How Goldman Sachs made it back into Washington’s inner circle…


When Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, walked into Trump Tower earlier this week, it was just one of dozens of meetings President-elect Donald Trump as held with advisers, potential cabinet picks and well wishers over the last few weeks. But on Wall Street, Cohn’s presence in the gold-accented lobby represented something much bigger: One of the world’s most important banks is making its way back into Washington’s inner circle.

After years on the sideline, Goldman Sachs, and the rest of the Wall Street elite, is poised to come roaring back.

Trump has already picked several Goldman Sachs alums for several key positions. Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of the bank, is slated to be the next Treasury Secretary and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked on mergers and acquisition deals for Goldman Sachs. Hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci began his career at the New York bank and has emerged as one of Trump’s closest advisers on his presidential transition. According to Politico, Cohn, a 26-year veteran of the Goldman Sachs, is being considered for a position heading the Office of Management and Budget.

Goldman Sachs’ sometimes controversial relationship with Washington goes back decades. One of its founders, Henry Goldman, advised on the creation of the Federal Reserve. President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose Goldman CEO Sidney Weinberg to serve on the War Production Board during World War II. And more recently, President Bill Clinton named former Goldman co-chairman Robert Rubin to head the Treasury Department. George W. Bush picked Henry Paulson, another Goldman alum for the same job.

Each in turn filled the government ranks with so many more former Goldman executives that the bank eventually earned the nickname “Government Sachs.”

“The Goldman organization has always been able to make sure they are close to power, they are very good at cultivating and maintaining relationships,” said Christopher Whalen, head of research for Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

Trump’s elevation of so many Goldman alums may signal a wider shift in Wall Street’s public standing, which has been battered since the 2008 financial crisis, industry analysts say. Even Trump played to public distrust, releasing a television ad that flashed an image of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as the Republican candidate warned of a “global power structure” that was robbing American workers.

The public’s resentment towards Goldman Sachs was so deep that Blankfein initially demurred when asked who he would vote for. “I don’t want to help or hurt anybody by giving them my endorsement,” Blankfein, who has previously supported Hillary Clinton, told CNBC.

Wall Street insiders widely expected to be largely left on the sidelines if Hillary Clinton had won the White House. They felt Clinton would have found it difficult to resist pressure by progressives in the Democratic Party that she be tough on Wall Street.

But the tone has shifted since Trump’s election. “After Nov. 8, you could say the financial crisis was over,” said Mike Mayo, a banking analyst and managing director with global boutique brokerage firm CLSA. “It was a pivot from rebuilding the banking industry to using banks to better facilitate better economic growth.”

That has some progressive groups crying foul. “These guys are galactic deal-makers, transaction merchants, not people who face the extraordinary littleness of life,” said Bart Naylor of Public Citizen. “They also know each other, attend each others’ weddings, buy each others Hamptons’ mansions … When it comes to financial policy, they know about spreads and liquidity, but not about what you can’t buy with food stamps or changes in bus schedules.”

Goldman Sachs is no stranger to such talk. The bank has been best known as a secretive, Wall Street dealmaker with the ear of the White House. It helps big institutions and billionaires bet on the markets and large corporations raise money, but until recently had little interaction with average investors — clients must have at least $10 million for its wealth-management services.

But in recent years it has tried to soften its image. It has launched programs to help women entrepreneurs, produced regular podcasts, and earlier this year offered a high-yield online savings accounts for those with as little as $1.

If Trump taps Cohn, currently the bank’s president, for a position in his administration, it would send Goldman scrambling to find a replacement. Cohn, who has been at the bank since 1990, has been widely viewed as heir apparent, poised to become CEO when Blankfein retired.

“Throughout its 147-year history, Goldman Sachs has encouraged its employees to give back to the community while they are working here and after they leave,” said Jake Siewert, communications director at Goldman. “We are proud that many have gone on to serve their country and their communities after they have left.”

Goldman CEO Gary Cohn: ‘Yea, the suckers bought Trump’s bullshit. We’re back in”

“I ain’t going nowhere. We’re getting tired of being pushed for 500 years. They’ve been taking, taking, taking, and enough’s enough”

Standing Rock water protectors refuse to be removed from their land

Lee Plenty Wolf knows the government wants him to clear out of the snowbound tepee where he stokes the fire, sings traditional Oglala songs and sleeps alongside a pair of women from France and California who came to protest an oil pipeline in the stinging cold. But he and thousands of other protesters are vowing to make what may be their last stand at Standing Rock.

The orders to evacuate the sprawling protest camp on this frozen prairie just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation came down last week from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor’s office. After four months of prayer marches and clashes with law enforcement officials who responded with tear gas and water cannons, the protesters now have until Monday to leave.

The government said it would not forcibly remove anyone, but could cite people for trespassing or other offenses.

At the camp, defiance is rising like smoke from the stovepipe of Mr. Plenty Wolf’s tepee. People are here to stay. They are building yurts and hammering together plywood for bunkhouses and lodges. The communal kitchen stops serving dinner at 9:30 p.m.; it reopens a half-hour later as a sleeping space.

“I ain’t going nowhere,” Mr. Plenty Wolf said one night as he cradled a buffalo-hide drum and reflected on grievances that run deeper than groundwater among Native Americans here. “We’re getting tired of being pushed for 500 years. They’ve been taking, taking, taking, and enough’s enough.”

The approaching deadline to leave the camps and the dwindling days of President Obama’s term create a feeling that any opportunity to stop the Dakota Access pipeline is fading. The fight has drawn thousands of tribal members, veterans, activists and celebrities and transformed a frozen patch of North Dakota into a focal point for environmental and tribal activism.

The main camp sits on federal lands that people at the camps say should rightfully belong to the Standing Rock Sioux under the terms of an 1851 treaty. To Mr. Plenty Wolf, closing it amounts to one more broken treaty.

The Standing Rock Sioux’s concerns about an oil spill just upriver from their water source has resonated with environmentalist and clean-water groups across the country, and dozens have rallied to support the tribes. Climate-change activists who fought the Keystone XL pipeline have also joined the protests. “Keep it in the ground” is a rallying cry on banners.

Even as violent confrontations erupted in fields and along creeks and about 600 people were arrested, crews kept digging and burying the pipeline. Its 1,170-mile path from the oil fields of North Dakota to southern Illinois is nearly complete.

Since September, the Obama administration has blocked construction on a critical section where the pipeline would burrow underneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.

The tribe and activists are pushing Mr. Obama to order up a yearslong environmental review or otherwise block the project before he leaves office. President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Friday that he supported finishing the $3.7 billion pipeline.

Nobody here knows what to expect. The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the federal land on which the main camp sits, says it wants protesters to make a “peaceful and orderly transition” out of the camps and to a “free speech zone” nearby. Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County, a critic of the protesters who leads the law enforcement response, said his officers would not go into the camps to remove people.

The divide between law enforcement officials and the tribe and protesters now feels more brittle than ever.

Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock Sioux chairman, has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of civil rights violations. He criticized officers for using rubber bullets and sprays of freezing water against what he called unarmed, peaceful “water protectors.”

“I’m worried about the next confrontation,” he said. “The escalation has continued to rise. They have concertina wire all over the place. They’re almost daring the water protectors. That’s not safe.”

Sheriff Kirchmeier dismissed the claims.

“I reject it all,” he said in an interview in the basement of the county offices, where stacks of snacks, fruit and juice donated by the public sat beside scuffed riot shields. “The protesters are forcing police and us into taking action. They’re committing criminal activities.”

He said protesters had used sling shots to attack officers and thrown rocks and bottles. He and other local officials continue to criticize the federal government’s response. They say the decision to delay the pipeline created months of instability that have cost Morton County $8 million. They say federal officials have offered little in the way of manpower or money to help.

On Friday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she had asked Justice Department officials who handle tribal-justice issues and community policing, as well as the United States attorney for North Dakota, to help mediate.

In recent days, conflicting statements from local and state officials have stirred confusion about how vigorously officials will enforce the closing of the camps. A Morton County spokeswoman initially said people could face $1,000 fines for trying to bring supplies to the camp, only to be contradicted by a governor’s spokesman who said that North Dakota had no plans to block supplies.

The authorities are still enforcing a blockade of the fastest, most direct route into the camp. But other roads — and supply lines — were still open. Pickup trucks and U-Hauls carried in lumber and propane tanks, pallets of bottled water, firewood and food. A container truck managed to crawl down the icy, flag-lined ramp into camp.

Cusi Ballew, a Pottawatomie member from southern Ohio making his second trip to the camp, was up on a ladder drilling pieces of plywood together to make a bunkhouse for Sioux tribal members. “Humans have been surviving winters for over 250,000 years,” he said. “What’s important isn’t how we’re doing it but why we’re doing it. We’re here for prayer and for action.”

And more people were pouring in.

Veterans’ groups were hoping to bring 2,000 Native and non-Native veterans to Standing Rock over the weekend. The Bismarck airport was a hive one morning: the actress Patricia Arquette could be seen heaving a suitcase off the baggage carousel; the director of a clean-water group was on the phone figuring out transportation; California friends from the Burning Man festival arrived with $5,000 worth of turmeric and medicinal herbs and oils.

At the camp, children sledded down the icy hills and horses cantered through the snow, and as night fell and people clustered around campfires to cook chili and fry bread, Laurie Running Hawk made her way to a small camp by the banks of the river. In the distance were the sounds of Native men drumming and singing, and the sight of tall floodlights along a ridge that marked the path of the pipeline.

Ms. Running Hawk grew up on the southern end of the Standing Rock Reservation and said she had been home from Minnesota for a powwow this summer when she and her 7-year-old and 15-year-old sons chanced onto one of the first major confrontations to block the pipeline. They joined in, and four months later, she was back, sleeping in a yurt with four teenagers from Minnesota who nearly froze to death on their first night in camp.

“I’m here,” she said. “You’re not going to kick me out. This is my land.”

Judge orders Michigan state officials to deliver bottled water to Flint residents…

Michigan AG (Asshole Galore) argues that it is ‘unreasonable’ and ‘too expensive’ to deliver bottled water to Flint residents

On the same day that researchers said Flint’s water is improving with “amazing progress,” a federal judge delivered a legal blow to state officials in ordering them to deliver bottled water to the city whether they like it or not.

In a 12-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ruled that Flint’s water is still unsafe to drink for certain residents and that the state must deliver bottled water to those households without properly installed or maintained filters until the problem is cleared up.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had asked the court to stay that Nov. 10 order, arguing it was unreasonable, overly broad and too expensive — $10.5 million per month — to deliver bottled water door to door in Flint. State officials also had argued that bottled water can be picked up as needed at distribution centers and those who can’t pick it up can call to arrange for delivery.

For Lawson, that wasn’t good enough.

“He (Schuette) says that the current method of ‘delivery,’ whereby Flint residents must find a way to retrieve their own drinking water, and can use water filters that may or may not be installed and maintained correctly, is good enough,” Lawson wrote. “He is incorrect.”…

CIA-backed rebels in Syria mull alternatives…

“Among the options.. are a closer alliance with better-armed al-Qaeda and other extremist groups”

Three years after the CIA began secretly shipping lethal aid to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, battlefield losses and fears that a Donald Trump administration will abandon them have left tens of thousands of opposition fighters weighing their alternatives.

Among the options, say U.S. officials, regional experts and the rebels themselves, are a closer alliance with better-armed al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, receipt of more sophisticated weaponry from Sunni states in the Persian Gulf region opposed to a U.S. pullback, and adoption of more traditional guerrilla tactics, including sniper and other small-scale attacks on both Syrian and Russian targets.

Just over a year ago, the opposition held significant territory inside Syria. Since then, in the absence of effective international pushback, Russian and Syrian airstrikes have relentlessly bombarded their positions and the civilians alongside them. On the ground, Syrian government troops — bolstered by Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Shiite militia forces from Iraq — have retaken much of that ground.

In brutal attacks over the past three weeks, they have been driven out of much of the eastern Aleppo stronghold that they have occupied since 2012.

Trump has made clear that his priority in Syria is the separate fight against the Islamic State, ideally in cooperation with Russia and the Syrian government, as well as other allies. While still vague about his plans, the president-elect has rejected the Obama administration’s view that ending the civil war and bringing Assad to the negotiating table are ultimately key to victory over the Islamic militants, and indicated he will curtail support for the opposition.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the rebels, saying, “We have no idea who these people are.”

“My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” he told the Wall Street Journal last month, using another name for the Islamic State.

Assad, in an interview the week after Trump’s election, called the United States a “natural” counterterrorism ally. He has long labeled the opposition as terrorists equal to the Islamic State.

The possibility of cutting loose opposition groups it has vetted, trained and armed would be a jolt to a CIA already unsettled by the low opinion of U.S. intelligence capabilities that Trump had expressed during his presidential campaign.

From a slow and disorganized start, the opposition “accomplished many of the goals the U.S. hoped for,” including their development into a credible fighting force that showed signs of pressuring Assad into negotiations, had Russia not begun bombing and Iran stepped up its presence on the ground, said one of several U.S. officials who discussed the situation on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The United States estimates that there are 50,000 or more fighters it calls “moderate opposition,” concentrated in the northwest province of Idlib, in Aleppo and in smaller pockets throughout western and southern Syria, and that they are not likely to give up.

“They’ve been fighting for years, and they’ve managed to survive,” the U.S. official said. “Their opposition to Assad is not going to fade away.”

Although their fortunes were boosted last year by U.S. and Saudi Arabia-provided TOW antitank missiles, the rebels have long complained that American assistance has been stingy and has come with too many strings attached. Concerned that more sophisticated weapons, including portable antiaircraft missiles, would end up in the hands of extremists, President Obama refused to send them and prevailed upon regional allies to impose similar restrictions on their own arms shipments.

Now, said one U.S.-vetted rebel commander, “we are very frustrated. The United States refuses to provide weapons we need, and yet it still thinks it can tell us what to do. They promise support and then watch us drown.”

“America will have no influence if our comrades are forced [to retreat to] Idlib” from Aleppo, said the commander, who asked not to be identified to speak about sensitive rebel relations with the United States.

Most rebels already forced to relinquish territory have gone to Idlib, which is fast becoming a holding pen for what is left of the rebellion. The area is dominated by as many as 10,000 fighters for Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda-linked group now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and an equal number of Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamist group tied to the wider rebel movement that the United States does not consider terrorist.

Some experts, including Trump’s designated White House national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, think that the growing operational alliance between the rebels and extremist groups began long ago.

Flynn argued last year that Obama’s Syria strategy of first withholding, then offering only measured support for the opposition through a covert CIA program, effectively allowed extremist organizations to grow at rebel expense. Asked in a July 2015 al Jazeera interview whether there should have been stronger early support for the opposition, Flynn said: “When you don’t get in and help somebody, they’re going to find other means to achieve their goals. . . . We should have done more earlier on in this effort.”

At the same time, Flynn has said, the administration downplayed early intelligence indicating that al-Nusra and eventually the Islamic State organization, which combined Islamist extremists and former Iraqi army officers left adrift by the 2003 U.S. invasion, were growing rapidly.

In a book published last summer, Flynn wrote that they are allied with those who “share their hatred of the West,” including “North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela.”

But in an analysis looking forward, echoed by Trump and certain to be influential in the incoming White House, Flynn has also outlined a World War II -type global alliance, including both the United States and Russia, under a single leadership, to combat what he has called “Islam’s . . . political ideology.”

Others have noted that cutting off the opposition would not only support Russian and Syrian aims but also would benefit Iran at the perceived expense of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other regional U.S. allies who view that country as an existential threat.

“There will be significant reputational costs with our allies in the region if we abandon support of the moderate opposition,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

He said the question is “whether our Gulf allies can count on us or they can’t, whether the Iranians are going to be given free rein or they won’t.”

“A lot obviously will depend on what the president-elect does, what his advisers urge him to do,” Schiff said. Referring to retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s choice for defense secretary, Schiff added, “I think Gen. Mattis will have different views . . . [that] recognize the implications in terms of Iranian influence in the region.”

Disagreement over whether to take a tougher line against Russia in Syria — including direct military intervention on behalf of civilians and, indirectly, the rebels — in Aleppo and beyond has already caused deep divisions between Obama’s State Department and the reluctant Defense Department and the White House.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has continued negotiations over a cease-fire, meeting again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome on Friday. Talks have focused on an agreement to safely deliver humanitarian aid and to evacuate both civilians, who want to leave, and the al-Nusra forces that Russia says are the majority of some several thousand anti-Assad fighters in the eastern part of the city. U.S. officials think the militants there number in the hundreds.

But Kerry has had little leverage to persuade Moscow to change its strategy, designed to ensure a military victory for Assad.

As the incoming Trump administration considers withdrawing from involvement in either assisting or resolving the civil war, others have indicated they will move into the anticipated vacuum.

Qatar has said it will continue supporting and supplying the rebels, regardless of what the United States decides.

“We want to have the U.S. with us, for sure. They have been our historic ally,” Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Jassim al-Thani said last week in an interview with Reuters in Doha. “But if they want to change their minds . . . we are not going to change our position.”

The no-BS guide to the presidential recount…

Sorry, no Russian hacker hunt

Nope, they’re not hunting for Russian hackers

To begin with, the main work of the recount hasn’t a damn thing to do with finding out if the software programs for the voting machines have been hacked, whether by Putin’s agents or some guy in a cave flipping your vote from Hillary to The Donald.

The Green team does not yet even have the right to get into the codes. But that’s just not the core of the work

The ballots in the electoral “dumpster”

The nasty little secret of US elections, is that we don’t count all the votes.

In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—and all over America—there were a massive number of votes that were simply rejected, invalidated, and spoiled. They were simply, not counted. Officially, in a typical presidential election, at least three million votes end up rejected, often for picayune, absurd reasons.

The rejects fall into three big categories: provisional ballots rejected, absentee and mail-in ballots invalidated and in-precinct votes “spoiled,” spit out by a machine or thrown out by a human reader as unreadable or mis-marked.
So, as Robert Fitrakis, lead lawyer for the recount tells me, their first job is to pull the votes out of the electoral dumpster—and, one by one, make the case for counting a rejected provisional, absentee or “spoiled” ballot.

Spoiled: over-votes and under-votes

How does a vote spoil? Most fall in the categories of “over-votes” and “under-votes.”

In Michigan, the Green team has found a whole lot of people who voted for TWO candidates for President. These are the “over-vote”—votes that will count for neither candidate.

How odd. While the schools in Detroit are not stellar, its graduates do know that they can only have one president.

Then, some folks didn’t vote at all. They are the “under-voter.”

But, Fitrakis and team suspect, many of these under- and over-voters meant to vote for a candidate but the robot reader couldn’t understand their choice.

Here’s how it happens. Voters in Michigan and Wisconsin fill in bubbles next to their choice. The cards, filled up with darkened bubbles for each race, are gathered and fed through an “optical scanner.” These robotic eyeballs mess up all the time.

This is what Fitrakis, an old hand at vote-machine failures (both deliberate and benign), calls “the calibration problem.”

Are machines calibrated with a Republican or Democratic bias? No, that’s not how it works. But just as poor areas get the worst schools and hospitals, they also get the worst voting machines.

The key is an ugly statistic not taught in third grade civics class: According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified as “spoiled” is 900% more likely if you’re Black than if you’re white.

So the Green Party intends to review every single one of the six million bubble-filled cards. They’ll use the one instrument that can easily tell one bubble from two, or one bubble from none: the human eye.

As you can imagine, This will require several thousand eyes. The good news is, Fitrakis reports, that well over a thousand volunteers have already signed up. Training by Skype begins Tuesday morning.

Provisional or “placebo” ballots

According to the US Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), Americans cast 2.7 million provisional ballots in the last presidential election. About a million were simply discarded. What?!

Yes. Discarded, not counted. You show up at your normal polling station and they can’t find your name, or they don’t like your ID, or you’re supposed to vote in another precinct. Instead of letting you vote on a regular ballot, you fill out a “provisional” ballot and place it in an envelope, sign your name, and under penalty of jail time for lying, affirm you’re a properly registered voter.

The polls close—then the magic begins. It’s up to highly partisan election officials to decide if your vote counts. Hillary Clinton only won one swing state, Virginia, notably, the only one where the vote count was controlled by Democrats. She lost all swing states—Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida—where the GOP set the rules for counting these ballots and their hacks acted as the judge and jury on whether a ballot should be counted.

Wisconsin generally rejects votes cast in the wrong precinct, even if they’re legal voters—and, says Fitrakis, “even if their official precinct was just another table in the same high school gym—and they were mis-directed by poll workers.”

(That’s why I sometimes call “provisional” ballots “placebo” ballots. They let you feel you’ve voted, even if you haven’t.)

In Wisconsin, provisional ballots were handed to voters—mostly, it appears, students—who didn’t have the form of ID required under new Wisconsin law. These ballots were disqualified despite zero evidence even one voter was an identity thief.

Fitrakis says the Stein campaign will fight for each of these provisional votes where this is clearly no evidence the vote is fraudulent.

Mail-in, Early and Absentee Ballots go Absent

If you’ve gone postal in this election, good luck! According to EAC data, at least half a million absentee ballots go absent, that is, just don’t get counted. The cause: everything from postage due to “suspect signature.” Fitrakis told me that in his home state of Ohio, you need to put your driver’s license number on the envelope, “and if you don’t have a driver’s license and leave the line blank—instead of writing ‘no driver’s license’—they toss your ballot.

It’s a “gotcha!” system meant to knock out the ballots the officials don’t want to count. (Remember, your mail-in ballot is anything but secret.) Team Green will try to fight for each absentee ballot rejected for cockamamie reasons.

If the recount doesn’t change the outcome, can we feel assured the election was honest?

Sadly, no. As Fitrakis says, “If a student is given a provisional ballot because they didn’t have the right ID, or the state simply lost their registration, we can fight for the ballot to be counted. But most students who voted off campus didn’t know their right to get a provisional ballot and most probably didn’t get offered one.

Students and others were discouraged from voting because they lacked the proper ID (300,000 by the estimate of the experts with the ACLU—that’s thirty times Trump’s plurality). But if you didn’t cast any ballot, provisional or otherwise, no one can fight for it.

And final decisions may come down to the vote of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, God forbid. As Norman Stockwell, the editor of Madison-based The Progressive explained to me, formerly, elections law adjudications were made by a panel of non-partisan judges. These were replaced by this new commission of partisan shills appointed by GOP Governor Scott Walker.

Trump says millions voted illegally. Is he crazy?

Crazy like a fox. There’s a method in his madness that affects the recount.

While the media dismisses Trump’s claim that there are “millions of people that voted illegally,” they have not paid attention to the details of his claim. Trump explains that millions of people are “voting many, many times,” that is, voting in two states in the same election.

Trump’s claim is based on a list of “potential duplicate voters” created by his operative, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach (a top dog in Trump’s transition team) directs a program for hunting down fraudulent voters using a computer system called, “Crosscheck.”

It’s quite a computer: Crosscheck identified a breathtaking 449,922 Michiganders who are suspected of voting or registering in a second state, a felony crime, as are 371,923 in Pennsylvania.

I spent two years investigating the Trump/Kobach claim for Rolling Stone. We obtained the “confidential” suspect list of several million citizens accused of voting twice. In fact, it was no more than a list of common names—Maria Hernandez, James Brown, David Lee—that is, common to voters of color. Read: Democrats. A true and typical example: Michael James Brown of Michigan is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Kendrick Brown of Georgia.

About 54,000 voters in Michigan, five times Trump’s plurality, lost their right to vote based on this nutty double-voter accusation. In Pennsylvania, about 45,000 were purged.

The problem for Fitrakis: While he eventually plans to file suit against Crosscheck purges, in the meantime, it’s not clear he can challenge someone whose lost their vote because of a false accusation of double voting. And those who found their names missing and didn’t demand a provisional ballot—there’s no hope at all of recovering their vote.

Is Jill Stein going to get rich?

Fitrakis laughs at this one. “The FEC [Federal Elections Commission] has very strict rules on recounts. The donations for the recount are sequestered in a specially designated account and all spending is restricted to the recount.”

The big problem is that the cost is somewhat out of Stein’s control. Each state will bill the campaign for the “pro-rated salaries and benefits” of its county and state officials working on the recount.

To add to the cost and just plain drive the Green team crazy, the Wisconsin Election Board announced on Monday that each separate county elections clerk will decide if they’ll even let the Green volunteers directly view the ballots. Fitrakis and partners will have to get a court order to get into each county. How does one recount ballots without seeing them? (Hmm, is the Wisconsin board, stooges appointed by the GOP Governor, fearful that the viewing the ballots will expose the game?)

Hillary joins the fray

What will the Clinton camp add to the recount? “Lawyers,” said Fitrakis, though he’s yet to see them. The Clinton campaign is apparently helping find one voter in each Pennsylvania county, as one is required in each jurisdiction to file for a recount of that state.

And what about that hack job?

While Fitrakis is not looking for Russkies in the computer code, he says, “We’re more concerned with the private companies that control the keys to the kingdom—to match what’s on paper to the official count.” The “keys” are the little machines, memory cards and other electronic gewgaws that are used to suck the data from the voting machine—which are carried off to another state for tabulation by a private contractor. Will these tabulations at each step match what the volunteers find in the on-the-ground recount?

One problem is that the tabulation software is “proprietary.” A private company owns the code to the count—and the privateers will fight fiercely, with GOP help, to keep the ballot counting code their commercial secret.

Push and Pray Pennsylvania

In the end, the single biggest impediment to a full and fair recount is that 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters used what are called, “Push and Pray” voting machines—Direct Recording Electronic touch-screens. Push the screen next to your choice and pray it gets recorded. Pennsylvania is one of the only states that has yet to require some form of VVPAT (“vee-pat”) or voter-verified paper audit trail that creates an ATM-style receipt.

Therefore, the Keystone State recount will have to rely on hopes of access to the code, statistical comparisons to counties that used paper ballots—and prayer.

Maybe it IS the Russians

The possibility that a Putin pal hacked the machines was championed by University of Michigan computer sciences professor J. Alex Halderman who proposed, “The attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers…and spread malware into voting machines.”

I imagine some squat, middle-pay-scale civil servant in chinos and a pocket protector who works in the Michigan Secretary of State’s office approached, one late overtime night, by some FSB agent in high heels and a slinky dress split halfway up her thigh. The svelte spy would lean against the bureaucrat provocatively and whisper, “My handsome dahling, would you mind sticking this little thumb drive into that big old computer of yours?”

Professor Halderman, if you want to help the recount, put down the James Bond novels and pick up some Opti-Scan ballots. We’ve got a lot of bubbles to read. End