Yesterday President Obama gave his Farewell Address … and his successor lashed out at the media again…. (More)

“Show up, dive in, stay at it”

Linda will highlight President Obama’s Farewell Address this afternoon in Midday Matinee, so I’ll just quote this passage:

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

And so we have to preserve this truth with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service. So course with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are seen, not just as misguided, but as malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others.

When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen.

Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.

If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.

It was a brilliant speech from beginning to end, and that passage was truly inspirational. It emphasizes themes we’ve discussed often here at BPI: that we dare not take democracy or good government for granted, that progressive politics cannot be a spectator sport – it isn’t for conservatives! – the importance of face-to-face conversations, the need for courage and persistence when we meet setbacks, and the fact that we have made and still can make progress, if sometimes only inch by grudging inch, toward “a more perfect Union.”

“FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

Contrast President Obama’s class with his successor’s crass outburst yesterday:

That came in response to BuzzFeed’s decision to publish a stunning series of British private intelligence reports alleging a long-term relationship between Vladimir Putin and the Lapdog-elect:

A dossier making explosive – but unverified – allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

I feel compelled to reemphasize that these allegations have not been verified. BuzzFeed and other news outlets have been investigating the claims for months, and they have found some definite errors. For example, the Barvikha settlement near Moscow is not “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates,” at least not formally. Anyone can theoretically buy property there … but only the wealthiest Russians can afford to. Similarly, the report repeatedly misspells the name of the Alfa Group, a Russian banking consortium. Finally, the report claims that the Lapdog-elect’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russian officials in Prague in August 2016. Cohen denied that yesterday and offered proof that he was in Los Angeles during the week in question, and in New York for the rest of the month.

“I would like to see a select committee”

Even so, the report was detailed enough – and its sources credible enough – that U.S. intelligence chiefs briefed both President Obama and his successor last week, and Sen. John McCain forwarded the documents to FBI Director James Comey last month. That Guardian article reports that the FBI are investigating the documents, although Comey refused to comment on that investigation in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which Sen. McCain chairs, has also begun an inquiry:

McCain was reluctant to get involved, according to a colleague, for fear the issue would be dismissed as a personal grudge against Trump. He pushed instead for the creation of a special Senate committee to look into connections between campaign staff and Moscow, but the proposal was blocked by the Republican leadership.

McCain told the NBC programme Meet the Press on Sunday: “I would like to see a select committee. Apparently that is not in agreement by our leadership. So we will move forward with the armed services committee and I’m sure foreign relations and intelligence committee will as well.”

But the senator added: “It is possible if enough information comes out, that that decision could be reversed. I still think it’s the best way to attack the issue.”

The documents include an allegation that Russian intelligence officials have kompromat – blackmail material – on the Lapdog-elect, including recordings of a bizarre and vindictive sexual ritual wherein the Lapdog-elect hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on the hotel bed that President and First Lady Obama had slept in during a state visit to Russia. That unverified allegation prompted some quasi-clever Twitter punsters to dub the Lapdog-elect “PEEOTUS” and say “Urine a lot of trouble.” You can find those and others by clicking on the date-time link of the embedded tweet above and reading the replies.

“A former British MI-6 intelligence agent”

Legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein – of All the President’s Men fame – discussed the report yesterday on CNN:

It came from a former British MI-6 intelligence agent who was hired by a political research – opposition research – firm in Washington who was doing work about Donald Trump for both Republican and Democratic candidates opposed to Trump. They were looking at Trump’s business ties. They saw some questionable things about Russians, about his businesses in Russia. They, in turn, hired this MI-6 former investigator. He then came up with additional information from his Russian sources. He was very concerned by the implications of it. He then took it to an FBI colleague that he had known in his undercover work for years. He took it to this FBI man in Rome who turned it over to the bureau in Washington in August. And then a former British ambassador to Russia, independently, was made aware of these findings and he took the information to John McCain, Senator John McCain of Arizona, in the period just after the election, and showed it to McCain – additional findings. McCain was sufficiently disturbed by what he read, to take it to FBI Director James Comey himself personally. They had a five-minute meeting. The two men, very little was said. McCain turned it over to him and is now awaiting what the FBI’s response is to that information.

In other words, this document was not cooked up by some Democratic staffers with an axe to grind. It was written by a former British intelligence agent, and cites sources he developed during his undercover work. That doesn’t make it true – his sources could be lying – but LawFare’s Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic say we shouldn’t dismiss it out-of-hand:

So while people are being delicate about discussing wholly unproven allegations, the document is at the front of everyone’s minds as they ponder the question: Why is Trump so insistent about vindicating Russia from the hacking charges that everyone else seems to accept?

Fourth, it is significant that the document contains highly specific allegations, many of which are the kind of facts it should be possible to prove or disprove. This is a document about meetings that either took place or did not take place, stays in hotels that either happened or didn’t, travel that either happened or did not happen. It should be possible to know whether at least some of these allegations are true or false.

Finally, fifth, it is important to emphasize that this is not a case of the intelligence community leaking sensitive information about an investigative subject out of revenge or any other improper motive. This type of information, referencing sensitive sources and methods and the identities of U.S. persons, is typically treated by the intelligence community with the utmost care. And this material, in fact, does not come from the intelligence community; it comes, rather, from private intelligence documents put together by a company. It is actually not even classified.

All of which is to say to everyone: slow down, and take a deep breath. We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a “fake news” episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts – a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit.

If only the media had shown as much restraint before reporting unproven accusations about the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s emails….

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Good day and good nuts