Putin’s War on American Democracy and Why It Matters

On Saturday, June 3, 2017, many American’s took to the street for the #MarchForTruth. It has come to that. Amid the chaos and distrust sown by Putin’s attack on our election, we the people have no other recourse than to publicly demand transparency from a GOP-controlled government intent on keeping us in the dark. News regarding collusion between Donald Trump and Russia has reached a boiling point. Trump’s own callous disregard for optics only further damages a vulnerable electorate with his obvious attempt to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director Comey on May 9. Trump further shocked the nation by meeting with Russia’s ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the very next day – a meeting that prohibited the American press, while allowing access to the Russian press. During this meeting, Trump disclosed highly sensitive information from a Israel regarding an ISIS operation to Kislyak and Lavrov. To say this is not normal is an understatement.

Yet, in March, a CBS poll showed 33% of Americans didn’t think it was necessary to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government. Let that sink in. Sure, it’s a minority and mostly GOP, but still…when confronted with the possibility of treason, 1 out of 3 people responded with a resounding, “meh.” Ironically, this level of indifference creates exactly the type of climate in which a coup could be staged.

As Americans, we tend to believe we are somehow protected from the horrors of other countries. It’s why the attack of 9/11 was such a transformative moment in our country. We know these things happen—but not here, not to us. Similarly, most Americans don’t harbor a realistic fear that our freedom could be eroded by fascism. We would never allow that, right? But, here’s the thing. Fascism doesn’t come in like a scene from Red Dawn. It’s a gradual and subtle shift to authoritarianism and kleptocracy. It happens when we’re not looking, and, clearly, we were not. Some of us, however, were paying attention.

Long before Election Day, questionable connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were identified. Largely due to the diligent research of independent and citizen journalists, the dots have been exposed and connected, ranging from the undeniable to the unbelievable. The plot that has taken shape involves espionage, back-room deals and relationships spanning decades – essentially hijacking American democracy, leaving our freedoms and public trust damaged in its wake. The sheer amount of circumstantial evidence is vast, but what follows is a basic overview of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.” – Former CIA Director John Brennan

The Campaign
Russian Connections

The Trump campaign came out of the gate with ties to Russia. Calls intercepted by foreign intelligence agencies identified Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Boris Ephsteyn as campaign members who had repeated contact with Russian intelligence and government.

Paul Manafort, a longtime business associate of Roger Stone, was asked to step aside from his official role in the campaign due to his work with pro-Russian regimes in Ukraine, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and has since been forced to register as a foreign agent. Russian born, Boris Ephsteyn, Trump’s former foreign policy advisor, also advised him on the campaign. Heavily immersed in Russian business interests and and well-acquainted with Russian officials, he is known to parrot Kremlin talking points. It’s notable that when it was leaked that allied intelligence had three Trump advisors on tape, Ephsteyn was quick to step down from his position.

Carter Page, an advisor to Trump, is the subject of an FBI investigation along with Manafort. It is believed that he was advising Trump as an agent of the Russian government. Like several Trump associates, Page met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States. As he is an extension of the Kremlin, there’s no way not to view contact with Kislyak as highly suspect given Trump’s continued praise of Putin, the Russian hacking of the DNC, and Russia’s active measures in our election. To make matters worse, according to theFBI,Page was approached to be a Russian asset in return for business opportunities in 2013. Then there’s the matter of Page’s trip to Moscow in summer of 2016, which may have been a cover for meeting with Kremlin officials on behalf of Trump. Sources have said the FBI is in possession of recordings of Manafort, Ephsteyn, and Page discussing a plan to bring a pre-recorded tape to Moscow. The pre-recorded message is Trump offering political favors to Russia in exchange for Russia hacking the election.

US agencies were first made aware of suspicious connections between people close to Trump and Russian intelligence in late 2015. Over the subsequent 6 months, similar intelligence was shared with the US from several other Western allied countries.

The FBI officially began their investigation in July 2016 by getting a warrant for surveillance on Carter Page based on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the reputable M16 agent who was initially hired for oppositional research by the GOP’s Never Trump faction. Other than Steele and, possibly, Ephsteyn, witnesses from the dossier are difficult to come by given that Putin has steadily been killing off the sources. The FBI procured their second warrant to investigate two banks (Alpha Bank was one of them) they suspected as being part of Russia’s influence operation in October. A second Steele dossier reports that four Trump representatives traveled to Prague in August or September to meet with Kremlin representatives and hackers to find ways to cover up the operations targeting Democratic leadership and hide payments to the hackers. According to the dossier, the hackers worked for Putin, but were paid by the Trump Organization.

The Alt-Right and Russia

After Manafort stepped aside, Robert Mercer- decided to financially back the Trump campaign. Not surprisingly, the money came with strings attached—specifically, that the Trump campaign would be helmed by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. In hindsight, it’s difficult to buy the narrative that Rebekah Mercer, considered the ‘queen’ of the alt-Right, happened to talk daddy into backing Trump at a dinner party just as Manafort was exposed for receiving a substantial payoff from pro-Russian Ukranians. There’s too much history here.

Patrick Caddell, Steve Bannon, and Robert Mercer share an anti-establishment ideology when it comes to government. They want destabilization and the destruction of government as we know it, ostensibly for something new to take its place. Caddell has known Trump since the 80’s and advised him during his campaign. It was he who declared the main-stream media as the enemy of the people, a talking point Trump has dutifully run with. Of course, this a gold standard for fascists, but also one well touted by the propaganda outlet, Breitbart, which has a key role in this. Caddell has worked as a contractor for Mercer since 2013 and one of his projects was determining how the American people would respond to electing an outsider.

Mercer connected with Conway and Bannon through the the ultra-conservative Council for National Policy and Andrew Breitbart. Mercer was so enamored by Breitbart that he became his media outlet’s biggest investor and placed Bannon in control. Mercer also invested $5M in Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and psychological profiling company purposed to target and influence voters. He placed Bannon on the board there as well.

Aggressively against Hillary Clinton, Mercer and Bannon had Breitbart test-market anti-Clinton propaganda with the highly successful rubric they deemed, “Black Crime”. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica targeted the Brexit vote, pushing the agenda of European Far Right nationalists. Putin is clearly pro-Brexit as it destabilizes the European Union, a needed goal for Russia to regain power.

Cambridge Analytica is a subsidiary of SLC whose main shareholder was British billionaire, Vincent Tchenguiz. Enter the world of oligarchs—a well-connected league of tycoons existing in the overlap of espionage, deep-state and organized crime. Tchenguiz is linked financially with Dmitry Firtash, Manafort’s business partner. He’s also tied to Russia’s Alpha Bank which is closely associated with Putin. It also happened to have a server communicating with the Trump Organization. In fact, Alpha Bank’s server makes up 80% of the connections to Trump’s server. About this time, another oligarch, Dmitry Ryblovlev, a friend and business associate of Trump, begins coincidentally showing up near key people, starting with anchoring his yacht near Mercer’s in March, and meeting Trump’s plane multiple times throughout his campaign.

It should be noted that ties to Russian business interests, for Trump (Donny Jr. and Eric have assured us there are many) and those surrounding him, are significant because rich Ukrainian and Russian business people often not only have great political influence, but are often used as assets to carry Russian intelligence.

Brexit succeeded, vetting Cambridge Analytica’s psy-ops micro-marketing method. Shortly after, Mercer and Bannon take over Trump’s campaign utilizing the methodology and data from Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart. This is what they’ve been planning for, right? So, why get in bed with Russia?

For one thing, they already were. Long histories of Russian business interests are a common theme among those orbiting the campaign. Also, Putin already had a plan in place. As early as March 2016, Putin had launched a campaign to interfere in the US election. According to US officials, Putin was presented with a plan in June by his think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). These documents outline swinging the election in Trump’s favor and undermining faith in the US electoral system. Another consideration is that where there are deals with Russian/Ukrainian deep-state and mafia, there’s Kompromat, or compromising material that could be used for blackmail. If some GOP actors needed ‘nudging’ to comply with collusion, so be it. Russians utilized cyberwarfare to hack the RNC and GOP leaders, as well as the DNC. The Kremlin had intelligence, and an outlet to leak it-they would use it however they needed to suit their interests. Julian Assange was clearly using (likely doctored) material from Russian hacks and publishing it on WikiLeaks. Roger Stone’s intimations of forthcoming material before it’s release suggests that he was in direct contact with Assange. It has been suggested that Alpha Bank’s servers may have been used to launder data. Russia’s DNC hack gave them access to voter rolls and profiles which could have been transferred to and from Russian state servers through the Alpha Bank server and incorporated into Cambridge Analytica’s database for use by the Trump Campaign.

Putin had a vested interest in Trump as a controllable President, and he feared Hillary Clinton. He wanted Trump to lift sanctions, destabilize NATO, and allow for a rebuilding of Russian power. This agenda fits well with the isolationism of the alt-Right-and, for some, Make America Great Again really is a referral to Cold War economic and foreign policy—when there were dual Superpowers. Still, with Trump being so grossly unqualified, his win was still a long shot and to truly take control they needed Congress, not just the Presidency. Between Cambridge Analytica, Breitbart, Russian hacking and a dedicated army of Russian trolls to carry out active measures, they did just that. With Putin’s help they operated a massive cyber ground-game, targeting swing states. The GOP turned a blind eye, despite our own intelligence agencies stating Russia was interfering in the election, and bolstered the coup with gerrymandering and crosscheck purges.

The Trump Administration

Once Trump was installed in office, it was time for quid pro quo. Trump owed favors to the people who put him there, namely Putin and Mercer. His staff choices clearly reflect that debt. As one might expect, Mercer ensured that Bannon had a seat at the table, and he was appointed Trump’s Chief Strategist. Trump continued to nominate an alarmingly unqualified selection of Cabinet staff, most with traceable ties to Russian business interest, including Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Sebastian Gorka, and Betsy DeVos.

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State and Trump campaign advisor, received the “Order of Friendship” award from Putin for negotiating a partnership between ExxonMobil and the Russian oil company, Rosneft. ExxonMobil has applied to the Treasury Department to waive sanctions against Russia. This is a significant deal that could direct up to $500 billion to Putin.

General Michael Flynn was Sr. Advisor on the Trump campaign and appointed as Trump’s National Security Advisor until he was forced to step down over lying about his conversations with Kislyak. Flynn accepted money from Turkey to lobby the Trump administration, and has received payments from the media outlet Russia Today (RT). While acting as NSA, Flynn was given a proposal to remove sanctions against Russia from Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had met with Felix Sater and Andrey Artemenko to discuss the matter.

Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, spoke out about her concerns about Flynn’s Russia contacts, but was fired by Trump for not enforcing his travel ban against Muslims. Vice-President Pence was notified on November 18 of Flynn’s arrangement with Turkey, yet he still went through with Flynn’s appointment as NSA. The idea that the White House would appoint a National Security Advisor who could so easily be blackmailed should be disturbing to everyone.

Russian Ambassador Kislyak was popular guy in Trump’s circle. Jeff Sessions denied meeting with him during his confirmation hearings for Attorney General, but has actually met with him on at least 3 occasions. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also met with Kislyak during Trump’s transition period. Flynn was in attendance at that meeting.

Erik Prince, brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the founder of Blackwater, was not technically part of Trump’s transition team, but is close to Bannon and was seen in the transition team offices. According to Arab, Europe and US officials, Prince arranged a secret, 2 day meeting in the Seychelles islands between Trump and a Putin surrogate on January 11.

Sebastian Gorka, Trump Administration’s counter-terrorism expert, and J.D. Gordon, Trump campaign’s National Security Committee advisor, are not only tied to Russia, but also noteworthy for their Hungarian connections. Budapest is a hotbed of Russian secret agents, primarily because it is easy to purchase illegal passports there. Gorka has been linked to Nazism and the pro-Putin Hungarian Far Right going back at least 15 years and has recently stepped down from Trump’s administration. Gordon, like Carter Page, met with Kislyak during the Republican convention. He also altered the Republican platform to reflect a pro-Putin agenda. Two days after the convention, WikiLeaks dumped a trove of hacked emails from the DNC.

Not only is it easy to travel in and out of Hungary, but anything that transpires there is outside of the jurisdiction of US intelligence agencies. This makes it interesting that Arthur Finkelstein, a Trump advisor, spent the majority of the campaign in Budapest. Arthur Finkelstein, known as the ‘Merchant of Venom’, has a reputation as a silent mastermind. Closely associated with Roger Stone, Roger Ailes, and Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohen, he shares Mercer and Bannon’s hatred for Hillary Clinton and is known for destroying his political opponents. Like Stone, he is also close with Manafort and introduced him into the world of Ukrainian oligarchs. Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, is an ardent loyalist to Putin. Finkelstein has been his chief political strategist for 10 years.

The criminal investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia, at this point, actively includes Page, Manafort, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen – that we know of. With Comey scheduled to answer questions before Congress on June 8, we can only hope more information will be forthcoming, but due to GOP partisanship and classified information we may not learn much.

This is NOT what Democracy looks like

Free and fair elections are central to our freedoms and democracy. Allowing collusion and interference by a foreign power will only ensure that it happens again. The relationship between Russia and the far-Right didn’t just play out in our election, but England and France, as well. They will continue.

Manipulation of the electorate undermines public trust of media, politicians, and each other. It creates a scenario where everything can be drawn into question. There is no way to determine how far the compromise reaches. The attack on our election was on multiple fronts and included hacking, division, propaganda, suppression and what appears to be an ever increasing likelihood of vote tampering, with evidence surfacing showing direct attacks on voting systems prior to the election.

Consider the division caused by the Democratic primary. Voters in multiple states complained of changes to their voter registration. Most people affected were Bernie supporters. We know that Russia hacked into the voter databases. The DNC emails were leaked and the idea of ‘Bernie or Bust’ and the protest vote was born and nurtured—likely as a well-orchestrated plan created in a Russian think-tank and executed by Russian hackers and online trolls. Americans reacted as predicted and this division is still played out daily. We have to learn to recognize the ways we were weaponized against each other.

Now that the GOP and Trump have taken power, how do we the people take that power, which is rightfully ours, back? We demand the truth. Every. Single. Day. Without an Independent Commission, there will be no transparency to these investigations. We demand accountability. Trump will do everything he can to squash the investigations against him. He fired Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and James Comey, but the people must not let up. Call, write, protest, and VOTE! Get involved in Resistance efforts. Fight gerrymandering and voter suppression. This is not a partisan issue, nor is it one Americans can afford to remain in darkness on. We deserve to know whose interests Trump and his administration are serving – American or Russian. If there was ever a time Americans needed to stand together and fight for our democracy, this is it.

Call or write your representatives and demand the following:

1. Independent bipartisan commission.

2. Transparent and open to the public.

3. Release of Trump’s tax returns.

4. If collusion is found, crimes must be prosecuted.

An Open Letter to Tom Perez and the Women of the Party

We are the women of the Resistance, but we are more than that. Likewise, we don’t characterize our work as a Revolution. Despite the intensity and magnitude of the current battle, we know it is a continuation of the war we have been diligently fighting for decades. We are the women of and behind the party. We are the women on the ground who work quietly and steadfastly in our communities through countless campaigns, changing issues, and crises. In our wake, our hard-won progress stretches behind us, always precarious, and we work every day to protect and build upon it. We are grassroots activists, fundraisers, community organizers, advocates, writers, marchers, protesters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters. We are both teachers and students and know that the struggle for relevancy necessarily happens on the ground. It is in this spirit that we write this letter and raise our voices to be heard.

Two critical issues that cannot be separated are unity and messaging. While we understand the intent behind appointing Bernie Sanders as Democratic Outreach Chair and showcasing him on a Unity Tour, it was always a self-defeating endeavor because Sanders has not actually had control of his ‘movement’ for quite some time. Yes, his words matter, insofar as they reinforce the division of the Left, as they often do, but attempts to bring strategy, unity, or coalition building fall on deaf ears. This is primarily because Sanders is not only a man; he’s also a symbol. Of course, he didn’t start out that way. Sanders, the man, ignited the excitement and political interest of a great many people — especially Millennials. He appealed to them emotionally on issues that resonated with them. He tapped into the passionate idealism of youth. He stoked the fires of righteous indignation and it was largely successful, for good reason. In fact, there is a great deal to learn here in terms of effective messaging. Unfortunately, he also roused the image of a revolution, and the implied instant gratification that accompanies it. We, of course, knew better. Bernie’s idealism is no different from the idealism in our own hearts, but we can’t afford to behave as if we don’t understand the battlefield and the spectrum of views and circumstances that span the nation.

The normal outcome, if there even is a normal anymore, would have been for Sanders and his supporters to refocus their efforts on electing the Democratic nominee after his primary loss. We appreciate that many did, but several factors came together to transition Sanders into a symbol of division in the Left, not the least of which was Bernie’s own constant criticism of the party from which he ran for President. Russian interference acted as an accelerant, simultaneously chipping away at the Democratic Party and fostering division by targeting the Far Left. Human nature being what it is, the Far Left is no more ready to admit they were targeted than the Right. If anything, knowledge of Russian influence is resulting in even more obstinance and ire. Post-primary, a single image of Bernie speaks volumes about one’s political frame of reference, not just on issues, but against what they have come to believe about the Democratic Party as an obstacle to and adversary of their goals. For those of us who have actually fought in the trenches for equity and justice, this is extremely frustrating, yet we acknowledge the need for change and improvement in messaging, outreach and visibility.

We know what we have worked for, what we defend, and what we work toward. With heads bent and shoulders set we have quietly battled year in and year out against the GOP to protect and lift up all of our communities. Bracing against the anti-intellectualism and vitriol employed by the Right, however, has dampened the passion and clarity of our message to the casual voter and newly political. In our commitment to the inherent ‘rightness’ of our work, we have relied too much on what we see as common-sense. In the field, particularly for the politically inexperienced, our message has been reduced to ‘not-GOP’, ‘not-Trump’, or, even more disappointingly, ‘the lesser of two evils’. In a democracy, pragmatism is crucial and idealism without pragmatism will yield nothing – this is a sobering reality learned on the battlefield, but we can all look back to a time when our own passionate idealism was unfettered by the complexities of real change-making. The need for compromise, strategy and diligence does not alter our core ideals. However, we have failed to convey that.

The weaponization of Sanders’ supporters against the Democratic Party combined with a GOP trifecta in the 2016 election makes our outreach and messaging critical. We can’t afford to simply wait for political maturity to set in. Our core values are emotional: Morality, Integrity, Justice, Compassion, Truth. This is the language of the Democratic Party, the party of the people. This is the language we must use to engage with the electorate from campaign stump speeches to small group discussions. And it’s time for the women behind the party to step into the light and into the public eye. The influence of social media and mainstream media is paramount. This is the world of the Millennials and we are all along for the ride. The GOP understands this as do Berners. Memes, symbols, even people, become branding. A single emoji of a frog or a red flower communicates a world view. Bernie Millennials, like Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, become walking billboards by branding themselves into the imagery of political events, and, like Bernie, their image speaks a message and resonates emotionally. We lack those visuals. We lack that public face. It’s time for that to change.

We write this letter for two reasons. First, to express to the DNC that unity cannot be achieved by showcasing a person who exemplifies our division, specifically a division rooted in a political fairy-tale that shuns the realities of American democracy. We ask the DNC to lift up, instead, those who have shown perseverance, and unwavering commitment to doing the most good for the most number of people. To this end, we suggest a second Unity Tour that reflects all that we represent and more. Secondly, to ask the women who have given so much, working tirelessly toward positive social change, to step forward into public roles as leaders and social influencers. We are women of all colors, with and without disabilities, united for the sole purpose of preserving our party and America’s integrity. The public needs to see who we are, what we’ve worked for, and why we’re Stronger Together.

Sincerely,

Rachel Murphy Azzara
@RachelAzzara

Beverlee Hughes
@BeverleeHughes3

Nancy Ervin
@Nurse4allPeople

Sudha Mohan
@sumoh7

Gayle Asher
@gayleasher1

Pat Fuller
@bannerite

Rebecca Galles

Katherine Erwin
@kjoerwin

Jamie Thompson
@luvman33wife

Janice L. Park
@alaskawater

Sheila Brady
@SheilaBrady16

Joanne Gucciardo
@Jgucciardo2

Donna R. Miller
@AgitatorsNeeded

Rama Dey-Rao, PhD
@ramadeyrao

Barbara Schneider
@barbls23

@deejay90192

Sophie Travis
@SophieinCT

Karen Blunt
@_KJRB_

Randy Prine
@randyprine

Dee Flaherty
@Deemoney521

Diane Straub
@didkins4life

Geneva Boulianne
@politicalgeneve

Christine Szumacher
@imanemerald

Donna Becker
@Samnsara1997

Danielle Cahn
@d_cahn

S Bishop
@CAGoldenBear

E James
@jawja100

Suki Graves, M.Ed.
@freeandclear1

Kathy Christopherson
@kachristo

Michele Moen
@MoenMikey

Maggie McBride

Betty Harry
@Earnest_One

Sally P.

Sheri A Farinha
@xoSheri

Molly U.
@plantflowes

Sorry Trump, You Can’t Fire Your Way Out of an Investigation

In a shocking display of authoritarianism, Donald Trump fired FBI Director, James Comey. Not since Nixon have we seen such an overt attempt to use the executive office to obstruct an investigation. This is not Trump’s first attempt to fire his way out of his Russian problems, having already terminated Sally Yates and Preet Bahrara.

Over the past 48 hours, the White House has changed it’s official story regarding Comey’s termination multiple times.  Unbelievably citing the FBI’s misreporting of forwarded emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop as the reason, Trump claimed this move was at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.  As it was Trump, himself, who asked Sessions and Rosenstein to draft the letters regarding Comey, Rosenstein threatened to resign over this misrepresentation. Despite attempts to distract from the obvious, this is clearly about the FBI’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In his bizarre letter notifying Comey of termination, Trump states:

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Rumor is that he told Comey he would be fired if he didn’t stop the grand juries, quite likely given that Trump and Comey shared a private dinner together in which Comey was asked for loyalty to Trump. Comey’s answer that he could only be honest was not exactly the pledge of support Trump is used to. (And yes, if Bill Clinton talking to Loretta Lynch on the tarmac bothered you, this should send you through the roof). If sources are correct that Comey was at the Rocket Docket in Virginia yesterday, submitting intel for expedition, he likely knew this was coming. Immediately following Comey’s firing, subpoenas were issued to Michael Flynn and his associates regarding their connections to Russia. Other sources have said that as many as 25 sealed indictments have already resulted from the grand juries. This looks more and more likely given yesterday’s FBI raid on a GOP campaign firm in Annapolis. Firing Comey will not stop the wheels of justice from turning, but, remember that a sitting President can’t be indicted. He will need to be impeached by Congress.

Speaking of Congress, it doesn’t appear that the WH and FBI were the only ones who knew this was coming. The last question Lindsey Graham posed to Sally Yates in her hearing on Monday was whether or not she trusted Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. This was no coincidence, and served to pre-validate Rosenstein’s upcoming actions against Comey. This implies foreknowledge about Trump’s plan to have Sessions and Rosenstein write the letters against Comey–this is even worse when you remember that Jeff Sessions is supposed to be recused from anything related to the Russia investigation.

Democratic legislatures are calling for an independent investigation. Even many GOP members of Congress put out statements admonishing Trump’s abuse of power, but it’s worth noting that Graham is continuing to say there is no need for a special prosecutor, as is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Between their focus on leaking over treason during the Yates hearing and yesterday’s events with Comey, it couldn’t be more clear that the GOP is not capable of investigating this in a bipartisan manner. The people must demand an independent investigation. I encourage you to get involved in any way that you can and demand the truth. Remember, in Watergate, everyone went down except for Nixon. Trump is simply not worth it. Our country deserves answers and justice.

Why I Speak Out About The Resistance Every Day

Twenty years ago I was in New York, interviewing at Columbia University for graduate school. One evening I encountered a man on the subway speaking out about the closing of a local community center. He was young, but he appeared worn out, clearly having been at this a long time. He carried a petition and a sheaf of flyers, many which lay muddied and torn on the subway floor. With his free arm he wiped his forehead, pushing his hair away and nearly unseating his yarmulke, which was barely held in place by two silver snap-tight barrettes. He appealed to the riders again in a horse voice, speaking of the importance of community, the dangers of gentrification and reciting the expected statistics. But they, too, were worn from their day. No one even made eye contact with him. Perhaps he was just background noise that couldn’t penetrate their own thoughts, or perhaps they knew that acknowledging this man’s cause would somehow obligate them to do something about it. Maybe they had learned to ignore those who might burden them with their expectations.

His voice trailed off. Shaking his head, he made his way to the exit. As the doors slid open, he turned to face the other riders, “When you no longer recognize the neighborhood…When there is no community left, remember I was here today and I tried to do something.” With that, he exited the train and I watched the doors slide closed behind him. Glancing around, I noticed I was not the only one looking at the door. I wanted to call to him to come back so he could see what I was seeing. He had their attention, if only briefly. The passengers blinked in confusion and surprise, some looked uneasy, as if they just realized they may not have been paying attention to something important. For most, it was momentary, and they quickly returned to their books, newspapers, worries and reveries, but some remained contemplative, their eyes drifting to the flyers littering the floor. A few even reached down and picked one up. Something had happened. In his moment of candid frustration, he had awoken them. It gave me hope.

The morning of November 9, 2016, I was drowning in emotions–shock, fear, anger, blame, and exhaustion. How could this have happened? Did I not do enough? I had organized, strategized, made phone-calls, written letters, blogs, and endless posts. I had shared information, exposed disinformation, patiently debated, reminded people to register and vote. Before they left for school, my children asked me, “What are you going to do now, Mom?” I didn’t have an answer for them. This was supposed to be the end of the battle. I knew the true battle hadn’t even begun, and I felt desolate in the face of it; however, I kept thinking of the man on the subway all those years ago. As shocked and disappointed as I was in my fellow Americans, I knew I couldn’t give up on them. By the time my kids came home from school, I had an answer. “I am going to keep fighting.” 

I have kept fighting, as have millions of you. The Resistance was formed and it thrives. Little by little, the American people are waking up and standing up for themselves and others. It is not one battle, but an endless series of battles that require daily action and vigilance. And everyday I can say, “I was here today and I tried to do something.”

“Cait-fishing” In The Resistance – An Exposé

In a previous article, I raised red flags about online ‘activists’ who claim to have insider information. In particular, I raised concerns about the accounts associated with @OfficialNMP. Further investigation has revealed that not only are these accounts involved in catfishing, but that the associated individuals appear to be grifting.

In social media, a ‘catfish’ is someone pretending to be someone they are not, traditionally within the context of online romance. The intensity of emotions and social bonds formed within the Resistance carry a similar vulnerability to this kind of exploitation, particularly when it comes to those offering ‘insider information.’ We’ve seen many accounts crop up under these auspices. The names ‘insider’, ‘rogue’, ‘alt’ and ‘leaks’ will garner attention with little or no legitimizing information; however, for the most part, these accounts are face-value. There is no backstory, relationship building, or intricacies. Of course, one must consider both the veracity of the ‘leaked’ information as well as the motive of the account holder. With a political climate fraught with disinformation campaigns, one should always consider unsubstantiated claims with skepticism. It was this skepticism that led to this investigation.

Sample Social Media Profiles
Cait deactivates and reactivates her accounts often, usually at the same time. Reported accounts are quickly replaced.

This operation centers around 26 year old Cait Nanna (aka Hepzibah Nanna, Gem Jean, Caitlyn Nanna) of TN and 58 year old Johnny Matthes (a.k.a Johnny Jackson, Scott Jackson, Johnny Fuego) of CA. They are the ‘co-pastors’ of a revivalist ministry called The Lion Triumphs Ministry. Their digital footprint is widespread and comprised of a web of real and fake identities that span Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and GooglePlus among other platforms. With the help of a small team of researchers, I have conducted this investigation to protect the Resistance, but it is worth noting that the political left are not the only targets–her reach extends to sexual abuse survivors, LGBTQ, and revivalist/charismatic Christians. In conjunction with this exposé, the appropriate authorities have been contacted and provided with our research.

The Backstory

Cait and Johnny met in 2009 and both claim to have been born into the occult and subjected to Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Cait, in particular, claims to have been born into a “top” Illuminati family and ‘promised’ to Satan as a small child. She was later adopted, but her refusal to deny Jesus and accept Satan has caused her to have a life filled with torture, abuse and death threats at the hands of Luciferians. While Cait does have a social media presence prior to her association with Johnny, there is no mention of the occult. Another marked difference is Cait’s use of the name Hepzibah (Hepzi). Under this new name, she launches The River of Fire Fellowship and The Lion Triumphs Ministry. She also begins self-publishing a variety of books Even the most basic review of Cait demonstrates that she is resourceful and has profiles marketing herself as a model/actor, writer, editor and caregiver in addition to her role as a pastor. Until the current election there is little mention of politics, yet they now claim to have been spiritual advisors to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and even showcase written endorsements from them on their websites. Hepzi’s site bio also states she has been raised from the dead twice and is currently suffering from bone cancer. As you will see, her health plays an important role in all this.

The Mark

Those in the Resistance know Cait as ‘Hepzi’. My awareness of her began when she was brought into a Twitter activism direct message group as someone who knew ‘what was really going on’ with the election. She used the handle @OfficialNMP and claimed to be the co-founder of #NotMyPresident. She told a tale centering around Jacob Rothschild, The Illuminati and The New World Order. It was her contention that Donald Trump no longer wished to be President, but that he was forced to do so to protect his son, Barron, who was the victim of ongoing Satanic Ritual Abuse at the behest of Rothschild (a shapeshifter, no less). Needless to say, this story was met with shocked silence. It was so preposterous that it didn’t even warrant acknowledgment. However, Hepzi did not disappear from the Resistance, in fact, she kept reappearing—each time with an even larger number of followers—large increases that could not be organic and were not reflected in her post engagement. Another account, @InsideDJTTruth was created. This account was, supposedly, Robert Edward Rothschild (aka Robert Jackson Rothschild) – Hepzi’s boyfriend and Jacob Rothschild’s grandson. Of course, Jacob Rothschild’s lineage is public, and there is no record of a grandson named Robert. Nevertheless, Robert emerges on social media to tell his tale of long-term sexual abuse at the hands of Donald Trump. Despite the ‘conspiracy theory meets the occult’ nature of Hepzi’s story, she manages to become involved with burgeoning Resistance groups. She attempted to  connected with the Resistance Party, in fact, giving her account, @Americas_Party1, to bolster Parrish Beals after his falling out with that group. Parrish went on to form America’s Resistance Party. Hepzi emerged as a partner in TheResistanceUnite.org website.

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Hepzi’s tales of conspiracy and odd social media behavior (bulk adding followers, multiple accounts, regularly deactivating, reactivating and transferring accounts) were enough to raise my suspicions. My first concern was that she was infiltrating the Resistance to spread disinformation or gain counter-intelligence. After this investigation, I no longer believe that is her motivation. Further, I have no reason to believe that activists who have partnered with her are fully aware of her scheme.

The Hook

So, how does someone peddling such sensational claims gain a foothold in circles of legitimate activism? Successful catfishing at this level requires significant skill at camouflaging, marketing, role playing, and emotional manipulation. Let’s examine how Cait uses these methods to gain acceptance.

Camouflaging

In a social media based group such as the Resistance, camouflaging is pretty easy. News feeds are littered in posts of the same ilk. On Twitter, snippets of conversations are shown as individual tweets—unless one takes the time to thoroughly review someone’s timeline, there is little reason not to accept them purely on the basis that they are a like-minded individual. Direct message (DM) activism groups allow for more in-depth conversation, and Cait likely learned those would not be the best places to establish credibility. But, how do you bridge the gap from a ‘resistor’ to a leader in the Resistance? It takes more than retweeting anti-Trump posts.

Marketing

Social media status is determined by the size of one’s following, therefore investing in large numbers of purchased followers is a shortcut to establishing credibility. Like @OfficialNMP, I noticed that @InsideDJTTruth was also adding bulk followers that could not be organic. Further, amid the influx of alt and rogue accounts that followed Trump’s silencing of federal agencies on social media, @InsideDJTTruth (‘Robert’) became Inside Trump’s Life (@RogueLeaks) and Johnny’s account became POTUS Leaks (@johnnyecstatic). This was a calculated move from a marketing standpoint. Despite their wild allegations, they were able to not just blend in, but tap into a popular trend, maintaining credibility as long as no one examined them too closely. An ‘official’ sounding name and tens of thousands of followers will result in follow backs from big Resistance accounts. This ‘endorsement’ from actual leaders in activism offers even more legitimacy.

Role Playing and Emotional Manipulation

While Hepzi does have a small core group of believers, the driving force behind her post engagement comes from fake accounts that exist to bolster her story. Based on writing styles, the @RogueLeaks account seems to be authored by both Cait and Johnny. Robert’s narrative is ever-evolving. Currently, he claims to be part of an impending sexual abuse lawsuit with 50 other people being brought against Trump, Bannon and Paul Ryan, to name a few. It is always right on the cusp of happening. Johnny (as POTUS Leaks) legitimizes his insider knowledge by claiming to be Donald Trump’s 3rd cousin, his current spiritual advisor, the ‘spiritual dad’ and ex-brother-in-law to the fictitious Robert. He gives his location as Washington D.C. – records show neither Cait nor Johnny have ever lived there. The combination of the three Twitter accounts reflect and validate one another’s legitimacy. They have similar arrangements on Facebook, and, as of yesterday, Robert has become an actual member of the Lion Triumph’s ministry-this on the heels of his explosive leak that Donald Trump molested his son, who has Down’s Syndrome, and made a porno tape about it. (I wish I was making this up). Facebook has shut down many of their accounts for being fake, but they keep creating new ones.

While the overarching narrative is extraordinary, Cait and Johnny have rooted their story in emotional truths—bullying, sexual abuse, PTSD and serious illness. Aside from political re-tweets, this is the bulk of their content. This emotional language serves two purposes: 1) it fosters empathy/sympathy and 2) it serves as a defense against criticism. The character of Robert, for instance, is suicidal due to being triggered by seeing Donald Trump in the media all the time. Any pushback on their story is met with reference to another suicide attempt. This is particularly interesting since ‘Robert’ already died on November 9, according to social media references. Now that he is alive again, he is quite useful for reflecting and supporting Hepzi’s claims.

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Reviews of Hepzi’s social media circles reveal that she is quite a sick young woman, apparently, afflicted with 4th stage bone cancer, AIDS, and a brain tumor. To make matters worse, she is continually harassed and threatened by the likes of Paul Ryan, Steve Bannon, members of the “Trump cult” and, even, 100 or so people in the Resistance. People who question her story are bullying her, making fun of her for being a pastor or for having cancer, or threatening her life. Hepzi spends a fair amount of time elaborating on this in Facebook Live videos.

The Con

At first glance, it is difficult to imagine that many people would be taken in by a story as absurd as this one. If it is truly just a way to get attention, why spend money purchasing followers for multiple accounts? @OfficialNMP is not the first large account she has developed this way (@popomondo was apparently stolen by Richard Spencer and given to a Turkish woman—add the alt-Right to the list of Hepzi’s harassers). In my opinion, all this catfishing is designed to get money and opioid pain medication.

Cait and Johnny have gofundme, givesendgo, and givesforward pages and a paypal account for donating directly to their ministry. They assert these donations are tax-deductible, yet their ministry is not a listed charitable organization in CA, TN or GA. The GA address associated with their domain registration is not an actual address.

The money raised for the ministry pays for the associated costs of their Revival Tours. They recently visited Hawaii on such a mission where they claim to have saved 400 people. In addition to travel costs, money raised is also used to pay for Hepzi’s pain medication. Given that occultism is a central theme in their ministry, their existing donor pool is limited. This is where the Resistance comes in.

Cait’s strength is in one-on-one contact and she pushes for personal interaction in all her accounts. She lists her phone number in her profile and encourages people to call or text her. She often asks people to private message her on social media. After publishing my initial article, several sources contacted me about their engagement with Hepzi. It was clear pain management is a common topic—particularly that she can not afford pain medication. One source told me she actually asked if they could get pain medication for her. I can’t comment on the veracity of Hepzi’s health claims, but the treatments needed for metastasized bone cancer and full blown AIDS are very expensive and would pose a greater obstacle than the cost of narcotic pain relief. Further, anyone who has seen either disease would question her ability to travel on Revival tours while so afflicted.

When it comes to the Resistance, her scheme depends on people having only a partial picture of her story. One may view Hepzi as a fellow resistor, a Resistance leader, a pastor, a Christian, a survivor of sexual abuse, a cancer sufferer, or a political insider. At that point, she relies on interpersonal communication and the sympathy of others to achieve her goals. The deactivation periods of her social media accounts are designed to prompt people to contact her directly.

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On a personal note, I confess that I would have preferred not to have had to write this article. During her deactivation periods, I had hoped she would simply cease this farce. There are much more serious issues that need attention. That said, protecting the integrity of the Resistance and activists from fraud and exploitation are my priorities. I have sympathy for Cait. I think she is on a bad path, and I don’t think she got there on her own. I honestly hope this article results in those close to her getting her the help she needs.

Article Update – This article was sent to Bishop Tony Rivera of the Full Gospel Evangelistic Association (FEGA). This is who Hepzibah claims to be ordained with. With his permission, I am including his response:

God Bless,

Thank you for the information. We attempted for years to help Caitlyn/Hepzibah but finally cut all ties with her, and she is not ordained with us. In our last contact we pleaded with her to stop her deception and ask the Lord for forgiveness, but she just accused us of being part of the Illuminati and that we were satanic. I see that she responded to the article.

She is in God’s hands and He will deal with her.

And we will continue to keep it all in prayer.

In Christ,

Bishop Tony

FGEA

Author’s note: I can assure you my research was very thorough. There is information I did not include in this article to preserve privacy. Doxxing is not the purpose of this article. Any comments that include contact information will be deleted. Thank you.

Charlatans Among Activists? Maintain a Level of Skepticism

Recently I wrote about the need to watch out for infiltrators in #TheResistance. In this article I will discuss a situation that raises a red flag and the reasons I feel skepticism is necessary. I want to be clear that it is not my intention to malign, accuse or ridicule, but to give guidance to fellow activists and supporters of #TheResistance.

In December, I became aware of a person, @OfficialNMP, who claimed to have ‘inside knowledge’ of the Trump family and the election. The tale she told was a full-throttle conspiracy theory — specifically, that billionaire, Jacob Rothschild, is responsible for Trump’s Presidency…as the leader of the New World Order. Take that, RWNJs, we see your Soros and raise you a Rothschild. Suffice it to say, the tale got stranger from there — ritual sex abuse, occult, Illuminati. It’s worth noting that it is her position that Donald Trump is POTUS against his will, but he must continue to protect Barron from continued ritualistic abuse. Somehow she managed to get brought into DM groups to tell this story, which is how I heard it. I ignored it at the time, figuring that peers would not believe it.

Recently, though, I noticed that there is an individual, @InsideDJTTruth, claiming to be her friend and Jacob Rothschild’s grandson, Robbie (Rothschild has no grandson by this name), who is echoing her tale and adding a personal account of abuse. He’s gaining followers pretty fast. @OfficialNMP has over 30K followers since December. Pretty impressive. She also lists her phone number in her profile, and encourages people to text her — that’s unusual.

My initial concern was that they are distracting and confusing activists and resisters by pulling them into this conspiracy nonsense. Let’s face it, we are all emotionally distraught, which makes us more vulnerable than normal. We desperately want answers. I was also wary about the phone number, as that is a way to get people’s contact information. But, there is one more factor. In her profile, she says to follow @KalenaVX (an account which has disappeared as of this writing), which leads you to a website TheResistanceUnite.org. This website is a joint project between @KalenaVX and @OfficialNMP and is not officially launched yet, but the purpose, ostensibly, is to create a repository of activities related to #TheResistance and promote cooperation across groups. Sounds good, right? It does, but because it is collecting information on the people and activities of #TheResistance, I decided it needed a closer look. This is what I found.

  1. The domain is privately registered. So whoever owns the site has gone out of their way to hide it.
  2. @KalenaVX seems to be the same person as @KalelVX and @UniteResistance. Why so many accounts, I don’t know.
  3. @OfficialNMP has been involved in a lot of things and gone by a lot of names. She is a young revivalist pastor. She has listed herself as an actor/model, author, editor, spiritual advisor (to Obama-she says) among other things. She is a YouTuber. She believes she is battling the occult and in the center of the Trump/Rothschild/New World Order conspiracy. Oh, and, vampires are real and Jacob Rothschild is a shapeshifter. Now, all this said, understand that I know a lot of people who are following her and/or in direct contact with her. I find that unsettling.

So, at the point of this writing, I find myself having to ask the question. Are these people who legitimately mean well and are trying to help #TheResistance, but just happen to be…mentally unhealthy? Or, is this a well-orchestrated effort to befriend activists, gather counter-intelligence and pepper confusion and fear into the movement? Either way, this is precisely the type of situation I mean when I ask members of #TheResistance to remain vigilant.

One final note: We are seeing a lot of “rogue” and “alt” accounts crop up. Some of these are the real deal and some are not. Approach information with logic and skepticism. We are only as good as the quality of our shared information.

Article Update: I was right to have concern about @OfficialNMP. I have conducted a full investigation of this account and found it to be involved in catfishing. @KalenaVX , @KalelVX and @UniteResistance are innocent bystanders and have no culpability. TheResistanceUnite.org website is no longer associated with @OfficialNMP and is not a cause of concern. You may read the results of the investigation in this article, “Cait-fishing” In The Resistance – An Exposé – Rachel Murphy Azzara.

Infiltration in #TheResistance

#TheResistance must be vigilant. The #GOP conned their base by appealing to their emotions. They can and do use the same methods on us. Be cautious of individuals and organizations that are infiltrating our groups to gain counter-intelligence. If it seems off, it likely is. Generally, an infiltrator has four goals:

  1. Gather contact information of Democrats, #HRC Supporters or members of #TheResistance for marketing purposes or harassment
  2. Perform oppositional research on groups and leaders and keep tabs on our activities and knowledge
  3. Exploit fear and anxiety to discourage action, particularly the fear of retribution or violence
  4. Foster distrust and division within #TheResistance and within the Democratic Party

Take note of who one is following and who is following them. What type of information do they share? Do they refer you to a website that is gathering any kind of data? Are they trying to directly gather information? Asking people to email or text them? This is a low-cost method of gathering contact data. Be wary of anyone who claims to have insider knowledge that they can’t tell you because ‘it’s not safe’ or making vague claims they can’t validate.

Remember, fear, anger and anxiety is normal, but it makes us vulnerable targets for those who wish to bait us into giving up personal information that could potentially be used to undermine our efforts. Stay Strong! Stay Aware!

For a more detailed examination of Infiltration in the Resistance and what you can do about it, please read my article in Dame Magazine:  How Can The Resistance Ward Off Infiltrators?