The Friday night before the Tuesday election is where things get strange, and it’s clear that the Democrats figured this out a little too late:
The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are examining faked documents aimed at discrediting the Hillary Clinton campaign as part of a broader investigation into what U.S. officials believe has been an attempt by Russia to disrupt the presidential election, people with knowledge of the matter said.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has referred one of the documents to the FBI for investigation on the grounds that his name and stationery were forged to appear authentic.
In a document forged to appear as though Carper was writing a letter to Clinton, Carper is quoted as saying the Department of Homeland Security had advised him of a risk that a “massive” cyberattack “could change the election results in favor of a specific candidate.”
They’re just now discovering that much of what WikiLeaks leaks are forgeries? It seems so:
Carper spokeswoman Meghan Pennington confirmed on Friday that the senator had sent a copy of the letter to the FBI and the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer.
“Our office became aware of a fake letter on Senator Carper’s official letterhead and immediately referred it to federal law enforcement to investigate its genesis,” Pennington said.
As part of an investigation into suspected Russian hacking, FBI investigators have also asked Democratic Party officials to provide copies of other suspected faked documents that have been circulating along with emails and other legitimate documents taken in the hack, people involved in those conversations said.
It’s a little late for that, as the damage is already done:
In addition to the Carper letter, the FBI has also reviewed a seven-page electronic document that carries the logos of Democratic pollster Joel Benenson’s firm, the Benenson Strategy Group, and the Clinton Foundation, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
The document, identified as a fake by the Clinton campaign, claims poll ratings had plunged for Clinton and called for “severe strategy changes for November” that could include “staged civil unrest” and “radiological attack” with dirty bombs to disrupt the vote.
Like the Carper letter, it was not immediately clear where the fraudulent document had originated or how it had begun to circulate…
On Oct. 20, Roger Stone, a former Trump aide and Republican operative, linked to a copy of the document on Twitter with the tag, “If this is real: OMG!!”
It wasn’t real, but the Democrats are late to this game, the one they are losing, and they finally figured out something else:
The Democratic National Committee recently reported to the FBI that a security sweep turned up evidence its Washington, D.C. headquarters may have been bugged, two unnamed committee officials told Mother Jones.
According to the report, the DNC ordered two recent sweeps: one after the hack of its employees’ emails and a second after conservative activist James O’Keefe released a hidden camera video suggesting Democrats tried to incite violence at some of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. The sources told Mother Jones that the second sweep turned up a radio signal near interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s office.
“We were told that this was something that could pick up calls from cell phones,” one unnamed DNC official told Mother Jones. “The guys who did the sweep said it was a strong indication.”
Well, that’s just too bad:
No device was ultimately found, according to the report, but the findings from the sweep were sent on to the FBI. The unnamed official would not tell Mother Jones what actions were taken from there, beyond saying “we believe it’s been given by the bureau to another agency with three letters to examine.”
“As a general policy, we don’t talk about such efforts,” the other source told Mother Jones. “You have to take all of this incredibly seriously.”
They never comment about ongoing investigations, and would never comment within sixty days of an election. No, wait. Donald Trump has captured the FBI and there was their Friday night dump of what they found on the laptop belonging to the estranged husband of one of her staffers, and that included this:
Hillary Clinton sent her daughter Chelsea an email message that contains information the State Department now deems classified, a new batch of messages released by State Friday shows.
The email originated with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Michael Froman and was forwarded to the former secretary of state by her policy aide Jake Sullivan. Hillary Clinton sent it along to her daughter’s email account with the notation: “See below.”
The subject matter of the message is unclear, but it appears likely to relate to global climate change negotiations.
But that was retroactively classified:
Froman sent the first message in the chain on December 19, 2009, the day after Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama took part in whirlwind talks in Denmark over a possible international agreement to combat global warming. Among those sent the earliest message was White House environmental adviser Carol Browner.
The original pair of messages from Froman was given the lowest classification stamp, “Confidential,” about a year ago when they were released. Notations indicate the information was classified because it came from a foreign government or pertained to diplomatic exchanges.
That wasn’t classified at the time. Should Clinton should have known it would be suddenly marked classified years later? Perhaps she should have known, and if so, that’s a bombshell, and it involves a time machine – and she should go to jail. But these things get tricky:
Donald Trump cited an erroneous Fox News report on the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email on Friday as he pressed his case that his Democratic rival is a criminal who belongs in prison.
At a country club rally on a crisp autumn day in southern New Hampshire, Trump pronounced Clinton guilty of perjury, saying she lied to Congress about her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
“The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment,” Trump told about 1,000 supporters, alluding to a Fox News report that the network retracted Friday morning.
It was unclear whether Trump was aware that Fox News anchor Bret Baier had just acknowledged that there were no facts to back up his statement Thursday that the federal probe would result in an indictment.
“No one knows if there would or would not be an indictment,” Baier told Fox News viewers in a rare on-air apology.
“It was a mistake, and for that I’m sorry,” Baier said.
These are strange days. Fox News apologizes for making up shit, unusual in and of itself, but Trump runs with it anyway. Who ya gonna believe? Do conservatives turn off Fox News? Do they shake their heads sadly because their guy got way ahead of himself again? Do they care?
They may not care. Some bombshells don’t explode, but they should, and someday will. But if they don’t explode, the election will be over anyway, so it won’t matter. It’s the thought that counts.
But things can go the other way:
Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago provided to The Associated Press.
The details of Mrs. Trump’s early paid modeling work in the U.S. emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them…
Mrs. Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.
Oops. This is a bombshell, but nothing will come of it:
It is highly unlikely that the discovery will affect the citizenship status of Mrs. Trump. The government can seek to revoke the U.S. citizenship of immigrants after the fact in cases when it determines a person willfully misrepresented or concealed facts relevant to his naturalization. But the government effectively does this in only the most egregious cases, such as instances involving terrorism or war crimes.
Trump voters will shrug at this too. It’s a special case. In those seven weeks that woman looked damned good naked in high heels. Millions saw the pictures – and Donald Trump got to bang her. He’s THE MAN! And who the hell wants to see Hillary Clinton naked? That seemed to be the thinking:
Speaking at Donald Trump’s rally on Friday, former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu joked that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s husband does not want to have sex with her.
“Do you think that Bill was referring to Hillary when he said: ‘I did not have sex with that woman?'” Sununu said, referring to former president Bill Clinton.
A small crowd gathered at a country club laughed at the joke. One man shouted: “You mean Bill the rapist?”
Melania Trump will be just fine. She was an undocumented alien working in the United States, but she was a babe. All will be forgiven.
Besides, there was the other big scandal that Philip Bump explains here:
Marina Abramovic is a contemporary artist, which many people will read as a pejorative. Contemporary artists are often weird – it’s part of the gig and Abramovic lives up to the billing. Her most famous bit of performance art is a series called “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sits across from various people and they look at each other for an extended period of time. I’m confident that there’s some emotional power to this and I imagine that many of those who participate feel as though there was a transformative quality to it. Sure. But it’s weird.
Anyway, it turns out that Abramovic is actually a witch and she cast a spell on Hillary Clinton or something.
That’s the scandal:
At the other end of the scale of weirdness and extremism from Abramovic is Alex Jones, a performance artist in his own right. Jones’s canvas is the American political system and his paint and brushes are the wildest conspiracy theories he can muster. There’s an active debate over whether he’s sincere in his wild and varying accusations of cults and brainwashing but, as with Abramovic, the effect on the viewers is not insignificant.
On Friday, Jones’s website InfoWars seized on one of the emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and released by WikiLeaks. In it, Abramovic extends an invitation to Podesta’s brother Tony, a well-known art collector, to come to “the Spirit Cooking dinner at my place.” Tony forwards this to John, asking if he can attend. No response is recorded.
InfoWars’ analysis? After calling Abramovic a “top occultist,” the site helpfully explains that “spirit cooking” is “an occult performance during which menstrual blood, breast milk, urine and sperm are used to create a ‘painting.’ ” The site goes on to speculate further, suggesting that there are probably encoded messages in the types of food discussed in Podesta’s email that link back to an international kidnapping conspiracy.
It’s all completely unhinged, to the point that one hesitates to mention it. But then it ends up on the front page of the widely read Drudge Report.
It was also picked up by Sean Hannity and it was soon the outrage of the day, but Philip Bump is not impressed:
In the 1990s, Abramovic had a piece called “Spirit Cooking,” which is not a literal cookbook but rather a sort of poetic exploration. (It’s impossible not to sound pretentious talking about this stuff.) One entry reads “one grain of cooked rice, one grain of fresh pollen, one spoonful of tears, grind to a paste, with the paste fill the space under the nail of the small finger of your right hand…”
This is no more than pretentious bad poetry, not that it mattered:
The default assumption should probably not be that Tony and John Podesta were being invited to Abramovic’s house to enjoy a cocktail of “sperm milk” on an “earthquake night.” It seems far more likely that a contemporary artist – whose fame spiked in New York City a few years ago thanks to the sit-and-stare performance – was inviting influential people over for a dinner party with an artsy flair…
But now, see, we’ve fallen into InfoWars’ trap. There is no evidence that John Podesta even went to this dinner, much less that the dinner was some exotic pagan ritual. My colleague Abby Ohlheiser confirmed with the artist that John Podesta didn’t attend – and that the dinner itself was thoroughly innocuous…
Ohlheiser also notes that another email in the WikiLeaks cache makes clear that John didn’t show. Yet fervent opponents of Clinton decided instead to loop her and Podesta and Haiti (don’t ask) and all sort of other things into a truly baseless and truly ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Never – never! – ask how bizarre this presidential election can get. We’ve still got about 100 hours to go.
That’s good advice, but the day’s real bombshells were on the other side:
In a surprise ruling, a US district judge in Ohio issued a restraining order against Donald Trump’s campaign to prevent anyone working on the campaign from harassing and intimidating voters at the polls on Tuesday.
The order came after a two-hour hearing in which the judge pressed Trump’s lawyer to justify the candidate’s inflammatory rhetoric about voter fraud. It also applies to close Trump adviser Roger Stone, who has organized poll-watching activities, and the “officers, agents, servants, and employees” of Trump and Stone.
The restraining order was a surprise:
Voter fraud has been a popular theme among Republicans this year, from Trump to state Republican leaders who cite fraud as a reason to make it more difficult to vote. But as Friday’s ruling shows, it’s a lot easier to warn about fraud on the campaign trail than in front of a judge.
The restraining order is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party against Trump, Stone, and the Ohio Republican Party. The suit asked the court to declare it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls. Similar suits have been filed in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan. The Ohio complaint laid out a long history of remarks by Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, encouraging supporters to watch the polls. (For example, Trump told a crowd in Akron, Ohio, “And when I say ‘watch,’ you know what I’m talking about right? You know what I’m talking about.”) The order also covers Stone, after the complaint detailed efforts by his group, Stop the Steal, to recruit poll watchers and conduct exit polls on Election Day, among other activities.
The complaint cited provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 that prohibit voter intimidation.
They got nailed, and civil rights lawyer Subodh Chandra was in the courtroom tweeting away:
Judge Gwin to Trump lawyer: what’s the purpose of Trump’s statements if not to stir up voters to intimidate voters? Trump lawyer babbles.
Trump lawyer claim Trump’s voter-fraud message happens all the time. Judge Gwin demands example. Trump lawyer walks back the claim.
Oops, but late Friday afternoon, the Trump campaign appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It seems that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 did prohibit voter intimidation. Perhaps the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule that act unconstitutional, on free speech grounds – but probably not.
It was a bad day for the Trump campaign:
A federal judge has ordered officials in three North Carolina counties to restore several thousand voters dropped from the rolls in the past three months after mailings to their home addresses were returned as undeliverable.
About 4,000 voters in those counties had their registrations canceled recently after private individuals and groups challenged the registrations under a process allowed by state law.
U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs said the use of that process to remove large numbers of voters amounted to the kind of “systematic” purging of voter rolls that federal law prohibits within 90 days of an election.
At a hearing Wednesday in Winston-Salem, Biggs called the challenge process “insane,” according to local news reports.
“Based on the evidence discussed above, the Court concludes that the County Boards’ reliance on a single mailing that was returned undeliverable as the basis for sustaining a challenge, resulting in the County Boards systematically purging between 3,500 and 4,000 voters from registration rolls within 90 days of the General Election, was a likely violation of” federal law,” Biggs wrote in an opinion issued late Friday afternoon.
Trump might lose North Carolina because of this, and Mark Joseph Stern has more:
The United States Department of Justice escalated its efforts to protect voting rights in North Carolina on Wednesday, informing four North Carolina counties – including Cumberland County – that it will send election monitors to observe the polls on Election Day.
The Cumberland County director of elections told the Fayetteville Observer she didn’t know why the federal observers were coming.
She should have known:
Cumberland is at the epicenter of a voting rights crisis that has resulted in the purge of nearly 6,700 voters from the roll, most of them minorities. In Cumberland alone, about 5,600 people had their voting rights nullified over the past two years. The problem is a state law that allows any person to revoke any other person’s right to vote by gathering mail that was returned as undeliverable, then challenging the voter registration of residents at those addresses. If those voters do not appear at a county board of elections or return a notarized form, they are removed from the voter rolls, often without their knowledge.
There will be no more of that, unless there is more of that:
In July, a federal appeals court held that the Legislature had targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision” by passing an omnibus bill that made it more difficult to vote throughout the state. The court blocked the law from taking effect – but Republican-controlled county election boards have continued to implement its most stringent measures. Reuters reported on Thursday that Republican election board chairmen colluded extensively to slash early voting, angrily ostracizing one chairman who agreed to open a Sunday voting site where black voters could cast ballots after church. The election boards encouraged each other to follow the “party line” and curtail early voting as extensively as possible.
The Justice Department, it seems, has concluded that state officials can no longer be trusted to protect North Carolinians’ voting rights.
Actually, no one can be trusted:
Since the Supreme Court struck down a key pillar of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed a wave of laws that restrict when, where, and how people can cast a ballot.
They have also, a new report reveals, shut down hundreds of polling places.
A study of nearly 400 counties in Alabama, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi found that those counties collectively reduced the number of polling locations available to voters by at least 16 percent - eliminating more than 860 places. In Arizona, almost every single county shut down voting locations, and more than half of the counties in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama that provided data to the researchers did so as well.
That was the workaround:
Researchers with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found that found that the vast majority of the closures happened in areas with a documented history of racial discrimination that used to hold elections under Justice Department supervision. Before the Supreme Court neutered the Voting Rights Act, these states and counties had to clear any voting changes with the federal government— even something as small as closing a single polling place – and prove the change wouldn’t harm voters of color.
Without this federal oversight, counties had a green light to shut down polls as they pleased, and did so on a mass scale. Thanks to the Shelby County v. Holder ruling, voters who used to be able to block such changes before they took effect now have to wait until after an election to sue. By then, the damage has already been done, and the election results cannot be reversed.
Is that a scandal? Is that report a bombshell? No, not this late in the game – there’s no sex and no perverse occult rituals, and nothing about Hillary emailing an item that was classified, years later, to her daughter. There’s nothing but Republicans rigging the election, with a bit of voter intimidation thrown in, and with a bit of help from the FBI of course. Bombshells need to be surprising and rather meaningless. That isn’t.