COMEY ON THE HILL
Along with Admiral Mike Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency, FBI Director James Comey appeared before a rare unclassified and public hearing of the House intelligence committee. Since the American news media has flubbed in more ways than are worth documenting here, we are giving the lede to our friends across the ocean at The Financial Times, “James Comey has confirmed the Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing possible links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin, an unprecedented public acknowledgment that pits the top US law enforcement agency against a sitting president.” And the FBI has been on the case since July. There is also “no information” to support Trump’s claims that his predecessor ordered Trump Tower be wiretapped during the campaign. POLITICO offers a play-by-play of some key highlights and exchanges (nothing nuclear) from the hearing that was most definitely rife with the football metaphors Washington loves. In the words of one Washington Post headline on Jennifer Rubin’s column Monday, “Comey’s testimony humiliates Trump”. Due to Comey, testifying before Congress, and directly contradicting Trump’s “FAKE NEWS” tweets of just a few hours prior, Rubin writes, “Trump now seems desperate, childish and vulnerable. He’s been tripped up by his own grandiose lies. At some level he must know it.” But when has this ever stopped him in the past? Even during the hearing itself he continued to tweet misrepresentations of the facts presented, also known as LIES not and never “alternative facts”. Meanwhile, through it all, Republicans asked precious little about Trump and Russia, instead focusing on leaks from the intelligence community to the media – the real horror in all this! Ok, it is illegal but what do you do when your boss has likened you to Nazis in the not so distant past in lieu of disagreeing in an adult manner? Unsurprisingly, the hearings did not get much play in Russia, where news that Ukraine may block Russia’s Eurovision contestant from entering the country was top news. We are so much like each other sometimes it’s eery!
DEMOCRACY BY LISTICLE
Since The Washington Post has shown considerable aptitude in recent years for the listicle, this newly acceptable form of news product in the era modern clickbait journalism, let’s go with theirs breaking down, “Six big takeaways from Congress’s extraordinary hearing on Russia, President Trump and wiretapping”. Hint: one of those things is not like the others. Here in Powerpoint ready form are their “Six big takeaways”:
1) “There’s no evidence of Trump’s accusation that Obama tapped his phones”
2) “The FBI is investigating connections between President Trump’s campaign associates and the Russian government”
3) “The FBI is going to be VERY tight-lipped about the investigation”
4) “Democrats seem pretty sure associates with Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia”
5) “Republicans, meanwhile, want to focus on intelligence leaks to the press”
6) “Intelligence officials still don’t think there’s any evidence Russia meddling directly influenced votes”
Quite the coup there. Unspoken: the damage is done, a cyber Pearl Harbor of deleterious consequence has occurred.
From The Washington Post.
REX TILLERSON WILL SKIP BRUSSELS AND NATO, SLEEPOVER WITH RUSSIA
The Trump administration has decided NATO countries are small peanuts in terms of wealth compared to Russia and China. Russia, the master of our president and quite evidently our Secretary of State and Russian Order of Friendship recipient Rex Tillerson will get him first whereas Brussels and NATO will just have to wait. This is like choosing to spend time with a deranged grandfather compared to with cousins and aunts who have joy in their lives. Tillerson for his part is disinclined to play dress up with NATO and instead would rather sleepover with Russia and China. I bet they strip to their proverbial bra and panties, so money and the masculine-seeming bravado that comes with it, for a total tickle fight, by which I mean intense horse-trading and deal making.
OLIGARCH POPSTAR SON SPEAKS TO FORBES
Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian oligarch of Azerbaijani origin Araz Agalarov and a popstar in Russia, is talking to Forbes about how tight the Trump klan is with the Agalarov khanate. His most striking claim is that the plans for a Trump Tower built with his father Araz, a key real estate developer in Russia who is close to Putin, has been put on hold since Trump won the election. The younger Agalarov also said “he has maintained contact with the Trump family since the election, and has exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. as recently as January; and that President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November after they congratulated him on his victory.” This is beyond relevant considering the contents of the Steele dossier expressly stated, “Two knowledgeable St. Petersburg sources claim Republican candidate TRUMP has paid bribes and engaged in sexual activities there… Both believe Azeri business associate of TRUMP, Araz AGALAROV will know the details.” Also Emin is now divorced from Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, but they were married at the time Trump cemented a deal with Anar Mammadov, who in addition to being notorious for his penchant for bear kebab and fronting the Gülen Movement in Washington was also the front man for the project Trump had going in Baku that has been linked by The New Yorker to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Anar’s father Ziya Mammadov was the Azerbaijani Minister of Transportation at the time. In a total nod to the mafia of all of this, Emin tells Forbes, “Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends”. According to Forbes, the Agalarovs paid “an estimated $7 million in licensing fees to host Miss Universe at one of their properties.” Friends.
PAVEL MANAFORTSKY IS IN BIGGER TROUBLE THAN TROTSKY
The ongoing saga of just how corrupt is Paul Manafort, aka Pavel Manafortsky, and how mired in the Ukraine mess is he continues! It really is the most compelling subplot in the whole Russians hacked American democracy operation because it concerns a real nation and real lives as opposed to tweets and lies. According to The New York Times, the tragic horror of this saga unfolded not unlike some meaningless reality TV incident but also in real time as it effects real geopolitics. Now “a member of Parliament in Ukraine released documents that he said showed that Mr. Manafort took steps to hide the payments, which were tied to Mr. Manafort’s work for former President Viktor F. Yanukovych. The documents included an invoice that appeared to show $750,000 funneled through an offshore account and disguised as payment for computers.” It is Ukraine, so the accusations of fake news are double time as, “Mr. Manafort, who denied the latest allegations, has asserted that the ledger is a forgery and that the member of Parliament, Serhiy A. Leshchenko, was involved in a scheme to blackmail him. Mr. Leshchenko insists that a letter appearing to show him threatening Mr. Manafort with the release of damaging information was itself a fake, and he denies any involvement in blackmail.” Here is the nitty gritty for those concerned and interested in following the money trail (tips welcome!): “The invoice bills Neocom Systems Limited for the computers… This was not the first time Neocom Systems had surfaced in a corruption probe. In a 2012 money laundering and stock fraud case in Kyrgyzstan, the Central Bank listed it as a shell company used for payments by AsiaUniversalBank, a lender seized by Kyrgyzstan’s Central Bank amid money laundering allegations. Ukrainian money laundering through AsiaUniversalBank and its affiliated shell companies was extensive and ‘very well known’ in Kyrgyzstan, Edil Baisalov, a former presidential chief of staff, said in a telephone interview. ‘Our country was a laundry machine.’” And my country is being dry cleaned and wrapped in plastic! The trail also returns to those hacked texts of Manafort’s daughters that appeared on a Ukrainian website. The New York Times also helpfully reminds us of Manafort’s passed clients from President Gerald R. Ford to dictators including Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo. What is morality in politics? Is it like a negative integer?
From The New York Times.
WANTED FOR QUESTIONING
Needless to say, due to circumstances like those of the aforementioned item, Paul Manafort is wanted for questioning in Washington and Kyiv, according to POLITICO. Rep. Jim Hines told POLITICO, “Paul Manafort’s relationships with Russians are by far the longest-standing and the deepest,” adding, ““And he has some pretty unsavory contacts.” And according to Serhiy Gorbatyuk, the head of the department of special investigations for the General Prosecutor’s Office in Ukraine, the agency has asked the Department of Justice for help questioning Manafort repeatedly about his contacts with ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled in disgrace after his police fired on peaceful demonstrators protesting corruption during his reign in Maidan. There is one snag in that “Gorbatyuk said the Justice Department did not respond to seven previous requests for assistance from the prosecutor’s office — two formal requests followed by five ‘reminders.’” Included in these requests is Comey’s office, which has not responded, something Gorbatyuk chalks up to “a lack of understanding why it’s taking so long to fulfill our requests”.
ROGER STONE AS IRIS APFEL x BAADER MEINHOF DENIES EVERYTHING
No you can’t make this shit up, suddenly as if by some magic of Russian psyops and domestic stupidity, my nation has resembled the Serbian tabloids I keep in the bathroom beside all the derogatory Trump magazine covers of the last year. Roger Stone went maybe three quarters Assange dressed as Iris Apfel meets the Baader Meinhof gang on Alex Jones conspiracy site beloved by the president, Info Wars. He also went on some sympathetic radio show to blame all-purpose boogeyman George Soros. Meanwhile, POLITICO picks up on a bizarre semi-literate but “cryptically” foreboding tweet Stone sent to John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign manager who was subsequently hacked and had his email doxxed by WikiLeaks, including a coveted risotto recipe. And CNN reports, “Stone began discussing WikiLeaks and Assange in August 2016. Stone told a local Republican Party group in Florida on August 10 that he had ‘communicated with Julian Assange.’” And “In mid-September, Stone said on Boston Herald Radio that he expects, ‘Julian Assange and the Wikileaks people to drop a payload of new documents on a weekly basis fairly soon.’” But Soros!
PREET BHARARA’S DEPUTY HIRED BY NEW YORK AG
The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has hired Howard Master, one of the top prosecutors under former U.S. Attorney for the District of Southern New York Preet Bharara, who forced Trump to fire him when he refused to resign after being ordered to do so by the Department of Justice on March 11. Before his firing, Bharara was at work investigating many in Trumpworld.
From The Wall Street Journal.
FORMER CIA RUSSIA DIRECTOR CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION
Steven Hall, the former director of the CIA’s Russia operations for over 30 years who retired in 2015, took to The Washington Post to call for an independent investigation hours before Comey testified on the Hill on Monday. He states very clearly, “There can be little doubt that the Russian government attempted a multipronged operation last year to try to influence our presidential election.” Check. “It is also clear that the goal of the Russians’ operation was to increase the likelihood that Donald Trump would be elected.” Check. “This is not a partisan statement, especially if you look at it from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s perspective: Candidate Trump’s positions on Russia were very much more favorable to Moscow than were those of his opponent, Hillary Clinton (see also: NATO, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine).” Check plus. Hall refers to “ a series of data points linking the Trump campaign to the Russian government before the election.” Then he lists the Fellini-esque ensemble with ties to Russia from ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to campaign manager Paul Manafort to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his long-time advisor Roger Stone. Hall calls for an independent investigation on the grounds that he believes “figuring out the connections between the Russian government and the Trump administration won’t be possible if we leave it up to Congress.” He says “a serious probe is required,” and adds that “For the Trump campaign or any of its representatives to be in any way coordinating with the government of Russia during the campaign constitutes a threat to a primary pillar of American democracy: free and fair elections. That Russia meddled in U.S. presidential elections is bad enough; cooperation or collusion between a candidate and a foreign power — particularly Russia, a serious adversary — in an attempt to win would be unprecedented in modern times.” Because of the seriousness of this charge, a Congressional investigation alone is not enough because “The real problem is the politics that are baked into the congressional oversight system.”
From The Washington Post.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
AMERICA GETS ITS VERY OWN GULNARA KARIMOVA
Gulnara Karimova, the once fabulously wealthy and influential daughter of Uzbekistan’s deceased president Islam Karimov was very famous for her money laundering conglomerate ZeroMax which allowed her a life of comfortable riches in Europe and her failed popstar career as “Googoosha”. Your TRUMPISTAN WATCH correspondent was even blocked by Gulnara on Twitter once upon a time, of course prior to her jailing in a closely watched family drama. Well, now America gets its very own Gulnara! Ivanka, with no defined role or even credentials for any defined role, is getting a security clearance and a West Wing office as well as a government issued communications device, just like a proper –stan! While she won’t draw a salary, why would she need to if her husband is a princeling as the Chinese might call him? We await her popstar debut or perhaps she will start a magazine like another dictator’s daughter of similar ilk, Leyla Aliyeva of Azerbaijan. She already has a fashion line, so we are well on our way America to full blown nepotistic kleptocracy in the shadow of the Kremlin, just like a proper –stan! Now cue the medieval torture, glam real estate projects and silencing of all dissent and we will really hit the mark! Everyone, welcome nepotism Barbie to the White House!
From ABC News.
NAVALNY DOUSED IN ANTISCEPTIC CLEANER WHILE CAMPAIGNING
Alexey Navalny was “doused in green antiseptic cleaner while campaigning for an intended presidential run next year” while opening a campaign office in the Siberian town of Barnaul. The incident is similar to so many in the past when an individual rises in popular esteem that he can present a credible challenge to Putin on at least moral grounds, such as Garry Kasparov details during his brief time campaigning for the presidency in his book Winter Is Coming. Now to be clear, this is an act of social activism, these campaigns, not anything akin to our full throttle elections and to misunderstand that misses the point. There are no elections in Russia in any meaningful way, therefore no upsets or spoilers like Trump are possible, in large measure because Putin does not believe democracy even exists. The evidence is in the current ruins of the American political system; behold, what the President of Russia thinks of our system.
FROM THE FOX NEWS DEPARTMENT OF FAKE NEWS
The Los Angeles Times reports Fox News has pulled Judge Andrew Napolitano for making claims that suit the president’s narrative but could not otherwise be substantiated in a meaningful way. Napolitano pushed the line that GCHQ helped President Obama, Trump’s predecessor, wiretap him, which was refuted on the Hill yesterday by none other than FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mark Rogers. Meanwhile, on Fox News last night, Bill O’Reilly admonished the president to “embrace only facts in his pronouncements.” What’s remarkable is how Soviet this is. Andrew Napolitano now joins a club previously populated only by Billy Bush of on air personalities who have lost their jobs because things President Trump has said with their encouragement, costing them dearly. What a bizarrely Soviet predicament this all is. But who knows, maybe it could lead to the wall coming down some day.
From The Los Angeles Times.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Evidently The New York Times doing a less than remarkable job of reporting on the total corruption and Russia ties of a man who lived until recently across town is finally causing a furor inside the newsroom, reports BuzzFeed. The kerfuffle broke out due to the inclusion of a Murdoch-sponsored conspiracy theorist peddling discredited nonsense online, Louise Mensch, migrating onto the Op-Ed pages. Mensch offered up her conspiracy that there was a FISA warrant “that enabled the F.B.I. to examine communications between ‘U.S. persons’ in the Trump campaign relating to Russia-linked banks” and the newsroom revolted online. Quite simply, they cannot corroborate the claim which also is dwarfed by some of her other theories peddled on her personal blog and elsewhere which include but are not limited to the Kremlin murdering Andrew Breitbart and Anthony Weiner sexting with a Russian agent, not a 15 year old, when BuzzFeed has interviewed the teenager. In other words, Mensch asserts claims that are thinly or simply not sourced but “Landing a Times op-ed will likely bring Mensch even more mainstream attention.” Fabulous! We needed more fabulists in our public life, especially pleasing to the eye white ladies. TRUMPISTAN WATCH is fond of reporter Eric Lichtblau’s tweet, “You’ve conned your followers @LouiseMensch in believing you have any clue what you’re talking about and created a shitstorm of ignorance.” Indeed!
GUARDIAN REVOLT OVER MOVE TO KUSHNER INC PROPERTY
The Guardian US newsroom is also in revolt over Trump-family related stuff as the newsroom rebelled against a planned move to a Kushner-owned building in Brooklyn. Most remarkably, reporters were rankled because they “feared their sources might not have full confidence that they could communicate securely with journalists in the new office.” Holy shit, it’s the ol’ surveillance microwaves again! Tell me if this is not more full blown –stan sounding stuff: “Reporters wondered openly whether the next Edward Snowden would feel safe leaking to The Guardian if it was headquartered in a building linked to the president’s son-in-law”. Also a problem: the commute to Brooklyn. What is with going over the East River? There is something the notoriously outer borough-phobic Jared can get behind!
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM OUR PRESS AND THEIRS—–
“DONALD GRUMP… WHOSE NAME EQUALS TRASH”
The Washington Post has a fun feature on one possible reason why Trump wants to defund PBS, America’s public broadcaster which is so broke it regularly takes to the air waves in pledge drives. Their star children’s program, “Sesame Street,” which is syndicated and produces local versions around the world, has mocked Trump mercilessly over the years such as when “‘Donald Grump’ appears in a 2005 episode as a badly toupeed muppet ‘whose name equals trash’”. Evidently the show now airs on HBO so Trump’s defunding of PBS wouldn’t even have an effect so this is someone in the newsroom having fun, but it should not be linked to the PBS issue. Oh well, enjoy the clips! According to The Washington Post, “There are only three known episodes in which the character ‘Grump’ appears, each time playing the villain in a moral allegory.” And we elected him despite this and oh so much else! “Whenever Grump visits Sesame Street, chaos is not far behind.” Yay entertainment at a children’s level, Americans can understand that! Despite this, the second appearance of “Ronald Grump” offers the best insight into the modern American psyche. Ronald Grump wants to demolish Sesame Street and build a “Grump Tower,” but his ploy ends when Oscar the Grouch reveals his trash can is government property and Grump can’t force him out. “‘This neighborhood does not deserve a Grump Tower anyway,’ Grumps says. Then he joins all the muppets in a celebratory song to end the episode, because that’s just how children’s TV sometimes works.” That’s pretty much how modern American adults want and hope their country will work going forward. Kumbaya, my children, I mean my fellow Americans, kumbaya.
From The Washington Post.
THIS IS NOT A FALSE FLAG
A new billboard in Tucson created by artist Karen Fiorito features Trump as he “leers out from the billboard and is flanked by mushroom clouds and Swastika-style dollar signs.” He is also “wearing a flag pin on his lapel — but it’s a Russian flag.” The Washington Post also ties it to public efforts elsewhere in the world to post political messages on billboards such as one in Russia, “showing Trump next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, says, ‘Let’s make the world great again — together!’”
From The Washington Post.
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