ON THE AGENDA
PUTIN + EXXON CEO TO MEET TODAY
Reuters reports that Putin is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s successor at ExxonMobil, Darren Woods today. It is unlikely anyone in media or the general public will ever find out what is truly discussed, which is too bad.
OUR FRIENDS THE RUSSIANS ARE SO FRIENDLY!
The Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva said Wednesday that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty after deploying land-based cruise missiles in violation of the “spirit and intent” of the treaty. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, General Selva said, “The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility”. Foreign Policy correctly points out that Trump’s silence on the matter makes us all less safe. According to Russian state-run TASS, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejects the accusation.
AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN TO RUSSIA
Former Utah Governor turned Obama’s Ambassador to China has been named by Trump as the next Ambassador to Russia, American media report. NBC News notes he was also President George H.W. Bush’s Ambassador to Singapore in his “long career of service.” POLITICO reports the offer was made earlier this week and Huntsman “is in the process of submitting paperwork to accept the position,” according to two sources in the administration. Huntsman himself did not respond to a request for comment. Last year, Huntsman had called on Trump to resign from the race after the “grab them by the pussy” tape surfaced. Yet another sign there are not nearly enough Trump loyalists with any competency to keep his administration clean of critical thought, also known to the Trumpistas as “rogues” for their so-called “disloyalty” in the face of orange greatness.
The question was direct enough: “is the president a target of a counter-intelligence operation?” The answer from White House spokesman and former White House Easter bunny Sean Spicer was anything but. “I think that’s what we need to find out. There is obviously a lot of concern, I mean, we – I mentioned to John there was considerable concern last cycle when a reporter was the target of one. But part of the reason we have asked the House and Senate to look into this is because of that… The president has made clear he has no interest in Russia, yet a lot of these stories that come out with respect to that are frankly fake… All of the people who have been briefed on this situation have come to the same conclusion and it is, it is interesting how many times this fake narrative gets repeated over and over and over again and yet no evidence has ever been suggested that the president has anything to do with anything that has been in a recycled story over and over and over again. “ Did you get that? Do you believe any of that? Well, the perniciousness of the media as that made no sense was to merely ask the question again: “are you saying there is the possibility that he is the target of a counter-intelligence operation involving Russia because you just connected those two things?” TAKE TWO! “No, no, no. I think what I am saying is that there is a difference between that narrative and then the narrative that has been perpetuated over and over and over again. The concern that the president has and why he asked the Senate and the House intelligence committees to look into this is to get to the bottom of what may or may not have occurred during the 2016 election… I just want to be really clear on one point which is that there is no reason that we should – that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation.” Did you get that? Do you believe any of it? Which makes it the perfect segue into…
From The Guardian.
LOOK WHO IS LISTENING
Paul Manafort, the shady former campaign manager turned advisor in the shadows, had his Ukrainian business partner of dubious ilk listened in on according to international political operatives POLITICO reports. Why is that? Before you scream Gestapo Nazi as is the zeitgeist among authoritarians like Trump and Erdogan, consider the facts! Pernicious buggers! Konstantin Kilimnik is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence based on his past as a Russian military translator in part. Therefore, when he took two trips to the U.S. last year during the presidential election, authorities were allegedly keen to find out why. So Kilimnik “came under scrutiny from officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department,” according to POLITICO citing three international political operatives. Kilimnik allegedly told Kiev and DC based operatives “that he met with Manafort during an April trip to the United States. And, after a late summer trip to the U.S., Kilimnik suggested that he had played a role in gutting a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that would have staked out a more adversarial stance towards Russia,” according to a political operative in Kiev. However, there is a clear danger in listening to “operatives” instead of the operator: namely POLITICO reports it is “unclear if either agency launched any kind of official inquiry into Kilimnik, nor is it clear whether the interest from the U.S. authorities is ongoing.”
The American people are not so stupid or so scared or so willing to cower to corrupt officials like the citizens of Russia. More than half who responded to a Quinnipac University poll “said Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings when he said he ‘did not have communications with the Russians’ and should resign because of it.” Oh my god, we still have rules and laws people want respected! Putin needs to keep working on demoralizing our public more because we’re not there yet! We are still not Russia! Broken down, though, the numbers are less impressive as 52 percent say Sessions lied under oath in his response to Senator Al Franken before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he said he had no contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The problem of course is also that ONLY 52 percent feel this way. Similarly, ONLY 54 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of relations with Russia, but 66 percent support an “independent commission” investigating Trump’s voluminous Russia ties and 61 percent confess to being “somewhat concerned” about it. The Washington Post points out some flaws with this data too, namely “the question Quinnipiac asked doesn’t include Sessions’s actual response — nor does it include the actual question that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked him.” The paper also points out that ONLY 34 percent think that lying under oath is illegal. Maybe Russia is winning with its strategy of divide-and-conquer through pernicious propaganda as part of its hybrid war effort. Is not this what that might look like?
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
ACTIVE MEASURES WATCH: NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster can put one more notch in his belt as a symbol of victory for the American people. According to POLITICO, “National security adviser H.R. McMaster has invited top National Security Council staff back into the Oval Office for calls between President Donald Trump and foreign leaders, reversing a decision by his predecessor Michael Flynn to exile senior directors to the Situation Room during state calls.” This is great news if you believe as I do that the president should be under direct supervision at all times, especially whilst speaking with foreign leaders. POLITICO reports, “For the first time since Trump took office, senior directors and country directors were present on Monday and Tuesday… with leaders from Israel, Japan, South Korea and Kenya.” This is in addition to former Fox News commentator turned in-house Trumpista K.T. McFarland. According to the NSC Spokesman Michael Anton, H.R. McMaster was responding to “an all-hands meeting at which McMaster invited NSC staff to submit notecards with their concerns about procedures”. Notecards, huh? No friction in the White House…
WHAT A GAZ
The Daily Beast profiles Richard Burt, a lobbyist with McLarty and Associates, and in a past life, a Reagan era diplomat who escorted Jewish dissident Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky over the Glienicke Bridge in 1968 during a U.S.-Soviet spy exchange, albeit Sharansky was not a spy. According to a former CIA operative in Moscow, Burt “was the star brilliant American diplomat under Reagan, with Richard Perle.” The connection to Trump is elusive, as Burt himself admits to only a “very peripheral” role in Trump’s first major foreign policy address in April of 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel, which was attended by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who sat in the front row. Last year, Gazprom used his services to push for the Nord Stream II pipeline project, which would increase European dependence on Russian gas. According to The Daily Beast, “Gazprom’s New European Pipeline AG paid Burt’s company $690,000 for their 2016-2017 contract, that just ran out this month,” citing Sergei Kostiayev, “a Russian political scientist researching international lobbyists.” The same expert says “working for Gazprom is no different from working directly for the Kremlin.” Other foreign clients with Kremlin ties include Mikhail Fridman, owner of Alpha Bank, Russia’s largest private bank, and his investment vehicle Letter One or L1, a London-based, Luxemberg-registered firm. Alpha Bank “was alleged to have had digital communication with servers in Trump Tower during last year’s presidential election.”
From The Daily Beast.
ANDREA MITCHELL, ENEMY OF THE STATE
Veteran news correspondent Andrea Mitchell was ejected unceremoniously by Tillerson handlers at the State Department while trying to ask Secretary of State Tillerson about China and our new friends, the Russians. Aides to Tillerson began shouting “thank you!” over her questions until she was ejected. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin seemed unperturbed as he and Tillerson shook hands during the journalistic disruption of democracy in danger. One can imagine Klimkin is quite used to all of the things Americans are only now discovering about how pernicious Russian-style governance can be for our republic. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.
From Real Clear Politics.
DISINFORMING YOU, THE VIEWER
Jalopnik takes a dive at the surface of Russian state-run RT, how its low ratings, albeit inflated yet still not even enough for TV and internet ratings firm Nielsen to register in the U.S. Russian state-run RT serves its purpose in “informing” Americans who don’t trust mainstream media. Despite the fact that on-air personalities have made a show of “rage quitting” and the network spews lies on the regular, that is not the point. The point is, “‘Here is an alternative (view) on facts you don’t know about and explains things to you so they make sense,” according to Richard Tempest, a professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Illinois.
RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM OUR PRESS AND THEIRS
ABC News has a super fun feature on spy novelists taking inspiration from Trump’s Russia ties, including numerous former CIA agents turned spy novelists, one of whom even works with a Russian writing partner – it’s own sexy subplot unto itself perhaps. Jason Matthews, one of the former spies turned authors responsible for the “award-winning ‘Red Sparrow’ thrilers” said he was at work on a book last year where ““The plot line was an American presidential candidate who has a secret that’s so bad it would ensure his or her impeachment, and the only person who would know the secret is Vladimir Putin.” According to ABC News, “Matthews set the novel aside, but he’s in no danger of running out of ideas.”
From ABC News.
Donald Trump is a professional snake oil salesman like no other, this we know. Now after years of effort, all of China will get to know what a fraud with a whole new range of products and services that only now, after nearly a year of effort, suddenly get approved by the Chinese authorities! But wait until you hear what a range of services Trump plans – and how much it degrades the highest office in our land! “The Trump-branded businesses planned in China include spas, massage parlors, escort services, hotels, finance and real-estate companies, retail shops, restaurants and bars.” Yes, massage parlors escort services. Our president hopes to engage in areas of the service sector that often can involve human trafficking. Pro-tip: most dons don’t put their name on the shop.
From The Hill.
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