Update: A quick correction/clarification here. The hacked texts in questions were from Manafort’s daughter, rather than Manafort himself, but included texts between Manafort and his daughter, as well as other texts about Paul that his daughter sent or received. Wikileaks, for its part, says it didn’t publish the texts because they weren’t verified. Except that multiple people confirmed the legitimacy of those texts including Paul Manafort himself. The point of the article still stands.
We just wrote about why it would be a dangerous move for press freedom for the DOJ to prosecute Julian Assange for publishing leaked documents. In that post, we noted that even if you think Julian Assange is a horrible human being and proactively trying to undermine US electoral sovereignty, the mere act of publishing leaked documents should not be criminal. But, that doesn’t mean that Assange can’t be hypocritical and one-sided. Obviously, during the 2016 election, when Wikileaks helped spread both John Podesta’s emails and the DNC’s emails, some wondered if Assange would have published similar messages from the Trump campaign. While publicly Assange insisted he disliked both campaigns equally, other reports and leaked (of course) chat messages certainly suggested otherwise, as did at least some of his apparent attempts to ingratiate himself with Trump insiders, including asking Don Jr. to leak his father’s tax returns to Assange to “dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.”
Of course, when faced with an opportunity to post the equivalent of the Podesta emails on the Trump side, it appears that Assange decided not to do it. Public records-savant Emma Best recently chose to publish the entire collection of leaked Manafort family texts in a searchable database. These texts have long been out there and available if you knew where to look — and had received widespread reporting in early 2017. However, beyond the excerpts, they were not fully available in a way that was searchable for most users.
Best communicated with Wikileaks, who admitted that it had the entire collection as well, but chose not to publish it — which certainly can be read as hypocrisy on Assange’s part, considering the similarities with the Podesta emails. As Best notes in discussing the decision to publish these in a more accessible format:
The public haven?t had access to the messages, and the press (including high profile and high budget outlets) haven?t had access to an easily searchable version ? instead only to an unwieldy database.
This was nearly not the case, however ? WikiLeaks had a copy of the database, but ultimately didn?t publish it, despite its newsworthiness and their willingness to publish unredacted information on the Democrats. Their unexplained decision not to put the database into a searchable format and make it public struck me as questionable at the time, but in light of the disclosure of their preference for the GOP it has become not only questionable, but hypocritical. WikiLeaks? decision can no longer be trusted prima facie or viewed in terms of presumed good faith.
This noteworthy refusal, along with ongoing probes and charges filed against Manafort by the Special Counsel?s office, makes the text messages and their contents undoubtedly newsworthy. Their relevance to the general public may go beyond this, as the personal reality reflected in the messages presents the Manaforts as real people, rather than merely as abstract figures. This same reality is, of course, also relevant to news and current events, and to understanding the character and actions of those involved.
There may be reasons why Wikileaks chose not to publish these texts, but the fact that it eagerly published the Podesta emails, yet held back on publishing these texts should at least raise serious questions. Obviously, every publisher makes different decisions on what to publish and what not to publish. And there’s no rule saying that you absolutely must publish every “equivalent” set of data or stories. But given all of the background here, and the high profile nature of this, it is noteworthy to point out the different approaches Wikileaks chose to take with two similar sets of data on different sides of the 2016 election.
Back during the 2016 election, when Wikileaks published John Podesta’s leaked emails, Democrats freaked out and blamed Wikileaks, and even tried to lie about the validity of those emails. Many supporters of the Democratic party, to this day, believe that Wikileaks and/or Julian Assange should face legal consequences for publishing those hacked emails. Of course, Republicans cheered on that effort. Sean Hannity, who back in 2010 was screaming about how Assange was “waging his war against the U.S.” by publishing the leaked documents from Chelsea Manning and demanding that Obama “arrest” Assange, is now seen as one of Assange’s most vocal supporters even having him on his show.
No one is saying that it’s okay to hack into someone’e email. But in both cases we’re talking about those who are upset about an email leak going after the organization publishing the details of the leak and blaming the messenger. Just because documents are leaked or hacked or obtained through questionable means, it does not mean that news organizations can’t publish them. Nor does it mean that they have to hand over the details of their sources. But it is worth noting that I don’t see anyone who was screaming about Wikileaks now supporting Broidy’s demands to the AP. Nor do I see those who were defending Wikileaks now defending the Associated Press against Broidy.
It’s almost as if most of the people on either side of this political horse race are determining which news orgs to support based on whose side the revelations help. That’s… bad. We should support a free press and condemn attacks on news organizations when they’re revealing newsworthy leaked information, no matter whether the news helps or hurts “your” side. Treating politics as a “red team” v. “blue team” sport leads to bad outcomes for everyone’s rights.
Look, it’s getting ridiculous that Hillary Clinton defenders keep insisting that the John Podesta emails released by Wikileaks are full of fakes and doctored content. With most other leaks, including the one of Colin Powell’s emails, the victims (and, yes, they are victims) eventually admit that the leaked content is legit. Not so with the Podesta emails. But that’s dumb. As Robert Graham points out, it’s
totally possible to validate many of the emails. And they do validate.
Whether you like or dislike Wikileaks, whether you think Julian Assange is a wonderful or horrible person, whether you think Wikileaks is just a propaganda tool of Russia or a powerful force for transparency — one thing you cannot say is that the organization has been caught releasing fake or doctored information. It (and Assange) do have a history of overhyping releases, or misrepresenting their significance. And Assange does seem to be pretty quick to jump on conspiracy theories that don’t hold up under much basic scrutiny. But, to date, pretty much everything that Wikileaks has actually leaked has checked out as legit.
So it’s been a bit bizarre watching people try to insist that the troves of John Podesta emails that Wikileaks has been releasing are somehow fake, doctored or manipulated. We recently wrote about Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald going crazy insisting that he had proved that Wikileaks and the Russians teamed up to “manipulate” an email. Of course, the reality turned out to be that a young American part-time reporter for a Russian-owned news site, had simply misread a tweet and turned it into an article. No big conspiracy. No manipulation. And, certainly, none of that has anything to do with Wikileaks (amusingly, Eichenwald then deleted all his tweets claiming proof that Wikileaks was a part of this conspiracy, and apparently tried to silence the young reporter by telling him he’d try to get him a job elsewhere).
Perhaps even more ridiculous is DNC chair Donna Brazile trying to deny any information from any email released by Wikileaks, including one specific one that she sent, apparently revealing a CNN primary debate question to the Clinton campaign prior to the debate (Brazile worked as a commentator on CNN at the time). This video is absolutely cringeworthy, starting at about five and a half minutes into this video. Brazile tries to avoid answering the question about sending debate questions to the Clinton campaign, first barely feigning ignorance of the issue, and then insisting multiple times that the emails are fake/doctored/not verified, and insisting that she did not send the email in question.
Being interviewed by Megyn Kelly, here’s how Brazile tries to claim that the emails are not real, but basically comes out with a word salad of nothing, rather than simply admitting that the email is legit.
MEGYN KELLY: You’re accused of receiving a debate question whether a CNN town hall where they partnered with TV One that you had this question on March 12th, that verbatim, verbatim was provided by Roland Martin to CNN the next day. How did you get that question, Donna?
DONNA BRAZILE: Well, Kelly, as I play straight up and with you, I did not receive any questions from CNN.
KELLY: Where did you get it?
BRAZILE: First of all, what information are you providing to me that will allow me to see what you’re talking about? Everybody’s….
KELLY: You’ve got the Wikileaks showing you messaging the Clinton campaign with the exact wording of a question asked at the March 13th CNN TV One Townhall debate.
BRAZILE: Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. You know, as a Christian woman, I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted. Because your information is totally false.
KELLY: I’m getting it from Podesta’s email.
BRAZILE: What you’re — well, Podesta’s e-mails were stolen. You’re so interested and talking about stolen material, you’re like a thief that wants to bring into the night the things that you found that was in the gutter. I’m not…
KELLY: Donna. CNN’s Jake Tapper came out and said this was unethical. “Someone was unethically helping the Clinton campaign.” He said “I love Donna Brazile, but this is very, very upsetting. My understanding is that the email…”
BRAZILE: I love CNN
KELLY: This is Jake Tapper: ‘My understanding is that the e-mails came from Roland Martin or someone around Roland Martin.” He said “this is very upsetting and troubling.” That’s your own colleague at CNN. It’s not Megyn Kelly. Who gave you that question?
BRAZILE: Megyn, once again, I said it and I said it on the record and I’ll say it on the record and I’ll keep saying it on the record. I am not going to try to validate falsified information. I have my documents. I have my files. Thank God I have not had my personal e-mails ripped off from me and stolen and given to some criminals to come back altered. I have my records and files. And as i said repeatedly, CNN, in the 14 years I was associated with CNN, I’ve never received anything. If I had a blank piece of paper, that would basically be the end of this conversation. I never get documents from CNN. Period.
KELLY (eye roll): Your email to the Clinton campaign said ‘sometimes I get the questions in advance.’
BRAZILE: Uh, ma’am. Y’know. You know what…
KELLY: And CNN is saying Roland Martin gave them to you. Or someone at TV One. And they were provided to Hillary before that town hall.
BRAZILE: Well anybody who knows me… and… and… and there are a number of your colleagues as well. They know me very well. I know how I play it. I know what I do before every debate. I know what I do before every show — even this show. I do my homework. I communicate. I talk.
KELLY: I understand.
BRAZILE: But I just, once again, let you know that… as far as I know that… that… that CNN has never provided me with questions. Absolutely. Ever. Nada. Sorry.
KELLY: Well, when you said “from time to time I get the questions in advance,” what were you referring to? Because in that email you offered the exact question that one of the moderators, Roland Martin, then proposed the next day.
BRAZILE: So. So. My, my, my reference back to you, ma’am, with all respect — and I respect you greatly —
KELLY: And I respect you too.
BRAZILE: The… the… the validity of those emails — if I can only tell you one things, because you know, this whole episode is under criminal investigation — but I can just tell you one thing: a lot of those emails, I would not give them the time of the day. I’ve seen so many doctored emails. I’ve seen things that come from me at two in the morning, that I don’t even send. There are several email addresses that I once used, and I’m so sorry that we… these have not been verified. This is… nobody will. This is…
KELLY: I got it.
BRAZILE: This is under investigation. And let me just tell you something. If there’s anything that I have, I will share. I don’t have an agenda to smear anybody…
KELLY: Alright. I’ve got to run because we have another guest waiting…
Okay, so, here’s the problem. She did send the email. And it’s verified. Graham proves it in his post. The trick is DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) signatures. DKIM was a system set up a while back to try to fight spam by cryptographically proving that the account that says it sent the mail actually sent the email in question. Not all email systems use DKIM, but hillaryclinton.com does use it, which is great for transparency, but bad for Donna Brazile.
Graham looked up that email in particular and found that it validates, using a Thunderbird add-on to check these things:
Downloading the raw email from WikiLeaks and opening in Thunderbird, with the addon, I get the following verification that the email is valid. Specifically, it validates that the HillaryClinton.com sent precisely this content, with this subject, on that date.
Let’s see what happens when somebody tries to doctor the email. In the following, I added “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” to the top of the email.
As you can see, we’ve proven that DKIM will indeed detect if anybody has “doctored” or “falsified” this email.
Graham also offered one whole bitcoin to anyone who can forge an email that still validates correctly under this method to show his confidence that the emails are verified as actually sent as is, despite Brazile’s wacky performance.
Of course, the Clinton campaign keeps insisting that the emails are doctored, but fails to show any proof. Here’s the campaign’s Chief Strategist, Joel Benenson, saying many are not authentic:
BENENSON: Well, first of all, I’ll tell you something, I haven’t spent a lot of time reading through WikiLeaks e-mails.
But I will tell you this, what we know is that many are not authentic. We know that this is a hack, 17 of Russians — no, because these e-mails, we have no idea whether they are authentic or not or whether they’ve been tampered with once the Russians, which 17 American intelligence agencies say are responsible for these hackings, have been manipulated. I have seen things — I’m not going to go into details —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’re not suggesting that those are —
BENENSON: They may well be. I don’t know. I know I’ve seen things that aren’t authentic, that we know aren’t authentic. And it’s not surprising. What’s ridiculous about this whole conversation is that 17 intelligence agencies have said the Russians are responsible for this. Donald Trump refuses to accept it, refuses to condemn them.
Benenson is full of shit. Again, whether or not you like or dislike Wikileaks, or question Assange’s motives, there’s a simple fact here: the documents it’s released have not been shown to be false, faked, doctored or inauthentic at all. And it’s possible to verify many of them, and some have even written scripts to verify them in bulk.
The Clinton campaign, as it so often does, is making things worse for itself by being stupid. It’s trying to cover up legitimate information, and the coverup always comes across worse than the original actions. Just admit that these emails are legit and move on. Lying about it is not a good look, even if that’s just the way things go these days in politics.
Yeah, so I get that it’s political silly season, and people like to throw around all kinds of arguments of “bias” — especially towards the media. I’ve been on the receiving end of those accusations, but for the most part, I think claims of media bias are silly and over-hyped. What’s true, though, is that it’s all too easy to be sloppy in reporting and to try to hype up a nothing story into a something story. Here’s a story where no one comes out of it looking very good and the end result is a complete mess. It starts with Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald. Last night I saw a marginally interesting story by Eichenwald about how a Russian government connected news website, Sputnik, misread an email leaked via Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal to campaign chief John Podesta. The email contained a link and full text to a much earlier Eichnwald story about Benghazi and Clinton. The Sputnik story incorrectly stated that the text in the email was by Blumenthal, and not by Eichenwald. It took one sentence out of this longer article, and falsely claimed that Blumenthal was admitting that the mess in Benghazi was “preventable.” As Eichenwald notes, this is wrong:
Those words sounded really, really familiar. Really familiar. Like, so familiar they struck me as something I wrote. Because they were something I wrote.
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000-word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek?the magazine?s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article.
Okay. So that’s actually kind of interesting. This Russian source was so eager to get a story out of the leaked emails that it misrepresented them — either by accident or on purpose. That’s marginally interesting, and certainly a fun thing to report on. What happened next is where things really go off the rails. While Sputnik pulled down its story once Eichenwald pointed out the error, a few hours later, Donald Trump mentioned the story at a rally as if it were true:
At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called ?sleazy Sidney.?
?This just came out a little while ago,?? Trump said. ?I have to tell you this.? And then he read the words from my article.
?He?s now admitting they could have done something about Benghazi,?? Trump said, dropping the document to the floor. ?This just came out a little while ago.?
Okay. So we’ve still got a story here, and the story is this: holy shit, Donald Trump is willing to take very, very unreliable sources and broadcast them as fact. But that’s not the story that Eichenwald started pushing. He went on something of a Twitter rampage making a bunch of claims that were not supported at all by the story, claiming variably that (1) the leaked emails were doctored (2) that Wikileaks was responsible for this (3) that the Russians and Wikileaks are in cahoots and (4) that Trump and the Russians are in cahoots. Now, any of these might actually be true. But none of them are actually supported by any actual evidence. Eichenwald just makes the logical leaps from what’s written above, assuming that only the Russians could have given Trump that news — ignoring that the story on Sputnik was getting passed around on social media (again: real story: Trump relies on unreliable sources for news). Here are just a few of Eichenwald’s many, many tweets promoting his own article (and note how most have tons of retweets):
Note that he insists that the only way Trump could have gotten this is from the Russians. But that’s clearly not true. The Sputnik story was up and lots of people saw it, and it was discussed on Twitter and elsewhere. It makes perfect sense that someone who saw it either works for the Trump campaign or knew someone there and sent it over. Again: that’s the real story: Trump relies on sketchy sources found online.
This morning lots of people were pointing out the problems with Eichenwald’s exaggerations about his story, including the Washington Post, NY Magazine and Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept. Greenwald’s account highlights that many Hillary Clinton supporters keep saying that the Podesta leaks include faked emails, but no one has pointed out a single one.
Eichenwald, for his part, keeps insisting that the original Sputnik report involved a “manipulated” email, which implies that the email was faked or doctored. This is flat out wrong. The email was misrepresented. It’s entirely possible that it was misrepresented on purpose to make Clinton look bad. But misrepresented is different than doctored. Here, let me prove it to you: Eichenwald misrepresented who could have possibly seen the Sputnik piece. He did not doctor that information.
I don’t think — as some are claiming — that this is evidence of “media bias” on Eichenwald’s part. I honestly think that he’s guilty of the same thing that probably happened with Sputnik. He saw what seemed to be a really great story, and oversold it. Sputnik did the same. Both look bad.
And, honestly, almost everyone comes out of this looking bad. Eichenwald and Newsweek oversold a story. Various Clinton supporters look bad for buying the claims in the story without reading them or checking them carefully. Trump, of course, looks bad for relying on a Russian government site for unreliable news. And, basically, everyone looks at this story and sees from it what they want. Trump supporters can see more examples of media bias. Clinton supporters believe there’s more support for the idea that Russia is supporting Trump. Wikileaks haters get more ammo claiming that the site is working with the Russians and/or that it’s releasing fake emails (though it does not appear to be doing so). Again: many of these things may actually be true, but this story only supports the single claim of Trump relying on bad info.
But this is the state of things today. 2016 can’t end fast enough. Hopefully 2017 is better.
If you’ve followed the whole TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) thing at all, and/or the Presidential election this year, you probably already know that Hillary Clinton famously flip-flopped on TPP. She was for it, before she was against it (and tried to rewrite history to hide her support of it). Of course, basically everyone recognized that her newfound concerns about TPP were made up, as a response to (at the time) surging support for Bernie Sanders, who was vocally against the agreement. But, of course, as tons of people have been saying all along, everyone expects that after the election she’ll magically flip flop back to supporting TPP.
But, of course, because we’re doing this big elaborate stage play called an election, no one’s supposed to admit that’s what’s happening. Someone apparently forgot to tell that to Terry McAuliffe, current Virginia governor and long term best buddies with the Clintons. On Tuesday, he said what everyone already knows: Clinton will absolutely support the TPP after the election:
?I worry that if we don?t do TPP, at some point China?s going to break the rules — but Hillary understands this,? he said in an interview after his speech on the main stage at the Democratic National Convention. ?Once the election?s over, and we sit down on trade, people understand a couple things we want to fix on it but going forward we got to build a global economy.?
Pressed on whether Clinton would turn around and support the trade deal she opposed during the heat of the primary fight against Bernie Sanders, McAuliffe said: ?Yes. Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.?
And, of course, her Vice Presidential pick Tim Kaine did an even faster flip flop. Last Thursday, before he was announced as the running mate, he spoke out in support of TPP.
“I am having discussions with a lot of groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much in it to like,? Kaine said Thursday during a series of roundtable events in suburban northern Virginia. ?I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards, I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it’s an upgrade of intellectual property protections.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, has gone on record saying he cannot support the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its current form? a stance calculated to make him more appealing to supporters of Bernie Sanders who revile the deal.
Kaine spokeswoman Amy Dudley said Saturday that the Virginia Democrat shared his negative views on the trade deal with Clinton this week, confirming a report by The Washington Post. ?He agreed with her judgment that it fell short? when it came to protecting wages and national security, a Clinton aide reportedly told the newspaper.
Of course, now that McAuliffe blabbed the not-very-secret strategy of the Democratic Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates flat out lying… the Clinton campaign went into damage control mode and insisted “nuh-uh, she really is against TPP.” They trotted out an “adviser,” Gene Sperling to insist there’s no flip flop planned:
?What she has said is she is against it now, she is against in the lame duck and she?s against it afterwards, and I do believe that when she starts her administration, she is going to want to be focused on unifying Democrats,? he said.
Keep those links handy, folks, because after the election they may be useful. I’m posting that Podesta tweet as a screenshot, in case it magically disappears from Twitter…
Of course, the truly amazing thing here? For the longest time, it’s been the Republicans who were the driving force on agreements like the TPP, and there was only pressure on getting enough Democrats to support those agreements. Now we have a Republican Presidential candidate who seems to be vehemently against the TPP (though for thoroughly clueless reasons) and a Democratic Presidential candidate who is secretly supporting it. This election season is topsy turvy.