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TBR News December 17, 2018

Dec 17 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. December 17, 2018:” It was well known that the United States was in growing need of natural gas and, most especially oil. It was also less well known that the once-enormous Saudi fields were running dry and that Iraq had more oil than Saudi Arabia. Also, the Iraqi dictator, Hussein, had physically bombarded Israel during the Gulf War and he was viewed by that country as a great menace. The strong, overly strong many asserted, influence Israel and its organs in the United States had was another factor in the plan.

It was the gradual inclusion of top Israeli political and military leaders in the plan that allowed the Russian GRU to discover it. Karl Rove, an advisor to George H.W. Bush and his son, saw a brief, Bismarckian campaign against Iraq that would gain the United States access to that country’s oil and to establish even stronger ties with Israel and its domestic support of Republican policies.

What was lacking was a casus belli, a cause for war. It was in this area that Bush and Cheney had excellent prospects. Osama bin Ladin was the son of a very powerful Saudi businessman who had the highest-level connections in his country and whose family activities were well known to Cheney because of his tenure as head of Halliburton.

The bin Ladins also had very good connections with George Bush and had invested heavily in his company, Arbusto. Certain favors could then certainly be asked and, if everyone could see profit in them, granted. It is known that the great bulk of the actual 9/11 terrorists were Saudi citizens (1 Egyptian, two UAE, 1 Lebanese and 15 Saudis) and they were ordered to attack the United States, again (there had been one unsuccessful attack on the WTC on February 26, 1993, when a car bomb was detonated in the parking garage below the North Tower of the WTC. The 1,500 lb explosive device was intended to knock the North Tower into the South Tower, bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people.)

The bomb was badly situated and it killed six people and injured over a thousand. Herein lay the seed for the Rovian casus belli, only this time, a more spectacular attacks needed to be launched to achieve any hoped for results in both supplying a Pearl Harbor-type excuse for war but also a power tool to be used to frighten the mass of the public into terrible obedience to the wishes of a protecting government.

There were so many contacts with the Saudi elements that no one could possibly keep track of them but it was obvious to most foreign agencies after the attack that its origins were never in doubt. And to further assist the plot, the Israelis were brought into the fold. Their competent foreign intelligence, the Mossad, was already at work undercover in the United States, spying on anti-Israel Moslim activists so it surprised no one when the Mossad, using Yemini Jews, infiltrated the Atta group in Hollywood, Florida. The incident would be executed by people controlled by bin Ladin but supervised by the Mossad.

But it was all very well and good for a trio of highly-placed plotters to scheme inside a relatively secure White House but as the plans were developed and others brought into the execution of it, the chance for serious leaks became greater.

Although the government quickly enlisted the aid of a legion of conspiracy people to cloak their actions with absurd rumors and distracting fictions, there were still many who questioned the attacks but as the years have passed, the subject has grown stale and so grown over by a huge jungle of lies, fictions and confusion that like the earlier Kennedy assassination, it will pass into the oblivion of history.

The attacks went off as planned, Bush played the role of savior and in the wake of the attack, fear became the order of the day and fear was constantly being cultivated by the Bush people and harvested at the polls.

But the Rove people failed in two areas and it was a failure that eventually brought down their plans. The Saudi attack that was aborted in the fields of Pennsylvania was intended to crash into the Capitol building when Congress was in session, causing huge casualties and giving Bush the excuse to govern by decree until some vague future time when new elections to replace the dead or crippled members of that body could be held.

The second area of failure was the refusal of the senior commanders of the Army to become involved in neo-Fascistic roundups of any dissident citizenry or to run any barbed wire detention centers.

By constantly crying about the wolves, the Bush conspirators exceeded their brief and eventually, the public ignored the color coding and the exhortations to use duct tape on windows to prevent radioactive material from entering their homes.

In short, the plotters could only go so far without eventually enforcing their wishes and the plot, which killed a huge number of people and bankrupted the country, fell apart.”

 

The Table of Contents 

  • Giuliani: Trump interview with Mueller would happen ‘over my dead body’
  • New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep
  • How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump
  • Trump Russia: Six potential legal problems for the president
  • US Anger Over Jamal Khashoggi Has Finally Led to Progress in Yemen
  • Saudi Arabia slams US resolution blaming crown prince for Khashoggi murder
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

 Giuliani: Trump interview with Mueller would happen ‘over my dead body’

Trump’s personal lawyer says he fears investigators would try to trap the president into lying

December 16, 2018

by David Taylor in New York

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Sunday ruled out a face to face interview between the president and special counsel Robert Mueller – because he fears investigators would try to trap Trump into lying.

As pressure increases on Trump in a range of investigations, Giuliani told Fox News Sunday that an interview would happen “over my dead body”.

Trump has given written answers to Mueller about whether his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia. But the White House has refused to engage with requests for a sit-down interview to answer questions about whether Trump obstructed justice after he became president – most notably by firing FBI chief James Comey.

Asked if Trump would sit for an interview with Mueller, an irate Giuliani said sarcastically on Sunday: “Yeah, good luck!”

After events in the Mueller inquiry have intensified in recent weeks, involving grave consequences for criminal conduct for some key Trump allies, Giuliani said he was “disgusted” with the conduct of the Mueller investigation. He accused the special counsel’s lawyers of setting a “perjury trap” for Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

Flynn will be sentenced on Tuesday for lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials during the transition period after Trump won the election in November 2016 and was preparing to take office in January 2017.

Flynn last year admitted lying to investigators about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the US in December 2016. The discussions related to sanctions that Barack Obama as president had imposed on Moscow over its interference in the US election, and a United Nations security council vote on halting new Israeli settlements.

But Flynn’s lawyers, in appealing for leniency, noted that FBI agents had decided not to warn him that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview “because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed”.

They had wiretaps of the Russian ambassador which theylater used to confront Flynn to show he had lied. Flynn then agreed to co-operate with Mueller’s investigation and has given “substantial assistance” to the Trump-Russia investigation and other inquiries.

Mueller recommended to a judge that Flynn, who participated in 19 interviews, should not be given a prison sentence.

A sentencing memo said Flynn had given firsthand accounts of “interactions between individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia”.

Giuliani said on Sunday: “I am disgusted with the tactics they have used in this case … what they did to General Flynn should result in discipline – they are the ones who are violating the law.”

Asked about a face-to-face interview between Trump and Mueller, Giuliani scoffed: “Yeah, good luck! After what they did to Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury … over my dead body.”

Officials, however, have balked at the notion that Flynn would not have already been acutely aware of the risks of lying to federal investigators.

Giuliani’s remarks came as new polling showed six in 10 Americans now believe Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Half of Americans polled said the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

“The dam has not burst on Donald Trump,” said the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “But this survey suggests all the structural cracks in the dam,” he told NBC News.

The poll was conducted in the week former Trump fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for offences including breaking campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments. Large sums were paid to porn actor and producer Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to prevent them talking in the final days of the 2016 election campaign about alleged affairs with Trump.

Cohen – denounced as a “pathological liar” by Giuliani – has said Trump knew about the payments. And in court last week, in vital corroborating evidence, the publisher of National Enquirer admitted it had coordinated with Trump’s presidential campaign to pay McDougal $150,000 “in concert with the campaign”.

The agreement between American Media Inc (AMI) and federal authorities that means the company will not face charges, said that in August 2015, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” met AMI’s chief executive David Pecker, who “offered to help deal with negative stories” about Trump during the presidential campaign. Reports have suggested that Trump was the other person in the room.

In a second interview on Sunday with ABC’s This Week, Giuliani said: “Whether it happened or didn’t, it’s not illegal.”

On Sunday morning, Donald Trump posted on Twitter: “Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”

The latter references involve the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the Democratic party, and, presumably, Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival for the White House, whom he nicknamed Crooked Hillary because she was investigated by the FBI for using a private server for emails while she was secretary of state, and admonished, though cleared of any illegal activity.

 

 

New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee

December 16, 2018

by Craig Timberg and Tony Romm

The Washington Post

A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said if it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.

The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House intelligence committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

Representatives for Burr and Warner declined to comment.

The new report offers the latest evidence that Russian agents sought to help Trump win the White House. Democrats and Republicans on the panel previously studied the U.S. intelligence community’s 2017 finding that Moscow aimed to assist Trump, and in July, they said investigators had come to the correct conclusion. Despite their work, some Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to doubt the nature of Russia’s meddling in the last presidential election.

The Russians aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration, while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote. Many other groups — Latinos, Muslims, Christians, gay men and women, liberals, Southerners, veterans — got at least some attention from Russians operating thousands of social media accounts.

The report also offered some of the first detailed analyses of the role played by YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, and Instagram, owned by Facebook, in the Russian campaign, as well as anecdotes about how Russians used other social media platforms — Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest — that have gotten relatively little scrutiny. The Russian effort also used email accounts from Yahoo, Microsoft’s Hotmail service and Google’s Gmail.

The authors, while reliant on data provided by technology companies, also highlighted the companies’ “belated and uncoordinated response” to the disinformation campaign and, once it was discovered, for not sharing more with investigators. The authors urged the companies in the future to provide data in “meaningful and constructive” ways.

Facebook, for example, provided the Senate with copies of posts from 81 Facebook “Pages” and information on 76 accounts used to purchase ads, but it did not share posts from other user accounts run by the IRA, the report says. Twitter, meanwhile, has made it challenging for outside researchers to collect and analyze data on its platform through its public feed, the researchers said.

Google submitted information in an especially difficult way for the researchers to handle, providing content such as YouTube videos but not the related data that would have allowed a full analysis. The YouTube information was so hard for the researchers to study, they wrote, they instead tracked the links to its videos from other sites in hopes of better understanding YouTube’s role in the Russian effort.

Facebook, Google and Twitter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facebook, Google and Twitter first disclosed last year that they had identified Russian meddling on their sites. Critics previously said it took too long to come to an understanding of the disinformation campaign, and that Russian strategies have likely shifted since then. The companies have awakened to the threat — Facebook, in particular, created a “war room” this fall to combat interference around elections — but none have revealed interference around the midterm elections last month on the scale of what happened in 2016.

The report expressed concern about the overall threat social media poses to political discourse within nations and among them, warning that companies once viewed as tools for liberation in the Arab world and elsewhere are now threats to democracy.

“Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike,” the report said.

Researchers also noted that the data includes evidence of sloppiness by the Russians that could have led to earlier detection, including the use of Russia’s currency, the ruble, to buy ads and Russian phone numbers for contact information. The operatives also left behind technical signatures in computerized logs, such as Internet addresses in St. Petersburg, where the IRA was based.

Many of the findings track, in general terms, work by other researchers and testimony previously provided by the companies to lawmakers investigating the Russian effort. But the fuller data available to the researchers offered new insights on many aspects of the Russian campaign.

The report traces the origins of Russian online influence operations to Russian domestic politics in 2009 and says that ambitions shifted to include U.S. politics as early as 2013 on Twitter. Of the tweets the company provided to the Senate, 57 percent are in Russian, with 36 percent in English and smaller amounts in other languages.

The efforts to manipulate Americans grew sharply in 2014 and every year after, as teams of operatives spread their work across more platforms and accounts, in order to target larger swaths of U.S. voters by geography, political interests, race, religion and other factors. The Russians started with accounts on Twitter, then added YouTube and Instagram before bringing Facebook into the mix, the report said.

Facebook was particularly effective at targeting conservatives and African Americans, the report found. More than 99 percent of all engagement — meaning likes, shares and other reactions — came from 20 “Pages” controlled by the IRA, including “Being Patriotic,” “Heart of Texas,” “Blacktivist” and “Army of Jesus.”

Together, the 20 most popular pages generated 39 million likes, 31 million shares, 5.4 million reactions and 3.4 million comments. Company officials told Congress that the Russian campaign reached 126 million people on Facebook and 20 million more on Instagram.

The Russians operated 133 accounts on Instagram, a photo-sharing subsidiary of Facebook, that focused mainly on race, ethnicity or other forms of personal identity. The most successful Instagram posts targeted African American cultural issues and black pride and were not explicitly political.

While the overall intensity of posting across platforms grew year by year — with a particular spike during the six months after Election Day 2016 — this growth was particularly pronounced on Instagram, which went from roughly 2,600 posts a month in 2016 to nearly 6,000 in 2017, when the accounts were shut down. Across all three years covered by the report, Russian Instagram posts generated 185 million likes and 4 million user comments.

Even though the researchers struggled to interpret the YouTube data submitted by Google, they were able to track the links from other sites to YouTube — offering a “proxy” for understanding the role play by the video platform.

“The proxy is imperfect,” the researchers wrote, “but the IRA’s heavy use of links to YouTube videos leaves little doubt of the IRA’s interest in leveraging Google’s video platform to target and manipulate US audiences.”

The use of YouTube, like the other platforms, appears to have grown after Trump’s election. Twitter links to YouTube videos grew by 84 percent in the six months after the election, the data showed.

The Russians shrewdly worked across platforms as they refined their tactics aimed at particular groups, posting links across accounts and sites to bolster the influence operation’s success on each, the report shows.

“Black Matters US” had accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr and PayPal, according to the researchers. By linking posts across these platforms, the Russian operatives were able to solicit donations, organize real-world protests and rallies and direct online traffic to a website that the Russians also controlled.

The researchers found that when Facebook shut down the page in August 2016, a new one called “BM” soon appeared with more cultural and fewer political posts. It tracked closely to the content on the @blackmatterus Instagram account.

The report found operatives also began buying Google ads to promote the “BlackMatters US” website with provocative messages such as, “Cops kill black kids. Are you sure that your son won’t be the next?” The related Twitter account, meanwhile, complained about the suspension of the Facebook page, accusing the tech company of “supporting white supremacy.”

 

How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump

A meticulous analysis of online activity during the 2016 campaign makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive.

by Jane Mayer

The New Yorker Magazine

Donald Trump has adopted many contradictory positions since taking office, but he has been unwavering on one point: that Russia played no role in putting him in the Oval Office. Trump dismisses the idea that Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election, calling it a “made-up story,” “ridiculous,” and “a hoax.” He finds the subject so threatening to his legitimacy that—according to “The Perfect Weapon,” a recent book on cyber sabotage by David Sanger, of the Times—aides say he refuses even to discuss it. In public, Trump has characterized all efforts to investigate the foreign attacks on American democracy during the campaign as a “witch hunt”; in March, he insisted that “the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever.”

Few people, including Trump’s opponents, have publicly challenged the widespread belief that no obtainable evidence can prove that Russian interference changed any votes. Democrats, for the most part, have avoided attributing Hillary Clinton’s defeat directly to Russian machinations. They have more readily blamed James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, for reversing Clinton’s thin lead in the final days of the campaign by reopening a criminal investigation into her mishandling of classified e-mails. Many have also expressed frustration with Clinton’s weak performance as a candidate, and with her campaign’s tactical errors. Instead of investigating whether Russia tipped the electoral scales on its own, they’ve focussed on the possibility that Trump colluded with Russia, and that this, along with other crimes, might be exposed by the probe being conducted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

The U.S. intelligence community, for its part, is prohibited from investigating domestic political affairs. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, told me, “We try not to spy on Americans. It’s not in our charter.” He emphasized that, although he and other intelligence officials produced—and shared with Trump—a postelection report confirming an extensive cyberattack by Russia, the assessment did not attempt to gauge how this foreign meddling had affected American voters. Speaking for himself, however, he told me that “it stretches credulity to think the Russians didn’t turn the election.”

Ordinarily, Congress would aggressively examine an electoral controversy of this magnitude, but the official investigations in the House and the Senate, led by Republicans, have been too stymied by partisanship to address the ultimate question of whether Trump’s victory was legitimate. Although the Senate hearings are still under way, the Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, a Republican, has already declared, “What we cannot do, however, is calculate the impact that foreign meddling and social media had on this election.”

Even the Clinton campaign has stopped short of attributing its loss to the Russians. Joel Benenson, the campaign’s pollster, told me that “a global power is fucking with our elections,” and that “every American should be outraged, whether it changed the outcome or not.” But did the meddling alter the outcome? “How will we ever know?” he said. “We probably won’t, until some Russians involved in it are actually prosecuted—or some Republican, in a moment of conscience, talks.”

Politicians may be too timid to explore the subject, but a new book from, of all places, Oxford University Press promises to be incendiary. “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know,” by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, dares to ask—and even attempts to answer—whether Russian meddling had a decisive impact in 2016. Jamieson offers a forensic analysis of the available evidence and concludes that Russia very likely delivered Trump’s victory.

The book, which is coming out less than two months before the midterm elections, at a moment when polls suggest that some sixty per cent of voters disapprove of Trump, may well reignite the question of Trump’s electoral legitimacy. The President’s supporters will likely characterize the study as an act of partisan warfare. But in person Jamieson, who wears her gray hair in a pixie cut and favors silk scarves and matronly tweeds, looks more likely to suspend a troublemaker than to be one. She is seventy-one, and has spent forty years studying political speeches, ads, and debates. Since 1993, she has directed the Annenberg Public Policy Center, at Penn, and in 2003 she co-founded FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan watchdog group. She is widely respected by political experts in both parties, though her predominantly male peers have occasionally mocked her scholarly intensity, calling her the Drill Sergeant. As Steven Livingston, a professor of political communication at George Washington University, puts it, “She is the epitome of a humorless, no-nonsense social scientist driven by the numbers. She doesn’t bullshit. She calls it straight.”

Indeed, when I met recently with Jamieson, in a book-lined conference room at the Annenberg Center, in Philadelphia, and asked her point-blank if she thought that Trump would be President without the aid of Russians, she didn’t equivocate. “No,” she said, her face unsmiling. Clearly cognizant of the gravity of her statement, she clarified, “If everything else is a constant? No, I do not.”

Jamieson said that, as an academic, she hoped that the public would challenge her arguments. Yet she expressed confidence that unbiased readers would accept her conclusion that it is not just plausible that Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election—it is “likely that it did.”

An airtight case, she acknowledges, may never be possible. In the introduction to her new book, she writes that any case for influence will likely be similar to that in a civil legal trial, “in which the verdict is rendered not with the certainty that e=mc2 but rather based on the preponderance of evidence.” But, she points out, “we do make most of life’s decisions based on less-than-rock-solid, incontrovertible evidence.” In Philadelphia, she noted to me that “we convict people on probabilities rather than absolute certainty, and we’ve executed people based on inferences from available evidence.” She argued that “the standard of proof being demanded” by people claiming it’s impossible to know whether Russia delivered the White House to Trump is “substantially higher than the standard of proof we ordinarily use in our lives.”

Her case is based on a growing body of knowledge about the electronic warfare waged by Russian trolls and hackers—whom she terms “discourse saboteurs”—and on five decades’ worth of academic studies about what kinds of persuasion can influence voters, and under what circumstances. Democracies around the world, she told me, have begun to realize that subverting an election doesn’t require tampering with voting machines. Extensive studies of past campaigns, Jamieson said, have demonstrated that “you can affect people, who then change their decision, and that alters the outcome.” She continued, “I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers. I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”

The effect of such manipulations could be momentous in an election as close as the 2016 race, in which Clinton got nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, and Trump won the Electoral College only because some eighty thousand votes went his way in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. In two hundred and twenty-four pages of extremely dry prose, with four appendixes of charts and graphs and fifty-four pages of footnotes, Jamieson makes a strong case that, in 2016, “Russian masterminds” pulled off a technological and political coup. Moreover, she concludes, the American media “inadvertently helped them achieve their goals.”

When Jamieson set out to research the 2016 campaign—she has researched every Presidential election since 1976—she had no intention of lobbing a grenade. She was spending a peaceful sabbatical as a fellow at the Shorenstein Center, at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, exploring a rather narrow topic: the 2016 Presidential debates. She’d chosen this subject because, having devoted decades to examining the impact of advertising and other forms of persuasion on voters, she believed that most of the big questions in the field of political-campaign communications had been answered. Also, she admitted, “I have what you could call a debate fixation. Every year since 1996 I’ve done some kind of social-science look at the effects of debates.”

This expertise helped Jamieson notice something odd about the three debates between Trump and Clinton. As she told me, “The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton had done pretty well.” According to CNN polls conducted immediately after the debates, she won all three, by a margin of thirteen per cent or greater. But, during the period of the debates, Jamieson and others at the Annenberg Center had overseen three telephone surveys, each sampling about a thousand adults. In an election that turned more than most on judgments of character, Americans who saw or heard the second and third debates, in particular, were more likely than those who hadn’t to agree that Clinton “says one thing in public and something else in private.” Jamieson found this statistic curious, because, by the time of the first debate, on September 26th, Clinton’s reputation for candor had already been tarnished by her failed attempt to hide the fact that she’d developed pneumonia, and by the revelation that, at a recent fund-raising event, she’d described some Trump supporters as “deplorables”—a slur that contradicted her slogan “Stronger Together.” Other Annenberg Center polling data indicated to Jamieson that concerns about Clinton being two-faced had been “baked in” voters’ minds since before the first debate. Clinton “had already been attacked for a very long time over that,” Jamieson recalls thinking. “Why would the debates have had an additional effect?”

After insuring that the surveys had been properly conducted, Jamieson analyzed whether this change in a voter’s perception of Clinton’s forthrightness predicted a change in his or her candidate preference. To her surprise, she found that it did: as she put it to me, there was a “small but significant drop in reported intention to vote for her.” This statistic, too, struck Jamieson as curious; she knew from years of scholarship that Presidential debates, barring major gaffes, typically “increase the likelihood that you’re casting a vote for, rather than against,” a candidate.

Last year, while Jamieson was trying to determine what could have caused viewers’ perception of Clinton’s character to fall so consequentially, the Washington Post asked her to write an op-ed addressing whether Russian operatives had helped to elect Trump. Jamieson agreed to do so, but, she admitted to me, “I frankly hadn’t thought about it one way or the other

Jamieson is scrupulously nonpartisan in her work. Beth Myers, who helped lead Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and worked with Jamieson on a bipartisan project about Presidential debates, told me, “If Kathleen has a point of view, I don’t know what it is. She’s extraordinarily evenhanded. She is fair and fearless.” Anita Dunn, a Democratic adviser to Barack Obama, agrees. She, too, worked with Jamieson on the Presidential-debates project, and she studied with her as an undergraduate. Jamieson, she says, “is constantly pointing out what the data actually shows, as opposed to those of us who just assert stuff.”

Jamieson began her study of the 2016 election with an open mind. But, in the fall of 2017, as she watched the House and the Senate hold hearings on Russia’s social-media manipulations, and reviewed the sampling of dozens of Facebook ads released by the House Intelligence Committee—all paid for by Russians during the Presidential campaign—she developed suspicions about the reasons behind Trump’s victory. Before the hearings, Facebook’s chairman and C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, had maintained that the amount of Russian content that had been disseminated on social media was too small to matter. But evidence presented to the Senate committee revealed that material generated by the Kremlin had reached a hundred and twenty-six million American Facebook users, leading Senator Dianne Feinstein to call the cyberattack “cataclysmic.”

House Democrats later released not only the ads but also their “targeting data”—the demographics and the geographic locations of users receiving them—which indicated to Jamieson “whom the Russians were going for.” Among other things, she could discern that the Russians had tried “to minimize the vote of African-Americans.” Bogus Kremlin-sponsored ads that had circulated online—including one depicting a black woman in front of an “AFRICAN-AMERICANS FOR HILLARY” sign—had urged voters to tweet or text rather than vote, or to “avoid the line” and “vote from home.”

Jamieson’s Post article was grounded in years of scholarship on political persuasion. She noted that political messages are especially effective when they are sent by trusted sources, such as members of one’s own community. Russian operatives, it turned out, disguised themselves in precisely this way. As the Times first reported, on June 8, 2016, a Facebook user depicting himself as Melvin Redick, a genial family man from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, posted a link to DCLeaks.com, and wrote that users should check out “the hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US.” The profile photograph of “Redick” showed him in a backward baseball cap, alongside his young daughter—but Pennsylvania records showed no evidence of Redick’s existence, and the photograph matched an image of an unsuspecting man in Brazil. U.S. intelligence experts later announced, “with high confidence,” that DCLeaks was the creation of the G.R.U., Russia’s military-intelligence agency.

Academic research has also shown that political messages tend not to change the minds of voters who have already chosen a candidate; they are most likely to persuade undecided voters. And in 2016 an uncommonly high percentage of voters liked neither candidate and stayed undecided longer than usual. By some counts, about thirty-seven million Americans—fifteen per cent of the electorate—were still undecided in the final weeks before the election.

Jamieson argues that the impact of the Russian cyberwar was likely enhanced by its consistency with messaging from Trump’s campaign, and by its strategic alignment with the campaign’s geographic and demographic objectives. Had the Kremlin tried to push voters in a new direction, its effort might have failed. But, Jamieson concluded, the Russian saboteurs nimbly amplified Trump’s divisive rhetoric on immigrants, minorities, and Muslims, among other signature topics, and targeted constituencies that he needed to reach. She noted that Russian trolls had created social-media posts clearly aimed at winning support for Trump from churchgoers and military families—key Republican voters who seemed likely to lack enthusiasm for a thrice-married nominee who had boasted of groping women, obtained multiple military deferments, mocked Gold Star parents and a former prisoner of war, and described the threat of venereal disease as his personal equivalent of the Vietcong. Russian trolls pretended to have the same religious convictions as targeted users, and often promoted Biblical memes, including one that showed Clinton as Satan, with budding horns, arm-wrestling with Jesus, alongside the message “ ‘Like’ if you want Jesus to win!” One Instagram post, portraying Clinton as uncaring about the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, depicted a young American widow resting her head on a flag-draped coffin. Another post displayed contrasting images of a thin homeless veteran and a heavyset, swarthy man wearing an “UNDOCUMENTED UNAFRAID UNAPOLOGETIC” T-shirt, and asked why “this veteran gets nothing” and “this illegal gets everything.” It concluded, “Like and share if you think this is a disgrace.” On Election Day, according to CNN exit polls, Trump, despite his political baggage, outperformed Clinton by twenty-six points among veterans; he also did better among evangelicals than both of the previous Republican nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain.

In her Post article, Jamieson wrote that it was “hard to know” if Russian propaganda and dirty tricks—including the steady release of hacked e-mails, starting with Democratic National Committee correspondence that was leaked just before the Party’s convention—had made a decisive difference in 2016. Nevertheless, she argued, the “wide distribution” of the trolls’ disinformation “increases the likelihood” that it “changed the outcome.”

After the article’s publication, she returned to her sabbatical project on the debates, with a newly keen eye for Russian trolls and hackers. After reviewing the debate transcripts, scrutinizing press coverage, and eliminating other possibilities, Jamieson concluded that there was only one credible explanation for the diminishing impression among debate viewers that Clinton was forthright: just before the second debate, WikiLeaks had released a cache of e-mails, obtained by Russian hackers, that, it said, were taken from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They included excerpts from speeches that Clinton had given to banks, for high fees, and had refused to release during the campaign. The speeches could be used by detractors to show that, despite her liberal rhetoric, she was aligned with Wall Street. The hacked content permeated the discourse of the debates, informing both the moderators’ questions and the candidates’ answers. All this, Jamieson writes, gave legitimacy to the idea that Clinton “said one thing in public and another in private.”

During the second debate, on October 9th, before 66.5 million viewers, one of the moderators, Martha Raddatz, relayed a question submitted by a voter: Did Clinton think that it was acceptable for a politician to be “two-faced”? The question referred to a leaked passage from one of Clinton’s previously unreleased paid speeches; Russian hackers had given the passage to WikiLeaks, which posted it two days before the debate. In the speech, Clinton had cited Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” as an example of how politicians sometimes need to adopt different public and private negotiating stances. The point was scarcely novel, but the debate question—which took her words out of context, omitted her reference to the movie, and didn’t mention that Russian operatives had obtained the speech illegally—made Clinton sound like a sneaky hypocrite. When Clinton cited “Lincoln” in order to defend the statement, Trump pounced.

“She got caught in a total lie!” Trump said. “Her papers went out to all her friends at the banks—Goldman Sachs and everybody else. And she said things, WikiLeaks, that just came out. And she lied. Now she’s blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln!”

The dynamic recurred in the third debate, on October 19th, which 71.6 million people watched. When Trump accused Clinton of favoring “open borders,” she denied it, but the moderator, Chris Wallace, challenged her by citing a snippet from a speech that she had given, in 2013, to a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Again, there was no mention of the fact that the speech had been stolen by a hostile foreign power; Wallace said that the quotation had come from WikiLeaks. The clear implication of Wallace’s question was that Clinton had been hiding her true beliefs, and Trump said to him, “Thank you!” His supporters in the audience laughed. Clinton said that the phrase had been taken out of context: she’d been referring not to immigrants but to an open-bordered electric grid with Latin America. She tried to draw attention to Russia’s role in hacking the speech, but Trump mocked her for accusing Putin, and joked, “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders.” He then warned the audience that, if Clinton were elected, Syrians and other immigrants would “pour into our country.”

The fact-checking organization PolitiFact later concluded that Trump had incorrectly characterized Clinton’s speech, but the damage had been done. Jamieson’s research indicated that viewers who watched the second and third debates subsequently saw Clinton as less forthright, and Trump as more forthright. Among people who did not watch the debates, Clinton’s reputation was not damaged in this way. During the weeks that the debates took place, the moderators and the media became consumed by an anti-Clinton narrative driven by Russian hackers. In “Cyberwar,” Jamieson writes, “The stolen goods lent credibility” to “those moderator queries.”

As Jamieson reviewed the record further, she concluded that the Russian hackers had also been alarmingly successful in reframing the American political narrative in the crucial period leading up to the second debate. On Friday, October 7th, two days before it took place, three major stories landed in rapid succession. At 12:40 P.M., the Obama Administration released a stunning statement, by the Department of Homeland Security and the director of National Intelligence, accusing the Russian government of interfering in the election through hacking. This seemed certain to dominate the weekend news, but at 4:03 P.M. the Washington Post published a report, by David Fahrenthold, on an “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump, on a hot mike, boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Then, less than half an hour later, WikiLeaks released its first tranche of e-mails that Russian hackers had stolen from Podesta’s account. The tranche contained some two thousand messages, along with excerpts from the paid speeches that Clinton had tried to conceal, including those that would be mentioned in the subsequent debates. (Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, has denied working with the Russian government, but he manifestly despises Clinton, and, in a leaked Twitter direct message, he said that in the 2016 election “it would be much better for GOP to win.”)

If the WikiLeaks release was a Russian-backed effort to rescue Trump’s candidacy by generating a scandal to counterbalance the “Access Hollywood” tape and the intelligence report on Russian interference, Jamieson writes, it worked splendidly. The intelligence community’s report faded from the headlines; that Sunday morning, none of its authors were invited on any major talk show. Instead, the programs breathlessly discussed the “pussy” tape and the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, which were portrayed as more or less exposing both candidates as liars. Jamieson notes, “Instead of asking how we could know that the Russians were behind the hacking, the October 9 Sunday show moderators asked what effect the disclosures would have on the candidates’ respective campaigns and what the tape and speech segments revealed about the private versus public selves of the contenders.” If not for WikiLeaks, she writes, the media discourse in those crucial days likely would have remained locked on two topics advantageous to Clinton: Russian election subversion and Trump’s treatment of women.

Jamieson also argues that, in most hotly contested elections, the candidates blunt each other’s messages, which results in fairly balanced media coverage. In 2016, she believes, Russia’s involvement upset this equilibrium. She asks readers to imagine how different the 2016 election might have been if Trump’s campaign had also been hacked, disgorging the e-mails of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump, Jr. Among other things, this would have exposed correspondence about the notorious June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, and Trump’s payoffs to a pornographic actress and to a Playboy model. Documents that Trump has kept concealed, such as his tax returns, also might have come to light. Instead, Jamieson writes, throughout the autumn of 2016 a steady stream of content stolen from the Clinton campaign—which the press generally described as coming from WikiLeaks, rather than from Russia—“reweighted the news environment in Trump’s favor.”

As Jamieson dug further into Russia’s discourse saboteurs, she decided that she had the makings of a book. Most discussions about the 2016 election results, she believed, had been misguidedly framed around the question of whether the Russians had “changed votes directly.” There wasn’t evidence for this. Instead, she suspected, the Russians had “influenced who voted, or didn’t vote, and that could have changed the outcome.”

She set aside her debates project and continued sleuthing. She amassed more evidence this past February, when the Justice Department, in connection with the Mueller probe, released a detailed indictment of thirteen Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm in St. Petersburg. The operatives were described as having worked day and night waging “information warfare against the United States of America.” Then, in July, Mueller indicted twelve Russian intelligence officers for hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. The indictment maintained that the Russian government had executed a sprawling and sustained cyberattack on at least three hundred people connected to the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, infiltrating their computers and implanting malware that, in some instances, enabled spies to covertly monitor their keystrokes. As the Times reported, the Russians had leaked stolen files “in stages,” a tactic “that wreaked havoc on the Democratic Party throughout much of the election season.”

Strikingly, the July indictment showed that Russian hackers’ first attempt to infiltrate the computer servers in Clinton’s personal offices had taken place on July 27, 2016, the same day that Trump had declared, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the thirty thousand e-mails that are missing,” adding, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Another revelation from the indictment which jumped out at Jamieson was that the Russian hackers had stolen the Clinton campaign’s data analytics and voter-turnout models. A month later, when we met in Philadelphia, Jamieson said, “So we’re starting to close in on a pretty strong inference that they had everything needed to target the messaging” at “key constituencies that did effectively mobilize in this election.” Cocking an eyebrow, she added, “The possibility that this happened starts to become a probability—starts to become a likelihood—pretty quickly.”

Joel Benenson, the Clinton pollster, was stunned when he learned, from the July indictment, that the Russians had stolen his campaign’s internal modelling. “I saw it and said, ‘Holy shit!’ ” he told me. Among the proprietary information that the Russian hackers could have obtained, he said, was campaign data showing that, late in the summer of 2016, in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, an unusually high proportion of residents whose demographic and voting profiles identified them as likely Democrats were “Hillary defectors”: people so unhappy with Clinton that they were considering voting for a third-party candidate. The Clinton campaign had a plan for winning back these voters. Benenson explained that any Clinton opponent who stole this data would surely have realized that the best way to counter the plan was to bombard those voters with negative information about Clinton. “All they need to do is keep that person where they are,” he said, which is far easier than persuading a voter to switch candidates. Many critics have accused Clinton of taking Michigan and Wisconsin for granted and spending virtually no time there. But Benenson said that, if a covert social-media campaign targeting “Hillary defectors” was indeed launched in battleground states, it might well have changed the outcome of the election.

Benenson said, “We lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—three states of our Blue Wall—by about eighty thousand votes. Six hundred and sixty thousand votes were cast in those three states for third-party candidates. Winning those three states would have got us to two hundred and seventy-eight electoral votes.” In other words, if only twelve per cent of those third-party voters were persuaded by Russian propaganda—based on hacked Clinton-campaign analytics—not to vote for Clinton, then Jamieson’s theory could be valid.

Benenson said that, when he first learned about the theft, he “called another consultant on the campaign and said, ‘This is unreal.’ ” The consultant reminded him that, in focus groups with undecided voters in the fall of 2016, “we’d hear these things like ‘I really hate Trump, but Hillary’s going to murder all these people’—all sorts of crazy stuff.” Benenson admitted that many Americans had long disliked the Clintons, and had for years spread exaggerated rumors of their alleged misdeeds and deceptions. But he wonders if some of those conspiracy-minded voters hadn’t been unknowingly influenced by Russian propagandists who were marshalling the Clinton campaign’s own analytics.

Philip Howard, the director of the Oxford Internet Institute, in England, agrees that the Russian interference could have been decisive, but he is less convinced that the stolen analytics were key. He told me, “It’s plausible, but the Russians wouldn’t have needed the Clinton campaign—they could just as easily have targeted the network of Bernie Sanders supporters.”

“Did we make mistakes?” Benenson asked, about the Clinton campaign’s performance. “Sure.” But, he said, he believes that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “the biggest threat to democracy we’ve ever had in this country, other than the wars we’ve had to fight.”

Jamieson has long been respected by the Washington media establishment, but it’s a safe bet that the Trump White House will dismiss her work as more “fake news.” A senior Trump adviser who was involved in the 2016 campaign, and has yet to see Jamieson’s book, recently sent me a text: “Where is the evidence? And when do people start to feel ashamed that they can’t accept the election results and the crappy candidate they ran?”

Other academics may also be skeptical of “Cyberwar.” A forthcoming book on the 2016 campaign, “Identity Crisis,” by the political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck, argues that Russian interference was not a major factor in the Presidential election, and that the hacked e-mails “did not clearly affect” perceptions of Clinton. Instead, they write, Trump’s exploitation of divisive race, gender, religious, and ethnicity issues accounted for his win. But the two books are not necessarily incompatible: Jamieson shows that Russian saboteurs inflamed polarizing identity issues, including resentment among whites that minority groups were benefitting at the expense of “real” Americans—which is exactly what “Identity Crisis” says swung the election.

Recently, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, suggested, in the Times, that most fears about the impact of Russian information warfare in the 2016 campaign are exaggerated. He wrote that “a growing number of studies conclude” that “most forms of political persuasion seem to have little effect at all,” and cited studies suggesting that television ads, direct mail, and door-to-door canvassing rarely sway voters. Moreover, he argued, though the number of Russian-sponsored messages during the 2016 campaign might sound alarmingly large, the universe of information that most voters are exposed to is so vast that the impact of fake news, and other malicious online misinformation, is diluted. He noted, “Twitter, for instance, reported that Russian bots tweeted 2.1 million times before the election—certainly a worrisome number. But these represented only 1 percent of all election-related tweets and 0.5 percent of views of election-related tweets.” He concluded, “It’s hard to change people’s minds!”

Conservative news outlets like the Daily Caller have embraced the view that Russia’s social-media operations were negligible. But Jonathan Albright, of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, who has been at the forefront of documenting the spread of online disinformation from Russia and other sources, describes the “drop in the bucket” argument as a case of “false framing.” He told me, “A better way to think of it is not as a drop of solution but as pollution. Every piece of messaging has some effect.” It’s misleading, he says, to focus only on the relatively small number of obvious propaganda messages, such as paid Facebook ads. Far more important, in the 2016 campaign, was “organic content”: the countless messages, created by masked Russian social-media accounts, that were spread by algorithms, bots, and unwitting American users. The reach of such content, he told me, “turned out to be huge.” Of the four hundred and seventy Facebook accounts known to have been created by Russian saboteurs during the campaign, a mere six of them generated content that was shared at least three hundred and forty million times. The Facebook page for a fake group, Blacktivist, which stoked racial tensions by posting militant slogans and stomach-churning videos of police violence against African-Americans, garnered more hits than the Facebook page for Black Lives Matter.

The Blacktivist ruse was part of a larger Russian plot to divide Americans, according to Senator Mark Warner, the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. An expert told the committee that automated accounts typically push extremist views twenty-five to thirty times more often than authentic American social-media users do. “It blew my mind,” he told me. “It was an OMG moment. The extremes are screaming while the majority whispers.”

It is now understood that Russia’s influence was far larger than social-media companies originally acknowledged. Facebook initially claimed that Russian disinformation posted during the campaign had likely reached only ten million Facebook users; it subsequently amended the figure to a hundred and twenty-six million. Twitter recently acknowledged that it, too, was deeply infiltrated, hosting more than fifty thousand impostor accounts.

James Clapper told me, “It’s hard to convey to people how massive an assault this was,” and added, “I think the Russians have more to do with making Clinton lose than Trump did.” Yet he remains cautious about saying that this is provable. So does Albright, of the Tow Center. He has accumulated a huge quantity of data documenting Russian meddling, but he believes that it remains “difficult to quantify what the impact was on the outcome.” He told me that Russian interference “provoked outrage, created discontent with social systems such as police and safety, pushed certain urban and disadvantaged communities to feel marginalized, and amplified wedge issues beyond authentic reach through social media, which then magnified media coverage of certain issues.” He went on, “That’s an impact. But to translate that into voting patterns is very difficult.” Michael Hayden, the former director of the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., is also agnostic. He has called the Russian attacks “the most successful covert influence operation in history,” but concludes that, although Russian hackers may have, as he put it, “put their thumb on the American electoral scale,” there’s simply “no telling the impact. . . . It’s not just unknown, it’s unknowable.”

Jamieson quotes Hayden making this argument, but writes that she must respectfully disagree.

“Cyberwar” doesn’t simply document Russia’s hacking and social-media campaigns. It also pinpoints another, less well-known, instance of Russian sabotage, and Jamieson argues that this dirty trick, in combination with the actions of trolls and hackers, may have changed the course of the 2016 campaign. In her telling, James Comey’s decision to issue a series of damaging public pronouncements on Clinton’s handling of classified e-mails can plausibly be attributed to Russian disinformation. As evidence, Jamieson cites Comey’s own story, told in interviews and in his recent memoir, of what happened behind the scenes.

Jamieson became curious as she watched Comey, on July 5, 2016, make the first of three public statements during the campaign about e-mails that Clinton had mishandled while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. At a press conference, Comey announced his intention to recommend that the Justice Department not charge Clinton, but first he denounced her actions as “extremely careless.” Jamieson recalls wondering, “Why are you doing this?” She told me, “It was odd.”

Ordinarily, when the F.B.I. ends an investigation with no charges, it says nothing. In very high-profile cases, it sometimes issues a “declination” statement. But, even though Comey wasn’t the head of the Justice Department—he was only the F.B.I. director—he had unilaterally designated himself the spokesman for the entire investigation, and had called a live press conference without asking the permission of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As Jamieson worked on her manuscript, she noticed that Comey repeatedly hinted that his decision to preëmpt his boss was prompted, in part, by classified information, which, if leaked, would undermine the over-all integrity of the Clinton probe. In public, he mysteriously declined to be more specific about this intelligence, but claimed that it had compounded concerns already stirred by an impromptu private visit between Lynch and Bill Clinton, on June 27th, at an Arizona airport.

Six months after the election, the Washington Post broke a story that solved the mystery. At some point in 2016, the F.B.I. had received unverified Russian intelligence describing purported e-mails from Lynch to a member of the Clinton team, in which she promised that she’d go easy on Clinton. An unnamed source told the Post that the intelligence had been viewed as “junk.” Nonetheless, Comey has reportedly told aides that he let the disinformation shape his decision to sideline Lynch. Fearing, in part, that conservatives would create a furor if the alleged e-mails became public, he began to feel that Lynch “could not credibly participate in announcing a declination.” A subsequent report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, described Comey’s behavior as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” and found his justifications unpersuasive.

Nick Merrill, a former Clinton-campaign spokesman, describes Comey’s actions as “mind-blowing.” He said of the intelligence impugning Lynch, “It was a Russian forgery. But Comey based major decisions in the Justice Department on Russian disinformation because of the optics of it! The Russians targeted the F.B.I., hoping they’d act on it, and then he went ahead and did so.”

In the fake Russian intelligence, one of the Clinton-campaign officials accused of conspiring with Lynch was Amanda Renteria. She was shocked to learn of the allegations, and told me that, although she is friendly with a woman named Loretta Lynch—a political figure in California—she does not know the Loretta Lynch who was the Attorney General. Renteria said, “To me, it says that, in the new world of politics, even if something isn’t real, it can still move things. You aren’t living in the world of reality anymore.”

Comey declined to comment for this article, citing the classified nature of the intelligence in question. As with the other incidents described in Jamieson’s book, it is hard to assess precisely how much of a difference his damaging statements about Clinton made at the voting booth. But it certainly didn’t help her candidacy when, just ten days before the election, Comey—reprising his self-appointed spokesperson role—announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the investigation because more Clinton e-mails had been found. Seven days later, he made a third announcement, clearing her again. Adam Schiff, the Democratic representative who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told me that, if you take Comey at his word that the fake intelligence drove his decision to publicly censor Clinton in the first place—there are skeptics who suspect that Comey’s grandstanding moralism was a bigger factor—then “it probably was the most measurable” and “the most significant way in which the Russians may have impacted the outcome of the election.”

Polls suggest the likely impact. According to the Web site FiveThirtyEight, at midnight on October 28, 2016, the day Comey announced that he was reopening the investigation, Clinton was ahead of Trump by 5.9 per cent. A week later, her lead had shrunk to 2.9 per cent. Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight, has noted that, during this time, coverage of the Clinton e-mail investigation dominated the news, “drowning out other headlines.” According to researchers at Microsoft, the Times ran as many front-page stories on the e-mails that week as it ran front-page stories about the candidates’ policy proposals in the final few months of the campaign. Silver concluded that all the talk about Clinton’s e-mails may have shifted the race by as much as four points, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida to Trump, and possibly North Carolina and Arizona, too.

Jamieson, ever the social scientist, emphasizes in her book that there is much that Americans still don’t know about the campaign, including the detailed targeting information that would clarify exactly whom the Russian disinformation was aimed at, and when it was sent. She told me, “We need to know the extent to which the Russians targeted the three key states, and which citizens’ voting patterns differed substantially from the ones you would have predicted in the past.”

Philip Howard, the Oxford professor, believes that Facebook possesses this data, down to the location of a user’s computer, and that such information could conceivably reveal whether an undecided voter was swayed after viewing certain content. He also thinks that, if there was any collusion between the St. Petersburg trolls and the Trump campaign, Facebook’s internal data could document it, by revealing coördination on political posts. But, he says, Facebook has so far resisted divulging such data to researchers, claiming that doing so would be a breach of its user agreement.

Even if this targeting information were released, though, questions would remain. Jamieson notes that postelection interviews are often unhelpful, since few voters are able to accurately recount what influenced their decision. Scholars know even less about nonvoters. As a result, she writes in “Cyberwar,” efforts to make an “ironclad” case will be “thwarted by unknowns.” Nevertheless, her book concludes that “Russian trolls and hackers helped elect a US president.”

Jamieson told me that one of her greatest concerns is that voters were unaware of the foreign effort to manipulate them on social media. Had the public known, she believes, there likely would have been a significant backlash. “We want voters to be aware of who is trying to influence them,” she said. “That’s the reason we have disclosure requirements on our campaign ads. We’ve known, at least since Aristotle in Western culture, that the source is judged as part of the message.”

Americans eager to declare Trump’s election illegitimate will be disappointed by one of Jamieson’s arguments. Regardless of her findings about the Russian scheme, she writes that, “barring evidence of tampering” with voting machines or ballot boxes, “Trump is the duly elected President of the United States.” She says that she will leave it to others to decide whether Trump should remain in office if conclusive evidence emerges that he colluded with the Kremlin in order to win the election. “My personal judgment is yes, even then Mr. Trump would be President,” she writes. “But probably not for long.” ♦

This article appears in the print edition of the October 1, 2018, issue, with the headline “Russia Won.”

Jane Mayer has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995.

 

Trump Russia: Six potential legal problems for the president

December 17, 2018

by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

BBC News

Investigations into Donald Trump’s election-eve hush money payments and any possible ties between his presidential campaign and Russia have been dominating headlines. But there are other legal woes too.

In New York and Washington, the list of inquiries into the Trump world are expanding – any of which could produce serious headaches for the president.

Here’s a look at the latest collection of eyeballs scrutinising the president – and what it all could mean.

  1. The presidential inauguration cash

On Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported that the committee in charge of Mr Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration has come under federal criminal investigation.

The committee raised in a record $107m (£85m) in donations, including $14m from donors who worked for securities and investment companies and nearly $10m from those with real-estate industry ties.

The total is nearly double the amount of the previous record for inaugural fundraising, set by Barack Obama in 2009.

The probe will look into how that inaugural money was spent and whether contributors sought to gain access to the new administration.

A ProPublica report on Friday detailed concerns by a “top inaugural planner” that the Trump International Hotel in Washington was overcharging the inaugural committee for rooms, meals and facilities, which could be a violation of tax law.

The US attorney’s office in Southern Manhattan is handling the inquiry – the same team involved in the various Cohen investigations.

According to the Journal, this new investigation was prompted, in part, by evidence unearthed by federal agents when they raided Cohen’s offices in April.

Presidential exposure: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “this doesn’t have anything to do with the president or the first lady” when asked about the Wall Street Journal report. That may be the case, but some of the president’s closest friends and associates – and his daughter, Ivanka – were deeply involved in the inaugural planning.

  1. Foreign influence

The central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is to uncover any ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, but according to recent reports the inquiry may have expanded to include connections to other countries.

A Daily Beast article reported that “phase two” of the special counsel’s investigation will begin early in the next year and include court filings – and possible indictments – outlining connections between the Trump campaign and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The New York Times also tied this news to the inauguration investigation, noting that federal investigators in New York are looking into whether any foreigners illegally made donations to the inaugural committee. Mr Mueller’s team is also reportedly scrutinising a pro-Trump group to see if it received contributions from overseas during the 2016 campaign.

Saudi Arabia and UAE were once again mentioned, as was Qatar.

The president has called the entire Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and is sure to vehemently object to any expansion of the probe.

Presidential exposure: Mr Trump has been more than accommodating toward Saudi Arabia as president – making the nation his first foreign visit, siding with it in a dispute with Qatar and offering a forceful defence of Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. The special counsel’s office could be doing more than just wondering why.

  1. Trump hotel

Shortly after being elected president, Mr Trump announced that his businesses would donate all income derived from foreign governments to the US Treasury.

In March the Trump Organization donated $151,470 in profits from foreign governments accrued during 2017 – although it offered no further details.

This procedure was designed to avoid running afoul of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution, which prohibits federal officials from receiving gifts or payments from foreign rulers or representatives.

Although the president’s lawyers said such donations were not required, Mr Trump pledged to do so “to eliminate any distractions by going beyond what the Constitution requires”.

In June, however, attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland sued Mr Trump, alleging that the president is continuing to profit from foreign government spending at his properties – particularly his eponymous hotel just blocks from the White House in Washington, DC.

A similar legal challenge was dismissed, and a third – filed by Democratic lawmakers – is also winding its way through the court system.

So much for no distractions.

Since the Maryland/DC lawsuit was filed, Mr Trump’s lawyers have tried to block it from proceeding, setting up what could be the first in a series of legal decisions on the breadth of the Emoluments Clause.

Last week, however, the judge overseeing the case allowed DC and Maryland to issue 30 subpoenas for business records from the Trump organisation and affiliated groups – an evidence gathering process that will continue until August 2019.

Presidential exposure: The case could end up being a ticking political time bomb that reveals embarrassing details about the president’s business empire just as his presidential re-election campaign is kicking into gear.

  1. Trump Foundation

In addition to the ongoing federal probes of the president and his interests, New York state investigators are conducting a review of the president’s charitable foundation.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has alleged that the Trump Foundation effectively served as means to advance the president’s political and business interests in violation of state laws governing the tax-free status of charitable organisations. The president, in response, called the investigation the work of “sleazy New York Democrats” and lauded his charity for giving out more than $19m.

Mr Trump’s lawyers attempted to have the case dismissed, but in late November a New York judge ruled that the allegations “sufficiently support a claim that Mr Trump intentionally used foundation assets for his private interests knowing that it may not be in the foundation’s best interests”.

During the 2016 campaign, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold detailed how Mr Trump used money from his charitable foundation – funded in large part by contributions from friends and associates – to settle business lawsuits and make donations to build support for his presidential bid.

Presidential exposure: New York is seeking nearly $3m in restitution, additional financial penalties, a 10-year ban on Mr Trump serving as the head of any New York non-profit organisations and a one-year ban for his three oldest children, Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr.

  1. Hush-money payments

These four areas of potential legal jeopardy have not consumed a fraction of the attention that two other subjects have commanded.

On Wednesday Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, explained how he helped arrange payments to two women who were poised to talk about their sexual relationships with Mr Trump during the election campaign.

As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in New York, he admitted charges of campaign-finance law violations.

In court filings and subsequent statements he has said he was acting at the direction of Mr Trump himself – something the president has vehemently denied.

Presidential exposure: Mr Trump has been directly implicated in a campaign finance violation – one of several charges for which his long-time personal attorney has received a prison sentence. The National Enquirer, which facilitated one of the payments, corroborates Cohen’s account. This is serious business.

  1. Russian interference

Meanwhile Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and possible ties to the Trump campaign, grinds on.

Mr Cohen has helped with that inquiry as well, recently asserting that negotiations on a proposed multimillion-dollar Trump real estate venture in Moscow continued well into the presidential election season and included contacts with Russian officials.

The special counsel’s office, in court filings involving the sentencing of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, has also revealed the existence of a previously undisclosed criminal probe and continued extensive Russia-related efforts.

President Trump has maintained there was no collusion with Russia and dismissed the investigation as a Democratic conspiracy.

Presidential exposure: Multiple individuals involved with the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians at the same time as the Russian government has been accused of engaging in cyber-warfare to support Mr Trump’s presidential candidacy. Was there collusion? If so, did it involve the president? These are the fundamental questions Mr Mueller was hired to answer. Everything else is window dressing.

 

US Anger Over Jamal Khashoggi Has Finally Led to Progress in Yemen

December 14, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

The number killed fighting in the war in Yemen jumped to 3,068 in November, the first time it has exceeded the three thousand mark in a single month since the start of the four-year conflict. This is about the same number as were being killed in Iraq at the height of the slaughter there in 2006.

The difference is that the Iraqis were not starving to death as is happening in Yemen. Aid organisations have long warned of mass starvation as 14m hungry people are on the verge of famine according to the UN. In a ruined economy, many Yemenis do not have the money to buy the little food that is available.

But at the last moment, just as millions of Yemenis were being engulfed by the crisis, a final calamity may have been averted.

On Thursday negotiators from the Saudi and UAE-backed forces and the Houthi rebel movement meeting under UN auspices in Sweden unexpectedly agreed a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah through which flows 70 per cent of Yemen’s food and fuel supplies. The Saudi-backed coalition forces and the Houthis have agreed to pull back their fighters from the city which the coalition has targeted has since June. It is the intensified fighting in and around Hodeidah that produced the spike in civilian and military fatalities.

The surprise breakthrough at the negotiations, which are meant to pave the way for full peace talks, has encouraging elements. Some 15,000 prisoners are to be exchanged and a humanitarian corridor is to be opened to the city of Taiz which has long been a focus for the fighting.

Truce agreements after long periods of fighting are always shaky as opposing fighters, locked in combat for years and regarding each other with the deepest suspicion, begin to disengage their forces. But, for once in Yemen, there are reasons for optimism, which have little to do with the warring parties themselves and everything to do with political changes in Washington and in the relations between the US and Saudi Arabia.

On the same day as the Hodeidah ceasefire was being announced in Sweden, the US Senate was unanimously approving a resolution holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the architect of the war in March 2015 – accountable for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two months ago. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution, said: “I absolutely believe [Mohammed bin Salman] directed…I believe he monitored it. And I believe he is responsible for it.” Earlier in the month, after a closed-door briefing from the CIA director, Gina Haspel, Corker said: “If the Crown Prince had gone in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes.”

This is rough stuff and came in the wake of a 56 to 41 vote in the Senate for a resolution ending US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The Senate is also demanding the release of political prisoners held for supporting peaceful reforms such as rights for women.

President Trump and the White House are still standing by Saudi Arabia, but they are paying an increasingly heavy price for this protection. Republican senators as well as Democrats are leading the attack on the Crown Prince and the Saudi role in Yemen. This assault is going to get worse for the Saudis when the newly-elected Democratic majority takes over the House next year and steps up the pressure on the administration over its close alliance with Saudi Arabia. Trump may find that at the end of the day he is more vulnerable over his Saudi connection than his links to Russia.

Even if Trump does go on protecting the Crown Prince and Saudi Arabia he will look for something substantive in return. This is likely to include an end to the Yemeni war which the US once supported, primarily as a favour to the Saudis. It is a clear sign that the balance of power between Washington and Riyadh has changed radically in favour of the former.

A less obvious reason why the war in Yemen may come to an end is that neither side is in a position to defeat the other side. Many in Saudi Arabia and its allies may have believed earlier this year that capturing Hodeidah would be a decisive blow against the Houthis, but this was always a misconception. The Houthis are expert and experienced guerrillas who would certainly fight on against the less capable Saudi-backed government forces. They may well see impending famine as strengthening them diplomatically because it will provoke greater international criticism of the Saudi intervention.

The war has always been seen as a personal project of the Crown Prince, which, as Defence Minister, he launched in March 2015 in expectation of a quick victory under the revealing code name “Operation Decisive Storm”. But instead of victory there was a military stalemate, though this did the Saudis little political damage until recently. They claimed with some success that their war was a counter-offensive against Iran and Western leaders and media commonly referred to the “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”.

But Iranian support for the Houthis was always limited, reportedly consisting of free oil product delivered outside the country to the Houthis who then sold it for cash. It is a mistake to think that Iran or any other power in the Middle East necessarily needs to deliver arms and ammunition in crates. Much of the Middle East is a black-market arms bazaar and this has always been particularly true of Yemen. Anybody with money to pay for weapons will never lack an arms dealer willing to supply them.

After the Saudis failed to win the war quickly in 2015, they largely lost interest in it though they could not afford to bring it to an end without some sign of success. The human cost did not concern them as they were receiving military and diplomatic cover from the US, UK and France.

The international media shamefully paid little to the war until the Khashoggi affair: a measure of this lack of interest was the lazy way in which news outlets cited the number of Yemenis who had died violently in the conflict at just 10,000, quoting a two-year-old UN figure which was, in any case, an underestimate. It was only after the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) meticulously counted the number of those killed since January 2016, that it emerged that the true figure for fatalities was 60,223. ACLED estimates that, when it has counted the number of dead in the first year of the war, the overall figure will rise to between 75,000 and 80,000, not including those who have died from famine or disease.

Bizarrely, it was not the killing of these tens of thousands but the murder of one man, Jamal Khashoggi, which may help bring to a close one of the most unnecessary wars in history.

Saudi Arabia slams US resolution blaming crown prince for Khashoggi murder

Saudi Arabia has rejected a resolution by the US Senate directly blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Riyadh has accused Washington of undermining its sovereignty.

December 17, 2018

DW

Saudi Arabia has “categorically” rejected a resolution from the US Senate blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and another to end American military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen.

“The kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations … that disrespect its leadership … and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature,” read a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry released early Monday.

The statement added that the resolution was “based upon unsubstantiated claims,” and said Khashoggi’s death was “a deplorable crime that does not reflect the kingdom’s policy nor its institutions.”

In addition to the Khashoggi vote on Thursday, the upper house of the US Congress also passed the resolution ordering the US to cease cooperation with the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen that has devastated the civilian population there.

Riyadh’s ‘increasingly erratic foreign policy’

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was a Saudi citizen and permanent resident of the US. His work regularly criticized the rights abuses carried out by the Saudi regime. He was murdered on October 2 after entering Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain papers necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Despite evidence indicating that bin Salman ordered the killing, Saudi Arabia has maintained it was a rogue operation.

US lawmakers passed the anti-Saudi resolutions after growing discontent with President Donald Trump’s acceptance of the crown prince’s innocence, even from within his own Republican Party. The resolutions cannot be debated in the House of Representatives before January, and are likely to be vetoed by Trump.

The resolutions acknowledge the importance of US-Saudi ties, but call upon Riyadh to moderate “its increasingly erratic foreign policy.”

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 17, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

 

Conversation No. 94

Date: Saturday, July 26, 1997

Commenced: 9:45 AM CST

Concluded: 10:03 AM CST

 

GD: Hello, Robert. Feeling a bit better today? If not, I could call later.

RTC: No, I’m fine today. Got around a bit today and later, Greg is going to take us shopping.

GD: I take it you don’t do driving.

RTC: God no. Bad hip and I get dizzy sometimes. Not good at all. You drive still?

GD: Oh yes. I used to drive quite a bit more but my son managed to move here and we had to leave my car in the shop. Of course I never got it because it’s several thousand miles away. He swore I could use his car but he changed his mind, even though he has talked me into making the monthly payments.

RTC: Your son sounds like a most ungrateful young man.

GD: How kind. I can think of other things to say but I won’t.

RTC: Are you a good driver?

GD: Oh I am. When I was younger I had some interesting adventures in a car.

RTC: Not in the back seat?

GD: Ah, advanced muff diving for the mentally impaired. No, not like that. Going down on a Mongoloid is not my style. Running over one or using one for bait for an alligator hunt is more like it.

RTC: (Laughter) Are you accident-prone?

GD: No, I’m not. Oh, I am just thinking about an incident once. If I’d had any sense, I would have been scared to death. I was living in a certain West Coast city where I own a nice row home. Nice and anonymous. I can walk to the beach in ten minutes although no one in their right mind would dare go into the water.

RTC: In Alaska?

GD: No, the lower forty eight. Not cold but very dangerous undertows. Oh Grandpa, why not go for a little swim? And after he’s written out a will, another beach tragedy strikes again. But the car business. I was driving back to the city from up north and I had something I felt rather uncomfortable having in the car so I stopped on a bridge, got out and tossed it into the ocean. Down it went and I saw the splash. Anyway, there was quite a bit of traffic leaving the city but almost none coming in so they were using one of the south bound lanes. I had only one lane. There was no one coming when I got back in the car and started up but when I turned on the turn indicator I saw the headlights of an oncoming truck. Now there was only one lane, as I said, so I gunned it and drove along but this penis head came right up behind me, really moving, and hit the air horn and flashed his lights at me. About ten feet behind me. Where was I to go? He couldn’t pass me on the left because that lane was now marked off for northbound traffic and had a lot of vehicles in it. Assbreath kept on my tail so I jammed on my brakes and then punched it. He hit his own breaks and almost went into oncoming traffic. About the time I was exiting the bridge, here he comes again, like a bat out of Hell. I guess he must have been mad. Anyway, I took the next off ramp and drove down into the city but the turd kept right behind me. I went down a parkway with cross streets and lights but it never slowed him down, air horn and all. I ran one red and almost got creamed by a car and he kept right on coming. At this point I was rather alarmed, especially as I had something in the trunk I wanted to keep private. My mother-in-law…No just joking. Anyway, I got into my neighborhood, which I knew very well, and got off the parkway but there he was, behind me. Some car turned out between us and he rode their bumper, blaring his fucking horn at them until the old cow driving got loose bowels and pulled off. Ah, but by then, I was driving on residential streets and Jesus H. Christ, here he came again, roaring along at least fifty, flashing his lights and  doing the horn thing. There were alleys behind the houses, the row houses, so I turned down one, thinking the evil fuck would back off but no, he was right on my tail. He had to slow down to go around a dumpster and I had an idea how to get rid of him. Came to the street, slowed down a little, crossed the sidewalk, and the street and he picked up speed, roaring along like a freight train. He pulled out into the street and a car almost hit him. Roaring of brakes and horns. I started down another alley with him right after me. Ah, but ahead was a pickup on my right, parked against a garage and just ahead of it, on the left, was a car, also parked. I shot left, then right and missed the second car by inches but by God, sir, he didn’t. A huge ripping crash and when I looked back, there was a big cloud of smoke in the alley and some flame. Slowed down, turned right and drove two blocks, turned right again and then up into my driveway, garage door opened and inside in a jiffy. And door shut tight behind me.  Anyway, I unloaded my cargo which, to satisfy you, were four wooden boxes of gold coins, and took them into my locked work area in the back. Then I went upstairs and poured myself a drink. Oh my, such a noise in the neighborhood. Fire trucks, sirens and all kinds of banging and popping noises. I finally went up on the roof…a flat roof…and sure enough, great clouds of smoke, flame and fire trucks hooting and so on. Went back down and made myself a nice dinner and relaxed.

RTC: What was the outcome?

GD: Oh, some Chink was running an illegal fireworks factory in his garage and got pretty well fried when the whole thing went off. I didn’t really feel like walking over there and letting anyone see me.

RTC: And the truck driver? Was he charcoaled as well?

GD: No, he got out and ran away. Too bad for him that a neighbor spotted him, called the cops. I understood from the tube that a cop got the message and spotted him running along the sidewalk. Stopped and so on and the driver pulled one of those knives the Flips carry and went at the cop. That was all she wrote for the driver because the cop emptied his gun into him at point blank range.

RTC: They call those balisong knives.

GD: Well the driver was a Filipino.

RTC: They are very nasty, unstable people. Go off like a rocket for no reason and you really do have to shoot them dead to stop them. Now I can see why he came after you. Makes sense. Good thinking on your part, though. I mean luring him into a crowded alley.

GD: I didn’t actually lure him, Robert, he was chasing me going fifty or more in a crowded residential area. But I lost him and the police found him. Sorry about the burned up garages and cars but you know how it is.

RTC: Are you a coin collector?

GD: Gold is the safest place for money, Robert. The paper is designed to wipe your ass with.

RTC: It was safe?

GD: Oh yes, very safe. A satisfactory dinner, as I recall. Took a nice, long  shower, listened to some Telemann for a few hours and went to sleep. The next day I walked over to the crime scene but there was too much yellow tape around. They had hauled away the ruined vehicles and you could smell burnt wood for blocks. Such a mess. Well, sic transit Gloria mundi.

 

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

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