RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
May 5 to May 11
Who Were the Mueller Report's Hired Guns?
Republicans and others point to numerous curiosities in Robert Mueller's final report suggesting Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS may have been among his undisclosed outside contractors.
Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations that Mueller spent more than $732,000 on the outside help, for among other things “investigative reports” and other “information." And with Mueller refusing to identify those contractors, suspicion falls on those behind the “salacious and unverified” Steele dossier, the Clinton-financed opposition research he relied upon in his investigation of President Trump
The suspicions are supported by telling aspects of Mueller’s work – and by his final report itself. Sperry reports:
- Mueller sent his team to London to meet with Steele within a few months of taking over the Russia collusion investigation of the FBI in 2017.
- Mueller’s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, has shared information he received from Fusion with the media.
- Mueller’s report edits an email exchange so that it seems to support the dossier’s claim regarding the existence of videotapes of Trump cavorting with Russian prostitutes -- when the emails actually debunk it.
- The report follows the dossier’s lead by falsely suggesting Trump campaign aide Carter Page knowingly engaged with Russian spies -- despite federal court records, predating the Trump-Russia probe, that show that he did not.
- The report also ignores the praise Page won from the FBI as a cooperating witness in that counterespionage case, in which he helped put a Russian spy behind bars.
- The Mueller report echoes the dossier’s claims that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was in bed with the Kremlin, even though Mueller never charged him with collusion conspiracy.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed the “Mueller Dossier,” given its echoes of the Steele compilation of innuendo.
The Trump Investigations: Top Articles
How Russia Probe Started Under False Premises, National Review
Aussie Defends Tipoff to FBI Called Spark of Trump-Russia Probe, Daily Calle
Steele's False Intel, Media Contacts Flagged Before FISA, The Hill
Pre-Election, Pre-FISA Steele to State Dept.: My Dirt's Political, The Hill
Barr Contempt Rap as Trump Claims Executive Privilege, NBC News
Why This New York Times Maple Syrup Story Tastes Odd
Once you falsely claim that climate change is settled science, it almost follows that you must betray the core principles of journalism when inconvenient facts emerge. Eric Felten says that is exactly what the New York Times did in reporting that maple syrup may be threatened by global warming. The paper of record reports that maple syrup production "fell by 54 percent in Ontario and by 12.5 percent in Canada over all.” The cause was “an unusually warm spring.” One might think those numbers were from this year or last. Nope. They’re from 2012. As Felten reports, the Times apparently didn’t mention 2016 or 2017 because they were banner years out in the forest; 2018 also didn’t fit the narrative because while production did drop, it was due to unseasonably cold, not warm, weather. Felten writes:
How did the New York Times get things so wrong? Is it carelessness? Or is there an ideological agenda at play, one that requires the reporting and writing to lead to a preestablished conclusion? On Twitter, the NYT reporter calls herself Kendra "Gloom is My Beat" Pierre-Louis. That is no doubt a gesture at self-aware humor. But it also suggests that her reporting is skewed: If you see gloom as your beat, by definition you ignore information that doesn’t advance the narrative of impending doom. And then there is the larger institutional bias. Pierre-Louis is officially a "climate reporter" for the Times; she leads NYT-branded "student journeys" to places such as Iceland (cost: $8,190 per high-schooler for 15 days) to teach the risks of a warming planet. In other words, the Times has a business built in part around Pierre-Louis that depends on her being a warning voice on warming.
'Deep in the Red': 10 Years of Trump Taxes
New York Times
Someone with “legal access” to Donald Trump’s tax records for the years 1985 through 1994 illegally leaked that highly personal information to the New York Times. They show, the Times reports, “that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses – largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings – ran up $1.17 billion in losses.” Unimpressed critics said the future President told much the same story on "The Apprentice" and in "The Art of the Comeback."
Hunter Biden's Ukraine Work a Potential 2020 Scandal
Links between Joe Biden's efforts as Vice President and his sons Hunter’s international financial dealings are drawing increased scrutiny as the elder Biden has emerged as the early frontrunner to be the Democrat’s nominee for president in 2020. Hunter’s seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company is making news after it was revealed Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the country dismissed a top prosecutor who may have been corrupt, but who was also looking into the energy company. Hunter’s dealings in China are also drawing attention, not only because he is involved with institutions suspected of trying to buy influence with America’s political elites but also because he struck deals in China at the same time his father, as VP, was leading negotiations with the Chinese government.
How Chinese Spies Used NSA's Hacking Tools for Attacks
New York Times
Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal. Some of the same NSA hacking tools acquired by the Chinese were later dumped on the internet, by a still-unidentified group that calls itself the Shadow Brokers, and used by Russia and North Korea.
Pakistani Christian Girls Trafficked to China as Brides
Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride. Less than five months later, Muqadas is back in her home country, pregnant and seeking a divorce from a husband she says was abusive. She is one of hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.
People Living in Tents 7 Months After Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed nearly 60% of the housing stock of Bay County on Florida’s panhandle last October. Nearly seven months later, a great many of the 20,000 people displaced by the storm are still living in campers, condemned homes, or outside in the yards of good Samaritans. The shortage of housing is being exacerbated by a concurrent housing boom, as opportunistic buyers race to scoop up a limited amount of salvageable land to rebuild, threatening to permanently displace the low-income residents of the county.
Drugs, Guns, Politics, 2 Jailed Fla. Mayors
Tampa Bay Times
Month after month, police officers received complaints from the owner of a big blue house on the water in Port Richey, Florida. Sometimes his issue involved missing guns or drugs; often he was complaining about one or the other of the two women who lived with him – women who in his past had accused him of physical abuse. Then in February, a SWAT team burst through his door to arrest him on charges of practicing medicine without a license. The man fired two rounds from a handgun. He was charged with attempted murder. Routine stuff, except, the man was the town’s mayor, Dale Massad. This article details the mayor’s checkered past and growing instability while asking why other officials did little in response.
Alexa's Been Eavesdropping on You This Whole Time
Many smart-speaker owners don't realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple's Siri, and until recently Google's Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences. While this raises the specter of Big Brother it can also be a lot of fun because Apple allows you to listen to your archive. The reporter on this article said he “listened to four years of my Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of my life: spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests and random snippets of "Downton Abbey." There were even sensitive conversations that somehow triggered Alexa's "wake word" to start recording, "including my family discussing medication and a friend conducting a business deal.”
The Race to Develop the Moon
Finally, nearly a half-century after astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972, the New Yorker reports how many countries and private interests, from Boeing to Blue Origin to Space-X, are looking to go back to mine, inhabit, and turn it into a launchpad for other spacecraft. One intriguing quote from Philip Metzger, planetary physicist:
There’s the argument that we’ve destroyed the Earth and now we’re going to destroy the moon. But I don’t see it that way ... Space pretty much erases everything we do. If you crush an asteroid to dust, the solar wind will blow it away. We can’t really mess up the solar system.
But isn't that rather similar to the late George Carlin's standup routine about our own humble and supposedly imperiled orb? Quote:
The planet will be here for a long, long, long time after we’re gone and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself ’cuz that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allows us to be spawned from it in the first place: it wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it, needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question, “Why are we here?” “Plastic, assholes."