Russian intelligence likely hacked the ‘New York Times,’ CNN reports

Russian intelligence likely hacked the 'New York Times,' CNN reports

Image Credit: Getty Images


Reporters are always trying to stay one step ahead the organization they cover, gathering secrets and speaking confidentially to major politicians and political players. So if a malicious hacker wanted access to political secrets and couldn’t get to the source itself, journalists are a ripe target.

The FBI is investigating a series of cybersecurity breaches of the New York Times and other news organizations, CNN reported Tuesday.

According to CNN‘s intelligence sources, the attacks are part of a growing wave of espionage on behalf of the Russian government against groups like reporters and think-tanks in order to gather information about the U.S. political system.

This news comes shortly after the hack on the Democratic National Committee, which exposed DNC officials to so much embarrassment that DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign. Though the FBI hasn’t openly revealed the source of the attack, FBI insiders have credited it to Russian intelligence.

After the DNC hack, Donald Trump called for Russian intelligence to increase its espionage against the United States, apparently hoping that more humiliating disclosures could help him win the election.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. Right-wing media said Trump was joking, but national security experts didn’t think so.


Jack Smith IV

Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

REUTERS/Eric Thayer


Are we watching an American presidential campaign or the pilot episode of a bizarre new TV series? Or both? The hallmark of “reality TV,” of course, being its extreme unreality.

On a daily basis, the Trump campaign invites sheer disbelief. Recently, Ivanka Trump, the statuesque daughter her father talks about dating, posted an Instagram photo of herself sightseeing in scenic Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch.

The New York Daily News explains that “Deng, who was divorced from Rupert Murdoch in 2013…has been linked romantically to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.” The newspaper adds that “the optics of the photo could raise further questions about the relationship between Ivanka’s father and Putin.”

Geez, you think? Maybe I’ll ask Boris and Natasha, my pet names for the Russian operatives who started sending me obscene emails after a recent column critical of Trump. (The original Boris and Natasha were smarter and funnier.) The subject line in Boris’s latest message reads “TRUMP SHOULD [DEFECATE] IN YOUR TRAITOROUS MOUTH!”

With impressive tradecraft, Boris calls himself “Jason Larenzen,” a name that appears not to exist in the United States.

Anticipating the latest Fox News fantasy theme, Natasha (masquerading as “Karyn”) asks “Will lying c**t Hillary last to the election before brain blood clot ruptures?” Her IP address links to, which a Google search locates in Moscow, within walking distance of the Kremlin.

They aren’t especially subtle.

Of course, in Putin’s Moscow offending journalists get shot dead in the street, so I shouldn’t complain. Besides, having grown up in New Jersey, profanity makes little impact on me.

Yo, Natasha, you eat with that mouth?

But think about it: Russian operatives are openly intervening in an American presidential election: hacking Democratic Party emails and harassing obscure political columnists.

Always on Donald Trump’s side. You’ve got to ask yourself why.

One possible answer may have appeared in the New York Times. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s name turned up 22 times on a secret ledger detailing $12.7 million in illegal payola handed out under deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Supposedly, Manafort was also involved in a “murky” $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable TV “to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.”

Him again.

The information was given to Times reporters by the Ukrainian government’s “National Anti-Corruption Bureau,” no doubt tasked with putting as many of the current regime’s political rivals as possible in prison.

At the expense of being a spoilsport, I’ve learned to be highly skeptical of New York Times “blockbusters.” From the Whitewater hoax onward, the newspaper has produced a series of abortive Clinton scandal stories, culminating in last April’s abortive attempt to hint that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had corruptly engineered the sale of a Wyoming uranium mine.

“Look,” I wrote last April “there’s a reason articles like theTimes‘ big expose are stultifyingly dull and require the skills of a contract lawyer to parse. Murky sentences and jumbled chronologies signify that the ‘Clinton rules’ are back: all innuendo and guilt-by-association. All ominous rhetorical questions, but rarely straightforward answers.”

So it comes as no great surprise that Ukrainian investigators “have yet to determine if [Manafort] actually received the cash.”

So is Manafort a victim of the “Clinton Rules?” Could be.

But there’s no doubt about this: “Before he fled to Russia two years ago, Mr. Yanukovych…relied heavily on the advice of Mr. Manafort and his firm, who helped them win several elections.”

On evidence, little things like democratic institutions and the rule of law don’t appear high on Manafort’s priority list. Among his previous clients were Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire’s infamous Mobutu Sese Seko, aptly described as “the archetypal African dictator.” Both regimes were essentially kleptocracies, characterized by nepotism, brutality and extreme corruption.

Comparatively speaking, Vladimir Putin would appear to be one of Manafort’s more savory associates.

So when candidate Trump expresses a Russia-friendly foreign policy agenda—musing aloud about recognizing Putin’s illegal occupation of Crimea, and hinting that President Trump might refuse to defend NATO allies against Russian attack, it’s reasonable to wonder what’s being said behind closed doors.

Or when Trump invites Boris and Natasha to conduct cyber-warfare against his Democratic opponent. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July.

Later, of course, the candidate alibied that he was being sarcastic. He’s a great kidder, Trump. Something blows up in his face, it was a joke.

Washington Monthly‘s David Atkins poses the million ruble question: “How much does [sic] Trump and his team need to do before we start asking serious questions about whether they’re a Manchurian Candidate campaign actively working on behalf of a foreign nation?”

Basically, that depends upon how big a piece of Trump Russian oligarchs own—one big reason we’ll never see his income taxes.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Trump Claims He’s Never Spoken to Putin. In This 2014 Video, Trump Says He Did.



On Wednesday, Donald Trump angrily told reporters that he had no connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I have nothing to do with Putin,” he said. “I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me.”

But those comments contradict what he said in 2014, when he spoke at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. During this appearance, he discussed US-Russian relations and claimed that he had talked to Putin during a recent visit to Moscow, where Trump held his Miss Universe pageant. Here’s what Trump told the Press Club audience:

Russia does not respect our country any longer. They see we’ve been greatly weakened, both militarily and otherwise, and he certainly does not respect President Obama. So what I would do—as an example, I own Miss Universe, I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success. The show was live from Moscow and we had tremendous success there and it was amazing, but to do well, you have to get the other side to respect you, and he does not respect our president, which is very sad.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Trump’s claim that he has spoken to Putin.

It’s not the first time that Trump has made contradictory claims about his relationship with Putin. During a Republican primary debate in November, Trump said, “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes.” But it turned out that Trump and Putin were interviewed in separate locations. During his press conference on Wednesday, he claimed not to know anything about the Russian leader. “I never met Putin,” he said. “I don’t know who Putin is.”

Does Trump know Putin or doesn’t he? Have they spoken or haven’t they? Trump may want to get his story straight.


Trump suggests Putin called Obama the n-word. Seconds later: “I hope [Putin] likes me.”

VOX – Policy & Politics

Within 20 seconds at a press conference on Wednesday, actual Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went from suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had once called President Barack Obama the n-word to saying he hopes Putin likes him.

This is not an exaggeration. It really happened:

For the record, there is literally zero evidence that Putin ever called Obama the n-word. It’s hard to say where Trump got this idea, but he has a long history of naively restating things he heard from one person — even random people on Twitter. As Ezra Klein argued for Vox, Trump’s gullibility is one of the reasons he’s not qualified to be president.

But this also seems like a bizarre attempt by Trump to try to make himself look better than Obama. He’s essentially arguing that Putin disrespects Obama so much — to the point that he called the president the n-word — while Putin should and probably does like and respect Trump.

If this were anyone else, it’d be easy to dismiss this as the totally absurd remark it is. But this is a person running for president.

Within 20 seconds at a press conference on Wednesday, actual Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went from suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had once called President Barack Obama the n-word to saying he hopes Putin likes him.

 Updated by

Trump & Putin. Yes, It’s Really a Thing



Could there possibly be a “bromance connection” between Donald Trump and Russian leaders?  (ks)


I’ll list off some facts.

1. All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. Here’s a good overview from The Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration …

Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld. But that’s not the most salient part of the story. As the Times put it,

“Mr. Lauria brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians “in favor with” President Vladimir V. Putin, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock by one of its former executives. The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a “strategic partner,” along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”

Another suit alleged the project “occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.”

Sounds completely legit.

Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you’re keeping score at home: no, that’s not reassuring.

4. Then there’s Paul Manafort, Trump’s nominal ‘campaign chair’ who now functions as campaign manager and top advisor. Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump’s campaign.

5. Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom. If you’re not familiar with Gazprom, imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom’s role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin’s policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.

6. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump. As Frank Foer explains here, this fits a pattern with how Putin has sought to prop up rightist/nationalist politicians across Europe, often with direct or covert infusions of money. In some cases this is because they support Russia-backed policies; in others it is simply because they sow discord in Western aligned states. Of course, Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, not only in the abstract but often for the authoritarian policies and patterns of government which have most soured his reputation around the world.

7. Here’s where it gets more interesting. This is one of a handful of developments that tipped me from seeing all this as just a part of Trump’s larger shadiness to something more specific and ominous about the relationship between Putin and Trump. As TPM’s Tierney Sneed explained in this article, one of the most enduring dynamics of GOP conventions (there’s a comparable dynamic on the Dem side) is more mainstream nominees battling conservative activists over the party platform, with activists trying to check all the hardline ideological boxes and the nominees trying to soften most or all of those edges. This is one thing that made the Trump convention very different. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue – in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform – speaks volumes.

This does not mean Trump is controlled by or in the pay of Russia or Putin. It can just as easily be explained by having many of his top advisors having spent years working in Putin’s orbit and being aligned with his thinking and agenda. But it is certainly no coincidence. Again, in the context of near total indifference to the platform and willingness to let party activists write it in any way they want, his team zeroed in on one fairly obscure plank to exert maximum force and it just happens to be the one most important to Putin in terms of US policy.

Add to this that his most conspicuous foreign policy statements track not only with Putin’s positions but those in which Putin is most intensely interested. Aside from Ukraine, Trump’s suggestion that the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion is a case in point.

There are many other things people are alleging about hacking and all manner of other mysteries. But those points are highly speculative, some verging on conspiratorial in their thinking. I ignore them here because I’ve wanted to focus on unimpeachable, undisputed and publicly known facts. These alone paint a stark and highly troubling picture.

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump’s financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That’s simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

Josh Marshall

Vladimir Putin Just Made A MASSIVE Donald Trump Announcement!


Putin will do everything he can to see Trump elected as president because with a naive, narcissistic no-nothing patsy American President that he can manipulate he will be able to destroy NATO which has been his goal since his first days as a KGB agent and then restore the old Soviet Empire. ~Comment from this article (Comments section) of this article.~


From a recent press conference…

Russian President Vladimir Putin had kind words for his “stablemate” Donald Trump during an annual end-of-the-year Q&A session in Moscow.

“[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt,” [Vladimir] Putin told reporters, according to a translation by Interfax. “It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race.”
The GOP frontrunner has been blunt about his plans for defrosting U.S. relations with Russia should he be elected president.


“He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that?” he said. “Of course we welcome that.”

Clearly, Putin is ready for a bold leader in the White House that he can team up with to kill the terrorists and keep citizens of both of our nations safe.

By Kosar

Lithuanian Eatery Puts Up Poster Of Trump-Putin Kiss

“Make Everything Great Again”


AP Photo / Mindaugas Kulbis


Donald Trump: No Proof That Putin Kills Journalists



On ABC’s This Week, GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump dismissed reports of reporters killed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime as unproven.

“They are allegations. Yeah sure there are allegations. I’ve read those allegations over the years. But nobody’s proven that he’s killed anybody, as far as I’m concerned. He hasn’t killed reporters that’s been proven,” Trump told host George Stephanopoulos.

Trump conceded that if the allegations were true, he would “think that that’s terrible,” but added, “this isn’t like somebody that stood with the gun and taken the blame or admitted that he’s killed. He’s always denied it. He’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. ”

Trump asked Stephanopoulos, “Do you know the names of reporters that he’s killed?”

In 2012, The Guardian’s Peter Preston catalogued the deaths of journalists since Putin came to power, many of them dying by gunshot wounds. In addition to journalists, many political critics of Putin, including human rights activist Natalia Estemirova and Sergei Yushenkov, co-chairman of the Liberal Russia movement, have died since he became president. Earlier this year, Boris Nemtsov was shot in central Moscow while walking with his girlfriend after dining out.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented 13 killed journalists in Putin’s Russia in the last decade alone.

Trump has brushed off the criticisms before. On Friday’s Morning Joe, Trump responded to Joe Scarborough’s question much differently. Instead of saying he wasn’t aware of the deaths, he didn’t acknowledge them as a problem. When Scarborough said, “He also is a person that kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” Trump responded, “Our country does plenty of killing also, Joe … He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

When pressed again on the killing of journalists, Trump repeated himself, saying, “Well, our country does plenty of killing also Joe, so you know … ”

Trump continued his praise of Putin on other programs, telling Chuck Todd on Meet The Press, “He is a strong leader. What am I gonna say, he’s a weak leader? He’s making minced meat out of our president,” he claimed, noting the Russian president’s 80 percent approval rating.

Watch the video:



Donald Trump just tripped over the media’s rules for praising dictators

Putin in Sochi | Clive Mason/Getty Images


Donald Trump has drawn open scorn from the media after he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and seemingly endorsed Putin’s oppressive rule. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough raised this with Trump, pointing out that Putin “is also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

Here is the response from Trump that launched a thousand angry tweets: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

Indeed, Trump’s praise of Putin is ridiculous — the Russian leader is in fact doing a quite poor job of running his country — and his statement shrugging off Putin’s violence against dissidents and journalists is outrageous.

But I have to admit that I am a bit put off by the media’s reaction here. Not because I disagree with their outrage, but rather because it is applied so selectively. The media has unwritten rules for when American political figures are or are not allowed to praise a human-rights-abusing dictator. And they don’t have much do with actual dictatorship or with human rights.

Here, based on past experience, are those rules. It is acceptable to praise a foreign dictator if one or more of these apply:

  1. The dictator is a nominal American ally.
  2. The dictator’s victims are primarily Muslim or, ideally, Islamists.
  3. The dictator is popular within the political establishment or within one party’s establishment.

You will notice that this list has little or nothing to do with the foreign dictator’s actual performance on human rights or democracy, even though we like to pretend that it is those values that set the acceptable norms of our discourse. If you don’t believe me, consider the fact that for the past year, Republican leaders, to no real media backlash, have been lavishing praise on another dictator: Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

If anything, Sisi has been even more violent than Putin in his crackdowns on political dissidents and journalists. And a number of prominent Republicans have been far more effusive in their praise of Sisi than Trump was toward Putin. Yet for some odd reason, the media has deemed Republican praise of Sisi acceptable while lambasting Trump’s praise of Putin.

Sisi came to power in a 2013 military coup, which he followed by executing one of thelargest mass atrocities of the 21st century, killing at least 817 civilians who had gathered for a peaceful Muslim Brotherhood demonstration, many of them women and children, in a single day. He has followed this with two years of mass imprisonment and violence against political dissidents and journalists, a still-worsening campaign that goes significantly beyond even Putin’s.

While the Obama administration briefly punished Sisi for the 2013 massacre, it ultimately made the cynical decision to overlook his crimes and partner with his regime. That decision has, deservedly, been heavily criticized by human rights organizations. But a significant number of prominent Republicans have gone a good step further, actuallypraising Sisi as a hero — and often not despite but because of his violent crackdowns.

“You’ve acted bravely here on the front lines,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, flanked by Reps. Louie Gohmert and Steve King, said in a bizarre statement from Cairo just three weeks after Sisi’s massacre, which she praised as a blow against “great evil.”

Sen. Ted Cruz announced in a recent Republican debate, “We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President el-Sisi, a Muslim, [did] when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world.”

When Cruz praised Sisi for “calling out radical Islamic terrorists,” to be clear, he was referring to Sisi’s campaign of terror and violence against peaceful members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which claimed many hundreds of civilian lives.

“Thank God for President al-Sisi in Egypt,” Mike Huckabee said in a TV appearance this February.

Jeb Bush said that Sisi “should be rewarded” for his actions, and criticized Obama for not cozying up to Sisi further. And so on and so on.

But whereas the media heavily (and correctly) criticized Trump for praising Putin, other candidates’ much louder and clearer praise of Egypt’s Sisi has drawn no real media backlash. If anything, it has been encouraged by some, with for example Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens lauding Sisi as “Islam’s improbable reformer” in a flattering profile.

So what you are seeing is this: Donald Trump praises a foreign dictator and shrugs off that dictator’s abuses, and the media treats this as outrageous. Meanwhile, multiple Republican presidential candidate praise a different foreign dictator, explicitly citing that dictator’s worst abuses as the cause of their praise, and the media treats this as acceptable.

What’s the distinction here? For one, Sisi is an American ally whereas Putin is not. That is certainly part of what makes Trump’s statement outrageous. But the media has not criticized Trump for praising an adversary but rather has criticized him for praising a human rights abuser. So either that criticism is not really about human rights abuses or it privileges the human rights of Russians above the human rights of Egyptian Islamists, or, perhaps, both.

There is also a certain trend here whereby the media feels comfortable criticizing Trump but will not criticize the other Republican candidates when they do the same thing. You see this, for example, in the media’s practice of rightly lambasting Trump’s Islamophobia while meanwhile ignoring Islamophobia from the other Republican candidates, for example when Cruz or Bush suggests privileging Christians refugees over Muslims and even barring refugees based on their religion. True, Trump goes further, and he is more overt. But even still, it is difficult to ignore the sense that the media is a lot more comfortable calling out Trump than calling out other Republican candidates.

My suspicion is that this is at least in some small part because Republican Party leaders have denounced Trump’s more outrageous statements, meaning that the media can safely criticize them without fearing accusations of partisanship, and because this allows the media to pretend it is purely a Trump problem.

Calling out several Republican candidates, including establishment-backed candidates, would mean implicitly criticizing the Republican party, and the media is clearly far less comfortable doing this. By the same token, criticizing Republican establishment candidates for praising Sisi would also mean at least implicitly criticizing the Obama administration for partnering with Sisi.

Norms of media behavior make many reporters uncomfortable staking out these sorts of positions — so what you have is an effective double standard whereby supporting authoritarian crackdowns and encouraging Islamophobia is deemed acceptable or unacceptable based on the speaker’s proximity to the political establishment, rather than on the actual merits of those statements.