Russia’s Staggering Success In Duping Willing Republicans And Right Wing Media

INSIDE: Smirnov ... Biden ... Trump
TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency in Moscow on November 9, 2022. (Photo by Sergei BOBYLYOV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ... TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency in Moscow on November 9, 2022. (Photo by Sergei BOBYLYOV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI BOBYLYOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The Plot Thickens

The former FBI informant charged with fabricating the Burisma bribery story about President Biden and his son Hunter had “extensive and extremely recent” contacts with foreign intel services, prosecutors alleged Tuesday in a court filing.

Yes, including Russian intel.

The revelation came in arguments that Special Counsel David Weiss, who is also prosecuting Hunter Biden, made for detaining Alexander Smirnov pending his trial. (Smirnov was ultimately released under conditions yesterday.)

The implications of this Russian operation are staggering, especially for the willing Republicans and right-wing media stooges who were the useful idiots propagating the disinformation for years. The James Comers, Chuck Grassleys, Jim Jordans of the world have been trafficking in this stuff as the purported basis for a Biden impeachment, which is itself tightly yoked to Trump’s campaign for re-election. Right-wing outlets, most notably Fox News, have been amplifying the claims not dozens or hundreds but thousands of times over the past several months.

Everywhere you turn, it’s Russia either helping Trump directly or indirectly by damaging Trump’s foes. The pattern is clear and persistent but also so sweeping and far-reaching that it really requires taking a step back to grasp the full scope of it all. It has dominated right-wing media, become an accepted “fact” among MAGA adherents, and allowed elected Republicans to play mainstream media like a cheap fiddle. All those breathless Biden impeachment process stories? They’re an outgrowth of this disinformation campaign.

Not to get too meta about it, but in some ways today’s Morning Memo is itself an indirect result of Russian disinfo: the effort to unpack it, explain it, draw the lines connecting the dots, and distinguish between what is real and not is an exhaustive, time-consuming, resource-intensive process, which is partly why these efforts are so effective and difficult to counter.

To make it even more meta, we’re reliant on Weiss as a narrator here, which is not a great place to be considering his flawed prosecution of Hunter Biden and the apparent fact that at least for a time he seemed to find Smirnov’s allegations credible. It’s a colossal mess.

We’re nearly a decade into Putin’s sustained, unrelenting attack on American democracy through misinformation and mischief. Among other things, the Republican Party and its standard bearer have been successfully enmeshed in it and thoroughly compromised. When this all began, Putin in his wildest imagination could not have conceived of this level of success.


A sampling of some of the reactions:

Cocaine? No, Sawdust

Hunter Biden lit into Weiss in the Delaware prosecution on gun charges, accusing Weiss of falsely claiming in a previous filing that what was merely a photo of sawdust depicted lines of cocaine.

“Mistaking sawdust for cocaine sounds more like a storyline from one of the 1980’s Police Academy comedies than what should be expected in a high-profile prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice,” Biden’s attorneys wrote.

The Biden allegation seems to be supported by the surrounding context and documents.

A fun kicker: Biden cites Marcy Wheeler (a.k.a emptywheel) in the filing for being all over the cocaine/sawdust beat.

It’s All Connected

The interplay between Special Counsel David Weiss’ prosecutions of Hunter Biden and Alexander Smirnov is going to take a lot of unpacking. Biden’s attorneys began to do some of that in filings yesterday, claiming that it had been Smirnov’s bogus allegations that undid the plea deal Biden had agreed to last summer.

The suggestion from the Biden camp is that Weiss seized on Smirnov’s claims well after the fact and hoped to use them to prosecute Biden, which is why prosecutors suddenly could no longer promise that the plea deal would extinguish all of Biden’s outstanding criminal liabilities.

Eventually Smirnov’s claims proved false, but Biden is still facing criminal charges on both coasts that would have been resolved but for Weiss being initially duped by Smirnov. At least that’s the argument.

Ukraine War Status Report

  • Bloomberg: War in Ukraine Is Turning in Putin’s Favor After Months of Stalemate
  • NYT: Russian Forces Press On With Attacks in Southern Ukraine
  • A Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August was found dead in Spain last week, his body riddled with bullets and run over by a vehicle.

Good Read

WaPo: Trump and allies plotting militarized mass deportations, detention camps

Peter Navarro Threatened With Contempt Of Court

The Trump White House official already convicted of contempt of Congress and sentenced to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee is facing the prospect of contempt of court if he doesn’t promptly return government documents he took with him at the end of Trump’s presidency, a federal judge warned him Tuesday.

Flying Under The Radar

The Alabama Supreme Court case giving frozen embryos legal status as children caught nearly everyone by surprise:

  • WaPo: Shock, anger, confusion grip Alabama after court ruling on embryos
  • NYT: Alabama Rules Frozen Embryos Are Children, Raising Questions About Fertility Care
  • WaPo: What to know about the Alabama embryo ruling and its IVF implications

COVID Was Financial Boon For Anti-Vax Groups


Four major nonprofits that rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic by capitalizing on the spread of medical misinformation collectively gained more than $118 million between 2020 and 2022, enabling the organizations to deepen their influence in statehouses, courtrooms and communities across the country, a Washington Post analysis of tax records shows.

2024 Ephemera

  • CA-Sen: The final debate before the March 5 open primary was mostly a clash between Democrats Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. A new Emerson College poll of likely voters shows Schiff at 28%, Republican Steve Garvey at 22%, Porter at 16%, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D) at 9%.
  • SC-Pres: Nikki Haley asserts she will stay in the race against Trump even after her expected loss this weekend in her home state primary.
  • Trump’s leadership PAC spent nearly $3 million on legal bills in January.

Trump: I Am Navalny

What a compromised and complicit buffoon:

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