TO THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY, FAKE NEWS FAKER BANNON IS NO LENIN
Nor is he as good as the Nazi Julius Streicher TRUMPISTAN WATCH has long compared him to. On Friday, POLITICO reported, “Steve Bannon, the populist firebrand who had become increasingly isolated in the West Wing, is out as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist”. The news came just days after his nominal boss, fake puppet President Trump, praised white nationalists and Nazis who marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us!” as some “very fine people”. According to POLITICO, “People who have spoken to Bannon said he has been telling others for the past two weeks that he’s planning to return to Breitbart”. Prior to his ouster, he gave a batshit interview trashing colleagues, calling Trump’s bluff on North Korea and boasting of ousting a State Department official no one beyond the beltway had heard of to a reporter he had never before spoken to at the left-leaning American Prospect. That’s some strategy either best summed up as going down in flames — or a blaze of glory, as Bannon likely thinks. In reality TV fashion, The Washington Post predicts Bannon allies (and neo-Nazi cohort) Sebastian Gorka and aide Julia Hahn will be next to go whereas Goebbels look and sound-alike Stephen Miller is “safe” as “He joined the campaign long before Bannon and has his own relationships with the president and other senior advisers. He has also distanced himself from Bannon in recent weeks.” There is also spinoff “potential for Bannon to wreak havoc and mischief from outside the White House”. POLITICO notes, “Steve Bannon on Friday returned to Breitbart News as executive chairman, just hours after officially being ousted as White House chief strategist, and even helmed the conservative news site’s evening editorial meeting.” As if he ever left. Seriously. If the Whites Only Haus is looking to compensate for lost cultural cache, it is now officially safe(r) for the White House to install a stripper pole with Bannon gone. As for no shit meeting the inevitable, Business Insider points out it is now abundantly clear Bannon’s propaganda campaign which found bolstered by Russian trolls to have National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster fired completely failed.
IMPORTANT NEWS REGARDING U.S. CYBER COMMAND
Stars and Stripes reports, “U.S. Cyber Command will be elevated to a full combatant command and might split from the National Security Agency to streamline the military’s cyberspace operations, the White House announced Friday.” Citing the Pentagon, Stars and Stripes reports, “Elevating Cyber Command, or Cybercom, will give its commander increased authority to conduct offensive and defensive operations on the digital battlefield”. According to Stars and Stripes, ‘The move will occur once a four-star commander to be nominated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is confirmed by the Senate, said Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security.” While this might sound lofty, The Daily Beast acknowledges it may lead to the ouster of Admiral Mike Rogers who also heads the National Security Agency (NSA) as chief of its command. According to The Daily Beast, “Whatever actually occurred between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin during and after the election, America’s digital surveillance chief, Admiral Mike Rogers, knows it.” The Daily Beast quotes a former senior intelligence official, “It’s critical that Admiral Rogers is unequivocally in charge as the investigations proceed into determining the role that the Russians played in the U.S. presidential elections”. According to The Daily Beast, “Friday’s shift leaves Rogers—commander of both NSA and CYBERCOM—twisting in the wind.” According to The Daily Beast, “Mattis could theoretically nominate Rogers to serve again in the same job in the newly elevated command,” or he could not.
U.S. EMBASSY MOSCOW SUSPENDS ISSUING NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS
This is sure to piss off many a-Kremlin elite’s wife who have not received yet a multiple entry, multiple year visa to check up on the Miami condo every winter. The Washington Post reports, “In a step that could affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said Monday it would suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas for eight days from Wednesday in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff.” According to The Washington Post, “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference the decision to cut visa operations aims to make Russians feel discontent with their own government.” Well, that is precisely the point Sergey. Visa recipients for citizens of countries where the U.S. requires a visa as they are not on the visa waiver program require an in person interview with a consular officer, which is usually scheduled well in advance.
From The Washington Post.
MATTIS TO VISIT UKRAINE THIS MONTH (+ JORDAN, TURKEY FIRST)
Reuters reports, “U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will travel to Jordan, Turkey and Ukraine later this month, the Pentagon said on Friday.” Reuters adds, “In Kiev, Mattis will meet with the Ukrainian defense secretary and President Petro Poroshenko.”
VOLKER-SURKOV MEETING TO TAKE PLACE IN MINSK
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The new U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will travel to Minsk where he will meet with a representative of the Russian government to ‘discuss Russian-Ukrainian relations’ on August 21,” so today. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Volker then will travel to Vilnius, Lithuania, to meet with senior government officials to discuss ‘the way forward in Ukraine,’ the State Department said on August 18.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “On August 23, Volker will also travel to Kyiv, where he will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in meetings with senior Ukrainian government officials”.
PUTIN VISITS OCCUPIED CRIMEA
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 18 visited the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, triggering an angry rebuke from Kyiv, which accused him of disregarding international law”. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Putin’s visit included a trip to a memorial complex honoring a coastal battery that defended Sevastopol during World War II, where he and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev placed flowers and met with members of the Night Wolves, a pro-Kremlin biker movement.” Since March 2014, Putin has visited Crimea at least nine times, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes.
ZAPAD WATCH: ABOUT THOSE OBSERVERS…
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports, “On 15 August, Moscow belatedly followed Minsk’s invitation in July to arms inspectors and defence attachés from NATO and non-NATO countries, and international organisations, to view the stages of the ‘Zapad 2017’ joint strategic exercise on its territory.” According to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Russia is in the midst of processing its own selection of invitations, limited to 18–19 September and to Moscow-accredited attachés only.” Recall, “The exercise will take place on 14–20 September and is billed to involve 13,000 troops, although analysts believe the manoeuvres may involve a far higher number.” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly notes, “Belarus’s invitations include Norway on a reciprocal basis, as well as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United States, and Poland.” All of which is to say, strategically, Belarus cannot afford to replicate Moscow’s arrogance.
RUSSIA USING HACKS TO INFILTRATE G20 TASK FORCE
The International Business Times reports, “Russian-speaking hackers with ties to a notorious cyber-espionage unit known as ‘Turla’ have been sending booby-trapped PDF documents to individuals linked to an upcoming G20 task force meeting in Germany, security researchers revealed this week (17 August).” According to The International Business Times, “The payload in use is known as ‘KopiLuwak’, research suggested,” which adds, “The malware component is being delivered via a ‘benign and possibly stolen decoy document’ labelled ‘Save the Date’.” Targets include “member nations, journalists and policymakers”.
CANADIAN WHO WORKED WITH RUSSIA EXTRADITED TO U.S.
The AP reports, “A Canadian man,” Karim Baratov, “accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails agreed Friday to forgo his extradition hearing and go face the charges in the United States.” According to the AP, “Baratov was arrested in Hamilton, Ontario, in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others, including two alleged officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service,” also known by its initials FSB, stand “accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.” The AP notes, “U.S. law enforcement officials call Baratov a ‘hacker-for-hire’ paid by members of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, considered the successor to the KGB of the former Soviet Union. He has Kazakh origins, arrived in Canada in 2007 and became a citizen in 2011.” AP adds, “Alexsey Belan, one of the other suspects, is on the FBI’s list of most wanted cybercriminals and has been indicted multiple times in the United States. It’s not clear whether he or the other two defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, will ever step foot in an American courtroom because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.”
From the AP.
NEO-NAZI SITE DAILY STORMER SERVER MIGHT BE IN RUSSIA
Meduza reports, “The Daily Stormer’s new server could be located inside Russia. On August 15, a self-described ‘security and research’ expert named Bill Sader tweeted circumstancial evidence to this effect.” According to Meduza, “Sader claims to have identified this IP-address in an email received from the site’s administrators,” noting, “The address he uncovered is linked to Russia in two ways: it’s listed in the official IP-address database of Europe’s regional Internet registry as ‘related to Russia,’” as well as, “the IP-address’ provider’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, a Russian Internet provider.” Remember, Russia loves Nazis!
CHRISTOPHER STEELE MAY BE COMPELLED TO TESTIFY IN U.S. COURT
ABC News reports, “A U.S. District court judge has put a former British spy,” Christopher Steele, “one step closer to facing questions under oath,” albeit because an American judge may not know who they are dealing with either way the double edged swords splices. According to ABC News, “A ruling by Judge Ursula Ungaro allows lawyers for a Russian technology executive named in the dossier to seek British approval to question onetime MI6 agent Christopher Steele about the funding and sourcing of the dossier under oath. The request was made as part of a libel suit brought by Webzilla CEO Aleksej Gubarev against the website Buzzfeed,” and would certainly place Steele in further uncertain physical peril. Valentin Gurvits, Gubarev’s attorney, rather arrogantly told ABC News, “I suspect that I’ll be the first to speak to him”. ABC News notes, “Gubarev’s named appeared in the dossier, which was later published online by Buzzfeed. The dossier alleges that Gubarev had been recruited under duress by Russian agents, and that his company had transmitted viruses, planted bugs, stolen data and conducted ‘altering operations against the Democratic Party leadership’ during the 2016 elections. Gubarev has strongly denied all of those claims.” Gubarev’s lawyer is hoping to question Steele about his sources. While Gubarev’s lawyer denies Kremlin affiliation and spews bile about being first, ABC News reports, “In June court filings in the United Kingdom, Steele’s attorneys” told “the court he shared his findings with a representative of Sen. John McCain. Arrangements were then made through an intermediary to get the document to McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, ‘so that it was known to … the United States governments at a high level by persons with responsibility for national security,’ Steele’s filing in British court says.” McCain turned the information over to the FBI, he claims. Sorry Gurvits and Gubarev, looks like John McCain beat you to the punch. One question: is Judge Ungaro aware of this fact?
From ABC News.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
KREMLIN TIES OF RINAT AKHMETSHIN, THE SO-CALLED EIGHTH MAN
The New York Times reports Rinat Akhmetshin “has much deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-backed oligarchs than previously known.” According to The New York Times, “He has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Twice, he has worked on legal battles for Russian tycoons whose opponents suffered sophisticated hacking attacks, arousing allegations of computer espionage. He helped federal prosecutors bring corruption charges against an American businessman in the former Soviet Union who turned out to be working for the C.I.A.” The New York Times adds, “He also helped expose possible corruption in government contracting that complicated American efforts to keep troops at an air base in Kyrgyzstan”. According to The New York Times, “Of all the visitors who attended the June 2016 session at the Trump Tower, he appears to have the most direct ties to Russian intelligence.” While Akhmetshin declined to be interviewed, it seems he did provide The New York Times with a photograph of himself “on a training exercise in Russia while he was in the Soviet Army service in the 1980s,” less their be any doubts, like the ones American counterintelligence agents had as far as where his allegiances lay. Akhmetshin also crossed paths with an old acquaintance of TRUMPISTAN WATCH, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, who The New York Times describes only as “a former staff member in charge of Central Asia issues at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush”. Bryza said Akhmetshin is a “very smart, slick guy,” who is “the paid drone of unsavory, out-of-fashion former Soviet leaders looking to launder their reputations.” Wow. More curiously, “Mr. Akhmetshin’s gateway to Washington was Edward Lieberman, a lawyer with corporate and political clients in former Soviet countries who was married to President Bill Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, Evelyn S. Lieberman, who died in 2015.” According to The New York Times, “Together the two started the Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research. Supposedly set up to promote democratic reforms in former Soviet states, it was essentially a vehicle to burnish the reputation of one client, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, an ex-K.G.B. officer and the former prime minister of Kazakhstan.” By 2005, he also worked for Kyrgyzstan. In 2009, Akhmetshin became a naturalized U.S. citizen after which he “began traveling regularly to Moscow and taking on more overtly pro-Russian projects.” From there he worked for two oligarchs closely linked to the Kremlin, Suleiman Kerimov and Andrey Melnichenko. He also “appears to have been nurturing a relationship with Viktor Ivanov, once the deputy head of Russia’s intelligence service, the F.S.B., and until last year a top aide to Mr. Putin.” Akhmetshin has also “told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort”.
From The New York Times.
CNN TEARS INTO NEO-NAZI SEBASTIAN GORKA’S CREDENTIALS
CNN reports “Stephen Sloan, a retired professor of political science who spent much of his career at the University of Oklahoma,” described a “a professor who advised Gorka on his PhD dissertation and considers him a friend,” said, “I would not call him an expert on terrorism,” adding that while “knowledgeable,” Gorka’s “level of expertise does not match the level where he stands in the White House.” CNN also heard from, “Mia Bloom, a professor of communications and Middle East studies at Georgia State University,” who “said she met Gorka at a conference where they had been asked to talk about the characteristics of ISIS. She said he was so ill-prepared that she and other participants wondered if they were witnessing some kind of practical joke.”
POSSIBLE PUTIN SUCCESSORS ACCORDING TO RUSSIAN RANKING
The Moscow Times reports, “Ahead of presidential elections scheduled for March next year, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and opposition firebrand Alexei Navalny are among President Vladimir Putin’s potential successors, according to a new ranking produced by a Russian think-tank,” Peterburgskaya Politika NGO. TRUMPISTAN WATCH will disagree with all of these for various reasons and throw a real wild card prediction out there and go with the head of the Russian National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev over all of them. Patrushev, like Putin, worked in the KGB and outranked him at one point. In an interview with their former boss, KGB General and Director of Counter-intelligence Oleg Kalugin a decade ago, TRUMPISTAN WATCH heard over and over how Patrushev’s “only desire was to punish,” a sentiment that jives with Russia’s everyday sadomasochism rather nicely. According to The Moscow Times, “Other top officials to make the cut included Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the Presidential Administration, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Igor Sechin, the head of oil giant Rosneft, also made the top ten.” Only time will tell, or as a Soviet radio presenter reporting on Khrushchev’s Secret Speech said, “no one can predict the future but the past is changing before our very eyes.”
From The Moscow Times.
FOURTH MAN: NOW A WORD FROM LAWYER DEFENDING FSB MOLES
The Daily Beast reports, “For the first time in his two decades defending people accused of treason, Ivan Pavlov has come across a case he says he truly has trouble getting his head around,” namely that of “Two top Federal Security Service officials, Sergei Mikhailov (who’d had the bag over his head) and Dmitry Dokuchayev, both from the FSB cyber intelligence department, were accused officially of state treason for passing confidential information to the CIA,” and their colleague, “Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of the cybercrime investigation team at Kaspersky Lab”. There is a fourth man whose case is so secret in can only be referred to as such. Complicating matters is that “one of the arrested FSB officers, Dokuchayev, has been indicted in the United States for economic espionage and a massive hacking of Yahoo accounts.” Like the eighth man in the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, will we find out soon who this mystery mole is?
From The Daily Beast.
OLD SOVIET WHATABOUTISM MAKES A COMEBACK WITH TRUMP
The Washington Post reports on Trump’s extensive use of an old Soviet tactic of deflecting bad behavior and outright atrocious anything by asking, “What about…?” In Soviet parlance this has a name that is known as whataboutism. The Washington Post recites a list of recent such deflections from Putin’s puppet, America’s fake president, “What about antifa? What about free speech? What about the guy who shot Steve Scalise? What about the mosque in Minnesota that got bombed? What about North Korea? What about murders in Chicago? What about Ivanka at the G-20? What about Vince Foster? If white pride is bad, then what about gay pride? What about the stock market? What about those 33,000 deleted emails? What about Hitler? What about the Crusades? What about the asteroid that may one day kill us all? What about Benghazi?” Seriously, what about Benghazi? The Washington Post refers to whataboutism as “durable,” but TRUMPISTAN WATCH is less convinced and it seems so are most Americans who are not so cynical as their Russian counterparts, nor do they particularly care about anything internal to Russia as Russian obsess over America. Americans tend to view this as basically trolling and are capable of responding, yes that sucks but let’s talk about what we were actually talking about. Basically whataboutism is moral relativism dressed up in accusations about an opponent. It is not so sophisticated as the Russians imagine they might be. Although the far left and the far right do fall for it over and over again – making it not so much durable as time tested ridiculousness.
From The Washington Post.
KREMLIN CREATING FAKE NEWS WEBSITES THAT LOOK LIKE REAL ONES
Because all media is fake news, right? The Guardian reports, “Fake articles made to look like they have been published by legitimate news websites have emerged as a new avenue for propaganda on the internet, with experts concerned about the increasing sophistication of the latest attempts to spread disinformation.” According to The Guardian, “Kremlin supporters are suspected to be behind a collection of fraudulent articles published this year that were mocked up to appear as if they were from al-Jazeera, the Atlantic, Belgian newspaper Le Soir, and the Guardian.” Looks like the old tricks are not working and people want real news from real news sources, which both Trump and the Kremlin howl are fake news. According to The Guardian, “The creators of the articles made them look genuine at first glance by building doppelganger sites that have domain names extremely similar to the news organisations they are purporting to be. The stories were then pushed out to the world through sharing on social media and other websites – often Russian – following up on the article.” The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab makes it pretty clear that “the technical and design skills were not matched by linguistic competence.” A tell tale sign of a Slavic hand: “an inability to use the word ‘the’ correctly”. First Lady Melania routinely fails this one, as do many natives of Slavic languages because there is no equivalent grammatical form.
WIKILEAKS WANTS WHITE HOUSE PRESS PASSES
Presumably to join all the other Kremlin and far right trolls already in the briefing room. The Washington Times reports, “WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange told Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,” also known as Putin’s favorite Congressman, “that his antisecrecy website wants a regular seat in the White House press room, according to the congressman.”
From The Washington Times.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
DO THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY NEXT, PLEASE
The Washington Post reports, “Robin Bell drove his van to Trump International Hotel and projected several slides on the facade of the president’s eponymous hotel that said in all capital letters, ‘The president of the United States is a known racist and a nazi sympathizer.’” The Washington Post notes, “Bell, a D.C.-based artist and filmmaker, also projected images Thursday night on the Newseum and on a Confederate statue near D.C.’s Judiciary Square.” On the Newseum, the projection read, “Heather Heyer, 1985-2017,” a particularly fitting venue given how much support Nazis and white supremacists found for their message in mainstream outlets in the last two years, to say nothing of the fact that the Newseum was host to Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, and other Russian fascists as a venue for an anti-Magnitsky film in their pro forma anti-truth crusade.
From The Washington Post.
RUSSIA, TEACH YOUR TROLLS IRONY + SARCASM
Meduza reports, “In late July, opposition politician Alexey Navalny traveled to France to celebrate his wife’s birthday. In early August, the pro-Kremlin tabloid Life reported Navalny’s trip”. According to Meduza, “Life says it received the video from a ‘citizen journalist’ through its special app ‘LifeCorr,’ which it created to receive photos and videos from eyewitnesses to news events. Life had promised 50,000 rubles ($840) to anyone who supplied the tabloid with footage of Navalny on vacation.” Meduza reports, “After receiving the video of Navalny in France, Life published a story titled ‘Michelin Escapades: How Navalny Vacationed in Rouen,’ crediting the footage to a ‘citizen journalist.’” Turns out that the “citizen journalist” was his wife Yulia. Removed from the footage Life published is a bit at the end where Meduza notes, “Yulia can be heard asking him, ‘Alexey, what are you doing here?’ Navalny then responds, ‘I’m here trying to make 50,000 rubles off those fools at LifeNews.’” The trolls might not have any meaningful sense of irony or sarcasm, but at least the Russian opposition does. For its part, Life just announced it is shutting down and laying off all staff, Meduza reports. Could it be, budgets are tightening in Russia as history looks ever closer to repeating the moment that so shamed a young KGB officer named Vladimir Putin, namely the collapse of the Soviet Union?
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