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|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|FBI Increasingly Politicized Under Comey and Mueller|
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, once America’s storied crime fighting agency, is under fire for an increasing leftward politicization blamed on recent liberal directors and a bureaucracy operating with nearly unchecked power.
Once a bastion of conservative anti-communism under long-time director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI has become one of the more liberal political agencies of government, and some critics say appears increasingly to operate outside normal constitutional controls.
The shift is the result of a bureaucratic culture that emerged in the 1990s and was fueled by its two most recent former directors, James Comey and Robert Mueller, who ran the agency for the past 16 years. Mueller headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013, when Comey took over and served until he was fired by Trump in May.
Both former directors currently are at the center of a fierce political debate over the FBI’s competency and integrity.
“People are finally tumbling to the realization that this [FBI] has become a proto-KGB,” said a former senior intelligence official with extensive experience in counterintelligence. “We’re in a constitutional crisis. These guys are playing out a silent coup against an elected official.”
President Trump castigated the FBI this week in unusually harsh tweets and comments.
Commenting on disclosures that the Justice Department’s inspector general launched an investigation of political bias by senior FBI Agent Peter Strzok working for Mueller’s Russian election meddling probe, Trump compared the FBI’s lenient approach to Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server while secretary of state with the recent case of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about post-election contacts with Russia.
“Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agents role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe. @foxandfriends Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” the president declared.
On Tuesday, Mueller appeared to counter the comments by leaking word he has issued subpoenas for bank records at Deutche Bank related to Trump and members of his family.
The leak produced a spate of news stories under the ongoing liberal narrative of the past year of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, a narrative lacking hard facts.
The problem of the FBI, according to national security strategist Angelo Codevilla, is more the result of careerism and an out of control bureaucracy than liberal politicization of the ostensibly nonpartisan FBI, the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency and main domestic counterspying and counterterrorism agency.
“Im afraid that the explanation is all too simple: Bureaucratsemployees of large organizationsfigure out on which side their bread is going to be buttered,” Codevilla said. “They learn to think, feel, and do what advances their careers.”
Under President Barack Obama, the FBI suffered a string of failures that critics blame on the FBI being pressured by liberal, politically correct policies that emphasized diversity and multiculturalism of its workforce over competence and results.
The problem is evident whenever a U.S.-based terror attack or other major crime takes place and the FBI, seemingly ever on the lookout for ways to protect its reputation, puts out word to pro-FBI news reporters that the problem is less serious than it is.
That was the case shortly after several major Islamic terror attacks in the United States when Bureau officials initially put out word the attacks had no link to terrorism.
Similarly, when North Korea conducted a major cyber attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, the FBI agent heading the probe at first said there was no foreign involvement in the hack.
In another case last June, after an anti-Trump gunmanand Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) supportershot a congressman and four other people in Alexandria, the FBI sought to minimize the politics of the incident. The agent running the investigation, Tim Slater, told reporters the shooting was “spontaneous,” despite evidence the shooter had a list of targeted members of Congress.
John Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, has criticized the FBI for caving in to pressure from Muslim groups in watering down its training of agents by limiting references to Islam and jihad, or holy war.
“I am not aware of any time in the FBI’s history when FBI leadership was so incapable of performing their duties as they are today,” Guandolo said.
“The FBI’s inability or lack of desire to aggressively pursue obvious major threats to the republicthe Marxist and Islamic movements for instanceis stunning and frightening.”
Guandolo said that instead the FBI is working with “our Islamic enemy.”
“In fact, all three of the Muslim organizations listed on the FBI’s website as ‘Outreach Partners’ are Muslim Brotherhood organizations,” he said.
Additionally, liberal left or Marxist inclinations appear to motivate some of the FBI’s key leaders.
Guandolo said FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was promoted by Comey despite internal leadership reviews that questioned his fitness.
Congressional Republicans are investigating whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton email probe.
McCabe’s wife, a Democrat, received payments of some $700,000 from a political action committee affiliated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close ally of Clinton, during a failed bid to run for the state senate.
The president’s online criticism of the FBI was followed by comments he made Monday calling the FBI’s treatment of Flynn “very unfair” compared to how the Bureau treated Clinton during last year’s election-year investigation into the misuse of her private email server.
“I feel badly for Gen. Flynn. I feel very badly. Hes led a very strong life,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. I think its a shame.”
The president referred to the July 2, 2016, FBI interview of Clinton regarding her use of a private email server used while she was secretary of state to send some highly classified information and the deletion of emails after published reports of the private server revealed the existence of it.
Clinton, according to the FBI summary of the interview, asserted she did not recall being given a security briefing on handling information held in Special Access Programs (SAP), the government’s most sensitive secrets. Some SAP information on drone strike targeting was found on her private email server.
Days after the FBI interview, Comey issued his now famous public statement recommending against prosecuting Clinton for mishandling classified information, despite evidence the mere presence of the secret information is a crime.
Comey also would later disclose that under political pressure for Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch he agreed not to refer to the email scandal as an investigation and instead call it a “matter.”
Comey also granted immunity from prosecution for two key witnesses, Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. The immunity prevented the FBI from conducting searches for evidence. The immunity deal also required the FBI to destroy the two aides’ laptops after they were searched, a step that potentially eliminated evidence of a crime.
In October, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) revealed that Comey had decided in May 2016months before the FBI probe of Clinton was completedthat he was planning to issue a statement exonerating Clinton.
“Conclusion first, fact-gathering secondthat’s no way to run an investigation,” the senators said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray in August. “The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”
An FBI source said Comey’s politically charged handling of the Clinton email probe upset many of the FBI’s agents who saw it as a disheartening indication of political bias in favor of Clinton.
Trump fired Comey in May prompting the Justice Department to create the special counsel investigation headed by Mueller, a long-time Comey associate.
The more recent disclosures that one of Mueller’s investigators, Strzok, is under investigation for anti-Trump bias is now raising new questions about the integrity of the special counsel probe and whether it too has reached a pre-determined outcome against the president.
The FBI also is under fire from Congress for refusing to provide documents to congressional investigators looking into the Democrat-funded private intelligence dossier at the center of Republicans’ investigation into the potential misuse of security agencies for political ends.
The Bureau has so far refused to provide the House Intelligence Committee with details on how it pursued salacious allegations regarding Trump and the Russians contained in the dossier produced by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said this week he is drafting a contempt of Congress resolution against Wray, the FBI chief, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for failing to disclose to Congress earlier Strzok’s political bias against Trump.
Nunes revealed Strzok was involved in the Clinton email probe in addition to Mueller’s election meddling probe and that hiding those facts from Congress was “a willful attempt to thwart Congress constitutional oversight responsibility.”
“This is part of a months-long pattern by the DOJ and FBI of stonewalling and obstructing this committees oversight work, particularly oversight of their use of the Steele dossier,” Nunes said. “At this point, these agencies should be investigating themselves.”
Security experts said it is likely that Strzok, the senior FBI counterintelligence official who specializes in Russian spying, has been the driving force behind the mainly Democratic political narrative that Russia stole the 2016 election from Clinton and gave it to Trump.
Congress wants to question him about what role the discredited Steele dossier played in the FBI’s Russian election meddling investigation.
One irony of the FBI’s zealousness on the Russian election influence probe is that for many years during the 1980s, the FBI refused to acknowledge that Moscow at the time was engaged in similar sophisticated disinformation and so-called “active measures” operations against the United States.
Under the Reagan administration, the FBI was forced to investigate and take steps to counter Moscow’s intelligence-driven influence operations.
Now it seems the FBI is convinced, despite the lack of evidence, there was a Russian conspiracy to elect Trump and it is searching for a way to prove its theory.
Observers say a major problem for the FBI today is a lack constitutional oversight and controls. Bureau leaders have created the myth that the White House or any agency cannot have any control over the FBI.
That is not true. While it would be illegal for the White House to interfere or corrupt FBI investigations, the Constitution makes clear the FBI, as an executive branch agency, is ultimately responsible to the president.
Under the Comey-Mueller bureaucracy, however, the FBI seems to regard itself as a power center answerable to no one, critics say.
According to FBI sources, FBI agents and other personnel have been told unequivocally that they are not to have any dealings with the White House, and that doing so risks career-ending measures.
As for Congress, the FBI for years also has stonewalled overseers under both Comey and Mueller.
Even routine requests for FBI documents and information have been rejected or ignored, and congressional overseers have not taken action to force the FBI to comply.
The lack of congressional oversight and administration controls have left the FBI with enormous power and little accountability.
The former intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity over concerns about FBI retaliation, said the mindset of Comey, Mueller and others of their group is that they are going to punish Trump for his criticism of the FBI.
“Mueller, Comey, and Rosenstein are going to make Trump pay for having dissed the bureau,” the former official said.
A spokesman for Mueller did not respond when asked if the special counsel probe has been tainted by Strzok’s involvement.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsels office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” the spokesman said.
An FBI spokesman defended the FBI’s handling of the issue of Islamic threat training and said the Defense Department and not the FBI was the first to refer to the Fort Hood terror attack as workplace violence.
On Strozk, FBI spokesman Andrew Ames referred to the statement on the matter.
“The matter is an ongoing investigation by the Office of Inspector General, consistent with well-established processes designed to objectively, thoroughly and fairly determine the facts regarding potential wrongdoing,” the statement said.
“The FBI has clearly defined policies and procedures regarding appropriate employee conduct, including communications,” the statement added. “When the FBI first learned of the allegations, the employees involved were immediately reassigned, consistent with practices involving employee matters.
The FBI employees are held to “the highest standards of integrity, independence and professionalism, as the American public rightly expects.”
Disclosure: The Washington Free Beacon was once a client of Fusion GPS, which produced the Steele dossier. That relationship ended in January 2017. For more information, see here.”
The post FBI Increasingly Politicized Under Comey and Mueller appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
|Poland’s former military intelligence head detained|
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Polish military police say they have detained a former head of Poland’s military counterintelligence services for further questioning over alleged illegal cooperation with Russian security services in 2010.
Gen. Piotr Pytel denies the cooperation was illegal. The case relates to Poland’s and NATO’s agreement with Russia’s military intelligence that allowed for the passage of Polish troops back home from Afghanistan. Poland’s prime minister of the time, Donald Tusk, now European Union leader was questioned in the case last year.
On Wednesday, opposition politicians accused Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz of ordering the detention in revenge against Pytel, who has criticized him.
|God’s Plan for Mike Pence – The Atlantic|
|Mueller Said to Have Subpoenaed Deutsche Bank: DealBook Briefing – New York Times|
|Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics, Some Athletes to Compete Under Neutral Flag – Sports Illustrated|
|Collusion | IRRUSSIANALITY|
The investigation into suspected collusion between US President Donald Trump and the Russian government has claimed its first three victims: one (Paul Manafort) for completely unconnected money laundering charges, and two (George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn) for lying to investigators about things which were not themselves criminal, and which are therefore crimes which would never have happened had there never been an investigation. To date, the evidence of direct collusion between Trump and the Russians is looking a little thin, to say the least. Now, into this maelstrom steps Guardian reporter Luke Harding with his book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russian Helped Donald Trump Win.
Collusion spends over 300 pages insinuating that Trump is a long-standing agent of the Russian secret services, and hinting, without ever providing any firm evidence, that Trump and his team acted on orders from the Kremlin to subvert American democracy. I’ll be honest, and admit that I picked this book up expecting it to be a series of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and to be utterly unbalanced in its analysis, and in that sense I’m not an unbiased reader. At the same time, I was interested to see if Harding had come up with anything that everybody else had not, and was willing to give him a chance. I needn’t have bothered. For alas, my worst suspicions proved to be true, and then some.
The first thing to note about Collusion is that most of it is padding. That is to say, that it consists mainly of a lot of digressions in which Harding describes people and events not directly related to the main story of collusion. Whenever a new character is introduced, you tend to get pages of background information, along with descriptions of various places they’ve been to, things they’ve done in the past, and so on. At the start of the book, for instance, Harding introduces Christopher Steele, who prepared an infamous dossier purportedly based on secret sources within the Kremlin, which made all sort of extreme accusations against Trump. We learn about Steele’s parents, his childhood, his education, his career, and so on. Harding recounts how he met Steele. We learn about how they tried one café, then another, who drank what, etc, etc. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book. There’s a lot of padding. This padding makes Collusion an easy read, and gives it colour, and the flavour of a spy novel. But none of it adds anything to our knowledge of Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia. It’s just filler, designed to cover up the fact that, when it comes to the matter of collusion, Harding doesn’t have a whole lot new to say and certainly doesn’t have enough to fill up an entire book.
The second thing to note is that Harding’s modes of argumentation and standards of evidence are not – how can I be polite about this? – what I’m used to as an academic. Let’s take the example of Trump’s former convention manager, Paul Manafort, to whom Harding devotes an entire chapter, obviously on the basis that the Trump-Manafort connection somehow proves a Trump-Kremlin connection. The problem Harding has is that, despite pages of fluff about Manafort, he hasn’t got any evidence that Manafort is a Kremlin agent. In fact, he quotes one source – a former Ukrainian official, Oleg Voloshin – as telling him that when Manafort worked as a political advisor to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich:
This is pretty funny behaviour for a Kremlin agent, and Harding has to admit that, “It’s unclear to what extent, if any, Manafort was involved in supplying intelligence to Russia.” This doesn’t fit with the conclusion that Harding obviously wants readers to draw – that Manafort was a Kremlin agent, and so Trump must be too. So, he comes up with something else: some of Manafort’s associates in Ukraine “were rumoured to have links with Russian intelligence.” Note the use of the word “rumoured”. It’s not exactly convincing, but it’s good enough for Luke, who uses it to tell a story about one such associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Harding recounts that he contacted Kilimnik by email to ask him about his relationship with Manafort. Kilimnik responds by telling him that the collusion accusations are “insane” and “gibberish”, and signs off his email with a bit of self-mockery: “Off to collect my paycheck at KGB. :))”
And here’s where it gets interesting. For Harding thinks there’s something suspicious about Kilimnik’s answer. He writes:
And that’s it. That’s Harding’s evidence. Just to make sure readers get the point, he follows the last line up with a double paragraph space. Stop and think what this means, he seems to be saying. Someone who “looked like a career foreign intelligence officer” uses smiley faces. Kilimnik uses smiley faces!!! Say no more.
This is the level at which Harding’s logic works. Harding recounts a meeting of Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House, a meeting which was photographed by someone from the Russian news agency TASS. As Harding tells us:
Yet another double paragraph break follows, just to make sure that readers take in the implication of what this means.
Take another example. We learn (which in fact we knew already if we’d been following this story) that Trump’s short-lived National Security Advisor, and former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn, attended a conference on the subject of intelligence at Cambridge University, where he met a Russian woman, Svetlana Lokhova. Harding admits that, “There is no suggestion she is linked to Russian intelligence.” Nevertheless, he feels it necessary to tell us that Flynn later corresponded with her by email. He writes:
Again, Harding then introduces a section break, leaving this ominous fact hanging in the air. Think of what it means, he is saying!
This is typical of how Harding argues. He puts in some suspicious sounding fact, or asks some question, and then just leaves it hanging. The implication is that the question doesn’t need answering, that the most damaging and extreme answer is obviously true. There’s an awful lot of this technique in Collusion. Harding spends pages on a digression about Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybovlev before telling us that Rybovlev’s private jet sometimes parks next to that of Donald Trump. Seems suspicious, huh? Except that Harding tells us that, ‘The White House … said that Trump and Rybovlev had never met. This appears to be true.” But Harding isn’t satisfied, and asks, “Had he [Rybovlev] perhaps met someone else from Trump’s entourage during his travels? Like, for example, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen?” Later, Harding tells us that Rybovlev’s yacht was once at Dubrovnik at the same time as Ivanka Trump’s yacht. “Was this perhaps planned” he asks.
Harding’s method is to ask these questions, as if asking was itself proof of guilt. Trump borrowed money from Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was bailed out at one point by the Russian bank VTB. “Was there a connection?” Harding asks. But Harding doesn’t answer these questions. In fact, one of the interesting things about this book is that again and again the author has to confess that the facts don’t really fit what he’s trying to say. For instance, when discussing Trump and Deutsche Bank, and trying to make it sound as if Trump was in some way connected to the Kremlin because he was borrowing from the Germans, Harding writes, “The sources insist that the answer was negative. No trail to Moscow was ever discovered, they told us.”
This isn’t a lone example. Harding spends quite a few pages discussing Carter Page, a businessman who appeared on RT and gave a talk at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and who at one point had a marginal role in the Trump election campaign. It’s clear that he wants it all to sound really damaging. And yet, he writes that Page’s “attempts to meet Trump individually failed.” So, it turns out that there’s not much of a connection there after all. Likewise, when discussing Russian computer hackers, Harding writes: “By the second decade of the twenty-first century the cyber world looked like the high seas of long ago. The hackers who sailed on it might be likened to privateers. Sometimes they acted for the ‘state’, sometimes against it.” This rather undermines his claim that the Russian state was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
In another example, Harding discusses the sudden death of Oleg Erovinkin, who worked for the oil company Rosneft. He speculates that “Erovinkin was Steele’s source deep inside Rosneft,” and was murdered because word of Steele’s document had leaked out. The murder, he implies, is proof of the dossier’s validity. Except that Harding admits that, “there was nothing suspicious about Erovinkin’s sudden death” and “Steele was adamant that Erovinkin wasn’t his source.” Yet this doesn’t stop Harding from writing that, “in the wake of the dossier the Kremlin did appear to be wiping out some kind of American or Western espionage network. … It certainly looked that way.”
I could give other examples, but I can’t make this review too long. The point is that Harding ignores his own evidence. He argues by innuendo, and on occasion he just lets his imagine run away with itself. Steele’s dossier alleged that Trump had hired prostitutes while on a trip to Moscow. Vladimir Putin’s response was to crack a joke about Russian prostitutes being the best in the world. But to Harding it wasn’t a joke. As he writes:
I wish I could say that this book was a joke. If you were going to write a parody of the collusion story, this is perhaps what it would look like. Unfortunately, Harding is deadly serious and I suspect that a lot of uncritical readers will soak it all up, not stopping to reflect on the awful methodology. So, I end on a word of warning. By all means read this book. But don’t do so in order to find out the truth about Donald Trump and Russia; do so in order to understand the methods currently being used to enflame Russian-Western relations. In that respect, Collusion is really quite revealing.
|Yes, the Kremlin is worried about Russias own presidential elections – The Washington Post|
Analysis Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events
It’s a foregone conclusion that Vladimir Putin will win Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections, so why is the Kremlin fretting about turnout? And how is Russia’s big business supposed to help get people to vote? Here’s what’s going on.
Russia’s Central Election Commission is expected to formally kick off the campaign season sometime in mid-December, and Putin will likely declare his candidacy shortly afterwards. But Russia under Vladimir Putin is not a democracy. The Constitutional Court has deemed the country’s best-known opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, ineligible to register for the upcoming March 2018 election, citing two controversial financial-crimes convictions. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that both decisions were arbitrary and unreasonable.
In Navalny’s place, the election will feature Ksenia Sobchak, a television personality. Sobchak polls nationally at less than 1 percent — and her supposedly oppositional campaign has refused to criticize Putin.
Why do unfair elections even matter?
Putin’s regime represents what Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way term “competitive authoritarianism.” Elections in hybrid systems like Russia are not designed to determine who rules, but rather to signal the regime’s power and resilience to potential challengers.
Elections in these polities are often marred by abuses of state power, but they are nonetheless held and can be bitterly fought. It is tempting to disregard the results of such elections because of the extent to which they are manipulated by elites in power. Yet counterintuitively, the level of state control over the electoral process is itself a reason to pay close attention.
In his book “Patronal Politics,” Henry Hale points out that authoritarian regimes deploy every available resource to dominate elections, even when opposition candidates would not win a free and fair contest. Competitive, if unfair, elections send a potent message about the power of incumbent regimes.
A crushing electoral victory signals to potential opponents that they can expect the regime to remain in power, and that open opposition will be futile. But low turnout can communicate the regime’s potential weakness. Challengers may become empowered, while erstwhile allies consider defection to avoid falling on the wrong side of a revolutionary wave.
The Kremlin has high turnout goals for 2018…
The “great power of expectations,” as Hale labels this phenomenon, drives Russian politics — and the Putin regime has set a high bar for itself. Last year, the Kremlin’s top political technologists established a “70 at 70” objective for Putin’s reelection in March 2018 — 70 percent of the vote with 70 percent turnout. In a recent interview, Russian political expert Tatyana Stanovaya remarked, “Putin just needs to be elected quietly and quickly, without fuss, with good turnout, and a good result.”
…but may struggle to meet them
September’s regional and municipal elections, though, showed Russians aren’t particularly excited about voting. The low turnout has left the Kremlin scrambling to boost voter enthusiasm for next March. Putin remains popular, but protest activity is rising, particularly in the provinces.
According to the Russian government’s own polling, public support for government policies is at the lowest level in nearly a decade. Russia’s regional governments remain under the Kremlin’s tight control, but they are increasingly at odds with federal policies.
In three regions, fiscal problems have become so dire that their governors circumvented official channels and appealed publicly to Moscow for bailouts. Foreign policy adventures — first in Ukraine, then in Syria — may have temporarily distracted Russians from problems at home, but public interest in both conflicts is waning.
The Kremlin has enlisted help from big business
Putin has publicly downplayed Russia’s low turnout but Kremlin policy tells a different story. Russian authorities have long included state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in their voter mobilization efforts, but “corporate mobilization” has taken on new significance this election cycle. Following record low turnout in Russia’s 2016 parliamentary elections, reports emerged that SOEs, rather than the ruling party United Russia, would drive get-out-the-vote efforts and socioeconomic monitoring in future elections.
Here’s how this played out in September’s regional and municipal elections. State-run energy giants Rosatom and RosHydro funded initiatives to monitor pre-election risks in the regions, and report the findings to the Kremlin. With the presidential contest approaching, Rosatom recently hired a contractor to file reports on socioeconomic conditions in the remote “closed cities” in which the company operates power plants. Rosatom’s former chief executive, Sergei Kiriyenko, is first deputy head of the Presidential Administration tasked with managing domestic politics.
The Kremlin increasingly expects SOEs to deliver investment and social services that struggling regional governments cannot provide. For instance, state-run Gazprom ratcheted up its spending on development projects this year, according to Bloomberg reporting. Despite initial plans to slash “non-core expenditures,” outlays on charity were up 60 percent 2017, reaching 26.3 billion rubles ($438 million).
The company built a patriotic theme park and a sports complex in the Siberian city of Irkutsk — projects that may provide temporary jobs and boost support at the polls for Putin next March. SOEs routinely subsidize economically impractical investments across Russia, especially in the country’s single-industry towns. Economists Clifford Gaddy and Barry Ickes have referred to a political imperative to “keep the lights on” in the Russian provinces.
A Reuters report, meanwhile, suggests the Kremlin ordered major energy and utility companies to supply the Presidential Administration with news items that cast Russia’s leadership in a positive light. A memo to industry leaders requested stories “where it’s possible to say that state support helped lift the economy out of crisis” and benefited local residents. State-run media outlets are supposed to disseminate the stories to the public.
Prioritizing short-term political goals hinders Russia’s growth
Over the past decade, the Kremlin has allowed SOEs to monopolize and dominate the Russian economy. The regime is asking SOEs to leverage their weight and reach to ensure Putin wins a convincing mandate in the March 2018 election.
But the tacit trade of market share for political help comes at the cost of competitiveness in Russia’s economy. Relying on corporations, rather than regional and municipal governments, to fulfill the state’s development goals also risks further atrophying of the country’s federal structure. Under Putin, the Kremlin has increasingly sought to circumvent lower levels of government, preferring instead to dictate policy from Moscow.
Choosing political goals over economic efficiency harms minority investors and will limit Russia’s potential to improve its ranking in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” report, once a key goal of Putin’s third term.
According to a Levada Center poll from late November, 67 percent of likely voters would vote for Putin, with anticipated turnout between 53 and 55 percent — not the 70 percent figure the Kremlin hopes to see. Trailing far behind are the nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the Russian Communist Party’s Gennady Zyuganov, each with just four percent.
Nonetheless, the logic of patronal politics demands that the authorities pull out all the stops to encourage a high turnout in an election Putin will surely win, even if their methods hinder Russia’s future development.
Christopher Jarmas is a master’s candidate in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian area studies at Harvard University. Follow him on Twitter @jarmascm.
|This explains how social media can both weaken and strengthen democracy.|
|White House casts decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem as a recognition of reality http://cnn.it/2BA3xwf pic.twitter.com/W1pHSO9kYR|
|Rick Gates’ lawyer believes superseding indictments could be coming against client|
In a court appearance Monday in Manhattan, Gates’ attorney Walter Mack said that federal prosecutors have told him that more charges, called superseding indictments, may be coming.
“We don’t know what the government is going to do,” Mack said in court, referring to both Gates’ case and a white-collar case in New York involving one of Gates’ business partners. “I mean, in both cases we’ve been told that there may be a superseder. We don’t know what’s happening.”
Mueller charged President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Gates, on October 30 with 12 alleged crimes related to money laundering and foreign lobbying violations. Both have pleaded not guilty. The charges against Manafort and Gates are unrelated to the Trump campaign, though it’s possible Mueller could add additional federal charges.
Mack represents both Gates in DC and his business partner in New York. Neither is a witness or co-defendant in the other’s case, federal prosecutors say, but attorneys from Mueller’s special counsel investigation have raised the possibility that a conflict of interest could arise between the two men and their attorney.
The indictments came almost six months after Mueller assumed the federal investigation into Russian collusion, yet so far the charges have not directly related to Manafort and Gates’ work for the Trump campaign or to Russian foreign policy.
This week, lawyers working for Mueller revealed that Manafort was ghostwriting an op-ed about Ukraine with a Russian as recently as last Thursday. It’s unclear how the investigators found this new information, as the op-ed was never published. The prosecutors have submitted it to the court under seal.
The ghostwriting revelation puts a proposed bail deal for Manafort in question. He and Gates are both currently under house arrest and GPS monitoring and subject to $10 million and $5 million unsecured bond, respectively. The federal prosecutors argue they’re both flight risks.
Manafort’s lawyers are expected to respond to the op-ed accusation by Thursday, and both Manafort and Gates are scheduled to appear in court December 11.
It’s not unusual for federal prosecutors to charge defendants in white-collar cases once part of their investigation is complete, then bring additional charges later on. Typically, a second round of charges can come if the prosecutors had more work to do in certain aspects of the investigation or if they’re attempting to persuade a defendant toward a plea agreement or cooperation in a broader investigation.
Two targets in Mueller’s investigation, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, have already pleaded guilty to charges of lying to investigators.
The other case that Gates’ lawyer is working on involves three defendants who allegedly took part in a scheme to defraud feature film and documentary movie investors. Mack’s client, Steven Brown, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a trial in March.
Gates was a partner in one of the companies caught up in those charges. Gates is not accused of wrongdoing in the New York case.
The New York judge verified in a hearing Monday that Brown understood the possibility of a conflict of interest and chose to keep Mack as his attorney.
Mack declined to comment, as did a spokesperson with the special counsel’s office.
The judge in Gates’ case in DC has ordered the lawyers involved not to make comments that could influence public perception of Gates and Manafort, and not to share documents outside of the official court proceedings. Mack mentioned those restrictions in his court appearance in New York Monday, calling them and the prosecutors’ ability to bring up new information about Gates, such as his connection to Brown, “unfair.”
|Republicans are betting the future won’t happen. Who wants to tell them? – USA TODAY|
|More charges could be coming against former Trump aide in Russia probe – CNN|
|Robert Mueller reveals hes taking down Mike Pence along with Donald Trump|
For quite some time, it’s been clear that Mike Pence willfully lied to the American public in an attempt at protecting Michael Flynn and covering up Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. That means Pence is guilty of obstruction of justice and maybe a lot more. The big question has been whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller would try to take Pence down along with Trump, or wait to tackle Pence until after Trump has been ousted. Now we’re getting our answer.
Mike Pence’s people are preparing him for what they believe is an inevitable interview with Mueller, according to details buried pretty far down the page in a lengthy new CNN online report (link). Mueller now has Michael Flynn on his side, and Flynn’s testimony and evidence are enough to incriminate Pence. Make no mistake: if Mueller is sitting down with Pence while he’s still investigating Trump, it’s to try to nail Pence. So where does this go?
Flynn is admitting that he was notifying the Trump transition team in real time about his efforts to get the Russian Ambassador to delay the Russian government’s sanctions response. Mike Pence was the head of the transition team. So unless the entire team conspired to keep this information from Pence, which is not a believable scenario, Pence knew that Flynn was committing crimes. That means Pence lied a month later when he claimed he had no knowledge of Flynn doing anything wrong.
Someone on the transition team will cut a deal and confirm that Mike Pence knew what Michael Flynn was up to. Throw in the fact that Congress notified Pence about some of Flynn’s crimes back in November of 2016, and Pence is hosed. Is Robert Mueller seeking to force Pence to cut a deal against Trump and resign the vice presidency? Only Mueller knows but it’s clear Pence knows he’s in jeopardy.
The post Robert Mueller reveals he’s taking down Mike Pence along with Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Erik Prince proposed private spy network to Trump administration, US official says|
“This idea is going nowhere,” the official said and stressed neither the agency nor the director of the CIA is or was ever considering the proposal.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told CNN that “the White House does not and would not support such a proposal” and that, “I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or (White House) at all.”
was first to report the proposal. A CIA spokesperson told The Intercept, “You have been provided wildly inaccurate information by people peddling an agenda.”
A spokesperson for Prince denied the claims in a statement to CNN’s Erin Burnett.
“The allegations made in Intercept’s latest article about Erik are completely false and this was made clear to them before the article was published. Any meetings Erik did have with members of the intelligence community, current or former, focused on his well-publicized plan for saving the US taxpayer $42 billion in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
“The Intercept has, once again, targeted Erik using his high profile as a click-bait to promote its own website and indulge the fantasies of its reporters with no care or regard for the facts.”
Prince founded Blackwater, a private defense contractor that provoked international outrage after a deadly 2007 shooting in Iraq.
Blackwater lost a $1 billion contract with the State Department to protect American diplomatic personnel in 2009, after the Iraqi government refused to renew the company’s operating license. The company was later renamed and sold, and now operates as Academi.
Prince was also
over reports that he met the head of a Russian investment fund in an apparent effort to set up a backchannel for Russian communication with the Trump administration, and that senior Trump officials had authorized the meeting.
While Prince testified to House lawmakers that he met the head of a Russian investment fund earlier this year — he insisted it was not part of an effort to set up a Russian backchannel with the Trump administration, multiple sources told CNN.
Prince informed the House Intelligence Committee during private testimony that he met in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, who is the chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, at the request of the United Arab Emirates to discuss business opportunities. The meeting on the island in the Indian Ocean, he said, lasted roughly 20 minutes after dinner over a beer.
Prince insisted he did not have the meeting at the request of the Trump administration, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
He also downplayed his ties to the Trump’s team, merely saying he was a Trump donor and had met the President on only one occasion, the sources said. CNN has previously reported that Prince met with members of Trump’s incoming national security team during the presidential transition, and that he boasted about his influence in the Trump orbit around that same time.
CNN’s Erin Burnett, Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report
|Erik Prince proposed private spy network to Trump administration … – CNN|
|How Robert Mueller is using Deutsche Bank to prove Russia bought off Donald Trump|
Many Americans were surprised to learn today that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working with a bank in Germany to try to connect the dots between Donald Trump and the Russian government. If you’ve been reading Palmer Report since January, you’re not surprised to see this story at all. All year long it’s been inevitable that Mueller would target Deutsche Bank in the Trump-Russia scandal. We know exactly what he’s looking for, because the biggest clues have long been hiding in plain sight.
For years, Deutsche Bank has been loaning unreasonably large sums of money to Donald Trump. Even after most banks worldwide concluded that Trump had become too unlikely to repay his loans and had thus stopped lending to him, Deutsche Bank continued floating Trump almost single handedly. Even after Deutsche Bank hit hard times of its own and should’t have been making risky loans of any kind, it continued to keep Trump afloat for no apparent reason. Then in January of 2017, we learned what appeared to be the reason.
Regulators in the United States and Europe busted Deutsche Bank for having laundered billions of dollars in Russian money into the hands of clients in places like New York City. The story was widely reported in the British press at the time, but it barely got a mention in the American press. Nonetheless it wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together: the Russian government appeared to be sending money to Deutsche Bank, which the bank then turned around and “loaned” to Donald Trump, as a way of funneling money to him.
We’ve never been able to definitively prove this, but Robert Mueller can. It’s why he sent a subpoena to Deutsche Bank months ago in order to get his hands on financial records in relation to the Trump-Russia scandal. We don’t yet know why Deutsche Bank has chosen now to finally cooperate. But we do know what Mueller is looking for: the money trail that proves Russia bought Trump with cold hard cash before installing him as a puppet in the White House.
The post How Robert Mueller is using Deutsche Bank to prove Russia bought off Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Obstruction of Justice was Coming from Inside the FBI – FrontPage Magazine|
|Mike Pompeo just proved why America needs him at the CIA|
Mike Pompeo is being lined up to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, but I believe he should remain in his present position as CIA director.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Pompeo could serve effectively as America’s chief diplomat. He has the knowledge and intellectual curiosity to manage the team at Foggy Bottom and the temperament to negotiate with championship BSers like the Russian and Iranian foreign ministers. It’s also clear that Tillerson’s tenure needs to come to an end.
The problem, however, is that assuming Jeff Bezos can’t be persuaded to take on the CIA job, Pompeo is not easily replaceable.
After all, it’s increasingly clear that Pompeo is thriving in his current position.
We gained proof of this last week, when Pompeo and former CIA Director Leon Panetta, were interviewed by Bret Baier in California.
Put simply, Pompeo evidenced an abundance of the two qualities that the CIA most depends on for its success: comfort with risk taking and intellectual rigor.
On Iran, Pompeo (rightly) confirmed that he recently warned the head of the Islamic Republic’s covert action force not to threaten U.S. interests in Iraq. But if he was aggressive in this regard, Pompeo also showed cognizance of the complexity of Iranian politics. Describing various power blocks in Tehran, Pompeo referenced Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, President Hassan Rouhani, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and explained that “one not ought to think of Iran as a unitary actor here.”
This distinction is important in that it suggests Pompeo is focused on countering Iranian aggression while also mitigating actions that would destabilize more-moderate elements in the regime. This is necessary for any long-term U.S. policy success against Iran.
The California event also showed that Pompeo has the trust of President Trump. That’s a big deal.
Earning Trump’s trust, as we know, is a rare quality and one that Panetta rightly praised Pompeo for his success in establishing. Consider that if Trump doesn’t trust his CIA director, American policymaking will suffer in a vacuum of ignorance.
Instead, it is based on Trump’s appreciation for Pompeo’s product. Some criticize the director for being “too political” in this regard, but I believe the opposite is true. By engaging with Trump at a personal level, Pompeo ensures the weighted influence of his agency in Trump’s deliberations.
For one example as to why this is important, consider how Pompeo responded when Baier asked him whether the U.S. would continue supporting the Kurds of northern Syria. This is relevant in light of the apparent pledge by President Trump to Turkey to cease U.S. support for Kurdish groups. While Pompeo wouldn’t be drawn to an exact answer, he noted that “throwing allies under the bus is bad form.”
I smiled at those words. As I’ve explained, the U.S. has a keen strategic interest in ensuring that Iran is not able to displace Kurdish influence along the Iraq-Syrian border.
Pompeo also evidenced success at the broader strategic level. He argued that “in each and every case” he has asked Trump for more authority to take risks, the president has assented. Again, as I‘ve outlined, while Pompeo’s pro-risk approach to leading the CIA is important (albeit complex), it requires political support from the top. That he has won that support means Pompeo can lead his agency to deliver more security for America and better understandings to our policymakers.
Still, the event also showed why Trump trusts Pompeo: The CIA director has a penchant for rising to the fight!
For a few minutes during the discussion, Pompeo and Panetta were at each other’s necks as they disagreed over the merits (or otherwise) of President Trump’s tweets. With Panetta criticizing Trump, Pompeo pointed out that many of the foreign policy issues Trump is now addressing were left to metastasize under President Obama’s watch.
Yet, Pompeo also exemplified an intellectual independence that is an absolute necessity for any effective CIA director.
Praising Panetta for his work on counterterrorism operations while at the CIA, Pompeo stated that he frequently asks the Obama-era director “how to think about things.” This might seem simple, but it shows a bipartisan intellectual introspection — something that defines the CIA at its best.
Finally, Pompeo also showed that he’s willing to listen and learn from his foreign counterparts. He specifically referenced ongoing U.S. efforts to support European counterintelligence operations against Russian intelligence services. Intelligence relations are instrumental in the U.S.-European alliance.
Ultimately, the work of the CIA is too important to be left to just anybody. Pompeo is clearly exceeding expectations, both in his relationship with Trump and in his leadership of a complex but crucially important agency. For the sake of the nation, he should remain in Langley, Va.
|Obstruction of Justice was Coming from Inside the FBI|
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
“There’s always conflicting recollections of facts,” FBI Director Comey said.
It was a year ago and Comey was explaining why Hillary’s close aide, Cheryl Mills, not only received an immunity agreement in exchange for turning over her laptop, but a pass on lying to the FBI.
The FBI Director claimed that Mills had to receive immunity because the laptop might be protected by attorney-client privilege. Mills, like Hillary Clinton, had worked as a lawyer. But they were both government officials working for the State Department. Hillary wasn’t Mills’ client. The government was.
Comey and his people knew the law. They chose to ignore it to protect a key Hillary aide from rolling over. Mills was the woman Hillary would send in to clean up her dirty laundry. Mills had taken point on the email server cover-up. If anyone knew where the bodies were buried, she did. Instead not only did she get an immunity agreement, but the FBI also agreed to destroy the computers after the search.
Mills had told the FBI that she didn’t know about Hillary’s email server. But the FBI had notes and emails proving that Mills was lying. And when Comey was asked about it, he came out with, “There’s always conflicting recollections of facts.”
That is what the lawyer of the woman who had been caught lying to the FBI might have been expected to argue. But there were no charges, instead the FBI Director was presenting her defense.
George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn were charged with lying to investigators. But lying to investigators isn’t a crime when you’re Hillary Clinton.
Or one of her associates.
Hillary Clinton had told the FBI that she had no idea that the “C” stood for confidential. Instead of laughing in her face or arresting her, the FBI boss testified personally to her truthfulness.
Hillary Clinton, Mills and Huma Abedin made what appear to be false statements to the FBI.
Had Mills been working for Trump, the same number would have been run on Mills as on Flynn and Papadopoulos. But the men interviewing Mills didn’t want her to sing. They wanted her to keep quiet.
Mills and Abedin were interviewed by the FBI’s Peter Strzok and the DOJ’s David Laufman. Strzok was exchanging pro-Hillary and anti-Trump messages in an extramarital affair with a woman working for FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. McCabe’s wife had received a sizable amount of money from a Clinton ally. Laufman, whose counterintelligence section was heading the investigation, is an Obama donor.
Mills’ lie made it more urgent to hand her an immunity agreement on any pretext. The immunity agreement wasn’t leverage for her testimony. It was leverage to keep her from testifying. The obstruction of justice was coming from the inside.
Strzok received input on the Comey letter exonerating Clinton. The Mills interview killed two birds with one stone. A key Hillary aide got immunity and the evidence would be destroyed.
This wasn’t an interview. It was a cover-up.
It’s why Comey sounded like Mills’ lawyer. And why so many Clinton associates got immunity agreements. Why the FBI agreed to destroy evidence. Why there were no recordings of Hillary’s testimony. And why lying to the FBI wasn’t a crime when it came to Hillary and her aides.
But the double standard kicked in when the Clinton cover-up crew went after Trump.
While Mills received an immunity agreement based on an imaginary attorney-client privilege that didn’t exist, Manafort was denied attorney-client privilege with his actual attorney.
The double standard isn’t surprising when you look at who was doing the interviewing.
Strzok and Laufman had also interviewed Hillary. No recordings were made of the session. But Comey testified that it’s a “crime to lie to us”.
Not for the Clintons and their associates.
Hillary had told her interviewers that she hadn’t received training on handling classified information, but she signed a document testifying that she had. Hillary claimed that she hadn’t carried a second phone, but an aide, Justin Cooper, who made the server possible, testified that indeed she did.
Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills told the same lie.
These are the kinds of misstep that Team Mueller would have used to hang a Trump associate. But Comey testified that Hillary Clinton did not lie.
And that meant he was lying.
Not only did Clinton’s people lie to the FBI. But the head of the FBI had lied for them.
The fix had been in all along.
Comey had drafted his letter exonerating Clinton before the interviews even took place. Strzok had been copied on the next email. His contribution had included changing the description of Clinton’s actions from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.” Strzok is now in the spotlight because Team Mueller’s stonewalling of the reasons for his removal have been exposed.
Strzok, a Hillary partisan, had given his favorite politician a pass and signed the document opening the Russia investigation. The Steele dossier, provided by a Russian intelligence operative and paid for by the Clinton campaign, was funneled through to Strzok’s team. And Strzok had interviewed Flynn.
Team Mueller resisted discussing Strzok. Alongside the constant leaks to favored media outlets like the Washington Post, Mueller’s people have worked to maintain a monopoly on information.
Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, a friend of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s DOJ boss, and of Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s deputy, decided to seal the Papadopolous case. Howell also decided that Manafort isn’t entitled to attorney-client privilege. These actions took place at the behest of Weissmann. The latter had sent an email praising Sally Yates, the disgraced former acting Attorney General, for refusing to stand by the law on the Trump travel ban.
Weissmann, like the rest of Team Mueller, wasn’t there to get at the truth, but to stop President Trump. The Mueller deputy is one of two Obama donors on the team. There are also five Clinton donors. One of whom had represented the Clinton Foundation. Another had represented Justin Cooper, the Clinton adviser, who helped run Hillary’s email server and claimed to have destroyed some of Hillary’s devices.
It’s hard to imagine how this investigation could have been any more partisan or tainted.
The endgame for this is to go after President Trump on obstruction of justice. But you can’t obstruct a justice that was already obstructed. Both the Clinton and Trump investigations were tainted by blatant partisanship. While the Clinton investigation did everything possible to protect her and her aides, regardless of the evidence, the Trump investigation did everything possible to destroy him and his associates without producing a single charge relevant to the actual investigation.
The Clintons and their allies have obstructed justice. And it’s time for a real investigation.
|US to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Trump Says, Alarming Middle East Leaders – New York Times|
|Deportations Of Noncriminals Rise As ICE Casts Wider Net|
The number of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions deported from the U.S. interior rose dramatically in Trump’s first year in office.
|Donald Trumps attorneys go off the deep end after Robert Mueller seizes Trumps bank records|
Earlier today several major news outlets reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has seized Donald Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank, which should uncover the money pipeline from Russia to Trump. This prompted Trump’s attorneys to frantically insist that the story is fake news. Various news outlets have responded by re-confirming the story. It appears Trump’s attorneys are trying to snow their own client, in the desperate hope of keeping him from lashing out.
Unless Reuters and several other respected news outlets have all simultaneously published the same fake story, which is nearly inconceivable, the story is true. This means Mueller really is going after Trump’s finances. Moreover, he’s boldly doing it at a time when the media is pushing the notion that Trump is about to fire Mueller. This means Mueller knows something we don’t about his job security, and he’s concluded he can’t be fired, so he’s going for the jugular. But what are Trump’s attorneys up to?
It appears Trump’s legal team is publicly shooting down this story in the hope of getting a message across to Trump himself that there’s nothing to worry about. Trump’s attorneys don’t want him hitting the panic button and firing Mueller, which would probably lead to his swift ouster. You can debate whether you think Trump’s attorneys are simply trying to protect him by keeping him from firing Mueller, or they just don’t want their paychecks to stop coming in yet.
But regardless of their motivation, Donald Trump’s lawyers are publicly going off the deep end by yelling “fake news” at a story that they cannot possibly know is fake news. They’re reacting just like Trump typically does. It all seems to be nothing more than a show in order to keep their client calm. After all, they’ve been trying to convince him all along that Robert Mueller isn’t targeting him, and that the Russia probe will be over soon. If he’s buying that nonsense, he’ll buy anything his attorneys tell him.
The post Donald Trump’s attorneys go off the deep end after Robert Mueller seizes Trump’s bank records appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Special Counsel Investigation Has Cost at Least $6.7 million|
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|The Trump Team Definitely Colluded With a Foreign PowerJust Not the One You Think|
Former US national-security adviser Michael Flynn departs US District Court in Washington on December 1, 2017. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
Friday’s indictment of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn has confirmed that Donald Trump’s inner circle colluded with a foreign power before entering the White House—just not the foreign power that has been the subject of our national fixation for the past year. To be sure, the jury is still out on Russia, though there are new grounds for questioning the case for a plot tying the Kremlin to Trump Tower. But with Flynn’s plea, we can now say for certain that the Trump team did collude—with Israel.
To recap, Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations with then–Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the period after Trump’s November 2016 victory. As Foreign Policy previously reported, Flynn reached out to Kislyak as part of “a vigorous diplomatic bid,” to undermine President Obama’s decision to allow a December 2016 Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Territories. The indictment fills in some details.
According to the charge sheet, Flynn first made contact with Kislyak to discuss the Israel vote. We found out this weekend his reason for doing so. “[Special counsel Robert] Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel,” The New York Times reported after Flynn’s court appearance on Friday. “Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and [Trump son-in-law Jared] Kushner took the lead in those efforts”—efforts which failed to change a single vote, including Russia’s, which backed the measure in defiance of the Trump-Netanyahu subversion attempt.
In short, the first known contact between the Trump campaign and Russia after the election occurred in the service of a different foreign power, Israel, and was ultimately fruitless.
The next contact between Flynn and Kislyak was more productive. In late December, Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 election. A day later, Flynn called the Russian ambassador to request that the Kremlin, according to the plea document, “only respond to the U.S. Sanctions in a reciprocal manner.” Flynn’s overture came after a Trump transition colleague told him that the incoming administration “did not want Russia to escalate the situation.” By all accounts, Russia complied.
Whatever one thinks about this covert attempt to reduce tensions with a nuclear-armed power, it demonstrates an effort by the Trump transition, as with the Israel vote, to undermine the outgoing administration’s policy. Trump critics have seized on that as a violation of the Logan Act, which bars citizens from having unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments in a dispute with the United States. But the Logan Act has seldom been used except as a partisan talking point, not a prosecutable offense. More importantly, there’s the question as to whether Flynn’s overture on sanctions prove a quid pro quo.
Notwithstanding the post-election contact with Flynn, not only has Russia failed to gain a reduction in sanctions, but its relations with Washington have deteriorated. In early August, Trump signed new sanctions on Russia overwhelmingly approved by Congress. The administration recently presented lawmakers with a list of targets that “reads like a who’s who of the Russian defense and intelligence sectors,” The New York Times noted. In September, Trump shut down the Russian consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in New York City and Washington, DC. Just last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denounced Russia’s “malicious tactics” against the West and vowed that sanctions imposed over Russian’s role in Ukraine “will remain in place until Russia reverses the actions that triggered them.” Meanwhile, Trump has enlarged NATO over Russia’s objections, carried out the “biggest military exercise in Eastern Europe since the Cold War” on Russia’s border, appointed several anti-Russia hawks to key posts, and continues to deliberate over whether to supply Ukraine with a weapons package that Obama himself rejected out of fear it would worsen the country’s civil war. In the latest flare-up, Russia has ordered international media outlets to register as foreign agents in retaliation for the Justice Department first doing so to Washington-based RT America.
It is, of course, possible that all of this is an elaborate ruse to mask the secret, as yet unproven, conspiracy that many insist will lead to Trump’s downfall. The fact that Flynn is now a cooperating witness has refueled hopes that this day is finally approaching. After all, why would Flynn lie about his contacts with Russia if he did not have something to hide? And why would Mueller offer him a plea deal if Flynn wasn’t offering him a bigger fish to fry? (One plausible motive, as Buzzfeed notes, is that Flynn may have lied to hide his potential Logan Act violation.)
Only time will tell whether Flynn has something to offer Mueller, or whether Mueller has gotten from him what he can. In the meantime, more than a year after the election, we still have exactly zero evidence of any cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government—nor, it must be repeated, any evidence to back up US intelligence officials’ claims that the Russian government meddled in the election. We do have instances of Trump campaign figures’—namely, Donald Trump Jr. and low-level adviser George Papadopoulos—making contact with people that they thought were Russian government intermediaries. But whatever they were told or believed, there is still no proof that their contacts led to an actual Kremlin connection.
What we do have is evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Israel to subvert the US government’s official position at the United Nations Security Council. Yet reaction to that news has been quite a departure from the standards of Russiagate when it comes to foreign meddling.
The contrast was put on stark display on Sunday, when Jared Kushner appeared with billionaire Israeli-American media tycoon Haim Saban at the latter’s annual forum on US-Israel relations. Saban took a moment to thank Kushner for his role in the subversion effort that Flynn admitted to have undertaken on Israel’s behalf. “To be honest with you, as far as I know there’s nothing illegal there,” Saban told his stage companion. “But I think that this crowd and myself want to thank you for making that effort, so thank you very much.”
For all of the fears of Russian oligarchs’ having influence over Trump, the comment from this American oligarch reveals a great deal about who really influences practically everyone in Washington, Republican or Democrat. Saban was not a Trump donor. He is, in fact, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s top all-time financial supporter, to the tune of more than $25 million; a benefactor whose generosity has helped build not just the Clinton Library but also the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters.
But there has been no outrage from democracy-defending #Resistance stalwarts over Saban’s comments (and the Israeli subversion effort he endorsed). The same for news of Kushner’s failure to disclose his leadership of a group that funded the illegal Israeli settlements that he tried to protect at the United Nations. And now we await to see how those who agonize over foreign influence on Trump will respond to his reported plans to move the American embassy to Jerusalem—”a decision that would break with decades of U.S. policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East,” as Haaretz notes.
It is unlikely that Trump will be challenged on Israel, because his approach is harmonic with a bipartisan consensus cemented in large part by the financial contributions of billionaires like Saban and his Republican pro-Israeli government counterpart, Sheldon Adelson. Hence, there are no editorials or opinion pieces denouncing Israel’s “Plot Against America,” or “War on America,” or warnings that “Odds Are, Israel Owns Trump,” or explorations of “What Israel Did to Control the American Mind.” Likewise, there will be no new groups forming dubbed the “Committee to Investigate Israel” or the “Tel Aviv Project.” In fact it is more than likely that, going forward, the media will give Israelgate the same treatment as cable’s top Russiagate sleuth, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, gave during her exhaustive Flynn coverage so far, which is to not even mention it.
This weekend furnished us with another important contrast. Flynn’s indictment was followed hours later by the passage of the Senate Republican tax bill, which stands to be one of the largest upward transfers of wealth in US history. If protecting democracy is our goal, we may want to tune out the Russia-obsessed pundits and look closer to home.
|UK terror attacks: Review reveals what MI5 knew about Manchester, London Bridge and Westminster attackers|
Security services missed opportunities to intercept the Manchester and London Bridge attackers, a report has found.
David Anderson QC, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, made a total of 126 recommendations to MI5, police and the Government following the deaths of 36 victims this year.
His report provided new detail on the run-up to the atrocities in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge. The following information has been declassified from internal reviews by MI5 and police.
Date: 22 March 2017
Victims: Five killed, 49 injured
Perpetrator: Khalid Masood, British, 52 (died at scene)
Masood was known to police after seven convictions for violent crime leading up to 2003, and to MI5 for associating with extremists, in particular between 2010 and 2012.
Summary: “No intelligence was being gathered on him and neither MI5 nor the police had any reason the anticipate the attack … you’re looking at someone who is such a long way from the top of anyone’s grid that frankly, it’s a bit difficult to see how they would have been easily stopped, whatever agencies had done.”
Met Police announce that terror perpetrator Khalid Masood was born Adrian Russell
In pictures: Westminster attack
In pictures: Westminster attack
Date: 22 May 2017
Victims: 22 killed, 500 injured
Perpetrator: Salman Abedi, British, 23 (died at scene)
Abedi was known to police for links with the Rusholme Crips gang, but his criminal record was limited to reprimands for theft and receiving stolen goods in 2012, and an assault on a girl at college which was dealt with by “restorative justice”. He was known to MI5 from 2014, but the investigation was closed and he was deemed low-risk.
Summary: “Although Abedi had not given police or MI5 any reason to be highly suspicious of him, they still got very close … information came their way which was assessed from which – with the benefit of hindsight – the wrong conclusions were drawn. Had people understood it in a different way, I think an investigation would have been opened into Abedi, and who knows what it would have found.”
Manchester bomber Salman Abedi’s cousins speak out
Manchester explosion in pictures
Manchester explosion in pictures
Date: 3 June 2017
Victims: Eight killed, 48 injured
Butt was under live investigation as the principal subject of an MI5 operation opened in mid-2015, following information suggesting he wanted to commit a terror attack in the UK. Redouane was known for immigration offences but had no police or terror record. Zaghba had no criminal record but was known to European authorities after telling Italian police he wanted to be a terrorist. He was not investigated by MI5.
Summary: “With Butt what you had was a man who was under active investigation from MI5, who did probably around the end of 2016 team up with his two co-conspirators, and yet MI5 and the police between them were not able to identify what they were actually planning.
“Butt displayed strong operational security and much remains unknown, even today, about the mindset of the three conspirators and the planning of the attack.”
London Bridge attack ringleader ‘tried to hire 7.5 tonne lorry’
London Bridge Terror Attack
London Bridge Terror Attack
Date: 19 June 2017
Victims: One killed, 10 injured
Alleged perpetrator: Darren Osborne, British, 47
Osborne has been arrested and charged with murder. His trial is due to start in January, meaning no indepth findings could be released in the Anderson report because they could prejudice the case.
He is alleged to have acted alone and he was not known to MI5. Police had no intelligence to suggest that he was going to commit the alleged attack.