Kirstjen Nielsen said yesterday that there is “no indication” of any foreign adversary trying to disrupt U.S. election systems.

“We know they have the capability and we know they have the will,” Nielsen said at a cyber summit. “So we’re constantly on alert. What we see with China right now are influence campaigns, the more traditional, long-standing, holistic influence campaigns.”

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“We know they have the capability and we know they have the will,” Nielsen said of China at an event hosted by The Washington Post. “So we’re constantly on alert. What we see with China right now are influence campaigns, the more traditional, long-standing, holistic influence campaigns.”


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Big Picture:

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I absolutely believe that China is launching a massive offensive against us, because the truth is they never stopped. Just as with trade, we’ve been at war with China for a while now, it’s just that they’re the only ones that have noticed.

Until now.

China is going to make PDT’s life a living hell in any way they can, and for good reason. If he keeps up the pressure against the Chinese economy, it will inevitably break. We’re going to have our share of pain, too, but we can survive. China, on the other hand, relies heavily on exports, so they cannot.

As we’ve been saying for quite a while now, this will come down to whether PDT can maintain the political will to stick out this fight in the long run. If he can, we’ll absolutely win. There’s no way we won’t.

In the meantime, China knows their best bet is to use short-term economic pain to turn Trump’s base against him.

My money is on the Donald.

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TAKING ON BIG PHARMA

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PDT signed two bills today banning “gag clauses” that keep patients in the dark about how to save money on prescription drugs. 

The clauses are sometimes included in the contracts insurers have with pharmacies — preventing pharmacies from telling customers they can save money on a drug if they pay with cash instead of using their health insurance.

Simply put, pharmacies have been prevented from giving out information that could hurt the bottom line for big pharma. It’s an offensive law on its face and one that could only be passed in an era where special interests run our government.

“This is very strong legislation to end these unjust gag clauses once and for all,” PDT said during a signing ceremony at the White House. 

“All our citizens deserve to know the lowest price available at our pharmacies, and now that’s what they’ll be getting.”  

The bill even managed to land a Dim co-sponsor, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. PDT sees that as a ray of hope for more bipartisan wheeling and dealing in the future, as drug prices are a concern across the political spectrum. 

“I really do believe Democrats want to do that, too,” Trump said. 

“If there’s anything bipartisan, it’s lowering drug prices.” 

I wish I could say I shared your optimism, Mr. President. Dims would vote against Jesus at this point if it hurt Trump in some way.

But I do respect the effort. Thank you for never giving up, on this or anything else.

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PAUL CALLS OUT THE SURVEILLANCE STATE

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In today’s national security hearing, J. Edgar Wray declined to answer a question from Sen. Rand Paul about the possibility that PDT might be under surveillance.

Questioning Wray before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Paul asked: “Do you think that it’s possible that the president’s conversations with international leaders are in the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] database?”

Wray replied, “I’m not sure there’s anything I could speak to in this setting.”

Paul responded, citing a Washington Post report that claimed there were 1,500 times then-President Obama was minimized. “Do you think it’s possible that Congress — that members of Congress are in the FISA database if we talk to international leaders?” Paul asked.

Again, Wray avoided answering the question. “Well, Senator, I am quite confident that we are conducting ourselves in a manner consistent with the law and the Constitution that’s subject to extensive oversight,” he said. “I don’t know that I can speak to every hypothetical about whether there have been [such] situations.”

Paul then turned to the surveillance of journalists: “Do you think it’s possible that journalists’ conversations, if they are talking with international journalists overseas or if they mention that they’re doing a story on Al-Baghdadi or another terrorist’s name, do you think there is a possibility that journalists’ conversations are in the FISA database?

“I can’t speak to specific hypotheticals,” Wray responded, with Paul cutting him off saying, “The answer is yes.”

Paul later pointed out that “while the FBI, by and large, is full of good people yourself included, you have had some bad apples. You had Peter Strzok and his girlfriend talking about trying to bring the president down. You have had people bringing their politics to work.”

Paul commented Wray’s refusal to answer his questions on Twitter. “Is NSA or FBI listening in on our President? We know bad actors exist within intel community. REFORM NEEDED NOW.”

“The concern of us who want more control over what the government can do with our data is because as Madison said men are not angels,” Paul said in a follow-up tweet. “That’s why we have the Constitution.”


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BIG PICTURE:

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The questions asked by Paul were completely rhetorical. As a senator, he’s privy to intelligence products that often involve Signals Intelligence, or SIGINT, meaning intercepted electronic communications.

The intelligence community routinely monitors the communications of foreign leaders. They may claim to have stopped, but #BelieveMe, they haven’t. And other countries do their damndest to monitor our leaders, to varying degrees of success (they were very successful with Hillary, but she wasn’t putting up much of a fight).

Sen. Paul wanted to draw attention to what he sees as fundamentally unconstitutional practices. By listening in on foreigners, our domestic agencies inevitably catch many Americans in their net. That’s a byproduct of intelligence-gathering that we must ask ourselves whether we’re willing to accept.

Congress has asked itself that question many times, and each time have renewed their FISA powers. The government rarely relinquishes power of any sort on their own. Paul is trying to bring the People into the equation, because that’s our only hope of reversing the trends that have been in place since the early 2000’s. 

Good for Rand Paul. At least someone is asking these questions.

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BUILD THAT WALL

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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he will introduce a bill this week to fulfill PDT’s main campaign promise and fully fund #TheDamnWall. 

McCarthy is sponsoring the “Build the Wall, Enforce the Law Act,” which would dedicate over $23 billion to building the border wall. The bill would also include measures to cut off funds for sanctuary cities and to facilitate deportation and detention of immigrant gang members. 

“For decades, America’s inability to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration has encouraged millions to undertake a dangerous journey to come here in violation of our laws and created a huge loophole to the legal channels to the immigration process where America welcomes immigrants to our country,” said McCarthy. 

For those keeping score at home, Congress has already given $1.6 billion to build the wall, although most of that money has gone to repair pre-existing fencing. This bill would actually break ground to build a brand new tangible barrier, a #BigBeautifulWall.


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While this is great news, we should also be sober about the reality of the situation. The chance of this passing is virtually nil. We’ve struggled to get even the meager funding we’ve received, all while Planned Parenthood enjoys their annual cash shower.

This bill is being introduced for two main purposes: McCarthy’s Speaker ambitions, and the midterms. All the momentum is behind Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to be the next Speaker of the House, mostly because he doesn’t wait until midterm elections to fight for the Trump agenda. With Trump’s popularity soaring within the GOP, McCarthy knows he better become a walking MAGA hat if he’s to have any hope of replacing Ryan in the top House spot, assuming we can even hold the majority, of course.

McCarthy has been close to the speakership before. When former Speaker Cryin’ John Boehner stepped down in 2015, McCarthy was seen as his natural RINO successor. Fortunately, the more conservative members of the House provided enough pushback to foil his plot.

I have a feeling we’ll see a sequel of that soon.

The bill will also be used as a get-out-the-vote device for Republicans in the midterms, the narrative being that a bill awaits us on Capitol Hill if we can just send enough Republicans to DC to get it passed. That may be a tough sell, considering that’s been their sales pitch for the last several elections and, despite being handed the majorities they requested, still have failed to deliver on some primary policy initiatives.

The trick, of course, is to elect fewer Republicans like McCarthy and more patriots like Jim Jordan.

To that end, we must certainly give our all.

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1 thought on “Daily Recap — October 10

  1. Lots of good perspective; thanks especially for the scoop on McCarthy; I didn’t understand the dynamics. As long as PP is funded and the wall isn’t, the establishment is still in control.

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