You’ve almost certainly now seen or heard about the congressional hearing with elite university presidents (Harvard, Penn, MIT) coldly arguing the need for context and invoking technical criteria when asked whether it would violate the university’s code of conduct to call for the extermination of Jews. The viral clip is genuinely jarring.
When I watched it I found myself asking not why are these administrators such terrible anti-Semites but how did you three possibly find yourself in this situation giving these answers?
Let’s start with some important stage-setting. First, the clip was posted by Rep. Elise Stefanik, a consistently odious and mendacious weasel who represents a district in Upstate New York. Stefanik is very much that person you’ll see melodramatically huffing and puffing in a congressional hearing demanding yes or no answers to gotcha questions that don’t have yes or no answers. And yet here … well, even for a weasel with gotcha questions, she seemed to have gotten them.
We have a new development in the case of the Zieglers, the power couple from the Superfreak faction of the Florida GOP. Initial reports noted that Christian Ziegler claimed he had videotaped the sexual encounter which his unnamed accuser later alleged was rape. He said he taped it; deleted it; then finally uploaded it to Google Drive. A kind of odd chain of events. But that was his story. The first reports said police hadn’t been able to find it.
If you’ve been watching Donald Trump since he left the White House, there’s nothing new under the sun. Over the course of his presidency Trump was consistently horrible. But he got more experience in how to make good on his desires and impulses over the course of his presidency. That culminated in the events of January 6th 2021. The progression has continued out of office with every new addition of legal peril stoking a more adamant demand for revenge. Unlike in his first term, there are now a stable of Trump organizations and think tanks preparing not so much to put his plans into effect as to devise plans and policies that map on to his inchoate impulses and targets for retribution. What was latent in his rhetoric and threats is now explicit. Staid MSM publications have now dared to use the F-word — “fascist” — to describe his rhetoric.
In the remembrances of Henry Kissinger, much has been made of his deviousness. I discovered evidence of this quality of his when I was researching a biography of William F. Buckley, Jr. I discovered in Buckley’s papers at Yale a note Buckley had sent Kissinger, who was Gerald Ford’s Secretary of State, on May 18, 1976, the day of the Republican primary between Ford and Ronald Reagan. Buckley was responding in his note to advice to Reagan that Kissinger seems to have offered in a telephone call between Buckley and Kissinger:
Tom Edwards, a member of the Sarasota County School Board, has called on fellow board member Bridget Ziegler to resign. There have already been a flood of calls for Ziegler’s husband Christian to resign as chairman of the state Republican party. But Christian Ziegler is the focus of a criminal investigation into whether he raped an as yet unnamed woman. Bridget Ziegler has not been accused of any crime. Her role in the scandal engulfing the couple is tied to her being an anti-gay, anti-trans crusader who had sex at least once with another woman, in a threesome with her husband. So hypocrisy, basically.
The number of Israeli military fatalities has been relatively low since October 7th. But just moments ago the IDF announced that Gal Eizenkot, son of war cabinet member Gadi Eizenkot, was killed today in Gaza. The elder Eizenkot is a former IDF Chief of Staff and the second ranking member of the opposition National Unity party headed by Benny Gantz, another former Chief of Staff. National Unity entered the current Israeli coalition government days after October 7th. And both Gantz and Eizenkot are members of the small war cabinet which is directing the war.
We knew going into this debate that the Republican presidential primaries are not real. Trump is the Republican nominee. I do think though that if Chris Christie had been the Chris Christie who showed up about half the time in this debate that would have been significant. He would have consolidated the admittedly very small Never Trump group within the GOP. That doesn’t matter a lot. But he would have raised some doubts among Republicans about what Trump’s first term was actually like and also forced more conversation about what Trump is promising in a second term. That would have been significant. It would have forced more stuff into the public conversation. It would have forced the other Republican candidates to address Trump’s craziness more clearly. It wouldn’t have defeated Trump. But it would have made a difference by breaking the GOP code of silence about Trump.
Manuel Rocha, the former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia was, in his own words, “pissed.” It was June 23, 2023, and he was in a Miami food court meeting with a man named “Miguel” whom he believed was working with Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence.
“The Dirección wants to ensure that you are still a Compañero of ours,” Miguel asked, using the Spanish name for the Cuban intelligence agency. “Are you still with us?”
The question set Rocha off..
“I am angry,” he said. “It’s like questioning my manhood … It’s like you want me to drop them … and show you if I still have testicles.”
An indignant Rocha then proceeded to outline his bona fides as a Cuban agent to Miguel.
What Rocha did not know was that Miguel was in fact an undercover FBI employee.
The tense scene was outlined by an FBI special agent in a criminal complaint wherein Rocha was charged with having “acted for decades as a covert agent” of Cuban intelligence. Based on the court document, Rocha was providing Havana with information — and misleading his State Department colleagues — as he rose through the diplomatic ranks including serving on the White House national security council.
Rocha was hit with multiple federal charges on Dec.1 including acting as an agent of a foreign government. The criminal complaint accuses him of working with Havana from the very beginning of his State Department career and describes the series of cloak and dagger meetings where the alleged betrayal unraveled.
According to an archived biography on the State Department website, Rocha joined the agency in 1981 and worked in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Italy, Argentina, and Havana. He worked on the NSC between 1991 and 1994 as Director for Inter-American Affairs where his purview included issues involving Cuba.
Rocha became the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia in 2000 and remained in this capacity until he left the State Department in 2002. Following his departure from State, Rocha worked as a special advisor to the U.S. military commander of SOUTHCOM and held multiple high profile jobs in the private sector.
The criminal complaint says the FBI became aware of Rocha’s work as an agent of Cuba’s intelligence agency “prior to November 2022.” That month, an undercover agent messaged Rocha on Whatsapp.
“Good Afternoon ambassador, my name is Miguel and I have a message for you from your friends in Havana. It is in regards to a sensitive matter. Are you available for a telephone call?” the undercover agent wrote.
“I don’t understand but you can call me,” Rocha replied.
The pair set up a phone call where Miguel told Rocha they were “ordered … to make contact with you to give you a message.”
“I know that you have been a great friend of ours since your time in Chile,” said Miguel.
According to the complaint, Rocha subsequently set up three meetings with Miguel including the June 2023 conversation at the food court. En route to each of those conversations, the FBI observed Rocha using tactics that the criminal complaint described as “consistent” with Cuban intelligence “tradecraft” including taking an “indirect” route and watching the meeting location “for several minutes … from a safe distance.”
Despite Rocha’s precautionary measures, according to the complaint, when he sat down with Miguel, the former ambassador “repeatedly described and celebrated his activity as a DGI agent.” The FBI taped and filmed these encounters and translated them from Spanish to English.
During the conversations, Rocha allegedly asked Miguel to send “my warmest regards to the Dirección” and boasted of the loyalty to Cuba’s revolutionary communist government that he felt while working in the State Department.
“My number one concern, my number one priority was … any action on the part of Washington that would … endanger the life of … the leadership … or the revolution itself,” Rocha said.
Rocha also allegedly described how Cuban intelligence worked with him throughout his diplomatic career.
“I went little by little,” Rocha explained. “lt was a very meticulous process … obviously the Dirección accompanied me.”
Having a high-level diplomat working as a double agent would have been an immense coup for Cuba, which has had a contentious relationship with America for decades. During his conversations with Miguel, Rocha allegedly touted the importance of his subterfuge.
“What we have done … it’s enormous … more than a grand slam,” Rocha said.
The criminal complaint provides some hint of what led Rocha to let his guard down with the undercover agent. Along with learning about Rocha’s alleged involvement with Cuban intelligence, U.S. law enforcement seems to have found out specific signals he used with his handlers. In comments quoted in the document, Rocha indicated that he had been expecting someone named Miguel and that it was significant for this person to have referenced “Chile” when they reached out to him.
“They must have told you something because you mentioned Chile. … That … inspired trust in me,” Rocha said.
During his meetings with Miguel, the criminal complaint said Rocha also used a Colombian peso note as a signal. Along with describing his past work with Cuban intelligence — which included meetings in Havana — Rocha also allegedly expressed his desire to remain helpful. The charges against Rocha include some related to false statements he allegedly made to obtain a passport he used for some of his travel to Cuba. According to the Washington Post, Rocha faces up to 10 years in prison.
Following his lengthy diplomatic career, Rocha held multiple positions in the private sector including serving on the board of a cannabis business and working as a vice president at a coal company. On his Linkedin page, Rocha also described himself as a “senior international business adviser” at Foley & Lardner, a prominent white shoe law firm.
Rocha, who had an initial court appearance on Monday and did not enter a plea, could not be reached for comment. A phone number associated with Rocha in public records databases led to Foley & Lardner and an automated recording: