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CRY ME A RIOT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 19, 2023 at 12:10 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men. Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.
—Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”

On January 6, 2021, Hope Hicks had a problem: She feared she might never work again.

She had served in President Donald Trump’s administration as White House Director of Strategic Communication from January to September, 2017. 

From 2017 to 2018 she served as White House Communications Director. After leaving the White House, she returned to serve as Counselor to the President from 2020 to 2021.

Hope Hicks November 2017.jpg

Hope Hicks

And then came the Trump-inspired attack on Congress on January 6.

Among the infamies and crimes Trump committed—and Hicks witnessed—during his four years as President:

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press as “the enemy of the American people” for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters.
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Giving highly classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 
  • Using his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • Attacking and alienating America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

9 times Donald Trump was compared to Hitler | The Times of Israel

Two Fuhrers: Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

  • Shutting down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his useless “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay for 35 days.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, killing 400,000 Americans by the time he left office.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves against the deadly COVID-19 virus.
  • Urging his followers to illegally vote twice for him in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly lying—while still in office and afterward—that the 2020 election had been “stolen” from him by massive voter fraud.
  • Illegally trying to pressure state legislatures and governors to stop the certification of the vote that had made Joe Biden the president-elect.
  • Inciting his followers to attack the Capitol Building where Senators and Representatives were meeting to count the Electoral Votes won by himself and Joe Biden. His objective: Stop the count, which he knew would prove him the loser.

So Hope had plenty to feel tormented about.  

Yet it wasn’t any of these offenses that upset her.

It was something far more personal: She feared that the public’s association of her with Trump’s attack on Congress would doom her, at age 32, to permanent unemployment.

On January 6, 2021, she exchanged a series of texts with Julie Radford, First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff. 

HICKS: “In one day he [Trump] ended every future opportunity that doesn’t include speaking engagements at the local proud boys [sic] chapter

“And all of us that didn’t have jobs lined up will be perpetually unemployed

“I’m so mad and upset

“We all look like domestic terrorists now”

RADFORD: “Oh yes I’ve been crying for an hour”

HICKS: “This made us all unemployable

“Like untouchable

“God I’m so fucking mad”

RADFORD: “I know there isn’t a chance of finding a job 

“Visa also sent me a blow off email today

“Already”

HICKS: “Nope. Not being dramatic, but we are all fucked.

[Referring to Trump]: “Attacking the VP [Vice President Mike Pence]?

“Wtf is wrong with him” 

Albert Speer, former architect and Minister of Armaments for his late Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, would have fully empathized. 

Monochrome photograph of the upper body of Albert Speer, signed at the bottom

Albert Speer

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146II-277 / Binder / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

With the collapse of the Third Reich, he found himself hurled from power and facing trial as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

His prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, said: “Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation.”

Yet Speer falsely claimed he had simply been an apolitical architect who had been drafted into serving as Minister of Armaments—and hadn’t known about the Holocaust. 

The prosecution couldn’t prove he had. So he escaped a death sentence—and was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Emerging from prison in 1966, Speer lamented that no architectural firm in postwar Germany would hire “Hitler’s architect.” 

So he spent the rest of his life writing—at great profit—about his 12 years as a high-ranking official in the Third Reich. As “The Good Nazi,” he portrayed himself as a political innocent deceived into hell by a Mephistopheles-like Hitler.

Like Speer, Hope Hicks has repudiated her own former Fuhrer—after serving him during his worst infamies.

And, like Speer, she isn’t facing the dangers of poverty. Her net worth is estimated at $1 million, owing to her past work as a model and public relations agent.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2023 at 12:13 am

….A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
—Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice to President Joseph Biden in “The Prince”

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Republicans, having won control of the House of Representatives, are eagerly seeking to destroy whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

Intending to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost, their topmost goals include:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

Yet their dictatorial ambitions—lavishly funded by Russian “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes)—can be thwarted. 

Two methods for achieving this have already been discussed in Part one of this series: 

  1. Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin, and
  2. Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Here are two more: 

Counterattack Strategy #3: One Biden for Two Trumps

House Republicans will undoubtedly attack Joseph Biden’s son, Hunter, to damage the President’s  credibility.

“What’s on Hunter’s laptop?” will become their latest version of “Who promoted Peress?” Irving Peress was a New York City dentist who became a primary target for Red-baiting Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings.

Democrats cannot prevent this attack. Republicans are too dedicated to the politics of “smear and fear” to be persuaded otherwise.

But Democrats can at least effectively blunt it: Senatorial Democrats can hold similar investigative hearings on the actions of Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump during their father’s White House tenure.

Both were highly involved with President Trump’s finances during his four years in office. And Trump never hesitated to violate the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. 

Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpg

United States Constitution

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 prohibits federal office holders from receiving gifts, payments, or anything of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.

The Founders wanted to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be corrupted, even unconsciously, through bribes. At that time, bribery was a common practice among European rulers and diplomats. 

Trump encouraged diplomats, lobbyists and insiders to stay at his Washington, D.C. hotel—which lay only a short walk from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And the prices charged there weren’t cheap:

  • Cocktails ran from $23 for a gin and tonic to $100 for a vodka concoction with raw oysters and caviar.
  • A seafood pyramid called “the Trump Tower” cost $120.
  • A salt-aged Kansas City strip steak cost $59.  

It’s a certainty that Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., oversaw the profits sheet for this hotel—and other Trump properties across the country visited by members of foreign governments.

Thus, there are legitimate avenues for investigation open to Senatorial subcommittees—just as Robert F. Kennedy once probed financial ties between the Mafia and the International Brother of Teamsters Union. 

The Justice Department might even be persuaded to launch its own investigation—not only into possible financial corruption during the Trump administration but into widespread reports of cocaine use by Donald, Jr. 

Donald Trump, Jr. (51770696331) (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump, Jr.

Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The House cannot bring criminal penalties against anyone. But the Justice Department can.

Counterattack Strategy #4: One Biden for Two Houses of Congress

After Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 Presidential election, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members from both houses of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

This was nothing less than a Right-wing coup attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election. As a result, every one of these men and women can be legitimately indicted for treason—provided the Biden Justice Department has has the courage to do so.

Had the Justice Department brought such indictments in 2021 or 2022, the Republican party would now be facing legal and financial ruin. 

Even if some of its members escaped conviction, they would have been forced to pony up tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses. 

And those who were convicted and sent to prison would serve as a long-remembered lesson to the Right of the dangers of treason and abuse of power. 

For decades, Republicans have turned Carl von Clausewitz’ famous dictum—“War is the continuation of politics by other means”—on its head: “Politics is a continuation of war by other means.” 

By contrast, Democrats have too often adhered to the Michelle Obama mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”

That strategy has given the United States Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George W. Bush, Donald Trump—and a Republican Congress willing to destroy the country it claims to love.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2023 at 12:10 am

It took 15 votes—and a series of humiliating concessions—for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

All of the concessions he made were to the most Right-wing members of the House. And all of those members are fanatically dedicated to destroying whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

At the top of their list: Impeaching Biden. 

Republicans refused to impeach and convict Donald Trump after he incited a deadly riot against the United States Capitol Building. But they’re eager to remove Biden for what they consider the most impeachable offense of all.

He defeated a Republican candidate for President.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

And not just any Republican candidate: The candidate who had made no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life.”

During the mid-term elections, Republicans had expected to sweep both the House and Senate. This would have given them virtual control of the government.

For the House is the body that initiates revenue bills and impeaches federal officials. And the Senate holds the power to confirm Presidential appointments that require consent, and to provide advice and consent to ratify treaties.

But Democrats went on a rare offensive and rightly attacked Republicans as intending to gain absolute control over the lives of their fellow Americans. And voters rejected the candidates favored by Trump for local and federal offices.

Thus, Republicans had to settle for controlling the House. 

Even so, they intend to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost. Among their topmost goals:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

R. Hunter Biden at Center for Strategic & International Studies (1).jpg

Hunter Biden

Center for Strategic & International Studies, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

If Democrats follow their usual mantra of “When they go low, we go high,” they will cower before Republican aggression and sacrifice their legislative agenda.

Yet they can snatch victory from the jaws of impending defeat—providing they are willing to follow the advice Robert F. Kennedy offered for combating the Mafia: “If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.” 

Counterattack Strategy #1: Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin

Numerous Republicans have taken “campaign contributions”—i.e., bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin. 

One Russian oligarch—Len Blavatnik—has given millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). 

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In just 2017, Blavatnik contributed the following to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs):

  • $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

The Biden administration need not ask the CIA or FBI to unearth these contributions. They can be easily found within the files of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Putin’s monies have been well-spent: About 90 House Republicansout of a total of 213—attended Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress on December 21, according to CQ Roll Call. Some who did spent much of the speech on their phones.

Many Republicans—such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who in 2021 received about $255,000 from Blavatnik—have openly threatened to end all funding for Ukraine’s heroic struggle against Russian aggression.

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

This would prove an effective technique. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans successfully attacked Democrats as at least potential sellouts, if not actual traitors.

The advantage of attacking Russian-bribed Republicans today is that even some “Reagan Republicans”—such as James Kirchick, a conservative reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—have openly denounced this treason.

Thus, the White House could ignite an internal conflict within the Right by pitting Republicans against each other.

Counterattack Strategy #2: Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to finance his useless border wall against Mexico.

So Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shut down his State of the Union appearance.

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza noted: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.”

His ego strung, Trump reopened the government.

And with Republicans threatening to not raise the debt ceiling unless their extortionate demands are met, the White House can effectively counter this danger:

Deduct from the budget every dollar directed toward Republican states. This would vastly reduce the size of the Federal budget, since subsidizing these failed economies accounts for a substantial portion of the budget. 

“WE CAN CONTROL HIM”—FIRST HITLER, THEN TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2023 at 12:15 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch.

CHANCELLERY:

Von Brauchitsch hands the memorandum to Hitler, who reads it.

Adolf Hitler (slamming down the memorandum): So—what is new in all this?

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

Walther Von Brauchitsch: Fuhrer, it is the army’s final position that Case Yellow cannot proceed.

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated. The meteorologists predict continuous soaking rains for weeks.

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes.

CHANCELLERY: 

Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, even the supply of artillery shells is totally inadequate.

Preiss, Wolfgang - WW2 Gravestone

Wolfgang Preiss as Walter von Brauchitsch in “The Winds of War”

Hitler: Do you know how many artillery shells of all calibers we have in the staging areas—right this minute?

Von Brauchitsch: No.

Hitler: How many we have in the reserve dumps in the West? What the monthly annual production of shells is? What the projected rise in production of the next six months is, month by month?

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

Hitler: I do! The supply is adequate. I tell you so. And I’m a field soldier who depended on artillery for four years to protect his life. [He hands von Brauchitsch a sheaf of armaments figures.] Check with your staff. if one of those figures is wrong, you can postpone Case Yellow. Otherwise—you march!  And next time you come to see me, know what you’re talking about!

Von Brauchitsch: The morale of the army was low, even in the Polish campaign.

Hitler: Back up this monstrous assertion! In what units was morale low? What action was taken? How many death sentences were handed out for cowardice? Speak up! I’ll fly to the front and pass the death sentences myself. One specific instance.

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

Hitler: Common knowledge? What is common knowledge is that army headquarters at Zossen crawls with cowards. You opposed me in rearming the Rhineland. You opposed me on the [union] with Austria. You opposed me on Czechoslovakia, until the British came crawling to me. You dirtied in your trousers, you heroes at Zossen, at the idea of marching into Poland. Well, have I once been wrong? Have you once been right? Answer me!

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

Hitler: Tell everyone who signed this insubordinate Zossen rubbish to beware! I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to January 6, 2021. 

President Donald Trump:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  
  • Gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, his presumed Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly lied about the dangers posed by the COVID-19 virus, thus enabling it to ravage the country and kill 400,000 by the time Trump left office.
  • Incited his followers to violently attack the United States Capitol Building to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election and prevent Joe Biden, the winner, from taking office. 

Like Hitler, Trump could equally say: I am America.

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2022 at 12:10 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To prevent staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued.

“Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men would ask if such a device was detected. If no one said they had a phone, the detection team started searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods did not end White House leaks.

White House officials still spoke with reporters throughout the day and often aired their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others got their cell phones and called or texted reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But there was always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leaked might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump couldn’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them took revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump waged war on the “cowards and traitors” who worked most closely with him, the more some of them found opportunities to strike back. This inflamed Trump even more—and led him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This proved a no-win situation for Trump.

The results were twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stayed.

**********

As host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Trump became infamous for booting off contestants with the phrase: “You’re fired.” In fact, he so delighted in using this that, in 2004, he tried to gain trademark ownership of it.

But  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application. American copyright law explicitly prohibits copyright protections for short phrases or sayings.

Upon taking office as President, Trump bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first two years of Trump’s White House saw more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-term administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeded that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

In 1934, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

No one was safe from execution—not even the men who slaughtered as many as 20 to 60 million. 

Fittingly, for all the fear he inspired, Stalin was plagued by paranoia. He lived in constant fear of assassination. Although surrounded by bodyguards, he distrusted even them.

Thus Stalin, who had turned the Soviet Union into a vast prison, became its leading prisoner.  

Similarly, Donald Trump daily proved the accuracy of the age-old warning: “You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler. But his reign bears far more resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin.

Germany’s Fuhrer, for all his brutality, maintained a relatively stable government by keeping the same men in office—from the day he took power on January 30, 1933, to the day he blew out his brains on April 30, 1945.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

Heinrich Himmler, a former chicken farmer, remained head of the dreaded, black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, known as the SS, from 1929 until his suicide in 1945. 

In April, 1934, Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich.

Hermann Goering, an ace fighter pilot in World War 1, served as Reich commissioner for aviation and head of the newly developed Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1935 to 1945.

And Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, held that position from 1933 until 1942, when Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. He held that position until the Third Reich collapsed in April, 1945.

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, by contrast, purged his ministers constantly.  For example: From 1934 to 1953, Stalin had no fewer than three chiefs of his secret police, then named the NKVD:

  • Genrikh Yagoda – (July 10, 1934 – September 26, 1936)
  • Nikolai Yezhov (September 26, 1936 – November 25, 1938) and
  • Lavrenty Beria (November, 1938 – March, 1953).

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after their arrest.

Joseph Stalin

He reportedly wanted to purge Beria, too, but the latter may have acted first. There has been speculation that Beria slipped warfarin, a blood-thinner often used to kill rats, into Stalin’s drink, causing him to die of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Stalin’s record for slaughter far eclipses that of Hitler.

For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, Stalin slaughtered 20 to 60 million people. 

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

Another Russian-installed tyrant who has sought to rule by fear: President Donald J. Trump.

In fact, he admitted as much to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

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Donald Trump

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

As President, he continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders and even members of his Cabinet.

In Russian, the word for “purge” is “chistka,” for “cleansing.”  Among the victims of Trump’s recurring chistkas:

  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service
  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

In his infamous political treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, asked: “Is it is better to be loved or feared?”  

And he answered it thus:

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.”  

**********

Donald Trump has violated that counsel throughout his life. He not only makes enemies, he revels in doing so—and in the fury he has aroused.

Filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone, Trump, as Presidential candidate and President, repeatedly played to the hatreds of his Right-wing base.  

As first-mate Starbuck said of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

WHEN NEGOTIATIONS FAIL, TRY “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2022 at 12:12 am

On December 8, the United States and Russia swapped convicted criminals.

The Americans were holding—and gave up—Victor Bout, a notorious Russian international arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death.” 

The Russians were holding—and gave up—Britney Griner, an American professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Bout had been arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2008, and extradited to the United States. The Justice Department charged Bout with:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization;
  • Conspiring to kill Americans;
  • Conspiring to kill American officers or employees; and
  • Conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.

Viktor Bout.jpg

Victor Bout

Bout was convicted on November 2, 2011, and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment

Griner was arrested on February 17 for possession of vaporizer cartridges containing hash oil. Although legal in In Arizona, “medicinal” cannabis is illegal in Russia.

On July 7, Griner pleaded guilty but said she had not intended to break the law. On August 4, the court found Griner guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison. 

The December 8 prisoner exchange was widely attacked by Right-wing Americans, who argued that freeing Bout would lead terrorists to take countless more American hostages. 

There are three methods for securing the release of hostages. 

The first is to meet the ransom demands of the hostage-taker.

That was the method chosen in the above case. The Biden administration didn’t want to give up Bout, but the Russians–i.e., Russian president Vladimir Putin—refused to exchange Griner for anyone else.

The second is to wear down the hostage-taker(s) with patient negotiation.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD. 

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A SWAT team

The third method might be called, “The KGB Method.”

This was not available to the Biden administration against a superpower armed with nuclear missiles. But against non-state terrorist groups it can reap powerful results.

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Committee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30, 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump. He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body went a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In his 1987 bestseller, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that then-CIA Director William Casey “decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.”

Both the United States and Israel—the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings—have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.  And at the peril of those you most hold dear.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready. They require only the orders.

TRUMP AND TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2022 at 12:14 am

Less than three years before committing his ultimate act of treason, President Donald Trump determined that Democrats were guilty of it.

Their crime? Refusing to stand and applaud him during his State of the Union message in January, 2018.

On February 5, he told a crowd in Cincinnati: “They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

For Trump, to love the United States, you must first prove that you love him.

Article Three of 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.”

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United States Constitution

In short: Actions such as colluding with a foreign power hostile to the United States (such as Russia) to subvert America’s democratic election process. 

By that standard, Donald Trump stands rightly accused of a crime that traditionally carries the penalty of death.

Example #1: The infamous June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower starring Donald Trump’s son, Donald, Jr.; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort—and two Russian lobbyists who wanted the United States to end its sanctions against Russia for human rights abuses.

The meeting’s purpose: To obtain from Russian Intelligence agents “dirt” on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

Example #2: On July 27, 2016, Trump said  at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find [Hillary Clinton’s] 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Hillary Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts,

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Donald Trump

Example #3: On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.  

Trump, however has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia. 

On July 16, 2018, he attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Example #4: On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. His motive: To end that investigation before it reached him.

The next day, meeting with Russian Foreign Minister  Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, Trump said: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

On May 11, during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump admitted: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Example #5: During that same meeting, Trump gave the Russian officials highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

At first, the White House denied Trump had done so. Then Trump admitted in a tweet: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety.

Example #6: Trump surrounded himself with men who had close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Among these:

  • Paul Manafort – His former campaign manager. His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead directly to Putin.
  • Roger Stone – Self-confessed dirty trickster and former business partner of Manafort. Stone had extensive contacts with hacker Guccifer 2.0, whom the CIA, NSA and FBI believe was actually a front for GRU, Russian military intelligence.
  • Michael T. Flynn – Former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office.

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Michael T. Flynn

  • On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence. Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  
  • In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.”
  • At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

The Republican party—which for 50 years claimed to be America’s defender against Communism—has now fervently embraced a man with demonstrated ties to a Communist dictator.

DEMOCRACY’S SAVIOR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2022 at 12:13 am

As a result of the vast increase in election security, President Donald Trump failed to get the help he expected from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The result: He lost the 2020 Presidential election.

Thus, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 81,268,924 to 74,216,154 for Trump—and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. 

Two days later, Trump claimed: “And this is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election.”  

Chris Krebs was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And the man most responsible for ensuring election security. 

WATCH: Ousted DHS official Christopher Krebs testifies about 2020 election security - YouTube

Chris Krebs

On November 12, to counter the growing chorus of lies from Trump and his Right-wing allies, he put out the following statement:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs.

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

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Donald Trump

Asked by “60 Minutes'” Scott Pelley if he was surprised to be fired, Krebs replied: “I don’t know if I was necessarily surprised. It’s not how I wanted to go out. The thing that upsets me the most about that is I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my team.

“And I’d worked with them for three and a half years, in the trenches. Building an agency, putting CISA on the national stage. And I love that team. And I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so that’s what I’m most upset about.” 

Krebs was no dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but a life-long Republican. He gave up a lucrative job as Microsoft’s head of cybersecurity policy to join the Trump administration. He wanted to serve his country by creating a dedicated cybersecurity agency for the first time.

Still, he had his reservations about taking the job. As he told the Financial Times: “The flaws of this man [Trump] were obvious to everybody that was willing to pay attention. [But] to do your job, you have to be able to compartmentalize. I was willing to do that.

“Over time, it eats away at you. It eats away at you, the other parts of the department that were doing stuff that just seemed so inhumane. I was never involved in any of those policy conversations.”

By January 6, 2021, Trump had exhausted his legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

From November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Of these attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election, Krebs told Pelley:

“It was upsetting because what I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people. It’s not me, it’s not just CISA. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months.

“They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that I just– it didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, met to certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

At noon, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence. A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at his loss—and thus intimidate Congressional officials to reject the results.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

Three hours passed before the mob was dispersed and order was restored.

Yet for all the terrible drama of that day, the true hero of the moment went unrecognized.

By depriving Trump of Russian help, Chris Krebs had ensured a victory for democracy.

On the evening of January 6, the House and Senate met again to count the Electoral Votes.

And as expected, the two bodies pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Donald Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

DEMOCRACY’S SAVIOR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

TIME’s Person of the Year for 2020 proved to be two people: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

On the surface, choosing Biden and Harris made sense: “Joe Biden was elected President of the United States in the midst of an existential debate over what reality we inhabit. Perhaps the only thing Americans agree on right now is that the future of the country is at stake, even as they fiercely disagree about why.”

As for the shared legacy of Biden and Harris: “If Donald Trump was a force for disruption and division over the past four years, Biden and Harris show where the nation is heading: a blend of ethnicities, lived experiences and worldviews that must find a way forward together if the American experiment is to survive.”

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Yet a lesser-known but far more consequential choice for “Person of the Year” would have been Chris Krebs.

Because, without Chris Krebs, there would not now be a Biden Presidency.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote—65,853,514 to 62,984,828 for Trump. But in the United States, what counts in Presidential elections is the Electoral College vote.

And there Trump won: 304 to 227. 

What put him over the top in the Electoral College was the help he got from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Putin had good reason to assist Trump: Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which has preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

As for Trump, he wanted something from Putin: He wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news, and even the hacking of key voting centers.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And the point man for this was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by DHS.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. As he explained to Scott Pelley during a “60 Minutes” interview aired on November 29, 2020: 

“So we spent something on the order of three and a half years of gaming out every possible scenario for how a foreign actor could interfere with an election. Countless, countless scenarios.” 

Krebs’ to-do list included paper ballots:

“Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure that you got the count right. And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election. Ninety-five percent of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it. Compared to 2016, about 82%.

“That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia. Georgia has machines that tabulate the vote. They then held a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote.”   

Krebs’ duties included:

  • Sharing intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

At his command lay the resources of a series of powerful Federal investigative agencies:

“We had the Department of Defense Cyber Command. We had the National Security Agency. We had the FBI. We had the Secret Service. We also had representatives from the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal independent agency that supports the actual administration of elections.

“We had representatives from some of the election equipment vendors. And they’re critical because they’re the ones out there that know what’s going on on the ground if there’s any sort of issue with some of their systems. And we had representatives from state and local governments.”

Misinformation led CISA to create a new “Rumor Control” website ahead of the 2020 election. Its main goal was to debunk rumors surrounding the 2020 election that had been spreading throughout the country.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Donald Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly.

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