What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Are Russian “Active Measures” Undermining US Military?; McCain’s Global Apology Tour

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: Russian "Active Measures" Undermining Military?

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during his meeting with children at the Kremlin on June 12, 2017 in Moscow. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

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Turning American servicemembers into a “fifth column” –>  Happy Monday! Let’s start the week with a deeply disturbing story from Politico. Ben Schreckinger reports that while Russia’s “active measures” campaign to disrupt and influence American politics have gotten a lot of attention, “the Russian government is using the same playbook against other pillars of American society, foremost among them the military. Experts warn that effort, which has received far less attention, has the potential to hobble the ability of the armed forces to clearly assess Putin’s intentions and effectively counter future Russian aggression.

Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and currently an associate dean at Yale Law School, picked up on something that was largely overlooked in former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress last week. “In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey,” she writes at The Washington Post, “it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, rather than the security of the country. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.” For Rangappa, it was “prima facie evidence that…Trump appears unwilling to uphold his oath ‘to preserve, protect, and defend’ the country.”

Mother Jones’ Rebecca Leber writes of the White House’s move to pull out of the Paris Accord: “Donald Trump just gave Putin a huge gift — and no one seems to have noticed.”

And while we’ve seen a pattern of Trump’s communications team saying one thing only to be contradicted by a tweet from the president himself, this weekend it was Trump’s own claim about a key meeting with Comey that was apparently contradicted by Donald Trump Jr. on national television. Judd Legum has that story at ThinkProgress.

The Establishment Strikes Back –> On Sunday, the first round of French parliamentary elections put Emmanuel Macron’s centrist, pro-Europe party, La République En Marche, on track for a landslide victory in the second round, but low turnout raised “fears that the president’s mandate could be weakened by a lack of participation,” according to The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis.

That pesky Emoluments Clause –> Today, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are filing a lawsuit charging that Trump’s business is violating the Constitution’s ban on taking compensation from foreign entities. Reuters’ Dan Levine reports that a similar lawsuit was filed against Trump in January, but “the case from two Democratic attorneys general could stand a better chance in court.”

Not so random after all –> About one year ago, two journalists working for NPR in southern Afghanistan were killed in what authorities said at the time was a random attack on their convoy. But the wounds the two men suffered didn’t appear to be consistent with the official account. After a year-long investigation, it turns out that they were indeed targeted, but the Taliban said that had they known they were journalists they would have granted the reporters safe passage. There’s a lot more to this tragic story at the link.

Nice gig if you can get it –> Doina Chiacu and Ginger Gibson report for Reuters that “the government of Qatar has hired John Ashcroft, the US attorney general during the Sept. 11 attacks, as it seeks to rebut accusations from US President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbors that it supports terrorism.” Ashcroft’s firm will receive $2.5 million for 90 days of work confirming Qatar’s “efforts to fight global terrorism and comply with financial regulations.”

Hero or traitor? –> Is Reality Winner, the young NSA contractor who allegedly leaked a classified document to The Intercept detailing how Russian military intelligence hacked into one or more voting systems, a brave whistleblower, or did she betray her country? At The Nation, Joshua Holland argues that the timeline is crucially important to this question: when Winner allegedly sent the document on the day James Comey was fired, it was reasonable for her to believe that those in the top levels of government had no interest in getting to the bottom of the story, but by the time the story was published, Robert Mueller, a guy with a reputation as a tough investigator, had been appointed special counsel.

Draining the swamp: legal edition –> Marc Kasowitz is a tough Wall Street attorney who works as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. Rebecca Ruiz and Sharon LaFraniere report for The New York Times that he’s planning to set up shop in the West Wing, but “his visits to the White House have raised questions about the blurry line between public and private interests for a president facing legal issues.” Kasowitz, according to Ruiz and LaFraniere, has been advising White House personnel, some of whose interests may conflict with those of his client.

And another legal eagle working for Trump, Jay Sekulow, went on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, where he refused to “rule out the possibility the president would fire [Robert Mueller,] the special counsel appointed to look into his campaign’s potential ties to Russia,” according to Victoria Guida at Politico.

Global apology tour –> Last week, we mentioned that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared disoriented during James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now Paul Kane reports for The Washington Post that McCain “has logged more than 75,000 miles to more than 15 nations across three continents” in an effort “to reassure allies that the US government remains in their corner.” Kane adds: “McCain is serving as a shadow secretary of state, trying to clean up or refute statements and positions that Trump has made.” The story may be self-serving — an excuse for the senator’s performance last week — but it’s still remarkable that he’s doing this kind of damage control less than five months into this presidency.

Is this a bad joke? –> On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “honored the relationship between the US and the Philippines, pointing to ‘shared democratic values’ between the two nations,” according to The Hill’s Rebecca Savransky, who notes that Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has “encouraged the extrajudicial killing of thousands of citizens accused of dealing or using drugs” and “compared his campaign to kill criminals to the Holocaust.”

Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that Duterte had “joked” that his troops could rape women with impunity. On Saturday, The Atlantic’s J. Weston Phippen reported that “US special forces have joined the Philippines military in a battle to push out Islamic terrorists who’ve seized a town in the south of the country.” Phippen notes that “it’s illegal in the Philippines for foreign militaries to aid in actual combat, and… military spokesman Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said US special forces were ‘just providing technical support.’”

Hate market slumps –> About 50 people protesting Islam in front of the Texas Statehouse were drowned out by about 300 counter-protesters, according to Guis Bova from the Texas Tribune. Bova reports that there were plenty of cops present, and the demonstration resulted in no injuries or arrests.

It was one of many similar protests across the country organized by a hate group called ACT for America. Nationwide, the protesters were “outnumbered almost 10 to 1 by counter-demonstrators who tried to drown out their voices with drums, bullhorns and cowbells,” according to The Washington Post. (NPR’s This American Life took a long look at ACT for America last October.)

In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself” –> Former supermodel Paulina Porizkova writes in The New York Times Sunday Review about how she learned of the very different expectations placed on women in different cultures as she moved from Czechoslovakia to Sweden to France and ultimately ended up in the United States. What she found here led her to conclude that she had “no choice but to pull the word ‘feminist’ out of the dusty drawer and polish it up.”

A New York City play” –> The nontroversy machine was cranked up to 11 over the weekend after Fox News ran a story headlined, “NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of Trump.” The play, by an obscure writer known as William Shakespeare, is called Julius Caesar — you may have heard of it. Under pressure, several sponsors dropped their support for the production of Shakespeare in the Park. Relatedly, here are some reviews of the same play performed with an Obama-like figure as Caesar in 2012 and 2013, which for some reason did not draw the ire of Fox News.

Even if they wear nerdy glasses? –> Forbes’ Marshall Shepherd writes about a new study which found that “people generally perceived attractive and socially-engaging scientists to do poorer quality science.” The finding may result from the fact that “many buy into the stereotypes of scientists generally being disheveled, socially awkward, introverted ‘braniacs.'”

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.