Last Call: Register to Vote

If you haven’t done so already, you need to register to vote ASAP. Voter registration deadlines are just days away. Once the window closes, that’s it —there’s no getting around it.

If you think you’re registered, double check your voter status anyway. You may have been registered, but tens of thousands of Americans have waited in line to vote —thinking they’re registered— only to find out at the polling place that something went wrong. It could be you were accidentally removed from the voting roll, technical issues, an incorrect address, etc. Russian interference in the 2016 election showed Russia probed the servers that contain voter registration data in every single US state.

They will most certainly be doing this again since the Republican-controlled Senate refused to even allow for the election security bills, which were passed by the House, to be voted on. They obviously believe a foreign interference in our electoral process will benefit them, otherwise they would have acted.

While you’re checking your status, also look up friend’s and family member’s registration status. If they’re not registered, let them know and then show them how to register.

The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum wrote a great article explaining in detail what to do now, during, and after Election Day: The Election is in Danger. Prepare Now. I highly recommend everyone read her article.

Remember, vote in person if you can. Voting early in person is even better. Obviously, make sure you take measures to protect yourself: wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from everyone, and use hand sanitizer liberally.

If you, a friend, or a family member cannot vote in person, make sure to follow your state’s guidelines for requesting an absentee ballot. Do it as soon as possible. Once you receive the ballot, read the instructions carefully and then fill it out ASAP. If you can, hand deliver your ballot to your local board of elections or to a designated drop-off location. If you can’t do that, try delivering the ballot to your local post office. And if that’s not possible, mail it out immediately.

Also, it’s imperative that you make sure your signature is consistent with the signature they have on file. We’ve seen this happen in many states where ballots are contested and not counted because a person’s signature changed.

The power is in the hands of the people. That’s what a democratic republic is. We have the power to control our own destiny. We have the power to choose our leaders. There’s truly never been a more important election than this one. Statistically, we have the numbers, but our own government knows it and they’re undermining the process to tip the scale in their favor. On top of that, Russia is doing everything in their power to take away your voice: your vote.

We need to show the world that we denounce this administration and everything they represent. We need to show the world we’re still dedicated to self governance and that we refuse to allow a fascist regime to overthrow the democracy we all inherited. It’s not hyperbolic to say, the fate of the country, and likely the world as we know it, is in our hands.

The time for action is now.

Voting: The Last Stand for Democracy

The United States is in a dangerous, unpredictable situation. Trump, as I’ve been writing about in this blog for sometime now, is a clear and present danger to American democracy. He’s systematically been chipping away at the institutions that are designed to protect us from tyranny. 

He’s proven time and time again to be incapable of leading the country, unwilling to represent the whole country, and more than willing to shatter norm after norm on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. He has no empathy for the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their lives in this pandemic –most of which were preventable had he acted based on the science and with the full force of the federal government. To this day, approaching 7 months into this pandemic, we still have no national strategy or plan. 

The checks and balances in the federal government haven’t worked. For Republicans, the concept of “country over party” is part of the old order. Trump is the Republican Party. His campaign literally has no platform other than getting him re-elected. 

The stakes for the 2020 election could not be overemphasized. The literal fate of our democracy is on the line. Think of the millions of Americans who died fighting to protect and defend this country. According to Trump, these Americans were “losers” and “suckers.” This is nothing new, just look at how he attacked the late John McCain and by extension, the entire POW/MIA organization: he’s likes soldiers “who don’t get captured,” not to mention his attacks on Gold Star families. When news broke that Russia was putting bounties on the heads of American soldiers, he ignored it. Months later, he still hasn’t said a thing about it. He hasn’t said a single bad thing about Putin, a man who views America as his mortal enemy.

Trump’s an agent of chaos, as we all see on a day-by-day basis. An entire coalition of mental health professionals have told us he’s a malignant narcissist, also known as a sociopath. His former officials and even his family members have spoke out, warning us of how dangerous he is. 

Unfortunately for us, his supporters don’t care what he says or does. They’re so brainwashed by their right-wing media sources, Facebook groups, and from Trump himself, they either dismiss any negative information as “fake news” or if it’s irrefutable, they twist and contort it to fit their worldview, completely detached from reality. So there’s no swaying them. They’ll vote for Trump no matter what. He could declare himself dictator tomorrow and it would be hard to find MAGA followers who would have a problem with it. 

Trump and his Republican thugs have been actively subverting the bedrock of democracy: free and fair elections. They’ve engaged in gerrymandering, closing polling stations in parts of the country likely to vote Democratic, by literally destroying the United States Postal Service’s infrastructure to slow down mail in voting, by casting unsupported claims of voter fraud, and by refusing to pass legislation in the Senate to protect our elections from foreign interference. 

The fate of American democracy is in our hands. We cannot depend on some group of federal officials to save us. The only way out of this is by voting. It’s our civic duty to get out and vote. In 2016, over 100 millions eligible voters didn’t turn out to vote. Trump got 60 million votes and Clinton got 60.5 million votes. We need to tap into that massive group of 100 million eligible voters. We all know people in our lives who belong to this group.

If you know what’s at stake and understand the consequences, you have an obligation to do everything in your power to get as many of your family and friends registered to vote. We need to be more assertive than simply giving a friendly reminder. We need to show them how to register, follow up with their registration process, and help them follow through with actually casting their vote. 

The best option is voting in person, obviously making sure to take precautions such as wearing a mask. If you think you’ll have trouble voting on Election Day, consider voting early. If you have to vote by mail, it’s critical you submit your ballot as early as possible.

We need to communicate all of this to our family and friends who may be politically apathetic. Some people are under the illusion that a fascist state can’t happen in America –thinking that’s just something that happens in other countries or not understanding how civics works. If you’re reading this, you’re not one of the apathetic. We just need to convince the people around us that we’re on the verge on losing our country.

Trump has already expressed he’s not going to accept the results of the election if he loses. He just told a reporter earlier in the week that he’ll “have to see what happens.” This is absolutely unprecedented, yet in Trump’s America it was just another Monday. 

We cannot depend on Congress or the Supreme Court to work this out. We need to have an overwhelming voter turnout to cast this sociopath out of power. There’s no top-level working group who’s going to miraculously save us. We have to save ourselves by doing our civic duty and voting. We cannot be the generation of Americans who stood by and did nothing. This is truly the last stand for democracy. Once we lose it, it’s gone.

If you’ve ever read a history book or watched a movie about some existential conflict and thought to yourself, “If I was in that situation, I would do x, y,  or z.” Well, this is your real-life chance to be a part of saving the country. This isn’t hyperbole, it’s the reality we’re living in. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said during at Gettysburg, addressing a country in a state of existential crisis. Those same people who died preserving the Union and the hundreds of thousands who died defending our constitution –our way of life– “shall not have died in vain.”

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address. November 19, 1863

On the Brink

Here we are: continuing to live through this never-ending national nightmare. After being acquitted by the Republican-controller Senate, Trump has been become more emboldened than ever before. He’s an existential threat to American democracy.

Trump thumps his chest and sneers at his enemies. He publicly shames any person or organization that opposes him. Most of the targets of his aggression are Democratic members of Congress. These members were duly elected by the people to represent their interests. Therefore, he’s usurping the will of the people by refusing to respect and work with the majority of Congress. This isn’t the democratic republic that has stood since the late 18th century.

During the impeachment trial, those opposed to removal reasoned that an election was near and therefore the people should be the ones to vote Trump out of office. This argument was always weak since election interference was the very basis for impeachment.

The Russians are targeting our electoral process again by engaging in cyber warfare, which Trump continues to deny. He knows the Russians are working to his advantage, and since he’s a man without a code, it’s in his interest to let them continue. This is also why Mitch McConnell has refused to even bring the election security bills passed by the House to the Senate floor for a vote. McConnell knows Russian interference will help Republicans and hurt Democrats. And therefore he turns a blind eye to the hostile actions of a foreign adversary in order to hold onto power.

Trump represents his own interests and provides his supporters with the pretense of supporting theirs. A president who doesn’t protect and defend the interests of all Americans is no president at all. He’s president in name only. He’s a rogue, authoritative figure who has hijacked our very way of life —the democratic system that gave birth to this society. 

The founders fought a long and bloody war to break free of the monarchical shackles of the British Empire. Since then, we’ve sent men into wars with hostile powers that threatened our democratic way of life. Millions of lives have been sacrificed to protect and defend our democratic way of life. The widows and orphans of the fallen found some solace in the notion that their loved ones did not die in vain. All of that sacrifice is now on the line as Trump and his minions continue to break down the institutions that hold our democracy together. 

With Trump’s acquittal, his hostile takeover of the Republican Party is now complete. Their political fate is now bound together. If a political party is unwilling to put the country’s interests over their party’s interests, there can be no liberty and justice for all. The Republican Party is now the MAGA Party and the MAGA Party is Trump. 

The Republicans, with the exception of Mitt Romney, have lost all moral authority. The only chance to save this democracy is for an overwhelming number of Americans to cast their votes for Democrats in all 2020 electoral races. If the 2020 presidential election is close, Trump is more than likely to claim the election was rigged, as he did in 2016 when he was unsure of the outcome. Can any reasonable person who follows current events possibly think there will be a peaceful transfer of power? The fact this question even needs to be raised is an indication that our democracy is on the brink of collapse. Let us see that government of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from the earth. 

Trump is a National Security Threat

Since becoming president, Donald Trump has never been mentally or morally fit to lead the country. The majority of Americans understood this, which is why he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Most people saw him for what he was: a bully and malignant con man. 

Despite his recklessness and viciousness during the 2016 campaign, there were many Americans who presumed Trump would magically be humbled by the sheer weight of the responsibility that comes with being the leader of the free world. This, as we all know, never happened. 

This president has been unhinged, impulsive, and erratic from the day he took office. Month by month, week by week, and day by day, his strange and scornful behavior has progressively gotten worse and more frequent. This comes in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, economists warning we may be on the cusp of a recession, as well as the turn of once-loyal supporters, such as Anthony Scaramucci. 

Trump’s rhetoric of bigotry, racism, and xenophobia have contributed to the deaths of the Americans who were killed in El Paso. This trickle-down hatred resulting in murder is not an isolated incident. El Paso wasn’t the first time a mass murderer cited Trump’s language in their social media content. There have been other mass shooters who have adopted his vile rhetoric and have acted on it. 

It hasn’t even been a year since a deranged Trump supporter sent mail bombs to Trump’s self-expressed enemies. Thankfully, the bombs sent to the thirteen prominent Democrats (e.g. Barack Obama) and media personalities (e.g. Chris Cuomo) didn’t detonate. 

There’s been a surge in hate crimes committed by white supremacists since he entered office. The problem’s been so significant that the House Judiciary Committee was compelled to investigate it. In April, the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, saying they intend to  “examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups.” 

When he’s not spewing racist and xenophobic language from his mouth and Twitter account, he’s been ranting and raving like a lunatic. This past week he made anti-Semitic remarks, saying Jews who voted for Democrats show a “total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A Trump-supporting author came to Trump’s defense by likening him to the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God.” Trump, quoted the author and tweeted it out to the world. He’s not just expressing delusions of grandeur but delusions of divinity

Trump ranted about his intention to buy Greenland, an independent country in the Kingdom of Denmark. The Prime Minister of Denmark said the idea of buying Greenland was “absurd,” which it is, and resulted in Trump cancelling his planned trip to Denmark and estranging yet another American ally. Trump called the prime minister “nasty,” and ever the hypocrite, said, “you don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.” He mispronounced the word “absurd” multiple times, saying “you-surb,” showing his deteriorating mental acuity. And it only got stranger. He paused for a moment and said, “somebody had to do it,” then turned and looked up at the sky, saying, “I am the Chosen One.” Again, this is beyond a messiah complex, these are delusions of divinity. 

Trump’s erratic behavior, coupled with him being devoid of a moral compass, is a literal threat to national security. The day-to-day media saturation of the sheer lunacy being churned out of Trump’s mouth and Twitter account has desensitized Americans to this behavior. If you really sit back, reset your mind and think about it, it’s disturbing. 

The terrifying reality we now live in has a president who is clearly mentally unstable. Trump’s a raving lunatic clothed with immense power and it should disturb all Americans. He has access to the nuclear codes. This unstable individual has the potential and power to wipe out a majority of humanity with a single impulsive decision. 

The nuclear threat is real. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group of scientists who gauge how close humanity is to annihilation, uses a clock as a metaphor to inform citizens of the world how close we are to the abyss. We’re two minutes to midnight; midnight being the destruction of the world. The clock has been at two minutes to midnight since 2018, and was two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in 2017. 

Moreover, the nuclear threat has gotten dramatically worse over the past few weeks. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union towards the end of the Cold War, has been dissolved.

Russia tested a nuclear-powered cruise missile a couple of weeks ago. The test failed and the missile blew up, which killed at least five Russians. The true death toll is unknown and some are reporting it may be the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. 

Just a week after Russia’s missile disaster, Trump’s military tested a modified Navy Tomahawk cruise missile off the coast of California. The range of the U.S. missile exceeded the range limit of the now-defunct INF treaty. Under the Trump presidency, a new nuclear-arms race has commenced. 

Most of us think there’s responsible, sane people behind the scenes making sure Trump doesn’t act on his worst impulses, but most of those people have left the administration. And as each person leaves, they’re replaced with unqualified and blindly loyal officials and advisors –a dangerous combination. 

As Trump’s house of cards appears to be falling, the potential for an authoritarian hostile takeover of the federal government increases. What will happen if he loses the 2020 election? Does anyone seriously think he’ll go quietly into the night? There’s a real possibility, for the first time in American history, that there won’t be a peaceful transfer of power —a hallmark of the American democratic process. 

He’s already made threats of the military, police, and “Bikers for Trump” being on his side. He’s threatened there’d be a bloody civil war if he loses in 2020. He’s thrown around the idea of cancelling the 2020 election. And just this week he made the bizarre claim that Google hacked the 2016 popular vote, giving “millions” of votes to Hillary Clinton (they didn’t). His intent is clear: if he doesn’t win the 2020 election, he will say the election was rigged. Aside from his fragile ego, there’s a myriad of on-going criminal investigations that cite him as an unnamed co-conspirator, which could subject him to criminal prosecution once he leaves office. Therefore, the question that should concern all of us is what will he do if he loses

The country’s in a strange and dark place, and as the 2020 election gets closer, it’s only going to get stranger and darker. Trump’s erratic behavior will continue to get worse. He’s the most powerful person in the country and a national security threat. The lives and well being of Americans are in the hands of a madman. The American people cannot lose touch with this reality. 

Putin, Trump, and Moscow Mitch: An Unholy Alliance

The United States is and has been under attack by Putin’s Russian Federation. This isn’t news to informed citizens; it’s been in the public domain for years now. However, as time passes and more investigations unearth the vast scale and severity of Putin’s hostile acts against this nation, the national security apparatus has never been more sure of what the Russians did in 2016, what they’re doing now, and what they intend to do during the 2020 presidential election.

The Russian threat


Putin has plotted and deployed a cyberwar on two fronts against the United States. The first front involves infiltrating our electoral systems to gather intelligence on American voters, and probing for vulnerabilities in the technical infrastructure that facilitates electoral regulation and administration. If the Russians find just a single exploit in a single state, they’ll have the ability to sabotage the outcome of the 2020 election.    

The second front is an insidious and highly-targeted campaign to influence the election by infecting the very fabric of our society. This is dispensed mostly through social media. There’s literally an army of cyber soldiers –manifested by humans and artificial intelligence– whose task is to corrupt the hearts and minds of American voters. This is carried out by fake news campaigns: attacking candidates unfavorable to Russian interests while promoting candidates favorable to Russian interests. 

An example of this type of interference is the 2016 hack on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) network. They stole tens of thousands of emails from the DNC. Some of these emails were released via DCLeaks in the summer of 2016. However, what’s most revealing about their intentions was the timing of their release. They saved nearly 20,000 emails mined from the personal gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. These emails were systematically released in October 7, 2016, just 30 minutes after news outlets began running Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape, which featured Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. At the time, the Access Hollywood tape was widely thought –even from within the Trump campaign– to ruin Trump’s bid for the presidency. However, the release of Podesta’s emails served as a timely distraction which saved Trump’s candidacy. And for the rest of the month, to keep the attention on the emails and off the Access Hollywood tape, Wikileaks portioned out daily email releases until the end of October, nearly a week before Election Day. Wikileaks accomplished this feat by working with a hacker, at the time, only known as “Gucifer 2.0.” During the Mueller investigation, it was revealed that the Gucifer 2.0 persona was actually an operation carried out by Russia’s modern-day KGB, the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. 

The Russians manufacture propaganda and disperse it on social media platforms. Their propaganda is spread by unwitting Americans, thinking they’re viewing factual news based in reality. They also paid for advertisements on these platforms to ensure their propaganda reaches a wider audience. 

The Russians, as seen in 2016, are especially interested in targeting swing districts. These are districts that are especially unpredictable since the political party affiliations amongst the electorate are neck and neck. Flipping swing districts, one district at a time, would have the most significant overall impact on a state’s Electoral College votes. 

After the 2016 presidential election, every single one of our intelligence agencies investigated, concluded, and concurred that Russia interfered in the election. The Mueller investigation not only corroborated what the intelligence agencies found, but compounded on it. The Mueller team was able to convict 26 Russian nationals, as well as three Russian companies who conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller dedicated an entire volume of his report –nearly 200 pages– to Russian Interference, and as the report concluded, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” 

And over 2 ½ years later, investigators are still uncovering just how large a web the Russian’s managed to weave. The Senate Intelligence Committee, just a little over a week ago, released a bipartisan report that concluded the Russians targeted the electoral infrastructure, as well as voter registration databases, in every single state in America.

Why Trump and McConnell refuse to protect American elections


Putin attacked the lifeblood of American democracy –the electoral process– in 2016. The evidence is not only overwhelming, it’s indisputable. It was the first major cyberattack perpetrated against the United States during a presidential election, and it wasn’t a singular event. They are intent on striking again in 2020. However, the two most powerful men in the country, Trump and McConnell, are refusing to act, which is a clear and present threat to national security.

The problem starts with Trump. Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that proves Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, he still refuses to even acknowledge it. In fact, he’s continuously sided with Putin over the 2016 election interference. He’s literally taken the word of a brutal dictator over the word of the democratic institutions in his own country. It’s not only the disturbing fact of taking the word of a hostile foreign power over our entire national security apparatus, he values Putin’s word over some members of his own administration. 

Just this week, Trump had a phone conversation with Putin. On Thursday, a reporter posed the question to Trump, “Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in U.S. elections right now. Did you raise that with Putin?” Trump responded, “You don’t really believe this, do you?” The reporter retorted, “He said it last week. Did you raise it?” Trump then said, “We didn’t talk about it.” Trump then went on to lie about Mueller’s testimony and made crude comments about Mueller’s acuity during his testimony. 

Trump’s unwillingness to acknowledge Russian interference isn’t out of ignorance. It’s due to two main reasons: pride and greed. His fragile ego can’t accept the fact he didn’t win solely based on his electability. Therefore, any inference of election interference implies he’s quite possibly an illegitimate president. 

Then there’s greed. He knows the Russian’s gave him, at the very least, an edge in an already tight election –an election in which he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Since being elected, Trump’s highest approval rating was 46% and his average approval rating is 40% (Gallup). By all metrics, he’s an unpopular president amongst the majority of the American people. It’s reasonable to assume Trump doesn’t think he could be reelected without Russian interference. And therefore, he’s willing to betray the sanctity of American democracy in order to get himself reelected. There are other unconfirmed factors that may also be at play. He has a long, documented history of having financial and business ties to Russia. During the 2016 campaign, he was actively trying to close a deal with the Russian government (i.e. Putin) to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. There’s also the possibility of the Russian’s having compromising material against him.

Enter Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He’s ruled over the Senate like a dictator –continuously blocking bills from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. This is especially true when it comes to the election security bills: he’s blocked nine over the past two years. On July 25th, he blocked two election security bills in a single day.

McConnell’s refusal to allow duly-elected members of the U.S. Senate to vote on an election security bill has branded him with a moniker that’s unlikely to fade away: Moscow Mitch. McConnell hasn’t been happy with his new nickname, which prompted him to justify his decision to block the bills by saying, “I’m not going to let Democrats and their water carriers in the media to use Russia’s attack on our democracy as a Trojan horse for a partisan wish list of items.” 

These so-called partisan “wish-list items” include making paper ballots a requirement, the protection to audit elections to ensure no indications of sabotage were present, ensuring states and local governments have the resources needed to update and maintain the integrity of electoral infrastructure, among other protections. These items aren’t ideological, they’re common-sense protections against the foreign interference that’s already happened. 

The only conclusion that can be made is McConnell understands Putin wants Trump and Trump-supporting members of Congress in power. Therefore, allowing these protections to be put to a vote and likely passed as law, has the real potential to damage GOP electoral prospects in 2020. There’s only one conclusion to be made: McConnell is open to Russian interference as long as it benefits his party.

After McConnell’s most recent election security bill block, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “Russia’s biggest ally in its quest to infiltrate elections again is Mitch McConnell.” He also added, “I believe foreign, hostile actors are going to make what happened in 2016 look like small potatoes compared to 2016.” 

Justin Amash (I-MI), who was a lifelong Republican up until a little over a month ago when he began speaking out against Trump’s obstruction of justice as documented in the Mueller Report. Amash was the only Republican member of the House to speak out against Trump’s criminality. He was outcast for doing so, and feeling dissatisfied with the Republican Party’s complacency with Trump’s behavior, he left the GOP and became an Independent. Amash tweeted about the McConnell situation, “There was a time when the GOP establishment hated Donald Trump. They then realized they could use a man like this—unprincipled, transactional, shameless—to push their agenda. McConnell and McCarthy are giddy about Trump. Conservatives in Congress are the ones privately horrified.” 

The Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, called out McConnell’s obstructive conduct in a piece entitled, Mitch McConnell is a Russian Asset. In the piece, Milbank wrote, “[McConnell is] arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”

Conclusions


It’s a seriously dangerous prospect that the two most powerful men in the country are willing to look the other way while a hostile foreign power ramps up their election-interference machine. This is not being done for any misguided political ideology, it’s being done to maintain power. The promise of democracy is that power is vested in the people, and it’s the people who have the power to elect our leaders into positions of power, as granted by the constitution. 

This is beyond McConnell choosing party over country; he’s choosing power over the integrity of our democracy. Trump and McConnell are, in one way or the other, in bed with Putin, and our national security is at risk because of it. They can hug the flag and wear their American-flag lapel pins, but it’s merely a facade. These men aren’t patriots, they’re treacherous politicians willing to win at all costs –even if it means selling out their country to a foreign adversary.

As George Washington once warned, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence … the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Trump: A Traitor in the White House

Donald Trump has admitted that he’s willing to accept information on his political opponents from foreign adversaries. This is the most treacherous statement made by a president in American history. It sent shockwaves across the country: the President of the United States openly admitted his willingness to accept dirt on his political rivals from adversarial powers. It’s a felony for a campaign or government official to accept anything of value from a foreign government or entity.

The Stephanopoulos interview


Trump is infamous for rarely giving interviews to actual journalists. The overwhelming majority of his interviews are conducted by Fox News. Most of which are designed to promote him. They’re not meant to press Trump for truthful answers to questions of substance. Fox News anchors, such as Laura Ingraham, go way beyond softball questions, tee-ball questions are much more fitting for these farcical interviews.

However, on June 12, 2019, when ABC News’ Chief Anchor, George Stephanopoulos, interviewed Trump in the Oval Office, Stephanopoulos asked meaningful and pointed questions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Stephanopoulos asked about Donald Trump, Jr., who was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in reference to his Russian contacts leading up to the 2016 presidential election. This exchange led to Trump’s treasonous admission:

Stephanopoulos: But should [Donald Trump, Jr.] have gone to the FBI when he got that email? [The email being referred is an email he received saying a Russian national had dirt on Hillary Clinton]

President Trump: Okay, let’s put yourself in a position: you’re a congressman, somebody comes up and says, “Hey I have information on your opponent.” Do you call the FBI?

Stephanopoulos: If it’s coming from Russia you do.

President Trump: You don’t– I’ll tell you what. I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. I don’t–you don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do—

Stephanopoulos: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.

President Trump: Well, that’s different. A stolen briefing book. This isn’t– this is somebody who said, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.

Stephanopoulos: The FBI Director says that’s what should happen.

Trump went on to say, “The FBI Director is wrong.” Mind you, this is Trump’s personally selected FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, who took over after the firing of James Comey.

This led to a series of specific questions about how Trump would respond to potential future offers of assistance from a foreign adversarial power:

Stephanopoulos: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

President Trump: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, “we have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.

Stephanopoulos: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

President Trump: It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. Oh, let’s call the FBI. The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.

The interview ended after Trump’s final statement.

A brief history of Russian interference and Trump-Russia collusion


Trump admitted he would accept campaign-aiding information from a foreign adversarial power if it was offered to him. Before the Mueller investigation ever started, journalists were reporting on the Trump campaign’s connections with the Russian government. After the 2016 election, every one of our intelligence agencies confirmed the Russians engaged in an act of cyber warfare against the lifeblood of our democracy: our electoral process.

There were also journalists breaking stories about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, such as the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This, coupled with federal investigators looking into the matter, led to the FBI initiating an investigation to look into any potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI Director at the time, James Comey, was fired. Trump later admitted he fired him because of his unwillingness to back off Russia-related inquiries.

Comey’s firing set off a political firestorm in Washington. While the president does have the legal authority to fire an FBI director, the context and timing couldn’t have been more suspect. Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Session, had recused himself from any matters related to the Russia investigation since he himself was part of the campaign. Therefore, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, was tasked with overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to lead the Special Counsel’s Office. Mueller spent nearly two years investigating Russian interference, collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as well as numerous instances of obstruction of justice committed by Trump.

Mueller ultimately concluded that Russia engaged in a “sweeping and systematic” cyber warfare campaign against the United States. Mueller also uncovered over 140 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

For anyone who’s read the Mueller Report, there’s no doubt that the Trump campaign was in communication with Putin’s Russia. Some of the communications were done right out in the open. For example, during a press conference, Trump pleaded with Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing emails.” Russia was listening and they complied with Trump’s request. Just a day after Trump’s appeal to a foreign adversary to dig up dirt on his opponent, Russian operatives hacked into Clinton’s personal email servers.

Before he even took the role of special counsel, Mueller’s hands were tied as far as indicting Trump. The Department of Justice has a guideline, which says a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime. So, even if Mueller found undeniable evidence that Trump committed felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it. If Trump was caught on tape committing multiple felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it.

Mueller could, however, indict other people associated with the campaign and Russians involved in the cyber warfare. In the span of his investigation, he indicted, arrested, and/or convicted 34 individuals and 3 companies. Some of these individuals were Trump campaign members or associates and some were Russian agents.

Even though Mueller was unable to indict Trump, he was still able to investigate him. After two years, he released his 448-page report to the Justice Department. The report was redacted, but even with the redactions, a history of criminal behavior on Trump’s part is evident. The most damning evidence came from Volume II, which focused on Trump’s instances of obstruction of justice. Mueller found ten concrete examples of Trump attempting to obstruct the investigation. This includes obstructing behavior from Trump, such him instructing a White House staff member to destroy written records to Trump attempting to have his staff fire Mueller.

Mueller’s report is essentially a roadmap for the House of Representatives to use in impeachment hearings. He said as much during the statement he made before resigning from the Department of Justice: “…the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Conclusion: Trump is willing to commit treason to get re-elected


After everything that’s happened in the past few years. All the confirmed reports of Russian interference and Russian contacts, which were all corroborated by the Mueller Report, taught Trump nothing. Even if he was truly ignorant of his campaign’s contacts with the Russians or was ignorant of the implications of appealing to an adversary to commit a crime against his political opponent, one would hope he would have at least felt deterred to engage in this kind of behavior in the future, but sadly that’s not the case. To make matters even worse, with his confession to Stephanopoulos, he’s even doubled down on his corrupt behavior. He’s open to accepting dirt on a political opponent from an adversarial power to benefit politically.

A foreign adversary wouldn’t provide information to Trump with no strings attached. They’re doing it to benefit their own geopolitical interests. The act of giving the Trump campaign information is a quid pro quo. It’s a transaction: Trump gets dirt on his 2020 Democratic challenger for president and then reciprocates by implementing or changing policies that will directly benefit the adversary. Therefore, Trump is willing to compromise our national security for his own personal, political, and possibly financial benefit.  

In response to Trump’s brazen admission, Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) said:

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

Despite Trump brushing off calling the FBI if he was approached by a foreign adversary, the FBI’s own website contradicts Trump’s assertion. On the FBI’s “Contact Us” page, in the section “When to Contact the FBI,” one of the featured reasons to contact them is for: “Suspicious activities that you believe threaten national security, especially suspicious activity that involves foreign powers or foreign organizations.”

Trump, in his statement about the FBI director being “wrong” serves only to compound the entire situation. Aside from the fact he’s willing to publicly malign his handpicked FBI director, he also compromised the bureau’s efforts to counter Russian interference. It not only serves to demoralize the men and women of the FBI, but it also undermines the work they’ve been doing for years to safeguard our elections from foreign influence. Trump has literally encouraged foreign adversaries to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. This, in effect, would also apply to congressional campaigns. And if the president is willing to engage in this type of behavior, why wouldn’t a dubious congressional candidate as well?

The United States Constitution defines “treason” as:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

United States Constitution. Article III, Section III

It’s not hyperbole to brand Trump as a traitor. It isn’t based on conjecture or hearsay –it’s based on his own words. Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos is one of the most shameful moments in the history of the presidency. The integrity and honor of the presidency has never been lower.

Trump doesn’t serve the interests of the American people. He’s only concerned with his own personal, political, and financial interests. He swore an oath to defend and protect the constitution, but has repeatedly betrayed that oath.

It’s easy to become hypnotized by the daily chaos being reported out of the White House. However, it’s critical that this does not become normalized. The House needs to initiate impeachment hearings immediately. There’s a traitor in the White House and he needs to be removed.

Correction: Trump’s call for Russia to find Clinton’s “missing emailsoccurred during a press conference and not a campaign event.

The Weapons of Propaganda

For as long as our species has been exchanging information, propaganda has been a tool used by the powerful to manipulate the people in order to push a particular agenda. The advent of the internet has been both a blessing and a curse to those subjected to propaganda campaigns. The Information Age spawned out of the worldwide adoption of the internet has given ideal platforms to peddlers of propaganda, but on the flip side has also given people a means to distinguish fact from fiction –people have the ability to do their own fact-checking if they’re willing to take the extra step.

Disinformation and Misinformation


At its core, propaganda is founded on the dissemination of disinformation and misinformation. In common language, disinformation and misinformation are often used interchangeably, as if they’re synonyms. While they both stem from the spread of inaccurate or misleading information, the difference between the two lies in the intent of the person or entity spreading it.

Disinformation

The basis of a propaganda campaign is founded on disinformation. Dictionary.com defines disinformation as, “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

Disinformation is intended to deceive the public in order to strengthen or weaken a person, institution, or issue. The intent is malignant and the objective is nefarious. Disinformation can be completely fictitious or a fabrication (e.g. mixing factual information with false information).

Misinformation

While disinformation and misinformation are two sides of the same coin, misinformation is different since it isn’t necessarily spread with malicious intent. Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year for 2018 was granted to the word “misinformation,” which is a testament to the times we’re living in. They define it as, “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”

Misinformation could be something as innocent as a journalist making an honest mistake about something they reported in a story. They may have gotten a date or detail wrong, but since that information is inaccurate, it can still be considered misinformation. However, once the journalist or editor realizes the information isn’t accurate, reputable news organizations will immediately post a redaction or correction.

The act of spreading misinformation also comes to fruition on smaller scales. The average citizen may be explaining a subject to someone, but their explanation is inaccurate. The person spreading the misinformation doesn’t think it’s misinformation; they think it’s fact-based information. Their intent wasn’t to misinform, but the result of the exchange was misinformation, nonetheless. We’ve all been guilty of spreading misinformation in one way or another.

The Impact of Spreading Misinformation


There’s undoubtedly a dark side to misinformation: when a person is subjected to disinformation and they absorb it as factual information. When that person spreads the disinformation to others, they’ve unwittingly become a vehicle for disinformation. If their intent is sincere –they believe the information to be accurate– they’re spreading misinformation. However, they’re nonetheless carrying out the objective of the propagandist who peddled the disinformation for nefarious reasons.

It’s similar to the way contagious diseases are spread. A virus (i.e. disinformation) has infected a person, and then that person begins unwittingly spreading the virus to other people (i.e. misinformation). Therefore, a sneeze or a cough is akin to a tweet or a post on social media. This is how any kind of information is spread. It’s why we say a story or video has gone “viral” when it has reached a critical mass of shares or views, allowing it to quickly spread across the internet.

The Russian government waged a “sweeping and systematic” (as described in the Mueller Report) attack on our democracy during the 2016 presidential election. A part of that attack was posting fake news stories on social media platforms. They posted these stories from imposter accounts. They concealed their true identities by creating accounts that, on the surface, seemed like it was just another American sharing a news story. The profiles were carefully created to resemble the profile of an American citizen. Some of these accounts were controlled by actual Russian operatives (e.g. shills), others were autonomous (i.e. Russian bots).

Depending on the group they were infiltrating, they would modify the profile accordingly. For example, if they wanted to spread a fake story that once Hillary Clinton took office, she secretly planned to sign an executive action that would take firearms away from all Americans, the Russian propagandist’s profile would reflect the profile of the average NRA-affiliated American. If they took the story at face value, they would more than likely share the story with all of their friends or followers. So, in this case, the Russian propagandist was spreading disinformation; the unwitting American reader was then spreading misinformation.

The Russian propagandist planting a seed of disinformation in the right social media habitat could yield a massive harvest for the propagandist. Once the disinformation has been planted, it’s the unsuspecting Americans who share the information to their network of friends and followers –and so on, and so on.

In a research study commissioned by the Knight Foundation, an American non-profit organization, it was discovered that more Americans spread Russian disinformation than the Russians themselves. They found that Americans spread millions of tweets and posts containing misinformation, all of which originated from Russian disinformation campaigns.

Where We Are Now


The Russians succeeded in their disinformation campaigns. The Russian attack was insidious since it used American social media companies and American citizens to do most of the work for them. They understood the power of social media as a near-perfect vehicle to spread disinformation. Their objective was to sow the seeds of discord amongst Americans, amplifying an already polarized society. The Russians played a significant role in dividing us and therefore weakening our democracy.

The Russian’s other objective was to interfere in the political discourse in the country by using their disinformation tactics. Putin had contempt for Hillary Clinton and thought Trump would serve Russia’s interests better than Clinton. A significant portion of the disinformation spread by the Russians was to strengthen the Trump campaign while also weakening the Clinton campaign.

The term “fake news” entered the American lexicon with the rise of Donald Trump. Fake news is a real thing, however Trump re-coined the term for his own benefit. Instead of using its true meaning –news stories drenched in disinformation– he applied it to any news story that wasn’t favorable to his own self interests. In doing so, it discredited the free press in the minds of his supporters and has created confusion amongst the general population.

In calling the free press “the enemy of the people,” it has led his supporters to distrust reporting from some of the most well-established and most-respected news organizations in the country. This is dangerous because if Americans don’t have access to factual information, they’ve been robbed of the ability to make informed decisions.

Russia’s attack on our democracy during the 2016 presidential election wasn’t a singular event. Their disinformation campaigns have never stopped. They’re still engaged in spreading disinformation through social media. The Trump administration, however, has been silent on the issue, which leaves us vulnerable to continued efforts to crumble our democracy from the inside out.

The fate of our democracy, in respect to the disinformation flooding social media feeds, has essentially been left for the social media companies to figure out. Most of them have taken measures to prevent, as well as to identify and remove disinformation from their sites, but it’s not enough. The Russians, and other foreign adversaries, are simply adapting to their countermeasures. They need a central governing body to consult and assist them. There needs to be a combined public and private effort to subdue Russia’s cyber war against us.

The most unsettling facts concerning Russia’s attack on our democracy is the fact that Trump has refused to meaningfully acknowledge it’s even happened and is happening.

When Trump spoke privately with Putin during a summit in Helsinki in July 2018, Trump, responding to a question from the press on Russia meddling, said he “doesn’t see any reason” for Russia to have meddled in our election. He went on to say, “I have great confidence in my Intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

In early May 2019, Trump had an hour-long phone conversation with Putin. When he was asked by the press if he warned Putin about interfering in future elections, he said, “We didn’t discuss that.”

Final Thoughts


Disinformation and misinformation are toxic to any democracy. We all depend on reliable information to give us the facts we need to form our own opinions and make informed decisions that affect our lives. When the information being spread is false or misleading, it inevitably leads us to make decisions that aren’t in our best interest.

It’s a fact that Putin’s Russia engaged –and is still engaged– in a widespread social media campaign to sow discord and misinform Americans. Yet, the person sworn to protect and defend us from all enemies has treated Putin with adulation, and in his mind, has turned our adversary on the world stage into his personal ally.

This raises puzzling and concerning questions. Why is Trump so fond of Putin? Why hasn’t Trump initiated a strategic plan to protect us from the ongoing attacks from Russia? What does Trump have to gain or lose by siding with Putin against the interests of his own country? What’s his motive for remaining silent and refusing to take action?

There will come a time when we have a true understanding of Trump’s motivations. Until then, we’re left to fend off the rotten fruits of Putin’s nefarious labor on our own. We must be our own guardians against the Russian government.