The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI is increasingly convinced that the recent hacks of the DNC and other organizations are being led by Russia:

A fuller picture of the operation has come into focus in the past several weeks. U.S. officials believe that at least two hacking groups with ties to the Russian government, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are involved in the escalating data-theft efforts, according to people briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of the cyberattacks.

Following successful breaches, the stolen data are apparently transferred to three different websites for publication, these people say. The websites—WikiLeaks, and a blog run by Guccifer 2.0—have posted batches of stolen data at least 42 times from April to last week.

WikiLeaks has published U.S. secrets for years but has recently taken an overtly adversarial tone toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Cybersecurity experts believe that and Guccifer 2.0 often work together and have direct ties to Russian hackers.

Most of these leaks have been designed to hurt Hillary Clinton, who Vladimir Putin apparently hates. Meanwhile, Trump advisor Carter Page has left the Trump campaign over accusations that he's a little too chummy with the folks in Russia responsible for all this hacking. Page says the whole thing is ridiculous, but apparently his erstwhile friends in Trumpland are throwing him under the bus anyway:

The Trump campaign has been distancing itself from Page. Although Page was one of Trump’s originally announced foreign policy advisers, campaign manager KellyAnne Conway told CNN on Sunday that Page is not really involved at with the campaign at this point.

I have not spoken with him at all, in fact, meaning he’s not part of our national security or foreign policy briefings that we do now at all, certainly not since I have become campaign manager,” she said....Other Trump campaign sources told me that Page was never really part of Trump’s inner circle....Page has never met with Trump one on one and hasn’t been deeply involved in Trump foreign policy speeches or events, they said.

So...he was just some guy whose name they used so they'd look like they had some advisors. Apparently they'd rather publicly fess up to lying about their campaign announcements than take a chance that Page might become a liability. What nice folks.

Oh man, this is rich. Here is wingnut Rep. Jeb Hensarling griping about the fact that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau didn't find out about the Well Fargo scandal sooner:

“Why does it take the L.A. Times to break this story, when we’re paying federal investigators to investigate?” Hensarling recently told Fox Business Network.

“Where was the CFPB? Why did they come in so late to the game?” he continued. “They have immense powers and this is their job to enforce these basic consumer laws and it appears they were asleep at the switch.” Hensarling also has criticized regulators for the $185-million settlement with the bank, which allowed Wells Fargo to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.

If Hensarling had his way, the CFPB would be eliminated and Wells Fargo might well have escaped from the whole affair unscathed. Now he's pretending that he thinks the CFPB is too weak. Sen. Sherrod Brown has it right:

“Hensarling reminds me of the kid who kills his parents and then wants to collect orphan benefits,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the CFPB’s biggest backers. “He’s tried to underfund it. He’s tried to undercut. He’s done all he could to block bank regulations.”

Make up your mind, Jeb. Do you want the CFPB to more powerful or less powerful? You can only have it one way.

Where the Wars Are

This is apropos of nothing in particular. It's just some raw data I happened to come across, so I thought I'd share.

Stop-and-frisk came up in last night's debate:

TRUMP: Now, whether or not in a place like Chicago you do stop and frisk, which worked very well, Mayor Giuliani is here, worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down.

....HOLT: I do want to follow up. Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.

TRUMP: No, you're wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.

Trump said four things here, and typically for him, he was effectively wrong about all four.

First off, he implied that Rudy Giuliani brought stop-and-frisk to New York City. He didn't. As you can see in the chart on the right, the stop-and-frisk rate didn't start rising until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg was mayor and Ray Kelly was police commissioner.

Second, he said it brought the crime rate "way down." Again, the chart on the right doesn't bear this out. Crime rates were already on a steady, long-term downward trend by 2002, and the increase in stop-and-frisk doesn't seem to have changed that much. A more detailed analysis concluded that stop-and-frisk actually did have a modest effect, "but only the increase in stops made based on probable cause indicators of criminal behaviors were associated with crime reductions." Save that thought, and we'll come back to it later.

Third, New York's version of stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional. Would that ruling have survived on appeal? Probably, but nobody knows, certainly not Donald Trump.

And fourth, there are, in fact, many places where stop-and-frisk is allowed. In fact, it's allowed everywhere in the country. So why do I count Trump as being wrong about this?

Simple: Stop-and-frisk has been a standard police procedure for decades, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that it's only legal if it's based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The problem in New York City is that stop-and-frisk became a routine tool used even when there was essentially no justification at all. This is the stop-and-frisk policy that Trump was talking about, and it's decidedly not used in "many places." It was unique to New York City.

This is why the study I linked above is important. It concluded that stop-and-search based on probable cause did help reduce crime. But the New York City version didn't. And it did target blacks and Latinos at much higher rates than whites, even after you account for disparate crime rates. So not only was it unconstitutional, but it didn't work either. On multiple levels, New York City is better off returning to the legal version.

Speaking of Hillary Clinton's emails, we learned something interesting today. But first, here's an excerpt from the FBI report that was released last month. Apologies for the length, but it's important that you see the whole thing so you know I haven't left out any relevant parts:

Here's the full timeline in a nutshell:

December 2014: After turning over Clinton's work emails to the State Department, Clinton's staff instructed Platte River Networks to delete her old email files, which included all her private emails. The tech assigned to this task forgot to do it.

March 9, 2015: Clinton's staff notifies PRN that Congress has issued a preservation order for Clinton's emails.

March 25: Clinton's staff has a conference call with PRN.

March 25-31: The tech has a "holy shit" moment and remembers he never deleted the old archives. So he does. Both Clinton and Cheryl Mills say they were unaware of these deletions.

This timeline is a bit of a Rorschach test. If you already think Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook, your reaction is: Give me a break. They just happened to have a conference call on March 25 and the tech just happened to delete the archives a few days later? But the Clinton gang says they never told him to do this? Spare me.

However, if you're sympathetic to Clinton, this all seems pretty unremarkable. Her staff had ordered the archives deleted in 2014, long before any subpoenas were issued, and it was only because of the tech's forgetfulness that they were still around in March. The tech was telling the truth when he said that no one told him to delete the archives in March. The conference call just jogged his memory. And Clinton and Mills really didn't have any idea what was going on. After all, it would have been wildly dangerous to explicitly tell PRN on a conference call to delete archives that were under a legal preservation order.

So which is it? The answer is that we don't know. You can read this timeline however you want. Today, however, we got this:

FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday his investigators looked very intently at whether there was obstruction of justice in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email account, but concluded they could not prove a criminal case against anyone.

"We looked at it very hard to see if there was criminal obstruction of justice," Comey said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, under questioning by Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

"We looked at it very hard. We could not make an obstruction case against any of the subjects we looked at," Comey said. He did not identify those whose conduct the FBI investigated for potential obstruction.

What Comey is saying is that the FBI put a lot of effort into discovering the truth about what happened in March, including grants of immunity to several people so they could tell the truth without fear of prosecution. But they came up empty. Despite their best efforts, it appears that Clinton's staff did nothing wrong. The PRN tech just had a memory lapse about the deletion order and then did a dumb thing when he remembered it.

Hillary Clinton made a mistake when she decided to use a single email account on a personal server while she was Secretary of State. But it was just a mistake, not a criminal conspiracy. Once again, there's no there there.

I read quite a few complaints last night about Lester Holt's choice of debate topics. Liberals wanted to know why climate change didn't come up. Conservatives thought there should have been a question about abortion. This is run-of-the-mill stuff, since not everything can possibly get covered in a 90-minute show. But the biggest conservative complaint was that Holt didn't ask Hillary Clinton about her emails or the Clinton Foundation. Except that he did:

HOLT: He also raised the issue of your e-mails. Do you want to respond to that?

CLINTON: I do. You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail.

TRUMP: That's for sure.

CLINTON: And if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I'm not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.

HOLT: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: That was more than a mistake. That was done purposely. OK? That was not a mistake. That was done purposely. When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it's disgraceful. And believe me, this country thinks it's — really thinks it's disgraceful, also.

And that was it. Trump had the opportunity to go after Clinton's emails at length if he wanted to, but he didn't. Why? Because he was steamed about Clinton's suggestion that he might not be as rich as he says. So he ditched the email stuff and instead spend a couple of minutes defending the greatness of his income, his company, his debts, his bankers, his buildings—and then sort of forgot what he was talking about and wandered off into a riff about how terrible our infrastructure is.

In other words, typical Trump. But there's more to this. I think Clinton owes the press some thanks for going so far overboard on the emails and the Clinton Foundation over the past year. Here's what happened earlier this month:

First, the FBI released its report on Clinton's emails. It exonerated her almost completely, but a few days later Matt Lauer obliviously spent a full third of his interview with Clinton on the emails anyway. Lauer was widely pilloried for this. Two days later the Washington Post—which had reported on the emails as assiduously as anyone—finally admitted that the email story was "out of control."

On the Clinton Foundation front, August and September saw a rash of stories about specific people and programs associated with the foundation. They all "raised questions" or "cast a shadow" over Clinton's campaign, but none of them uncovered anything even close to wrongdoing. By mid-September, this had become almost a running joke.

In both cases, the mountain of reporting on these topics finally crumbled under its own weight. They had both been investigated endlessly, and in the end, had uncovered nothing aside from a few minor misdemeanors. It finally became clear that reporters were chasing after a chimera, and the bubble burst. It was time to move on.

That's probably one reason that Holt didn't spend any time on either the emails or the foundation. I'm sure they'll come up in one of the future debates, but they've been largely defanged. There's just nothing much there anymore.

If there were a contest for weirdest Trumpism last night—well, I'm not sure I could pick a winner. But on the nerd front, this one just confused me completely:

We have to renegotiate our trade deals. And, Lester, they're taking our jobs, they're giving incentives, they're doing things that, frankly, we don't do.

Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We're on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there's a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there's no tax. It's a defective agreement. It's been defective for a long time, many years, but the politicians haven't done anything about it.

In real time I wondered what the hell this was all about, but the debate moved on and I didn't have time to ponder it. Aside from being completely wrong, I wondered where it came from. Trump has never mentioned VATs before, has he?

Well, it turns out that yesterday an economist at UC Irvine (yay Anteaters!) co-authored a long report claiming that Trump's full economic plan would hypercharge growth and make us all rich etc. etc. Jordan Weissmann dismantles the report here, and mentions that it takes aim at VAT taxes around the world:

Here's how it works: When a company in Germany makes goods to sell at home, it has to pay the VAT. But if it makes them to sell in the United States, it doesn't—the tax gets waived at the border....Meanwhile, if an American company makes widgets to sell in Germany, it does have to pay the VAT.

In short, everybody has to pay Germany's VAT when they're selling goods in Germany. Nobody has to pay Germany's VAT when they're selling goods outside of Germany....However, Navarro and Ross say border adjustability turns the VAT into an “implicit export subsidy” for foreign companies and an “implicit tariff” on U.S. exporters.

....This is just ... wrong. Dead wrong. It's true that American car companies, to take just one example, have to pay a German VAT when they sell sedans to Berlin or Düsseldorf. But you know who also has to pay that tax? BMW and Volkswagen. Border adjustability just puts everybody on equal footing. Waiving the VAT on exports does the same thing. If German companies had to pay the VAT on cars they were sending to the U.S., they'd be at a huge disadvantage compared to their American rivals, who wouldn't face a domestic VAT. Germany would essentially be suppressing its own exports.

So that's where it came from. Somebody at Trump HQ read the report, mentioned the VAT part to Trump, and Trump then burbled about it on stage last night. It's all gibberish, but oddly enough, you can't really blame Trump for this one. After all, a guy with a PhD in economics fed this stuff to him. It's such a mind-boggling misstatement of how VATs work that I now want to know why the guy with the PhD was willing to embarrass himself with this stuff. Trump, of course, just lapped it up.

Anyway, that's the story of the VAT. Don't you feel smarter now?

Donald Trump Is a Pig

So it turns out that Donald Trump's big attack that he delicately held back on last night was...Bill Clinton's affairs. Devastating! That bit of non-news would have turned things around, I'm sure. So why did he change his mind? "I didn't feel comfortable doing it with Chelsea in the room," he said this morning.  What a sensitive guy.

In related news, Hillary Clinton really got under Trump's skin last night. "He loves beauty contests," she said, "supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman 'Miss Piggy.' Then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping,' because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name."

"Where did you find this? Where did you find this?" Trump demanded. Today he couldn't stop himself from attacking back:

During an interview on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Trump brought up Machado on his own and launched into an attack on her credibility, saying that she had "attitude" and was a "real problem" for Miss Universe officials. "She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible," Trump said. "... She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem."

What a pig.

I'm always careful to turn off the TV as soon as a debate is over so that I can form my opinions before I hear what anyone else is saying. However, I've now had a chance to check in at a few places, and it looks like just about everyone thinks Hillary Clinton won the debate decisively. Public Policy Polling says Clinton won their instant poll by 51-40 percent—and won young voters by 63-24 percent. CNN says their poll gave it to Clinton 62-27 percent. I was pretty bullish on Clinton's performance, but that's even higher than I would have thought.

Naturally, Trump's response is to tweet that he did great in all the debate polls "except for @CNN – which I don't watch." I presume that, as usual, he's talking about the Drudge online poll. You will be unsurprised to learn that the readers of the Drudge Report do indeed think Trump won. Unfortunately for Trump, no one else did.

Trump's usual response to any kind of humiliating loss is to go on the offensive and try to blanket the airwaves with something even more outrageous than he's ever said before. So Tuesday should be a fun day. I have a feeling Kellyanne Conway may have a rough time cleaning up after her unruly man-child tomorrow.

Debate Wrap-Up: I guess the only thing anyone cares about is who won. I'd give it to Hillary Clinton pretty easily. She handled her facts well, she spoke well, she didn't get baited, she laughed at some of Trump's more ridiculous statements, and she attacked him pretty effectively. "Just listen to what you heard," she said when Trump tried to pretend that he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate. I suspect that even Republicans in the audience laughed at that.

Trump, by contrast, was like a manic version of his usual manic self. He spoke too fast, he got practically red faced at times, he repeated the most obvious lies, and he could barely keep a coherent though together for more than a few seconds before wandering off to something else.

But then again, what do I know? Basically, Clinton acted like Clinton and Trump acted like Trump. If you like either one of them, you probably liked what you saw on the screen. And to Trump's credit, he got his talking points across. Law and order. Politicians like Hillary are all talk, no action. Foreigners are stealing our jobs. I'm going to destroy ISIS big league.

But Trump's howlers were just too numerous. He's the son of a millionaire but said he started out with a "very small" amount of money. He claimed yet again that he absolutely opposed the war in Iraq—just ask Sean Hannity. He claimed he never said Clinton didn't look presidential. He insisted that NATO started a terror division because of him. He denied ever saying that climate change was a hoax. The lies just tumbled out. Hillary's people were responsible for birtherism, and he's the guy who put an end to it. The IRS deliberately targets him, and only him, for audits. He never said he didn't care if Japan built nukes. And then there was his bizarre riff about his pride over opening a club that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. WTF?

Trump got called on all this, of course, and his strategy was simple: just deny everything. "Wrong," he said repeatedly, talking obnoxiously over Clinton. Then, against all expectations, Lester Holt fact-checked Trump twice, but Trump just raised his voice and rode roughshod over him. Does this kind of simpleminded braying work? It all seemed like pretty obvious charlatanism to me, but maybe not to everyone else. Maybe they came away thinking that Trump says one thing and Clinton says another, and who knows, really?

I have a little more faith in the American public than that, though. I think Trump did poorly, both in what he said and how he said it. He was manic about proving that he was the alpha male in the room, but I think he took it at least three or four notches too far. It was not a winning night for him.

A complete transcript of the debate is here.

Liveblogging is so quaint, isn't it? Not like all this newfangled Twitter and Snapchat nonsense that the kids are into these days. But I haven't fully mastered the art of communicating in emojis or 140-character chunks, so Grampa Drum will keep on kicking it old school.

The biggest buzz around this debate is the question of whether moderators should fact-check the candidates. This is an oddly misplaced issue. Debate moderators rarely perform fact checking, and I doubt that Lester Holt will do it tonight. What the good ones do is follow up. So you'll get something like this: "But Mr. Trump, when the war was being debated in Congress, you said you supported it. I can play the tape if you'd like. Why do you keep saying you opposed it?" Or: "But Secretary Clinton, you supported TPP for years. What suddenly made you change your mind earlier this year?"

This is fact-checking in a manner of speaking, but it's not the moderator acting as judge. It's just the moderator demanding that candidates answer questions without evasion, which is very much a moderator's job. We'll see how well Holt carries it out tonight.

And now, on with the debate.

10:38 - And that's a wrap.

10:36 - Trump: "I was going to say something very rough about Hillary...but I decided not to. It wouldn't have been right." Uh huh.

10:34 - Holt: "You said Clinton doesn't have a presidential look." Trump: "No, I said she doesn't have the stamina." Holt: "The exact statement was..." Trump: "I'm answering the question." He won't allow Holt to correct him.

10:27 - Holt: "Do you support the current US policy on nuclear weapons?" Trump probably has no idea what our current policy is. But he does say that he wouldn't support a first strike.

10:24 - Trump said earlier that Iran was about to collapse before we bailed them out with a treaty. Clinton says they were weeks away from having the material for an atomic bomb. Obama stopped that "without firing a shot."

10:22 - Trump on Clinton: "I have a much better temperament than she does." Laughter.

10:20 - Trump insists that he opposed the war in Iraq. Lester Holt: "The record shows otherwise." Fact checking! Now Trump is going ballistic.

10:18 - Trump says that NATO opened a terror division "largely because" of his criticisms. His egotism is beyond belief.

10:15 - Clinton: Trump supported invasion of Iraq. Trump: "Wrong. Wrong." I'm guessing this subject might come up again.

10:12 - Clinton on ISIS: "I think there are a number of issues we should be addressing." I get that she's the policy wonk, but I really think she'd do better if she didn't literally telegraph that a laundry list is forthcoming.

10:09 - Trump says he's been endorsed by ICE. I wonder how many viewers misheard that as ISIS?

10:04 - Trump is saying he got "great credit" for opening a club in Palm Beach that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. Holy shit. If that's the bar we're using, I have a long, long list of things that make me into the second coming of Martin Luther King. Just yesterday, I went the entire day without running over any black people!

10:02 - Clinton: "Just listen to what you heard." Laughter. Now Clinton is straight up accusing Trump of racism.

10:01 - Trump flatly won't say what changed his mind. Then he says he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.

9:59 - Birtherism! "What took you so long to admit Obama was born in the US?" Trump is blaming it all on Sidney Blumenthal.

9:55 - Clinton now talking about implicit bias. I doubt that many viewers will really get this. Trump's response: You invented the word "super-predator."

9:54 - Clinton says there are too many "military style guns" on the streets.

9:52 - Clinton says stop-and-frisk didn't work. Trump smirks. But she's probably right.

9:49 - So far, nothing from Trump that's really about improving race relations. "There are bad things going on."

9:47 - Trump wants Law. And. Order.

9:45 - Now we're onto race. Clinton wants police reform and taking guns away from "people who shouldn't have them."

9:43 - Jesus. Trump is just all over the place. Clinton isn't blowing anyone away, but she's making sharp points and mocking Trump effectively. Trump's answer is to mock policy as "just words."

9:42 - Clinton says Trump has declared bankruptcy six times. Trump: "We used certain laws that were there."

9:40 - Trump's main theme is that the country is in terrible shape and it's all the fault of politicians like Clinton.

9:38 - Trump says he hardly owes anything to anyone. He is "under-leveraged."

9:35 - Clinton says Trump won't release his taxes because he's probably concealing something "horrible." "There's something he's hiding." "Who does he owe money to?"

9:33 - Trump is implying that the IRS has deliberately targeted him for audits.

9:32 - Now Trump is telling us that he made $694 million last year.

9:31 - Trump is shaking his head and rolling his eyes at everything Clinton says. Now it's his turn. The country is in a bubble. The economy is about to collapse thanks to people like Clinton. Blah blah blah.

9:27 - Is Trump on speed? He's talking a mile a minute and only barely making sense.

9:26 - Now Trump is yelling about Clinton having fought ISIS for 30 years. Huh?

9:25 - Trump: "She's going to raise taxes, I'm going to lower taxes, end of story."

9:23 - Trump: "You changed your view on TPP after you heard what I said about it." Clinton: "Donald, I know you live in your own reality...." Trump is interrupting constantly now and practically shouting.

9:21 - Now Trump is getting red-faced. "NAFTA is the worst trade deal ever approved anywhere."

9:16 - Clinton: Donald thinks climate change is a hoax. Trump, interrupting: "I never said that. I never said that." He did, of course.

9:13 - Trump: My father gave me a "very small" amount of money when I started out. Then he follows with a completely wrong riff on VATs in other countries. Then he makes a show of calling Clinton "Secretary Clinton." "Is that all right? I want you to be happy."

9:10 - Trump refers to Clinton as "Hillary." Clinton refers to Trump as "Donald." So friendly!

9:09 - Clinton: minimum wage, family leave, more manufacturing, etc. Trump: other countries are stealing our jobs.

9:05 - And we're off. First question: Why are you the best choice to create jobs for the American people?

8:57 - Surfing around the channels, the hot topic is whether or not Hillary Clinton will kneel during the national anthem. No, wait. That's not right. The real topic seems to be whether Donald Trump can simulate a grown-up for a full hour and a half. Also whether Hillary Clinton is too serious about this whole presidency thing. I'm not joking.

8:55 - Tonight's debate will be 90 minutes without a break. Is that normal? I don't really care about the candidates, but I could use a bathroom break once in a while. Not to mention a blather break.