2020

On To New Hampshire, Impeachment Ends, The App Fiasco

The race for the Democratic nomination enters an important new phase this week.  Impeachment ends today, and it means that the attention of many Democrats will turn to the Presidential race.  What they will find is a wide open race, with six candidates, including Mike Bloomberg, slugging it out over what is an incredibly intense five week stretch.  In part due to the election night app fiasco, Iowa didn’t do what it often does and winnow the field.  So we have an exciting few weeks ahead with a wide open race, and two candidates – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – still very much alive and in contention for the nomination.  The New Hampshire debate this Friday is really going to matter – do make sure you watch.

Like many, we are disappointed in the Senate GOP’s embrace of Trump’s ongoing cover up of his crimes, and worry about where this leaves our Republic.  In a recent piece we wrote how important it was for Democrats to embrace the success of their time in the White House as the foundational argument needed to defeat Trumpism and illiberalism in the coming days.

This morning Simon offered an extensive reflection on the app fiasco, and how all of us – not just the DNC and Iowa Party – have to learn from the mistakes made.  We are in the midst of a wrenching transition to a new era of politics marked by cyber intrusions and disinformation, an era we describe as operating by Moscow Rules, and the need for a fundamental re-invention of our parties and other democratic institutions to prosper in this new era is now more urgent than ever. 

Where Bolton Is Headed - Putin

"Where Bolton Is Headed-Putin" originally appeared on the website, Medium

I want to posit that when John Bolton’s story comes out, however it comes out, the most shocking revelations will be about Donald Trump’s treasonous fealty to Vladimir Putin.

We know that the President’s rough treatment of Ukraine’s Zelensky benefited Russia. Trump’s top Russia experts told us so, under oath, in the House hearings. And the President told us so in that infamous July 25th phone call — his first “favor” was actually for Russia and Putin, not himself.

We also know thanks to reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman that Bolton refused to go television in late August of 2019 to defend the President’s incredible advocacy for Putin at the just completed G7 meeting in France. Over the objections of Ukraine and the European Union, the President made the relaxation of sanctions imposed on Russia for their illegal annexation of Crimea a central issue in the talks. It was rightly seen as an outrageous PR gift to President Putin at the time, and one which of course has to now be seen as a critical part of Trump’s month’s long illicit shakedown of Zelensky.

We also know that the New York Times headline the day after Bolton departed the White House read “Trump Leaves Open Possibility of Easing Iranian Sanctions to Spur Nuclear Talks.” The Times pieces goes on to report “his subtle yet startling signal about relaxing the sanctions came just a day after the president unceremoniously ousted John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser who opposed détente with Iran.”

Let’s try to put all this together. Bolton joined the Administration in April of 2018. He was there in Helsinki, when the President shamefully said he trusted Putin over America’s intelligence agencies. He was there in December of 2018 when the President abruptly announced America’s first abandonment of Syria, a geopolitical gift to Russia and its regional ally, Iran, a move that caused Defense Secretary Mattis to resign. He was there in early May of 2019 when, after speaking to Putin on the phone, the President abruptly reversed course in Venezuela, essentially once again giving a nation over to the Russians. He was there when the President lavishly praised Russia’s close ally, Viktor Orban, in the Oval Office even saying that Orban was “like me” (we know now that Bolton opposed allowing Orban to come to the White House, and that he used that meeting to help turn Trump against Zelensky and Ukraine).

It was in the late summer of 2019 when Trump gave Bolton reasons to get truly alarmed. He was there as the entire Ukrainian “drug deal” played out over the summer and early fall, including the President’s truly unbelievable suck up to Putin at the all-important G7 in late August. He then had to contend with the President inviting the Taliban to Camp David to finalize a peace deal that would humiliate the United States and provide another boon to Russia. But it was the President’s floating of the relaxation of the “maximum pressure” regime on Iran, Russia’s close ally, which seemed to be the last straw.

And for good reason. While we know the President was deferential to Putin in their public meetings, and had seemed to take a series of dramatic steps to align the US with Putin’s global ambitions in recent months in Syria, Europe, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Afghanistan, the true test of Putin’s influence over Trump would always be Iran. While nodding to Putin across the rest of the world, when it came to Iran, Putin’s ally, the President was with Iran’s enemies, the Gulf Arab states and Israel, in a big way. The President’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, re-imposed sanctions, and began his campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran. He threatened Qatar for being too friendly to Iran. We know of his deep intimacy with Israel’s Bibi, and the President even looked the other way when the Saudi’s dismembered a journalist living in the US, working for the Washington Post. Weakening the Trump/Bibi/MBS alliance seemed beyond even Putin’s reach even though like Ukraine this one really mattered to him — he had soldiers fighting and dying in Syria.

Iran hawks had reason to worry about the President’s commitment to their project when he began his first pull out of Syria in December of 2018, a move seen as benefiting Iran and Putin. But it was his shifting of his position on Iran in early September, detailed above, that clearly was the last straw for Bolton and a sign that Putin had run the table with his apprentice in the White House. In reading through contemporaneous news accounts of the President’s repeated gifts to Putin, Bolton appears consistently on the other side — opposing Orban’s visit, the about face in Venezuela, the Ukraine and Afghanistan polices, and finally this new “détente” with Iran.

In the months following Bolton’s departure, events have shown that his concerns about the President’s Russian drift appear to have been more than justified. In one of the more dramatic and dangerous foreign policy acts in American history, the President finished his Syria pull out in mid-October, abandoning our allies the Kurds, risking the return of ISIS, angering our European allies, and fundamentally tipping the scales in the Middle East in Putin and Iran’s direction, all at the expense of the Gulf Arab states and Israel. Zelensky still hasn’t gotten his Oval Office meeting, and every day he and his Republican allies bash Ukraine for being a corrupt cesspool. And in something which deserves far more attention, veterans groups have criticized the Administration for not moving against a newly discovered Russian foreign influence campaign targeting vets here in the US.

But it is what has happened with Iran since Bolton departed which should have American policy makers most concerned. Inspired by the President’s apparent bowing to Russia’s will in the region, the Iranian regime became far more aggressive. It attacked Saudi oil facilities — no US response. Iran downed a US drown — no response. It then began a campaign to bully the US out of Iraq, a campaign which led to the death of an American contractor, the assassination of General Soleimani, an Iranian strike on a US base which caused extensive damage and wounded dozens of our soldiers, and a formal request for the US to leave Iraq altogether — which was the goal of the Iranian/Russian campaign from the start.

With Bibi’s loss of immunity today, and more unacceptable behavior from the Saudis in recent months including the still unfolding terrorist attack in Pensacola, the Russian/Iranian alliance while having taken some casualties in recent months seems to have come out of this skirmish stronger than ever.

The Washington Post reported this morning: “Bolton was regularly appalled by what he saw from the president, the people close to him said. He wondered at times if Trump was acting in America’s best interest or if he was inspired by nefarious reasons, according to a person familiar with the book.”

“Inspired by nefarious reasons.” We don’t yet know what John Bolton is going to say about his time in the White House. What we’ve learned so far has been pretty explosive, and it seems likely that he will be called to testify in the Senate Impeachment trial. But if I am right, and the tale he tells is about an American President repeatedly doing the bidding of Russia to the detriment of the national security of the United States, then we are not just looking at the end of the Trump Presidency but a scandal of potentially world altering proportions.

NDN's Greatest Hits

NDN's most important work from before the years before Trump. 

Most Significant

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade Jan 21, 2014 - The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

TIME Features NDN Economic Analysis, Chart, Labels It "Most Important Chart in American Politics" Feb 5, 2013 - Michael Scherer of Time reports on the influence Dr. Rob Shapiro's analysis has had on shaping recent thinking about how the American economy is changing.

"Forward, or Backward?" - The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess 10/25/12 - In a new magazine essay, Simon argues that the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant the Republican offering is becoming.  In both Spanish and English.

The 50 Year Strategy, November/December 2007, Mother Jones. Simon and Peter Leyden offer a landmark vision for how progressives can win and prosper in the decades to come.

The New Landscape of Globalization 6/20/07: By Robert J. Shapiro We can address the challenges of the 21st century economy without sacrificing the benefits of globalization and technological advance, principally by expanding public investments in critical areas and reforming health care and energy policies.

Just Really Good

The Pernicious Politics of Oil Dec 16th, 2016.  Petro-powers are challenging the global order, and the next president seems uninterested in stopping them.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Cross posted on NDN.org and Salon.com.  Simon argues that the second generation Obama narrative must be a strategic response to the most significant transformation taking place in the world today, the rise of new global economic powers, or what Fareed Zakaria has called the “rise of the rest.”

Tapping the Resources of America’s Community Colleges: 7/26/07: By Robert J. Shapiro - Young Americans are increasingly adept at working with computers, but many American workers still lack those skills. Here, we propose a direct new approach to giving U.S. workers the opportunity to develop those skills.

A Laptop in Every Backpack 5/1/07: By Simon Rosenberg and Alec Ross.  We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child. We need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.

 

The Foreword to Crashing the Gate, 3/7/06 (a book by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong) Simon Rosenberg -  If we really want to build a modern movement, progressives of all stripes must learn to work together, to tolerate and respect our differences, to debate but not to fight, to understand that we are all playing different positions on the same team.

America Not Winning, Bernie Stumbles and Biden Leads - Notes on 2020

The images that we see today of the Senate Impeachment trial and the President at Davos while in many ways distant from one another speak to the same story – the savaging of America and its democracy by the President and his party.  The President arrives in Davos a reviled global leader, unfaithful, unsteady, and increasingly seen as dangerous.  As conservative columnist Max Boot wrote last night: “The number of people abroad who express confidence in the US president fell from 70% in 2013 to 28% in 2018 while the number who see the U.S. as a threat climbed from 25% to 45%. More Germans now view Trump as a danger than Kim, Putin, Xi, and Khamenei combined.”

Here at home, the President’s illiberal disdain for our democracy and its inherent limits and virtues will be on full display over the next few weeks. While many had anticipated that Senator McConnell would “rig” the trial for the President, few anticipated the extraordinary lengths he has chosen to go and how closely he has aligned the once august US Senate with the President’s historic venality. This type of contempt for democratic norms and institutions is part of a broader embrace by the Republican Party of what we call "Moscow Rules" in our politics. Our hope is that GOP Senators and the presiding Judge improve the absurd package McConnell has proposed, and allow a fair hearing of what sure appears to be extensive crimes committed by the President and many who work for him. 

Over the past few weeks we’ve argued that it was going to be far harder for McConnell to get the Senate to acquittal than conventional wisdom holds, and his actions in the last 24 hours actions are not those of a leader confident of winning.  A just released CNN poll shows that Mitch is right to be worried, as it confirms that he and the President are losing the big arguments that they need to win this Impeachment fight - 69% of Americans want to hear from new witnesses; 58% believe that he abused his power; 57% believe that he obstructed Congress; by 51%-45% Americans want the Senate to remove him; his job approval is 43% approve, 53% disapprove; Americans disapprove of the GOP's handling of the Senate trial by 54%-39%; and only 37% approve of Trump’s handling of the Senate trial.  These are shockingly poor numbers on issues of such importance to the President (ones consistent with the last few weeks of polling) and suggest that whatever the outcome of the trial, the President has become a spent force in the life of our country. A majority of Americans are ready to see him go. 

As for the Democrats, we share 538’s assessment that Joe Biden has the best chance of winning the nomination.  The last two polls taken in Iowa have him ahead, and 538 has him leading in all four early states right now. Bernie Sanders’ attacks on Biden and Warren have felt desperate, were poorly executed, and probably have done him more harm than good. It is a reminder that as someone who isn’t now and has never been a Democrat, Bernie has never shied from attacking Democrats and the Democratic Party itself. It remains a bit shocking that a career politician who has spent his career outside the Democratic Party believes he could ever effectively lead it. 

Parnas, Impeachment and McConnell's Weak Hand

This essay was originally published on Medium on Thursday, Jan 16. 

In the coming days, Senator McConnell is going to discover there are three reasons getting his colleagues to acquittal will be far harder than he and the President hoped:

The President is clearly guilty, and the evidence is overwhelming — A reminder that every witness who has been called works/worked for the President, including Lev Parnas; the House investigation began only after two Trump appointees, the General Counsel of the CIA and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, raised alarms about what the President had done, labeling it a matter of “urgent concern;” and the current SDNY/FBI investigation which arrested Lev Parnas was launched by another Trump appointee, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

 

The scandal was discovered by people who work for the President; the investigations were originated by people who work for the President; every witness has been someone who works/worked for the President. All the House has done is let these people talk and tell their story — and a damning story of lawlessness and criminality it is, without peer or precedent in our history. In that regard there is no such thing as Democratic or Republican witnesses — there are only witnesses. And remarkably the President has yet to produce a single witness capable of rebutting the testimony of the cascade of Administration officials who have already testified. They may have people who can talk about things unrelated to the scandal but it would be wrong to call them witnesses to the crimes the President has been charged with.

Trump and “innocence” can’t be used in the same sentence — It remains difficult for us to understand what explanation a Senator will be able to use if they vote to acquit…..was the President innocent of the charges? Is it okay for a President to use the awesome power of the Presidency to threaten and shake down a foreign leader for his own political advantage? Did the Senator not believe the eyewitnesses including Ambassador Sondland who said it was a quid pro quo? Why did the President block documents and witnesses — and refuse to testify himself, as Bill Clinton did — if he was innocent? How could this man, already an unindicted co-conspirator in 2016 felony level election law violations, be considered “innocent” when 3 of his top aides — Flynn, Gates and Stone — will be joining Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen in being sentenced to jail; two more — Parnas and Fruman — were arrested; and there are at least two federal investigations looking into Rudy Guiliani?

As long time political players, it is really really hard to understand how one gets to “innocence” when talking about Donald Trump and what happened here; and we are sure that all the GOP Senators have taken note of how ineffective the President has been in recent weeks of convincing the American people about Impeachment and his recent skirmish with Iran, something we review in this new analysis.

The SDNY/FBI Parnas Investigation will make it impossible for McConnell to make the Ukraine scandal disappear — Last fall SDNY/FBI launched a new formal investigation into Trump and Ukraine that, like the President’s activities in 2016, has once again begun arresting his current set of his aides. The man at the center of this investigation, Lev Parnas, let it be known last night that he believes that not only was Trump directing the illegal shakedown of Zelensky, but Rep. Nunes, Pence, Pompeo, Barr, Rudy, and other top White House officials were involved in the illegal conspiracy too. What this means is that this SDNY/FBI investigation has become a federal investigation into the President and most of his senior team, including the Vice President; and even if acquitted, the President will be running for re-election while under another federal investigation which could at any moment begin arresting or indicting potentially dozens of people involved in these illegal activities including some of the most important leaders of the Republican Party.

Imagine voting for acquittal and then see Rudy, Mulvaney, Nunes, or Pompeo indicted? How do you explain that to your voters?

Impeachment, Biden Leads, McConnell's Carnage - Jan 13th Notes

Notes On 2020 – Iran/Iraq, Impeachment, State of the Union/Budget, IA/NH/NV/SC, Booker dropping out, many Democratic debates - our system is about to get overloaded and polling, which has been pretty stable in 2019, could get awfully bouncy and volatile in the days ahead.  But let’s look at what we know now. 

Biden remains in the strongest shape of any Democrat and given the increased sparing in recent days we should expect a feisty debate tomorrow night.  One note on the current “electability” discussion – the Justice Democrats, the group aligned with AOC and thus loosely with Sanders, only won 7 of 79 of its 2018 races and only 4 of 76 if you remove three safe incumbents.  They didn’t win in a single Trump district – only safe Democratic ones. 

Trump - we know he is an historically unpopular President, and was been beaten badly in the three elections from 2017 to 2019.  But what has been very suprising to us in the past weeks is the President's struggle to persuade the American people about the two big new issues he faces - Impeachment and Iran.  Look at the numbers which follow - lots of 20s and 30s, not so many 40s and no 50s. 

Highlights from recent polling on the Iran conflict:

      Approve of Trump’s handling 43/56

      Less/More Safe 52/22

      Trump's behavior w/Iran reckless 52/34

      Divert from Impeachment 47/39

      Congress should limit Trump's war powers 55/33

Impeachment polls taken at the end of 2019 tell a similar story (Politico/Morning Consult and Fox News):

      Approve Convict and Remove/Don't Approve 52/42 (P/MC)

      Witnesses/No Witnesses 54/27 (P/MC)

      More Likely to Vote for Member Who Vote to Impeach/Less Likey 43/34 (P/MC)

      Abused His Power?  Yes/No 53/38 (Fox)

      Obstructed Congress? Yes/No 48/34 (Fox)

      Committed Bribery Yes/No 45/37 (Fox)

      Wrong to Ask Foreign Leader to Investigate Rival Yes/No 60/24 (Fox)

      Democrats Running Inquiry Fairly? Yes/No 45/42 (Fox)

All of this suggests the President is a bit of a spent force now.  Failure to convince the public about these two issues, or even get close to parity, has to be extraordinarily worrisome to those running the 2020 elections for the GOP.  The public has grown weary of him, and a majority are ready for him to go. 

Impeachment - What is perhaps most shocking about the last few weeks is that the President is either so desperate or out of control that in the Iran conflict he did exactly what the House has Impeached him for – he appears to have once again broken US laws/abused his power in the conduct of US foreign policy; and is once again obstructing reasonable oversight into what took place.  Like the Ukraine affair, it is far easier to understand how the President’s recent actions in the Middle East have benefited Russia’s ambitions than our own, which is the principal reason NDN has called on the House to conduct a broad review of the President’s national security decisions over the past year. 

Given the totality of what has happened – serial lawbreaking by the President, his top aides going to jail and a new investigation and more arrests, years of clearly criminal obstruction, and behavior more befitting of a King than a President – it is just outrageous how Mitch McConnell is approaching the impending “trial.” How can one have a trial without witnesses? There is and has never been such a thing.  How can the Senate actively enable and encourage the suppression of testimony and witnesses given months of complaints from the GOP about reliance on hearsay? The whole thing is beyond absurd and beneath this great country.  Mitch McConnell is in the process of degrading one of the most important tools for advancing democracy mankind has ever created, the US Senate. There is no win here for McConnell, no claims of “innocent” for our corrupt and venal President; there is disgrace, dishonor, and what will be a far harder election this Fall than any of them currently understand.  

Protecting Our Elections, Countering Disinformation

In the 2018 election cycle, NDN's Simon Rosenberg built and oversaw the countering disinformation operation at the DCCC - the first ever of its kind at a national party committee. 

Over the past year NDN has been at the forefront of the discussion about how best the US and other nations can protect their elections, domestic discourse and citizens, working to prevent "Moscow Rules" from becoming the norm here and in democracies throughout the world.  While some progress has been made, we an awful lot of work to do.

There is a lot of material below, but if you are interested in learning more about our thinking start with national security expert Richard Clarke's interview with Simon on his Future State podcast (episode 20).  It does a good job at covering most of the major issues we are wrestling with these days. 

Top Lines

Trump Needs To Re-Open The FEC Right Now - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 10/9/19 - On the same day that the Administration learned about the whistleblower complaint alleging felony level US election law violations by the President in the Ukraine scandal, the independent body overseeing US election law was shut down.  It must re-open. 

Re-imagining the Parties In An Age of Hacking, Disinformation - Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 9/7/19 - New digital threats will require US political parties to start seeing themselves as front line actors in our national effort to protect our elections and discourse.  Some thoughts on how the parties can re-imagine themselves to meet these challenges head on. 

GOP Bringing “Moscow Rules” on Disinformation to American Politics - Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 7/26/19 - A series of events over the past several months raises questions about whether using Russian style disinformation tactics has become a core part of the GOP’s electoral strategy in 2020.

Simon In Richard Clarke's Future State Podcast On "The Future Of Hacking Democracy" - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 6/19/19 - Simon talks with Richard Clarke about what Russia did in 2016, new trends and threats we've seen in the past few years, and what steps we should be taking now to prevent foreign governments and domestic actors from manipulating our elections and discourse.

Biden, Democratic State Parties Embrace Call to Forgo Illicit Campaign Tactics - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 6/18/19 - Vice President Biden and the Chairs of the State Democratic Parties have now advanced the idea of a pledge to forgo illicit campaign tactics.  Is another encouraging sign that American has begun to take the necessary steps to combat foreign manipulation of our democracy.

Three Things We Need To Do Now To Protect Our Elections In 2020 - Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 4/10/19 - America’s leaders should prioritize three things to protect our elections in the run-up to 2020: require paper ballots and audits, protect candidates from hacking and disinformation, and enter a pact to forgo the use of illicit campaign tactics.

Protecting the 2020 Dem Primary from Disinformation, Bots and Hacking- Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/19-  Democrats must come together now to prevent what happened in 2016 from happening again this time.  NDN is calling for all 2020s to sign a pledge forgoing use of illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential Primary.

Trump Doesn't Take Russian Electoral Interference Seriously. This Is What Democrats Did To Oppose It In 2018 - Simon Rosenberg and Aaron Trujillo, NBC News, 12/18/18 - The U.S. and its politics are not powerless to stop the kind of foreign hacking and disinformation tactics we saw in 2016. In the 2018 midterms, the DCCC developed a series of tools and strategies for reducing the influence and impact of malicious actors. Far more can now be done to protect our democracy and our discourse — and doing so should be a very high priority for the new Congress in 2019.

Other Materials

ASDC Resolution on Protecting our Elections from Foreign Manipulation - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 6/19/19 - This is the resolution passed unanimously by the Association of Democratic State Chairs (ASDC) on June 15th in Santa Fe, New Mexico which addresses foreign manipulation of our democracy and elections.  

NDN Hails Progress Made Towards 2020 Pact on Disinfo, Hacking – Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 4/23/19 - This post is a roundup of all the recent developments in the establishment of a new pact or pledge to forgo the use of illicit campaign tactics in the 2020 elections.  It includes links to the pledge which many European political parties and Vice President Biden have signed on to, and recent statements from the DNC, State Parties, and the Gillibrand campaign. 

The Country Needs to Stop Downplaying The Enormity of the Russian Intervention in 2016 - Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thead, 1/25/19.  In a widely shared thread Simon goes through what Russia did in 2016 and concludes that the campaign was far bigger and more impactful than conventional wisdom holds, and clearly delivered a very close election to Donald Trump. 

The RNC's Russia Problem - Simon Rosenberg, US News And World Report, 4/14/17 - The Republican National Committee has a particularly important role to play in future efforts to protect America's elections. For as we've learned over the past two years, the RNC was at the center of two of the most important components of the Russian campaign – the penetration of Trump's campaign by the Russian government, and the normalization and use of Russian disinformation.

Media Citations:

Our Next Election Is Dangerously Vulnerable, A Top Democrat Warns. Does Trump Care?- Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 6/25/19 - In a piece in which Greg Sargent links to NDN work on cybersecurity, he examines the question of whether Trump will warn Putin at the G20 against launching another attack on our political system. 

Will It Use Hacked Materials Again? Trump Campaign Will Not Say - Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer, The Washington Post, 4/26/19 - Key passage: "Refusal to forgo both hacking and the use of hacking materials is a great start, but clear stances on use of fake social media accounts, fake websites and images, high-volume bots, troll farms, and other illicit tactics in common use today by Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and other authoritarian nations will also be necessary," said Simon Rosenberg, who was senior advisor to the House Democratic campaign arm in 2018 and helped run a program to search for online election interference. 

Simon Discusses How To Protect Our Elections On CNN's Situation Room - Simon Rosenberg, CNN, 4/24/19 - Simon appeared on CNN's Situation Room earlier this week to discuss how the Trump administration is actively hindering efforts to protect our elections in 2020, and what our political leaders must do now to prevent what happened in 2016 from happening again next year.

Trump, GOP Won't Act On Election Interference Warnings - A.B. Stoddard, Real Clear Politics, 2/25/19 - Key passage: “Trump’s denial the Russia attack ever took place,” [Simon Rosenberg] told RealClearPolitics, “has suppressed the normal immune response which would have kicked in to protect ourselves from future attacks.  Bills have been blocked, common-sense steps not taken, some important government capacities have even been unraveled. All of it has left us unprepared for what is coming this election cycle, and it is important that both parties in Congress come together in the days ahead around a few simple, achievable things which can make it less likely foreign governments can once again manipulate our elections for their advantage.”

Top Democrats Want 2020 Candidates To Sign Non-Aggression Pact - Natasha Korecki, Politico, 2/26/19 - Key passage: “If we know the campaigns aren’t doing it, it’s going to be much easier to find it and make it go away. If this becomes widespread, it will become truly impossible to root out what’s coming from foreign powers. There’s something bigger than all of us here, and that’s our democracy. Democrats should make a clear stand, understanding that if we don’t set clear norms and rules soon, we could see a proliferation of this illicit tactics that could do permanent and lasting harm to our democracy and other democracies throughout the world.”

Pelosi Just Challenged Trump's Corruption And Lies. Here's What Should Come Next - Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/22/19 - Key passage: Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, a leading advocate for this approach, argues to me that the 2020 Democrats should join in a pledge condemning all tactics of disinformation warfare, such as "fake accounts, trolls, hacking, and the use of hacked materials." He adds that this can be part of a broader project of making "the repair of our democracy central to the conversation they are going to have with the American people."

Simon Discusses Protecting The Democratic Primary From Disinfo And Hacking On MSNBC's Joy Reid - Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 2/2/19 - Simon appeared on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show last Saturday to discuss his ideas for how Democrats should be working to protect the 2020 Presidential primary from bots, disinformation and hacking.

Protecting the 2020 Dem Primary from Disinformation, Bots and Hacking

In a long thread this past weekend, I called on the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates, the DNC and the State Parties to band together to fight disinformation and illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary.  Among the things I called for is for the Presidentials to sign a pledge committing to forgo use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; and for the campaigns to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the platforms and the Party, and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters. My hope is that either the DNC or the State Parties will demand they sign such a pledge, or for the campaigns to make their own pledges now, without delay, and not wait for the Party to get involved. 

I know the DNC is in the process of standing up a disinformation unit - it should be given ample funding and broad support to become a leader in this space and not a laggard.  This unit can help all the campaigns stand up their own disinformation teams, something which is now, unfortunately, a requirement in today's politics - a must to have, not a nice to have. 

Simply, we cannot let what happened in 2016 happen again.  As we learned at the DCCC in 2018, we are not powerless.  We got the social media platforms to do takedowns, refered illegal activity to the FBI and helped train our campaigns how to protect themselves and win in a fast changing information landscape.  Healthy democracies cannot accept the poisoning of their discourse, and must do everything they can to let the residents of their nation drive the daily debate not inauthentic voices from inside or outside the country.  

For more on the work we did at the DCCC this past cycle battling disinformation, see this NBC News op-ed I wrote with DCCC Chief of Staff Aaron Trujillo; this Washington Post article about our strategy to first "flood the zone" to make it harder for disinfo to work; a Reuters story which looks into one of our major take downs; and a great NBC News piece recounting right wing trolls complaining about the more aggressive countermeasures coming from the platforms - in this case the take down they were complaining about was a multi-platform campaign the DCCC found and worked with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to mitigate.  Here is a link to the DCCC's pledge" from the fall of 2018, and a smart deep dive from the Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand on the pledge and the GOP's refusal to sign on even after months of negotiation. 

NDN originally dove into this world through a paper we published back in the fall of 2017 on bots and disinformation, and I worked on a project in the fall of 2017 which deployed bot detection technology for the Democratic candidates in both the Virginia Governor's race and the Alabama Senate race.  Articles about that work in Virginia can be found in the Washington Post and Politico.  And this Alabama work should not be confused with the illicit campaign waged as a test by some Democrats - we were working for Doug Jones not the other guys. 

Finally, my vision for how we counter disinformation and illicit tactics goes far beyond a pledge.  What we learned in 2018 is that we are not powerless; using modern tools and being smart about hunting disinfo organizations and campaigns can provide an effective counter.  It is my belief that what must happen in the next two years is that parties, campaigns, governments, NGOs, and even the media must go on offense here, be louder and smarter on the Internet and social media, and learn how to better manage the discourse in their own particular areas of debate and discussion.  If all of us do our part we can together eliminate a lot of the low hanging fruit, the easy stuff.  The platforms while they have much more to do have made things harder.  But we can't wait for them, or for governments, to act.  We all need to do our part to clean up our areas of the Internet and social media, and ensure that authentic and well intentioned voices prevail.  The tools to counter disinformation are cheap and readily available - it is more about learning how this all works and making a true commitment to win debates in a very new and changing information landscape. 

Fri, 2/1 Update - Justin Hendrix has taken this pledge concept and turned into a thought piece on the Internet.  Go check it out and offer feedback.  He also discusses this idea in this new piece on Just Security.

Mon, 2/4 Update - Got to talk about all this stuff on Joy Reid's MSNBC program on Saturday.  Check it out - was a very good segment. 

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