BREAKING OVER THE WEEKEND
NYT BEGINS TO UNRAVEL TRUMP’S RUSSIAN “BUSINESS” TIES
The New York Times dives into Trump’s connections to Felix Sater, head of Bayrock Group who had an office two floors under Trump’s and worked with him on deals for a decade. There is a road here that leads right to Ukraine. Others including Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen are also involved. This is only the front story, presumably, wait until we get to the back story. Just a word of wisdom: “connections in Russia” is usually the mafia or the FSB.
From The New York Times.
POLITICO: TRUMP INVITING CLUB MEMBERS TO INTERVIEWS — AUDIO
And tells them, “We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything… You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. ” So if Putin was one of the dictators, who were the others? Is this the royal “we” of him and Putin? POLITICO has the audio and the story. Horror.
FLYNN TRIED TO SCUTTLE UN ISRAEL SETTLEMENT RESOLUTION
Foreign Policy breaks a story of how Flynn “launched a vigorous diplomatic bid to head off a U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements.” The effort it seems was a sad one with no results to show. Now with the disaster of Trump’s nonexistent foreign policy, who besides Russia may Flynn have been talking to?
From Foreign Policy.
ON THE HILL
Since “not every committee is created equal,” NBC News helpfully breaks down the Congressional investigations into Trump’s Russia ties. The Senate Intel Committee is tops, which is good because FBI Director James Comey met with them on Friday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cautions of the House Intel Committee’s investigation, “They are stonewalling”. And CNN reports Senators want the White House to preserve all Russia-related materials.
FIVE IS A MAGIC NUMBER
First we learned ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak FIVE times on the day last December Obama sanctioned Russia for interference in the American election. Now USA Today recaps the FIVE Congressional investigations into “Russian ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign” — each being conducted to a varying degree of seriousness and subterfuge.
From USA Today.
THREE IS ALSO A MAGIC NUMBER
Reuters reports the FBI is conducting THREE separate probes into Russian interference in the US election. Will Trump still blow Comey kisses as he did the day after his Inauguration? Especially since…
COMEY MET WITH SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE
SO WHAT’S REP CHAFFETZ HIDING?
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz tweeted he was “taking the lead” investigating Russia but also the “mishandling of classified information” that led to Flynn’s ouster. As The Independent correctly notes, “A brief glance would suggest that Mr Chaffetz is holding his own government to account. A closer look, however, reveals where the Republican-dominated committee’s priorities lie.”
From The Independent.
TRUMP LIES HIS WAY INTO DUSTBIN OF HISTORY
Trump continues to insist he has no ties to Russia even as the FBI investigates. Trump advisor since the campaign Carter Page has travelled to Russia more than 100 times since 1991, but denies ties to the Russian government. That’s funny because the Russian mafia state is sort of the only industry in that country.
From CBS News.
REINCE SAYS FBI SPOKE TO NO ONE ELSE IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Reince told “Meet the Press” that the FBI only spoke to Flynn in the White House and that White House Counsel Don McGahn told him about Flynn’s calls with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed McGahn. Prediction: McGahn will have to go BECAUSE THAT MAKES NO SENSE.
Reminder: Hungarians spoke of accomplishing what they needed to survive under communism by looking for “little gates”.
LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!
LONG READ: GENERAL CHAOS
Nicholas Schmidle takes a dive into the defense career of “Michael Flynn, General Chaos,” where in paragraph one, Flynn tells us he just wants to be “out-of-sight” again. Well worth the read, especially for those in military and intel operating in a heightened threat environment as it concerns adversarial infiltration.
From The New Yorker.
FORMER MOSSAD DIRECTOR HAS SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS
Former Mossad Director Danny Yatom echoed the classic right-wing lines now coming out of American conservative media that Flynn was a fall guy but goes one-step further to suggest this was to protect Trump. Then he says some really interesting things: “Flynn was very experienced. No one thinks he was a Russian spy. He was experienced and smart enough. Maybe he made a mistake even with no intention, but that can happen to anyone. I don’t think we need to worry that our intelligence will go to Russia.”
From The Jerusalem Post.
FLYNN LIED, A FELONY OFFENSE
Depends on what the definition of “sanctions” is? The Washington Post reports, “The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. But several officials said it is unclear whether prosecutors would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word ‘sanctions.’” So Flynn committed a felony, lock him up! Not so fast since “Any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department.”
From The Washington Post.
NOT THE BEST CHARACTER WITNESSES
Because Trump hasn’t a clue what’s good for him, but Roger Stone and Carter Page seem to have some vague notion of what might be, McClatchy reports that Stone is willing to testify to Congress and Page has written a letter to the Department of Justice demanding the Clinton campaign be investigated. Page will likely get his wish with Sessions in charge there. Both evade questions about Russia. But that didn’t stop Roger Stone from doing a Q+A with Russian state-run RT. What Russia ties, Roger?
MOONLIGHTING IN MOSCOW
The Pentagon told Congress that it doesn’t have any records of Flynn’s trip to Moscow where he dined with Putin, Jill Stein, Serbian nationalist director Emir Kusturica, and others in the Putin’s orbit at the Russian state-run RT Gala in May of 2015.
A “SHIT SANDWICH”
Vice Admiral Robert Harward was both offered and turned down the offer to be Trump’s National Security Advisor and therefore Flynn’s replacement in a New York minute of a press cycle on Thursday. He made sure to distance himself from the traitor trash in the White House by telling CNN’s Jake Tapper it was “a shit sandwich”. A Stars and Stripes follow up calls it a victory for Bannon because Harward would have been denied the ability to pick his own team. I guess this means they are implying Bannon is looming over the National Security Council where he shouldn’t be and has absolutely no business being.
John Bolton and his twitching mustache are back from ghosts of hellacious U.S. diplomacy past and Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster were expected to be interviewed in Florida this weekend, where Trump has managed to spend every weekend since his inauguration. Unclear whether guests and dictators would be invited too.
From The AP.
RUSSIAN TO TRUMP’S RESCUE … THE ENFORCER
In the mafia, which is what we have now instead of an executive branch, enforcers take out all who are not loyal. Since that’s what Trump is up to with his pursuit of leakers in our intelligence community after cheering on Russia and WikiLeaks hacking Clintonworld e-mails for months during the campaign — others might call them patriots not caving to a fascist authoritarian bent on destroying our checks and balances.
ENFORCER IS CEREBRUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT HEDGE FUNDER
…and defense contractor DynCorp investor Stephen Feinberg! You won’t be too surprised to learn the enforcer has financial ties to the mafia in the White House. Note: Trumpkins probably prefer we call him “Supreme Captain of Alternative Truth and Leak Exterminator” in lieu of “enforcer,” but they don’t always get their way.
THE REAL OPPOSITION: PATRIOTS
Despite mistaking his own enemies in the press for those of “the American People!” Senator Lindsay Graham helps clarify for Trump who the real enemy of the American people is at this moment and says 2017 will be all about hitting back at Russia for electoral interference. He’s riiiiiiiight. Trump and his people ought enjoy the long Siberian winter that takes hold for them after this hot take into banana republic-dom.
WHAT’S AT STAKE? ONLY THE FATE OF THE NATION
Taking a long look at the emergence of a “deep state” in American politics, The New York Times compares the situation to countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan where the intelligence community and military are political forces. In America, the “deep state” probably looks something more like a bunch of generals, some old CIA hands called on at times of deep crisis and messaging is handled by allies in the media.
From The New York Times.
What is a “deep state” in layman’s terms? It is best described as the coterie of officials (usually from the military and intelligence services along with trusted advisors or area or regional experts) called in during a crisis, rarely private citizens in a normal functioning state bureaucracy if not closely linked to one of these apparatuses. If you look back through history in this country or others, you will see the same names emerge over and over at times of national peril. These are the Lord Mountbattens of the world, in other words.
THERE IS NO “F” IN SECURITY
Meanwhile, on Planet Trump which orbits around Mar-a-Lago, the White House was forced to dismiss SIX as they failed their FBI background checks.
EUROPEAN DEFENSE WEEKEND
– Russian spy ship lurking off the East Coast of the United States is a fine example of a real national security issue Trump has brushed off as something he hopes he doesn’t have to do anything about. CNN unpacks it a bit more and in a great understatement says this is “the latest in a string of provocations”. Like the one where they worked to elect a fascist racist to subvert the very order of our state from inside the White House?
– The ship did however cause Trump to talk about a “nuclear holocaust” for the first time in the same insane 77 minute presser last Thursday.
From The Telegraph.
– Before festivities got under way, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis swung by NATO headquarters in Brussels and spoke of how Russia needs to “prove itself first” before fully cooperating with Russia in Syria in the fight against ISIS. These were clearly carefully chosen, very smart words as all Russia is ever trying to do is prove itself in the eyes of the West.
From The Washington Post.
– In Bonn for the G-20, U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Order of Friendship Medal Recipient Rex Tillerson stayed 30 minutes from other diplomats at a former sanitorium, something Julia Ioffe correctly noted on Twitter that Russians were sure to notice.
– Meanwhile the State Department was busy laying off “Much of seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices… These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy.” So while there is talk of a “deep state” there is also an attempt to form a “parallel state,” something Tillerson would have some experience with as the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Steve Coll’s book about the company was called Private Empire for a reason.
– Tillerson’s meat cleaver tactics to the functioning instruments of U.S. foreign policy also don’t seem to be earning him friends in the Department of State.
– Council on Foreign Relations Head Richard Haass tells CNN that Tillerson is “home alone” at State, which given this latest house cleaning/purge seems very much by design.
– Meanwhile Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunforth met with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, in Baku.
From The New York Times.
– Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza (including during part of my time as a Fulbright grantee there) breaks down why Baku.
From Trend (Azerbaijani state news agency).
One advantage: Baku is a closed authoritarian state, limiting leaks or digging into what was actually discussed. Meydan TV, an opposition outlet founded by Emin Milli who served time in jail for satirizing Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, unpacks this a bit more. Missing: Baku is also the nexus of Mossad and Iranian counterpart Revolutionary Guards spy wars.
– And in the Balkans, The Telegraph has a story on how Russia plotted to kill the PM of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic to prevent the country from joining NATO.
From The Telegraph.
MIDNIGHT IN MUNICH?
What was once “a transatlantic family gathering,” the Munich Security Conference has turned somewhat tense because of the Russian role in helping elect a completely unstable lunatic as American president since the U.S. provides a security blanket for Europe that serves as a check against Russian maneuvers, especially on its Eastern flank.
– Secretary of Defense James Mattis concluded his speech with a strong commitment to the transatlantic alliance: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Transatlantic bond remains our strongest bulwark against instability and violence. NATO exists to protect our way of life, to include the free exchange of ideas that characterizes this annual conference in one of the world’s great cities. Here, I am confident that we will strengthen our partnerships, confronting those who chose to attack innocent people or our democratic processes and our freedoms.”
Full text from Small Wars Journal.
– Senator John McCain gave a brilliant speech on Friday, the sort of speech a legitimate president would be giving now as opposed to the insane blatherings of Trump on live television. “Make no mistake, these are dangerous times but you should not count America out,” is the line that will linger. Washington Post kvells over the speech as well.
McCain also had much more to say about Trump, Flynn, and Russia in an extensive New York Magazine profile that came out the next day. He also went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday to say, “That’s how dictators get started,” concerning Trump’s Tweet about the media being “the enemy of the American People!”
– German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen “hammered Trump’s attitudes toward Russia without ever mentioning the U.S. leader by name.” She also urged Trump to act “responsibly”. Memo to Secretary von der Leyen and our European allies: if we can’t get him to, give up all pretense he will be responsive to adults who don’t own or blackmail him.
– Pence told the crowd in Munich the US “strongly supports” NATO. Cognitive dissonance is just a fanciful critique for the adults have decided Trump can sound off (polite for inane ramblings) on Twitter and live TV but Pence and Mattis are likely running things because let’s face the fact that Trump is clearly unfit for service. And Josh Rogin writes in The Washington Post that European allies felt similarly reassured, as in not really. The French Foreign Minister even live Tweeted about the noticeable absence of lip service to EU cohesion. On Sunday, Pence took his wife for a history lesson at Dachau.
Pence at Dachau from ABC News.
– Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the assembled military officials and dignitaries that Russia seeks a “post-West world order”. How is it going to do that with a country with a GDP the size of Italy’s? Makes no sense, but Vlad was surely pleased, the crowd in Munich less so.
From The Associated Press.
– The Head of NATO’s Military Committee Czech General Petr Pavel said Russia’s propaganda war is nowhere near over and spoke of a case in Lithuania where disinformation alleging German soldiers raped a 15 year old in a village near their barracks “was not based on real events”. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered a few more details on the case, a hoax delivered to a member of parliament.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: TALKIN’ WORLD WAR III BLUES
TIME has a nice overview of “the battle for Europe” which they correctly assess has begun along. Takeaway: “Flynn’s ouster makes it politically more difficult for those who would like to advance a pro-Moscow strategy.” Also: chilling details about a cross border Russian raid into Estonia in September 2014 on the heels of Obama’s visit there.
THE US HAS NO FOREIGN POLICY
Outgoing Chief of Staff to John Kerry and head of State Department’s Policy Planning Jon Finer writes for POLITICO Magazine that “the United States currently has no foreign policy at all.” He cites numerous “examples of incoherence,” and kicks off with Russia, “leaving aside (to the extent that is possible) the cataclysmic hacking scandal…” well worth the read for no other reason than the glance into the inner workings of the Obama administration and reminds us how government is supposed to function before we forget the past.
From POLITICO Magazine.
TRUMP’S PRESSERS ARE JUST RERUNS OF VLAD’S
The Washington Post accurately unpacks how Trump’s press conferences completely resemble Putin’s, albeit with a certain refinement of self-control missing. Three key points: 1) “Transparency is not always transparency” meaning pro-Trump outlets receive as much attention as more critical outlets, 2) Politics as entertainment, 3) “Dissent is permitted… to a point.”
From The Washington Post.
UNDERSTANDING TRUMP DISINFO WARS
How does the White House manipulate the media other than by sending a maniac out to have nuclear explosions on live TV and a rotating series of aides every 3-4 days to be riddled with bullets by self-inflicted wounds one by one? Four easy steps! The Atlantic also parses a case study into stories planted to suggest 100,000 National Guardsmen were being mobilized to deport immigrants with The AP. The URL intimates that there was once a better headline to the effect of, “The Brief and Wondrous Life of a Leaked Trump Memo”.
PUTIN CLAIMS TO FALL OUT OF LOVE WITH HIS PUPPET
Many outlets reported Friday that the Kremlin had ordered Russian media to change course on Trump saying the reversal from adoration to something less than “could be reduced to a short sentence: there will no more of Trump.” The consequence? “influential Kremlin figures are quickly starting to renounce the earlier held view that “Trump is ours.” You know who isn’t buying it? This one as it is part of the bullshit on rotation to confuse, distort, deny, and degrade.
First reported by Deutsche Welle, in English from The Telegraph.
AND IN A NOT AT ALL STUNNING REVERSAL…
Putin denies that Russians are “disappointed with” their puppet because the American people aren’t all blind to what’s going on in our country and he is clearly unfit to serve. They are however dealing with Russian expectations because most normal Russian people want better relations with some “expectations of a quick breakthrough in better relations with Washington… fueled by Trump’s victory”. Recall Russia’s economy is verging on collapse due to sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea. By Sunday, he was the Jewish president.
From The Guardian.
UNDERSTANDING RUSSIAN DISINFO WARS
Good overview: “for Russia, information communicated through all media is simultaneously a weapon, target, and operational domain in peace and war… Russia exploits the internet through ‘sock puppet media outlets,’ troll farms and campaigns, and automated botnets in order to engage in information warfare at an unprecedented scale, speed, sophistication, and intensity.”
From the Council on Foreign Relations.
Read full report, “New Research Division Publication – Handbook of Russian Information Warfare” from NATO’s Defense College.
RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS + OURS
RUSSIA IS FREE SAYS SPOKESMAN FOR LEADER OF POLICE STATE
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov takes to denying reality as per usual and suggests the Duma is independent. He also had to deny this week that the Kremlin dictated news coverage, something he naturally called “fake news” because it’s really the case that the news agenda in Russia is a matter of state policy.
DOES SHE MEAN RUSSIA’S MAFIA GOVERNMENT OR THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE?
People in a police state will always tell you how much they love the leader, just ask them: “With each sentence of praise for Putin or hints about lifting sanctions, Trump weakens any U.S. bargaining position toward Russia on Ukraine, Syria, nuclear disarmament and so on. No wonder Russians are more optimistic now than they have been since the government annexed Crimea.”
From The Washington Post.
DISINFO OF THE DAY: FOX NEWS
WHAT DID ERIC ERICKSON LEARN FROM WATERGATE?
Conservative commentator and Red State founder Eric Erickson veers from lucid to incompetent in a Fox News piece. Critically he asks the right questions: “First, did the Trump campaign collaborate with the Russians to affect the campaign? Second, are some members of the intelligence community to undermine the President?” These are things most Americans want and deserve answers to. It is classic Washington: ignore the obvious until the steady drip, drip of leaks in the press becomes insurmountable and obvious from coast to coast (see: General Michael Flynn). Which makes his conclusion positively perplexing, but I’ll let you see if you get that far. What did he learn from Watergate?
From Fox News.
RESISTANCE ADVICE: AVA DUVERNAY + GARY SHTEYNGART
“GO HARD, Y’ALL”
The acclaimed “13th” director Tweeted a gif in support of the press with the message: “This needs to happen on EVERY lie. It’s up to the press to do this EVERY time. Go hard, y’all. On EVERY lie.” Kremlin’s reply: they have none, how could they?
LAST WORD: Absurdistan author Gary Shteyngart Tweets, “Sweden stood with us after Bowling Green. Today we stand with Sweden.”
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