Kim Dotcom: “Let Me Assure You, The DNC Hack Wasn’t Even A Hack”

Kim Dotcom has once again chimed in on the DNC hack, following a Sunday morning tweet from President Trump clarifying his previous comments on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018

In response, Dotcom tweeted “Let me assure you, the DNC hack wasn’t even a hack. It was an insider with a memory stick. I know this because I know who did it and why,” adding “Special Counsel Mueller is not interested in my evidence. My lawyers wrote to him twice. He never replied. 360 pounds!” alluding of course to Trump’s “400 pound genius” comment. 

Let me assure you, the DNC hack wasn’t even a hack. It was an insider with a memory stick. I know this because I know who did it and why. Special Counsel Mueller is not interested in my evidence. My lawyers wrote to him twice. He never replied. 360 pounds!https://t.co/AGRO0sFx7s https://t.co/epXtv0t1uN

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) February 18, 2018

Dotcom’s assertion is backed up by an analysis done last year by a researcher who goes by the name Forensicator, who determined that the DNC files were copied at 22.6 MB/s – a speed virtually impossible to achieve from halfway around the world, much less over a local network – yet a speed typical of file transfers to a memory stick.

The local transfer theory of course blows the Russian hacking narrative out of the water, lending credibility to the theory that the DNC “hack” was in fact an inside job, potentially implicating late DNC IT staffer, Seth Rich.

John Podesta’s email was allegely successfully “hacked” (he fell victim to a phishing scam) in March 2016, while the DNC reported suspicious activity (the suspected Seth Rich file transfer) in late April, 2016 according to the Washington Post.

On May 18, 2017, Dotcom proposed that if Congress includes the Seth Rich investigation in their Russia probe, he would provide written testimony with evidence that Seth Rich was WikiLeaks’ source.

If Congress includes #SethRich case into their Russia probe I’ll give written testimony with evidence that Seth Rich was @Wikileaks source.

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 19, 2017

On May 19 2017 Dotcom tweeted “I knew Seth Rich. I was involved”

I knew Seth Rich. I know he was the @Wikileaks source. I was involved. https://t.co/MbGQteHhZM

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 20, 2017

Three days later, Dotcom again released a guarded statement saying “I KNOW THAT SETH RICH WAS INVOLVED IN THE DNC LEAK,” adding:

“I have consulted with my lawyers. I accept that my full statement should be provided to the authorities and I am prepared to do that so that there can be a full investigation. My lawyers will speak with the authorities regarding the proper process.

If my evidence is required to be given in the United States I would be prepared to do so if appropriate arrangements are made. I would need a guarantee from Special Counsel Mueller, on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back. In the coming days we will be communicating with the appropriate authorities to make the necessary arrangements. In the meantime, I will make no further comment.”

Dotcom knew.

While one could simply write off Dotcom’s claims as an attention seeking stunt, he made several comments and a series of tweets hinting at the upcoming email releases prior to both the WikiLeaks dumps as well as the publication of the hacked DNC emails to a website known as “DCLeaks.” 

In a May 14, 2015 Bloomberg article entitled “Kim Dotcom: Julian Assange Will Be Hillary Clinton’s Worst Nightmare In 2016“: “I have to say it’s probably more Julian,” who threatens Hillary, Dotcom said. “But I’m aware of some of the things that are going to be roadblocks for her.”

Two days later, Dotcom tweeted this: 

Hillary Clinton is raising a mountain of cash for her Presidential bid. I think it might turn into ash. pic.twitter.com/Nh8wnyj5AJ

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 16, 2015

Around two months later, Kim asks a provocative question

Will hackers 0wn the U.S. presidential election and prevent Hillary Clinton? #Wikileaks

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) July 12, 2016

Two weeks after that, Dotcom then tweeted “Mishandling classified info is a crime. When Hillary’s emails eventually pop up on the internet who’s going to jail?” 

Mishandling classified info is a crime. When Hillary’s emails eventually pop up on the Internet who’s going to jail? http://t.co/zuUNiq26bR

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) July 26, 2015

It should thus be fairly obvious to anyone that Dotcom was somehow involved, and therefore any evidence he claims to have, should be taken seriously as part of Mueller’s investigation. Instead, as Dotcom tweeted, “Special Counsel Mueller is not interested in my evidence. My lawyers wrote to him twice. He never replied.

pic.twitter.com/ZJRReVDq0f

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) February 18, 2018

 

Only 73% OF Americans Are “Likely To Adhere To The Law”

Many factors influence how effectively a government is able to uphold the rule of law and some of them include access to courts, lack of corruption, effective policing and institutional competence.

While some governments are able to combine these efficiently, resulting in strong adherence to the law, Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes that others tend to struggle.

Research from The World Justice Project measured rule of law adherence in 113 countries around the world, focusing on eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Infographic: Where People Are Most & Least Likely To Adhere To The Law  | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Since 2016, 34 percent of countries saw their rule of law decline, 20 percent improved and 37 percent stayed the same.

Western Europe dominates the top of the ranking with Scandinavia first in the world for adherence to the law. Denmark and Norway were top with a score of 0.89, followed by Finland and Sweden with 0.87 and 0.86 respectively.

Outside Europe, New Zealand, Canada and Australia also made the top-10 while the U.S. came 19th with a score of 0.73.

Venezuela is rock bottom of the ranking with a score of 0.29. The bottom-five is rounded off by Cambodia, Afghanistan, Egypt and Cameroon. Since 2016, The Philippines was the biggest mover, falling 19 places to 88th.

The biggest improvers were Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka with each nation moving up nine positions since the last edition of the index was published.

China Threatens To Retaliate If US Imposes Metal Tariffs

It’s not like anyone expected otherwise.

Just hours after the Trump administration received a green light from the Commerce Department to impose steep tariffs on aluminium and steel imports on national security grounds across the board, but especially on China and Russian, China threatened with immediately retaliation in the latest escalation of the growing trade war between the two superpowers.

In an unexpected announcement on Friday, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross recommended a possible global tariff of at least 24% on imports of steel and 7.7% on aluminum after investigations into trade in both metals determined that import surges seen in recent years “threaten to impair [US] national security.”

Responding to the unprecedented Commerce recommendation which many interpreted as the first official salvo in global trade wars, Wang Hejun – chief of the trade remedy and investigation bureau at China’s Ministry of Commerce – said imposing tariffs on such grounds was reckless.

Quoted by the FT,  he said that “The spectrum of national security is very broad and without a clear definition it could easily be abused,” and added that “if the final decision from the US hurts China’s interests, we will certainly take necessary measures to protect our legitimate rights.”

For now the threat of “nuclear” trade war seems to be contained: analysts say Beijing is wary of escalating any trade disputes for fear of damaging its export-dependent economy, and so will focus any retaliation on specific sectors — most likely particular agricultural goods such as soybeans, for which China is the US’ largest export market. Earlier this month, Beijing launched an anti-dumping investigation into US exports of sorghum, an animal feed.

For the moment I think China will just put out harsher rhetoric,” said Bo Zhuang, an economist at consultancy Trusted Sources. “Agricultural sector retaliation is more likely since (China’s) food price inflation is low. The next possible step will be going on further with a soybean and corn investigation.”

Still, expectations of only a “cold” trade war may soon be dashed, as Friday’s action shows that trade hardliners in the Trump administration are eager to take action against China “after months of internal debate” according to the FT.

One option presented by the commerce department on Friday was a targeted tax on steel and aluminium imports from China and other countries like Brazil and Vietnam. A third option would impose quotas to reduce metals imports from all countries to far below the level of 2017.

But the recommendations illustrate how Mr Trump’s desire to hit China, which the US steel industry blames for a collapse in metal prices in recent years, may result in collateral damage for US allies and invite retaliation.

Meanwhile, as China plans its response, European officials in Brussels are already drafting their retaliatory measures aimed at politically sensitive US products like Kentucky bourbon and Wisconsin dairy products, which will be implemented if Trump opts for a global quota or tariff system.

As a reminder, Trump has until April to decide whether to adopt any of the recommendations, Ross said. The long-awaited results of the “Section 232” investigations into aluminium and steel imports caused shares in major US producers to rise sharply on Wall Street on Friday, while companies in the materials sector slumped.

In what appeared to be a jusitification of imminent trade wars, Trump said he was convinced that imposing tariffs would “create a lot of jobs” during a meeting with members of Congress, and dismissed warnings that such measures in the past had hurt more than they had helped by causing higher costs for many companies.

“I want to keep prices down but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminium industry and we do need that for national defence,” Mr Trump said. “If we ever have a conflict we don’t want to be buying steel [from] a country we are fighting.”

In its report, the commerce department stated that Canada is the top supplier of both metals to the US, suggesting the NAFTA member may – ironically – suffer the most from any new protectionist measures. The northern US neighbour has long been treated as part of the US defense industrial base along with countries like the UK and Australia. But whether Canada or any other allies would be exempted from the proposed tariffs remains unclear, according to the FT.

As for China, it was “only” the fourth-largest supplier of aluminum to the US in 2017, and accounted for less than 10% of imports; it was also the 11th-largest steel supplier over the same period, with a roughly 2% share of US imports.

The US commerce department argued that the rapid rise in China’s production of steel and aluminium in recent years — it now produces more than half of global output of both metals — has depressed international prices.

While the threat of a sharp escalation in trade tensions remains low for now, in commentary from SMBC Nikko Securities, the bank said that the proposal to restrict steel imports “could lead to a chain of higher tariffs imposed by other nations” resulting in dramatic imbalances in global commodity trade and prices.

While the brokerage expects direct impact on Japanese steel industry to be limited, it admits it is difficult to gauge the effect on international markets given details yet to be decided, and adds that the risk is that other countries shipping steel to U.S. begin selling cheaply on Japan’s export markets; in effect a sharp escalation to trade wars in which countries not targeted by the US scramble to take away market share from dominant trade partners.

“Now, The Reckoning Comes” – The Media-Created Russia-Collusion Story Collapses

Authored by Lee Smith via TheFederalist.com,

The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it…

Half the country wants to know why the press won’t cover the growing scandal now implicating the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, and threatening to reach the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and perhaps even the Obama White House.

After all, the release last week of a less-redacted version of Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham’s January 4 letter showed that the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search the communications of a Trump campaign adviser based on a piece of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen were violated to allow one political party to spy on another.

If the press did its job and reported the facts, the argument goes, then it wouldn’t just be Republicans and Trump supporters demanding accountability and justice. Americans across the political spectrum would understand the nature and extent of the abuses and crimes touching not just on one political party and its presidential candidate but the rights of every American.

That’s all true, but irrelevant. The reasons the press won’t cover the story are suggested in the Graham-Grassley letter itself.

Steele Was a Media Informant

The letter details how Christopher Steele, the former British spy who allegedly authored the documents claiming ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, told the FBI he wasn’t talking to the press about his investigation. In a British court, however, Steele acknowledged briefing several media organizations on the material in his dossier.

According to the British court documents, Steele briefed the New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo! News, The New Yorker, and CNN. In October, he talked to Mother Jones reporter David Corn by Skype. It was Corn’s October 31 article anonymously sourced to Steele that alerted the FBI their informant was speaking to the press. Grassley and Graham referred Steele to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because he lied to the FBI.

The list of media outfits and journalists made aware of Steele’s investigations is extensive. Reuters reported that it, too, was briefed on the dossier, and while it refrained from reporting on it before the election, its national security reporter Mark Hosenball became an advocate of the dossier’s findings after November 2016.

BBC’s Paul Wood wrote in January 2017 that he was briefed on the dossier a week before the election. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald likely saw Steele’s work around the same time, because he published an article days before the election based on a “Western intelligence” source (i.e., Steele) who cited names and data points that could only come from the DNC- and Clinton-funded opposition research.

A line from the Grassley-Graham letter points to an even larger circle of media outfits that appear to have been in contact with either Steele or Fusion GPS, the Washington DC firm that contracted him for the opposition research the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee commissioned. “During the summer of 2016,” the Grassley-Graham letter reads, “reports of some of the dossier allegations began circulating among reporters and people involved in Russian issues.”

Planting the Carter Page Story

Indeed, it looks like Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson may have persuaded a number of major foreign policy and national security writers in Washington and New York that Trump and his team were in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those journalists include New Yorker editor David Remnick, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

A Foer story published in Slate on July 4, 2016 appears to be central. Titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Foer’s piece argues the Trump campaign was overly Russia-friendly. Foer discusses Trump’s team, including campaign convention manager Paul Manafort, who worked with former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich, a Putin ally; and Carter Page, who, Foer wrote, “advised the state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.”

That’s how Page described himself in a March 2016 Bloomberg interview. But as Julia Ioffe reported in a September 23, 2016 Politico article, Page was a mid-level executive at Merrill Lynch in Moscow who played no role in any of the big deals he boasted about. As Ioffe shows, almost no one in Moscow remembered Page. Until Trump read his name off a piece of paper handed to him during a March interview with the Washington Post, almost no one in the Washington foreign policy world had heard of Page either.

So what got Foer interested in Page? Were Steele and Simpson already briefing reporters on their opposition research into the Trump campaign? (Another Foer story for Slate, an October 31, 2016 article about the Trump organization’s computer servers “pinging” a Russian bank, was reportedly “pushed” to him by Fusion GPS.) Page and Manafort are the protagonists of the Steele dossier, the former one of the latter’s intermediaries with Russian officials and associates of Putin. Page’s July 7 speech in Moscow attracted wide U.S. media coverage, but Foer’s article published several days earlier.

The Slate article, then, looks like the predicate for allegations against Page made in the dossier after his July Russia trip. For instance, according to Steele’s investigations, Page was offered a 19 percent stake in Rosneft, one of the world’s energy giants, in exchange for help repealing sanctions related to Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine.

Building an Echo Chamber of Opposition Research

Many have noted the absurdity that the FISA warrant on Page was chiefly based, according to a House intelligence committee memo, on the dossier and Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 news story also based on the dossier. But much of the Russiagate campaign was conducted in this circular manner. Steele and Simpson built an echo chamber with their opposition research, parts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the press all reinforcing one another. Plant an item in the open air and watch it grow—like Page’s role in the Trump campaign.

Why else was Foer or anyone so interested in Page? Why was Page’s Moscow speech so closely watched and widely covered? According to the Washington Post, Page “chided” American policymakers for an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China, and Central Asia.

As peculiar as it may have sounded for a graduate of the Naval Academy to cast a skeptical eye on American exceptionalism, Page’s speech could hardly have struck the policy establishment as shocking, or even novel. They’d been hearing versions of it for the last eight years from the president of the United States.

In President Obama’s first speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on September 23, 2009, he insisted that no country, least of all America, has the right to tell other countries how to organize their political lives. “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside,” said Obama. “Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions.”

Obama sounded even more wary of American leadership on his way out of office eight years later. In his 2016 UNGA speech, the 2009 Nobel laureate said: “I do not think that America can — or should — impose our system of government on other countries.” Obama was addressing not just foreign nations but perhaps more pointedly his domestic political rivals.

In 2008 Obama campaigned against the Iraq War and the Republican policymakers who toppled Saddam Hussein to remake Iraq as a democracy. All during his presidency, Obama rebuffed critics who petitioned the administration to send arms or troops to advance U.S. interests and values abroad, most notably in Ukraine and Syria.

In 2016, it was Trump who ran against the Republican foreign policy establishment—which is why hundreds of GOP policymakers and foreign policy intellectuals signed two letters distancing themselves from the party’s candidate. The thin Republican bench of foreign policy experts available to Trump is a big reason why he named the virtually unknown Page to his team. So why was it any surprise that Page sounded like the Republican candidate, who sounded like the Democratic president?

Why Didn’t the Left Like Obama’s Ideas from a Republican?

On the Right, many national security and foreign policy writers like me heard and were worried by the clear echoes of Obama’s policies in the Trump campaign’s proposals. Did those writing from the left side of the political spectrum not see the continuities?

Writing in the Washington Post July 21, 2016, Applebaum explained how a “Trump presidency could destabilize Europe.” The issue, she explained, was Trump’s positive attitude toward Putin. “The extent of the Trump-Russia business connection has already been laid out, by Franklin Foer at Slate,” wrote Applebaum. She named Page and his “long-standing connections to Russian companies.”

Even more suggestive to Applebaum is that just a few days before her article was published, “Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine” from the Republican National Committee’s platform. Maybe, she hinted, that was because of Trump aide Manafort’s ties to Yanukovich.

Did those talking points come from Steele’s opposition research? Manafort’s relationship with Yanukovich had been widely reported in the U.S. press long before he signed on with the Trump campaign. In fact, in 2007 Glenn Simpson was one of the first to write about their shady dealings while he was still working at the Wall Street Journal. The corrupt nature of the Manafort-Yanukovich relationship is an important part of the dossier. So is the claim that in exchange for Russia releasing the DNC emails, “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”

The reality, however, is that the Trump campaign team never removed support for Ukraine from the party platform. In a March 18, 2017 Washington Examiner article, Byron York interviewed the convention delegate who pushed for tougher language on Russia, and got it.

“In the end, the platform, already fairly strong on the Russia-Ukraine issue,” wrote York, “was strengthened, not weakened.” Maybe Applebaum just picked it up from her own paper’s mis-reporting.

For Applebaum, it was hard to understand why Trump would express skepticism about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, except to appease Putin. She referred to a recent interview in which Trump “cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies.”

The Echoes Pick Up

In an article published the very same day in the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg made many of the very same observations. Titled “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin,” the article opens: “The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” What was the evidence? Well, for one, Page’s business interests.

Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin and other “equivocating, mercenary statements,” wrote Goldberg, are “unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking.” However, insofar as Trump’s fundamental aim was to find some common ground with Putin, it’s a goal that, for better or worse, has been a 25-year U.S. policy constant, across party lines. Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to “reset” relations with Russia.

But Trump, according to Goldberg, was different. “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests.” Here Goldberg rang the same bells as Applebaum—the Trump campaign “watered down” the RNC’s platform on Ukraine; the GOP nominee “questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its [NATO] commitments,” including Article 5. Thus, Goldberg concluded: “Donald Trump, should he be elected president, would bring an end to the postwar international order.”

That last bit sounds very bad. Coincidentally, it’s similar to a claim made in the very first paragraph of the Steele dossier — the “Russian regime,” claims one of Steele’s unnamed sources, has been cultivating Trump to “encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance.”

The West won the Cold War because the United States kept it unified. David Remnick saw it up close. Assigned to the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau in 1988, Remnick witnessed the end of the Soviet Union, which he documented in his award-winning book, “Lenin’s Tomb.” So it’s hardly surprising that in his August 3, 2016 New Yorker article, “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” Remnick sounded alarms concerning the Republican presidential candidate’s manifest affection for the Russian president.

Citing the “original reporting” of Foer’s seminal Slate article, the New Yorker editor contended “that one reason for Trump’s attitude has to do with his business ambitions.” As Remnick elaborated, “one of Trump’s foreign-policy advisers, has longstanding ties to Gazprom, a pillar of Russia’s energy industry.” Who could that be? Right—Carter Page. With Applebaum and Goldberg, Remnick was worried about Trump’s lack of support for Ukraine and the fact that Trump “has declared NATO ‘obsolete’ and has suggested that he might do away with Article 5.”

Where Did All These Echoes Come From?

This brings us to the fundamental question: Is it possible that these top national security and foreign policy journalists were focused on something else during Obama’s two terms in office, something that had nothing to do with foreign policy or national security? It seems we must even entertain the possibility they slept for eight years because nearly everything that frightened them about the prospects of a Trump presidency had already transpired under Obama.

The Trump team wanted to stop short of having the RNC platform promise lethal support to Ukraine—which was in keeping with official U.S. policy. Obama didn’t want to arm the Ukrainians. He ignored numerous congressional efforts to get him to change his mind. “There has been a strong bipartisan well of support for quite some time for providing lethal support,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff. But Obama refused.

As for the western alliance or international order or however you want to put it, it was under the Obama administration that Russia set up shop on NATO’s southern border. With the Syrian conflict, Moscow re-established its foothold in the Middle East after 40 years of American policy designed to keep it from meddling in U.S. spheres of influence. Under Obama, Russia’s enhanced regional position threatened three U.S. allies: Israel, Jordan, and NATO member Turkey.

In 2012, Moscow’s Syrian client brought down a Turkish air force reconnaissance plane. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised alarms in the U.S. by suggesting that Turkey might invoke NATO’s Article V.” However, according to the Journal, “neither the U.S. nor NATO was interested in rushing to Article V… NATO was so wary of getting pulled into Syria that top alliance officials balked at even contingency planning for an intervention force to protect Syrian civilians. ‘For better or worse, [Syrian president Bashar al- Assad] feels he can count on NATO not to intervene right now,’ a senior Western official said.”

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he—wisely, cautiously, in the most educated and creative ways, or unwisely, stupidly, cravenly, the choice of adjectives is yours—ceded American interests and those of key allies in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.

When Russia occupied Crimea and the eastern portion of Ukraine, there was little pushback from the White House. The Obama administration blinked even when Putin’s escalation of forces in Syria sent millions more refugees fleeing abroad, including Europe.

Was Anyone Paying Attention When This Happened?

Surely it couldn’t have escaped Applebaum’s notice that Obama’s posture toward Russia made Europe vulnerable. She’s a specialist in Europe and Russia—she’s written books on both. Her husband is the former foreign minister of Poland. So how, after eight years of Obama’s appeasement of a Russia that threatened to withhold natural gas supplies from the continent, did the Trump team pose a unique threat to European stability?

What about Goldberg? Is it possible that he’d never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016? In the last interview, from March 2016, Obama told him he was “very proud” of the moment in 2013 when he declined to attack Assad for deploying chemical weapons. As Obama put it, that’s when he broke with the “Washington playbook.” He chose diplomacy instead. He made a deal with Russia over Assad’s conventional arsenal—which Syria continued to use against civilians throughout Obama’s term.

Again, regardless of how you feel about Obama’s decisions, the fact is that he struck an agreement with Moscow that ensured the continued reign of its Syrian ally, who gassed little children. Yet only four months later, Goldberg worried that a Trump presidency would “liberate dictators, first and foremost his ally Vladimir Putin, to advance their own interests.”

Remnick wrote a 2010 biography of Obama, but did he, too, pay no attention to the policies of the man he interviewed frequently over nearly a decade? How is this possible? Did some of America’s top journalists really sleepwalk through Obama’s two terms in office, only to wake in 2016 and find Donald Trump and his campaign becoming dangerously cozy with a historical American adversary?

All’s Fair in War and Politics

Of course not. They enlisted their bylines in a political campaign on behalf of the Democratic candidate for president and rehearsed the talking points Steele later documented. But weren’t the authors of these articles, big-name journalists, embarrassed to be seen reading from a single script and publishing the same article with similar titles within the space of two weeks? Weren’t they worried it would look like they were taking opposition research, from the same source?

No, not really. In a sense, these stories weren’t actually meant to be read. They existed for the purpose of validating the ensuing social media messaging. The stories were written around the headlines, which were written for Twitter: “Putin’s Puppet”; “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin”; “Trump and Putin: A Love Story”; “The Kremlin’s Candidate.” The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.

Since everyone took Clinton’s victory for granted, journalists assumed extravagant claims alleging an American presidential candidate’s illicit ties to an adversarial power would fade just as the fireworks punctuating Hillary’s acceptance speech would vanish in the cool November evening. And the sooner the stories were forgotten the better, since they frankly sounded kooky, conspiratorial, as if the heirs to the Algonquin round table sported tin-foil hats while tossing back martinis and trading saucy limericks.

Yes, the Trump-Russia collusion media campaign really was delusional and deranged; it really was a conspiracy theory. So after the unexpected happened, after Trump won the election, the Russiagate campaign morphed into something more urgent, something twisted and delirious.

Quick, Pin Our Garbage Story on Someone

When CNN broke the story – co-written by Evan Perez, a former colleague and friend of Fusion GPS principals—that the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs had briefed Trump on the existence of the dossier, it not only cleared the way for BuzzFeed to publish the document, it also signaled the press that the intelligence community was on side. This completed the echo chamber, binding one American institution chartered to steal and keep secrets to another embodying our right to free speech. We know which ethic prevailed.

Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public, as the pre-election media offensive resonated more fully with the dossier now in the open. You see, said the press: everything we published about Trump and Putin is really true—there’s a document proving it. What the press corps neglected to add is that they’d been reporting talking points from the same opposition research since before the election, and were now showcasing “evidence” to prove it was all true.

The reason the media will not report on the scandal now unfolding before the country, how the Obama administration and Clinton campaign used the resources of the federal government to spy on the party out of power, is not because the press is partisan. No, it is because the press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.

To report how the dossier was made and marketed, and how it was used to violate the rights of an American citizen – Page – would require admitting complicity in manufacturing Russiagate. Against conventional Washington wisdom, the cover-up in this case is not worse than the crime: Both weigh equally in a scandal signaling that the institution where American citizens are supposed to discuss and debate the choices about how we live with each other has been turned against a large part of the public to delegitimize their political choices.

This Isn’t the 27-Year-Olds’ Fault

I’ve argued over the last year that the phony collusion narrative is a symptom of the structural problems with the press. The rise of the Internet, then social media, and gross corporate mismanagement damaged traditional media institutions. As newspapers and magazines around the country went bankrupt when ownership couldn’t figure out how to make money off the new digital advertising model, an entire generation of journalistic experience, expertise, and ethics was lost. It was replaced, as one Obama White House official famously explained, by 27-year-olds who “literally know nothing.”

But the first vehicles of the Russiagate campaign were not bloggers or recent J-school grads lacking wisdom or guidance to wave off a piece of patent nonsense. They were journalists at the top of their profession – editors-in-chief, columnists, specialists in precisely the subjects that the dossier alleges to treat: foreign policy and national security. They didn’t get fooled. They volunteered their reputations to perpetrate a hoax on the American public.

That’s why, after a year of thousands of furious allegations, all of which concerning Trump are unsubstantiated, the press will not report the real scandal, in which it plays a leading role. When the reckoning comes, Russiagate is likely to be seen not as a symptom of the collapse of the American press, but as one of the causes for it.

Waymo’s “Uber-Killer” Robo-Taxi Set For Arizona Rollout

Waymo, a unit of Alphabet, is set to launch a ride-sharing service similar to Uber, but with no human driver behind the wheel. Officials in Arizona granted Waymo a permit to operate as a transportation network company (TNC) across the state on Janurary 24, following the company’s initial application on Janurary 12, Bloomberg  reported.

The imminent release of a robotic fleet of fully autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans could be flooding the highways of Arizona, causing major headaches for Uber.

Since April of last year, Waymo has been experimenting with its self-driving fleet on the human guinea pigs of Phoenix, offering residents 24/7 access to the free ridesharing service. TNC status is a significant step for Waymo, because it now authorizes the company to start charging its passengers.

Waymo’s vehicles in the Phoenix area have driven more than 4 million miles on public roads. In November, the company said a portion of its cars in the Phoenix area were operating in fully autonomous mode, what’s known in industry parlance as level four autonomy.

“A fully self-driving fleet can offer new and improved forms of sharing,” Waymo said at the time, adding that in coming months it would invite members of the public to ride in the fully autonomous vehicles, beginning with those already in the early rider program.

“As we continue to test drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman said in an emailed statement.

As Quartz notes, driverless cars are widely believed to be the “silver bullet” that will make ride-hailing profitable by eliminating the main cost: wages paid to human drivers.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Uber paid about $8 billion to drivers in earnings and bonuses, or about 72% of its gross revenue for the quarter. As a result, Uber lost $4.5 billion last year on $7.5BN in net revenue ($37BN gross revenue).

 

Waymo has yet to discuss driving rates for the Phoenix area, let alone provide plans to operate across other cities in the United States.

The threat from Google could prove existential to Uber: none other than former Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick said that the evolutionary process of ridesharing will ultimately transition to fully autonomous vehicles.

“The minute it was clear that Google was getting into the ride-sharing space, we realized we needed to make sure there was an alternative, because if there is not, we will be out of business,” Kalanick told Bloomberg in 2016.

As has been widely publicized, the fierce competition between Waymo and Uber to be the first to launch driverless ridesharing grew so intense, that Waymo sued Uber for stealing its trade secrets. On February 9, court found Uber guilty, ruling it would have to pay Waymo hundreds of millions of dollars for trade secrets theft, along with promising not to use the technology in any of its autonomous vehicles.

Quartz describes the fierce competition between Waymo and Uber to launch driverless ridesharing vehicles across the United States:

Arizona granted the TNC permit a week and a half before Waymo commenced its trade secrets trial against Uber in San Francisco, alleging Uber stole Waymo’s knowledge on how to build self-driving cars. The two companies reached a settlement on Feb. 9, five days into the trial, which includes Uber paying Waymo a 0.34% equity stake and agreeing not to incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into its software or hardware. But nothing prevents Waymo from competing in the ride-hailing arena.  

Uber’s worst nightmare is almost here.

While Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA)’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) might have top-ticked the top in Uber’s valuation back in 2016, Waymo’s imminent rollout of its driverless cars for commercial use in Arizona could prick Uber’s valuation and send it into a sharp contraction.

In its rush to preserve market share, Uber will now be forced to roll out driverless vehicles of its own. This could trigger Uber to unleash a tech-induced surge of driver unemployment leading into the Presidential elections of 2020.

Two days ago, we reported a big rollout of burger-flipping robots in California is set to hit 50 locations by 2019; next it could be the part-time driver’s turn. And so, as millennials praise the tech leaders in Silicon Valley, they do not realize that AI-controlled robots are coming for their jobs.

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