Homeland Security whistle-blower says he was pressured to alter intelligence on Russia and white supremacists to match Trump preferences


Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testifies during a hearing before Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AP) — An official at the Department of Homeland Security said in a whistle-blower complaint released Wednesday that he was pressured by agency leaders to suppress details in his intelligence reports that President Donald Trump might find objectionable, including intelligence on Russian interference in the election and the threat posed by white supremacists.

Brian Murphy says in a whistle-blower complaint filed with the agency’s inspector general that he was demoted for refusing to alter his intelligence reports in an “illegal and improper” manner.

The former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran had served as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

In August, he was demoted to assistant to the deputy under secretary for DHS Management.

“Mr. Murphy is, put simply, a dedicated public servant who has had a laudable career prior to the recent events that have led to the submission of this package to the OIG,” his complaint states. “Prior to his current circumstances, he had never had so much as a negative fitness report in his professional career with the U.S. Government.”

In his complaint, he alleges that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, current acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, repeatedly pressed him to change intelligence assessments in ways that would support administration policies or avoid offending the president.

In one example, he said Nielsen and her deputies pressed him to exaggerate the number of migrants with links to terrorism who have been detained at the Southwest border. Murphy said she falsely used a higher figure in testimony to Congress.

The complaint says Wolf, who has been nominated to be secretary by Trump, directed Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference to the U.S. because it “made the President look bad.” Murphy said he declined because it would be a violation of his duties not to do it.

He said Cuccinelli directed him to modify a section of a report on white supremacy to make the threat appear less severe, and to include information on left-wing groups to echo administration talking points around civil unrest following the protests over the killing of George Floyd.

A copy of the complaint was released Wednesday by Rep. Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff says he has asked Murphy to testify to Congress.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.



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Biden talks up his plans to boost U.S. manufacturing as he visits Michigan


Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden arrives at Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport on Wednesday.


AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden on Wednesday gave a speech in Michigan about what his campaign described as “his plan to ensure the future is Made in America by all of America’s workers,” as the Democratic presidential nominee continued an effort to counter President Donald Trump’s “America First” stance.

Biden talked up his “Made in America” tax policy that his campaign had rolled out earlier in the day, noting features such as a new offshoring tax penalty and a 10% tax credit for companies making investments to create jobs for American workers.

The Democratic challenger also promised executive actions in his first week as president that ensure the federal government isn’t shirking on pledges to “Buy American.”

“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” he said. Biden also said the Republican incumbent “hasn’t stopped companies from closing plants and sending jobs overseas,” but instead has “rewarded companies that have cut jobs and failed to invest here at home with billions in tax breaks.”

Opinion: The pandemic revealed the cracks in U.S. manufacturing — here’s how to fix them

Biden has addressed boosting domestic manufacturing before, such as by making a July proposal for a $700 billion “Buy American” campaign.

As he spoke in Warren, Biden also blasted Trump in the wake of well-known journalist Bob Woodward’s new book saying that the president knew the coronavirus was “deadly stuff” but wanted to “play it down.” The Democratic challenger said that was “a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

The Trump campaign attacked Biden’s latest moves before the Democratic challenger’s speech.

“It’s fascinating to me that Joe Biden is suddenly trying to masquerade as an economic nationalist,” Steve Cortes, a senior adviser for Trump’s re-election campaign, told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “Welcome to the party, but unfortunately you have no credibility, because you’ve been acting in exactly the other direction for nearly a half century.”

The Trump team often has criticized Biden for his 1994 vote as a U.S. senator for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, which now has been replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Trump is due to make his own visit on Thursday to Michigan, a key swing state, with a trip to Freeland.

Meanwhile, a United Auto Workers branch in Flint, Mich., representing General Motors
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employees praised Biden ahead of his visit to their state, saying in a video that he “had their backs” amid the 2008 auto bailout. Unions for steelworkers and machinists also issued statements expressing support for Biden or criticizing Trump’s record on aiding U.S. manufacturing.

In a RealClearPolitics moving average of polls focused on top swing states that are likely to decide the election, Biden on Wednesday had an edge of 3.7 percentage points over Trump. Betting markets were giving the former vice president a 53.2% chance of winning vs. Trump’s 45.8%.

The S&P 500 index
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and the Dow Jones Industrial Average
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were recently trading higher on Wednesday, rebounding after a three-day selloff led by the tech sector.



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Trump is following the playbook of other antidemocratic strongmen— here’s how to stop him


BERLIN (Project Syndicate)—With November approaching, I am becoming ever more nervous about the U.S. presidential election. While my American friends focus on Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump in opinion polls, believing deeply in U.S. democracy’s capacity for self-renewal, my own perspective as a British citizen and think-tank director has me worried.

As a Briton, I can remember watching a 20-point polling lead for “Remain” become a victory for “Leave” in the Brexit referendum four years ago. And as a think-tank director, I work closely with scholars who study how authoritarian leaders manipulate democratic systems to stay in power, as has happened in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, and Poland.


Like other authoritarian leaders, Trump is deploying a new antidemocratic politics that has yet to be fully comprehended.

In fact, it often seems as though Trump has studied the tactics pioneered by other aspiring strongmen more closely than anyone. Based on recent conversations with experts on each of these countries, I have compiled the following catalogue of dirty tricks that Trump seems to borrowing.

Weaponization of history

The first is the weaponization of history. Populist leaders promote their political platforms through polarization and social division. They do not mind alienating and insulting some voters if doing so will energize their own base. By posturing as the champions of national greatness, they want to determine who counts as authentic citizens and who does not. This practice inevitably brings history to the fore.

Whether it is Russian President Vladimir Putin invoking the Soviet victory in World War II, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harking back to the Ottoman Empire, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán fixating on the Treaty of Trianon, or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking back to Pax Britannica, each leader has advanced a highly partisan historical narrative.

Post-truth politics

Another, related approach is what might be called post-truth politics. These leaders prefer direct communication with voters through professional propaganda videos and social media, because this allows them to dismiss inconvenient facts offered by experts.

In this media ecosystem, fact-checking has little purchase, because the people who need to hear it are not listening, or refuse to believe anything the “liberal” media says. In many democracies, fake news is now most common at the local level, where political operatives have filled the vacuum left by the decline of traditional city and regional outlets.

Run against the Deep State

A third tactic is to run against one’s own government. The term “deep state” is said to have originated in Turkey in the 1990s, but now features prominently in the lexicon for Trump, Orbán, Erdoğan, Johnson, and Poland’s de facto ruler, Jarosław Kaczyński. By blaming nameless shadowy, faceless characters behind the curtain and shadowy cabals, all these leaders have a ready excuse for all of their own failures.


It often seems as though Trump has studied the tactics pioneered by other aspiring strongmen more closely than anyone.

A fourth element in the playbook is voter suppression. Like Erdoğan’s constant attempts to disempower Kurdish voters, Trump and the Republican Party are desperate to disenfranchise African-Americans. For an incumbent would-be strongman, the need to tip the electoral scales opens the door to all kinds of attacks on democratic processes.

Hence, before Poland’s general election in May, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party tried to limit all voting to mail-in ballots, effectively transferring control of the election from the independent National Electoral Commission to the PiS-controlled postal service. Though this plan ultimately ran into resistance, it showed that there are countless ways for authoritarians to meddle in or subvert the process.

Not surprisingly, mail-in voting and the politicization of the U.S. Postal Service have become major issues in the election, too.

Dirty tricks

Another related device is “political technology,” a term for the dirty tricks commonly associated with post-Soviet politics. Such methods include Russia’s covert backing of third-party candidates like Jill Stein in the 2016 U.S. presidential election; Kompromat, or compromising material (epitomized by the search for dirt on Biden in Ukraine); and simply declaring victory before the votes are counted.

In the case of the United States, if Trump declares victory before all postal mail-in ballots have arrived, Republican-controlled legislatures in key states could end the counting early to lock in that outcome.

An incumbent authoritarian can also engage in various forms of “lawfare,” using law enforcement or compliant courts to facilitate gerrymandering, voter suppression, coverups, and other violations of the democratic process.

Here, one of the biggest advantages is the ability to control the timing of events or the release of politically damaging information.

Many people still believe that then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of a new probe into Hillary Clinton just days before the 2016 election tipped the outcome in Trump’s favor. Now, the Department of Justice is run by Attorney General William Barr, a man who has shown no compunction about politicizing independent law-enforcement agencies on Trump’s behalf.

Law and order

Another common authoritarian tactic is to play the “law-and-order” card. By tarring the Black Lives Matter protests as an outpouring of violent “urban” hooliganism, Trump is reprising the racial politics used by former Republican presidents since Richard Nixon, but by Erdoğan more recently, during the Gezi Park protests in 2013.

The problem for the Democrats in the U.S., and democrats everywhere, is that all these techniques tend to become more effective the more they are called out.

Fact-checking fake news can inadvertently spread misinformation more widely. Warnings about voter suppression can become self-fulfilling prophecies if enough people conclude that the process is rigged and not worth participating in. Challenging violations through the courts creates the impression of an end run around democracy.

To avoid these effects, the project of corrupting democracy needs to be clearly identified, named, and analyzed through a new lens.

There is a world of difference between the political subterfuge outlined above and the outright falsification of election results, as happened last month in in Belarus. Nicu Popescu, a former Moldovan foreign minister who is now at the European Council on Foreign Relations, contends that autocracy is not the right term to describe the phenomenon. Rather, “it is the “degradation, corrosion, and deconsolidation of democracy.”

In any case, if Trump were Moldova’s president, one assumes that the European Union would be calling him out for his dirty tricks. Any such criticism from abroad would almost certainly be counterproductive. But it may help to put the current American experience in a wider context, so that democratic forces can see Trump more clearly.

Ultimately, the only way to defeat Trump is through politics. The task for the Democrats is to remind Americans what democracy is for—and, one hopes, to counter Trump’s tactics effectively.

Mark Leonard is director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

This article was published with permission of Project SyndicateTrump’s Dirty Tricks.



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Jim Gaffigan says his anti-Trump rant was ‘liberating’ — but it made him a target


Jim Gaffigan’s viral Twitter thread about President Trump last week was an eye-opener for him, too.

The family-friendly comedian, generally perceived as apolitical, shocked many fans when he went on a tear against Trump during the incumbent president’s acceptance speech on the final night of the Republican National Convention.

The responses ranged from those cheering on the clean-cut comedian, a practicing Catholic and famously a family man, for standing up for his political beliefs to Trump supporters swearing off of the standup comic’s act forever.

Read more:Jim Gaffigan blasts Trump in viral Twitter rant: ‘He’s a traitor and a con man’

Gaffigan responded in a lengthy Facebook
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post Sunday night entitled “What I’ve Learned Since I Lost My Mind,” which he also shared on his official Twitter
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and Instagram accounts. And he explained what set him off, as well as what the responses taught him about the state of American politics today.

First things first: He says he was not drunk, and that he didn’t really think most people would let an actor/comedian sway their vote, “despite the fact that the current President is essentially both an actor and a comedian.” But he was hoping to “change some minds,” he admitted — particularly the minds of the people he believes are “frightened enough by Trump and the GOP lies, they would pinch their nose and vote for Trump” despite not really believing in him.


‘Why speak out like I did? Honestly, I feel I had no choice at this point. I think Trump is ruining and possibly has already ruined my country.’


— Jim Gaffigan

And the responses proved to him that “Republican talking points work,” and that Trump is “possibly the best salesman I’ve seen in my lifetime.” Many of the comments he received underlined just how devoted Trump’s supporters are to their president. “It doesn’t matter that Trump and his folks are breaking laws, trying to kill Obamacare, [a prohibition on excluding insurance coverage of] pre-existing conditions or that his handling of the pandemic was disastrous,” Gaffigan continued, “to Trump voters he is THEIR guy. More importantly he’s ‘THEIR president’ and disagreeing with them is a personal insult.”

And so, some of the fallout has been furious. Gaffigan shared a screenshot from one reader responding to the comic’s anti-Trump Twitter thread with a not-so-veiled threat: “You’ll be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life,” the comment read. “Enjoy.”

Gaffigan revealed this is just “one of the many messages I received that are quasi-threatening or flat-out threatening.” And he used it to argue that the president “is not a unifier,” but that he and his followers instead “stoke hatred and violence.”

“I’m not saying that both Kenosha shootings wouldn’t have happened with a different President,” Gaffigan wrote. “I’m just saying there would have been leadership to solve the issue rather than capitalize on it.”

Related:Trump defends his trip to Kenosha, declines to criticize shooting suspect

Plus:Biden says Trump continues to ‘give succor to the white supremacists’ as he visits Kenosha

But threats and responses from “tons” of bots aside, Gaffigan said the experience was a “liberating” one. “It was refreshing to let four years of frustration boil over and offer some straight talk on what Trump has done to our country or our democracy,” he wrote.

Gaffigan’s post drew more than 26,000 comments in less than a week, and had been shared more than 23,000 times, while 115,000 Facebook users had “liked” the comic’s explanation of his words and their motivations, even as a Wall Street Journal op-ed six days later was excoriating him as having courted the death of laughter, instructing Gaffigan that, while “[t]here’s a time and place for [political comedy],” now and here, for reasons not fully explained, do not meet the op-ed author’s criteria.

Check out Gaffigan’s remarks here:

Keep up with MarketWatch’s 2020 election coverage here.



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U.S. Defense Department reaffirms $10 billion cloud deal to Microsoft


The Force appears to be finally with Microsoft Corp. in its epic duel with Amazon.com Inc. for JEDI.

The Department of Defense on Friday said it has completed its re-evaluation of the hotly-contested $10 billion cloud-computing deal and reaffirmed its award to Microsoft. “Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the government,” the DoD said in a statement.

“The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD,” the statement continued. “While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.”

The announcement came shortly before the markets closed. In another brutal day for tech stocks Friday, shares of Microsoft
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dropped 1.4% in trading; Amazon
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shares declined 2.2%.

“We appreciate that after careful review, the DoD confirmed that we offered the right technology and the best value. We’re ready to get to work and make sure that those who serve our country have access to this much needed technology,” a Microsoft spokesperson told MarketWatch.

Amazon vowed to “protest this politically corrupted contract award” in a strongly worded blog post.

“[Amazon Web Services] remains deeply concerned that the JEDI contract award creates a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of the federal procurement system and the ability of our nation’s warfighters and civil servants to access the best possible technologies,” Amazon said. “Others have raised similar concerns around a growing trend where defense officials act based on a desire to please the President, rather than do what’s right.”

“This was illustrated by the refusal to cooperate with the DoD Inspector General, which sought to investigate allegations that the President interfered in the JEDI procurement in order to steer the award away from AWS,” Amazon continued. “Instead of cooperating, the White House exerted a ‘presidential communications privilege’ that resulted in senior DoD officials not answering questions about JEDI communications between the White House and DoD. This begs the question, what do they have to hide?”

The Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud-computing deal over 10 years is considered a plum government contract. The Pentagon initially awarded JEDI to Microsoft in October over the objections of co-finalist Amazon, which filed suit in protest in November. In April, a federal judge gave the Pentagon permission to reevaluate bids from Microsoft and Amazon.

Read more: Amazon files suit, challenging Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud contract to Microsoft

Anticipating a win, Microsoft has been signing similar deals with foreign governments for cloud-infrastructure services, according to a report by CNBC last month.

For years, Microsoft and co-finalist Amazon have engaged in behind-the-scenes lobbying and subterfuge over the deal as they battle for supremacy in the cloud market. And at times, the competition has taken on almost a cartoonish quality, evoking Mad magazine’s Spy vs. Spy comic strip.

Adding to the political intrigue is the future of TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based Internet company. Microsoft is the leading candidate to acquire TikTok, though Oracle Corp.
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and Twitter Inc.
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have also been mentioned as suitors. Alphabet Inc.’s
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Google was part of a group that explored a bid before dropping the idea, according to a Bloomberg report.

Microsoft is believed to be the favorite to acquire TikTok, published reports suggest, because it has been in close contact with the Trump administration. The software giant was initially awarded JEDI in October because of the president’s disdain for Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Trump-baiting Washington Post, say two people closely aligned to Amazon who are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Amazon Web Services commanded 47% of the cloud infrastructure market in 2019, while Microsoft had 13%, according to estimates from market researcher IDC.

“This is a game changer for Microsoft as JEDI will have a ripple effect for the company’s cloud business for years to come, and speaks to a new chapter of Redmond winning in the cloud vs. Amazon in our opinion on the next $1 trillion of cloud spending expected to happen over the next decade,” Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said in a note late Friday.



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