—–ON THE AGENDA—–
G7 IN LUCCA, ITALY
A meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Lucca, Italy is taking place today. According to BBC, “Foreign ministers will focus on how to pressure Russia to distance itself from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” On Sunday, Russian Order of Friendship medal recipient and “US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly criticised Russia,” but did he mean it? After the G7, Tillerson travels to Moscow to see his old friends in the Kremlin where he is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. According to the Kremlin in a report cited by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Tillerson is not scheduled to meet with Putin.
T REX, SERGEY ON THE TELEPHONE
CNN reports U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Order of Friendship medal recipient Rex Tillerson spoke with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday following Trump’s decision to send missiles flying into Syria. “Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a post on its official Facebook page” that “The conversation was initiated by the American side”. The official Russian line is that the U.S. is helping their baby, ISIS, which is not surprising if you know how Russian propaganda works. Of course Russia has said in the past that Syria “has no chemical weapons” and suggest all manner of bizarre conspiracies to justify or abscond their complicity in weapons use that has led to the injury and deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians. By contrast, the UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has cancelled his trip to Moscow following the Syria strikes.
ALL THE KREMLIN’S NAZIS: SEBATSIAN GORKA
Trump’s Counterterrorism Advisor Sebastian Gorka who no one ever heard of until there was a Russian coup here is pretty much a confirmed Nazi, with the Jewish-American newspaper The Forward reporting, “Leaders of a Hungarian far-right wing group that collaborated with the Nazis said they were ‘proud’ to see controversial White House aide Sebastian Gorka wearing the group’s medal — and political allies and rivals alike said they believe he is a member of the group.” How the hell did this Nazi ever land on our shores? The Nazi Gorka “was a well known member of the group during his time in far right-wing politics in the central European nation.” Since “Gorka was a sworn member of the group, quoting three local officials. That could call into question his American citizenship since the group is considered a wartime ally of the Nazis,” but of course Gorka won’t disavow the group while refuting the evidence by referring all questions to the Trump White House, which has a history of things like hiring Nazis and taking the Jews out of the Holocaust. But the man who hires Nazis is indignant about poison gas used to kill undesirables because if you ask Mark Cuban, Trump is too stupid to know that you can’t love the Nazis and hate the gas? Yeah, I believe that, only someone not drinking the Kool Aid wouldn’t.
From The Forward.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “A key aide to Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says the Kremlin critic has been released from jail after serving a 15-day sentence in connection with an anticorruption demonstration he organized in Moscow.” Navalny was behind last month’s nationwide protests focused on Kremlin corruption, which deeply displeased the Kremlin as it shone an unfavorable spotlight on the number one factor undercutting the regime’s legitimacy, along with a flailing economy under the weight of Western sanctions. Curiously and in customary Kremlin agitprop, “Navalny had been expected to be released on April 10 from a detention facility in northwestern Moscow. But as journalists and reporters waited for him to exit the facility, his associate Leonid Volkov told the crowd that Navalny had been moved to a different facility in Moscow, where he was freed from custody.” Russia Beyond the Headlines reports on the recent Levada Center polling of Russian attitudes towards the demonstrations. According to Levada’s survey “more than a third of Russians (38 percent) approve of the mass protests that raged through about 100 cities nationwide on March 26. However, 39 percent of people disapprove of the demonstrations spearheaded by opposition figure Alexey Navalny.”
DARKNESS AT NUNES DOWN: UP, UP AND CON-AWAY!
With the recusal of Rep. Devin Nunes from the House intelligence committee as he is now under investigation too, the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties now rests with Rep. Mike Conaway, POLITICO reports. We should not be so relieved as Conaway “has contended that Russian meddling in the 2016 election is no different than Democrats enlisting Mexican entertainers to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Nevada to get out the vote.” Nunes stepped aside “amid an Ethics Committee investigation into whether he divulged classified information and accusations by Democrats that he ran interference for the Trump White House,” so let’s see what sort of a pickle Conaway can get himself into because these are crazy people who don’t appear to have learned much from history and the only ideology of the Republican Party at present is power.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: COHERENT OUTRAGE PRIZE
In essence, Russia got to be such a large nation made up of many smaller nations or minorities – nations rankles the Kremlin more – by employing a simple but well developed over centuries strategy of divide and conquer. They have utilized this to maximum advantage stateside, a nation so much like Russia in terms of kitsch aesthetic, toxic masculinity and drunkenness it can be a little scary sometimes. Well with the Syria strike that wiped out Trump’s Russia scandal from the headlines comes the great news that it is also splintering both parties into factions. Yay, divide and conquer! For the record, TRUMPISTAN WATCH is hell bent on looking at the strategic aims of the strike (how un-American!) to the detriment of most other things because this is a newsletter about Trump and Russia, not crimes against humanity, so we apologize for that. In any case, many Republicans who had issues when Obama was contemplating military action because he would do so while black cheered Trump for doing the same while orange. But perhaps the coherent outrage prize that hits the right notes and encapsulates all concerns from both parties goes to Senator Chris Murphy who said, “If there’s no strategy on Syria, he clearly made this decision based off of an emotional reaction to the images on TV, and it should worry everyone about the quixotic nature of this administration’s foreign policy.” Do you trust the combined forces of cable news and Trump to make decisions of war and peace? Thought so. This should also be extra disconcerting given the ease with which actors on behalf of the Russian state appeared to manipulate our media last year so well in the run up to the election. Lastly because he reacts emotionally to TV, every bit of Russia coverage will push the lunatic further over the edge so we must rip the band aid off fast, only instead of a band aid it’s a fascist takeover of our state by a foreign adversary.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
DECONFLICTION JUNCTION: WHAT’S YOUR FUNCTION?
The Washington Post reports on the ongoing fallout after Trump sent missiles flying into Syria in what the U.S. media is describing at its most hopelessly normalizing and optimistic as “the beginning of the evolution of a strategy in Syria” — not to be conflated with an actual strategy. On Friday, the innocent nation of Russia “said it was suspending an agreement to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between U.S. and Russian aircraft operating over Syria,” which is precisely the scenario keeping military commanders up at night as the possibility an incident could lead to war is great. Great! Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations has a strong and concise breakdown of the players, what’s at stake and all in under 800 words, which is impressive because it is Syria. The conclusion: “The attack on Khan Sheikhoun is what Beltway types often call a ‘clarifying moment.’ It has once again demonstrated the monstrousness of the Assad regime, and also Washington’s limited options in Syria. Welcome to the world, President Trump.” It appears Vlad wants war and Trump will give it to him. The U.S. media also seems on board, as is embodied by a POLITICO article, “Syria strike gives Trump anti-Kremlin credential,” which goes on to say, “In Russia, they call it kozyrnut’. It means ‘to play a trump card.’” Accordingly, the missile “not only damaged its chemical weapons program, it also happened to give the U.S. president a useful political tool.” In essence, “Now, whenever anyone accuses Trump of being too cozy with Russia, he can point to the strike against Syria”. Gross and NO!
ACTIVE MEASURES WATCH: NATIONAL SECURITY
Who does Donald take into the war room? Tillerson’s intro at State referred to “from the mail room to the board room” so let’s not forget for a moment that this is all a Kremlin-backed and sponsored American corporate reality TV freak show. With that in mind, it’s clear based on the photo to emerge of last Thursday’s pre-dinner impromptu national security meeting to send missiles flying into Syria that Trump scours the Mar-a-Lago dining room for whom to take with him to the war room! Literally, lets dissect the photo of who in the Mar-a-Lago dining room ended up with him in the war room last Thursday. We have fourteen individuals, nine of whom have no business being there if we exclude the president who also has no business being there, if we include Trump, then ten of 14 based on existing reporting have zero business being in the room! So let’s count those with documented shady ties to Russia first among those with zero business being present! In the Kremlin’s klan we have: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Jared Kushner, Wilbur Ross and of course Trump himself. The others who have no business being in such a photo or better yet, situation room, include: Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, neo-McCarthyite neophyte Stephen Miller, Goldman Sachs’ Gary Cohn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Treasury Secretary and movie promoter Steve Mnuchin, and reality TV frontman Sean Spicer. Moscow must be so delighted! And so we can rub it in theirs and Snowden’s face because he said in a now deleted Tweet the race was Goldman v. Trump, there are three Goldman alums including CEO Cohn, so eat it Moscow! And in case that is not reassurance enough that these people will destroy the world and if not, certainly the economy, you can rest assured Trump based his decision on a lot of pictures and cable TV news because the president is “a visual and auditory learner,” according to The Washington Post in news that shocks no one.
PURGE WATCH: KT McFARLAND EXILED TO SINGAPORE
In news that feels mildly obvious on the heels of her appointment to be Ambassador to Singapore (e.g. exile), the White House announced Sunday Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland was asked to step down and will be staying on two more weeks. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs broke the story. She also broke last week’s story of the National Security Council shuffle that ousted evil piece of decrepitude Steve Bannon and reinstated people who actually needed to be there like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
A senior U.S. military official, Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, told NBC News that European seas are “experiencing levels of Russian naval activity not seen since the Cold War”. Howard said the situation is so grave that “We’re seeing activity that we didn’t even see when it was the Soviet Union,” citing a statement she gave to Reuters. Howard serves as “NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples and commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa.” For example, “Early Saturday, around 36 hours after the American strike, the Russian military announced it had diverted one of its own cruise missile-armed warships,” named the Admiral Grigorovich, “from naval exercises in the neighboring Black Sea to join its battle group in the Mediterranean.” While “Russia’s navy is smaller now than during the Soviet era,” Howard said, “it had increased patrols in the north Atlantic and Arctic regions as well as in the Mediterranean and stepped up submarine deployments.” Russia’s movements “coincided with cyber attacks and a series of dangerous fly-bys of U.S. and allied ships”.
From NBC News.
THE RUSSIANS ARE BACK IN CENTRAL AMERICA!
The Washington Post has a long, beautiful read on Russian efforts to rekindle Cold War era relations with allies in Central America, notably in Nicaragua and El Salvador, both of which fought civil wars that could also be labeled proxy involving leftist groups aligned ideologically with the then Soviet Union and allies of the United States in the late Cold War years. The Post notes “On the rim of a volcano with a clear view of the U.S. Embassy, landscapers are applying the final touches to a mysterious new Russian compound,” which ostensibly exists as “a tracking site of the Russian version of a GPS satellite system. But is it also an intelligence base intended to surveil the Americans?” Another big worry, beyond increased military support and support for “counter-narcotics operations” (you think the Russian criminal state will look the other way on a potential source of revenue?), is that “Russia could be pursuing ambitious spy goals, such as intercepting Internet traffic in the ARCOS 1 fiber-optic cable that runs from Miami down the Caribbean coast of Central America. Speculation is rife that the new Russian satellite site on the lip of the Laguna de Nejapa crater will be a spy facility”. Juan Gonzalez, an Obama-era Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs “said he had generally been skeptical about theories that Iran, China, and Russia were posing a security threat with their increased activities in Latin America,” however “has changed his mind over the past couple of years because of Russia’s activities in Nicaragua and neighboring El Salvador.”
From The Washington Post.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE THEIR KIDS PERFORM FOR GUESTS ARE TERRIBLE
All the more so when those guests happen to have human rights defenders jailed, but nevermind the suffering of humanity, American tabloid US Weekly declares “Mom is pleased!” Mom in this case is of course Ivanka Trump, the Aryan princess extraordinaire, who trotted out her kids, Arabella and Joseph, to sing a song for Chinese President Xi Jingping and his wife in the children-focused agitprop for her Instagram we are well accustomed to by now. While this is not directly connected to Russia, it is full –stan to watch the president’s grandchildren serenade a man who has incarcerated human rights lawyers, defenders, activists and journalists. Ironically, Xu Zhiyong, one of the first to be locked up under Xi at the start of the latest crackdown, was in prison and missed the birth and early childhood of his daughter. But there is Ivanka and her baby girl singing to Xu’s jailer. Full Trumpistan!
From US Weekly.
I IS FOR IMMIGRATION NOT IGNORANCE OF THE CONSTITUTION
The Trump administration hates being mocked because it is so sad and humorless! Vice reports, “On Friday, officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reportedly dropped their summons requesting Twitter unmask the user behind the @ALT_USCIS account.” There is something beautiful about this usage of “unmask”. Reuters reported “Twitter decided to withdraw the lawsuit it filed Thursday in response.” Last month, Customs and Border Protection “slapped the tech giant with a summons ‘demanding that Twitter provide them records that would unmask, or likely lead to unmasking, the identity of the person(s) responsible for the @ALT_USCIS account.’” In an effort “to block the government from finding out who was behind the account, Twitter filed a lawsuit to block the summons, citing free speech protections.” Why of all the “alt” government agency accounts that have popped up since Trump’s takeover of the federal government, some of which have been cited in Russian propaganda, did the government go after this one? Vice reports, “In recent weeks the alternative US Citizenship and Immigration Services account had been criticizing the new administration’s approach to immigration, including ICE raids and the plan for Trump’s “great wall.” According to CNBC, the account is thought to be run by at least one federal immigration employee.” Bloomberg helpfully compares the case which the Trump administration withdrew to the Russian case of a user in Tver being taken to court for “extremism” on account of sharing an image of Putin as a gay clown, which lead to the image’s banning across Russia.
“BECAUSE THIS IS AMERICA – FOR NOW…”
CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert began a segment on Putin’s decision to ban images of him as a gay clown with a simple question and answer. “Over in Russia, you know the place? Controls our government.” Colbert asked on his show Friday night, “How can Putin tell a gay clown from a straight clown” since “most clowns look alike”? He notes that the picture of Putin shirtless on horseback is “the gayest of all time” and notes, “I could see that guy leading a pride parade easily.” Colbert winds into a cartoon depicting Putin as a gay clown noting, “Because this is America — for now — and we can do anything we want, the ‘Late Show’ has put together its own artistic interpretation of Vladimir Putin, gay icon”. The animation has Putin in booty shorts dancing in front of the Kremlin to RuPaul’s “Supermodel,” which is arguably even generous to gay clown Putin.
JULIAN THE JUGGERNAUT: THE BIOPIC
Laura Poitras, winner of an Oscar for “CitizenFour” which captured Edward Snowden when he fled the U.S. and found his way into the Kremlin’s lair, is following up with a film about nutty narcissist Julian Assange, currently trapped at the Ecuadorean Embassy who fills his days receiving Pamela Anderson and talking to cats. Deutsche Welle reports the documentary is called “Risk” and “will initially be released in cinemas before premiering on the small screen in the US a few months later,” on Showtime. TRUMPISTAN WATCH believes “CitizenFour” was a very compelling well-made film and that Poitras was used terribly. Her deafening silence from Berlin since the coup occurred here has also been noteworthy.
From Deutsche Welle.
MEMETIC WARFARE: CODE JARED, BATTLESPACE IRAQ + TWITTER
Defeating the enemy must be done through humor and memes and late last week nothing sparked the internet’s memetic humor war factory like pictures of princeling Jared wearing a flak jacket over his blazer and khakis in the Iraqi sun. What a treat! TRUMPISTAN WATCH has mocked Louise Mensch’s conspiracies, but the reason she wins at Twitter is because she combines it with humor, so this is very dangerous. Her Twitter proposed some film titles for #KushnerAtWar from borrowed classics, the best of which is “Spas and Stripes,” and there is worthy competition. The award for best print coverage mocking princeling Jared in Iraq goes to Dead Spin for “Look At This Fucking Asshole” which describes the attire as “a sharp look, one that says, ‘I’d like to make a war, but I’d also like a mint julep.’” Runner up is The Awl, which fashions a reality TV script for a scene where Jared and Ivanka are on the phone while he’s inside Iraq. Keep it up America! Keep shining!
POLITICO STORY ON BUSINESS DEALS AROUND CHABAD DISAPPEARS?
The Jewish-American newspaper The Forward took a break from Nazi hunting in the Trump administration to also report on a story out for a hot moment Sunday in POLITICO Magazine that appears to have since disappeared (even the internet archive Wayback Machine only had a screen grab of the “Sorry this page does not exist”) on Chabad, “The Hasidic movement forged an unlikely alliance with the Russian strongman two decades ago just as Trump and others close to him were pursuing a series of lucrative real-estate and other business deals in Russia”. The article was labeled “anti-Semitic” by come including the Anti-Defamation League for “The convoluted tale” that “connects Putin’s elevation of Chabad’s Rabbi Berel Lazar as one of the most powerful Jewish figures in the country and his alliance with a handful of Jewish oligarchs.” It seems “Many of those oligarchs went on to forge multimillion dollar business deals with Trump and his associates like longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, along with Jared Kushner”. TRUMPISTAN WATCH has featured only one story before on the Chabad links to Trumpenführerwelt on March 6, citing a March 3 article in The New York Times. Hard to say what was wrong with the POLITICO Magazine article without being able to see it.
From The Forward.
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
ONGOING PROOF THERE ARE NO ADULTS TO SAY “NO” TO LITTLE MAN VLAD
Are you ready northern Europe for the “first time in naval history that such huge nuclear powered submarine sails into the Baltic Sea”? No, you say? Well too bad, Russia does not care what you think because it is too busy peace mongering against belligerent NATO, which we all know desperately yearns to strike Russia because European nations are small in size and Russia is big, so naturally it wants some Russian territory, right? Every wealthy European Oligarch lives their real life in Petersburg and Moscow, getting rich off of treating their people like citizens of a shitty third world kleptocracy! TRUMPISTAN WATCH reversed all those facts Russian state-style just to make sure you were paying attention! But in all seriousness, the belligerents in the Kremlin who are clearly only surrounded by yes men thought it would be a great idea to haul “the only remaining Typhoon-class submarine in operation” through the Baltic Sea to get it to a water show outside Petersburg in Kronstad on July 30, according to The Independent Barents Observer, a publication based in Kirkenes, Norway, a curious seeming place near the Finnish and Russian border. “This summer, the heavy missile submarine will sail out of the White Sea, across the Barents Sea on a voyage that continues along the coast of Norway, into the North Sea and Skagerak outside Denmark, and further across the Baltic Sea between Poland, Sweden and the Baltic States, before heading in to the Gulf of Finland towards St. Petersburg.” Lots of safety concerns well articulated by Nils Bøhmer with the Bellona Foundation who said, “a nearly 40-years old nuclear submarine with two relatively large reactors on board will sail such a voyage along the coast of Norway and into the Baltic Sea… It is also necessary to get assurance that there are no nuclear weapons on board.” Doesn’t that sound great? Just Vlad’s way of saying hi I can steal your lunch money and blow up the fucking world to all these aggressor nations who threaten great Russia which could never be brought down by its own people taking to the street for narrow selfish goals like a decent life free from fear and corruption.
THIS IS NUTS: MARKETPLACE EUGENICS, NUCLEAR RADIATION AND YOU!
In case the thought of nuclear subs in the Baltic Sea doesn’t unsettle you enough wait until you read a Q+A with The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Vox where she talks about the nutty conspiracies and eugenics meets the marketplace beliefs of Trump’s biggest money man, Robert Mercer. In addition to believing that “human beings have no intrinsic value beyond what they earn” ergo “people on welfare, he believes, have ‘negative’ value” and “ cats have intrinsic value because watching them provides pleasure to humans” he also thinks there are “positive health benefits of being exposed to nuclear radiation”. This erroneous belief is based on a conspiracy where “there was a silver lining to the atomic bomb damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Outside of the immediate blast zone, he believes, the Japanese benefitted from the low-level radiation.” Naturally, “There’s no support for this theory, according to the National Academy of Sciences.” Jane Mayer said “ it is alarming that someone with such unscientifically supported views concerning the ostensible upside of nuclear war would be as close as he is to the president of the United States.” You don’t say!
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
MISSILES INTO SYRIA WIPES OUT TRUMP’S RUSSIA SCANDAL
Leave it satire to do a better job than journalism these days at cutting straight through the fat to get to the meat of reality. Satire is also great because life imitates it so much as of late. As it is want to do these days, the satirical American newspaper The Onion has outdone itself again with the great, glorious headline, “Trump Confident U.S. Military Strike on Syria Wiped Out Russian Scandal” which opens, “After ordering the first U.S. military attack against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, President Donald Trump held a press conference Friday to express his full confidence that the airstrike had completely wiped out the lingering Russian scandal.” Accordingly, there is probably more truth were Trump to actually be quoted saying something to the effect of, “the al-Shayrat air base in Homs has successfully eliminated all discussions and allegations about my administration’s ties to the Russian government,” than anything the orange blob actually says because he lies incessantly, another thing he has in common with Russia. Ditto for, “If we learn that any remnants of this scandal remain after this attack, I will not hesitate to order further strikes.” Oh and “he is leaving the option open for a potential ground invasion of Syria if any troubling evidence emerges that the Russian government manipulated the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.” Do not doubt that last one, his campaign showed us he is willing to see blood spilled so long as it is not his own because his only ideology is power and greed.
From The Onion.
SUNDAY HAGIOGRAPHIES: MANAFORT WOULD LIKE TO PITCH YOU A SCAM
The least favorite part of TRUMPISTAN WATCH’s weekend is devoted to combing the press for what we call the “Sunday hagiographies”. These are in essence articles of utterly contemptuous normalizing garbage of key players and figures in Trumpenführerwelt. Beyond disgusting, these hagiographies serve as a reminder that in all times, no matter how atrocious, most mass media will try to sell you saccharine to normalize the absurd instead of a bitter pill of truth. Most people simply do not want the bitter pill. The New York Times coverage of Paul Manafort, the very dirty ex-campaign manager of Trump who is deeply mired in Ukrainian politics where he never once worked for good guys not for a day, tops this weekend. Investigative reporting seems to show Manafort usurped the Ukrainian state’s resources, funneled it to off shore accounts and defrauded his business partners who we can say sued him for such things. Instead Manafort is a “professional pitchman” according to the NYT’s hagiography, “who knows how to sell to a salesman.” Isn’t that special! He also appears to know how to launder some money and dry clean his associates, which makes fine company for the head of our new Russian-sponsored mafia state. By Manafort’s account, “A role at the convention was all I was ever interested in,” which must be why the Republican Party so eagerly changed its platform there to a more pro-Russian stance on Ukraine. Points on revisionist history go to the NYT for glossing over this episode and subsequent uproar as it was revealed Manafort’s name also appeared on ledgers found at the ousted President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych’s estate implying he received millions for his services. What happened instead at the convention, according to the Sunday hagiography was “Mr. Trump thought Mr. Manafort was not tough enough, and he was gone by the fall”. One thing they do get right is his innate appeal to Trump as Manafort “showed how as a onetime lobbyist he had adeptly won over rich and powerful business and political leaders, many of them oligarchs or dictators, in Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines and Pakistan” in a five-page pitch Ivanka printed out for Daddy. Complicit much? Manafort also said he owned a place at Trump Tower and would work for free, so someone paid him, it just was not Trump. Signs point to Moscow. Now watch as lies in here unravel as they have all told so many they can’t keep track anymore.
From The New York Times.
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