Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Chronicle: Roger McGuinn on how the Byrds’ commercial flop became a country-rock classic; "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" Anniversary Tour

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives will back Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. 
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

Original on SF

In 1968, the Byrds marked a huge shift away from psychedelia to country rock with the album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” The pedal steel guitars and banjos may have confounded critics and fans, but over time the groundbreaking album has earned its place among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s most influential work. Having veritably started the alt-country genre, it provided the blueprint for countless acts that followed.
To mark its 50th anniversary, Byrds co-founders Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman are performing the album in its entirety at select venues, with an assist by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. McGuinn, 75, spoke to The Chronicle from his home in Orlando, Fla.

“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” 50th Anniversary featuring Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29. $49.50-$99.50. The Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga.
Q: You don’t typically go near the Byrds stuff. What made you want to pause and revisit “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”?
A: Well, Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” had “Sweetheart” on top of all the Byrds albums for some years now. It seems ironic to me because when it came out, it was not well received. But gradually it’s been rising on the charts, if you will. So I thought, that’s something to celebrate - 50 years of that. And it took 40 years for it to catch on. I think that’s kind of fun.
And then we got Marty Stuart to play with us. I toured with him before. He owns Clarence White’s old guitar — the Telecaster that he played in the Byrds — and he knows how to play all those licks. So we can do “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” stuff just like it was. Clarence played on a couple of songs, so I’m excited about that part of it.
Q: Do you feel vindicated since so many people either felt the Byrds committed career suicide with that album — or, more accurately, flat out ignored it?
A: I wasn’t actually thinking in terms of vindication. When it came out, nobody liked it — the country people didn’t like it, the rock and roll people didn’t like it. I remember walking into a country station in L.A. and walking into a hallway ... and there was a bulletin board at the end with the album pinned to it and I went, “Oh, great! They’re playing it!” And I got closer and it said, “Do not play. This is not country music.” So it feels really good that people like it now.
Q: Did you feel like you were taking a dramatic step when you recorded it?
A: Well, I think we were so in love with the music we didn’t really notice or think about what the audience was going to do. We didn’t think of it in terms of betrayal of the rock audience or being interlopers in the country field. We just thought, “We love this music and we’re very sincere and careful to do it well.” And we had a great band. I mean, the instrumental tracks are incredible on that album.
Q: What were you listening to at the time that pushed you in that direction?
A: Well, we dabbled in country before. Chris Hillman came from a bluegrass background, and I was a folk musician. We did “Satisfied Mind” on the “Turn! Turn! Turn!” album. And then Chris came up with “Old John Robertson” and “The Girl With No Name” and some other stuff, countryish things. Even Clarence White played with us back then. So it wasn’t a foreign thing to us.
Then Gram Parsons came along, and he was just nuts about country music at that point. His enthusiasm was contagious. He got us all fired up about doing a whole album of country and going to Nashville. We loved it. We had so much fun doing it. And then it came out and it was a total bomb.
Q: Even though he tried to fire you at the time, do you still have fond memories of working with Gram Parsons?
A: Yeah, I do. I forgave him for that. We were friends after that. He used to come over to my house and play pool. We would ride motorcycles together. When he and Chris were putting together the Flying Burrito Brothers, I went down and hung out with them. I was amazed at some of the great material they had. So I didn’t really hold it against him.
I was sorry that he left because he was an asset. I was also sorry about the South African thing (Parsons was let go in 1968 because he refused to join the band on tour in the country, saying he wouldn’t play to segregated audiences). That turned out to be a total disaster. We got in trouble with the government down there and everything and had to escape on a DC-3. The reason I went there was because I’d known Miriam Makeba since I’d worked with the (Chad) Mitchell Trio back in the early 1960s and she said, “You should go there and see it for yourself.” I wanted to go over and do what I could to help out. In retrospect, I wouldn’t do it again.

Q: Even though there were few people who bought the album, it seems like everyone who did started a band: the Eagles, Jackson Browne, R.E.M., Wilco, Ryan Adams and so on. In a way, it started a whole genre.
A: I’m happy about that. We got the Eagles and outlaw country out of it. It did have a strong influence, and that’s a good thing.
Q: What does Marty Stuart bring to the equation?
A: Well, he’s going to bring Clarence White’s guitar and all the licks he played. His band, the Fabulous Superlatives, are really great. I’ve played with them before and I love them. Marty and I are really good friends. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years, and we like to work together. It’s a perfect fit. His guys are like the Wrecking Crew, so talented and professional. So it’s going to be a really hot band.
Q: Are you throwing any other songs into the set?
A: We’re going to work up to “Sweetheart” in the second half of the show. In the first half we’re going to do some of the songs we did in the Byrds prior to the album and tell the story of how the album developed and how it all came together.

ThisSmallPlanet video of Roger McGuinn doing Byrds co-founder Gene Clark's classic song "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better"...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Two Cool, New Songs From Richard Thompson (Audio Only); New Album "13 Rivers" Out September 14th

Richard Thompson is a prize, a treasure, a pleasure, a reward.. a gift; shared between friends.

Been loving his work with Sandy Denny & Iain Mathews in Fairport Convention in the 60's for some time. I especially love the Heyday album which collects some of their BBC performances, such as covers of Richard Farina's "Reno, Nevada" and Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard".

I've seen Richard Thompson perform solo a few times and he's simply a fantastic singer, songwriter, guitarist, entertainer, and raconteur.

Can't wait for his new album 13 Rivers, out September 14th.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Congratulations To Boots Riley For The Success Of His Film "Sorry To Bother You"!... Here's My Videos Of Boots At Coachella 2010 Doing M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" & "Mama Said Knock You Out" With Tom Morello... PLUS Boots With Trevor Noah....

Three videos: "Paper Planes" (M.I.A. cover), "Mama Said Knock You Out" (L.L. Cool J cover), "Promenade" (Street Sweeper Social Club original) at Coachella 2010 by

The band was Street Sweeper Social Club.... Coachella 2010.... Boots Riley of The Coup on vocals, Tom Morello on guitar.... joined by Brad Wilk (Morello's partner in Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, & Prophets Of Rage) on drums for L.L. Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out".....

Boots' debut film Sorry To Bother You had enormous success this past weekend and is destined to just keep going and going... 

Here's the trailer...

Here's Boots with Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show":


Sunday, July 15, 2018 Seeks Subscribers, Collaborators, Sponsors, Advertisers, & Investors

My name is Michael J Donnelly and I live in Santa Cruz, California (USA, Earth).

Since 2011, I have been operating based on Blogger/Blogspot and using the address is also on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ and is committed to expanding its social media reach to new sites.

The primary focus is music (mostly rock), although I am also fascinated by politics (particularly the intersection of music & politics), and the primary medium is text, although I frequently feature photography, video, graphics, and audio on the site.

My Blog has over 1,000 published articles since 2011. Some of my favorite original articles:

Jared Kushner's Observer Takes Two Cheap Shots At Anti-Trump Rocker Roger Waters - Misses Both Times

Why Do They Keep Killing David Kammerer? The Homophobic Killing The Beats Defended (Or Harry Potter Cares About Allen Ginsberg.... And So Should You!)

"That's What Happens To Fascists In Berkeley; They Go Home Bleeding" March 4 Trump Fascists Lose (Again) To Berkeley Activists

18 "New" Songs From 1967 By Byrds Co-Founder Gene Clark: The Holy Grail?

One major focus of the Blog has been to publish Playlists recommending both new and classic music:

New, Cool Music: June 2018 Playlist

Cool, New Music: July 2018 Playlist

Guitar's Not Dead! May 2018 Playlist: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, Ty Segall & White Fence

Cool, New Music Playlist April 2018: What The Cool Kids Are Listening To...

My YouTube channel has published over 500 original live music videos since 2009.

"You are there" - My videos are shot from the point of view of a fan, with hand-held non-professional equipment, navigating through the mosh pit; nearly a physical endurance test or extreme sport.

This video I shot of Seasick Steve busking on the street in San Francisco, has over 100,000 views:

This video I shot of Jack White was featured online on Spin, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Consequence of Sound:

I have written several original articles but most of the posts have been reprints of articles from other sources, mainly about music and politics that I find important and over-looked.

I have been a huge fan of live music since the early 1970s when I saw acts like Johnny Cash and The Kinks. Since then I have attended hundreds of events, experiencing them as a performer, staff, journalist, and fan. I worked on Central Park SummerStage, performed in People's Park in Berkeley, and attended early iterations of festivals such as Coachella, Sasquatch, Governors Ball, Bridge School Benefits, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

Covering live music is a big part of what I do.

My focus is music and politics but also am interested in nature photography, history, travel, and do not feel that there are any limits to what I can cover. is named after a phrase from a speech by John F. Kennedy at American University in Washington on June 10, 1963:

In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours--and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.
So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.

These words are still true today. Perhaps even truer.

I am inspired by the legacy of the 60s and 70s, of the movements for peace and civil rights, and the music that accompanied it - folk, rock, gospel... and the "indie" movement of the 80s and 90s that led us to the indie music of the 21st century. My focus is on guitar-based music influenced primarily by the British invasion, Americana, the blues, folk, country, ragtime, and gospel, but try to cover other kinds of music too, especially if they are particularly culturally, politically, or socially relevant.

There is so much information available today on music, on politics, on life... People need a trusted aggregator to help them determine the few key choices, of the thousands available, they can make regarding music, film, politics, travel, and so on. We hope to be a trusted aggregator.

We hope to Expand in the following areas: 

  1. Newsletters (Tip Sheet for new finds in music, politics, etc.)
  2. Podcasts for iTunes, Internet Radio & Streaming Services
  3. More Live Music & Event Videos
  4. A More Complete Website (with a focus on interactivity with the audience)
  5. More Original Articles (with a focus on Interviews).

I have done practically all the work so far on my own, facing extreme poverty and even homelessness. In order to expand, I need outside input.

We at are seeking Subscribers, Collaborators, Sponsors, Advertisers, & Investors.

We suggest $20 a year for a customized newsletter (daily, weekly, or monthly tip sheet) for Individuals, $100 a year for Corporate accounts. 

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Last Night In Portugal: Jack White & Pearl Jam "Rockin' In The Free World" live (Video); Blistering 7-Minute Jam At Lisbon's NOS Alive Festival

Some original Live videos of Jack White:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Soon To Be Indicted: Dana Rohrabacher; "Unnamed" Congressman, Putin's Favorite, In Indictment Of 12 Russians & Butina Complaint; Latest "Victim" Of Comedians Sacha Baron Cohen & Jim Carrey

                                                                                       Art by Jim Carrey

Yesterday's indictment of 12 Russians drops a curious hint about actual collusion in 2016 between Russian agents and a certain American politician... 

43(a): "On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate's opponent."

ThisSmallPlanet believes that the candidate for Congress who received stolen documents from Russia, unnamed in the indictment, is, in fact, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Rohrabacher (at 2:18 on the video below) was also one of the prominent politicians fooled by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen into supporting the arming of pre-schoolers for the fictional "Kinderguardian" program on Sacha's new show Who Is America?
Rohrabacher is at 8:44 in this hilarious clip:

NOT MAD GOP Rep. Rohrabacher Bashes ‘Sick Fraud’ Sacha Baron Cohen, While His Opponent Jumps on Damning Video

UPDATE: Rohrabacher also appears in today's criminal complaint against Maria Butina:

Butina Complaint

UPDATE: Politico: Rep. Rohrabacher: Indictment of NRA-linked Russian is 'stupid'

UPDATE: The Hill: GOP lawmaker says he met with indicted Russia woman in 2015

UPDATE: Daily Beast: ‘Putin’s Favorite Congressman’ Now Engulfed in NRA Spy Case

UPDATE: Daily Beast: GOP Lawmaker Got Direction From Moscow, Took It Back to D.C.

UPDATE: Harley Rouda: Rohrabacher's Opponent's Statement On New Russia Rohrabacher Revelations:


Newport Beach, CA – Today, Harley Rouda released the following statement in light of the news that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with an ally of Vladimir Putin in Russia in August 2015. This revelation matches an account given in an affidavit released by the FBI on Monday against accused Russian spy Maria Butina.
"The news that Dana Rohrabacher is now entwined in an FBI investigation of an accused 'Russian NRA spy' is deeply disturbing. The full truth about the connection between Dana's pro-Russian politics, his 2015 trip to Russia, and Moscow's relationship with the National Rifle Association must be known - that's what every CA-48 family, what every American family, deserves."

"What's already fully known is that Dana Rohrabacher told the Showtime Network he thinks arming children is a good idea. He also has never met a common sense gun reform he liked or an NRA donation that he didn't want to take. This last quarter alone, Dana accepted $1,000 in NRA money. My campaign is not up for sale to the NRA. I will never take a contribution from the NRA and as a member of Congress I will seek to work with Republicans and Democrats to finally make common sense gun safety reform a reality."

Brexit Connection:

From February 2018: 

One of the more surprising details in Friday's filings was the admission by Gates that even while he was negotiating a possible agreement with Mueller, he lied to investigators. He falsely claimed that Ukraine was not discussed at a March 19, 2013, meeting attended by Manafort, a lobbyist and member of Congress and that a report about the meeting was not sent to clients in the Ukraine.
The lawmaker who attended was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., his office confirmed. Rohrabacher's press secretary said it was a dinner with longtime acquaintances where "the three reminisced and talked mostly about politics."
"The subject of Ukraine came up in passing," the press secretary, Ken Grubbs, said in a statement.
"It is no secret that Manafort represented (former Ukraine president) Viktor Yanukovych's interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine. We may only speculate that Manafort needed to report back to his client that Ukraine was discussed."

Rohrabacher is up for re-election this November to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he's served since 1989. He's facing a very tough challenge this time from Democrat Harley Rouda in California's 48th congressional district. Being indicted isn't going to help his campaign either.

Watch this CNN video discuss Congressional Candidate Collusion Bid

The indictment says that "on or about" August 15, 2016, the unnamed Congressional candidate (Rohrabacher) asked for and received stolen data about a political opponent from Guccier 2.0, known to be a front for Russian agents.

That means that Rohrabacher could (and should!) definitely be charged in the next batch of indictments. It begs the question; if a Congressman could ask for and receive illegal Russian help in an election, is it so far fetched to propose that a presidential candidate did the same? Especially if there already were compromising personal and financial material the Russians had on Trump from the past...

Starting at 9:17 in this video, Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya of Trump Tower Meeting fame, discusses (in Russian with English subtitles) efforts to influence American politicians like Rohrabacher...

Interestingly, we do know that  Rohrabacher was in contact with Guccifer's friend Julian Assange of Wikileaks, during this period, and even visited Assange in hiding at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, one or more times as documented in The L.A. Times on August 16, 2017:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher meets with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, plans to tell Trump what he heard

By     August 16, 2017  Original on L.A.

Orange County GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that he met Wednesday with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is still living in asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. 
In a statement, Rohrabacher's office said the Australian fugitive "emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved" in the theft of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails, which were published by WikiLeaks, put Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on the defensive.
The conversation between Rohrabacher and Assange, which was first reported by the Daily Caller, "ranged over many topics," according to the statement. The statement didn't reveal much more, but said "the congressman plans to divulge more of what he found directly to President Trump."
Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed Russia was involved in the theft of Democratic Party emails and tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Trump.
The Justice Department, along with multiple House and Senate committees, are investigating potential ties between Trump's campaign and election meddling.
Rohrabacher, who has long been criticized for his fondness for Russia, believes he is the only congressman who has visited Assange. Rohrabacher's name has repeatedly come up in discussions of the investigation into Russian interference.
His spokesman did not respond to requests for additional comment, including questions about how the trip was funded and whether the White House was aware of the trip. 
Assange has been hiding out in the Ecuadorean Embassy since 2012 to avoid sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden. That investigation was dropped this year, but British authorities have said he could still be arrested for jumping bail if he leaves the embassy.
In April, CIA Director Mike Pompeo dismissed Assange as a "narcissist" and called WikiLeaks a "non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia." House Speaker Paul Ryan has criticized Assange as a "sycophant for Russia."
Trump himself has expressed an affinity for Assange in the past, tweeting praise for the fugitive.
The Washington Post reported in April that federal prosecutors were weighing whether to bring charges against members of WikiLeaks, in part over information leaked by Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of handing over diplomatic cables to the organization.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is demanding that Rohrabacher resign from his seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Democrats and Republicans alike agree that Julian Assange is a threat to America's national security and has aligned with the Kremlin to undermine our elections," said DCCC spokesman Drew Godinich, who called Rohrabacher's behavior "completely shocking."
Rohrabacher is one of the top Republican incumbents California Democrats are hoping to topple in 2018. He has already attracted nine challengers, most of them Democrats, including real estate broker Harley Rouda, who released a campaign ad criticizing the 15-term Republican for his repeated defense of Russia.
Rohrabacher, who once worked for the Orange County Register, told The Hill that he also planned to convey a request from Assange to Trump for a WikiLeaks seat inside the White House press room.
“Julian passionately argued the case that WikiLeaks was vital to informing the public about controversial though necessary issues," he told The Hill. "As a former newsman myself, I can't see a reason why they shouldn't be granted news status for official press conferences."

F.B.I. Once Warned G.O.P. Congressman That Russian Spies Were Recruiting Him

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, has been known for years as one of Moscow’s biggest defenders in Washington. Maria Danilova/Associated Press

By Matt ApuzzoAdam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti ,May 19, 2017,  Original on New York

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. warned a Republican congressman in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, officials said, an example of how aggressively Russian agents have tried to influence Washington politics.
The congressman, Dana Rohrabacher of California, has been known for years as one of Moscow’s biggest defenders in Washington and as a vocal opponent of American economic sanctions against Russia. He claims to have lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with the current Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, in the 1990s. He is one of President Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill.
As a newly appointed special counsel investigates connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, the warning to Mr. Rohrabacher shows that the F.B.I. has for years viewed Russian spies, sometimes posing as diplomats, as having a hand in Washington.
Mr. Rohrabacher was drawn into the maelstrom this week when The Washington Post reported on an audio recording of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, saying last year, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Mr. McCarthy said on Wednesday that he had made a joke that landed poorly.

But the F.B.I. has taken seriously the possibility that Russian spies would target American politicians. In a secure room at the Capitol, an F.B.I. agent told Mr. Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence” — someone the Russian government might be able to use to steer Washington policy making, former officials said.
Mr. Rohrabacher said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the meeting had focused on his contact with one member of the Russian Foreign Ministry, whom he recalled meeting on a trip to Moscow. “They were telling me he had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. He recalled the F.B.I. agent saying that Moscow “looked at me as someone who could be influenced.”
Law enforcement officials did not think that Mr. Rohrabacher was actively working with Russian intelligence, officials said, rather that he was being targeted as an unwitting player in a Russian effort to gain access in Washington, according to one former American official. The official said there was no evidence that Mr. Rohrabacher was ever paid by the Russians.
Also at the meeting were Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and according to one former official, Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Democrat of Maryland. Mr. Rogers and Mr. Ruppersberger were the senior members of the House Intelligence Committee. In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Ruppersberger said that he recalled a meeting with Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rohrabacher, but did not remember that an F.B.I. agent was present. “Mike and I reminded Dana that Russia is our adversary,” he said.
Mr. Rogers, who has since retired from Congress, declined to comment.
Mr. Rohrabacher said he appreciated the warning but needed no reminder. “Any time you meet a Russian member of their Foreign Ministry or the Russian government, you assume those people have something to do with Russian intelligence,” he said.

American intelligence authorities have concluded that Russian spies started a coordinated campaign of hacking and propaganda to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and help Mr. Trump. The Justice Department appointed the former F.B.I. director Robert S. Mueller III on Wednesday to lead the investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded in that effort.
Mr. Rohrabacher, like Mr. Trump, has played down the significance of Russian meddling.
“Did they try to influence our election? We have tried to influence their elections, and everybody’s elections,” Mr. Rohrabacher told The Los Angeles Times in March. “The American people are being fed information that would lead them to believe that we need to be in a warlike stance when it comes to Russia.”
Mr. Trump’s presidency has been plagued by questions about his links to Russia. Journalists have uncovered repeated instances of meetings between Trump associates and Russians that were not disclosed or that the White House initially mischaracterized. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign after misrepresenting his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
A federal judge authorized a secret wiretap last year on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, based on evidence that he was acting as a Russian agent. Mr. Page has denied any wrongdoing. American authorities believe that Mr. Page met with a suspected intelligence officer in Russia.
Mr. Rohrabacher, for his part, said he was confident that Mr. Trump’s associates had been savvy in their dealings with Russia. “The president has some very astute people around him,” he said. “I can’t imagine someone in a position of power in the United States government not fully appreciating the fact that whoever he’s dealing with who’s a foreigner that he doesn’t know is trying to influence him.”
Mr. Rohrabacher was already facing what is shaping up to be the most difficult campaign of his 28-year career in Congress — a race some of his colleagues would rather not see him run, given how much money the party may have to spend on his behalf. After largely avoiding difficult re-elections in his Republican-leaning district along a stretch of the Pacific Ocean in Orange County, he finds himself in the Democrats’ cross hairs.
With an increasingly diverse district, which Mrs. Clinton carried last year, and a penchant for provocation, Mr. Rohrabacher has made himself an irresistible target. One well-funded Democrat, Harley Rouda, has already declared his candidacy, and there is talk of other potentially formidable challengers also entering the race.
Mr. Rouda, a real estate executive, called Mr. Rohrabacher “Putin’s favorite congressman.”
“It is the strangest thing imaginable in light of what all the intelligence agencies have said about Russia hacking the United States’ electoral process, yet he carries on,” Mr. Rouda said.
As for Mr. McCarthy’s remark, even if only a quip, it showed that Republican leaders were aware enough of Mr. Trump’s Russian links six months before Election Day to joke about them. WikiLeaks had not yet begun to publish hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee or Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman. And many of the revelations about Mr. Trump’s associates and their Russian meetings had not yet been revealed.

He’s a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, has come under intense political and investigative scrutiny for his closeness to Russia. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press
Original on New York

November 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — For two decades, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence sourceworthy of a Kremlin code name.
The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.
Then came President Trump.
As revelations of Russia’s campaign to influence American politics consume Washington, Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, who had no known role in the Trump election campaign, has come under political and investigative scrutiny. The F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had last year with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.
At the same time, fellow Republicans — questioning his judgment and intentions — have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him.

“I feel like I’m in good shape politically,” he said breezily during an interview last week, a day before he voted against his party’s tax bill. “My constituents couldn’t care less about this. They are not concerned about Russia. They are concerned about the taxes on their home. They are concerned about illegal immigrants coming into their neighborhood and raping people.”
Nor is Mr. Rohrabacher, a self-proclaimed veteran of international intrigue, all that perturbed by the interest of federal and congressional investigators. He said he would talk to them when scheduling allows.

Mr. Rohrabacher, left, campaigning in 1988 with his friend Oliver North, who was embroiled in the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Rohrabacher has since served 15 terms. Nick Ut/Associated Press

The story of Mr. Rohrabacher’s transformation from Cold Warrior to pro-Putinist is well worn. A vocal Young Republican in the 1960s, he latched onto Ronald Reagan, California’s Republican governor, and followed him to Washington and a speechwriting job in the White House. Then came the fall of the Soviet Union and a d├ętente in relations with the former superpower. For Mr. Rohrabacher, who claims to have lost a drunken arm-wrestling match to Mr. Putin in the 1990s, the era of good feelings never really ended.
Mr. Rohrabacher has laughed off suggestions that he is a Russian asset, and said in an interview that he did not remember being briefed that the Russians viewed him as a source. The F.B.I. and the senior members of the House Intelligence Committee sat Mr. Rohrabacher down in the Capitol in 2012 to warn him that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, according to two former intelligence officials.

“I remember them telling me, ‘You have been targeted to be recruited as an agent,’” he said. “How stupid is that?”
And yet, as investigators in Washington scrutinize the Russian interference campaign, Mr. Rohrabacher, like an extra in a spy thriller, just keeps showing up — if not quite at the scene of the action, then just off camera.
In April 2016, he was in Moscow, accepting a copy of a “confidential” memocontaining accusations against prominent Democratic donors that would, months later, reappear in Trump Tower when a Russian lawyer who had reported those allegations to the Russian government, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, sat down with Donald Trump Jr. to deliver a similar document.
Last August he was in London on a quick diversion from an anniversary trip to the Iberian Peninsula to meet Mr. Assange at the fugitive’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy. American intelligence agencies believe Mr. Assange acted as a conduit for Russian operatives seeking to release a trove of hacked Democratic emails. Mr. Assange denies the accusation, and Mr. Rohrabacher hoped to broker a meeting with Mr. Trump to allow him to make his case.
Then earlier this year, this time on Capitol Hill, Mr. Rohrabacher dined with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime. During Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Mr. Torshin tried to set up a “backdoor” meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, according to an email that has been turned over to Senate investigators.
Mr. Rohrabacher asserted that none of the meetings were untoward or inappropriate, given his chairmanship. Ms. Veselnitskaya and her allies are fighting the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses, and they deserved a hearing, he said. Russia, he argued, could be a key ally to defeat Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, and under Mr. Putin, the Kremlin has undertaken key reforms back home.