By Robert A. Vella
In today’s news, we’ll cover 3 Russians and 1 pro-Russian Ukrainian who have been either sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury or criminally charged by the Department of Justice for interfering in this year’s presidential election. The Ukrainian has met with Donald Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani who has been feeding Russian disinformation on Joe Biden to congressional Republicans such as Senator Ron Johnson and Representative Devin Nunes (see: Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Worked With an “Active Russian Agent” to Discredit Joe Biden). Also, Microsoft has reported that a Russian cyber-attack which targeted the Joe Biden campaign originated from the same operation that hacked Democratic Party emails in 2016.
A Trump administration official has been trying to muzzle Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) because he continues to cite science and won’t conform to Trump’s political efforts to downplay the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mounting evidence indicates that Democrats hold significant advantages over Republicans in early voting, among seniors, and among suburban voters.
2020 is on track to be the hottest year on record and also marks the hottest five-year span on record as climate change impacts escalate across the globe.
The fallout from the taped conversations between President Trump and journalist Bob Woodward in his new book “Rage,” in which Trump contradicted his public remarks by admitting the dangerous reality of COVID-19, has prompted additional questions about Trump’s attempts to explain his continual lying to the American people:
If Trump didn’t want to spread “panic” about the pandemic, then why is he now trying to spread fear among White Americans about Black people?
After Trump told Woodward that the U.S. has developed a new powerful nuclear weapon, which is an obvious violation of national security protocols, what did he tell Vladimir Putin about it?
Breaking news: Nora Dannehy, top aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia investigation, quietly resigns amid concerns about pressure from Attorney General William Barr [to discredit numerous investigative findings of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election]
Russian election meddling
The man the Treasury Department called “an active Russian agent for over a decade,” met with President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Andrii Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and three other Russian-linked individuals were designated, Thursday, by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, for attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process.
Last November, Derkach appeared with Giuliani as part of a One America News (OAN) “investigation” that aired in December, the same week the House of Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against the president.
The Justice Department, Thursday, also brought wire fraud and conspiracy charges against three Russian nationals allegedly involved in election interference operations connected to the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The IRA was previously charged in the Special Counsel investigation into Russian election interference led by Robert Mueller.
The charges announced Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, against Artem Mikhaylovich Lifshits, 27, of St. Petersburg, Russia, were part of the US government’s public response against Russians who the US says are involved in the Russian election interference operation.
The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Lifshits and two others allegedly part of what the US named Project Lakhta, the Russian-based effort to conduct political and electoral influence in the US ahead of the November elections.
The project concealed its work through groups such as the Internet Research Agency, whose members were charged with crimes by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lifshits allegedly worked as a manager for the Translator Department, which was responsible for much of the Russian project’s ongoing influence operations, according to Justice Department prosecutors.
The presidential campaigns are pushing into the final two months of the race — one that has national security officials as well as private companies on edge after Russia’s election manipulation efforts of 2016.
While hackers from all three countries have been spotted targeting people tied to Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s campaigns, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, remains the biggest threat, said John Hultquist, the director of intelligence analysis at Mandiant Solutions, a cybersecurity company.
“We remain most concerned by Russian military intelligence, who we believe poses the greatest threat to the democratic process,” Hultquist said in a text message.
“The GRU has carried out many of the most brash and aggressive cyberoperations to ever come to light,” Hultquist said, like the hack-and-leak operations of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign.
Jamal Brown, [Joe] Biden’s press secretary, noted in an email that Microsoft said the attempts were unsuccessful.
Trump muzzles Fauci
A Trump administration appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prevent Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, from speaking about the risks that coronavirus poses to children.
Emails obtained by POLITICO show Paul Alexander — a senior adviser to Michael Caputo, HHS’s assistant secretary for public affairs — instructing press officers and others at the National Institutes of Health about what Fauci should say during media interviews. The Trump adviser weighed in on Fauci’s planned responses to outlets including Bloomberg News, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and the science journal Cell.
The emails add to evidence that the White House, and Trump appointees within HHS, are pushing health agencies to promote a political message instead of a scientific one.
Dems’ voter advantage
The Democratic dominance spreads across an array of battleground states, according to absentee ballot request data compiled by state election authorities and analyzed by Democratic and Republican data experts. In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Democrats have a roughly three-to-one advantage over Republicans in absentee ballot requests. In Florida — a must-win for President Donald Trump — the Democratic lead stands at more than 700,000 ballot requests, while the party also leads in New Hampshire, Ohio and Iowa.
Even more concerning for Republicans, Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 are requesting 2020 ballots at higher rates than their GOP counterparts. The most striking example is Pennsylvania, where nearly 175,000 Democrats who sat out the last race have requested ballots, more than double the number of Republicans, according to an analysis of voter rolls by the Democratic firm TargetSmart.
Though the figures are preliminary, they provide a window into Democratic enthusiasm ahead of the election and offer a warning for Republicans. While Democrats stockpile votes and bring in new supporters, Trump’s campaign is relying on a smooth Election Day turnout operation at a time when it’s confronting an out-of-control pandemic and a mounting cash crunch.
2020 hottest year on record
2020 is on track to be a hell of a year for yet another reason: it will close out the hottest five-year period in recorded history, according to a new report. The average global temperature for that five-year period was 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Even a degree of change has dire consequences. World leaders that have signed onto the Paris climate agreement are working to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic damage. But they are nowhere near meeting that goal, the report reaffirms.
The new report released today by the World Meteorological Association and other United Nations agencies breaks down how climate change has steadily worsened despite COVID-19 disrupting business as usual this year. To make things worse, the pandemic has made it harder for scientists to document the ways our planet is transforming as a result of climate change.