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Hey, it's Ron, this episode was recorded before I launched Political when I hosted the Lincoln Project podcast on this feed. If you have questions, comments or advice, you can reach us at a podcast at Politico Dotcom or find us online at political dot dotcom. Enjoy. Hello from the Lincoln Project, I'm Ron Stessel. Welcome back to our weekly roundup, where we bring in a rotating panel of experts to discuss the truth. You need to know behind the most important stories of the week and how they're shaping the political landscape in this country.


On today's episode, I'm joined by former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and my fellow Lincoln Project co-founder, Jennifer Horn. It's great to have you, Jennifer. Great to be here, Ron. Thank you. Former political director of the California Republican Party and also my fellow Lincoln Project co-founder, Mike Madrid. Mike, it's always great to have you. Great to be with you guys. And John Cypher, who is a Lincoln Project senior adviser, co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment and a former member of the CIA's senior intelligence service.


John served multiple tours as chief of station and deputy chief of station in Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. And he ran the CIA's Russia Operations Headquarters and received the CIA's Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. John, thanks for coming on again. Dan, can you do that again?


Very impressive job.


On today's episode, we're going to discuss the arrest of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny, the lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against Rudy Giuliani and the reporting about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green's social media activity. So I want to start with Navalny, a well-known Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny was detained by Russian police earlier this month. Navalny returned to Russia after spending five months in Germany, where he recovered from Novacek poisoning an attack he claims was coordinated and carried out by agents of the Kremlin.


According to The Washington Post, in the last weekend, demonstrations in support of Navalny took place all across Russia, including in areas where the temperature was subzero. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Moscow and authorities detained at least three thousand one hundred people, according to The New York Times. So, John, I'd love for you to start here by helping us understand some context of who Navalny is, what we should know about him. How do most Russians view him?


How does Putin view him? And why are these protests significant?


Yeah, interesting. So Alexei Navalny is an anti-corruption activist and an opposition leader in Russia. He's been doing this for a long time. He probably doesn't have, you know, huge support in Russia. But he ran for for mayor at one time. He was going to run for president. But the but the Kremlin sort of pushed back against him. He's been arrested numerous times, but he's very media savvy. He's he's funny. He has the sarcastic, slick videos that he's been putting out for years, essentially showing the corruption and the theft and sort of the money grabbing of the Kremlin and the cronies around Putin.


So he's become a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin. And so in August, he was poisoned. And in fact, there was an attempt by the Russian the Kremlin security services to murder him. And there's very, very good evidence to prove that now. So he was at a hotel in the eastern part of Russia where there were some protests going on. He was getting on a plane to go to another city and got very, very sick in the in the airplane bathroom.


And luckily for him, which saved his life, the pilot landed the plane and he was able to get some medical attention, which saved his life. He was then given international pressure, flown to Germany, where the German doctors were able to prove that he was poisoned by Novacek, which was it's a state run chemical weapon. It's a nerve agent.


It's a it's the same agent that was used, I think, just a couple of years ago against a couple of guys on a park bench in in London.


I can't remember the details of that case, but it's the same drug.


It's a different form of this nerve agent, which is essentially a chemical weapon, which is against the international chemical weapons protocols. And so he you know, over several months, German doctors were able to recover him and bring him back to life. While he was there, he coordinated with a really interesting sort of open source investigative unit called Beling Cat, which operates in the Baltic states, has a lot of Russians in there. They're very savvy. They've they purchase and have stolen travel records, Russian phone records, Russian auto parking records, all these kind of things to really put together a picture of what happened to Navalny.


And they were able and if you read these reports, there's no doubt that he and his wife had been followed and tracked by Vladimir Putin's KGB successors around for a number of months and tried to poison him a couple of times to murder him. Now, interestingly, when he was in Germany, he cooperated with Belenko Cat, where they were able to find the specific people who had followed him and poisoned him. And then pretending to be an FSB, which is the Russian security service, pretending to be an FSB officer, he called from Germany to one of their officers and started pretending to be his boss, asked for information and questions and recorded this.


The guy essentially admitting that they had wisen him, they'd put poison on his and his underwear in a hotel. And then, of course, when the plane landed, they had to send a team out to try to hide the fact that they had poisoned him in these things. And so it's quite clear what happened to him. Now he's he's he's also quite brave. So he decided that he you know, the put the Putin regime would like him to stay out of the country.


And he was in Germany because he was a problem for them, like I said, a thorn in the side politically. But he flew he and his wife flew back to Russia just recently and were arrested at the airport. And he's been thrown in a Moscow prison. But also, like I said, he's quite media savvy. At the same time, he released a two hour long video again showing sort of the graft and corruption around the Kremlin. They showed this massive multibillion dollar palace that Putin had had had built for himself with hockey arenas.


And multibillion dollar cocaine has a no fly zone over. It's secured by the Russian security services. It has vineyards, all this kind of stuff, and through a variety of sort of moving money around through his friends and others, it's in his interests. It's been now looked at well over a million times and it's gotten quite a bit of interest in Russia. So a lot of people who normally wouldn't come out to protest, you know, younger people, people who aren't necessarily, you know, opposition figures and politically came out a couple of weeks ago, last weekend to protest against the Putin regime.


And so this is a massive cell phone by Putin. Putin's a KGB former KGB officer. For four years, he's followed the KGB trick of murdering his his opponents of liquidating enemies of the people, as they used to call it, in the Soviet days. And now they're doing it against their own people. But the fact that he tried to kill Navalny, who had a following, but it wasn't really it's hard to imagine it was a real threat to Putin and his regime.


He's now actually created a real problem. So now people are coming out on the streets. Navalny has much more popularity and bandwidth than he had before. And so it's going to be really interesting to watch it going forward. I don't think it means the end of Putin or anything like that, but it's he's created a real problem for himself.


I wanted to ask you whether or not we should expect some significant change going forward or these protests will have a major impact. Clearly, Putin cannot be happy about this. And I just wonder how will it matter?


Well, it's really hard to say because we don't have great insight into the Russian political system. He's created a system where there's there's really no room for real opposition or democratic system. And so, you know, and also recently he's been frustrated by there was, as you know, protests and and rioting in nearby Belarus next door. There's been some protests in the east of Russia. And in the past, he's he's cracked down very hard. There are some some protesters that came out in 2012 against, you know, sort of stole an election at that time.


And so, you know, it's really hard to say. It's hard to imagine that this is a direct threat or anytime soon. But he's created it. You know, when you have a dictatorial regime that doesn't have the means to sort of put off pressure, it's really hard to say how his responses will be taken and how the people will respond to this.


OK, so Mike and Jennifer, I want to come to you next on this, because we saw Biden's then incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, call for Navalny released last Sunday. He called the Kremlin's attacks on Navalny, quote, a violation of his human right and an affront to the Russian people. So, Mike, can you talk about the significance of the U.S. taking a stand against Russia?


In a way we you know, we really haven't seen for the last four years?


Yeah, I mean, I chuckled and I apologized for that. But it is I mean, that was a standard question, I think, through most of our lives, like. Right. That was that was the way we operated.


And I think, again, it kind of still sends a chill up the spine to think that we all know that Donald Trump would have behaved completely differently in this same scenario. And look, I'm fascinated by the conversation we're having, too, especially with John's background. And his knowledge is just we're going to find out how deep a lot of this stuff ran. Obviously, it got all the way up to the Oval Office. But but how deep into the bureaucracy and deep into the infrastructure of of the United States government, this type of behavior, the culture change that really, I think enabled a lot of this behavior and what the what the long term damage that was done could be or is.


But but more specifically to the question, I mean, look. I think there is a relief that there's some sort of sense of normalcy back, I think that there's an understanding, at least amongst a wide swath and certainly probably a majority of Americans, that this is this is not only problematic now, but it's been problematic over the course of the past few years. There's unfortunately, a wide swath of Americans who gave this past administration too much of a of a past.


And I think it was really one of the key indicators as a political consultant and a political observer of how malleable the Republican Party's ideology had become and how I realized this is really going to be very problematic. This wasn't just a difference on tax policy, right? When Donald Trump started to move in a different direction or opposing free trade or some ideas or policy positions that were a little bit more abstract.


The idea of the United States being concerned about the Russian threat has always, in most of our, if not all of our lifetimes, been kind of a central tenet of American foreign policy, and especially for people 50 and older who are a lot of voters who remember life before the fall of the wall and who make up a wide swath of Republican voters, incidentally, to to see the malleability of the electorate.


In following Donald Trump on a one hundred and eighty two degree turn is related to our foreign policy. And the adversarial relationship on Russia was just kind of jaw dropping and made me realize we were dealing with something foundationally different politically than we had ever dealt with before, and that the approach that we would have to take in the campaign and the messaging that we were going to have to use with the average Republican voter was going to be unlike anything I had ever seen in any campaign before.


Because if you can switch on taxes and free trade and Russia, you're no longer dealing with the same party anymore. Those are the three the three basic tenets of Republicanism in the post-World War Two era. They were all violated within days and or weeks of the Trump administration. And this just was not the Republican Party more no longer stood for what it believed in. And the most emotional of all of those. Yeah. Was the was the Russian threat.


Right. So, Jennifer, on Tuesday, President Biden got it feels good to say that he had his first phone call with Putin. And according to the readout from the White House, Biden and Putin discussed the poisoning of Navalny, the United States support for Ukraine's sovereignty, the solar winds, Herkes that gained access to multiple US government agencies, which we've talked about here, and reports of Russia placing bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan. Everyone, I think, remembers of The New York Times broke the bounty's story back in June.


And we know that Trump did not discuss the bounties with Putin in a July phone call. So, Jennifer, I want to get your reaction to this finally being addressed by a new president and how we should be thinking about the delay in confronting Putin. Right. And there's there's a lot to react to that. No, the first one is the first thing you said according to the readout of the call.


Oh, look, we got a readout.


We got a readout between, you know, and a readout that we can trust was probably accurate and legitimate and transparent. So that's I mean, and that's huge. That in and of itself, the American people, I think, are starting to breathe a little more easy. Now, they feel like regardless of how you feel about where Biden might stand on one policy or another, we now have a responsible, experienced leader in the White House conducting himself as if he's accountable to the American people.


I think that's a that's a huge that's hugely noteworthy in and of itself. Yeah. So I'll tell you this. As a mom, as a military mom, the fact that the Trump that the fact that Putin's bounties on the heads of our children who go to war to protect and defend our nation, I was on that list, was a little bit emotional for me. I'm going to tear up that right now. I apologize. It's the stupidest thing.


But when I read the tweet with the readout attached to it, I got a little bit choked up as I and I just felt like finally, finally, somebody is, you know, understanding and taking this seriously. All of those issues need to be addressed to Putin. And hopefully they the circumstances with Navalny won't be something that President Biden will continue to pressure Putin on because it could so easily go in a horribly tragic way, especially now that they actually have him in custody.


So he's got to continue on that. A couple of thoughts about things that everything that John and Mike talked about as I as I was kind of listening to him go through all this, let's there are a few things that we have to really be clear on. The first is Donald Trump enabled Vladimir Putin. Make no mistake about that. It wasn't. He wasn't. It wasn't like it wasn't just, oh, he's trying to be friends with him, he's trying to have a better relationship with him on behalf of the United States, he enabled Putin's worst instincts, Putin's worst actions, because he never held him accountable.


He never even suggested that there would be the possibility of accountability. And he praised him and he raised him up. And he you know, he he sort of idolized people, right? He idolized him.


Right. This was this strong leader riding the horse without his shirt on. Creepy stuff. And just so so Donald Trump made I mean, he didn't make Putin. We all we all understand that. But he he made Putin a lot worse. And that is squarely, unfortunately, on our shoulders in the United States on Trump. The next thing, the the the other thing that I kept thinking about as John was talking about, the kind of the uprisings in Russia after Navalny was arrested, I was thinking about January six and how what happened at the capital was in pursuit of the exact opposite principles of what these people, millions of people in Russia were protesting.


And in pursuit of that, that's such a great point. And the contrast is stark.


It is a crazy thing to have that had we had these people in Washington, DC attacking our capital, many of them with the intention of hurting or killing our elected representatives, they hung a noose and went looking for Mike Pence. That was the one they were talking about. The the answer to what's wrong involves death inside this building. I mean, and they wanted to overturn the outcome of a free and fair American election. Compare that to what they were protesting for in Russia, of all places.


Yeah. And then the really important thing about all of that that ties that together in my head is that the Republican Party is continuing to embrace us going forward. The Republican Party is looking at those people at the Capitol as their base. The Republican Party continues to embrace the idea of Trump ism, even though Trump lost and we had that they had the opportunity to start to put him behind them as a party. Instead, what Kevin McCarthy is doing right this very minute, what Mitch McConnell is doing with impeachment back on the table again, they are saying we are going to build the future of our party on the ugliest, most destructive part of Donald Trump.


They that truly they may as well change the name of the party from Republican to to Trump that. That's what it is. John, you are nodding.


Yeah, I was just going to add, this should be an opportunity for four smart people, hopefully in the Congress and other places for a real bipartisan effort. Like we may disagree on a lot of different things, but traditional Republicans like like Mike was mentioning, should support this. And so I think President Biden, you know, they're not going to support another reset. They're not going to make the mistakes that the Obama administration made and the Bush administration made before that, because essentially, you know, Putin truly is an enemy.


You know, he never one thing is really funny about all this is he never cared about about Trump. He hates the U.S. He wanted chaos in the U.S. and Trump was the chaos candidate. Therefore, he supported him. He used he used Trump as a sucker and the kind of stuff that the Trump himself talked about. And so there really is an opportunity here for some sort of bipartisan effort, you know, between the Democrats and Republicans. Let's see.


Yeah. Yeah, well, we will see. OK, let's go to Giuliani. On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems filed a one point three billion dollar defamation lawsuit against former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Now, we've talked about Giuliani quite a bit since the election. He was one of the Trump campaign lawyers spearheading their attempts to overturn the election. The lawsuit accuses Giuliani of conducting a viral disinformation campaign about dominion. That's a quote from the lawsuit and promoting the false preconceived narrative that the election was stolen from Trump.


That's how they put it. This follows another one point three billion dollar lawsuit Dominion filed against another Trump attorney, Sidney Powell, earlier this month. And as everyone recalls, Giuliani frequently pushed the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion voting machines were used to steal the election shortly before the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th. Giuliani talked about the Crooked Dominion machines stealing the election before telling Trump supporters to conduct trial by combat. Those are his words. And according to The Washington Post, Giuliani is investigating a countersuit against Dominion for what he calls an effort to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech.


So, Jennifer, we're seeing now the first wave of accountability for people who pushed this big lie that Trump won the election. How how are you thinking about this lawsuit? How should our listeners be thinking about this lawsuit?


Well, I love it that finally you feel like there is some small measure of accountability for the role that these people played.


Dominion can't hold them accountable for for sedition, for treason, for for insurrection. But they are they absolutely have standing to hold them accountable for the damage they did to the reputation of Dominion as their product and as a company. No one's going to get one point three trillion dollars or a billion dollars. Anything else? It's not about the money. That's about sending a message. Yeah, I think that I think that Dominion is kind of for a lot of people, they feel like they're acting on our behalf, that they are finally going after the people who wrought such damage, not just chaos, but real damage, very dangerous actions that they took against America, against democracy and this whole thing now.


And it just kind of opens the door for us to talk about the big lie, because I feel like we have to always go back and sort of set the table for it over and over again. This is not about Republicans versus Democrats. This is not that Republicans are just doing what everybody does when they lose an election. They they they continue to criticize their opponent. It's just politics. It's not what happened that the big lie, you know, there's a reason why we title it, why we tag it with that and keep saying it over and over again.


Very nearly destroyed democracy in America.


People we cannot allow ourselves to forget or to allow Republicans to rewrite history. How close we came on January six, the Republican Party dragged our democracy to the to the edge of the cliff on that day. And they continue to try to do so going forward. And in addition to just being really enthusiastic about the lawsuit.


I love it. I got to keep it. I love it.


I think it's really important that for the rest of our lives, not just until the next election or the next presidential election for the rest of our lives, we need to ask every Republican who ever puts their name on a ballot again. Do you believe that Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the twenty twenty presidential election?


Yeah, if you don't, you are disqualified from everything forever, like there had. It has created that kind of a baseline.


Yeah, they should be cancelled. I want to talk about it and talk about OK, let's talk about how can Josh Holly was before we get the here today. So that's what I want to go next actually because. Good. Well not necessarily Josh Holly but people in general.


Mike. OK, so you know, Rudy Giuliani is calling this an effort to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech. And we've recently seen similar griping from other Republicans about how they are being held accountable for what happened on January six for everything that led up to it and their role in perpetuating this big lie. So can you take a moment and talk about the difference between canceling? And accountability and and how we should be thinking about the pushback from these Republicans, how our listeners should be seeing this.


Yeah, look, I think this is really important because as I've characterized a number of times, the defeat of Donald Trump marks the end of the beginning of what I what I think demographically is going to be two decades, a 20 year run. And it's based on demographics of this type of a politics and type of destruction where violence is going to be a part and parcel of American politics for at least the foreseeable future. Part of this and really I think the main kindling for all of this is the trafficking of misinformation and just outright lying.


We saw this very early on in the Trump administration with at Berkeley some of like when military anapolis and provocateurs were coming on to the scene and and half of the shtick was just lying and moving misinformation. The other was being so overly the overly over-the-top offensive that it was really kind of just shock the conscience of the country. And what they were trying to do was trying to use that type of language, the shocking, jarring, socially unacceptable language to say that what I'm saying is politically incorrect.


So these people are trying to get rid of me when the other half of what they were saying was just outright lies, which you've never been able to do to lie without any consequence in this country illegally. There are sometimes you could unless you are, of course, inciting some sort of violence or or breaking the law. And we are I'm bringing this up for a reason. And that's because this the battle against misinformation is going to be a fight of many fronts.


And I think we started to see this with Twitter and Facebook finally in the waning days of the Trump administration, moving in a different direction, one because of the violence that was coming. But look, violence has been part of this from the beginning. These companies should have been doing something much earlier. They are also seeing the change in the administration coming and recognizing that their regulatory environment was going to get decidedly different under a new administration. So politics were at play regardless.


This was not a domestic. Yeah, it wasn't altruistic at all. There's a business model on both both ways, in both directions, as they were looking to meet their, you know, their their business models demands.


And so the Democrats in Congress, I think, are going to be very hard pressed to force this type of regulatory behavior on these companies that did a really poor job of self-regulating, this type of speech. And again, this is fundamentally comes down to a First Amendment question. And how we handle this is going to determine how violent our political culture becomes in the next 20 years. And so, look, there's some really serious questions. We have always our history has almost always been the answer is more speech, not restricting speech.


Right. It's the one central tenet of America's DNA, which is political. Free speech is the main free speech of which we can and should always engage in. And the court should always rely on erring on the side of more speech, the challenges when there's just blatant lies and calls for violence or insurrection against the government. And that's squarely where we are, just undeniably where we are at this moment in American history. And so there's going to have to be a couple of fronts.


The first, again, is the regulatory front. But the second there's there's three actually. The second is going to have to be the social ostracization where we don't allow this type of things as people to say that's really, really peculiar. Or like, why are these educated people not looking at basic sixth grade science and saying it's not OK to wear a mask like people of conscience, people of education, people of concern are going to have to unite and and not permit it to be socially acceptable and ostracize this group.


The third and I love what Dominion's doing. Also, one of the great ironies is, you know, dominion, their businesses, voting machines, it's literally the basic function of democracy. But they will probably be remembered for these lawsuits in terms of protecting democracy more than being the purveyors of voting machines, because they are fighting back against misinformation, essentially, and working to smash and break this financially. And it's why you've seen one America news network back off and Newsmax back off and even Fox starts to temper.


What they were saying is, wait a second, if there is some accountability to blatantly lying and whipping up the American public against democracy, because we could. Be crushed financially, maybe we shouldn't be doing this, and so I think it's great that Dominion is doing it not just on its own merits, but I think there's going to probably be at least a half a dozen or more states that add Dominion voting machines because they are truly practicing to protect democracy in the democratic system.


And they're getting great advertising by everyone, including Trump officials who had oversight on cyber security, saying these were perfect machines. None of this stuff happened. These this things worked flawlessly. So the more aggressively they go forward, not only are they protecting democracy, it's a good business model. And I think it's going to take an attack by good people and good companies to do all of these things to to not allow those that are trying to abuse the free speech rights, to allow for the manipulation of the truth, for outright lying and for for blatant insurrection and seditious acts.


Yeah. So, Jennifer, I saw you nodding. I have a question.


Ask me about council culture on the right. Please, please, please. Actually, actually, I do. But I want to give John a heads up because I want to come back to you, John, in just a minute to get your thoughts on how Mike described the three fronts of that war against misinformation, because obviously some of the you know a lot about. But Jennifer, in the meantime. Well, John's thinking about that. Holly did write a cover essay for The New York Post where he claimed that it's time to stop muzzling American time to stop the muzzling of America.


And he claimed that he was canceled. And he's also been complaining about being canceled on Fox News. So what?


Yeah, go for it, hit it and take it away. You know, I'm looking at the grocery store. I mean, wah, wah, wah, wah.


Josh Hawley is the biggest baby I have ever seen in politics ever. And that is saying a lot. This entitled, you know, he has gotten every opportunity that American life has to offer anybody, anywhere, ever, you know, and and a high education, a law degree, I think, from Yale. I think he he clerked for a for a Supreme Court justice on and on and on. And he is now in his 40s, a sitting United States senator.


This big baby is mad that he got caught being a seditious, nearly traitorous, self-serving politician. That's what he's mad about. We he we caught him. He and and he's being held accountable for it. The idea there is no question that there is that there is bias in media in the way that it is presented, the way that our media has developed, like there really are. There are there's almost no news left. It's always news with commentary, news with opinion, you know, so I get the frustration on with that.


That is not what Josh Hall is suffering from. Josh Holley is suffering from being caught red handed, being a despicable human being, and now he's being held accountable for it. He's being caught red handed, giving the power fist symbol to the people who were protesting and getting ready to storm our capital. And he's mad because he's being held accountable. There's a publisher who doesn't want to publish his stupid, whiny little book because they see who he really is and they don't want to be associated with it.


You know what comes with you know, what comes with free speech? You know, what comes in this country, the right to reject what you're saying, the right to disagree with you, the right to say my business is not going to put their name on your stupid shit. That's what Josh Holly is suffering from. And I, I that's what I don't know where his mother is, but he needs to be spanked.


Jennifer Horn, ladies and gentlemen, that is how I feel about Josh John not to not to put you on the spot to follow that.


But but I do want to come back to the the bigger picture of this war on misinformation, because I think I think Mike is right that this is going to be a very, very long slog to deal with this problem.


How how how should we be thinking about those three fronts?


And then and then separately, if I can add another question on here, I'd love also for you to talk about how this story and this challenge that we're facing now makes the US look to our allies and our adversaries abroad. Mike mentioned Milo Yiannopoulos and other provocateurs, but now it's also elected, all perpetuating what is essentially a big lie. Oh, and also, can you explain to our listeners where the term big lie comes from?


Well, interesting.


So it's a lot. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry when I forget to get on it. John, get on it. You know, the. You know, I don't bring everything back to Russia here, but we can learn a lot from the Soviet Union and how they created this sort of big lie, you know, books like Animal Farm in 1984 to come back into our lingo so we can understand why authoritarians want to create a false reality so that they can so that they can then push forward and steal money and do corruption and things because they've created this false reality.


And and also on the Giuliani question, you go back, he's he spent a lot of time in Ukraine, a lot of contact with Russian intelligence officers. There's a lot of people who study these things that look at a lot of the sort of disinformation lies how the Russian angle to them, you know, he might have been fed things that he was then feeding that Trump that got into our ecosystem. So in 2016, we saw that the Russians were weaponized social media.


They were using, you know, a form of information, political warfare to attack us by 2020. A lot of that in 2016 was self created. They created these fake accounts and they pushed them into our system by 2020. They didn't have to do that quite as well. They did get better at it, but they could just amplify and exploit existing disinformation, lies that were being put out by the Trump administration itself. And so they could use these useful idiots and his fellow travelers to push their agenda.


So there is a lot to be learned from the Soviet Union and the Russia case because because, you know, they're the ones that have been creating this post Truth World. So there is, again, a little bit to learn from 2016 to 2020 on how the Russians use disinformation and lies and and weaponized information. By 2020. We were better at it. We understood where it was coming from. Just simply the you know, the sunlight, the publicizing, the pushing these things forward.


We are more media savvy. We are more savvy of these kind of things. Certainly not enough, because there's a base of people who still believe these things. And so it's going to be a long term ongoing effort to try to push reality back. And that's where the Lincoln Project is so important. You're taking people who grew up in Republican politics and saying, here's what's happening here. It's gone too far. We can't go any further. It has to be built on truth.


We can have differences of opinion on policy, but it has to be built on truth. And what happened with the Trump team is they they moved into the Soviet model where we're going to create a fake reality.


Anyone who criticizes us, we're going to say this is fake news or you know, or tear down anyone who can hold us accountable, the CIA, the FBI, anybody like that. And so in terms of how our allies and adversaries. Yeah, follow this one thing. Having lived most of my career working overseas, I don't think Americans realize just how closely people pay attention to what's happening here.


So right there is people overseas right now who are listening to this. There's people who follow our media closely. It's always, always embarrassing to me be in some country, in Malaysia or Finland or Sweden or Japan and realize how deeply they understood our politics, what's happening, what are the things that are going on when most Americans couldn't find them on a map or understand who is the leader of their country. And so I think a lot of the countries, our allies are pretty savvy to this.


They understood what Donald Trump was our European allies understood very well because they grew up next to the Soviet Union and Russia. So they they get what was happening here. That's why they were concerned. And they realized that the damage I think they understand that a Biden administration is going to handle things better and rely on allies. You know, this world is too big and complex for us to do things alone. We need friends, allies and partners around the world.


So I don't think it's as you know, it's quite as bad as we think that that. But the one thing that has happened in four years, a lot of these countries have had to sort of move forward or on their own and build their own separate relationship and alliances and stuff. And so our ability to lead is, you know, less obvious and less easy. But I do think this administration is going to find a way to, you know, to do that and everything from climate change to to political issues.


You know, what I think is really interesting about some of this? Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, Bill and I and our family were part of an organization that hosted children from the Chernobyl region. So from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for several years, they would come in the summer and get medical care and other support services and go home again. And they came with with chaperones. And one year we had a couple of children and a chaperone.


Stay with us. She was a teacher from Quincy, Russia, which is right. There were those near those three countries come together. And it was fascinating getting to know her because she was extremely intelligent, very well educated to the degree that she was able to access education in her country. Because what I found very interesting was how much she just didn't know. I was never allowed to know about global politics, about religion, but she she grew up convinced that the United States was on the border of Russia, ready to come in and steal their children and this kind of thing, and and blow up the country and take over and and we would have these conversations about current politics.


You know, George Bush was president at the time, things like that. And she was just adamant that I was wrong, that I was incorrect. And it was as we lived through these days now with this the the way that digital media and the way that the the Internet has connected us and given us access to all sorts of information, it also has made it so much easier to misinform the masses. You know, it's not that this one woman was was not informed.


The entire population of her country was misinformed for decades. And and it just makes me realize that how dangerous and how effective these misinformation campaigns can be. And that's what we have to really be conscious of today, that there were 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump. I don't know how many was it 30 million or 20 million who really believed all of this misinformation and fully embraced it and are now building their lives on the foundation of that misinformation.


And they're now informing their children's views of the world and ideas about politics. With that misinformation, it becomes it can spread very quickly and become a massively dangerous I don't know, it becomes incredibly it can be very pervasive and become very dangerous, actually.


That's a perfect segue way to this third topic I want to talk about, which is Margaret Taylor Greene. Speaking of things that spread right.


I didn't say the word crazy. How is that? How was that? Well, come on.


So on Tuesday, CNN released a final file report about Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Green. Their investigation found that Green indicated support for executing Democratic politicians in twenty eighteen and twenty nineteen before she ran for Congress. Now she's the the one of the newest congresspeople from Georgia in January. Twenty nineteen Green like to comment on Facebook that said a bullet to the head would be quicker to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In April of twenty eighteen, Greene wrote about the Iran nuclear deal on Facebook and one commenter asked about hanging President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Greene replied to the comment. Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off. Last week, Media Matters reported that Green agreed with a twenty eighteen Facebook comment that the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a false flag planned event. She also wrote in a separate twenty eighteen Facebook post and quote, I am told that Nancy Pelosi tells Hillary Clinton several times a month that we need another school shooting in order to persuade the public to want strict gun control.


So Green has also liked Facebook comments calling for the execution of FBI agents who in her eyes are part of the deep state that was working against Trump. And after CNN's reporting, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy s office said that the leader planned to speak with Greene but did not indicate any plans to punish Greene. I've gone this entire time without actually naming Q and on Mike, which we'll get to in a minute because she is a Q and on believer.


But Jennifer, back when Green won her runoff, you said something to the effect of leader McCarthy should make it clear that someone like this would not be welcome in the Republican caucus and she would not receive a committee assignment if she got elected, remember? And so we're recording this almost 48 hours after the CNN Caifa report came out. How should we be thinking about the lack of action and accountability for Greene even now, after everything that has resulted from the the the brazen propping up of the lies and the misinformation that have resulted in this woman becoming a congresswoman the way that Kevin McCarthy is conducting himself right now, these the the Republican minority leader in the United States House of Reps is.


Is it the way that he is conducting himself now goes back to what I said a little bit earlier in the show, that this is what the Republican Party is building their future on. Kevin McCarthy is afraid of offending the supporters of this insane, dangerous, seditious woman. He's a he's afraid of standing up. And they they took they took Steve King off his committee, frankly, as horrible as what he said was. Nothing about shooting people in the head and overturning the government and accusing people of wanting more school shootings.


She Marjorie Taylor Green is a perfect example of just how dangerous misinformation becomes when it is when it is allowed to run rampant, when it is not questioned, when it is not held accountable. And frankly, although she didn't hide this, she ran making these statements in these comments during her during her campaign. So we've reached a point where we the people are accountable to some degree as well for all of this. And I think it was Michael who sort of references earlier talk about his three the three different avenues there.


It's on us. We have got to speak up. And not just people like, you know, the four of us here today who have an identity associated with the Lincoln Project, you know, regular people in the parking lot waiting for your kids to come out from school at the grocery store. You go out to dinner with your neighbors and friends some day when covid is over in your regular interactions. I'm not saying go out there and start punching people or get into fights that, you know, that involve screaming in public.


But we just have to very calmly and consistently say that is untrue, that is untrue and keeps over and over again. And I you know, the only time I engage politically on Facebook is to make that statement. Every now and then I'll see something that is so outrageous and I'll see people that I know are otherwise rational, intelligent people engaging in the conversation. I'll just say this is false. This is untrue. And sometimes I stick a link in there.


But we have to speak up as as a people, as Americans across the country and start calling out the dangerousness of misinformation because it leads to crazy people like Marjorie Taylor Green.


So, Mike, on Wednesday night, Congresswoman Alexandria or Cortez told Chris Hayes, Kevin McCarthy answers to these kuhnen members of Congress, not the other way around. So how accurate is Aoki's take on the situation?


Or are Republican officials in Congress now beholden to Kuhnen supporters?


Like, is that where we are? Yeah. Yes, we are. And I want to I want to talk about why. Because it's going to get bigger because of some of the dynamics that we've seen. As you all know, and having worked with me for a year, I'd like to try to take a step back and identify some of the patterns and trends. And I talked a little bit about some of what's happening with with misinformation. But there is one other and this is a little bit provocative sometimes.


But but this is a data point that we are seeing. And it's very important to understand why this is different. And the the reason the dynamic I'm going to mention in just a moment is indicative of why it's spreading as fast as it is. Probably not for the reason. And that is this. I think it's now past the point of debate that there is a strong undercurrent of female activity with the extremism in our politics that is unprecedented in what we have seen in American politics.


And I'm mentioning that not because I think women in government or women in politics are more extreme voices. I'm mentioning that because there is a data backed reason for that, and that is this. Women spend 30 percent more time online than men. So math just tells you just math that the more you are online, the more susceptible you are to the information flow that is moving around on the Internet. It's just just math, which is mathematics. But when you look at it from that perspective and start to see some of the movements that have really blown up the anti vaccine movement, for example, almost the activist wing of that movement is almost entirely female.


It's extremely aggressive. It's very violent. It traffics aggressively in false information. That movement became the bedrock basis for the anti mass movement and the idea that covid-19 was a hoax. And that was not true. Right. The Q And on conspiracy theory, you look at some of the math. If even if you look at the anecdotal data that is coming out from from some of the language and the communications that we're finding pre January six related to the insurrection, a very large amount, we're being moved by women.


Two of the four people, private citizens at. The insurrection were women, so, so and it's not just on the on the right, by the way, it's on the left as well. This is this problem is emanating. It's not a male or female thing, although it is the cause is the amount of time that we're spending online because those sources of and for precisely. And so we have to understand that it's not just our brains are wired that are wired in a way to start responding to the information that we are seeing and the more exposure to it is going to help in the radicalization process.


Right. We started to see this and we were shocked and horrified.


Remember when there was a a female bomber years ago where a woman had strapped herself with explosives and was a suicide bomber?


It's like, whoa, wait a second, women don't do this type of thing. The same thing is happening here. And it's not because they're women. It's because there's just a mathematical reason that people are spending more time online and women happen to spend 30 percent more time online. And I say that because ultimately we're going to have to come up with some sort of systems to understand just how powerful the communication systems are that we have in moving and changing otherwise rational people's behavior and radicalizing people online, especially when there are dangerous elements that are pushing this forward.


So to your point, yes, 20 years ago, the way representative government and you know, the whole history, the United States up until very recently, representative government, the whole idea was that you would have people making decisions on our behalf. They would be filtering all this information. They were the experts who are spending time in Washington, D.C. and we would elect the deciders for us. Now, what has happened is the exact opposite, right?


It's the people that are the base of both parties, frankly, less so in the Democratic Party, but certainly in the Republican Party are driving this this this fealty to the base. It's why why Trump, who capitalized on this became so dangerous is because nobody would cross not just trumpeter's mean tweets. It's what the tweet would incite amongst the base and how they would respond to something that all of us in this discussion have personally experienced, which is betraying the cause, betraying the movement.


And suddenly you're worse than any foreign enemy we could possibly have. You're the purpose for the destruction of of the party and of the cause and our movement in our identity. Because you're actually standing up and saying, wait a second, the emperor has no clothes like this is not right. I don't believe that there's this international sex trafficking ring for children being run out of a pizza parlor. I think that's a little bit crazy. Suddenly you're the bad guy, right?


Right. And so that that intensity and the inability to persuade people on basic facts is becoming more commonplace. And as it does, as I've said before on some of these podcasts, it's creating a breakdown in representative government because representative government requires a judicious, more independent decision maker to say, I hear what you're saying back home, but I won't act in the best interests as I see it. That does not happen. Even when we watch the impeachment hearings, which are going to come up, when there's going to be video evidence, there's going to be the president's own words.


There's going to be emails from members who actually were saying stuff. The evidence will not be more clear. In fact, the people in those chambers were witnesses to it themselves. They were literally within minutes of being attacked on the floor. They will still vote not to to convict the president of seditious acts because they cannot. And that is fundamentally the reason why they cannot and will not do it. OK. That is terrifying. John, John and Jennifer, I want to get your reactions to that.


John, why don't you go first, then Jennifer and then John, I have another question for you.


First, as an aside, you know, based on my experience, you know, my espionage background, intelligence background is I am always shocked by how these sort of nut jobs like Miss Taylor Green pick up on this idea of false flag operations. That's an intelligence term about how you might trick someone into thinking, you know, you're recruiting in a half of somebody else. You know, I really wish they would maybe adopt a different aspect from intelligence tradecraft and espionage training.


And maybe that is that's rigorous fact based analysis and challenging assumptions like intelligence tradecraft is built on truth. It's built on, you know, doing it for a real purpose. So there's this false flag thing is just, you know, they pick up sort of these crazy conspiratorial things and run with it. And I just don't quite get it. But the the problem in. Anyways, and I'm over going to big here, perhaps, but, you know, globalization, over the last couple of years, the world has gotten more complex.


People are finding their lives, an inability to understand what's happening. And people want simple solutions. They want they want someone to provide them the pattern that they can put their answers into. And so that fits right into sort of conspiratorial thinking. If you give people an answer that provides some simplicity and makes some sense to them, you know, they'll run with it. And it's obviously incredibly irresponsible for people to push those kind of things for people to do.


And it's dangerous. And you can argue that, you know, I worked in the intelligence field for a long time. That's sort of the conspiratorial business our job is to, is to create a picture for the other side, for the enemy. To see that that fits with our narrative is the one thing you learn from doing that is these incredibly crazy, complex things, you know, that people buy into it. You can't do that if you're going to actually try to create a conspiracy for someone to follow and understand, it has to be quite simple.


It can't be these crazy things that these people are buying into. So, you know, it's incredibly frustrating. And I don't know how we pull people out of that dilemma.


Yeah, Jennifer? Well, Jon just said, like, it has these crazy conspiracies. They don't work because they're too crazy and they're too complex. With all due respect to John, who I think is extraordinarily intelligent, they're working right now like look at how many millions of people believe that there is a child sex ring, a pedophile ring that is being used to provide children for sexual gratification to elected members of our government. I mean, that's that is how crazy it is.


And there are millions of people out there who believe it, who are the whole the whole stop this deal, the whole big lie. If you if you stop and read it or think about it with any kind of calm, rational analysis is crazy. And and, you know, someone very close to me said to me, you know, stop calling it crazy. There are a hundred million people who believe that to some degree that the election was stolen, that there was this massive issue with Dominion voting machines, that there were people, you know, ballots being counted eight or ten times, like the whole thing, that they are so bought into it that they went and tried to kidnap a sitting governor and one in Michigan with the intention of putting her on trial and possibly executing her like it's insane.


But how do we and I don't have the answer to this. If we are going to preserve our democracy, if we are going to have for my grandchildren any semblance of an America that we grew up in, this has to be stopped. Like we can't just keep getting together on the podcast and saying Margery Taylor Greene is an insane, dangerous, seditious person. I don't I don't know what the act we have to do something to to somehow. Move accurate information in front of a greater number of people to change the way people are thinking, I don't know what the answer is.


How do we need to understand where these people are coming from to begin with, which is something I've said from the beginning of this whole thing, like why would somebody who is a professional, successful, reasonable, good person vote for Donald Trump, you know, trying to understand what makes people tick? The thing that Mike said that I found very disturbing and I'm going to follow me for a long time is just the idea that women are on social media 30 percent.


Yeah, yeah. I want to know what you think. Well, first of all, I have no doubt that it's true that women are on social media that much more than men. I don't know exactly why that is, but I see it in my life. So I have no doubt that that's true. And it makes perfect sense because we know that that is where, you know, foreign actors are people who want to do harm, campaigns, political campaigns within our own country.


That's where you go to spread your information. That's where you go to organize to whether it's good information or bad luck. That's that's where it is. So that's really disturbing. And it's something I need to wrap my head around and figure out. How do we address that? I don't know what the answer is sitting here today, but that really hearing like say that that really got something going in my brain. So before we leave this topic, I would be remiss, John, if I didn't ask you about, you know, looking at these these calls for violence and the baseless conspiracy theories that people like Green have endorsed.


What did the national security liabilities look like? What is what is this present to us in terms of our own vulnerability? I think people like Jennifer and Mike have known for years that the strength of the United States overseas, our foreign policy is most powerful, more successful when the United States is economically successful, politically successful and has our game together. This is this is tearing at the resilience of our of our politics and therefore weakness in the more that we're focused inward, trying to deal with the problems, the less successful we're going to be on the world stage, the easier for adversaries to take advantage of things, to exploit our weaknesses and problems.


Essentially that, again, it goes back to what happened to us in 2016. They saw tribal politics, the United States, as being so passionate that they could essentially just throw a match into the under the tinder and instead of fire. And so there's there's a strong national security aspect to all of this. If we don't have our act together, if we are falling apart and if we see our enemies not, as you know, Namir, Iran, Russia, China or whatever, if we see our enemies as the other political party, then, you know, we've gone too far and we're weak and we're easy.


We're easy for anybody to push us over because, you know, our enemies, the people who actually want to kill us are know our foreign enemies, not people who should be working together to try to solve problems. The United States should be that Republicans and Democrats want a rich, powerful and successful United States. How is it that you see that your political opponents as your real enemies? OK, now that we're up to speed on the biggest stories of the week, let's look ahead briefly to next week.


What stories and developments are you watching for, Mike? Do you want to lead us off? Yeah, you know, I think that I don't know that it's a story, but I am looking at sort of, I think, the resurrection of American foreign policy. I was extraordinarily gratified when I saw that statement, the read out from the Biden administration, from President Biden. And what I'm going to be looking for, I think, is probably more foreign news sources in the way that the foreign media is covering what's happening in the United States, which I've always tried to include a little bit of that understanding because frankly, our media is so fractured.


I'm going to be diplomatic and saying it's fractured. What is the perception of other people at this point in time beyond our shores? And what kind of signals are they being sent through their own media? And what are they believing? What are they buying? What are they looking for? The other thing I am looking at is this GameStop issue where you have I'm so glad you brought this up.


It is so fascinating. It's fascinating. Quite alarming if it's absolutely wrong.


I think when we get to the bottom of what is happening and what we are, what we're going to see is the manipulation of markets in some way, shape or form. Maybe it's it's not a bunch of tick tock kids, I will tell you that, because they don't have the kind of capital required to mark K pop stars like pop stars. I think a lot of that stuff coming up on social media, like that's not how this works.


Yeah, but our listeners right now, some of them at least, are scratching their heads wondering what the GameStop issue is. Can you can you, you know, in a sound bite or two? Can you just.


Yeah, well, basically, GameStop is a brick and mortar retailer who was being kind of attacked by short sellers, essentially meaning meaning that people were bearish on the stock and were selling it and it was kind of beating the price down in Reddit forums. There started to be some organizing to kind of move the stock back up. Now, that takes some sort of institutional money in some way, shape or form to keep the the stock price moving up. But what we're seeing, again, is more social media activity that is hyping up a stock which most institutional investors think is not as as financially sound as as as clearly demonstrated by a dramatically escalating stock price is just going through the roof right now not nearly as valuable, right?


Yeah, it's not nearly as valuable as the prices is trading for in our financial markets. And it's not just a small hiccup, right? There have always been a little small insider trading movements and people trying to seek advantage where there will be a couple of points, Pop, and somebody will make some money with either a quick hedge or jumping into the market at the right time. This is moved by a factor of four hundred percent.


Yeah. And and there are some gaming of the system which is causing the hedge fund community. Those short sellers are losing billions with a B billions of dollars. As I'm not saying I'm crying for these guys either. They knew what they were doing, what they were getting into. That exposure is always in there when they're shorting a stock. But but the valuation of this company is being manipulated by somebody and something that we don't know about. And it portends something equally problematic in the way we've seen challenges in our political system through social media.


We could be seeing similar behavior seeping into our financial markets.


I just want to put a pin in that because we're going to come back to it in the future. But it's really important story. Jennifer, what are you watching on?


Mike just covered so much of the whole you know, he turns out he's a smart guy. Know, I remember a couple a couple of years ago, like maybe a year and a half ago, thinking that all of a sudden we're just not even hearing about our relationships with foreign foreign nations. Like, I kind of felt like they had walked away from us. They had sort of just and at the time I was thinking, you know, they've decided that they'll take us seriously when we elect somebody serious to the White House again.


So hearing I agree with Mike, like that readout of that call with Russia was that made me think I'm going to start looking for more of that. We've got to start focusing more on how President Biden is trying to bring our allies back into the fold and what he's doing in the way of standing up for the traditional values of the United States of America and a foreign policy stage. What I will be watching the really next week is impeachment and where it goes.


And I mean, we all know pretty much how it's going to end up, right. I always held out the naive hope that more Republicans will stand up and act in honor and principle and integrity. But, you know, that heart's been broken 16 times this week alone. So but I'll be watching the impeach. More for the quotes, but these people say hearing how Republicans defend their their bad vote on this, we have already seen them kind of shift their argument.


People like Mitch McConnell, who suggested that he was open to it and took action. It's believed that he's expressed in the past that because it began, he was impeached in the House while Trump was still in office and that that opened the door. And that was good that he was that that gave us the foundation. And now he's saying, no, I think this is unconstitutional because he's a private citizen now. And so I'll be really listening to what all these Republicans say and and and filtering and using it to better understand the direction the Republican Party is going to take in the future, immediate and long term, that we are going to see.


And that's what I would say to people, listen to what they're saying as they defend their bad vote. And we will learn more about where they where their hearts are politically than than anything else at this point John.


So the people who investigated Benghazi for three or four years are now saying, move on, we've had two weeks already say, I guess what I'm looking at is a little more esoteric. The Trump administration left the Bush administration with a few foreign policy issues that it needs to deal with right away. And one of them is in Afghanistan. So they had started a peace deal to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. That is due to come up in March, where U.S. troops are all meant to be out by March if if everyone is following the deal.


Now, anyone who's been following the issue realize that the Taliban have not been doing so. They've been assassinating people and kill people and fighting troops. The previous administration wanted to cover that up and hide the fact that we are essentially pulling out. And and, you know, there there's such a push that Americans want to be out of what they think they call these forever wars that essentially would be surrendering to the Taliban, where there would be a long term problem there, where groups like the Taliban and others would think they actually want.


They actually pushed the big Americans away and got what they wanted as opposed to the Americans. So it's going to be interesting to see how this administration deals with those troop reductions, how they then look at these issues and step forward in the same things going to happen with Iran. We've been incredibly push very, very hard on Iran sanctions, all these other things. There's a very simple narrative out there that this administration wants to come in and just restart.


The old agreement doesn't work like that. So it's going to be interesting to see how they calculate how they look at these issues and how they move forward in this new administration. It's going to be really interesting to watch.


You all had a really heavy look ahead stories. So I just I'm going I'm going to lighten it up a bit, because on Monday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the very important news that there is a Harry Potter live action TV series in early development at HBO, Max. And it does it it doesn't look like they have a set plan yet for what the show will feature. But HBO, Max has had multiple conversations with potential writers about various ideas. And this is very, very important.


Thirty six year old daughter is going to to hear that a millennial in our. Yes, I know.


I had to. If there are any millennials listening to the show, they will appreciate that. I hope. OK, before I let you go, where can everyone find you on the Internet?


Jennifer and Jennifer on Twitter. Make Twitter at Madrid. Underscore Mike, Jon also on Twitter. And Jon, underscore Cypher, SFP each here.


And I'm on Twitter at Ron Suslow because this was a terrific conversation. Thank you for being here and thank you to everyone at home for listening. If you enjoy the show, it would help us if you could rate and reviews wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Ronstadt's level and I'll see you in the next episode. This episode was recorded when I hosted the Lincoln Project podcast on this feed, if you have any questions or advice, you can reach us at a podcast at Politico Dotcom.


And please know that even if we don't respond, we read every email we get and we love hearing from you. If you enjoy the show, it would help us if you could rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Ron Suslow. I'll see you in the next episode.