Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year that he did not disclose in his confirmation hearing, the Department of Justice confirmed late Wednesday! Sessions swore under oath “when asked about possible contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow” that there was none. Yes, Sergey Kislyak is the same Russian official that ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had FIVE phone conversations with the day last December that Obama imposed sanctions against Russia for election hacking. The general rule of thumb in media is three is a trend, so he is the second, but surely there are others (Tillerson, eyes are on you). And here most of us just thought Sessions is a good ol’ boy, ol’ fashioned racists so more of a useful idiot than a dupe, or a Russian rube or a puppet. Alas we were likely wrong. The call for Sessions resignation began almost immediately. Drain the swamp!

From The Washington Post.



Ambassador Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and Obama’s Ambassador to China, is now seen as a contender for the post of Ambassador to Russia. Earlier in the week, his name was being floated as a possible deputy for Secretary of State and Russian Order of Friendship medal recipient Rex Tillerson. Sending Huntsman to Moscow “would remove him as a primary challenger to Utah’s 82-year old Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. Also floating Huntsman’s name near Russia in this present context could mean everything from an adversarial attempt at smearing to him genuinely being a target of Russian attempts to flip him. Most sane people who are not in close talks with the military and intelligence community right now would likely hesitate. There is a buried detail, “Mr. Huntsman’s family company owns manufacturing operations in Russia, and he was involved in the company’s early business dealings,” but “he has never claimed any particular expertise” on Russia. Interesting.

From The New York Times.





White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway famously said, “We cannot let politics interfere with intelligence and we certainly cannot let intelligence interfere with politics.” Jennifer Rubin writes in The Washington Post that House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes “demonstrated why he’s unfit to lead a House inquiry.” How so? He declared the accusations of Trump and his team’s contacts with Russian officials null and void despite the fact that “he has done no investigation.” Rubin also picks up on something the Russian state media did the day before, namely that Nunes seems bent on exculpating ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, suggesting Flynn did us patriots “a big favor” by “keeping lines of communication open” with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In fact, according to Nunes, we should all “be thanking” Flynn for his service to the Kremlin, “not going after him” like whiny American patriots who want our sovereignty. Senator Richard Burr also took his turn putting down the links between the Trump administration and the Russian government, to the consternation of Senate Democrats like Chuck Schumer. What are they hiding and why are they obstructing?

From The Washington Post.



Senator Lindsey Graham wants legislation to require all candidates seeking the presidency in 2020 to release their tax returns, including Trump, should he somehow remain in office that long. Graham wants a Senate Select Committee — which isn’t likely — to investigate hacking in 2016, and in his spare time in recent months he has visited the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia to reassure allies with Senators McCain and flanked by Amy Klobuchar. We can firmly place Senator Lindsey Graham among the patriots.




Talking Points Memo continues to look at the many, many Ukrainian associations of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen who is married to a Ukrainian woman, Laura, and has many, many ties to that country – ties that didn’t really surface until the past couple of months amazingly enough. There is a taxi business, an ethanol business, the introduction of a new character, an art dealer named Alex Oronov “who immigrated to the United States in 1978,” and set up the State Russian Museum Publishing Co., with offices and a gallery in Soho. By the end of the late Gorbachev era in Russia, he struck a bargain to open a new museum shop in Leningrad, which would soon revert to St. Petersburg. Then, after 1994, he suddenly switched to the agricultural sector. According to public records in the U.S., in 1998, “Michael D. Cohen” incorporated a few interesting companies in New York: Ukrainiain Capital Partners LP and Ukrainian Capital Growth Fund Corp. The former remains active, the latter dissolved in 2002. Interesting.

From Talking Points Memo.





“The National Security Agency risks a brain drain,” warns Reuters citing NSA officials past and present and cyber security industry experts. Many employees have begun looking elsewhere, namely the private sector, where salaries are higher and compensation greater. The reorganization at the NSA, known as NSA21, began last year under Obama but has sent many with stellar resumes scuttling for employment elsewhere when combined with the Trump factor. One former senior NSA official still in contact with many still employed by the agency said, “Morale is as low as I’ve ever seen it.” An interesting buried detail: last October, former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recommended to then president Obama that NSA Director Michael Rogers be removed due to his “leadership style”; Rogers was initially brought in to tamp down the furor over the disclosures made by Edward Snowden, now a Kremlin captive. Rogers is now expected to retain his job “for at least another year”.

From Reuters.



Julia Ioffe profiles the darkness at Rex Tillerson’s State Department in The Atlantic. America’s foreign policy is the closest any “active measures” have come to capturing one of the three pillars of the state the Russians deem necessary: foreign policy, defense and the economy. One State Department official observes, “It’s normally so busy here,” which kicks off a meditation into the terrifying twilight of American diplomacy with a Russian Order of Friendship medal recipient and former ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson at the helm. Like a vacuum, he has sucked up all the work and now diplomats spend hours like former Soviet officials did, doing little more than passing the time over coffee and tea in the cafeteria. The State Department employs 70,000 worldwide and Bannon’s efforts to slash “the administrative state” are “already well underway” and “quite literal” within the State Department. A dozen career diplomats “painted a picture of a State Department adrift and listless.” One employee likened the atmosphere to “coming into a hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member.” Yes, we all miss our nation before the cancerous Russians infected the corpus with T***p. One diplomat overseas is more forthcoming, “We’re able to echo what Mattis, Tillerson and Pence say.” Not Trump? George Kennan’s invention and key bureaucratic contribution in the postwar era, the Office of Policy Planning, “is now staffed not just with Ph.D.s, as it once was, but with fresh college graduates and a malpractice attorney from New Jersey whose sole foreign-policy credential seems to be that she was born in Hungary.” Tillerson’s deputy is a miscreant “Trumpista” type who wants everything run through her, even if Tillerson asks someone a question directly. A mid-level officer compares this “traumatic” moment with the sun setting on the British Empire.

From The Atlantic.



Get to know General John Hyten, the Head of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) and “keeper of the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” His ears perk up as any sane human’s would whenever the fake Russian puppet president starts talking about nukes. Hyten’s concern is about modernization and deterrence, whereas Trump just wants things bigger, more militarized and perhaps packaged in gold for good measure. Hyten “could even live with cuts – as long as Russia cuts its arsenal too.” At the newly accelerated pace of history where many wake up both grateful and amazed the nuclear exchange did not occur overnight in one’s sleep, these sorts of thoughts of true cooperation with Russia on matters actually relevant to national and global security seem unlikely, but maybe Trump will wake up and stop loving the bomb as much as he does, too. Neither possibility feels real at the moment.

From The Omaha World Herald.



Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the head of U.S. Army Europe, wants observers and press to be let in to Russia’s massive biannual military exercise, Zapad 2017, scheduled for later this year in August and September. Defense officials and observers of the Baltic region have grown nervous over the exercise in part because Russian officials have not said how many military personnel will be involved. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has “called on NATO for additional security measures.” Speaking from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Lieutenant General Hodges said the exercise “represents an opportunity for the Russians to demonstrate that they are committed to security and stability in Europe,” while he likely thought to himself that it also demonstrates their capacity to destroy the very security and stability they have never seemed much committed to.

From Reuters.



The Washington Post calls Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster the “canaries in the mineshaft” of the Trump administration. Narrow darkness as a way of national life is something we are all growing accustomed to in month two of “Dr. Strangelove” in real life, but their roles at the helm of deep state provides less cover for escape from the magnitude of the true horror of the Trump administration. Within hours of his White House debut, McMaster was attempting to restructure the National Security Council back to its pre-Bannon rearranging and back under his control. “Whether Trump will listen” to Mattis and McMaster will determine how long both will remain aboard amid the constant push of their efforts to have a robust team against the pull of political hacks favored by Trump. Any movement towards or out the door would immediately send distress signals to observers regarding the health of the Trump administration. In simple language, if either flees the administration, we should all hear the ringing of alarms we hear when Trump says flattering things about Putin or talks about nukes.

From The Washington Post.





Last month on a Kentucky freeway, Interstate 65, a motorist snapped a picture of an unsettling sight, a Trump flag being flown from a convoy rather than the nation’s flag, “igniting fears of an authoritarian state among some motorists.” An internal investigation pointed to Navy Special Warfare forces as the culprits, a clear violation of military code, which permits only authorized flags from being flown from military vehicles. Now those involved have been reprimanded. However, how many individuals were involved in the incident, a gross error of judgment in a few senses to say the least, and the nature of the punishment is not known.

From The Louisville Courrier-Journal.


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