2020 Elections, Putin, China & Deep State W/ Democratic Super Delegate Lanny Davis

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Ryan:

Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha I’m Ryan Morfin. On today’s episode, we have Lanny Davis political strategist, talking to us about the 2020 election. This is Non-Beta Alpha. The European view of privacy and the right to be forgotten. What is your view about Facebook being a publisher versus being an editorial provider? The republicans are talking about shadow banning and censorship, but Facebook’s saying, hey, we’re just a utility here. How do you balance that out? And what is good for the country in the long term do you think?

Lanny:

I’m pretty strong on this one, but I know there are two sides to this argument. And Mark Zuckerberg’s a brilliant, still, young man. And he has a view not only what’s good business, but what is right. I disagree with his, what is right. I certainly understand what’s good business. There has to be a standard. There has to be a line drawn somewhere where Facebook says, no, we’re not just a platform. We’re not a telephone line. That used to be the analogy used by Facebook. All we are as a telephone line, you can’t blame us for what goes through the telephone line. And even congress intervening to give the protection to Facebook and other internet service providers. We’re just to telephone line. No. Now this type of telephone line has such power that they never imagined, which means such profits in such power, that it can do real harm to human lives to institutions.

Lanny:

I promised I wouldn’t get political, but I believe that we have in the United States today, a challenge to our fabric of constitutional law and the rule of law. And it’s facilitated when the Russians are able to use Facebook. And there is no filter by Facebook. And I think Facebook is now like a big aircraft character turning in at least the direction of finding some place where they will draw a line and say, no, we’re not taking that post. We’re not taking that ad. And they have a large amount of investigative resources devoted to identifying Russian bots and Russian manipulators. I do think Russia is the main [inaudible 00:00:02:48]. I know this president wants to accuse China and everybody else, but we have the hardest evidence about Russia’s systemic intervention in 2016. Every intelligence agency had it nailed down who various… A hundred percent, certain ways. And then of course, the prosecutor Mr. Mueller managed to not only identify the institution that was doing it, but the address and individuals who were responsible. Right now, Facebook and every other platform from Twitter to Instagram, you name it, they all have to figure out where do we draw the line? Now that’s where there’s a fair debate, but there has to be a line drawn and it can’t anymore be the analogy to a telephone line. We’re not responsible, that’s just not acceptable anymore.

Ryan:

If they draw that line, I think they’re afraid of having liability.

Lanny:

Exactly, and they’re afraid of being in a no win situation. Right now, the conservatives are claiming that Facebook is censoring them or Twitter censored President Trump by saying something that they thought was dangerous misinformation on the pandemic and COVID. There’s almost a no win situation, but you know what? Harry Truman said it best, if you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen. They put themselves into this powerful and important place of having a community of communication systems. There is nothing negative about that, but having put themselves in this powerful position by their own success, they now have to step up and be responsible.

Ryan:

Lanny, one question about this utility or this communication platform, they’re collecting a lot of data. It’s freemium economic opportunities for people to get in touch with each other and get into an echo chamber. But do you think as consumers, we should have the right to know what data they collect or will there be regulation in the future on social media, do you think?

Lanny:

Yes. I think even if there is no change in administrations, there will be more and more regulation. You saw the testimony by the three or four giants in the tech world. And there’s no doubt that republicans and democrats don’t agree on much, but they do agree when there’s too much power unchecked by the marketplace. There will most certainly be either regulation or antitrust policy that breaks them up because concentrated power is inefficient. Quality goes down, output is very much influenced by decision makers rather than the marketplace and of course prices go up because there’s no competition. The very short answer to a long, difficult question is going to be about the market. And the marketplace is reacting negatively to Facebook. There are advertisers that are now not advertising, this is going to be a marketplace correction. I would like to see the least government intervention, which often gets it wrong. I speak as a liberal democrat that government often gets it wrong and the market usually gets it right. Somewhere in the next several years, there has to be more market competition on social media, on the internet and let the market and choice of market, meaning customers, get it right.

Ryan:

But all the ongoing issues around Coronavirus, what should employers be thinking about from communications standpoint and also what legal liabilities do employers have in today’s environment, given the pandemic?

Lanny:

Great question. And it is the question of our age. And again, I promised I wouldn’t be partisan or political on this call, so I’m going to avoid reference.

Ryan:

No, that’s okay. You know what? Rule book thrown out.

Lanny:

The analogy here, whether it’s a president of the United States or a CEO of a company, is to transparency and communication. In any venue, transparency and communication is the best answer. Especially when it involves science and death and danger, much less disruption to our economy and the suffering of people who are unemployed and being evicted and all of the human suffering that my dad told me about during the great depression, we’re now seeing in front of us. And we are looking at three times the number of people who died in Vietnam and it’s getting worse. Transparency and science and facts is what every company should be telling their employees, here are the dangers to going back to work, here are your options and trying to communicate more effectively by complete transparency. And I would say to any president of any party, your first obligation in a pandemic is honesty and facts and science. Nothing else can possibly come close to those three things. And I hope that we get more of it because this pandemic is only going to get worse, not better, unless we change the philosophy of being anti-science and not asking sacrifice of the American people to shut down and stop this thing before the United States, we are the worst in the world, because we weren’t able to shut down.

Lanny:

We started there and then we stopped and we did well for a while. And now we’re reopening and now schools and everything else is a great danger to the country.

Ryan:

And I ask this question because I’d love your educated perspective because you live inside the Beltway. Is it really much worse here or are we just testing more do you think? Because I think that’s the very important question that we need to understand.

Lanny:

Let’s assume the answer is we’re testing more people, because that’s not the answer. That’s not a factual answer. We should be testing more than we’re testing in order to stop the COVID from being a pandemic and confining it. We need to test people and then trace who they’ve been in contact with. And the test needs to be quick or else it’s meaningless if it takes a week to get back. But if you look at countries that have managed to handle this much better than we, including Germany, which is as close to parallel to us in terms of an advanced industrial democratic society, the difference between their cases and their deaths for a thousand, isn’t about whether they test more it’s that they shut down and used masks mandatory. And they followed and traced and segregated and quarantined people who had this very, very infectious bug.

Lanny:

We’re going to need to sacrifice. And Americans are not accustomed to voluntarily sacrificing. We have in our DNA, liberty and individual freedom from government interference, that’s how we established our republic on conservative principles. Thomas Jefferson, the least government is the best government. We’ve got to get over that when it comes to life and death. And this pandemic is only going to be turned around and the economy rebuilt, if we shut down or follow at least strict scientific protocols, if we’re not shut down, which means mandatory masks, mandatory social distancing and severe fines and penalties for anyone violating at least those two scientific facts to reduce the spread of this disease.

Ryan:

What are your thoughts about the Russian vaccine that just came out? Would you take it it was available here in the US?

Lanny:

The Russian vaccine? I don’t trust Putin as far as my distance from this laptop. Again, I promised I wouldn’t do too much of this, but in my lifetime, I have never imagined the President of the United States, not only admiring a murderous dictator like Putin, but when we know with almost a hundred percent certainty that he paid for American GIs to the Taliban bounties to be killed. And there’s an argument about whether that information was certain or not. I don’t care whether it’s certain, at least he should have been told about it and his own staff did not tell him. The answer to this question is pretty simple. We need to have a government that is honest with us and which stands up to the Russians and stands up to Putin. And for whatever reason, sincere or not, that has not been the case. I wouldn’t take the Russian vaccine, because I don’t trust Putin is the answer to your question, Ryan.

Ryan:

You’ve been in the White House. You’ve lived in DC. You’ve seen how international relations work. Why should Americans be surprised that Russia’s an enemy trying to kill our soldiers, manipulate our elections? China is using soft power to manipulate our election. We shouldn’t be surprised should we?

Lanny:

No, but never this bad. We certainly have been competitors, adversaries in many ways as we are with the Chinese, but the Chinese have not been aggressive. They haven’t taken their troops and taken over territories in Europe, the way the Russians have in the Ukraine, for sure. We know that the Russians seize territory. And they also, as far as we know, the Chinese haven’t intervened in our election in a massive way in favor of one candidate. Now, maybe they’re doing that now. There’s some evidence they might be, but so far nothing. But I do think that we should be ready to engage with Russia and get back to a normal adversarial relationship, not one where there’s an aggressive and hostile intervention in our democracy. We’ll see Putin in the hallways of diplomacy, for sure. And we’ll be adverse, but not engaged in what is really, acts of war, is when you invade through cyberspace and try to disrupt and distort a democracy. And to us, what Putin has done and I do say Putin, I’m not saying the Russians, what Putin has done to our democracy and intervening in 2016 and now doing it again in 2020, is a virtual act of war. And we need a strong government to challenge him, but we need to reengage with him and try to deescalate and go back to the days where we’re able to be adversaries, but without trying to destroy each other’s political systems.

Ryan:

One question that we have is TikTok. What do you think about the executive order that the president came out with for TikTok? The concept was there was a lot of offensive data being taken from people’s phones and shipped to servers in China. Do you agree with that, or do you think it’s counterproductive to the China relationship to have this [inaudible 00:14:12]?

Lanny:

Maybe the humblest answer I can say is, I have no clue why he attacked TikTok. Just as I have no clue why Mr. Trump does a lot of things. It appears as if there was a cartoon that offended him because the actual data danger to us isn’t TikTok, it’s Russian intervention on Facebook, which literally went into people’s personal lives and targeted them for misinformation. That’s a real danger. I have no idea. I’ve tried to figure out TikTok by asking my 15 year old son, “What happens on TikTok that I should be worried about?” And my son rolled his eyes and said, “Oh dad, you’re so 20th century.” I have a second generation of children, now I’m 20th century, makes me old. Something’s going on, Ryan, that bugged president Trump about TikTok. And the only thing I can figure out is the cartoon that is satiric about him. And he doesn’t like satire. Maybe somebody in your audience can help me understand what’s wrong with TikTok, as opposed to every other social media.

Ryan:

I think people are suggesting that the data that’s going back to China is not going to be scrubbed for personal information where Facebook, Twitter, they all grab our data from our phones all the time. I don’t think people realize that and they try to scrub [crosstalk 00:15:30].

Lanny:

And I imagine it is going back to China and I don’t like that. But, you could say the same thing about Facebook with data that went back to Russia, that led to targeted ads that affected a presidential election. One way or another, we know it had some effect with all that they did. What I’m saying is, not that I’m defending if TikTok is being used to gather data and foreign government is making use of it, we have to stop that. But to target TikTok, as opposed to all the other platforms, just because it’s China and say, oh, but Russia is fine. You know that doesn’t make any sense at all if the issue is privacy invasion of our data by a foreign government. The distinction between Russia and China, doesn’t meet with the facts.

Ryan:

Were you happy with the Mueller investigation? Do you think they were comprehensive enough or do you-

Lanny:

No. He pulled his punches. What president doesn’t get a subpoena? He wouldn’t even meet with him without a subpoena. Bill Clinton testified in front of a grand jury about his sex life. President Trump wouldn’t allow people to respond to a congressional subpoena in the middle of an impeachment. Of course Mueller should have subpoenaed the president. And of course he should have concluded from his own investigation one way or another, whether there was obstruction of justice. And to the extent there was cooperation, I don’t know what the word collusion means anymore. It was a very compromised half-hearted result, which then the attorney general, I think inaccurately, initially mis-described. And I would recommend too, I usually don’t plug other people’s books besides my own, Jeffrey Toobin has written the book on the Mueller investigation. He’s very pro Mueller, very professional, experienced lawyer, prosecutor. And he is extremely critical of Mr. Mueller, bringing us right up to the edge with a lot of facts and then nothing. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Mueller, by the way, he’s a man of complete integrity. No political modus operandi whatsoever, but he was more conservative, let’s say, which he has a right to be, than the facts, I think suggested he should’ve.

Ryan:

Somewhere along the way, I’m not sure how long this has been policy, but whether it’s attorney general bar or [inaudible 00:18:00], talking about not rocking an election through the DOJ. What do you make of some of the text messages that Strzok and some of those other agents were exchanging? Do you believe in a deep state, or is there something to this conspiracy theory that the republicans keep pushing about illegal espionage of the campaign? Any thoughts on that?

Lanny:

First of all, what they did privately is their own business, as long as it didn’t affect their work. And there hasn’t been a single fact that has shown that their personal relationship or their biases against Mr. Trump affected anybody’s professional work or judgment. I’m interested in those facts, if there are any. There aren’t any even inferences based on facts that those two individuals affected the results of what FBI? No, the FBI doesn’t prosecute, they investigate. What prosecutor was affected by FBI agents having negative comments, much less a personal relationship? I haven’t seen a single fact that suggests that whatever they did that seemed improper and biased effected anything at all. What conspiracy theories do is blow smoke and make you wonder, but where there’s smoke there isn’t always fire, or it wouldn’t be a theory, it would be a fact. I’m willing to at least wait for their facts to show me that there was a difference made in whether to prosecute or not. Roger Stone admitted to being [inaudible 00:19:43] and Michael Cohen testified that he was a conduit between WikiLeaks and the Russians to Mr. Trump. And he lied about it and he threatened to win this and a jury convicted him.

Lanny:

We all know that Michael Flynn lied. He lied and stupidly, there were people listening in on his conversation with the Russian ambassador and he still lied. And he pled guilty and told the judge, I lied. Yet, his sentence has been commuted. My concern about using the expression deep state is, it’s an expression, but it isn’t a fact. Tell me what facts lead to the conclusion that there’s a permanent government that is unelectable, unaccountable and part of a conspiracy to do in what, conservatives or liberals or, or who? I do know I’m fighting an administrative process at the Federal Trade Commission. And I’ve actually used the expression, this resembles a deep state that the republicans talk because they’re permanent administrative personnel, never elected by anyone, they stay on forever and they have immense power.

Lanny:

Now I’ve given you some facts, so the deep state expression doesn’t mean anything without fact, but the fact that I’ve been fighting at the Federal Trade Commission is an internal system. When they bring a case over the last 25 years, they win 100% of the time. Does that sound like that’s equal justice? There, I’m putting some facts behind an expression. The expression deep state is just rhetoric. I’m interested in what are the facts to show me that something deeply permanent in our government, acting contrary to accountability and politics exists. And in the Federal Trade Commission administrative trial process, where they win 100% of the time over 25 years, I say, okay, I bet that will allow an inference, there’s something wrong here. Now, I’ve just been a very good lawyer for a client I can’t tell you about. Federal Trade Commission, if they’re listening, knows what I’m talking about because I have fought them before in a case involving Whole Foods. Exactly the same process, which is closed, one sided and always ends up in the FTC winning. And we’re challenging it in the courts as we should.

Ryan:

What are your thoughts about the VP pick, Kamala Harris? It seems she’s bringing the California party to the Biden camp. What are your thoughts? I did see some of your literature out the last few weeks about the advice you would have given the presidential candidate, Biden.

Lanny:

Well, first before I answer your question, Ryan, I was just thinking there might be a headline in my last comment to you. Can you imagine somebody like Sean Hannity or some conservative publication saying, Lanny Davis says there really is a deep state, at least at the FTC, that’s a headline. Kamala Harris is outstanding in terms of her qualifications and experience, period. If something happens to Joe Biden, God forbid, she can be president instantly. She served as a county prosecutor in San Francisco as a DA. She then ran and won and served as attorney general. And then she ran and won and served as United States senator. I’ve, full disclosure, known her since her days of running for DA. But then when I represented Michael Cohen behind closed doors, not only on national television, when she questioned Mr. Barr and when she questioned Brett Kavanaugh, now justice Kavanaugh, I saw her behind closed doors in an intelligence committee meeting, which of course there is no media and all classified information, at least a lot of it.

Lanny:

You have to be careful if you are a US senator. I saw her question and go through the evidence. And having read everything, clearly she had done her homework, not knowing she might someday be a vice presidential candidate. I thought to myself, this is really a serious person that does her homework, cares about facts, cares about the words she uses. She may make mistakes, but she’s very conscientious. I think the country is well served, regardless of whether you’re a republican or a democrat. She would be qualified to be president, which is the one big question for any vice presidential nominee.

Ryan:

We looked at the polls in 2016 and Senator Clinton was way ahead of Trump. And the media said it was a foregone conclusion. You brought up the infamous Comey intervention, if you will. Do you think that was the tipping point or did the pollsters just get it wrong? And is there any risk that they’re getting it wrong today?

Lanny:

Well, again, I’ll try to be short and I promised I wouldn’t give any speeches about James Comey and Hillary Clinton and all the things I speak so much about. Let me just summarize. Number one, the polls were exactly accurate in 2016. Let everybody write that sentence down because you won’t hear anybody say it exactly that way, but I will prove it to you. The final set of polls of real clear politics, which is an average of all the polls every day in the last two weeks, Hillary Clinton on the morning of October 28 was five points ahead of Donald Trump. Not the 10 that you see Biden, nationally. And the Comey letter dropped in the afternoon. In the morning, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, projected the electoral map on October 28, Hillary Clinton wins by 350 electoral votes. From that day, if you track the average of each of the battleground states, forget about the national popular vote, which the polls predicted to be Hillary Clinton winning by 3%, she won by 2.6%.

Lanny:

Now, how can anyone say polls are inaccurate? If you take a sample of a thousand people and you come within 0.4% of the actual result, that’s proof that polls are accurate. What happened was in that last 10 days, most of the American people didn’t actually know how Hillary Clinton was dropping after the headlines about new criminal investigation emails, all about Clinton, saturating the media in the last 10 days. I wrote a book to try to prove that, but at least it’s a pretty good argument that she would’ve won, but for the Comey letter. Because after all, in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan 14.5 million votes were cast in those three states. If you lost those three states collectively by 70 000 votes divided by 14.5 million, do the math. Right now, I think, yeah, it’s favor Biden and Kamala Harris heavily, because that 70 000 vote switch or suppressed vote, because a lot of people didn’t vote because of the Comey letter and lost their enthusiasm of somebody that they were negative about to begin with.

Lanny:

And I think this time around, unless there is some late scandal that breaks about Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or something akin to a criminal investigation that is credible, as opposed to what Mr. Barr is threatening, which I so far, I haven’t heard anything that is serious. I think the likelihood is that Biden and Harris will win, but having been wrong before, I’m not going to predict anything for this November.

Ryan:

Do you think the Durham investigation could be an October surprise?

Lanny:

I think right now, whatever Durham says or does, if it’s dropped in October, it violates the same policy that James Comey violated for the last 50 or more years. Nothing is announced by the justice department, including an indictment and a serious crime in the last 60 days before a presidential election, it’s never been violated. Now, if it’s a terrorist who might threaten lives, of course they don’t wait. But if it’s just the indictment of a non terrorist crime, nothing is announced in the last 60 days before an election. Nothing. The exception was when an FBI director decided I get to decide when to violate that [inaudible 00:00:28:14]. Well, Mr. Comey, how do you get to decide? You report to the attorney general? You’re not a course of your own. Well, I thought it was the right thing to do because I promised congress. Now what will be Mr. Barr’s explanation? Mr. Comey was just plain out wrong. And for a lot of reasons, he did what he did. What is Mr. Barr’s explanation for allowing Mr. Durham to make what [inaudible 00:28:36]?

Lanny:

No trial and indictment is a ham sandwich, even if they indict someone until you prove your case. They’ll make that effort. And if they do, the American people have already discounted it, I think. The American people who haven’t totally closed their minds one way or the other, and that’s a pretty small number. I’m not really worried about the quote, October surprise, by Mr. Durham.

Ryan:

Do you think we’re going to have debates? Do you think there will be a presidential debate?

Lanny:

Do you think we’ll have a Durham announcement?

Ryan:

No. Do you think we’ll have presidential debates between Biden and Trump?

Lanny:

Oh, for sure. And it will be fun. Fun because I’m sure that Joe Biden will be rational and sensible and we’ll see great entertainment from President Trump and that makes it fun.

Ryan:

One of the few bipartisan issues that we have in the countries, both parties are frustrated with China. Do you think we risk going into a cold war with China, given the failed trade deal that is unraveling right now and some of the rhetoric that’s going to come out in the next 90 days?

Lanny:

I don’t think so. Even President Trump acts tough on China one day and then he says he’s in love with the head of North Korea or even China’s president on another moment. I don’t know if Mr. Trump is reelected, whether it means anything about relations with China or anyone, because he changes from day to day. I do want to give one summary comment. That may be as bipartisan as I can be. There are times in American history where people get fatigued. Fatigued with chaos, fatigued with controversy, fatigued with partisanship on both sides. I see terrible partisanship on the extremes of the democratic party as I do on the republican party. And there comes a time where the word normalcy becomes the most effective campaign message. Normalcy, decency, civility. And I’m not just throwing political stones here. If you test out my thesis, that’s the biggest issue facing the country right now, whether you’re pro Trump, anti Trump, pro Biden, anti Biden.

Lanny:

People want normalcy. They want decency. They don’t want invective and vitriol constantly, every day on Twitter, all night long on cable shows. That is the big issue facing our country. And in the 1920s, Calvin Coolidge was elected on the expression normalcy and Jimmy Carter in 1976, an unknown governor from Georgia, was elected because he said, I’ll never lie to you. That was in reaction to Richard Nixon. I think the 2020 election is going to be about we’re tired of this, whether you’re a democrat or republican, we want good government that listens. We don’t want big government. I’m a liberal and I don’t want big government. I want better market place [inaudible 00:31:54] to govern more than people in government. But most of all, I want decency and normalcy. And I think most Americans share my view, whether they’re Trump voters or Biden voters, that’s the big issue of our time.

Ryan:

Yeah. I think a lot of Americans are trapped in social media, echo chambers, or they just watch one cable news channel over the other. And I don’t know how we bridge this, but I think it’s probably the most dangerous and most pressing issue we have as a country is getting past this [inaudible 00:32:22] moment.

Lanny:

Agreed.

Ryan:

Lanny, any interesting book manuscripts or any books you’re reading today or any places you get your news that you think are worthwhile for our viewers to pay attention to?

Lanny:

No. I think the salacious books to come among the many and don’t really move the needle much is the Bob Woodward book coming out in September, just because he’s probably the greatest living reporter, certainly greatest reporter I’ve ever met. And he’s got a book coming out where he actually sat down… By the way, he takes everybody and tells them, if you want to talk to me, tell me the truth, because I’m taping you so you can’t deny what you told me. And somehow he gets away with it, most reporters they’d hang up. Woodward taped Donald Trump for hours and hours and hours. And he taped everybody who said things about Donald Trump. And in his last book, entitled Fear, people who said things to him about Mr. Trump, who worked for Mr. Trump, including his chief of staff and senior military people then said, no, I never said that. Until Bob Woodward said, excuse me, I got a tape of you saying it.

Lanny:

This book is called Rage. And that word comes from Mr. Trump, just as the word Fear, his first book came from Mr. Trump, but second hand, that he believed in the politics of fear. And he wrote that Trump denied it, but it was told to him on tape by several people. Now he’s got Mr. Trump saying, he believes in the politics of rage and that’s a tape. Now, of course, that doesn’t surprise anyone. Of course, Mr. Trump [inaudible 00:34:03] on rage, some people have a right to be angry. But to use it as a political tool, is at least subject to some debate, whether that’s appropriate, but that is the only book I think I’m looking forward to. Otherwise, I’m weary of all Trump books.

Ryan:

Lanny, I appreciate your time and your advice. It’s always sage wisdom and I hope you have a great rest of your summer. And-

Lanny:

May I just make a final comment to apologize to those of you who heard me be too partisan. I promise you, this was moderate compared to the way I usually am. I certainly appreciate your listening to me. It’s an honor to be invited by a long time friend, Ryan. And I consider him a young man, but he’s grown up and has a family. And I admire the work that you all have done. And I hope I’ve contributed a little bit besides some political partisanship, that I truly apologize for. It’s in my DNA and it’s hard to resist, but my advice to you about crisis management is really apolitical. And I thank you all for listening.

Ryan:

Thank you so much, Lanny. Appreciate you. Thank you for watching Non-beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, subscribe and follow us on Spotify, YouTube and Apple podcasts. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now, you know.

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