The first of these is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) just sent a scalding letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe over the news that intel officials will no longer give verbal briefings to Congress about foreign interference in the election.
The second is that Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, went on an authoritarian nationalist’s widely watched propaganda show and flatly declared that the attorney general of the United States is investigating the leaders of Black Lives Matter and antifa, and that prosecutions might be forthcoming.
The letter from Pelosi and Schiff points out that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence itself has already warned that Russia is interfering in the election with a “range of measures,” with the goal of harming Joe Biden, i.e., helping Trump. And yet, the Democrats note, the ODNI made the “abrupt” decision to cancel further verbal briefings to Congress, instead promising only written ones.
As they point out, verbal briefings allow “the people’s elected representatives” to directly question intelligence officials about their conclusions on electoral interference, about what is being done about it and about whether their conclusions are being “influenced or skewed for political purposes.”
Given that Trump has openly invited more foreign interference and has raged when intel officials have tried to inform Congress about Russia’s intention to boost Trump, it seems reasonable to conclude that those are exactly the sort of questions Trump doesn’t want Congress asking.
Again, to reiterate, Trump’s own officials say Russia is currently interfering. And Attorney General William P. Barr will soon announce the results of a “review” of the origins of the Russia investigation that appear designed to discredit it — and discredit its findings about Russian interference in 2016, which of course could provide cover for more interference this time.
CARLSON: Why haven’t we seen the leaders of antifa and BLM arrested and charged with conspiracy under, say, RICO like the heads of Mafia families were?WOLF: Well, this is something that I’ve talked to the A.G. personally about. I know that they are working on it.
The Justice Department put out a statement on this that claimed: “We are investigating coordinated criminal activity, not First Amendment activity, and violence related to riots.”
That doesn’t say whether the leaders of BLM, as opposed to isolated violent actors, are being investigated.
Let’s note how insane it is that the homeland security secretary, who is supposed to be apolitical in his oversight of an agency that protects the homeland, is publicly announcing that the leaders of political groups are being investigated by the Justice Department and might be prosecuted.
Susan Hennessey, the executive editor of the Lawfare website, pointed out to me that Carlson essentially suggested to a senior official that the administration should be “using law enforcement to target groups that politically oppose the president,” as Hennessey put it.
“And the acting secretary of homeland security basically says, ‘We’re on it,’” Hennessey continued. “That’s a pretty disturbing exchange.”
It is plausible, of course, that Wolf might have just been placating Carlson and energizing his right-wing audience with bluster. But the possibility cannot be dismissed that Barr might announce investigations or even indictments along these lines to give Trump a propaganda victory in his reelection campaign.
It is also possible that Russian efforts to sabotage the election may prove ineffective. But what’s inescapable right now is that so much is happening on so many fronts that it would be foolish not to be prepared for the worst.
In addition to possible surprise announcements from Barr and a failure by intel officials to adequately communicate ongoing electoral sabotage to the public, Trump has openly telegraphed that he’s hoping to cast untold numbers of late-arriving mail ballots as illegitimate.
The crush of disinformation and agitprop could be overwhelming, and it’s unclear whether the media is prepared to inform the citizenry amid such a crisis:
All this means thinking now about how to communicate adequately with the public if the poop does hit the fan in one or more of these ways.
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who was involved in the spin wars over the disputed presidential vote in Florida in 2000, argues that Democrats should develop a bigger narrative right now about all the ways Trump is trying to corrupt the election, to make it intelligible to voters if specifics do unfold.
“Prep the public now,” Rosenberg told me, “so that if he tries to steal it a majority of the country will understand what is happening and reject it with prejudice.”
Get on this, Democrats.