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The Foretold Election of Mario Centeno as Eurogroup President

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

On December 4 Erozone finance ministers chose their new president for the next two and a half years – Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno. With the election of the successor to the current chairman, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (the Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats), the so-called Eurogroup opens a new page in its history, at a time when a series of deep changes in the functioning of the eurozone is forthcoming. The election on Monday showed that the Eurogroup has come a long way in its institutional evolution – a way in which member states learned a lot about each other during the gruelling crisis in the eurozone, and especially along the hardest of them – the crisis in Greece. The Eurozone has come a long way in its democratic development as well.

Unlike the opaque choice of the first Eurogroup chairman, Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP), and the election of Jeroen Dijsselbloem in 2013, when he was the only candidate, Mario Centeno was chosen more transparently and democratically, despite the fact that his choice was pre-announced. This time there were four candidates for the post. Apart from Mr Centeno, the finance ministers of Luxembourg (Pierre Gramegna), Slovakia (Peter Kazimir) and Latvia (Dana Reizniece-Ozola) were nominated. However, weeks prior to the regular Eurogroup meeting on 4 December, it was already known that the Portuguese minister of finance had gathered the most support.

Moreover, just before the start of the meeting, President Jeroen Dijsselbloem blundered during a conversation with Dutch journalists, saying that Mario Centeno was his successor. He asked the media not to quote him, but as these briefings are webcast live by the audiovisual service of the Council of Ministers, there was no way this blunder could be ignored.

Why was Mario Centeno elected?

The name of the Portuguese minister of finance surprisingly appeared before the Eurogroup on the 4th of December. Surprisingly, because until now he has not been mentioned as claiming the post, unlike Peter Kazimir, who is one of the frequently mentioned potential candidates for the position, and he himself has never hidden his ambitions. Luis de Guindos was a candidate for the position for a long time as well, however he never officially submitted his candidacy. Pierre Gramegna has also always been a very active figure in the work of the Eurogroup, but his candidacy never had any real chances, primarily because he is from Luxembourg. Another problem is that he is from a party that is a member of the liberal political family, and the inter-party deal is to give the post to the Social Democrats.

Mr Gramegna himself said before the start of the meeting that he would had not run at all if he thought he had no chances. He has a very rich experience as minister of finance. Unfortunately, the vote was secret and the Eurogroup refused to publish the results, so we cannot see how many ministers supported Mr Gramegna. Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced that Centeno was elected in the second round of voting, suggesting that the race was strongly challenged, but it is unclear with whom. Peter Kazimir was one of the most likely candidates because checks a lot of boxes – he comes from a party that is from the Social Democrats’ family, from a new member state, and his views are very similar to those of Jeroen Dijsselbloem in terms of fiscal discipline and Greece, which means he is acceptable to the left, to the right, and to the centrists. But his problem is that he comes from a country that is in a friendly company with illiberals and European opportunists – the Visegrád Group. Over the years, he has gained much experience and was quite active and direct in his comments (very often in English) on sensitive topics on the Eurogroup agenda. That is why he was very much loved by the Brussels media.

The most unlikely, most unexpected but most interesting candidate was the Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. She is 36 years old. She has been in office for less than a year, which is not a problem, as Jeroen Dijsselbloem was also a minister for just five months when he was elected head of the Eurogroup (somewhat because that). Dana Reizniece-Ozola is a chess champion and received her Master’s degree at the International Space University in France. She is a mother of four children. After Centeno’s election, she stated that this is probably due to the fact that old member states still dominate. She sees this as a clear signal that the younger member states must be twice as active as they have been so far. She explained her candidacy by saying that she wanted to shed light on Latvia.

Despite the indisputable qualities of all the candidates, Mario Centeno won for one major reason. He comes from a country which symbolises the end of the crisis that marked the evolution of the Eurogroup over the past decade.  Portugal is one of the five countries which had adjustment or rescue programs. It is considered one of the successful stories in the long wandering of the eurozone in search of the most appropriate tool to help countries in crisis. Mario Centeno, who has been the finance minister since 2015, has undoubted merit for this success, although Jeroen Dijsselbloem has repeatedly stressed that the previous government has merit, and that shouldn’t be ignored.

Dijsselbloem’s legacy

When the former Dutch finance minister took over the Eurogroup’s presidency in early 2013, the eurozone was already showing signs of a crisis, but the recovery was hesitant and unconvincing. This was the year of ideas for the future of the eurozone. The first report of the four Presidents was just published describing the new outlines of the currency union. The construction of the banking union was yet to come. Cyprus was already in bankruptcy and was one of the reasons for the headaches of eurozone finance ministers. Greece was still on the agenda, Euroscepticism was beginning to emerge as a factor, and significant compromises were already being made with the European semester. This was also the year of the first enlargement of the euro area with the accession of Latvia.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem met no competition for the post, but he did have a strategy, which was officially published. The greatest challenge for him then was unemployment and making economic growth sustainable. Five years later, the eurozone is in flourishing health – it has marked economic growth for 18 quarters in a row. Unemployment is still a problem in some countries, but the trend is tending towards a convincing decrease. Public finances have been significantly improved. The most difficult moments of Jeroen’s two mandates (2 x 2.5 years) in his own words were the situation with Cyprus, the change of government in Greece in 2015 and the establishment of the banking union.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, in front of journalists after the end of the December Eurogroup, said that during the Cyprus crisis, many difficult decisions were taken. Then the approach changed. A few days later, on December 7, before the Economic Committee of the European Parliament, he explained in much greater detail the great drama that had begun with Cyprus in 2013, and admitted of mistakes made. The program was supposed to start much earlier, but instead, the Cyprus government left things out of control for too long. In fact, the then Cyprus government was counting on shedding responsibility, and therefore did nothing until the election, and afterwards counted on unconditional financial support from Russia.

Another problem was that Cyprus did not like much of the solutions offered by the Eurogroup. Ultimately, a completely new type of rescue program was launched, in which the banking system was bailed in with investors taking great losses. Many ministers demanded this decision from the beginning. Dijsselbloem has firmly rejected criticism that the bailout program damaged the deposit insurance scheme, reminding everyone that Cyprus had not had such a scheme before. He stressed that if the approach that was applied to Greece, ie bailing out all banks and investors, were chosen, it would have completely bankrupted Cyprus, and today the country would have also had a huge debt.

Dijsselbloem admitted to mistakes with Greece, but stressed that in the then situation it was not possible otherwise. In response to the charges of the Greek MEP Notis Marias (ECR), Mr Jeroen Dijsselbloem explained that in many countries, huge mistakes have been made in the pre-crisis period and bad policies had led to accumulation of risks, excessive lending to the economy, unproductive investments. During the crisis, major mistakes were also made in the way the EU responded. There were many improvisations in the first rescue programs. “Personally, I believe that the way we dealt with banks was very expensive and not very effective“, he said. In the first phase, investors were bailed out, many of whom were outside Greece. This, he said, was a fundamental mistake.

However, he expressed hope that Greek politicians are at least as critical as he is to his own decisions in the past. This is important in order to avoid such problems in the future, he said. With regard to the banking union, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the problem was set in the road map agreed in 2016. Then a decision was made on what to do specifically for risk reduction and risk sharing. The bad thing, however, is that it was not specified when exactly everyone would be happy to move on to the next step and now it is skillfully used by countries that do not want to take this next step. Dijsselbloem also denied allegations that an austerity policy has been pursued during his term of office.

The strategy of the Eurogroup has never been austerity. Full stop. The strategy has always been structural reforms, making our economies more resilient, more competitive, improving productivity. Second, working towards sustainable finances. The strategy has always been twofold or threefold“, he said.

The end of a feud

Happiest with Mario Centeno’s election was the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici (France, Socialists and Democrats). He did not like Jeroen Dijsselbloem from the start, and they were often in conflict, especially with regard to the management of the Eurogroup. A remarkable verbal shootout broke out between them after the end of the September Eurogroup when Mr Moscovici was asked to comment on his views on more democracy in this intergovernmental format. “In my view, democracy is about democratic accountability that means that you have an executive, that means that you have leadership, that means you have a debate and that you have control. And I must say that this is not fully the case of the Eurogroup“. The decision, according to Pierre Moscovici, is the creation of a eurozone finance minister, who is also the chairman of the Eurogroup.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem reacted sharply to this remark. “I simply do not agree with – and this, I think, is indeed a matter of difference of opinion – that intergovernmental cooperation between ministers is not democratic. To that I have strong objections. My parliament and many parliaments in eurozone scrutinise our work – the legal sides of it, the financial sides of it and certainly the political sides of it. There are lively debates throughout Europe where the minsters, members of the Eurogroup, have to give full explanation and get criticised for their work in the Eurogroup“, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said. On December 4, Pierre Moscovici did not conceal his happiness with Mario Centeno’s election, reminding for how long he had been calling for the two-hatted decision for the Eurogroup as well.

This is a model like that of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini (Italy, S&D), who is both the president of the Foreign Affairs Council and a Vice-President of the European Commission.  Moscovici wants such a decision for the Eurogroup (for the ECOFIN respectively) as well. On Wednesday, one of the proposals in the Commission’s euro area package is precisely about the future European finance minister. However, according to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, this idea is too broad and still quite vague.

Although both come from the same European political family, their views have also varied considerably over other topics over the past five years. While Moscovici was finance minister, France received significant concessions under the European Semester for the first time, and then, as a commissioner, he often faced the direct style and determination of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who has always insisted that the fiscal rules be respected.

On Monday, Pierre Moscovici first started with his expectations for the new head of the Eurogroup. “You will need to steer the work of the Eurogroup on the deepening of our eurozone and there’s no secret that the Commission will make proposals on that in two days from now [they were officially presented on 6 December], and also to ensure a smooth conclusion of the Greek programme. And we will count on your leadership on these and other challenges. I want to assure you that you will be able to count on my strong support and that of the Commission, of course“, said Pierre Moscovici, who was France’s Finance Minister when Jeroen Dijsselbloem was first elected to the office. He then had objections to his elections until the very last moment.

On Monday, however, Mr Moscovici did not save the praises of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, but he also did not conceal his expectations that the Eurogroup’s current policy will leave with him. He said that with him leaving a long chapter in the history of the Eurogroup will be closed. “When you took the Eurogroup presidency, the euro area was still facing a kind of existential crisis and you played a key role in steering the Eurogroup through those difficult and sometimes dramatic times. Challenges were immense, the way ahead was often not obvious and we found a way. And I think it was largely due to the way you managed to act, thanks to your patience, to your attention to detail, extreme technicalities and efficiency“, said Pierre Moscovici.

In front of MEPs of the economic committee on Thursday morning, Dijsselbloem said he does not expect the Eurogroup’s policy to change seriously. According to him, the Eurogroup will, in a realistic way, insist on retaining its president. Ministers strongly believe that a distinction between the Eurogroup and the Commission should be maintained. He also stated that changing the president doesn’t necessarily mean changing the Eurogroup policy.  Many of the Group’s policies are rooted in the Stability and Growth Pact and other agreements, decisions are taken unanimously. He advised his successor to work hard to preserve the integrity of the Eurogroup and to draw the tasks ahead of him – to work on the next phase of building the banking union. Now is the best time to finish reforms.

From the very cautious statements of the newly elected president, Mario Centeno, it can be said that he will bet on continuity. He told journalists on Monday he would be nothing more than a president of the Eurogroup, as the main work must be done by the member states, the Commission and all other European institutions. For him, the main priority will be to seek consensus, “which is also what Jeroen left us as heritage“. “We have to continue the way the Eurogroup paved in the last 5 years to generate consensus“, said the Portuguese Finance Minister. “We have to take the lessons of what we just

 

finished and complete what has to be completed in precisely the same way as we did until today“, he added.

Mario Centeno is 51 years old. He has been the minister of finance since November 2015. He was an economist at the Central Bank of Portugal, a member of the European Commission’s Economic Policy Committee. He is the author of several scientific publications, books and book chapters on topics such as labour economics, econometrics, macroeconomics and contract theory. He graduated economics from the Technical University of Lisbon and has two magistrates. The first is Applied Mathematics from the same university, and the second is in Economics from Harvard University. He will take over the presidency of the Eurogroup on 13 January. The next meeting of this format will be on January 22, when it is expected to be decided on the next tranche of Greece’s rescue program.

His main task will be to balance the various interests during the debates on the future of the eurozone. Whether he will be the ally Pierre Moscovici has been dreaming of is yet to be seen. If this happens, and if Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats in Germany get key positions in the future ruling coalition in Germany, the balance in the eurozone could be seriously violated. The currency club has emerged from the crisis, but that does not mean that the way forward is clearly drawn. On the contrary, it will float in uncharted waters, which requires no less sobriety and determination than that of  Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Can a person from the European South offer it? Judging from Portugal’s rescue program, the positive response is not unrealistic.

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No, The US Didn’t Abandon The Syrian Kurds

NOVANEWS
Image result for Syrian Kurds CARTOON
By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review 

Trump has ostensibly compromised by promising Turkish President Erdogan that he’ll stop arming the Syrian Kurds.

The US and Turkish leaders spoke by phone last Friday, during which time Trump allegedly gave his counterpart his word that he will stop giving arms to the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish side reported that Trump called the previous policy of arming the YPG “nonsense” and promised to end it, while the official White House readout was more ambiguous and said that he “informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria”.

The discrepancy between both side’s interpretation of the conversation prompted the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister to state that the US “would be deceiving the whole world” if it went back on its pledge, while the Pentagon reiterated that it is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning.”

In addition, it should be reminded that reports have been circulating that the US might officially acknowledge that up to 2000 of its troops are in Syria, which would be around 4x more than what it previously admitted, and that the Pentagon is moving towards more of an “open-ended” mission in the war-torn country now that Daesh – it’s supposed reason for being there – is defeated. What all of this means is that the US will probably not withdraw from Syria, and there’s a chance that arms shipments to the Kurds might continue.

No matter what Trump may or may not have said to President Erdogan, he’s on record in early April saying that he’s given the US military “total authorization” to do what it wants, so if the Pentagon decides that there’s a need to continue arming the Syrian Kurds, then that’s exactly what the US will likely end up doing. Furthermore, nobody knows the exact terminology that Trump might have used during his phone call, so there’s a chance that he might try to employ a “technical loophole” by selling weapons to the Syrian Kurds instead of “loaning” them like the US is presently doing.

In any case, the unlikelihood of the US military withdrawing from Syria means that the Pentagon could still extend a defense umbrella to its on-the-ground allies, thus staving off a Turkish military intervention and creating the pretext for forming a so-called “air bridge” in the event that the neighboring states attempt to blockade this region like they did to Iraqi Kurdistan. The key difference between the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian ones is that the former didn’t have 2000 US troops and reportedly 10 American bases on their territory, hence why Washington “betrayed” them.

In addition, Iraq is already an internally partitioned country for the most part due to its “federal” status, while Syria has yet to formally follow in its footsteps, so the indefinitely prolonged US military presence there is designed to advance Washington’s preferred “political solution” by pressuring Damascus, while Trump’s talk about supposedly discontinuing weapons shipments to the Syrian Kurds is meant to give Turkey a “face-saving” excuse for passively accepting what they had previously said would be a clear red line for them.

Posted in USA, Syria, Turkey0 Comments

Kiev Plans to Throw Deniers of “Russian Aggression” in Jail for 5 Years

NOVANEWS

The People’s Deputy Anton Gerashchenko is ready to register a bill to supplement the Criminal Code that suggests to impose criminal liability up to 5 years for the denial of “Russian aggression”.

“In order to protect the information space of Ukraine from Murayev’s activity and to use the force of law, today I signed a bill to supplement the Criminal Code of Ukraine with Article 442-1, which I suggest to impose criminal liability (up to 5 years of imprisonment) for public denial of the fact of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. Tomorrow I will register this bill in the Verkhovna Rada and I suggest to put it on the agenda,” wrote Gerashchenko on his page on Facebook.

Gerashchenko noted that currently statements denying the fact of “Russian aggression” aren’t punishable under law.

“Murayev and those similar to him publicly repeatedly deny the fact of Russian aggression, they call the situation with the occupation of a part of Donbass by Russia a civil war, thus implementing the media agenda of Russian propaganda. From the point of view of the law statements such as the one made by Murayev and those similar to him aren’t punishable. They are covered by freedom of speech and pluralism of opinions. Yes, indeed, Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees freedom of thought and speech, the right to the free expression of views and beliefs. However, this same article provides the possibility of restriction via the law for the benefit of national security, territorial integrity, public morals,” said Gerashchenko.

He noted that

“in many countries of the world there is criminal liability for public denial of the Holocaust. And it isn’t considered an infringement of freedom of speech and freedom of thought”.

As a reminder, earlier the People’s Deputy Evgeny Murayev in the “Ukrainian Format” program called the “Revolution of Dignity” a coup d’etat. The present people’s deputies considered it an insult and left the studio.

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Russia Probe: Rigged Election? Who’s afraid of a Red Herring?

NOVANEWS

The election was rigged. And the side claiming the rigging, as would happen, rigged it.

To recap: Trump so far has asked Sens. Burr, McConnell, Blunt, CIA Dir Pompeo, DNI Coats, NSA Dir Rogers, and @Comey to end the Russia probe (and was furious at Sessions for recusing himself.)

Why are they trying to shut down the Russia probe? Is it because there are too many people who have been found guilty? We need to include SCL and Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica.

Re-published from 11/8/2017

EDITORS NOTE: Exclusive: Rigged Election? Who’s Afraid of a Red Herring? was originally posted on November 21, 2016


The election was rigged. And the side claiming the rigging, as would happen, rigged it.

No matter which candidate you voted for or wanted to win, it is important to examine the vote counts, exit polling and technical issues of the election. Perhaps the fear lies in perceptions of what to do about it, if true that the election was rigged?

How would Donald Trump supporters react, if the Neocons were called on the rigging? Even if you voted for Trump, you should care. The rigging is clear and done with potential, purposeful intent. Interestingly enough, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are not crying foul, probably out of fear and carefully managed perceptions, or is it also with intention?

As Clinton potentially stole the Primary Election, is the rigging of the National Election permissible by the Neocons and seen as “fair?”

So what to do about it? Over the course of last week, I spent hours putting together the attached sheets showing the vote count in 2016 vs. 2012 in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

There were large discrepancies. In Wisconsin, there was one county, Rock County, with 10,000 missing voters? Did people not show up in such large numbers in this one particular county, where they purged, or were their votes just removed using hacking? You can look at the sheets themselves Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania

With little analysis done about the actual numbers of the election, about the votes themselves, we are all left to wonder. In foreign countries, the very basis for election results is exit polling data, which determines if an election is rigged. Looking at the exit poll data in the states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, what we see is something that would be considered a rigged election in any country that we monitor elections for.

TDM Research put together a table showing the exit polling vs. vote count

Exit Polling Data from TDMS Research

So why is it not questioned here in the US? Why are we so eager to believe the red herring himself and his cronies who so brazenly were accusing their opposition of rigging, while having plans such as Cross Check in place to purge voters by name only in different states and having security technology turned off in voting machines in states such as Ohio?

We live in an instant gratification society, where as soon as someone votes, he or she tends to want to know who is going to win the election. With so much pressure on knowing the result instantly, we leave ourselves open to fraud as this instantaneous computerized tabulation is very vulnerable to tampering as was seen in this PBS news article here.

Maybe for once American citizens need to learn elections require the ballots to be counted and results verified, and that it is sometimes a long process. One that is never completed on election night.

I have worked the elections for many years in the field. The most disappointing thing is to come home on election night in California and have the election be already called and a winner selected, while just fifteen minutes before I saw tens of thousands of ballots waiting for a truck to pick up the ballots at a collection center and take them for counting at the Registrar of Voters office. Granted, I live in California where our votes are less significant than other states in national contests.

People want to accept what is given to them as truth of the “winner” without questioning the results so as to be a “good citizen, believing in the system” and not to be shunned or looked down upon. This leaves the “good citizen” consistently working from a position of blindness in instances such as this, never able to address the core issues.

Core blindness also maintains the argument on surface issues, a virtual he said she said, accepting what could be a lie to argue one perspective or another. Both are emotional perspectives, ignoring the core issue of potential vote theft and rigging while focusing on what Donald Trump will do, will it help or hurt America. With this election, few are questioning the results in the mainstream, despite the exit polls reflecting a different winner than the one publicly named.

Protests are erupting, not over the true issue of vote rigging by the Neocons, but over Trump policies and fear for the future. When such a red herring is sitting in the background, it is unclear why the leadership within the Democratic party is afraid to call this out and to give the protesters something real to protest about, a rigged election. Not that their gripes are not real, but the very issue of vote theft is illegal, and the leadership is afraid to discuss it.

Numerous experts have showed that the election was rigged. Months if not years before the election, Greg Palast showed how Cross Check was being employed. Through Cross Check, a voter purge scheme designed to purge duplicate voters in multiple states, voters were purged with one name, for example James Henry Brown living in Ohio with James Robert Brown living in Virginia, claiming these two people were the same, a duplicate voter voting in two different states, while in reality they were two different voters.

The program purged the voters off the rolls. This program targeted Blacks, Hispanics and other names sounding foreign such as Nguyen or Mohammad. Palast even made a movie about the system called the Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Now one architect of this program, Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, is potentially being brought into the Trump administration.

Veterans Today ran multiple stories about the vote hacking. Gordon Duff said in an article entitled Time to take down the flag as most Americans surrender to a foreign backed coup

We know that 135.74 million Americans voted during the election, as predicted. This figure is extrapolated from the 92 percent reporting figure from Wednesday morning showing a 4.7 percent increase over 2012. Trump got fewer votes than lackluster Mitt Romney, as predicted and as matched the highly accurate exit polling. He lost by a massive margin and in reality got fewer than 150 electoral votes as predicted as well.

“This information has been checked and is very real. There will be an army out there, as with 9/11, spreading different theories to water down the easily ascertainable truth. Yes, 135.74 million Americans voted, well over 70 million of them for Hillary Clinton.

“When Trump began speaking of not accepting the election results, he was engaged in a carefully scripted psychological operation. This is a bit like a criminal trial when a defense attorney finds all the bad stuff that will come out and has his client admit to it during cross examination by his own attorney, putting the friendly spin on it. In this case, Trump knew the election was in the bag, Netanyahu and Putin had set it up.”

And with what Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said that the Russian Jews of Brighton Beach, New York contributed twice as much to Trump’s victory as to Clinton’s campaign, as being a key factor in determining the election, one would have to wonder why the Russian government is not so quick to point out election rigging here in the US, when it is as obvious as the exit polls? Perhaps they too favored the candidate who “won.”

Hopefully you will examine the possibility that the election was rigged, and raise the issue to the awareness of others. Greg Palast is taking his case to Washington DC.  “Congressmen Keith Ellison and Alcee Hastings of the Congressional Black Caucus, personally presented Attorney General Loretta Lynch with my investigative reports and demanded investigation — “and indictments.”  That investigation must kick off immediately,” said Palast.

It is easier not to worry about the election results and the election being rigged. It is more comfortable to sit and watch the pundits argue about everything else, ignoring the reality we are currently living in, a system where our elections are stolen by the most powerful people to craft what they want to do in the world, over what we want.

Even if we acknowledge the election was rigged, we can still have Donald Trump as our President elect, if people are too afraid to confront the far Right. The fact of knowing the election was rigged does not need to cause us to make a change, if there is so much fear about what that change will look like.

We can simply examine how the operatives, some soon to be cabinet members, did it, before he is inaugurated and take steps to insure this never happens again. This may safe guard our vote next election, if we take steps to stop vote purges, hacking, etc. We also must then hope that there will be another election, if we allow another President to “win” under questionable circumstances. What else will he allow?

Since the media, the Clinton campaign, foreign governments and others seem to be OK with the US election being rigged in order for Trump to be President, why don’t we as citizens agree cheating in US elections is OK for now too, and acknowledge it? There is a tremendous amount of fear in acknowledging wrong doing in our country, even though evidence is there that needs to be outed and addressed for the public to be aware of the truth to make change, if that is even possible.

So what if we live in a corrupt system? If we know and don’t care, I guess we continue to move towards complicity. Pretty soon, there will soon be no turning back and no “democracy” left. With what we are seeing now, you already know what comes next.

I promised myself that if it happened again, a virtual coup of the US through a stolen election, I would write about it, no matter how painful it is, and no matter how much backlash. Maybe, even no one would read about it or care. After the 2000 election, when George W. Bush was selected by the Supreme Court and vote counting was stopped in Florida, I was publishing a magazine for the military in the Puget Sound Region of Washington State.

At the time, I saw an article that Bush was set to increase military pay, and I thought, well, who knows, things may be just fine under Bush. I did not complain about the election, and thought perhaps things will be OK, if not good under Bush, though I voted for Al Gore. I later used the article and his selection to sell more advertising.

At the time, there was a malaise over the country into accepting the results of the election, as there is today.

It “felt” better for people to accept the results and just move on with their lives. There was also lot of fear in opposing Bush and the constitutionality of the election. In reality, what ensued during the Bush Administration, that was not elected by the people, nearly cost the US everything.

It started with 9/11/01, the Administration being warned on numerous occasions and later using the incident to take away our Constitutional rights and launch questionable wars including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; “War on Terror” including the torture and rendition program; the 7 countries in 5 years strategy and then later the 2008 market crash.

The majority of these problems that were created then are still being felt today, both economically, and with Ukraine, Syria and Libya -regime change being the order of the day, as well as with the surveillance programs being continued by hold-overs from the Bush Administration and those in the Obama Administration.

Now in comes Trump, Neocons who were involved in the torture and surveillance programs, add in a few white supremacists and what we have ahead may be pure fascism as I said here. The sad part is that they rigged the election to win, and no one says anything in the mainstream.

I guess, what’s not to love about fascism? Who cares about the American dream of liberty and justice for all anyway?

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Russia Probe: US and Russia Swimming in Bolshevik Soup with a Generous Helping of Kosher Nostra on Top?

NOVANEWS

Why are we allowing a criminal enterprise to run at least two of the most powerful countries in the world?

Opinion: This morning as people are questioning the Mueller investigation, I felt that it is important to keep the pressure on to include everyone. An article I wrote about the Mafia on Your Mind as it relates to negative artificial intelligence and the “War on Terror” is important to the Russia Probe.

The key point in the article is that certain republicans in conjunction with billionaires/vultures are attempting to alter the reality of the United States of America and its core values.

A good book to read about this is Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution.

From the article Mafia on Your Mind, regarding Internet Privacy: Republican created slave reality on its way in one can see how powerful big data combining itself with microtargeting can be in affecting behavioral change. A key question comes to mind, how involved is the former Nixon administration involved in it?

“Any company can aggregate and purchase big data, but Cambridge Analytica has developed a model to translate that data into a personality profile used to predict, then ultimately change your behavior. That model itself was developed by paying a Cambridge psychology professor to copy the groundbreaking original research of his colleague through questionable methods that violated Amazon’s Terms of Service. Based on its origins, Cambridge Analytica appears ready to capture and buy whatever data it needs to accomplish its ends,” according to Scout in an article The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine.

“Your behavior is driven by your personality and actually the more you can understand about people’s personality as psychological drivers, the more you can actually start to really tap in to why and how they make their decisions,” Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix said to Bloomberg’s Sasha Issenburg. “We call this behavioral microtargeting and this is really our secret sauce, if you like. This is what we’re bringing to America.”

Re-published From February 2017
It seems like the some of the forces within Russia who supported Trump getting elected may also have the Putin administration on their chopping block, as the “Alt-Right” in the US makes accusations that Moscow is supporting the Anti-Trump protestors.

Alex Jones Faux News, “Moscow Trains Anti-Trump US Radicals – CNN’s Putin/Trump Link Debunked”

In reality, this fake news story makes it more clear that the Alt-Right in the US are coming more into alignment with their Ukrainian counterparts, the Right Sector and secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, Andriy Parubiy of the Right Sector.

“Parubiy was the founder of the Social National Party of Ukraine, a fascist party styled on Hitler’s Nazis, with membership restricted to ethnic Ukrainians,” according to an article, How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine’s power vacuum on Channel 4 news.

It is interesting that in beginning to make false statements or lie about Russia, the Alt-Right is coming out of the shadows in what could be a plan formulated within the Kosher Nostra. Looking at Ian Greenbaugh’s research into Trump ties to Russia, it becomes clear the alignment may not be with the state itself, but rather the Russian Mafia that has deep connections with the Kosher Nostra including potentially tied to Alpha Bank.

“Donald Trump’s connections with the Russian mafia were exposed in 2013 when the billionaire had to testify in the case on the sale of housing in Trump SoHo. The complainants said they were lured by Trump’s name when they bought apartments there. However they were unaware that only 10 per cent of all apartments had been sold. This was the case of Bayrock Group headed by same Arifov and Sater,” from an article sited here, Trump’s Kremlin connections by Oleksandr Demchenko.

“Then we got the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump and learned that Trump had been working with the Russian Alfa Bank owned by Russian-Israel oligarchs and that Trump’s phoenix-like rise from utter bankruptcy in the early 90s was due to a massive flow of funds from the Alfa Bank, money that was stolen from Russia was being laundered through the Trump organisation.

There are clear questions of the Bolsheviks and the Kosher Nostra operating inside the US attempting a take down of our democracy, civil rights and financial/educational strength through Trump. For people wanting to understand more about the Bolshevik revolution, see this article here, Jews and Bolshevism It is not Jewish in nature, it is colonialist/subjugationist in nature from a core perspective. Jews are a tragic scapegoat, promised a benefit for violating others rights.

“WE WILL IMPOSE UPON THEM SUCH A TYRANNY THAT WAS NEVER DREAMT BY THE MOST HIDEOUS DESPOTS OF THE EAST.” – LEON TROTSKY.

The key here is Russia, and the Putin government, to what degree are they still aligned with the Kosher Nostra and Bolsheviks? Do the Bolsheviks secretly want to take down Putin, partnering with an American counterpart through Trump and the Alt-Right to stop forward progress that Russia has made, move America under their control and then take out Russia and China using the US military, thereby creating the One World Order? Or are they collaborating with Putin?

Are they also trying to stop the defeat of terrorism that is Saudi backed, Wahhabist terrorists groups attempting to create a Daesh formed Caliphate in Syria, the ideological counter to Greater Israel which is supported by those same forces who started the “War on Terrorism?”

There has to be a reason Saudi Arabia was not on the travel ban other than Trump’s business dealings, when it is clear that Saudi elites have been the ones sponsoring terrorism. See this video here: Senate to Fight Daesh Should Stop Saudi Arabia Wahhabism  (video removed by YouTube)

Putin’s government has repeated on many occasions their desire to work with the US to combat terrorism fighting against Daesh. Trump has placated Putin with promises. Why can the US government not be clear who is sponsoring the wahhabism and terrorism?

We pay billions of US dollars per year to the military budget ,and they cannot name Saudi backed Wahhabism, originally founded by the British, and factions within Israel as the source of terrorism? At present the one country that has been successful in fighting the terrorism is Russia in Syria.

Who benefits from terrorism? Clearly those with Greater Israel in mind stand to gain with a Caliphate to relocate the Arab population of Palestine to, there are some winners, Who benefits from the removal of Putin? Who gains power in Russia? If Trump is removed for incompetence in the US, war with Russia will probably commence as the Neocon hawks continue on including fake news about Syria.

If Trump remains President, war with Russia could occur as a shift in the Alt-Right is already happening. Is the Russian Mafia working for the Russian hardliners that are fascists to get rid of Putin because of the modernization of Russia, attempting to bring back Bolshevism through fascism?

Perhaps it is time for Russia to come clean about the Koser Nostra, the Bolsheviks in the background and those who hacked the US elections or we all may be Humpty Dumpty. Trump and the Neocon hawks are not America, the People are. Perhaps it is time to remember the Civil War.

Why are we allowing a criminal enterprise to run at least two of the most powerful countries in the world?

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“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”; Planned US Nuclear Attack Against USSR ‘Video’

According to a secret document dated September 15, 1945, the Pentagon had envisaged blowing up the Soviet Union  with a coordinated nuclear attack directed against major urban areas.

All major cities of the Soviet Union were included in the list of 66 “strategic” targets. The tables below categorize each city in terms of area in square miles and the corresponding number of atomic bombs required to annihilate and kill the inhabitants of selected urban areas.

This video is based on the research of Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

.

Below is the full text of Professor Chossudovsky’ article

Six atomic bombs were to be used to destroy each of the larger cities including Moscow, Leningrad, Tashkent, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa.

The Pentagon estimated that a total of 204 bombs would be required to “Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map”. The targets for a nuclear attack consisted of sixty-six major cities.

One single atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima resulted in the immediate death of 100,000 people in the first seven seconds. Imagine what would have happened if 204 atomic bombs had been dropped on major cities of the Soviet Union as outlined in a secret U.S. plan formulated during the Second World War.

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

Hiroshima in the wake of the atomic bomb attack, 6 August 1945

The document outlining this diabolical military agenda had been released in September 1945, barely one month after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6 and 9 August, 1945) and two years before the onset of the Cold War (1947).

The secret plan dated September 15, 1945 (two weeks after the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri, see image below) , however, had been formulated at an earlier period, namely at the height of World War II,  at a time when America and the Soviet Union were close allies.

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

It is worth noting that Stalin was first informed through official channels by Harry Truman of the infamous Manhattan Project at the Potsdam Conference on July 24, 1945, barely two weeks before the attack on Hiroshima.

The Manhattan project was launched in 1939, two years prior to America’s entry into World War II in December 1941. The Kremlin was fully aware of the secret Manhattan project as early as 1942.

Were the August 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks used by the Pentagon to evaluate the viability of  a much larger attack on the Soviet Union consisting of more than 204 atomic bombs?

“On September 15, 1945 — just under two weeks after the formal surrender of Japan and the end of World War II — Norstad sent a copy of the estimate to General Leslie Groves, still the head of the Manhattan Project, and the guy who, for the short term anyway, would be in charge of producing whatever bombs the USAAF might want. As you might guess, the classification on this document was high: “TOP SECRET LIMITED,” which was about as high as it went during World War II. (Alex Wellerstein, The First Atomic Stockpile Requirements (September 1945)

The Kremlin was aware of the 1945 plan to bomb sixty-six Soviet cities.

Had the US decided not to develop nuclear weapons for use against the Soviet Union, the nuclar arms race would not have taken place. Neither The Soviet Union nor the People’s Republic of China would have developed nuclear capabilities as a means of deterrence.

The Soviet Union lost 26 million people during World War II.

The USSR developed its own atomic bomb in 1949, in response to 1942 Soviet intelligence reports on the Manhattan Project.

Let’s cut to the chase. How many bombs did the USAAF request of the atomic general, when there were maybe one, maybe two bombs worth of fissile material on hand? At a minimum they wanted 123. Ideally, they’d like 466. This is just a little over a month after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Of course, in true bureaucratic fashion, they provided a handy-dandy chart (Alex Wellerstein, op. cit)

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

Source

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

This initial 1945 list of sixty-six cities was updated in the course of the Cold War (1956) to include some 1200 cities in the USSR and the Soviet block countries of Eastern Europe (see declassified documents below).

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

Source: National Security Archive

“According to the 1956 Plan, H-Bombs were to be Used Against Priority “Air Power” Targets in the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe. Major Cities in the Soviet Bloc, Including East Berlin, Were High Priorities in “Systematic Destruction” for Atomic Bombings.  (William Burr, U.S. Cold War Nuclear Attack Target List of 1200 Soviet Bloc Cities “From East Germany to China”, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 538, December 2015

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

Excerpt of list of 1200 cities targeted for nuclear attack in alphabetical order. National Security Archive

In the post Cold War era, under Donald Trump’s “Fire and Fury”, nuclear war directed against Russia, China, North Korea and Iran is “On the Table”.

What distinguishes the October 1962 Missile Crisis to Today’s realities:

1. Today’s president Donald Trump does not have the foggiest idea as to the consequences of nuclear war.

2, Communication today between the White House and the Kremlin is at an all time low. In contrast, in October 1962, the leaders on both sides, namely John F. Kennedy and Nikita S. Khrushchev were accutely aware of the dangers of nuclear annihilation. They collaborated with a view to avoiding the unthinkable.

3. The nuclear doctrine was entirely different during the Cold War. Both Washington and Moscow understood the realities of mutually assured destruction. Today, tactical nuclear weapons with an explosive capacity (yield) of one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb are categorized by the Pentagon as “harmless to civilians because the explosion is underground”.

4.  A one trillion ++ nuclear weapons program, first launched under Obama, is ongoing.

5. Today’s thermonuclear bombs are more than 100 times more powerful and destructive than a Hiroshima bomb. Both the US and Russia have several thousand nuclear weapons deployed.

Moreover, an all war against China is currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon as outlined by a RAND Corporation Report commissioned by the US Army  

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”: Planned US Nuclear Attack against USSR

“Fire and Fury”, From Truman to Trump: U.S Foreign Policy Insanity

There is a long history of US political insanity geared towards providing a human face to U.S. crimes against humanity.

On August 9, 1945, on the day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, president Truman (image right), in a radio address to the American people, concluded that God is on the side of America with regard to the use of nuclear weapons and that

He May guide us to use it [atomic bomb] in His ways and His purposes”. 

According to Truman: God is with us, he will decide if and when to use the bomb:

[We must] prepare plans for the future control of this bomb. I shall ask the Congress to cooperate to the end that its production and use be controlled, and that its power be made an overwhelming influence towards world peace.

We must constitute ourselves trustees of this new force–to prevent its misuse, and to turn it into the channels of service to mankind.

It is an awful responsibility which has come to us.

We thank God that it [nuclear weapons] has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it [nuclear weapons] in His ways and for His purposes” (emphasis added)

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May not reflecting Britons’ position on I$raHell

NOVANEWS

Image result for Theresa May CARTOON

Zionist Theresa May

British Prime Minister Zionist Theresa May has said she is “proud of the role” the UK played in establishing the ‘Israeli’ regime by endorsing the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Press TV has interviewed Tony Gosling, an investigative journalist from London, and Maxine Dovere, a reporter and political commentator from New York, to ask the panelists to give their thought on the issue.

Gosling said May’s viewpoint on Israel is not reflecting the real position of the British people who are “disgusted” by the crimes committed against the Palestinians.

“People [like Theresa May] have been put to power by unaccountable security services”  in the UK and actually “what they are saying does not reflect the views of the British people at all,” Gosling said on Thursday night.

“Almost all British people are disgusted by the way the Israeli government is treating the Palestinians [and] some in fact are saying it is worse than apartheid,” the journalist noted.

The Balfour Declaration, signed by Zionist Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, is considered a prelude to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians’ homeland in 1948 and Palestinians believe that the UK government should apologize for issuing the document.

“The Declaration was used as a way to get the United States into the World War I behind Britain”  and it was supported by Zionists, Gosling argued.

Britain, he said, has also been responsible for the creation of the United States, which “many people now look upon as the biggest problem on the planet.”

Britain has played “these tricks” in Northern Ireland and other parts of the world by sending a lot of people to colonize and to cause massive rifts, which brought about wars and hundreds of thousands of deaths, he added.

Dovere, the other contributor on the show, said the US and France also endorsed the Balfour Declaration. “This is not a uniquely singular statement. This is a statement that was agreed to by the majority of nations in the Western world.”

The Palestinian lands, she said, belong to both Arabs and Jews who are the indigenous people of the region.

However, the declaration has not brought about peace and harmony in Palestine, where ‘Israel’ supported by Western powers has occupied vast territories and expelled the indigenous Palestinian people to construct settler units for immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world, she added.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, UK0 Comments

From the US With Love: US Commandos Are a “Persistent Presence” on Russia’s Doorstep

NOVANEWS

By Nick Turse

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia)

“They are very concerned about their adversary next door,”said General Raymond Thomas, the head of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, in July. “They make no bones about it.”

The “they” in question were various Eastern European and Baltic nations. “Their adversary”? Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Thomas, the commander of America’s most elite troops — Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them — went on to raise fears about an upcoming Russian military training event, a wargame, known as “Zapad” or “West,” involving 10 Russian Navy ships, 70 jets and helicopters, and 250 tanks. “The point of concern for most of these eastern Europeans right now is they’re about to do an exercise in Belarus… that’s going to entail up to 100,000 Russian troops moving into that country.” And he added, “The great concern is they’re not going to leave, and… that’s not paranoia…”

Over the last two decades, relations between the United States and Russia have increasingly soured, with Moscow casting blame on the United States for encouraging the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine a year later. Washington has, in turn, expressed its anger over the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the Russo-Georgian War of 2008; the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine after pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych was chased from power; and interference in the 2016 US presidential election. There have been recriminations on both sides over the other nation’s military adventurism in Syria, the sanctions Washington imposed on Moscow in reaction to Crimea, Ukraine, and human rights issues, and tit-for-tat diplomatic penalties that have repeatedly ramped up tensions.

While Zapad, which took place last month, is an annual strategic exercise that rotates among four regions, American officials nonetheless viewed this year’s event as provocative. “People are worried this is a Trojan horse,” Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commands US Army forces in Europe, toldReuters. “[The Russians] say, ‘We’re just doing an exercise,’ and then all of a sudden they’ve moved all these people and capabilities somewhere.”

Russia is not, however, the only military power with “people and capabilities” in the region. In passing, SOCOM’s Thomas also mentioned the presence of other forces; troops that he readily admitted the public might not be aware of. Those soldiers were — just as he feared of the Russian troops involved in Zapad — not going anywhere. And it wasn’t just a matter of speculation. After all, they wear the same uniform he does.

For the past two years, the US has maintained a special operations contingent in almost every nation on Russia’s western border. “[W]e’ve had persistent presence in every country — every NATO country and others on the border with Russia doing phenomenal things with our allies, helping them prepare for their threats,” said Thomas, mentioning the Baltics as well as Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia by name.

Commandos and Their Comrades

Since 9/11, US Special Operations forces (SOF) have grown in every conceivable way from funding to manpower, the pace of operations to geographic sweep. On any given day, about 8,000 special operators — from a command numbering roughly 70,000 in total — are deployed in around 80 countries. Over the course of a year, they operate in about 70% of the world’s nations.

According to Major Michael Weisman, a spokesman for US Special Operations Command Europe, elite US forces have deployed to 21 European countries in 2017 and conducted exercises with an even larger number of nations. “Outside of Russia and Belarus we train with virtually every country in Europe either bilaterally or through various multinational events,” he told TomDispatch.

The number of commandos in Europe has also expanded exponentially in recent years. In 2006, 3% of special operators deployed overseas were sent to the continent. Last year, the number topped 12% — a jump of more than 300%. Only Africa has seen a larger increase in deployments over the same time span.

This special-ops surge is also reflected in the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, overseas missions designed to prepare American commandos in a variety of warfighting skills while also strengthening relations with foreign forces. In 2012, special operators conducted 29 JCETs on that continent. Last year, the number reached 37, including six in Bulgaria, three in Estonia, three in Latvia, three in Poland, and three in Moldova.

The United States has devoted significant resources to building and bolstering allied special ops forces across the region. “Our current focus consists of assuring our allies through building partner capacity efforts to counter and resist various types of Russian aggression, as well as enhance their resilience,” SOCOM’s Thomas toldmembers of the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year. “We are working relentlessly with our partners and the Department of State to build potency in eastern and northern Europe to counter Russia’s approach to unconventional warfare, including developing mature and sustainable Special Operations capabilities across the region.”

This year, US commandos could be found in nations all along Russia’s borders. In March, for example, Green Berets took to snowmobiles for a cold-weather JCET alongside local troops in Lapland, Finland. In May, Navy SEALs teamed up with Lithuanian forces as part of Flaming Sword 17, a training exercise in that country. In June, members of the US 10th Special Forces Group and Polish commandos carried out air assault and casualty evacuation training near Lubliniec, Poland. In July, Naval Special Warfare operators took part in Sea Breeze, a two decade-old annual military exercise in Ukraine. In August, airmen from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron transformed a rural highway in Jägala, Estonia, into an airstrip for tank-killing A-10 Thunderbolts as part of a military drill. That same month, US special operators advised host-nation commandos taking part in Exercise Noble Partner in the Republic of Georgia.

“Working with the GSOF [Republic of Georgia’s Special Operations forces] was awesome,” said Captain Christopher Pulliam, the commander of the Georgia Army National Guard’s Company H (Long-Range Surveillance), 121st Infantry Regiment. (That, of course, is a unit from the American state of Georgia.) “Our mission set requires that we work in small teams that gather specific intel in the area of operations. The GSOF understand this and can use our intel to create a better understanding of the situation on the ground and react accordingly.”

Special Warriors and Special Warfare

The United States isn’t alone in fielding a large contingent of special operations forces. The US Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that Russia’s Spetsnaz (“special purpose”) troops number around 30,000, a sizeable force, although less than half the size of America’s contingent of commandos. Russia, SOCOM’s Thomas told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year, is “particularly adept at leveraging unconventional approaches to advancing their interests and it is clear they are pursuing a wide range of audacious approaches to competition — SOF [special operations forces] often present a very natural unconventional response.”

Indeed, just like the United States and myriad militaries around the world, Russia has devoted significant resources to developing its doctrine and capabilities in covert, clandestine, and unconventional forms of warfare. In a seminal 2013 article in the Russian Academy of Military Science’s journal Military-Industrial Courier, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov explained the nature of modern hybrid warfare, including the use of elite troops, this way:

“In the twenty-first century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template… The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness… [t]he broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures… is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of informational conflict and the actions of special operations forces.”

Spetsnaz troops have indeed played a role in all of Russia’s armed interventions since 2001, including in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, GeorgiaUkraine, and Syria. During that same span, US Special Operations forces have been employed in combat in AfghanistanIraqPakistanYemenSomaliaLibyaSyriaNiger, and the Central African Republic. They have also had a presence in JordanKenyaDjibouti, and Cameroon, among other countries to which, according to President Trump, US combat-equipped forces are currently deployed.

In an interview late last year, retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland, chief of US Army Special Operations Command from 2012 to 2015 and now the Senior Mentor to the Army War College, discussed the shortcomings of the senior military leadership in regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “bad national policy decisions… that shaped US campaigns in those theaters,” and a reliance on a brand of conventional war-fighting with limited effectiveness in achieving political goals. “[I]t is important to understand why SOF has risen from footnote and supporting player to main effort,” he added, “because its use also highlights why the US continues to have difficulty in its most recent campaigns — Afghanistan, Iraq, against ISIS and AQ [al-Qaeda] and its affiliates, Libya, Yemen, etc. and in the undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine — none of which fits the US model for traditional war.”

US Special Operations Command Europe‎ failed to answer TomDispatch’s questions about those “undeclared campaigns” on Russia’s doorstep, but more public and conventional efforts have been in wide evidence. In January, for example, tanks, trucks, and other equipment began arriving in Germany, before being sent on to Poland, to support Operation Atlantic Resolve. That effort, “designed to reassure NATO allies and partners… in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine,” according to the Congressional Research Service, began with a nine-month rotationof about 3,500 soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who were replaced in September by 3,300 personnel and 1,500 vehicles from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which would be deployed to five countries. Earlier this month, Russia’s Defense Ministry complainedthat the size of the US contingent in the Baltics violates a Russian-NATO agreement.

Red Dawn in the Gray Zone

Late last year, a group of active-duty and retired senior military officers, former ambassadors, academics, and researchers gathered for a symposium at the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C., titled “Russian Engagement in the Gray Zone.” Conducted via Chatham House rules — that is, in accounts of the meeting, statements could not be attributed to any specific speaker — the Americans proceeded to vilify Russia both for its bellicosity and its underhanded methods. Among the assessments: “Russia is always at a natural state of war and it prioritizes contactless war”; “Russia de-emphasizes kinetic activities and emphasizes the indirect/non-lethal approach”; and “Russia places a priority on subversion.”

The experts at NDU called for a comprehensive campaign to undermine Russia through sanctions, by courting “disenfranchised personnel” and “alienated persons” within that country, by developing enhanced cyber-capabilities, by utilizing psychological operations and “strategic messaging” to enhance “tactical actions,” and by conducting a special ops shadow war — which General Charles Cleveland seems to suggest might be already underway. “[T]he United States should learn from the Chechnya rebels’ reaction. The rebels used decentralized operations and started building pockets of resistance (to include solo jihadists),” reads a synopsis of the symposium.

“SOCOM actions will need,” the NDU experts asserted, “to be unconventional and irregular in order to compete with Russian modern warfare tactics.” In other words, they were advocating an anti-Russian campaign that seemed to emphasize the very approach they were excoriating Russia for — the “indirect/non-lethal approach” with a “priority on subversion.”

In the end, Russia’s much-feared “West” war game, in which Spetsnaz troops did participate, concluded with a whimper, not a bang. “After all the anxiety, Russia’s Zapad exercise ends without provocation,” read the headline in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes on September 20th.

For months, while Russia insisted its war game would involve fewer than 13,000 soldiers, the US and its allies had warned that, in reality, up to 100,000 troops would flood into Belarus. Of those Russian troop levels, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Möller, a Swedish military observer who attended Zapad, said, “We reported about 12,400.” Of such exercises, he added, “This is normal military business as we do in all countries with armed forces. This is not training for attacking anyone. You meet the enemy, you stop the enemy, you defeat the enemy with a counterattack. We are doing the same thing in Sweden.”

Indeed, just as Möller suggested, more than 20,000 troops — including US Special Operations forces and soldiers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden — had gathered in his country during the Zapad exercise for Aurora 2017. And Sweden was hardly unique. At the same time, troops from the US, Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom were carrying out Rapid Trident, an annual military exercise, in neighboring Ukraine.

What message was the US sending to Russia by conducting training exercises on its borders, Catherine Herridge of Fox News asked General Raymond Thomas in Aspen? “That’s a fascinating question because I am — I try to appreciate the adversary’s optic to — I realize that a way to gauge a metric if you will for how well we’re doing,” the SOCOM chief replied somewhat incoherently.

Herridge was, of course, asking Thomas to view the world through the eyes of his adversary, to imagine something akin to Russia and its ally Syria conducting war games in Mexico or Canada or in both countries; to contemplate Spetsnaz troops spread throughout the Western hemisphere on an enduring basis just as America’s elite troops are now a fixture in the Baltics and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

In the end, Thomas’s take was understated in a way that undoubtedly wouldn’t have been the case had the roles been reversed. “I am curious what Putin and his leadership are thinking,” the special ops chief mused. “I think it was a little unnerving.”

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Why Is Switzerland Drone Testing In Occupied Golan Heights?

NOVANEWS

 Image result for israel switzerland relations

HAARETZ – Switzerland’s defense ministry has admitted sending staff to test reconnaissance drones in contested land held by Israel – an embarrassing blow for the neutral European country’s status as an honest broker in the Middle East.
Swiss officials visited an airfield in the Golan Heights region on three occasions in 2012, 2013 and 2015 to monitor tests of the Israeli-built Hermes 900 aircraft that they are buying for $265 million.

The visits, which lasted several days, took place in an area which Switzerland does not recognize as being part of Israel, which took the land from Syria following a 1967 war.

Following an internal review this year, the Swiss found the presence of their personnel at the airfield contradicted the Swiss position on the Middle East conflict, the ministry said.

The visits took place without the knowledge of the Swiss foreign ministry. No further visits have taken place since the affair came to light, it said in a statement.

“This incident was a communication breakdown,” it said. “Those who were informed about the activities did not realize Swiss officials were not allowed to be there and those who knew about the restrictions were not informed about the planned activities.”

Future tests will now take place at an airfield within Israel, it added, with the drones due to enter service in 2020.

Switzerland has frequently acted as a broker in the Middle East, most recently hosting peace talks about the Syrian civil war in Geneva and carrying out consular services for Iran and Saudi Arabia in their respective countries.

“This case damages the credibility of Switzerland with regards to all governments in the region which are in conflict with Israel,” veteran diplomat Tim Guldimann, a lawmaker from the Social Democrat party, told the Tages-Anzeiger paper. 

Elbit describes the Hermes 900 as “highly autonomous, enabling automatic takeoff and landing and includes advanced avionics and electronic systems.” It has a flight altitude of 30,000 ft. and a large payload capacity.

Brazil’s Air Force purchased two $12 million drones from Elbit to provide crowd surveillance above Brazil’s soccer stadiums during the 2014 World Cup.

“The intelligence-gathering electronic and optics technologies of Elbit and our Brazilian partners are perfectly suited for the homeland security challenges at these events,” said Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis.

Posted in Europe, ZIO-NAZI, Switzerland0 Comments

The Trump-Russia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense of It

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By Bill MoyersMoyers & Company | Interview

Donald Trump, Jr. (R) greets his father, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo: Rick Wilking-Pool / Getty Images)

Donald Trump, Jr. greets his father, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016, in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo: Rick Wilking-Pool / Getty Images)

The news is coming so fast and furious, from so many sources and in so many fragments, that it takes more than a scorecard to keep up with the Trump-Russia connection. It takes a timeline — a “map,” if you will, of where events and names and dates and deeds converge into a story that makes sense of the incredible scandal of the 2016 election and now of the Trump Administration.

For years Steve Harper produced timelines for the cases he argued or defended in court as a successful litigator. Retired now from practicing law, Harper has turned his experience, talent, and curiosity to monitoring for BillMoyers.com the bizarre and entangled ties between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and the murky world of Russian oligarchs, state officials, hackers, spies, and Republican operatives. You can check out the over 700 entries right here. But for an overview — and some specifics — of recent developments, I called up Steve to give us a sense of the emerging story.

 To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Bill Moyers: You’re the consummate trial lawyer with a celebrated reputation for summing up the closing argument for the jury, but from our work together on the timeline I know you also have the instincts of a journalist. So write the lede to the story this far: What’s the most important thing for us to know about the Trump/Russia connection as of today?

Steven Harper: Everything the Trump campaign told you about the connections between Trump and Russia was a lie.

Go on.

Well, there are a number of different dimensions to the issue, but let’s just take the easiest one. The other day The Washington Post published a very good article that said for all of Trump’s denials during the campaign of any connections between him, his campaign and Russia, it turns out there were 31 interactions. And there were 19 meetings. Furthermore, what Trump and his people have been doing since then is everything they can to keep the public from being aware of the truth. And this feeds into the obstruction story.

How so?

Up to and including the firing of James Comey, Trump did everything he could to try to shut down, slow down or stop the investigation. First, he tried to shut down the investigation of Mike Flynn. Then it turned out that Mike Flynn is probably just a piece of a much larger problem, which is Russia. Trump admitted to the Russian ambassador and to the Russian foreign minister shortly after he fired Comey that now he’s got some relief from the Russia problem — in other words, Comey’s gone! But what’s happened since then is the continuing effort to interfere with the investigation, even in the form of tweets — all of which sure look a lot to me like witness intimidation for some of the key players in the saga.

And then there’s a third component, which is in a way the most insidious — the willingness of the congressional GOP to be complicit in all of this. We’re talking now about a prescription for disaster for democracy. It’s all part of the same story. If you think about it, every single person who has said something about there being no connection between Trump and Russia during the campaign has been caught in a lie about it. Even with this fellow George Papadopoulos, the talking point immediately became, “Well, he didn’t get in trouble for anything that he did, he got in trouble for lying to federal investigators.” Sure, and what was he lying to federal investigators about? About whether or not there were any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. And that’s the part that everybody glosses over in terms of the talking points on the Republican side.

George Papadopoulos was the youngest of Trump’s foreign policy team and not a prominent public figure. Now Trump loyalists say he wasn’t taken all that seriously by the campaign.

That’s another remarkable thing, of course — all the policy advisers all of a sudden are relegated to the status of low-level, unpaid volunteers, even though they sat in a meeting of foreign policy advisers with the presidential candidate himself early on. When they turn out to be suspects in this investigation, they all drop to the bottom of the heap, and it’s as if Trump had never heard of any of them.

It’s usual in a case like this to move the paramount figures to the expendable list, no?

Oh sure, absolutely, and I fully expect before this is over, you’re going to get to a point where Donald Trump will say, “Oh, yeah, Donald Jr. — you know he was only my son for a very limited period of time.” It’s absurd. And it started with Paul Manafort — the same Manafort who actually delivered decisive delegates to Trump during a crucial period of the campaign. When the heat was turned on Manafort, they all said: “Oh, well, he played a limited role for a limited period of time.” Yeah, he was only manager of the campaign, how about that?

Perhaps Trump, who aspired to be a great American president, will confess: “And I was just a real estate guy.” [laughter] Robert Mueller is moving quickly with the investigation now. We have new news almost every day. What’s the most recent development that strikes you as most important?

Three different strands have now begun to coalesce. There’s a core strand running through it that I call the “follow the money” strand. Perhaps most of what happened throughout the campaign, if you view it from Vladimir Putin’s side of the transaction, looks quite reasonable and makes a great deal of sense. Putin wants to eliminate sanctions on Russia, both because they affect him personally in a financial way and because they affect his country’s economy in a big way. So you dangle in front of Trump the prospect of a Trump Tower in Moscow. We always knew that Trump wanted a Trump Tower in Moscow, because Trump told us he did. But what we didn’t know was that during the campaign, the Trump organization was actively negotiating for such a development.

But two other strands have come together, and we need to understand them for all this to become a cogent narrative. The second strand involves political operatives. It turns out we’re hearing about people like George Papadopoulos, who obviously was in communication with the Russians, and that strand is now probably taking Mueller — certainly taking me — further up the food chain. Papadopoulos implicated Sam Clovis, the former co-chairman of the campaign. And with people like Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks, you’re getting right to the inner circle of the Trump campaign. All of a sudden last year, these low-level underlings, as they are now being described to us, were getting remarkable access, and they’re getting responses from within the campaign. They’re not sending emails off into cyberspace that no one ever answers; they’re hearing back from some of these higher-ups.

And the third strand is what I would call the “digital strand.” Cambridge Analytica, the Kushners, WikiLeaks — they’ve started coming together in a very dramatic fashion over the past two or three weeks. Pundits say they keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, didn’t John McCain say, “This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop.” It seems as though there is just no limit to the number of shoes that keep dropping in this thing. Everyone thought the big bombshell was the June 9 meeting and the Don Jr. emails that had set up that meeting in Trump Tower relating to dirt the Russians were promising on Hillary Clinton. And then we just get this even more stunning series of interactions and communications and exchanges that show the people that Kushner hired to run the digital campaign going to WikiLeaks, and reveal Don Jr. having direct Twitter communications with WikiLeaks about Clinton documents. It’s just remarkable. If all of this had hit at the same time, it would have been blockbuster, but because of the dribbling out of it, no one focuses on the extent to which some of these three strands coalesce. And they sometimes coalesce around what I call very hot dates in the timeline.

Let’s pause right there. There’s a beginning to a story like this. So I hope you’re reading a new book out this week by Luke Harding, once the Moscow correspondent for The Guardian of London. The title is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and how the Russians Helped Donald Trump Win. Have you been following coverage of the book?

Yes. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read a couple of excerpts and summaries of certain portions of it.

Harding, who’s a very experienced reporter, quotes the British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who worked in Russia for years and compiled that notorious dossier on Trump that mysteriously appeared last year. He quotes Steele saying that “Russian intelligence has been secretly cultivating Trump for years.” As you and I discussed in August, Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence as far back as 1987, on his first visit to Moscow — a visit arranged by the top level of the Soviet diplomatic service, with the assistance of the KGB. 

Trump was of course looking for business in Russia. If you go to Trump’s own book, The Art of the Deal, he acknowledges “talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.” And he quotes a letter he got from the Soviet ambassador to Washington saying the Soviet state agency for international tourism is inquiring about his interest in that partnership. Now, one has to ask: There were lots of ambitious real estate moguls looking for deals with Russia in the mid-’80s; why did they select Donald Trump?

And that’s the $64,000 question. It’s very interesting and Harding notes this as well, and it also was an early entry on our timeline — that in 1988, when Trump came back from the Soviet Union, he first made noises about wanting to run for president. Which brings us back to the second strand developing in this story, which is the personal contacts, the personal operatives, involved in a pretty straightforward if not classic Russian intelligence operation. Russian agents — the recruiters — look for soft spots in their target — in this case, the US — and those soft spots become points of penetration. The Russians must have been astonished at how they achieved penetration in Trump’s circle — astonished at the success that they were having across many different fronts simultaneously.

I remember from my own experience in Washington in the ’60s that the Russians were always trying to find “soft targets” — American citizens — who were drawn to that sort of relationship.

And what could be a softer target for a guy like Putin than a guy who measures the world and everyone’s self-worth in dollars?

Much of what Harding reports in his book is circumstantial, but it adds up to what is fairly damning evidence. You’re the lawyer — how much can circumstantial evidence be introduced in an argument in a trial?

Plenty. There are lots of people sitting in jail who were convicted on circumstantial evidence. In fact, how often is it that there is actually what you would call eyewitness or direct evidence of criminal behavior, except in a situation where you can get one of the co-conspirators to turn state’s evidence and squeal on the others? People talk about circumstantial evidence as if there’s something terrible about it. Circumstantial evidence is the way most people go about proving their cases, whether they’re civil or criminal cases. And what separates circumstantial from direct evidence isn’t even all that clear. Would you say that the email exchanges between Donald Trump Jr. and the lawyer who was supposed to come to Trump Tower with dirt on Hillary Clinton were circumstantial evidence or direct evidence? It’s certainly direct evidence of Donald Trump Jr.’s intent when he says, “If you have what you say you have, in terms of dirt on Clinton, I love it.”

Some people keep saying there’s there’s no collusion. Trump’s favorite expression is “No collusion. No collusion. No collusion.” All right, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about something the law recognizes as conspiracy or “aiding and abetting.” Let’s talk about a conspiracy to obstruct justice. In that respect, Trump’s own tweets become evidence. So it’s not as clear as I think some of the talking-head pundits would like to make it, that no collusion means the end of the inquiry. That’s just wrong.

Suppose the circumstantial or direct evidence prove to be true; does it have to be out-and-out treason for Trump and his team’s actions to be impeachable offenses?

No. In all likelihood, treason may be the toughest thing of all to prove, because treason, at least in a technical legal sense, requires that you’re actually at war. And a decent defense could be for Trump that there’s been no declaration of war, so whatever was going on you’re never going to get it past the threshold of treason. There are still plenty of legal bases for concluding that Trump has some serious problems. One would be the election laws, including the financing of elections. It’s pretty clear you can’t accept help from a foreign government in order to win an election, and it seems pretty clear, at least to me, that if they weren’t actually using the help — and that’s a big if; I think they were, based on some of the things that I’ve seen — there’s certainly ample evidence that they were willing to be participating in whatever help anybody would give them to help Trump win the election.

The second category — apart from election laws and related finance laws — would be aiding and abetting computer theft insofar as there were illegal hacks into the DNC computers, and WikiLeaks and/or the Trump campaign knew that that happened, knew the hacks were illegal and knew they were willing to do everything they could to take advantage of it in order to help Trump win the election. That’s another fertile ground for illegality.

And the third category would of course be what I think will ultimately turn out to be the easiest to prove: the obstruction issues, relating to some of the behavior that we already know that George Papadopoulos, for one, engaged in when he lied to investigators about the nature of the connections between Trump and Russia.

On the money issue, The Atlantic magazine published a very strong piece last week by Bob Bauer, in which he argues that Donald Trump Jr.’s private Twitter correspondence with WikiLeaks provides evidence of criminal violations of federal campaign finance rules which prohibit foreign spending in American elections, as you pointed out. He reminds us that those rules disallow contributions, donations or “anything of value” provided by a foreign national to sway an election. Those rules also bar a campaign from offering substantial assistance to a foreign national engaged in spending on American races. 

Here’s a direct quote from Bauer’s article: “Trump Jr.’s messages not only powerfully support the case that the Trump campaign violated these rules, but they also compound the campaign’s vulnerability to aiding and abetting liability under the general criminal laws for assisting a foreign national in violating a spending ban. … The facts and circumstances here are without precedent in the history of campaign finance enforcement, and it’s hard to imagine that any truly neutral analyst informed about the law would conclude otherwise.” 

So he concludes that Trump and his campaign face a “whopping legal problem.”

I agree with him completely. And here we reach one of what I call “the hot dates” when all these strands coalesce. You have these September-October email exchanges between Don Jr. and WikiLeaks. But now listen to what else you have: On Oct. 12, [Trump’s friend and former adviser] Roger Stone tells NBC that he has a backchannel communication with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks’ private message to Don Jr. suggests that Trump publicize the Clinton documents from WikiLeaks. Fifteen minutes later Trump Sr. tweets about those WikiLeaks documents. That’s on one day. This is all on Oct. 12. And two days after that, Don Jr. tweets the very WikiLeaks link that WikiLeaks had already suggested that they publicize. That’s one point where these strands coalesce. My point is that Bauer’s case is even stronger than he may realize when you look at what you and I have called circumstantial evidence of what other things were happening, and how other layers of action were behaving at the same time.

As you know, American intelligence has identified WikiLeaks as a conduit for information that Russian operatives stole from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign, and now of course it seems there was a connection between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, as you’ve just outlined it. What do we know about why the Russian government would choose WikiLeaks to release information hacked from Hillary Clinton’s computers?

I think it was an outlet that would ensure publicity, maximum publicity. It’s a notorious organization. And I think if you want bad stuff to get out there and you want everybody to notice it, WikiLeaks would be the way to do it.

Donald Trump Jr. reportedly has released all of his correspondence with WikiLeaks. Does this indicate his lawyers don’t think it is incriminating?

I think it is probably more likely the case that his lawyers assume that it’s going to come out eventually anyway. So the best way to do it is to sort of dribble these things out, hope for an intervening scandal, like Al Franken groping somebody or Roy Moore upsetting the Alabama election, and then let the mind of the body politic move on to something different. The good news is that Robert Mueller is not going to be distracted by the intervening events, and he’ll put all this together.

But how significant is it that when Donald Trump Jr. had all of this information from WikiLeaks, it’s now being reported that he looked around the campaign to see if he could find someone who would act on WikiLeaks’ information, and it doesn’t seem that anyone responded? His appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

What makes you think no one responded? The fact that there’s no email trail doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a response. We know, for example, that what was happening throughout the campaign were interactions and conversations and discussions in which certainly one of the topics included granting Russia relief from sanctions. I don’t conclude that because an email response to Donald Jr. has yet to make its way into the public domain, nothing happened.

So when Donald Trump on Oct. 10, tells the crowd at a campaign rally, “I love WikiLeaks,” and accuses the press of not picking up on what WikiLeaks was publishing, he knew WikiLeaks had dirt on Clinton, where it came from, and he wanted to get it out.

You would think so. And I’m most happy, frankly, that Mueller has such an extraordinary team of talented lawyers working with him, because the case from the prosecutor’s side is a dream in terms lending itself to a coherent, cogent narrative that strikes me as a really damning case.

Is Julian Assange of WikiLeaks in any danger of facing US prosecution?

Not as long as he stays in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Let’s assume he will stay out of the country for a while. I suppose Trump could pardon him.

Is there any way that Assange could be viewed as an agent of a foreign power at this point, or is he just a rogue player?

My opinion is that during the election, he was an agent acting for the benefit for Trump. He claims that he wasn’t dealing with Russian documents. I find that difficult to believe. And certainly, as you said, the US intelligence community is of the view that WikiLeaks was the vehicle through which Russia distributed and disseminated its hacked documents. And I think he’s clearly acting on behalf of interests that are Russian interests.

What do you make of Assange and WikiLeaks urging Donald Trump Jr. to suggest to his father that if he loses the election, he should contest the election? What was that about?

Chaos. I think the goal was chaos. That’s what takes me back to believing that at some level Russia was behind what WikiLeaks was proposing. Because for Putin there are two ways for him to improve Russia’s standing. One is to figure out a way to bring his country up. One easy way would be to get some relief from the sanctions. But an equally powerful way to do it is to bring Western democracies, especially America, down. So what better way to foment chaos than a postelection trauma, if you will, in which Trump is contesting election results in various states and doing all of the things he certainly would have been capable of doing? And of course, WikiLeaks feeds right into Trump’s soft spot by suggesting, in that same email that you just mentioned, that this could be good for him too, particularly if what he really wants to do is launch a new media network. So it all fits.

What do you make of the fact that Donald Trump Jr. did not report to the FBI that WikiLeaks was soliciting him last year? Does that put him legally at risk?

The mere failure to report doesn’t, but it certainly adds to the question about what Trump Jr.’s true motives and the motives of the Trump campaign were in pursuing the information WikiLeaks was offering. Now, let me give you something else to think about, and see if your reaction causes you some of the heartburn it causes me.

In June of last year — quite a month, no? — there was another “hot date.” Jared Kushner — Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser — assumed control of the digital campaign and hired the firm Cambridge Analytica. We talked about Cambridge Analytica a moment ago. Well, Cambridge Analytica’s vice president had been Steve Bannon. And about the same time that Kushner hired Cambridge Analytica, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica is reaching out to WikiLeaks with an offer to help disseminate hacked documents.

And then you get to July 22 and WikiLeaks is releasing hacked documents. In August, George Papadopoulos is continuing to push Russia on the campaign team, Roger Stone is continuing to talk about his communications with Assange and WikiLeaks (and it certainly looks as if Stone is predicting more WikiLeaks releases of documents) and the daughter of the part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, Rebekah Mercer — who is also a Trump donor — tells its CEO to reach out to WikiLeaks too. And then Donald Jr.’s email exchange with WikiLeaks comes in September. See what I mean? There’s a ramping up of the process that culminates in those email exchanges that Don Jr. had with WikiLeaks and that becomes, I think, an important narrative to understanding the story.

I need some Tums. [laughter]

It’s good and bad, I guess — getting mired in all these details. The good news is we learn more facts. The bad news is we learn more facts — and it may not be possible for Americans to put it all together and conclude that anything significant happened, when actually there’s a grave threat to democracy.

Let me pause right there. As Josh Marshall points out at Talking Points Memo, the Justice Department is directly overseeing Mueller’s investigation. It has absolute power over the inquiry. Meaning that Mueller is now investigating his overseers. Isn’t that certain to have some impact on the process?

I don’t think so. Let me tell you why. I think the only thing that will affect the process, and this is the thing frankly that I fear more than anything else, will be if Trump fires Mueller. We know Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. If he should resign, that would be a great victory for Trump, who could then appoint someone else as an acting attorney general who could then fire Mueller. Otherwise, the ball bounces to Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein’s been on record a couple of times saying that he hasn’t seen any basis for firing Mueller. And at this point, I have competing views of Rosenstein in general, but I think on this issue, he realizes that his personal interest and his professional interest and even the country’s interest requires that if Trump were to issue an order to fire Mueller or even if he were to try to interfere with Mueller’s investigation in some way, allowing him to do so will be a very bad thing for Rosenstein personally. I don’t think he’ll do it.

There’s a precedent for this, of course. Nixon went ahead and fired the special prosecutor investigating Watergate.

Yes, but he had to go through [Attorney General] Richardson and [Deputy Attorney General] Ruckelshaus to do it. Trump would have to fire Rosenstein, then he’d have to fire an associate attorney general named Rachel Brand, who — based on everything everything I’ve read about her — would likely balk and not be inclined to follow an order unless she were satisfied that there was in fact good cause to do it.

What might provoke Trump to risk everything — firestorm, constitutional crisis, even impeachment — to fire Mueller?

I think he’ll do it if he thinks that things are getting too close. I think he’s already been close to doing it in the past. And I think at some point, and I think it’s probably a question of when [not if], he will fire Mueller. I really fear that’s what’s going to happen. And of course the irony is that for the amount of time Mueller has spent on the job, he’s achieved remarkable results. He’s working very quickly, very efficiently. The median life of a special counsel is just under two years. The average is three years. The Iran-Contra investigation went for six and a half years. Whitewater went for more than eight years. The Valerie Plame NSA leak went for two years. We’re what? Just five months in?

And Mueller’s already obtained two indictments and one guilty plea.

Precisely.

The indictments are for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. But the indictments are not related to the Trump/Russia connection, are they?

I think the answer to that is it remains to be seen. That’s clearly the way the Trump people are going to continue to try to spin it. But step back for a minute and think about the fact that a campaign manager [Paul Manafort] for a presidential candidate [Donald Trump] has been indicted for money laundering, tax evasion and all sorts of other wrongdoing arising from his work for Ukraine, where Putin and Russia were fomenting trouble. And shortly after he became the manager of the campaign, as we’ve learned, he was also offering to provide special briefings to a Ukrainian oligarch with whom he’d had business dealings. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see at some point some of these things merge into one another.

You mentioned earlier that a new series of Trump advisers are under scrutiny. Hope Hicks is one of them. She’s perhaps the closest staffer to Donald Trump. Not even 30 yet, keeps a low profile, been with him a long time, apparently spends more time with the president than anyone else on the White House team. We’ve learned Mueller wants to talk to her. What have you learned about her and what can she add to this?

She can add a lot, I suspect. And I suspect that Mueller thinks so too, because as you say, she’s as close to the inner circle as you can get. She was also present at two really key points in this story — and many others, I could add. One in connection with what ultimately led to the firing of James Comey in May of 2017 — she was around for that. And as you may recall, we now have learned that it turns out that Trump had dictated to Stephen Miller, another close aide, what was apparently a four-page rant, or screed, of his real reasons for wanting to fire James Comey. So it’s hard to imagine that Hope Hicks wasn’t somehow involved in, or at least aware of, what was going on that weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, when Trump was pouring his rage into that letter.

She was also aboard Air Force One — and maybe the lesson is you just never want to be on Air Force One with Donald Trump — when they were coming back from Europe, and Trump, as we learned much later, had a hand, a very heavy hand, in drafting a very misleading statement about what had transpired at that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner and some Russians with ties to the Kremlin. Hope Hicks reportedly was advocating on behalf of transparency, but it appears that she lost out. And that’s just what we know Ms. Hicks was involved in. Who knows what else she was involved in and participated in, but I suspect a lot.

I also think she’s got a bit of problem because Carter Page revealed that she had been copied on those messages about what he had learned in Russia, or what he was planning to learn in Russia, when she had denied adamantly there had been no Trump campaign contacts with Russia. So she’s got a bit of a consistency issue there, it would seem.

You mentioned Carter Page. He and George Papadopoulos traveled the world, apparently representing themselves as able to speak for the Trump campaign, even though the Trump campaign later said they weren’t. You’ve tracked down many instances of Papadopoulos in particular speaking to foreign leaders on behalf of Trump. Why is that important?

Well, he’s given extraordinary access to some very high-level people. He was giving speeches in which he was representing himself as being able to speak on behalf of Trump at least with respect to certain policies. And you know, it’s hard for me to imagine that he gets that kind of access unless there’s some credibility to what he’s saying about what his actual role in the campaign is. And of course we all know from the infamous photo taken at the Trump International Hotel that Papadopoulos was one of a handful of people seated at the table with Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump as Sessions presided over a meeting about Trump’s foreign policy and Trump told the group that he didn’t “want to go to ‘World War III’ over Ukraine.”

And I believe that’s what started the process of making clear to everybody who was on Trump’s foreign policy team that easing relations with Russia by easing sanctions, would be something that Trump would be open to. And I think a lot of what happens afterward you can fit into this broader framework of the question: What is Putin’s angle in all this? Well, Putin’s angle in all this is if he can get the Russian sanctions lifted, he’s a winner. And if Trump will help him do that, great. And even if Trump can’t help him, even if Trump doesn’t win the election, it can’t hurt that he’s created some chaos in a Western democracy, which clearly is what he intended and what happened.

You mentioned Jeff Sessions. In his testimony to Congress last week, Sessions said it’s hard for him to remember meeting with, and conversations about, the Russians because the Trump campaign was in constant chaos. The fact that the campaign was in chaos certainly seems accurate, but would his excuse play at all in a trial?

No. And remember what Steve Schmidt, who was involved in John McCain’s campaign, said? He said he hopes that Jeff Sessions never gets a puppy because he’s not going to remember to feed it, he’s not going to remember to get it watered, he’s not going to remember to let it out. That puppy’s just going to be in terrible trouble.

But what’s interesting about Sessions to me is this: What Sessions said in his recent statements was, I haven’t remembered that Papadopoulos raised the issue of Trump meeting with Putin or members of the campaign meeting with representatives of Putin until I read about it in the news reports. But now that I’ve read about it, now I remember, and listen — I pushed back really hard and I said that it would not be appropriate for anyone to be meeting with a representative of a foreign government. All of the sudden, it’s like the light has gone on in Jeff Sessions’ head. Now, you have a situation sometimes in trials where a witness in a previous setting had sworn that he couldn’t remember something. And then six months or a year later, all of a sudden they have this epiphany and the memories came flooding out. And there’s something counterintuitive about somebody who says they remember more now about a specific event than they did a year earlier when asked about that same specific event. That just doesn’t play well with most juries.

And bear in mind, too, something else about Sessions that’s worth remembering that I doubt would necessarily be obvious to non-lawyers. Going into those Senate hearings, going into each one of those hearings, Sessions had to know that he was going to be asked about all of this stuff. And he had to know that he needed to be as familiar as he could be with whatever he could learn so that what he gave was truthful, straightforward, candid and ultimately something that the public and Congress would believe. And yet despite that, at each subsequent appearance, somehow there’s something new and the attorney general of the United States shrugs his shoulders and says, “Oh, I guess I did know that.”

My problem is, I want Sessions to hang on. I don’t want him not to be attorney general yet, because the minute that Sessions resigns or Trump fires him, then you have the door open to an acting attorney general, and I don’t want to live to see Scott Pruitt [head of the Environmental Protection Agency] or [former New York mayor and Trump ally] Rudy Giuliani become acting attorney general, which is something that Trump could do without even Senate confirmation. It doesn’t even have to be those two guys, because we know Trump has a plethora of cronies who will do whatever he says, because Trump says that’s what he wants, and if Trump says he wants Mueller fired, that to me is the disaster scenario for the country.

So, to sum up for now: What’s the most innocent explanation for everything we know? What if all of this was simply Trump’s inexperienced people trying to establish diplomatic rapport with the Russians and hoping to reset America’s connection with Moscow?

Well, the most innocent explanation would be a level of incompetence and ignorance and stupidity that I honestly don’t think anyone could credibly believe, because the most innocent explanation is that Russia was launching a very sophisticated, multipronged intelligence operation and succeeded, but they succeeded because of the blind ambition and greed of the Trump organization coupled with a lack of judgment and intelligence and a fundamental failure to take into regard anything that would remotely look like patriotism when it came to the defense of democracy, subjugating all of that to the need to win. That’s the most innocent explanation. And I just don’t think all of them are that stupid.

So what’s the most damning explanation for everything we know?

The most damning explanation is that the Russians launched a sophisticated intelligence operation. They found willing partners up and down the line throughout the Trump organization. And up and down throughout the Trump organization, as the details of that intelligence operation became known, the participants lied about it, lied about its existence, lied about their personal involvement in it and now they are all facing serious criminal jeopardy as a result.

 

One more: I assume most people believe Russia’s interference in the election last year is a bad thing, a serious offense, but is it possible that by treating Vladimir Putin and his cronies as an existential threat, we’re playing directly into Putin’s hands and making him appear a more significant figure in the world than he really is?

Well, he’s already achieved that, but the problem is, what’s the alternative? Back in January, John McCain and Lindsey Graham were on national television acknowledging the seriousness of the Russian interference. McCain called it the cyber equivalent of “an act of war.” And if you acknowledge and recognize the existential threat, do you sit back and let the let the next thing happen in 2018 that Vladimir Putin wants to do? Remember, we have elections coming up next year. The uniform view of US intelligence is unambiguous, and if you don’t view it as an existential threat then you’re willing, I think, to sacrifice democracy.

We keep hearing, “Yeah, but Trump was still legitimately elected, he won the election fair and square.” Now we’re realizing that that may not even be true. I don’t personally believe that to be true anymore. I rankle every time somebody says he won fair and square, because that’s become less obvious every day. So the last line of defense would be, “Well, even if he didn’t win fair and square, he’s our president, so we’ve got to sit back and let whatever Putin’s going to do to us continue to happen because we don’t want our response to raise his standing in the world.” Well, I would submit it raises Putin’s standing in the world even more to have an accomplice in the White House.

Thank you, Steve Harper.

Posted in USA, Russia0 Comments

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