——ON THE AGENDA—–
LEASE ON LIFE, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
CNN reports that today’s House intelligence committee meeting has been scrapped and all committee meetings this week due to major credibility issues surrounding the committee Chairman Devin Nunes (more in “INVESTIGATIONS, INVESTIGATIONS” as always under the subheading “DARKNESS AT NUNES”). CNN reports, “The decision to scrap this week’s meetings shows that the panel is facing serious turmoil and questions about whether it can proceed. Nunes scrapped a Tuesday public hearing on Russia to hold a private briefing with FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, prompting outcry from Democrats who wanted the issue of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin to remain in public view. But Comey and Rogers opted not to brief the panel amid the furor within the committee over how to proceed with its investigation.” The responsibility for much of that falls squarely on Nunes.
TWITLER, NOT RUSSIA, IS A HOAX
Naturally though, Twitler disagrees and thinks the story of his numerous, well-documented ties to Russia, not him personally, is the hoax. Oh is he mad! He’s so mad he put his bitching, twitchy thumbs to use to condemn not Russia’s shameful round up of its own people by riot police and other agents of the state Sunday but his own sad Russian fate. Poor Twitler! He Tweeted, “Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA” Just like a big boy would do! He’s such a big boy! Then a few minutes later, the #winning Twitler continued to blame the opposition for all his current, myriad, colossal failures. POLITICO writes, “’Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….’ Trump tweeted Monday. Nine minutes later, he added: ‘…money to Bill, the Hillary Russian “reset,” praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!’” Don’t you know when you are #winning like this, you can’t blame an opposition that faded away months ago? But this is a big boy who needs adoring crowds around at all times. What a sad, sorry man!
WHITE HAUS PRESS SECRETARY CONDEMNS RUSSIA
Blink and you might miss it. For whatever reason, we cannot chalk it up to human decency or courage, White House spokesman Sean Spicer condemned the brutality the Russian state showed towards demonstrators that turned up in 70-80 cities across Russia (different sources give different numbers, usually in this ballpark). While tepid and not an official tweetstorm by Twitler, POLITICO reports, “White House press secretary Sean Spicer opened his Monday briefing by reading a statement saying the U.S. ‘strongly condemns’ the detention of hundreds, including leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny, following a weekend crackdown on peaceful anti-corruption protests across Russia.” POLITICO also notes, “As a candidate, Trump frequently promised to seek friendly relations with Moscow, but that talk has cooled in recent weeks amid intense scrutiny of his campaign’s ties to Russia.” Trump himself of course has not said a word of anything negative about his beloved Putin, who he respects far more than a great many of his fellow Americans if you listen to his statements over time. Interestingly for such a macho manly man, “Experts say Putin is highly sensitive to American criticism of his internal political actions, and the Russian leader could react angrily to the condemnation.” So in other words, Putin is like a child yearning for the approval of his mother. Just like a big boy, too! So many big boys on the world stage!
BREITBART DENIED CONGRESSIONAL CREDENTIALS
BuzzFeed reports that Breitbart “News,” the vicious right-wing propaganda outlet best compared to Der Sturmer in terms of contents, has been denied Congressional press credentials – for now. BuzzFeed writes, “The standing committee of the US Senate Daily Press Gallery wants Breitbart to clarify links to conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute as well as the involvement of Rebekah Mercer, whose family is an investor in the site.” The standing committee is comprised of “five reporters at traditional media outlets,” e.g. ones committed to reporting not hate propagandizing. Who ever imagined it would be a standing committee to block the co-owned by a self-professed Leninist enterprise? If you come from Daleyland, it’s less shocking. A decision taken at last month’s meeting led to a request of Breitbart CEO Larry Solov that he “write a letter outlining the involvement of Steve Bannon,” the Julius Streicher of our time and current White House Chief Strategist. BuzzFeed reports, “Late Thursday, the night before the meeting was supposed to take place (it was moved to Monday because of the scrapped health care vote), Solov sent a letter stating that Bannon had resigned ‘on or about November 13, 2016’ and that he has ‘no editorial, executive, financial or other role or interest’ in Breitbart News.” Evidently the letter, which included the masthead as of March 20, raised new concerns. “Two employees — senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer and managing editor Wynton Hall — are also affiliated with conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute.” The Government Accountability Institute was co-founded by Schweizer and Bannon in 2012 “with funding from the Mercer family.” “At the meeting last month, Solov told committee members that Breitbart is owned by himself, Susie Breitbart (the widow of founder Andrew Breitbart), and the Mercer family, but he would not clarify further which family members own a stake.” The current Senate Daily Press Gallery restrictions are in place “to reveal certain financial information to make sure the news organization isn’t tied to any special interest group.” Breitbart is finding that last part to be the snag.
GERMANY ALSO DENIES…
BuzzFeed reports, “The German government has denied receiving a ‘bill’ or an ‘invoice’ amounting to billions of dollars ‘owed’ by Germany to NATO.” Russian disinformation? The original reports, which surfaced over the weekend in The London Sunday Times, were sourced to an unnamed German Minister. Now an unnamed German government spokesman told BuzzFeed, “The reports about the mentioned invoice or bill are wrong,” adding, “Chancellor Merkel and President Trump discussed the topic of defense expenditure during their talks in Washington. They informed the public about these talks in a press conference”. What was that all about? The White House previously denied the reports. The American people want to know what the hell is going on!
KISLYAK, KUSHNER AND THE KREMLIN’S BANKER
Foreign Policy asks a good question, namely “Who Is The Russian Banker Who Met With Jared Kushner?” Excellent question! His name is Sergey Gorkov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who continues to evade the black plague of death that has beset the Russian Foreign Ministry of late, facilitated the introduction. Recall the popular press in the U.S. has identified Ambassador Kislyak as a top spy recruiter for Russian intelligence service FSB. Kislyak must survive still to be useful to the Kremlin because he knows an awful lot! To recap, “Kushner met with Kislyak [when] he was a member of the Trump transition team and still a private citizen. After that meeting, which took place in early December, Kislyak requested a second, to which Kushner sent a deputy, to whom Kislyak conveyed he wanted Kushner and Gorkov to meet. Kushner and Gorkov met at a later date.” Oh my, we learn Kushner has deputies – just like a real princeling! Princeling tip: they are called manservants or in Russian, povar. So who is Gorkov? “Gorkov is the head of the Moscow-based Vnesheconombank, a government owned development bank that is sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Vnesheconombank describes itself as funding ‘major investment projects’ — like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pet project, the 2014 Sochi Olympics — and ‘provid[ing] support’ for Russian enterprises.” He sounds so clean and transparent, just like this meeting with princeling Jared! The deputy representative of Vnesheconombank in New York, Evgeny Buryakov, plead guilty to spying for the FSB in the US last year, another case now fired-by-Trump U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara can count among his anti-corruption cases. Foreign Policy also reports, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, whose recently exposed alleged corruption was the impetus for massive protests across Russia on Sunday, sits on the bank’s supervisory board. Previously, Gorkov was the deputy chairman of the executive board of Sberbank, Russia’s largest state bank,” which just hired Trump’s long time lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, to represent them in U.S. federal court. “Gorkov graduated from Russia’s Academy of the Federal Security Service — that is, of the FSB — in 1994, and is also a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, second class,” so he will fit right in among the alleged Russian mafiosi, financial and assorted criminals linked to Russian intelligence that practically seem to engulf the Trump administration! Hello Sergey! Also named Sergey?
From Foreign Policy.
DARKNESS AT NUNES: NOT MASTER OF HIS DOMAIN
With the House intelligence committee embroiled in political theater that ever more closely resembles a dumpster fire by the day, in large measure due to the antics of Chairman Devin Nunes, all eyes are now on the Senate intelligence committee, POLITICO reports. The Senate intelligence committee began interviewing sources last week and yesterday news broke that it plans to interview the very important, very official son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is of course married to nepotism Barbie, Ivanka. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told POLITICO, “You don’t have the kind of blow-ups [in the Senate] you had at the House,” not yet, anyway.
DARKNESS AT NUNES: RUNNING ON EMPTY
Rep. Devin Nunes was taking heat Monday after participating willfully and actively in Trump’s kabuki theater of distractions and lies. From Nunes we get such nonsense as the masked/unmasked public debate worthy of five year olds and a series of bizarre antics and announcements intended to put us all in the sandbox with the bratty kids in the Trump administration. TRUMPISTAN WATCH is not going to waste your time here with the kiddie stuff because TRUMPISTAN WATCH exists in major part to bring you an adult conversation, if I can use a word I know Americans hate because it implies responsibility, another no-no. In any event, it is these two things, namely adults hawking the need for responsibility that are practically encircling Rep. Devin Nunes as calls for his recusal, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had to do already, go on. So, let’s run through them! Roll call! Senator Chuck Schumer: “Chairman Nunes is falling down on the job and seems to be more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth,” and called for his removal from the House intelligence committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.” Ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee Rep. Adam Schiff: “After much consideration, and in light of the chairman’s admission that he met with his source of information at the White House, I believe that the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition, as he was also a key member of the transition team. This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years.” Yet, “Despite these calls from Democrats, Nunes almost certainly will not lose his gavel or his control of the committee’s Russia probe.”
DARKNESS AT NUNES: RUSSIAN FOR THE SCENT, NOT DISSENT
The Washington Post takes a long look at Rep. Devin Nunes dual role, as the headline puts it, of “Partisan and Chairman,” that is Trump lackey and Chairman of the House intelligence committee. The Washington Post notes that as partisan, “Nunes was mainly known in intelligence circles for his role as an architect of the GOP’s politically charged investigation of terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and his preoccupation with the fate of an obscure U.S. military outpost in the Atlantic Ocean. That facility, Lajes Field, is a remote U.S. Air Force base in the Azores, wind-swept islands 1,000 miles from Europe. Nunes, a descendant of immigrants from the Azores, waged a lengthy campaign to compel the Pentagon to relocate a major intelligence base in the United Kingdom to the Azores. Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials objected, citing prohibitive costs and concerns that civilian employees of the Defense Intelligence Agency — which supplied a large share of the workforce for the U.K. base — would refuse to move there. Nunes responded by inserting a provision in a spending bill that stripped housing allowances for DIA civilians overseas. The language was subsequently removed, but administration officials saw it as a sign of how Nunes operated.” Now, isn’t that curious? Why does he want U.K. based Defense Intelligence Agency employees to move from their homes in one of our closest allies to a remote outpost? Why was he willing to strip them of their housing allowances in an expensive place? Then, The Washington Post also reports, “Nunes urged Trump to install retired U.S. Marine Gen. Jim Mattis as defense secretary.” The CIA chief former Rep. Mike Pompeo was a close Nunes ally in the House. Then Nunes claimed the FBI did not agree with the CIA’s assessment of Russian hacking to bolster Trump in the election. This angered then CIA Director John Brennan who, according to The Washington Post, “placed a series of calls to Nunes to remind the chairman that he had been briefed on the latest Russia intelligence. Former officials familiar with the matter said that Nunes did not take Brennan’s calls for nearly two days, speaking to the CIA director only after Nunes had issued his news release.” Very Trumpian! According to the Post, “Langer, Nunes’s spokesman, said Friday, ‘every element of that account is false.’ When Brennan’s staff sought to arrange a call, Nunes ‘could not participate in the call immediately because he needed to be in a location where he could access a secure line. The call was then arranged for the following morning, Langer said.” Darkness at Nunes.
From The Washington Post.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
Monday at The Economic Times’ Global Business Summit in New Delhi, none other than former Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Bannon-before-Bannon in the minds of many on the left, condemned Russian interference in the 2016 election. CNN and Mediaite report, “‘There’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes.’ He even added that ‘in some quarters that could be considered an act of war’ so he ‘would not underestimate the weight that we as Americans assign to Russian attempts to interfere with our process.’” Well holy hell, ideological allies now include Senator Lindsay Graham and former Vice-President Dick Cheney. What a world. And of course it was an act of war, what Russia did was nuclear, truly.
RED LINES: LEGITIMACY AND ILLEGITIMACY
Carnegie Moscow Center’s Director Dmitri Trenin has an excellent piece best described as “hagiographic analysis” in The Guardian on the legitimacy of Putin’s regime and its recreation of the Russian bureaucratic state. If the Russian intelligence service grew out of the need to protect the party, now they have become the party with a few twists. “An autocrat with the consent of the governed, Putin has preserved the essential personal freedoms that the Russian people first earned with the demise of the Communist system. People can worship and travel freely; Facebook and Twitter are essentially unrestricted; there are even a few tolerated media outlets overtly in opposition to the Kremlin. Political freedoms, however, are more tightly circumscribed, so as to leave no chance to potential ‘colour revolutionaries’ or politically ambitious exiled oligarchs. For the bulk of the population, this matters little; the relatively few activists have a choice of taking it – or leaving.” The predictions though of Putin forever seem to come up way short because no man is immortal and no leader can rule without the consent of the people or heavy repression. We know Putin will kill but we should also take Putin’s great lesson in life from 1989 in Dresden, namely even the most seemingly impenetrable systems will fail and crumble. Afterall, the other great lesson of 1989 was that walls come tumbling down. The lesson of the early years of the Berlin Wall, which seems lost at this moment in history, is that walls kill people and these days that wall is the Kremlin’s gate.
From The Guardian.
CYBER CONNECTION: ENTANGLED BUT IT’S NOT PHYSICAL YET
DefenseOne carries a piece from Quartz about the next cyber attack against the U.S. likely to be carried out by Trump’s great friends in Russia. The piece cautions, “the US must also remain vigilant about cyber-to-conventional attacks; many of our critical infrastructure networks are littered with vulnerabilities, and consumer technology is moving more and more citizens into the line of battle.” The nightmare scenario as always is the power grid or critical IT infrastructure goes down, especially in a time of a national emergency which would take out emergency response services and other cloud-dependent technologies reliant on the “internet of things”. Given the history of cyber attacks Russia has engaged in, it “is unlikely to target other industries for a number of reasons,” citing other industries as “chemical, nuclear, public health, energy, or defense industries,” as well as “he U.S. financial, agriculture, or manufacturing industries, which could anger U.S. allies and damage Russia’s growing role in the global economy.” This assumes of course past behavior is a predictive of future behavior, which we cannot be so certain of anymore given the “unpresidented” interference into our elections last year. Possible retaliatory strikes against the corrupt Russian mafia state could include, “conducting operations against Russia’s own critical infrastructure networks. By inserting logic bombs into Russian networks (tools that self-destruct once within systems), the U.S. could potentially damage the Russian economy. These same tools can be leveraged to cause even more damage if used to target dams, air traffic control towers or other infrastructure. Such actions would send a grave message, but the risk of escalation would be higher as well. The most aggressive response would involve directly attacking Russian military targets by shutting off power at a nuclear facility or an airfield.” Russian industrial networks connected to the internet often run on Windows XP, a very old system, ergo a very vulnerable one. “In November 2016, the U.S. reportedly penetrated Russian military systems and left behind malware, to be activated in the case of Russian interference of U.S. elections.” Let’s all hope that’s true and accurate! The potential harms are obvious as both sides initiate a series of escalations that eventually leads to “a physical war”. The conclusion may seem obvious but bears repeating as to the futility of this entire exercise as “The cycle is perhaps best described as an endless series of advantages, with Russia and the U.S. continuing to make each other more and more uncomfortable.” Right now, the Trump administration seems most uncomfortable of all.
From DefenseOne via Quartz.
PROTEST LIKE A RUSSIAN!
Protest like a Russian! With feeling, like you are fed up to your heels by corruption, state terror, the agony of life! You are right, you can probably only do that if you are a minority from America’s economic underclasses or near to that experience, BUT learn the symbols of their protests! This is particularly valuable if you find yourself harassed by the Russian state in any way, as is want to happen to U.S. citizens these days within our own borders because we have a quisling in chief, a Russian puppet president. Unlike Trump’s 36% according to the latest Gallup poll, “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has not dipped below 80 percent in years,” according to NBC News, surely citing the most official of Kremlin sources – as if there are others in Russia (ok, there is the Levada Center, which is naturally considered a “foreign agent” by the Russian mafia state). Despite Putin’s enormous popularity according to his own metrics, “police detained more than 1,000 people in Moscow on Sunday during an unexpected surge of street protests that spanned 82 Russian cities — with demonstrators carrying sneakers, rubber ducks and painting their faces green.” What’s that about? “The protests follow allegations against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that stem from a high-profile expose published earlier this month by opposition leader Alexey Navalny. His report alleged that one of Medvedev’s estates features a duck house built in the middle of a pond,” hence the rubber duckies. “It also painted the prime minister as a compulsive online shopper, ordering 73 T-shirts and 20 pairs of sneakers in just three months,” because vanity is the only language the Kremlin really speaks, so who is surprised? Hence, the shoes. Just imagine Ivanka’s shoe budget! “Some also painted their faces green in solidarity with Navalny, after unidentified attackers threw green antiseptic at him last week. The substance takes days to wash off and Navalny has been sporting a green face for some time,” because Russia’s intimidation theater only find a quasi-parallel in the West’s security theater of the absurd, but then not even. Ironically Medvedev, the alleged target of the protests Sunday (so really Putin), was skiing while demonstrators took to the streets decrying corruption over his Oligarchic gifts of “vast estates in Russia, as well as other assets including two yachts and vineyards in the Italian region of Tuscany.” Sound familiar?
From NBC News.
SUBSCRIBE: e-mail TrumpistanWatch@gmail.com with “TRUMPISTAN WATCH” in the subject line to receive the weekday e-mail newsletter.